Testing: Salomon XA Pro Hiking Shoes

By Norman Chan

Lightweight hiking shoes that worked great for novice backpackers.

My legs are sore after three days of hiking in Yosemite over the Holiday weekend, but my feet are actually feeling pretty good. I'm going to credit that to new hiking shoes that Wes and I bought for the trip: Salomon's XA Pro 3D Ultra 2 trail runners. These came recommended by several backpacking sites, and they were reasonably priced at $85 on Amazon. We wanted shoes that would be suitable for rocky terrain but not weigh as much as a heavy-duty boot. The XA Pros, at two and a half pounds, didn't feel much heavier than my daily sneakers, and were able to last two seven-mile treks up and down a 2,800 foot mountain. Hiking with these shoes was by no means effortless--we could thank our out-of-shape bodies for that--but it was at least painless. I could still feel some rocks through the treads, but the cushioning was enough to dampen any uncomfortable pressure.

The best feature of the XA Pros is quick-lacing system: tightening the laces is just a matter of tugging at the string at the base of the shoe tongue. The extra lace slack can then fit in a pouch inside the tongue, but I left it hanging loose without worry. Quick-lace is so convenient and effective that it's just one portable motor away from Marty McFly's self-lacing trainer technology.

Some people have recommended swapping out the insoles of these when you first get them, since they supposedly wear out sooner than other shoes. I found the included insoles very comfortable with excellent balance of arch support and cushioning, with no signs of serious wear after the hikes. The shoes arrived two days before our trip and didn't take long to wear in--my achilles tendon is a little red, but not bruised. The next step is to take these on long runs, since they're advertised as all-purpose running shoes.

Any hikers or backpackers out there? What shoes do you hike with? In fact, what's your essential gear for taking on trips into the wilderness? We'd like to hear your recommendations for products to test if we ever take Tested on an extended field trip.