We look at the great performing technical approach shoe from French company Salomon
Last season we reviewed the excellent Salomon OutPath GTX shoes, these proved to be a comfortable and robust shoe that I used for a variety of activities. The best being the Crochues Ridge in the Aigulilles Rouge. The review concluded that although the OutPath was a great hiking shoe it wasn’t so good as a technical approach shoe. Into that breach steps the Salomon X-Alp SPRY GTX shoe and stiffer and narrower shoe that is all about technical approach.
The X-Alp range covers a range of shoes and boots and we have reviewed both the X-Alp shoe and boot. I found the X-Alp shoe a little clunky as a climber and the SPRY shoes are a much better fit and both perform and look more like a shoe a climber would use. I have enjoyed using them for a variety of mountain activities, except running as they are too stiff to run distance in. That said they are fine for trotting back to the car to collect that forgotten pair of climbing shoes!
They are super light and comfortable – I found them quite stiff for UK hiking wear but that stiffness was a useful for climbing in and I was very happy to wear them on long scrambling days at Grade 3 and even climbs up to Severe. I am, however, an experienced climber and mountaineer and work as a Mountaineering Instructor so I’m used to climbing in approach shoes. Do not think the X-Alp SPRY are a substitute for climbing shoes, they’re not! That said for scrambling approaches to the base of your route, they are excellent.
The now standard Contagrip sole has proved to be great, providing good friction on dry rock whilst the lugs and tread have been great on dirt and muddy ground. I have always found the sole units on Salomon shoes to be good and the X-Alp SPRY doesn’t disappoint. There is a clear, well defined climbing zone at the front of the sole and the cushioning is excellent which gets it’s form from the running shoe range. I use the Salomon Speedcross shoes for running and the heel unit is very similar and provides great support at the heel. The heel is finished with a good heel tab that fits carabiners so can be fitted onto a climbing harness and they have a low profile when carried on a harness.
The Salomon X-Alp SPRY GTX shoes are light too, weighing in at 330g for my UK8 shoe (that is per shoe) They really do feel as light as a training shoe and the rubber toe rand add a little support at the toe box as well as being useful for the odd crack. There is more stitched rand and the shoe has plenty of reinforcement around the body of the shoe. On top of that there is lots of lamination around key areas helping to make the shoe water resistant, that is backed up with a full Gore-Tex sock making the SPRY as waterproof as it can be. It performed fine on approached that covered wet grass, mud and puddles.
The shoe is finished with lace eyelets and a standard laces so no Quicklace system on these. The standard laces are round and this became an issue from new as the shoe is quite stiff they kept coming undone which was quite annoying. I’m monitoring this and I suspect that they will improve as they wear or I may change them for trainer laces. I can understand that the round aces are more robust in rocky and rough terrain but I’d sacrifice that for semi flat laces that stayed tight when I did them up. The heel cap and toe box were rigid enough to provide good protection for that end of the day stumbling down the scree.
On the whole, I have found the Salomon X-Alp SPRY a great, all round, approach shoe. They look good enough to wear down the pub or to the climbing wall and they perform outstandingly on rocky, technical ground. They are super light and the running shoe technology together with the lightness make them super comfortable. They pack down neatly into a climbing pack and if you need to do a little technical climbing in them they won’t let you down. The Salomon X-Alp SPRY GTX shoes are one of the better technical approach shoes I have used for some time.
The Salomon X-Alp SPRY GTX shoes come in men’s sizes UK 6.5 to UK 12.5 including half sizes and three colour options. Women’s versions come in sizes UK 3.5 to UK 8.5 in half sizes and two colour options.