CGR Takes a close look at the classic mountaineering approach shoe from French adventure company Salomon
Lightweight and low cut, the X ALP GTX® delivers protection, and has forefoot flex and cushioning like a fast hiking shoe.
In the UK Salomon are well known for their classic trail running kit. I own plenty of it myself and love it. It’s well thought out, well made and works. However, they have made and innovated mountaineering and snowsports equipment since the company formed in Annecy, France in 1947.
The X-Alp range comprises of three different boots and the approach shoes. We have tested the approach shoes in a variety of mountain situations from crag approach, mountain hikes to scrambling and found them excellent, well made shoes.
The shoe is extremely light on the foot weighing only 460g per shoe, as light as a trainer. My normal test size is a UK8 and the Salomon X-Alp GTX fitted very well. Normally Salomon shoes a quite a tight fit but they work well for me as my foot profile is quite narrow. I found the fit very good and I felt I didn’t need an extra half size for extra toe room. The toe box was solid with a good amount of rand, this was great for descents as it offered toe protection, especially when tired. So a good fit, but as always it’s best to try a pair on before you buy if you can.
The upper is made from a breathable mesh fabric, reinforced with abrasion resistant frame. The lace tabs were well stitched with bar tacking and had plastic inserts to give extra durability with the thin Quicklace system. The Quicklace system is a classic Salomon innovation that has been copied by plenty of other manufacturers but others can’t seem to get the release as good as the Salomon system which is perfect, releasing quickly, every time without fail. With the Quicklace system being universal across the entire Salomon footwear range, getting a replacement is easy. There is a small pocket located at the top of the tongue which houses the excess lace and is standard across the range, very neat.
The sole unit is much stiffer than a normal approach shoe, but you have to think of the Salomon X-Alp GTX as more of a technical mountain shoe. The stiffness does soften after a few weeks of use and the benefits of that extra support quickly become apparent when on long hikes and approaches over rocky terrain. They were stiff longitudinally and torsionally, but gave good lateral flexibility. The Ortholite insole and EVA heel cup make for a very comfortable and stable ride that helps prevent fatigue when o long hikes. There was also plenty of rand around to shoe to help keep water out, protect the shoe and give a little extra friction on cracks, etc.
The tread was excellent, there was a large, smooth amount of rubber in the climbing zone and the shoe gave excellent edging when scrambling, I found I could quite happily climb up to Very Difficult in the shoes. The cleating also gave great grip on wet ground as well a as rocky terrain. Although I haven’t tested them on snow, I would be happy wearing them on a snowy approach, they would happily take a walking crampon.
With a gusseted tongue and full GoreTex lining the Salomon X-Alp GTX were waterproof for a wet day hike and kept my feet dry in puddles and stream crossings. The downside being that they can get quite hot on sunny days, but the range does come in a non GoreTex version if you want more breathability.
So, in conclusion, the Salomon X-Alp GTX come into their own on Fast and Light days, where you are intending to cover lots of ground and want something light, yet supportive on your feet. The Yorkshire 3 Peaks and Welsh 3000ers springs to mind for the UK. They are well made, super light and exactly what you would expect from such a pedigree company.
The range comes in three colour options and sizes from UK 6 to 12.5 in half sizes.
Excellent support and rigidity for climbing
The GoreTex can be hot on sunny days
No heel loop so difficult to hang off your harness.
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