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Hands-on Gear Review

Salewa Wildfire GTX Review

Salewa Wildfire GTX Black/Citro
Price:   $169 List | $168.95 at Backcountry
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Pros:  Light, snug-fitting, and breathable, glove-like lacing, like Velcro on rock
Cons:  Poor traction in mud and snow
Editors' Rating:     
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Manufacturer:   Salewa

Our Verdict

The Salewa Wildfire GTX is a shoe that bridges the hiking shoe and approach shoe categories. The third lightest product we tested, it's designed to be low profile, fit your foot like a glove and climb low 5th class rock. It is a specialty shoe and doesn't provide much midsole cushioning in favor of maintaining sensitivity for climbing. It's not the best choice for most hiking, but it does its intended job very well. The Salewa Wildfire crack climbs and edges as well as most approach shoes.

The Keen Targhee 2 and The North Face Ultra 109 GTX, our Best Buy and Editors' Choice winners, are better choices for a light hiking shoe used primarily for hiking and light backpacking.

New Colors for the Salewa Wildfire GTX - November 2016
The Wildfire GTX is no longer available in the color we reviewed; keep reading to find out more.

RELATED REVIEW: The Quest for the Best Men's Hiking Shoes of 2017

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Score Product Price Measured Weight of Pair, Size 12 Waterproof Lining Upper
Editors' Choice Award
2.3 lbs. GORE-TEX Extended Comfort Mesh and PU-coated leather
Best Buy Award
2.3 lbs. KEEN.DRY waterproof breathable membrane Nubuck and textile
2.1 lbs. None Suede leather
Top Pick Award
2.5 lbs. GORE-TEX Extended Comfort Footwear Nubuck Leather/ 100% recycled Nylon Mesh/ Uretech
2.2 lbs. GORE-TEX Full-grain leather, textile mesh, synthetic overlays
2.7 lbs. Waterproof, breathable GORE-TEX Nubuck leather
2.3 lbs. KEEN.DRY waterproof breathable membrane Lightweight mesh, synthetic overlays
2.2 lbs. GORE-TEX Extended Comfort Microfiber Forefoot, Ballistic Mesh, Exa Shell
2.1 lbs. None Dura leather and mesh
2.15 lbs. GORE-TEX Extended Comfort Air mesh and synthetic upper

Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
Brandon Lampley
Review Editor

Last Updated:
November 11, 2016


The New Version of the Salewa Wildfire GTX vs. the Older Version

We did some investigating and determined that there have been no changes to the Wildfire GTX other than updated colors. It is now available in Black/Citro, Indigo/Nugget Gold, and Reef/Mimosa.

The latest colorways of the Salewa Wildfire GTX are pictured below.
Salewa Wildfire GTX Black/Citro
Salewa Wildfire GTX Indigo/Nugget Gold
Salewa Wilfire GTX Reef/Mimosa

Hands-On Review

The Salewa Wildfire GTX is a light, high-performance, waterproof approach shoe that covers trail miles in relative comfort.

Performance Comparison

Headed out for a high country bouldering session. The Wildfire handles trail miles comfortably and is great on rock.
Headed out for a high country bouldering session. The Wildfire handles trail miles comfortably and is great on rock.


This is a snug-fitting, low-profile shoe designed for moving fast in terrain that requires lots of scrambling on rock. The slim toe box and low volume upper fits average to narrow feet well. The shoe is supportive enough for long distances and carrying a pack, but has minimal cushioning under foot.

The lacing on the Salewa Wildfire GTX begins way down by running through the rubber toe cap. Five traditonal eyelets continue up the midfoot, and the seventh and upper eyelet is unique. Similar to the Targhee 2, it is connected to thin webbing that extends around the heel and down to your arch. We love what this design does for the Targhee 2, and this version works even better.

The mostly mesh upper allow the GORE-TEX liner to breathe much better than most. We found this to be one of the cooler shoes we tested for warm weather days.


At 2.2 lbs per pair, this is the third lightest shoe we tested. Keeping the profile narrow and upper to a minimum for climbing performance makes these light.


The Salewa Wildfire GTX has a flexible forefoot and moderately stiff midfoot. This makes it sensitive and precise when climbing. We don't really have any complaints about the this model's support for long hikes and carrying loads — there is enough, but the average user will probably enjoy wearing other models more. The La Sportiva FC ECO 2.0 provides more foot support, is better cushioned for long miles and while not an approach shoe, was our second favorite for 4th class climbing.

Testing the traction of the Wildfire and North Face Ultra 109 side by side. Both have excellent traction on granite slabs.
Testing the traction of the Wildfire and North Face Ultra 109 side by side. Both have excellent traction on granite slabs.


The sticky, soft Vibram Tech Approach Evo sticks to rock like no other, even to wet granite slabs. This shoe delivers OK traction on the trail and the heel does a little better job at controlling slips while descending gravel than other approach shoes. Your feet will stay dry when hiking through mud, but the muddy traction is terrible.


This is a specialty shoe, and it performs that job very well. You can run in them a bit, there's more cushioning in the heel than the rest of the midsole. This is not the shoe we'd choose for a hike unless we needed to climb something along the way. Its snug fit and flashy colors make it a poor choice for casual wear, and the soles wear fast on pavement.

This sticky rubber toe just wants to be stuffed into #3 camalot cracks!
This sticky rubber toe just wants to be stuffed into #3 camalot cracks!

Water Resistance

Water resistance is a strong point. The uppers resisted absorbing water for a good long while and the liner never leaked.


An impressive combo of features on the upper make this a very durable shoe considering its light weight. A sticky rubber toe cap extends further back than the others we tested. A hexagonally textured rubber rand extends all the way around the shoe and protects the lower portion of the mesh upper. Over and above this, a grid of PU rubbers is glued to and protects the mesh from abrasion. The Vibram sole is not as durable as others, but that's an acceptable trade-off for the great friction. This shoe even sports a silverized antimicrobial treatment to keep the funk down.

Lots of high-tech protective features on the mesh upper make this shoe quite durable.
Lots of high-tech protective features on the mesh upper make this shoe quite durable.

Best Applications

The Salewa Wildfire GTX is great for easy backcounty climbing with long approaches. It's a brilliant approach shoe for places like Tuolomne Meadows in California with lots of exposed scrambling on approach and descent. This would also be a perfect shoe for fast one-day summer ascents of routes like the Upper Exum Ridge on the Grand Teton or the East Buttress of Mt. Whitney.

This model is designed for scrambling and climbing more than pounding out trail miles.
This model is designed for scrambling and climbing more than pounding out trail miles.


At $168, you might consider this a great deal for comfortable, durable, waterproof, rock-slaying approach shoe. But it's limited in versatility, and other more affordable models fit most hikers' needs better.


The Salewa Wildfire GTX is a great climbing, comfortable approach shoe that can also handle many miles on the trail. It's got just enough support for carrying reasonable loads into mountain bivouacs. The waterproof version we tested kept us warm and dry, and the version without a GORE-TEX liner is even lighter, more breathable, and awesome for summer climbing.

Other Versions

Wildfire GTX - Women's
Salewa Wildfire GTX - Womens
  • Cost - $160
  • Women's version

  • Cost - $129
  • Non Gore-Tex version
Brandon Lampley

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews

Most recent review: November 11, 2016
Summary of All Ratings

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2 Total Ratings
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
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   Jul 29, 2016 - 02:18pm
Advisor · Other · Basel Land, Switzerland
I found these very comfortable and wear them most days for walking the dog on paved roads and grassy tracks. After a couple of months it rained heavily whilst I was walking in a town centre. After less than 10 minutes my socks on both feet were wet through. I was not in puddles and my jeans were not wet,so this was not water entering from above. Other members of my group were wearing mesh trainers and they all had dry feet. These shoes simply do not seem to have any waterproof property at all.

On complaining to Salewa, their representative tried to tell me that having Goretex does not mean they are waterproof, just that they dry out quickly! Utter nonsense, and they are advertised as waterproof. Salewa now want me to pay to return them for testing. Appalling!

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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