Fast and Light, the route is rugged and the stoke is high. Through the forest across moss and mud breaking through the treeline into the alpine where the terrain becomes technical and challenging. Finally reaching the mountain summit full of the positive vibes and sense of accomplishment thanks in no small part to Salomon.

One would wonder if there was a runner that could be part of that adventurous story. Well, wonder no longer as Salomon has created just that shoe. The S-Lab Xa Alpine Trail Runner accepts that challenge with this review shedding a little more light on it.

Gear Review : Salomon S-Lab XA Alpine Trail Runner

Over the last year or so I have transitioned out of wearing hiking boots on the majority of my trips. I started wearing my Salomon Speedcross 3 trail runners more and more outings especially in the forest. For the alpine a pair of North Face runners I had from two years prior tackled the rugged terrain of the mountains but I loved the feel of my Salomons.

Scrolling through websites, watching videos and chatting with friends who were ultra-runners I stumbled upon Salomon’s newest alpine trail runner. I discovered the Xa Alpine from their S-Lab platform and immediately was excited to get a pair to try out and review. Was there really a shoe that was light and nimble but rugged enough to tackle the harsh alpine?

XA Alpine Trail Runners Up Close

Salomon really nailed it with the design on this trail runner that allows it to claim it’s alpine naming. The shoe itself is built on the S/Lab platform and is designed with the performance athlete in mind. The shoes still uses the well known quick pull lace system and feels like putting on any of their other runners.

This is where the similarities end though as the runner is then wrapped in it’s alpine armour consisting of a zip up integrated gaiter. The gaiter is made of a breathable and moderately water resistant material but is not waterproof.

Next the shoe has rugged protection along the sides and most importantly toe section to combat abrasion in harsh terrain. The sole of the runner is a deviation from the normal Salomon offering as they combined their ContaGrip design. The agressive lug pattern is paired with a climbing toe for solid confidence scrambling on technical terrain.

Putting The Salomon XA Alpine To The Test

Vancouver Islands dense temperate forest on a damp late summer day would be the first test of the shoe. From the forest over the ups and down I hiked a span of 22 kms that day including a sub-alpine summit with nice rocky terrain. Light rain made the bush wet so the runner was also challenged to keep my feet dry and my footing firm.

I had confident traction on all types of surfaces that day including rock but the gaiter did soak through and my feet became damp. Right out of the box the shoe was exceptional and I had no blisters and no complaints from my feet. It should be noted that I went one half size larger than what I have in my Speedcross 3s.

Salomon S/Lab Xa Alpine Chris Istace

Wet conditions and rocky terrain easily tackled

Next for a challenge is where I really wanted to see the shoe shine and get its ultimate test. I went on a road trip to the Eastern High Sierra of California to climb the 13,000 foot plus granite mountains. I couldn’t have been more impressed with the shoe on both approach and scrambling technical terrain. The gaiter was a blessing on descents through ankle-deep scree moraine slopes, not even a tiny pebble made it into my runner. The thick rubber protection keep the shoe looking good and like new.

We had intended to climb a late season snow route on Mt Whitney and I managed to fit a pair of Petzl Leopard crampons confidently to them. Unfortunately weather conditions had us concede the challenge, watch for an update on the XA Alpine’s performance teamed up with this ultra light crampon setup in the future.

I spent 5 days in the mountains during this trip and put some long days on my feet. Not once did I feel that the runner wasn’t in it’s element or that I wanted to be wearing something different.

Salomon S/Lab Xa Alpine Chris Istace Mount Russell

Loose scree & gravel is no concern with the gaiter system

Final Thoughts on the Salomon XA Alpine Trail Runner

I was looking for a shoe that I could wear from trailhead to mountain top but had the build quality and features to handle the diverse rugged terrain. This runner provides a light fast on your feet feel with and terrain feedback but doesn’t compromise on strength and durability when it comes to the rough rocky alpine terrain.

I fell in love with the integrated gaiter design and it’s nice having that feature built-in. The gaiter did soak through pretty good in the wet conditions but I feel your foot would overheat too much if it wasn’t breathable so my thought is that is a fair trade-off.

The only other thing that came up while using the shoe was highlighted as I encountered some class 4 exposed technical terrain. I wanted to tighten the toe box area of the shoe so the climbing zone was confidence inspiring much like my climbing shoes or approach shoes but the quicklace system doesn’t allow for precise zone control on the lacing.

Overall this shoe kills it in the lightweight alpine assault category. I highly recommend it to anyone that appreciates the freedom a trail runner offers but needs a bit more rugged build.

Salomon S/Lab Xa Alpine Chris Istace Mount Conness

The XA Alpine was at home on rock, dirt and snow

Official Salomon Details and Specs

• Outsole: Premium Wet Traction Contagrip® / Climbing Zone
• Chassis: Carbon Chassis
• Midsole: Dual Density Compressed EVA
• Sockliner: Molded EVA
• Upper Material: Anti-debris mesh / Ripstop fabric / Water Resistant textile
• Protection: Synthetic toe cap / Breathable Protective Gaiter / protective ankle pad
• Fit Management: lycra collar / Sensifit™ / Quicklace™
• Tongue/Collar: Lace pocket / EndoFit™ / Lateral Zip Gaiter
• Insulation Temperature: -4°C / +25°F

• Midsole Height: 22mm/16mm (6mm drop)
• Weight (g)/ Size: 350 / 8.5

Retails for $319.99 (Canadian)


I review and support companies that support my efforts to continue to bring you photos, stories and adventures of the Mindful Explorer. Altitude Sports recognizes my efforts (thanks guys!) and will occasionally provide me equipment to power my trips and future outdoor pursuits. I however will not take inferior product that I do not believe in strongly or would not normally choose to use myself. My integrity is your guarantee.


Join the discussion 7 Comments

  • Patrick H says:

    This is an interesting concept… Some days there’s nothing worse than strapping on a heavy set of boots to make an easy climb. A running shoe with durability enough to withstand the alpine and a built in gaiter. I’ll be watching for your long term follow up Chris.

    • Chris Istace says:

      Just did Minnas Ridge yesterday in them and again just love these. Salomon Europe did just announce a new second style with a mid ankle geared towards more of the all around adventure hiker.

  • Christopher Edwards says:

    Hi Chris – just wondering if you ever managed to pair the shoes with the leopard crampons?

    • Hey Christopher, thanks for reaching out. You bet I did and they worked well. The important thing to note is they are absolutely not for steep ice as the high angle tends to have the crampon twist some under foot. The design of the crampon combined with the softer body of the shoe allow some flex which is just fine on low angle snow and ice covered surfaces.

  • Aaron Smith says:

    Thanks for this review. I’m considering using this shoe for a multi-day jungle expedition that will include river crossings and walking across slick rocks. One issue I’ve found with waterproof shoes is that once they are submerged in a river, they never dry out and are constantly sloshy. Do you have a sense for whether these shoes are breathable enough to dry out after being submerged?

    • Hey Aaron, these will not dry out that quick. In my opinion these are best suited for the alpine on mixed terrain with mild moisture and snow. I am about to work on a review for the Merrell Cirrus MTL which I think will nail your demands on what you are after. I have done several trail runs and actually just did a mountain summit with them which also included navigating a river drainage gully to access the peak with wet rock, they were amazing.

      • Aaron says:

        Thanks for the quick reply! Will check out the Merrells, which typically fit my foot pretty well.

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