Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Salomon XA Elevate GTX Review - All of the Rugged, Versatile Greatness of the XA Elevate with Added Waterproof Protection

Salomon XA Elevate GTX
When I have to choose from my selection of running shoes, unless I am testing something new, I’ll more often than not pick the Salomon XA Elevate, my favorite shoe from 2017 and certainly one of my favorites to date.  As the seasons shift to Winter, I have found the XA Elevate to be a bit too breathable, dealing with cold and wet feet when it snows and looking for something a bit more waterproof, though I still gravitate toward it due to its excellent traction, versatility, fit and protection.
Enter the XA Elevate GTX with Gore Tex waterproof membrane to keep out the cold drafts and dampness.  Though a low cut shoe, the XA Elevate GTX when paired with a set of low gaiters (or without on packed snowy trails or just when cold) is a fine choice for most winter days.

Protection. Durability and Stability
Fit and Waterproofing
Traction on all surfaces
Heel Padding
Shoe Weight
Specs Weight: 10.9 oz/310g (US 9M) Test sample in US M10: 12.13 oz/344g Stack Height: 26mm/18mm (8mm drop) Lug Height: 5mm MSRP: $160 Available now
Tester Profile: Jeff Valliere runs mostly on very steep technical terrain above Boulder often challenging well known local FKT's. 

This is the most significant change over the regular XA Elevate, with a full Gore Tex bootie integration, which does an excellent job at keeping out water, snow, slush and also helps retain warmth, without feeling overly warm or clammy, even in temps up to ~70 degrees.
As is the case with the majority of Salomon shoes, the upper is about as good as it gets for me. Salomon, as always, really does a great job with the upper, striking a combination of confidence inspiring foothold, comfort, fit and quality/durability.  The XA Elevate GTX is a shoe where I never really think about foothold, since the upper does its job so well, no matter how steep the terrain, the speed, side hilling or rock hopping.

Fit is true to size and though the XA Elevate GTX has somewhat of a performance fit suited generally toward the lower volume foot, the ability to adjust the laces to accommodate a wider range of feet is only rivaled by the Sense Pro Max and Ultra Pro within the Salomon lineup.  Fit is true to size, forefoot room is enough for splay and swell without feeling insecure or sloppy in technical terrain.

The internal Sensi Fit overlays (“innerlays” in the case of the Elevate) are very comfortable with no pressure points and I am able to achieve proper snugness on the first pull of the quick laces and not have to adjust them again no matter the speed or terrain.
The upper on the XA Elevate GTX is excellent, however with a few very minor, but notable exceptions.  First, the tongue is reworked to accommodate the Gore Tex liner, as to keep water out of the shoe. This causes the tongue to jut upwards instead of nicely contouring over the top of the foot as is the case with the non GTX version.
In the photo below, you can see how the tongue is naturally positioned, protruding upward on the GTX (left), yet laying low and flat on the normal version. This is not significantly problematic, however it does somewhat impact fit and security.
Additionally, where the Gore Tex liner wraps around the back inside of the heel counter, there is a distinct seam, above which the padding juts outward and is somewhat thick.  I don’t find it to be uncomfortable, but I do find heel hold to be compromised ever so slightly.

Compared to the non GTX
Combined with the different tongue, I find overall fit and security to be slightly different in comparison to the non Gore Tex version of the XA Elevate.  If I were not comparing to the non GTX version, this would essentially go unnoticed, but the non GTX Elevate is absolutely perfect for me and thus sets a very high standard.

The dual density Energy Cell+ EVA midsole is identical in both shoes, though with an extra millimeter of advertised stack.  Not sure if that is a result of the Gore Tex liner or not and comparing side by side with the non GTX version, there is a difference, but much of that could be compaction after 140 miles of hard use.
The Profeel film in the forefoot offers incredible protection, to the point where in both versions of the XA Elevate to be unrivaled for a trail running shoe, guarding against any sort of sharp obstacles underfoot while offering adequate contouring underfoot.  Perfect for rock hopping and off trail use.
Cushioning is on the firm side, definitely not plush, but not overly harsh or slappy either and has never been a problem for me no matter the run.

The outsole of the XA Elevate/GTX has been one of the best for me, supremely grippy and versatile, providing positive and secure traction on just about any surface, no matter the season. The 5mm lugs are significant and prominent, providing excellent bite into soft dirt, off trail scruff, snow, yet are numerous and arranged such that they are never noticeable or a hindrance when running on harder surfaces. Wet traction, particularly on wet rock is unparalleled, as the composition of the Premium Wet Traction Contagrip sticks predictably always.
As if the supreme traction on such a wide variety of conditions and surfaces were not enough, durability is also impressive. In the photo below, you can compare the non GTX XA Elevate (top) with over 140 miles of very hard use with the GTX (bottom) with about 30 miles of use. Though the lugs are slightly rounded compared to new with slightly more wear in the toe, I have not found traction to be compromised in the least.


Overall I find the XA Elevate GTX to be a great all around winter/wet/bad weather trail running shoe for a wide variety of conditions and surfaces. Sharing nearly all the positive attributes of the non GTX version, the XA Elevate GTX is a top pick when the trails or even roads are sloppy with snow, water and mud, providing positive traction, a waterproof upper and great performance. The gain of over an ounce over the non GTX version is noticeable, though the weight of the shoe is in line with (or lighter than) many competing Gore Tex heavier duty trail running shoes.

The Gore Tex liner adds more structure to the upper, making it feel a bit more protective and durable (which it is), but it does also add a bit of stiffness. Combined with the tongue that does not wrap as well and the change to the interior of the heel counter, foothold and fit is just a notch below the non GTX version, though still excellent.

I typically lean toward Gore Tex shoes with a built in gaiter, however it is easy enough to add a set of lightweight gaiters (like the fine Kahtoola Instagaiters we reviewed here). I also appreciate having a lower cut GTX shoe for days that I do not need full over the ankle coverage. And they slip on easier.

Room for improvement?

It is hard for me to knock the XA Elevate GTX, being the Gore Tex version of one of my favorite shoes of all time. However, I think that the tongue is a bit floppy and the inner heel counter could be re-worked to provide better heel hold. Admittedly, I am splitting hairs here, but this is about all I can come up with that would make better fit/performance.


Salomon XA Elevate GTX vs. Salomon XA Elevate (RTR review here): The non GTX version is lighter, has better foothold and security, resulting in more agile and fast performance. Adding the GTX liner adds weight and stiffness and compromises foothold/fit somewhat, but is worth it for the supreme weatherproofing. Midsole and outsole are identical.

Salomon XA Elevate GTX vs. La Sportiva Uragano/Tempesta GTX (RTR review here): The XA Elevate GTX is probably closer to the Tempesta, as they are both low top, though the collar is a touch lower on the Elevate. Both are equally waterproof and both have excellent traction. I would say the Elevate has better all around versatility and traction on a wider variety of surfaces than the Tempesta. For deeper snow and harsher conditions, I would pick the Uragano out of the 3 given the built in gaiter and deeper tread (sharing outsole with Tempesta). For La Sportiva, I size up 1/2 size with their winter shoes as they seem to fit a bit more snug and I prefer to wear a thicker wool sock when cold (not really necessary with the Elevate however).

Salomon XA Elevate GTX vs. Salomon Speedspike CS (RTR review here): As the name implies, the Speedspike CS has carbide studs for traction on hard frozen snow and ice. The Speedspike is waterproof as well and fit is at least as good, if not better than the Elevate, as I feel it is a bit more secure. The lugs are more pronounced on the Speedspike CS not even considering the studs, but overall the Elevate is more versatile. Both shoes are winter staples for me, just depends on the trail/conditions.

Reviewer Bio
Jeff Valliere is a former pro cyclist who now runs and climbs the mountains of Colorado. He has been top 5 Masters, top 25 overall, at the Pike's Peak Marathon several times, finishing 2d Masters in 2015. Jeff loves vertical accumulating more than 500,000 vertical feet per year, has climbed all the Colorado 14's and 200 of the 13's and has held FKT on several.   
The Ride GTX was provided at no charge. The opinions herein are entirely the author's.
Comments Questions Welcome Below!
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Jeff Valliere said...


Marduk said...

Can you go distance in the shoe? How does the ride compare to Salomom Ultra Pro, if you have such a comparison? Looking for a robust but most important comfortable shoe to cover 26+ miles im winter.

Bobcat said...

Now I wish we can get a Torrent GTX, it's a great shoe on snow with it's grip and wide base. The upper is terrible at soaking up water though.

Jeff Valliere said...

Marduk, the XA Elevate (GTX or Non) is more firm and less flexible than the Ultra Pro, so depends on your preference and the terrain you run I guess, but I would not hesitate to wear the Elevate for longer distances.

Bobcat, Torrent GTX, a great idea!