Long-Term Review: Salomon X Alpine Pro – Outside Magazine

Long-Term Review: Salomon X Alpine Pro  Outside Magazine

For years I’ve been an enthusiastic user of Salomon trail-running shoes, with my all-time favorites coming from the Sense family—the Sense Pro, Sense Pro 2, and S-Lab Sense Ultra.

But Salomon has never broadly or successfully extended the winning features of its trail-running shoes—notably, the glove-like fit, the reliable outsole grip, and the upper’s best-in-class durability—to backpacking or crossover categories like high routes and nontechnical scrambles. Its best entry might be the XA Elevate, which has been discontinued for 2020.

When I saw the Salomon X Alpine Pro ($160, 10.9 ounces) at Outdoor Retailer last November, I was hopeful it would help fill this void. Salomon sent me a pair in August so that I could size them up.

The X Alpine Pro is best suited for high-mountain running. To me that means long days, rocky and loose footing, prolonged ascents and descents, and a healthy share of hiking. I’d consider it for the toughest-of-tough ultras, too, like Hardrock and Italy’s Tor des Géants. 

Personally, I found the X Alpine Pro ideal during four recent adventure runs in Rocky Mountain National Park and the Indian Peaks Wilderness, all ranging from 20 to 35 miles, with 4,000 to 11,000 vertical feet of gain and off-trail terrain up to Class 3. These five-to-eleven-hour efforts would have pushed the limits of my aforementioned favorites, but the X Alpine Pro owned it.

As a backpacking and high-route shoe, the X Alpine Pro is definitely worth consideration. Compared to my go-to, La Sportiva Bushido II, it’s more cushioned and roomy and less stiff, so it performs relatively better on trail than off and will fit more feet.

Key Product Specs

  • Breathable upper with extra-thick TPU reinforcement
  • Quick laces
  • Endofit elasticized midfoot yoke
  • 24-millimeter stack height in the heel and 18 millimeters in the forefoot
  • 6-millimeter drop
  • Contagrip TA outsole with a wide “climbing zone” lug under the toes
  • 310 grams/10.9 ounces (men’s size 9), 270 grams/9.5 ounces (women’s size 7)
  • $160 MSRP
  • More information

Fit

The X Alpine Pro has a masterful fit, as I’ve come to expect of Salomon. The heel locks down securely, partly with the help of a sculpted foam collar. An elasticized yoke and a wide cushioned tongue hug the midfoot. And there’s just enough volume in the forefoot to avoid constriction while still maintaining control.

Compared to other Salomon models I’ve worn, the fit most closely resembles the original S-Lab Sense Ultra, which used to be Salomon’s bestselling S-Lab trail shoe. In particular, the X Alpine Pro shares that roomy and rounded toe box and has a Sense Pro–like heel and midfoot.

Ride

The X Alpine Pro is not as nimble as a pure trail-running shoe, but I found it surprisingly capable. In the midfoot and forefoot, it’s actually more flexible than the Sense Pro 2 or S-Lab Ultra, which I think is largely explained by the absence of a film-on-mesh rock plate (“ProFeel film”).

Not including a rock plate seems like an odd decision for an alpine shoe. I wonder if, when combined with the 18-millimeter stack height and large outsole lugs, the shoe was excessively stiff or insensitive during prototyping. Probably so if Salomon’s goal was to design an alpine running shoe. Probably not if its goal was to create an off-trail specialist.

It’s worth noting that the chief complaint among trail runners of the comparable Sportiva Bushido, which I think is better for high routes than running, is that it’s too stiff. 

Upper

(Andrew Skurka)

(Andrew Skurka)

The upper uses Salomon’s classic, time-tested mesh-and-TPU construction. But it’s been ruggedized, with thicker TPU coatings, heavier-duty mesh, and a beefy toe bumper. Its breathability is satisfactory but not amazing; only fine dust gets through, and it’s resistant to some splashing.

After about 100 miles on generally rocky trails, and a few miles through talus and scree, my uppers were entirely intact. I don’t think the uppers will be the first failure point of the X Alpine Pro.

I did not submerge the X Alpine Pro in water, but I think the time its takes the shoe to dry will be slowish, due to the cushioned heel counter and tongue and the mediocre breathability.

Grip

The outsole consists of large five-millimeter lugs and is made of Contagrip TA, a trusted proprietary rubber that’s proven grippy and durable.

Unique to the outsole is the single, wide climbing-zone lug across the toes. This approach-shoe-like feature sticks well to clean rock, but compared to a more conventional pattern of smaller lugs, I thought its performance was inferior on loose sand, mud, and wet grass.