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Thursday 8 May 2014

Shoe Review: Salomon XA PRO 3D W - Run Mountains … but not in these shoes

I was obviously a very good girl in a previous life as Salomon sent me a pair of some of their lovely shoes to try out and see what I thought of them.

The shoes: Salomon XA PRO 3D W

Price: £100

The Hype from Salomon:
An all mountain running shoe designed for control, durability and protection.

“The iconic, proven adventure shoe has evolved for 2014. From the first step to 1,000 KM + you’ll notice an incredible fit, improved durability, and a grip that inspires confidence.”

The outer layer of the XA PRO 3D W is a quick drying breathable mesh and the shoe has a cover over the tongue to prevent mud and debris getting inside. There is a rubber toe cap and a mud guard in the form of protective material around the base of the shoe. The soles combine different hardness combinations in Contagrip®, Salomon's adventure running outsoles which are designed to help cover mixed terrain at high speeds. There are specifically placed forefoot flex grooves, self cleaning, multi-directional lugs, and defined toe off and braking lugs and Salomon say that these outsoles are “field tested, and race proven to dynamically tackle any terrain.”

The shoes have a low-cut profile for freedom of movement and have EndoFit™ which is an internal sleeve designed to hug the foot and improve feedback. Also a Sensifit™ system works to cradle the foot providing a precise and secure fit. They also have an Ortholite® foam sole which “creates a cooler, drier, healthier, better cushioned environment under the foot. It will not break down or lose effectiveness over time.”

Similar to the Speedcross 3, the XA PRO 3D W offers the Quicklace™ which is very thin, strong lace which makes it easy to take the shoes on and off. The lacing on these shoes is asymmetrical which Salomon say gives a customized fit and quick adjustment. The XA PRO 3D also have a lace pocket in the tongue of the shoe which “provides easy storage for the Quick Fit lacing system”.

But what did I think?
These are pretty shoes. I know that’s a girly thing to say but they are. If I wasn’t already married to my Salomon Speedcross 3, I’d have proposed on the spot. However, looks aren’t everything.

I put the running shoes on and laced up. I love the Quicklaces and having these on a shoe – particularly during a race – means I don’t have to worry about untied laces and a subsequent hospital visit. However, having laced up, the first thing that I noticed was that the pocket on the tongue where you tuck the ends of the laces is underneath the top lace. This doesn’t seem a big thing, but it means that you can’t tuck the ends of the Quicklace in – and negates the point of having the lace pocket. It seemed a silly design flaw as this works so well in the Speedcross 3. The tongue is attached to the sides of the inner shoe (to stop muck getting in) so you can’t pull it up any further to access the pocket. However, I wasn’t going to be fazed by not being able to tuck the shoelaces in. Shoelace pockets are not high up the ‘Must Have’ list on my running shoes.

The asymmetric lacing system which should be easy to adjust ... wasn’t and the position of the laces meant that I couldn’t lace them as tightly as I’d have liked. I compromised by leaving them looser for more comfort across my foot and risked the heel blisters instead.

The shoes felt solid and supportive on my feet. The Ortholite soles were firm and I felt confident that I’d be able to run on most surfaces without ending up with sore feet. Despite the looser lacing, my feet felt cradled in the inner support of EndoFit which links from the tongue and they felt secure. The shoes were heavier than I was used to, but the advantages of a solid shoe structure could be a benefit when hiking or running uneven or sharp surfaces.

Field Tests

I took these shoes out for a few different trips to give them a good testing. I had a few mid length runs out on trails and roads with these and took them out on several runs across fields and trails which included frosty grass and puddles and broken ice and water. The most recent trip out using the XA PRO 3D Ws  was a long hike over some steep hills and mountains and which included some running sections, some bogs, some rock climbing (for fun rather than testing purposes and because the rocks were there) and some long steep paths down the side of a mountain.

The first thing I noticed while wearing the XA PRO 3D W was the control. They didn’t feel intuitive or balanced and I could feel I was wearing them. That sounds silly but with most running shoes, you forget you are wearing them and get on with it. These felt additional to my feet. There was support and my feet felt protected but I found that it was easy to turn my ankle over in them as they just didn’t feel a part of my feet. They were my usual (Salomon) size, but they just didn’t seem to fit as well.

The shoes were brilliant on ice and melting snow. They had fantastic grip and even running across the sharp, broken ice, I couldn’t feel it under my soles. Likewise on smooth rocks and up the sides of the mountain and rocks – at no time did I slip or slide. The grip was fantastic and Contagrip®, Salomon's adventure running outsoles seemed to be living up to the hype.

Out on the trails, my toes and feet felt protected from the loose rocks and the fixed tongue kept the debris out, but these aren’t trail shoes – once the water got in, it didn’t want to come out again and I sloshed around with damp feet for a while. They didn’t pick up mud particularly on the sole and I hiked over some pretty boggy sections on the trails and when I finished the underneath of the shoes were reasonably clean. The “self cleaning, multi-directional lugs” had sounded too good to be true, but the shoes shook off the mud without problems.

Even my remaining toenails were surviving as the shoes were holding my feet securely and the solid toebox was taking the impact of my clumsiness when I knocked rocks and the EndoFit meant my toenails weren’t hitting the end of the shoes, even running down the mountains.

They sound great on paper. Self-cleaning soles, solid control and my feet held securely in one place. However, this doesn’t take account of just how uncomfortable they are to wear. The inner sleeve held my feet in position, but didn’t allow my foot to move with the shoe which made for uncomfortable positioning and a pulling feeling on the soles of my feet. Maybe they would be better if you had narrower feet but the asymmetrical positioning of the laces meant that these ended on the outside of the widest part of my foot and rubbed, giving me a bruised feeling there and the laces (unable to tuck into the lace pocket) flew around as I ran just adding more irritation to my uncomfortable feet.

They say these shoes will last for over 1,000km ... unfortunately after only 60km of mountains and trails and the resulting bruised toes and blisters, I’m not willing to test that.

I’m gutted. I’d liked my Salomon Speedcross shoes so much and I’d hoped that these would be similar, but they’re not.

  • Great looking shoes.
  • Solid soles which were great for broken surfaces.
  • Fantastic grip on ice, rocks, trails.
  • Quicklace System – no undone shoelaces and quick to put on and off.
  • Feet didn’t move within shoes even when descending mountains – can keep your toenails!
  • Self Cleaning Soles. (yes really)

  • The pocket for the Quicklaces was inaccessible meaning it was useless.
  • The Quicklaces fitted in an awkward place.
  • Different fit to the Speedcross 3 with which I get on so well. Maybe XA PRO 3D better for narrow feet?
  • Shoes didn’t have an intuitive fit.
  • I found them too heavy for comfortable running.
  • Feet felt sore and bruised after prolonged wear.

Fact sheet for XA PRO 3D:
Weight 410 (8.5)
WEIGHT                  3
STABILITY             5
DURABILITY          5

Available to buy from here


  1. I found this review interesting because during the winter I've been running in the Xa Pro 3D Ultra 2 (such long names) and absolutely love them..Comfortable for hours and over all terrains,I even completed a icy park run in them..
    However my sister tried them and hated them! I was so in love I brought a summer pair of Salomon's (can't think of the name) and they made my feet bleed (sorry if that's too much information) I think there's a real balance with picking the right pair of Salomon's (esp with the sizing). The love the visual of the speedcross but I think they would be wasted on me unless I do more of that kind of running...

    1. Great comment, Katie and it just goes to show that what doesn't suit one person may be perfect for another!