A well-known company, Salomon’s mid-height shoes could be described as traditional. Unfortunately, they do not seem to understand that feet come in different widths, as their website makes absolutely no mention of shoe width anywhere. (It might be noted that Italians are traditionally regarded as having narrower feet than the rest of us.) Like most shoe companies, their marketing spin uses lots of meaningless technical words for their technologies, although they do provide very short definitions or explanations.
Salomon 3D Fastpacker Mid GTX
A traditional mid-height shoe weighing 459 g (16.2 oz), verging on the ‘high’ side, with a solid rand and toe buffer. Unfortunately they are only a D+ width – not very wide at all. The solid part of the ankle is not all that high really: the top section of the ankle cuff is mainly soft padding. If you removed the soft padding, which does not provide any degree of ankle support of course, they would be getting moderately low at the sides and back. The weight was definitely pushing our limit of 450 g per shoe for size 9 – you can probably blame the rand and toe buffer for a lot of that. Being a GTX model means they could be useful in the snow.
Roger & Sue Caffin
With only a D width, Roger was not able to wear these with any degree of comfort. However, the volume seems to be largish, and Sue was able to wear them on short day walks and around home (a farm), with thin socks. She found them just comfortable enough for that.
These boots are at our weight limit, but (for me) they are very comfortable and supportive, and have great traction. They are not as wide as the GoLite shoes, but they are wider than the Montrail shoes, and more comfortable. Salomon specs say they are a D width, but they fit me very well. I do need to wear them with thinner socks so they are not too tight. They are my favorites for off-trail hiking; I wore them on 21 trips! The GTX lining did not fail during my testing and they continue to stay dry in wet conditions. They are a beefier boot than the GoLites and thankfully don’t have any leather. I believe they will last longer too. They are built on a trail running shoe platform. Their outsole is second to none for traction. Overall, if you have only moderately wide feet, the Salomon Fastpacker is a good balance of light weight, comfort, support, durability, and traction.
Salomon XA Pro 3D GTX Ultra
These shoes simply look lighter than the Fastpackers, and at 414 g (14.6 oz) they are just that. The height is a bit lower, the rand and toe region are lighter, and even the laces are lighter. In fact, the laces are the very thin Salomon ones with a cord lock which you use instead of tying the traditional bow. The sole has a fairly good-looking tread on it, with little chance of being clogged up by mud. The heel region is quite wide: the sides splay out a bit. This is normally done for stability: it does not hurt.
In addition, the top of the ankle cuff at the heel is cut back a bit to increase flexibility, but a soft insert rises a long way up from the back for some reason not obvious to the writers. Perhaps it is meant to aid in keeping your heel in the shoe? You would have to describe them as being half-way between the traditional ‘mid-height’ and a solid jogger. But they do seem to use a smaller last.
Roger & Sue Caffin
These seemed a bit narrower than the Fastpacker, or maybe the last has a slightly lower volume. They were not wide enough for either Roger or Sue to wear them for any useful length of time. Even wearing them inside the house was uncomfortable after a short while.
These boots are a bit lighter than the Fastpacker, and I found the performance to be similar. They have a drawcord lacing system, which is fast and convenient, but the cord on one of the boots is too short for my high insteps, so one boot is difficult to put on and take off. Fit is the same as the Fastpacker. I tested them on five trips. This boot is also based on a trail running shoe platform and does not have any leather. Its like wearing a mid-height trail running shoe. I like the extra beef, cushioning, and traction while hiking off-trail. These boots are still light and nimble, but support and protect my feet well. To me, they are what a ‘light hiker’ should be. They have the same high traction enlarged outsole as the Fastpacker. These boots (and the Fastpacker) have a Gore-Tex lining, so they are an excellent choice for hiking in snow and wet conditions.
This is a mini-review in the 2011 Lightweight Mid-Height Trail Shoes State of the Market Report. A subscription to our site is needed to read the parent article.
Disclosure: The manufacturers provided these products to the author and/or Backpacking Light at no charge, and they are owned by the author/BPL. The author/Backpacking Light has no obligation to review these products under the terms of this agreement.