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Hands-on Gear Review
Salomon X Ultra Winter CS Review
Cons: Expensive, surprisingly poor traction on icy surfaces, laborious to lace up
Bottom line: A warm, comfortable hiking boot for people who don’t like tall boots.
The Salomon X Ultra Winter CS WP is perhaps the most shoe-like boot in this review, and also the lightest. At a mere 2 lbs. 11 oz. for a pair of men's size 11, they are nearly three pounds lighter than the Sorel Caribou. This lightweight model serves as an excellent option for winter hiking or snowshoeing, as long as you have gaiters to pair with them. While the upper shaft does come up above the ankle, these are perhaps the shortest boots we tested aside from the more casual Timberland and Blundstone models, and their low cuff is prone to filling with snow if not protected with a gaiter. In many ways, these boots are reminiscent of a Salomon running shoe, except that their extra stiff sole leaves one with no questions about whether they will be running or hiking in this boot. We liked this boot, and wore it without complaint many times, but found that it ranked in the lower end of our comparison testing, and was also one of the lesser scoring insulated winter hiking boots.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Winter Boots for Men of 2017
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The X Ultra Winter CS WP strikes us as a boot that thinks it's a shoe but isn't. Despite incorporating many features found on Salomon running shoes, this boot is still very stiff underfoot and does not in any way lend itself to the idea of running. This boot is one of the best fitting models in the review for more technical hiking, as the snug fit lends itself to better footwork than the typically loose fitting winter boots. Not a top performer in any category, this is a niche boot for those who desire hiking boot fit, with the added insulation of a winter boot.
This boot uses Thinsulate synthetic insulation for warmth paired with a ClimaShield (CS) waterproof breathable liner. The effect is that this is a pretty warm boot compared to the competition, on par with the Sorel Caribou. There is no doubt that this boot fits like a standard Salomon shoe, that is, narrow in the forefoot. For some, us included, the low volume of the toe box constricted our foot slightly, possibly inhibiting blood flow. It was with some surprise, then, that we found in our ice bucket test that the part of our feet that started feeling cold first were the sides of the heels. While it isn't as warm as the Vasque Snowburban II UltraDry or the Editors' Choice The North Face Chilkat 400, this boot is one of the warmer ones in our review, and we awarded it 8 out of 10 points.
The treated leather outer of this boot combined with the ClimaShield waterproof/breathable membrane on the inside means that this boot is waterproof. Much like the Vasque Snowburban II Ultradry, there was not a hint of water leakage into the inside of this boot, which means that the lowest point water can enter is the gap where the ¾ length tongue gussets end. Unfortunately, this gap is lower than on most other boots in this genre, a mere 6.5 inches above the ground, and so we awarded only 7 points for water resistance. This is a great boot for hiking in the winter, but possibly not through super deep snow, and don't try tromping through the deepest puddles that you can find, without additional protection like gaiters.
Fit and Comfort
The X Ultra Winter CS WP is in the same line as their X Ultra running shoes and hiking boots, and the comfortable out of the box fit was evident in this model as well. This boot runs on the narrow side and is a better choice for those winter hikers with low volume feet. We tended to wear light to medium weight socks with this model and had a comfortable though snug fit.
The heavy duty wool socks that we wore in the Kamik NationPlus or the Bogs Classic Ultra Mid made these feel too tight and even a bit colder due to decreased circulation. That said, the boot is warm enough that our feet were never cold in thin socks. Like with almost all of Salomon's footwear that we have tried over the years (lots!), we can say with confidence that wide footed people are not going to feel very comfortable in this boot.
This boot is designed for hiking, and it does that well. The Advanced Chassis that Salomon integrated into the midsole means that the feel underfoot is reliably stiff and supportive, and the snug fit keeps your foot locked in one place. The low shaft height eliminates the threat of rubbing or chaffing on the shin or calf. All in all, this is one of the best options for walking all day, as long as you pair it with gaiters. 7 out of 10 points.
Ease of Use
The X Ultra Winter CS WP use a unique lacing system that takes a while to get used to. The boot itself is quite easy to slip into, as it has a large opening that is less cumbersome to put on than the Vasque Snowburban II Ultradry, though the lacing takes some getting used to. The laces must first be looped through a lace locker at the crease at the ankle, which holds the foot tight, then must be looped through two more hooks on either side before tying. We also found that the round laces used on these boots do not grip each other very well, and are prone to untying themselves. We would have far preferred a speed lacing system that seems to be found on almost every other Salomon shoe.
The outsole pattern on these boots is comprised of many deep, arrow-shaped lugs, not unlike those found on their more aggressive trail running shoes, like the Salomon Speedcross 4. The contagrip rubber is blended with an ice-grip rubber compound. Upon first inspection, we assumed that these shoes would be grippy, but in practice, we found the opposite. They were not as good as the Keen Summit County and had about the same grippiness on ice as the Bogs Classic Ultra Mid. Our only speculation for the relatively low performance is that the many lugs present a low amount of surface area to stand on and not enough rubber in contact with icy surfaces to grip. Worth noting is that on looser surfaces, like snow, these boots grip just fine. 5 out of 10 points.
This contender is designed to be used as a winter hiking boot or for snowshoeing. It is a good fit for people who have narrow feet or already know that they like Salomon shoes, but probably not an ideal fit for people with wide or high volume feet. Its main appeal is the low shaft height, which will require it to be paired with a gaiter. It could easily be worn as a commuter or everyday winter boot, as long as you don't mind lacing it up frequently.
The MSRP for this boot is $180, which is a bit more expensive than the higher scoring The North Face Chilkat 400, and quite a bit more expensive than the comparable Columbia Bugaboot Plus III Omni-Heat. Salomon footwear always tends to be a bit pricey, so this doesn't surprise us too much. That said, we aren't sure that you gain much in performance for the extra money that you spend unless you try on all these boots and these fit the best.
The Salomon X Ultra Winter CS WP is a nimble winter hiking boot and is easily the one which we would be most likely to take out on a winter hike of any significant distance. It has a snug, performance-oriented fit that makes it more useful when hiking on or off trail in wintery conditions or even in late fall and spring when the temperatures are low.
— Ryan Huetter and Andy Wellman
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