Shoe Review: Salomon XA Pro 3D
This post is republished — and was one of the most popular articles — from a now-defunct blog I used to maintain.
It’s always a bit sad to retire a pair of running shoes, but alas, the time has come to move my Salomon XA Pro 3D trail shoes from my “running shoe” bin to my “general gym shoe” bin, also known as the place where running shoes go to die.
These shoes were my one of my first “real” pair of trail shoes, and after logging near 600+ miles in them on various dirt trails, muddy paths, and through streams in the hills of Mt. Diablo State Park, the Marin Headlands, and Jackson Hole, Wyoming, I want to offer a review of the Salomon XA Pro 3D. (So many shoe reviews on other websites and in magazines talk about the way the shoe feels out of the box or after running a dozen or so miles in them… Hopefully I can provide some further insight after exhausting the life of these shoes.)
First, the pros: Great looking shoe! To be honest, I bought them partly because of their aesthetic appeal and aggressive look. The gray on black color scheme, with a subtle multicolored label striping the tongue, reminds me of a well-polished, shiny black Dodge Viper resting quietly, but confidently, among a row of candy apple red and cobalt blue sport cars. These shoes do not a silly gimmick (Reebok Pump, anyone?) or an obnoxious color scheme to turn heads. Somehow, the understated yet sporty shoe looks fast and light just sitting in a box. It called to me. (Score one point for the marketing folks at Salomon.)
More pros: The traction is awesome and allowed me to confidently navigate the most technical terrain, slippery slopes, and slick logs and rocks.
I like the way this light shoe hugs the foot. It wraps the heel while providing enough room in the toe-box. The firm rubber toe-stop is great for preventing stubbed-toes on gnarly root and boulder strewn singletrack. It rises a bit towards the back, fitting somewhere between a low-top racing flat and a high-top hiking boot, providing just enough protection and flexibility in the ankle are
I also like the laceless, pull-tight “lacing” mechanism. I think Salomon uses some type of Kevlar type material for this and it is a neat design that provides an as-snug or as-loose fit as you want along the top of the foot. One never has to worry about a shoelace coming undone.
(One of my training buddies mentioned a potential drawback with this “laceless” system: If, for whatever reason, your “lace” gets stuck on the twig of a downed branch while you are running downhill, you are going to take a pretty painful fall: a regular shoelace would untie or snap, but these “laces” are bulletproof. This never happened to me, but I suppose it is something to note. Also, the lacing system is such that you cannot tie your car key to it, so be sure to have a little key pocket in your running shorts if you use these shoes.)
As much as I love these shoes, they have a limit to what they can handle. Invariably, whenever I got to the 12th-14th mile of a run, my forefoot felt bruised, sometimes painfully so. The sole of the XA Pro is pretty soft. The shoe’s flexibility makes it light, responsive, and fast, but also a poor choice for long-distance trail running. The sole is entirely too squishy.
A surprisingly large number of my friends and fellow trail runners have said they experienced similar problems with the Salomon XA Pro 3D and sent them into early running shoe retirement, opting instead to try other brands and models.
Bottom line: Would I buy another pair? Definitely.
These are great shoes for short-course trail running — fast and light with the perfect blend of technology and function. I have run a number of trail races, from 3 to 16 miles, and training runs up to 30 miles in my Salomon’s… They are wonderful until mile 12 or so, at which point I sometimes switch to another shoe (Asics GT-2120 trail shoes, which I will experiment with as my primary trail shoe for the next few months).
If heading into rocky trails or runs of more than 12 miles, however, I would suggest you try something with a stuiffer sole.
The retail price on these shoes are north of $100, but there are many places online or at the SportsBasement in San Francisco where you can get them for around $80. For that price, maybe try a pair and hit some short trails. They make a great light-weight and incredibly comfortable hiking shoe, as well.
RIP, Salomon XA Pro 3D.