New from Salomon for 2012, the X Ultra GTX is an all-round trail-walking shoe - you'll find it described as a trail-running shoe in some shops, but our first take is that it's best saved for walking despite sharing quite a few technical features with Salomon's running range.
That means Salomon's neat lasting for a close, but comfortable fit - think a sort of medium volume and width - plus the trail-running developed Salomon Advanced Chassis mix of longitudinal flex and lateral stiffness underfoot allied to a Contragrip rubber sole unit.
We've already listed most of Salomon's technologies, but all you really need to know is that the sole unit is developed to be comfortable for walking, but also stable thanks to the stiffness across the width of the sole and a stiff heel counter to hold the rear of the foot firmly in place.
It's pretty obvious looking at the X Ultra GTX that it has running heritage - check the bright green reinforcements on the uppers - but look closer and you'll notice that the sole unit is thicker and heavier than Salomon's pure off-road running shoes.
That's not a criticism, it arguably makes for a better walking shoe and the built-in toe bumper and synthetic reinforcement to the uppers should add to its durability.
Fit is like the brand's running shoes. Medium width and volume and, on our typically British test foot, just about ideal. Close for good stability without being tight - a bit like your favourite jeans. And there's just enough padding too without it being excessive.
The fit is aided by the easy to use Quicklace system which is, erm, quick and gives an even tension across the top of the foot. Obviously everyone's different, so we'd strongly suggest trying before you buy.
We've used Quicklace in the past and never had issues with it by the way, so while it may look less robust than conventional lacing systems, in reality, it's pretty damn tough. The stretch lace pocket on the tongue works well too, keeping the lacing gubbins tucked well away from harm.
A quick experimental shuffle around suggests underfoot cushioning is present and correct in a reassuriungly non-squidgy way thanks to running-shoe style EVA. Which brings us to the Contragrip outsole, to which we say, phew...
It's the most aggressively-lugged Contragrip sole we've seen on a Salomon trail shoe and we mean that in a good way. In the past, Salomon's sole units have tended to be best-suited for hardpack and rock alpine trails, let them loose on a muddy UK footpath and the result was havoc.
We once spent half a walk's worth of Wings Sky GTX testing picking outselves up out of the mud. It looks like that lesson's been learned and the deep lugs on this version of Contragrip look like they should grip tenaciously to anything short of full-on porridge. It remains to be seen how well they clear and whether the deep lugs compromise grip on harder surfaces, but for year-round UK use, they certainly look like they mean business.
Negatives? The shoe has a Gore-Tex waterproof liner, which bumps up the price but ups the water resistance. That's great in cooler, damper conditions, but for hot weather use, we've found waterproof liners can become uncomfortably hot and sweaty, potentially leading to blisters as feet swell and soften.
Classic Salomon fit and features but with the promise of increased sturdiness and durability compared to their pure running shoes, maybe at the expense of a little agility thanks to the slightly taller sole unit. The icing on the cake is the first Salomon Contragrip shoe outsole we've seen that looks fighting fit for a tussle with British mud. If you've always loved the fit and feel of SAlopmon's shoes, but hated sliding around on softer terrain, the X Ultra GTX could be the answer.