Hiking/Trail Running Shoes
Salomon XT Wings 3
$140, 1 lb. 9 oz. (men’s 9)
Sizes: men’s 7-14, women’s 5-12
For my regular trail runs, I like a shoe with plenty of stability and cushion, so that my feet don’t get beat up (and because I sometimes start and finish a trail run on pavement). If the shoe is surprisingly lightweight for the amount of support it delivers, that’s a bonus. So I got a bonus with the XT Wings 3, which I’ve worn on numerous, hilly trail runs of up to 12 miles, mostly in the Boise Foothills but also in Massachusetts. While not in the category of super-light, minimalist trail-running shoes, the XT Wings 3 have enough support to cross over nicely as light dayhiking or ultralight backpacking shoes.
This shoe delivers huge support and a stable landing because of a TPU-reinforced heel and midfoot, plus an outsole that flares outward, creating a wide base. The midsole’s triple-density EVA and an outsole thickness ranging from 20mm in the heel to 9.5mm in the forefoot gave me plenty of cushion. The highly breathable mesh uppers kept my feet cool even on long, hot runs (and keeping feet dry means avoiding blisters). For ultralight thru-hikers, that’s good news because the shoes dry very quickly: I slipped on an icy rock crossing a creek and dunked a shoe just a couple miles into a 9.5-mile trail run. But I just dumped the water out, wrung out my sock, and continued the run; the shoe remained comfortable and almost dried out by the time I finished, even though the air temperature on that early-spring morning never got more than several degrees above freezing. The cord-lock, wire lacing facilitates quick on and off, wrapped around my feet evenly and snugly, and always stayed tight. The shallow, widely spaced outsole lugs gripped well on trails of mostly packed dirt.
One minor nitpick: While a stretchy, mesh overlay on the tongue helped keep out most trail debris, the highly breathable mesh uppers let in a lot of dust, so my socks and feet got pretty dirty on longer runs. Fit is best for medium-volume feet.
NOTE: I’ve been testing gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See all of my reviews by clicking on the Gear Reviews category at left or in the main menu.