The X Alpine PRO (24 mm heel, 18 mm forefoot) is as rugged as runners who relish spending hours upon hours high up in the mountains, taking on rocky terrain, unrelenting climbs and whatever else awaits such epic climbs.
Right out of the box, the orange and black combination looks sleek. But make no mistake, the shoes (11.4 ounces for men’s size 10) are not built for speed or even comfort.
They were made to be your favorite climbing partner when venturing up and around mountains.
Salomon has engineered a shoe that offers amazing protection from toe to heel. No gaiters needed with these.
While I don’t live near mountains, my training runs through rocky patches gave me a good feel for how these shoes would react when going through undulating rocky terrain.
There simply was no issue in how they handled small rocks, jagged rocks, larger rocks and other trail obstacles.
If it is this type of running adventure you seek or are looking for a solid pair of sneakers for hiking, the X Alpines are a good selection.
On the other hand, they do not provide comfort to the runner. During my first few runs, I found the shoes to be super stiff and rigid.
My feet hurt after wearing them on shorter, mild to moderate technical runs. As I neared my required test miles, the rigidity remained as did the post-run soreness.
Additionally, I would not recommend these for those seeking to do speed work, attempt a race PR or fast time, or run on a mild to moderate trail. There are much better options for those types of runs.
But again Salomon designed the X Alpine PRO to be king of the mountain and it delivers on that promise.
Since the X Alpine PRO is made for technical terrain, one can expect the shoes to be well crafted to protect the feet.
Salomon does not disappoint. The outsole features a firm, sticky rubber section under the forefoot, good for rocky climbs or hikes, a solid toe bumper and protective overlays to prevent rubbing and abrasion.
The toe bumper is quite protective and substantial, probably the most coverage around the shoe’s front that I have experienced so far.
This not only adds protection but adds grip when scrambling up scree or other technical areas.
On the backside, the very firm heel counter also offers protection. However, this comes with the cost of sacrificing comfort.
I struggled to get used to the aftermath of running in the X Alpines. My heels took a pounding on minimal terrain.
Up top, the padded tongue provides solid protection from trail junk that might infiltrate your shoes.
Given its superior protection, there really is no reason to think that the X Alpine would break down before normal wear and tear.
While it is foremost a running shoe, it could also be used for serious hiking, including 14ers. Its combination of sturdiness, grippiness, and protection all work together.
In fact, since I personally rarely get high up in the mountains for running, I will probably stow away the X Alpines PRO as a go-to hiking shoe when I plan for such an adventure.
Another key factor is the outsole, made of Salomon’s Premium Wet Traction Contagrip. The lugs are 5 mm tall and help propel the runner through wet, muddy and other such sections.
Across the toes, specially designed lugs are meant to help the runner ascend or descend technical sections.
If you are focused on faster running, racing or speed work on moderate trails, the X Alpine PRO is not for you. But the more gnarly and challenging the trails, the more the shoe shines.
On a basic cross-country course with grassy sections and easily runnable single track, I found the X Alpines to be noticeably slower and less responsive than other trail shoes. Its firmness plays a role in that.
Still, I never felt like I was going to wipe out when cruising around the trail in the X Alpines.
That bodes well for its intended purpose — delivering the runner up steep mountains, through rooty and rocky trail sections, and other challenges.
I found the size to be true, though its secureness and firmness was bordering on a tight fit. There was plenty of toe box room, not Altra-sized room but enough so that one’s toes didn’t feel like sardines.
I admit it has taken me a couple of pairs of Salomons to get used to their unique lacing system.
But now I really like it. Instead of tying shoes — maybe too tight, maybe too loose — a quick-lace pull allows the runner to simply slip on the shoes, adjust the lacing and get moving.
Not only is it quick and easy, it is also secure.
What the Energy Cell midsole offers in security and firmness, it severely lacks in comfort (and responsiveness).
Its firmness is expected, even demanded, for the rocky, rooty and challenging surfaces it was created for.
However, the sacrifice in comfort was troubling, especially when it came to running on mild or even moderate terrain.
That lack of comfort was clearly acerbated on smooth trails when I attempted speed work and pushing myself quickly down the trail.
Some might compare the X Alpine Pro to Salomon’s XA Elevate, and there are definite similarities. The X Alpine Pro is a bit more secure and offers a wider toe box without jeopardizing other key attributes.
Comfort is an issue, especially in the heel area, and you won’t be setting any PRs in these shoes.
However, they are well worth the investment for those seeking out rugged terrain, climbing mountains, traversing rocky areas, descending technical climbs, etc.
And once you are done with running those tough conditions, the X Alpine could be stashed for a leisurely hike up a 14er.
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