Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Gear Closet: Salewa MS Ultra Flex Mid GTX Speed Hiking Shoe Review

If you've been searching for an excellent hiking shoe for your light and fast adventures, your quest might be over. The new MS Ultra Flex Mid GTX from Salewa has everything that fast packers could ask for, wrapped up in a slick looking package that delvers a high level of performance both on and off the trail.

Tipping the scales at 11.5 ounces (23 oz./pair), the Ultra Flex is a boot that competes with trail runners in terms of overall weight. These shoes feel extremely light on your feet, and with their athletic fit, they allow hikers to be be nimble and quick, while also maintaining a great connection with the trail. Those who have wider feet might find the fit a bit too confining, but if you're like me, and prefer a shoe that provides stability and agility in one package, this is the boot for you.

The Ultra Flex uses a Michelin Ultra Train outsole to provide traction in a variety of conditions. Yes, that is the same Michelin that is best known for making tires, but that pedigree translates well for use in the outdoors too. I've worn these shoes in a wide range of situations, including completely dry and flat trails, to wet and muddy paths up and down hills. In all cases, I found the soles performed admirably, holding a firm grip on wet rocks, slick pavement, sand, silt, and mud.

Salewa also incorporated a Gore-Tex lining into the Ultra Flex boots, providing a nice level of water resistance in the process. I've worn these boots while crossing streams and slogging up muddy trails, and have come away with dry feet each and every time. I even wore them in a driving downpour, and yet not a drop of moisture made its way inside. That's pretty impressive for footwear this light and comfortable.


Speaking of comfort, the Ultra Flex might be my new favorite light hiking shoe. As mentioned, they wrap the foot snugly, which I personally prefer over boots that have are little roomier. Thanks to the shoe's built-in Ortholite sicklier, I found that I could wear these shoes all day long without developing hot spots or blisters, even in warmer conditions or when transitioning from trail to town. That is a level of versatility that I happen to appreciate, as it means these shoes can pull double-duty when traveling as well.

As you would expect from a light hiking shoe, the Ultra Flex offer a high level of breathability. This helps to keep your feet cooler and dryer, which plays a major role in comfort as well. On warmer days, my feet did get a bit warmer during active pursuits, but not any more so than most other hiking shoes you would wear.

Salewa used a speed lacing system for cinching up the boots that makes it quick and easy to get them on and off. That system is also simple and light, helping to keep the overall weight of the boot down, while still holding them firmly in place on your feet. The drawstrings tuck neatly into a mesh stash point on the front of the shoe, keeping them neatly out of the way while hiking.

Despite these boots being so lightweight, they manage to provide excellent support all around. I was impressed with how much arch and ankle support the Ultra Flex offered, and its flex-collar didn't impede motion in anyway. They are especially nimble on descents, which is often where a boot fails to offer the performance we need. That wasn't he case here, as I never felt out of control or off balance, even in wet conditions.

I'd be remiss if I didn't at least mention how great these boots look as well. While that isn't always a top selling point for a great hiking shoe, it never hurts for them to pass the eyeball test too. The Ultra Flex certainly does that, as these boots look completely badass. Their low profile and athletic design pay off in spades in this area, making this a shoe that you'll want to wear even when you're not on the trail.

Priced at $190, the Ultra Flex Mid GTX offers a lot of bang for the buck. Yes, you'll be able to find other light hiking shoes for less money, but very few will offer the kind of performance that you'll find here. This is a boot that was built for those who want to go fast on the trail and each individual component and design element is geared towards that goal. As already mentioned, if you have wider feet this probably isn't the boot for you. Otherwise, this is one of the best light hiking boots I've ever worn, punching well outside its weight class.

Buy from Backcountry.com.

2 comments:

Kovas Palubinskas said...

I really enjoyed mine as well, though the lacing system was a negative to me - I would have preferred traditional laces.

Kraig Becker said...

I'm a big fan of the Boa lacing system, and while this doesn't quite compare with that, I have found it to hold the shoes in place better than traditional laces. The laces are very long however, so tucking them into the mesh pocket requires a bit of extra attention.