For as long as we've existed, humanity has been putting one foot in front of the other, walking and hiking. However, it wasn't until the turn of the 19th century that the concept of the hiking boot first took hold. Since its introduction into mainstream culture, the hiking boot has gone through a mini evolution of its own; innovative, effective materials like Gore-Tex and Vibram joined the game, and styles got better fitting, lighter and more comfortable as the years progressed.
Fast-forward to the fall of 2022: I've been testing out two of the top picks in our hiking boots guide, Salomon's X Ultra 4 GTX and the Tecnica Forge S GTX. Both boots are inventive in some aspects, original in others and capable in almost every respect. If you're torn between the seemingly endless hiking boot options and styles, I'd recommend taking one of these out for a spin. Want to know which one is best for you? Read on.
The quick and dirty on Salomon and Tecnica's boots
Salomon X Ultra 4 Mid GTX Specs
- Weight: 1 pound, 11.2 ounces (per pair)
- Waterproofing: PFC-free Gore-Tex
- Drop: 11 in mm
- Outsole: All-Terrain Contagrip
Tecnica Forge S GTX Specs
- Weight: 2 pounds, 4.64 ounces (per pair)
- Waterproofing: GORE-TEX Extended Comfort membrane
- Outsole: Vibram Forge with MegaGrip
Salomon X Ultra 4 Mid GTX
What I liked about Salomon's hiker
I've raved about the low-cut version of this boot before, and the mid version is just as capable and comfortable as its low counterpart. The collar on this style is set right under the ankle; it offers more support without being too bulky or cumbersome. The same ultra-luxe padding is used in Salomon's mid version to great effect: where I typically experience paint points around my ankles, I felt the full, and I might even say squishy, support of the X Ultra 4 Mid GTX.
Salomon's boot draws upon its success in trail running, and the comfort in its running-oriented styles translates directly into this hiking boot. I found the X Ultra 4 Mid GTX to be durable on trickier terrain, with enough flex to navigate through rocky and unsteady patches of trail without missing a step. I appreciated the female-specific chassis, which offers more support than other boots I've worn, plus the extra-grippy Contagrip MA outsoles, which held their own through sand, rock and mud (although the deep lugs do trap a significant amount of mud and debris in them). Overall, Salomon's boot is the one I'd pick on days where comfort and consistency were top priorities of mine; on trips where I can only take one boot, I'm definitely packing these.
What I didn't like about the X Ultra 4
While it's comfortable, I found the X Ultra 4 Mid to be a little too roomy; I solved that problem by wearing thicker hiking socks and tightening the laces, but the fit wasn't what I was expecting after testing the low version. I found the extra room to be comfortable after longer hikes when my feet had swollen a bit from their typical size, but unless I've got just the right weight of sock with me, the extra room (and play in the boot) is a perfect recipe for a blister or two.
Tecnica Forge S GTX
What I liked about Tecnica's hiking boot
Tecnica created our upgrade hiking boot pick with the intent to provide serious trekkers with a boot that is supportive and can handle variable conditions and terrain, and achieved that by implementing a proprietary fabric that's both durable and offers elasticity, thanks to its ability to conform to the anatomy of the foot when thermo-formed.
While the heat-molding capabilities are what the brand advertises most prominently with the Forge (hence the name), what I found most appealing about the boots were their comfort on long days on the trail; even though they were much stiffer out of the box than Salomon's boot, and required a much longer break-in period in comparison, I found that the initial stiffness of the boot actually works in its favor; I didn't feel squishy or bogged down in it, and went long distances feeling just as much support at the end of the hike as I did in the beginning.
Tecnica's hiking boot features Vibram's Megagrip outsole, which continues to prove its mettle hike after hike. I also appreciated the Gore-Tex waterproofing of the boot, especially on particularly muddy, rainy days during testing.
What I didn't like about the Tecnica style
The selling point of the Forge GTX is its ability to be heat-molded to your foot in 20 minutes, providing a superior fit as compared to other hikers. While that may be true, it's also true that finding a retailer with the necessary heat molding tech is a challenge in and of itself, and definitely qualifies as a barrier to entry when compared to other boots that offer precise fit out of the box.
Access aside, there were a few other details that rubbed me the wrong way with Tecnica's S Forge Boot: the laces are very thin, and while they can be cinched down quite well, their slim profile is scratchier and a little unpleasant on the hands, particularly in colder or dryer temps when skin is already sensitive. I personally thought the overlapping wrapped tongue design was a little funky at first, and had to look at brand images of the boot to make sure I was layering the two pieces correctly. If not cinched down about as tight, as it can go, the wrapped tongue does have a tendency to slip out; while this is by no means a deal breaker, it is annoying after a couple hours, and readjustments, on the trail.
Best Hiking Boot Showdown: The Verdict
Salomon's boot is simply an all-around better option for almost every situation, excluding the custom fit that only Tecnica's heat-molding can give you. Both boots have strengths in their own rights, but when it comes to weight, comfort (out of the box) and performance on trail, Salomon is my pick for most scenarios. If you're accustomed to a custom fit and have the extra time and money to get your Tecnica boots heat-molded, you may want to consider that option for the most personalized fit.
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