Salomon XA Pro 3D Ultra 2 Running Shoes

[Short of time? Read the Haiku review instead]

So here’s the thing – I currently have gainful employment in a shop that sells trekking and travelling equipment, on the face of it an ideal occupation for the inveterate traveller. I advise my customers on what gear to buy when going on their adventures. With my extensive coverage of the world, I’ve often experienced their destination and so I am well able to lecture them on what type of clothing they will need, and what specialist equipment, and people arrive ready and fully willing to spend a fortune on wicking, mosquito-repellent clothing, zip-off trousers, super-lightweight toiletry bags etc.

This leaves me in a quandary: when I myself prepare for a trip there’s no way I’m going to buy brand new clothing. It’s just going to get filthy, abraded, sun-faded and have holes poked in it by over-zealous washer-women beating it on the rocks. Instead I’ll take my oldest cotton t-shirts, frayed shorts and scratched, old sunnies. I’ll fix up my pack with bailer twine and gaffer tape, and make extensive use of my sewing kit. I’ll do exactly the opposite of what I advise my customers. Of course, I do own a range of expensive, technical garments that work brilliantly in tropical, desert, alpine and temperate climates, but I save those for my hiking trips. I wouldn’t take them travelling with me – Ye Gods, what a waste!

I don’t like to be hypocritical, and so I console myself with the knowledge that most of my customers do not want to experience the world as I do. They’re happy to pay the money to be comfortable. In short, they’re warmdüschers. I’m surrounded by warmdüschers all day, and I advise and encourage them in their warmdüscherdom in order to make sales. Often do I long to drop this façade and shout at them: “Look, you don’t need any of this! It’s a week in Fiji and you’re spending more money on shirts than I’d spend over a month in Malawi! Warmdüscher!” I manage to refrain myself from such liberating behaviour, usually.

Having said all that, one of the most difficult choices in packing for a trip is that concerning footwear. Unless you are going on a long hike, or over a wintry tundra, two types of shoe should suffice for most scenarios. A pair of open, sandal-type things (to be dealt with in a separate post) and a pair of lightweight but supportive shoes, and this is where Salomon’s XA Pro 3D Ultra 2 comes in.

Despite sounding like a doomsday computer virus, the XA Pro is actually designed as a trail-running shoe but is perfect for travel: they weight 750g per pair, the mesh upper is eminently breathable and dries very quickly, they are very supportive thanks to a high arch and flared heel-base, the Quicklace system is neat and fast, and - they’re really comfortable. And – they look pretty cool.

The term all-rounder is an understatement when applied to these babies. I’ve used them for all-day city sightseeing, running with the Hash, hiking on trails, cycling, canyoning, white-water rafting, evening wear, self-defence and as drinking receptacles. My only quibble (I love that word) is with their durability. The soft, grippy outsole wears down quite quickly and the mesh upper can get caught on sharp protuberances or bushes and tear. Still, they’ll last the duration of your trip, and then do like I do and give them to a homeless person on your way to the airport. It’s win-win.

Phew – I think that’s the most exhaustive review I’ve ever given a product!

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