While there is a definite movement toward more minimal footwear there is still a time and place for a ‘maximal’ shoe with enough cushioning and protection to enable the average trail runner to comfortably cover long distances over rough terrain, the Salomon XT Wings 3 is the perfect example of such a shoe.
- Out of the box
- Salomon XT Wings 3 Upper
- Salomon XT Wings 3 Midsole
- Salomon XT Wings 3 Outsole
- Salomon XT Wings 3 Conclusion
Out of the box
Taking the Salomon XT Wings 3 out of the box for the first time, the striking yellow and black colour way caught my eye. It was subdued as good trail running gear needs to be, but at the same time provided just a splash of colour to allow for some colour coordination of ones gear. It looked to be a tough and well cushioned trail running shoe that had been well put together, but felt relatively heavy (±340g) and bulky, with the shoe not flexing much upon bending it.
Slipping on the shoes initially one could tell Salomon is a European brand as they are a narrower shoe and thus require sizing up with my wide feet to ensure enough toe space, especially on long downhills. No one likes blisters or finding a toenail in their shoe… For those with narrower feet and higher arches however the fit of the Salomon XT Wings 3 should be fine in their standard size.
Salomon XT Wings 3 Upper
Looking inside the Salomon XT Wings 3‘s, one will find the Ortholite insoles that are light and breathable with an anti-bacterial treatment, but offer no extra support for the arch. Their stack height is also low so it doesn’t affect the height of the foot in the shoe and allows more space for the foot to move as it needs to inside of the shoe. They were easy to remove from and insert into the shoes and dried quickly between runs.
While the insole supports the foot, the heel cup is there to cradle the heel. The feel of the heel cup of the Salomon XT Wings 3 is medium width wise, while also being quite high and well padded. This prevents slipping and chafing, but your socks need to come up high on the ankle to achieve this and thus I would steer away from low-cut socks. The instep is also nice and high, so suits higher arches well with lower arches needing a bit tighter lacing. The tongue on the Salomon XT Wings 3 is well padded with no real stitching to speak of, so irritation at the top of the foot won’t be an issue. It is also gusseted which inhibits the ingress of debris into the shoe and socks.
The Salomon XT Wings 3 makes use of their Quicklace system, where the laces are tightened and released with a central quick-release toggle and then tucked into a lace pocket on top of the tongue so that they don’t hook on any trail obstacles. These allow the Salomon XT Wings 3 to be taken on and off extremely quickly (perfect for Xterra or Ultra marathon aid stations) but I found them to take more time and effort if you want the perfect adjustment and fit. The thin cord of the Quicklaces don’t pick up trail debris like normal laces and are also much more durable and quicker drying. Replacement sets can be bought at most Salomon stockists for a nominal fee if required.
The Salomon XT Wings 3 has welded plastic TPU overlays on the upper (called SensiFit™) that cover the mesh and connect to the Quicklace system to lock in your foot to give a precise and secure fit, reducing the roll of the foot inside the shoe as well as protecting the mesh upper from scuffing and scraping while trail running on rough terrain. This means that the upper has only one seam each side of the foot, which reduces friction, and thus the chances of any hot spots and blisters forming. This means trail running in the shoes without socks are feasible for shorter distances.
The mesh upper breathes very well on the Salomon XT Wings 3 despite the coverage of the SensiFit™, moving sweat to evaporate on the outside of the mesh upper which is tightly weaved so it stops the ingress of dirt, rocks, seeds and other trail debris. While I did not get to try the water drainage capacity of the mesh, it should be relatively good taking into account the breathability of the mesh upper. The toe-flex point on the forefoot of the Salomon XT Wings 3 can lead to some irritation on top of your small toe as the SensiFit™ material tends to bunch up there when the shoe bends. The right socks with a thicker top help to alleviate this to a degree.
The toe cap is a proper toe cap and a refreshing change from the road-like versions found on many trail running shoes as of late. It’s made of hard rubber and extends toward the sides and top of the front of the shoe. It saved my toes many times, especially when striking rocks on the top of the shoe if you don’t lift your foot high enough when you start getting fatigued and then loose concentration on a long trail run. Most other shoes don’t have this protection on top of the toe cap, which makes the Salomon XT Wings 3 quite unique.
Salomon XT Wings 3 Midsole
The Salomon XT Wings 3 features pronation control posting on medial side, which offers good arch support and prevents excessive inward roll of the foot during the heel strike, but this same arch support can irritate the arches of users with low arches and takes a bit of time to get used initially if coming from a more neutral trail shoe. After a bit of casual wear and trail running the shoe did soften up slightly and combined with proper socks I did not get any more blisters in the arch area during longer runs.
The ride on the Salomon XT Wings 3 is well cushioned for the whole length of the shoe, with a smooth transition from heel strike to toe-off being facilitated by the Agile Chassis System (ACS), which is basically a plastic skeleton that is sandwiched between the EVA foam on top and the AC Muscle 2 cushioning at the bottom that provides stability to the whole foot throughout the stride, keeping your gait in check even when you become fatigued.
The shoe features a 10.5mm drop and thus is best suited to those trail runners used to normal shoes with a larger heel to toe differential, as the drop makes it difficult to naturally strike on the forefoot/midfoot. Thus for the mid- to fore-foot runner the Salomon Sense range would be better suited. Being a proper trail running shoe however, the AC Muscle 2 cushioning on the bottom of the Salomon XT Wings 3 does provide good rebound properties but is not well suited to running on hard man made surfaces like tarmac or concrete and is best kept for running on trails exclusively. During the testing my ankles and knees took quite a beating when running on hard surfaces to and from trails, so if your trail running includes regular door to trailhead stints, rather have a look at the Salomon XR Mission. The Salomon XT Wings 3 does not feature a rock plate, but the AC Muscle 2 did a good enough job of protecting the underside of my foot from rock strikes, thorns and the like on long runs.
Salomon XT Wings 3 Outsole
The outsole on the Salomon XT Wings 3 has been greatly improved from the previous model, with a more aggressive chevron lug pattern similar to that found on the Salomon Speedcross shoes but just less aggressive. The lugs are siped slightly for increased flexibility and thus “bite” into the trail well. They are designed to work well in all conditions, from dry and dusty to wet and muddy. I found them to work great in muddy conditions, clearing mud easily and gripping well, while also keeping sliding in dry, loose, rocky conditions to a minimum.
Grip whilst boulder hopping was also good and the lugs dug in well when running uphill on my toes, which some shoes struggle with. The combination of softer proprietary Contragrip rubber on areas that need grip and harder Contragrip HT (”Hard Terrain”) rubber on the heel strike and toe-off points, the Salomon XT Wings 3 strikes the perfect balance between durability for high-mileage training and grip on gnarly pieces of trail. The Salomon XT Wings 3 also features a prominent heel counter for braking down steep downhills and controlling your slide in loose and sketchy terrain.
Salomon XT Wings 3 Conclusion
The Salomon XT Wings 3 are slightly heavier, harder and less flexible than the SLAB version, but most of the weight gain comes from the shoe being made more durable and forgiving. The shoe takes training miles on rough terrain in its stride, protecting the trail runner’s feet and being forgiving of their mistakes to allow for longer, harder and more frequent training sessions. So if you are in the market for an all day, all off-road terrain trail shoe, the Salomon XT Wings 3 may be just the ticket. The only question is, can you outlast it?
The Salomon XT Wings 3 retails for R1,599.95 and is available at most outdoor shops.
The Salomon XT Wings 3 was kindly supplied by Salomon Sports South Africa.
Review by Luan van Schalkwyk
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