I have been a shoe whore for a good majority of my life. I’ll admit it. I have always had a different shoe for a different purpose ever since I was able to buy my first pair. From Jordans to Airwalks, Hi-Tec to Merrell and even some shell toe Adidas (with the fat laces), Nike, Puma, Reebok…this can go on forever. Don’t even get me started on the business casual and dress wear. As I have gotten older however, things have simplified in my life. A standard set of Nike running shoes, Chippewa work boots, A couple dress shoes and maybe some all white DC’s for the summer. When I started doing all this blogging and reviewing business however a new need arose, and thus, a new shoe needed to be purchased. Lots of time on the range with dirt, mud, rain. Hot or cold, moving or static, I needed something fit for the task of being at the range constantly that wouldn’t jack up my other footwear’s “circle of life.”
Enter the Salomon XA PRO 3D Ultra.
I took the bait and ordered up a set for myself and Monkey to test out. For those “in the know,” this is not a “new” pair of shoes. This is not an exclusive first peek or anything grandiose. But for those who don’t know, these shoes are amazing. However, know this… My first impressions were not ecstatic.
Once you pass size 12 there are no more half sizes and the 12 was just too short. The 13 seemed a bit too long. Also, they feel narrow, very narrow (Wide is available) on the first couple outings. I don’t have some quadruple E hairy hobbit feet or anything, but a little wider than your average adult male. I was a little frustrated to say the least, but for the sake of a thorough review, I pressed on. And then one morning, magic.
I went to put the Salomons on one morning and my foot “popped” in. I will date myself right now by saying this but, have you ever popped He-Man or Skeletor’s head or leg off and then freaked out as you tried to get it back on only to be surprised when it popped back into place like it was always meant to be there? From that point on you could decapitate or dismember at will knowing the part would pop right back into place. This is the XA PRO 3D Ultra, and that’s before even doing up the laces once they have formed to your feet. I began falling in love…with footwear (again).
This particular shoe feels as good as my Nike’s cushioning-wise, but has the lateral stability of a “Multi-Sport” outdoor hiking shoe and doesn’t make me feel like I am going to roll an ankle on a short sideways stop. The OrthoLite™ sockliner and shaped footbed had apparently had enough of me and went and molded themselves to my foot. The new fit almost feels like the sole wraps up the sides in a cradling manner. The other part that had me frustrated at first but I have grown to absolutely find essential is the asymmetric lacing. At first, I thought I would never be able to undo this single point tensioned razor lace from hell. Then, I stopped acting like a child, looked at the blatantly obvious smooth rubber pull point and learned how to disengage the ratcheting system. Now, I can’t live without it.
They breathe like you wouldn’t believe, but only in the places that you really need them to. Heat moves up, topside of the shoe is where all the heat goes up and out. Where the rubber meets the road so to speak travels up the sides too so as not to let the splashes and steps in puddles (not submerged of course) get up and in the shoe and to top it all off, double coverage of rubber on the toe. Kneeling and prone and all the fun stuff that beats up lesser footwear in the front is amply covered in rubber that I have yet to even scratch. Ever separate the toe runner from the rest of your shoe through normal wear and tear? I really don’t see that happening with these.
These are marketed as “Mountain Trail Running” shoes but to me, that’s like calling a mountain bike a 10-speed. These are like the 90 mph full suspension 20”+ travel disc brake equipped downhill X-Games mountain bike of off road sneakers. I am stupid impressed and love them. The price is a little steep by comparison to “similar” models from other manufacturers if you are a “shop by the description” type of person. Wearing them is all the difference though. I have a couple other sets of “trail running” or “multi-sport” outdoor shoes and I think Monkey is part of a club that sends him a new pair every month. However, these are now the only pair you ever catch either of us wearing. I just may have to get some Gore-Tex for the winter and save the Chippa-whats for the heavy duty stuff.
If you are in the market for a new trail sneaker, take a serious look at the XA Pro 3D Ultra 2, give them the chance to mold to you and you will be a believer too.
*UPDATE: Half sizes are available, just not past size 12, ie: 9.5, 10, 10.5, etc.. Salomon also makes Wide sizes as well for those WITH hobbit feet.