You've undoubtedly heard it before: "Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes." I'd like to take this sage advice and apply it to outdoor footwear: "Before you judge these hiking shoes, walk a mile in them."
That's just what I did with Salomon's X Ultra 4 GTX hiking shoes — I'd heard good things about the newest version of the brand's hiker, so I decided to walk many miles in them. 20, in fact.
Over the course of my time judging these hiking shoes, I paid attention to three factors that I considered important above all: fit, weight and grip. When I'm hiking on hot and dusty terrain, strewn with rocks, leaves and the prints of creatures that have walked before me, these three factors matter more to me than any other.
I tend to roll my eyes when a shoe is labeled “women’s specific,” and not because I don’t find value in the idea of a shoe constructed to best support a women’s morphology - no, usually I meet that marketing language with disdain because almost every women’s specific shoe I’ve tried feels like it was designed by someone who’s never encountered a human female foot before. However, that was until I tried Salomon’s X Ultra 4 GTX — this hiking shoe made me a believer in the concept, and shattered the low expectations I had for female-specific footwear.
Here’s why I liked it so much.
What I liked about Salomon's X Ultra 4 GTX hiking shoes
The X Ultra 4 GTX's cushioning is supportive, without feeling too luxe
I don’t know about you, but when I hike, I like to feel connected to the ground I’m passing over. The balance of connection and protection can be a tricky one, but Salomon pulls off the balancing act with the X Ultra 4 GTX. The cushioning is stable, and the 11mm drop - the difference between the height of the heel compared to the ball of the foot — feels supportive. There’s no perfect drop, but this one works for my foot, and I found myself hiking longer distances and more technical terrain thanks to the supportive feel of this shoe.
The X Ultra 4 GTX hiking shoe's women-specific fit is accurate and protective
Developing this female-specific hiker meant exploring what a woman's foot needs in protective footwear. Salomon addressed the specific morphlogy of a woman's foot in the newest version of its popular hiking style with a few key features: a softer cuff, cradling anatomical design and lower density "Advanced Chassis" for greater stability.
These features are backed up by the tried-and-true protective features seen across both men's and women's hiking shoes and boots: water-and-weatherproof PFC-free Gore-Tex, a grippy Terrain Contagrip outsole (which features an unique chevron lug pattern for multi-directional grip), a protective mudguard, welded upper, and more. It sounds like a mouthful, but the short of the long here is that along with a women's specific fit that actually fits, Salomon didn't skimp on the traditional performance features found in any other shoe.
During one of my hikes in the X Ultra 4 GTX, I was running out of sunlight and time, and had a shortcut presented to me: I could cross a stream, submerging my feet, and cut off a mile of backtracking, or I could stick to the trail. I hesitated at the water's edge until I remembered which shoes I was wearing — then I plunged right in. The Gore-Tex didn't protect against full submersion, as I anticipated, but the grippy outsole helped me maintain footing across slippery rocks, and the cushy OrthoLite sockliner dried in no time.
What I didn't like about Salomon X Ultra 4 GTX hiking shoes
The X Ultra 4 GTX felt heavy — but they're not
The pursuit of technical advancement and weight reduction in the last decade has meant that shoe tongues have become slimmer, heel cushioning has decreased, upper textiles have become more porous and breathable and anything superfluous from a shoe has been scrapped. When I first stepped into the X Ultra 4 GTX, I was pleasantly surprised by the out-of-the-box comfort achieved the soft materials around the collar and heel, the padded tongue and super-stable Advanced Chassis molded insert. However, compared to other technical hiking shoes on the market, Salomon's felt weighty.
That's why I was surprised to find out it's only 13.8 ounces — almost a full pound lighter than the 1 pound, eight ounce Hoka Anacapa Low GTX Hiker, for instance. It's a blessing in disguise that the X Ultra 4 GTX is lighter than it feels, but I did go through an adjustment period of getting used to the shoe's heft and feel.
Final Thoughts on the Salomon X Ultra 4 GTX
If my one gripe about these hiking shoes is that they're actually lighter than they feel, then suffice it to say that these female-specific phemons are pretty darn perfect, in my opinion. If you're looking for a protective, comfortable, good-looking hiker that won't break the bank or weigh you down on the trail, Salomon's X Ultra 4 GTX is a solid pick.