Salomon XA Alpine 2 Advanced

Snow, trails, rainy streets – the Salomon XA Alpine 2 Advanced is the rare shoe that conquers diverse, adverse conditions in style.

Great winter shoes are hard to come by. When the surface shifts between wet dirt, frozen ground, pavement, ice and powdery or packed snow, you need a handful of shoes with different features – or a shoe that is eminently adaptable.

Salomon’s XA Alpine Advanced was built on the S/Lab Sense platform, tweaked for – you guessed it – alpine conditions. S/Lab assistant manager Pierre Minary says they were made for improvised trail – “way off-trail and out of competition, where runners draw their own route to the top encountering any and every condition imaginable along the way.” But even if you don’t live above the tree line, and are not into extreme mountain adventures, this is a brilliant winter shoe: warm, protective, sleek and versatile.

Salomon XA Alpine 2 Advanced worn with Enfin Levé Ameztu and Acronym J68-PL.

The soles are decently comfortable for walking a few hours on city streets, but they are made for softer ground. Snow and dirt is where they come into their own, Salomon’s Contagrip sole offering reassuring traction with well-spaced lugs that don’t trap dirt or debris.

There is some support thanks to the carbon “edging chassis”, engineered for rocky terrain and exquisitely balanced for giving a secure feeling on technical trails while keeping things firmly on the lightweight side. However, if you need a lot of stability, there are better options out there. Planting your midfoot on a a rock, you may feel the lack of a rock plate. Salomon settles for more minimalist plate in the forefoot, the Profeel Film imported from the Sense. Again, this is a tradeoff that offers some protection while preserving lightness and agility.

Salomon XA Alpine 2 Advanced Contagrip Sole.

To be clear, these shoes are not a perfect fit for every activity. There are more comfortable options for running on pavement, and on bare ice you will always want riveted soles. In hot weather I wouldn’t dream of wearing these, as you are better off with fast-drying mesh shoes if you need to handle wet, warm conditions. But in mixed winter conditions, these are unmatched.

Salomon quicklaces make the shoes easier to put on, but that’s not to say they’re slippers. The gaiter is tight, so you will need to be careful to get your feet in neatly, and without creasing the heel. Then you pull the quicklace tight, tuck the end of the string into the lace pocket, zip up and button the gaiter. It’s more finicky than tying regular shoe laces, but in return you get a different magnitude of weather protection and a surprisingly firm hold thanks to how the quicklace system is integrated in the Endofit sleeve that envelopes the foot.

Having high, wide feet, I take sizes from euro 40 to 42.5 depending on brand and shoe shape. Some Salomon models are too narrow for me, but these fit well in size 42. I have had a tiny bit of heel slippage leading to minor Akilles chafing, and if this was a shoe I wanted to run marathon distances in, I would have preferred a slightly wider platform. But up to at least 20 kilometers they are very comfortable.

Salomon XA Alpine 2 Advanced, cleaned under the tap and dried in a couple of hours.

The gaiter is not Gore-Tex, and it’s specced as water resistant, not waterproof. In practice, however, it does a beautiful job of keeping your foot dry. I recently wore these for a day hike in sleet and slush, and while my three friends – two of which wore Gore-Tex offerings from Salomon – had wet feet at the end of it, mine were dry. Some of their shoes bound water in the outer fabric, which compromises breathability and causes wetness from sweat. The smooth gaiter on the Alpine repels water, while staying breathable, and its height and snugness effectively prevents ingress from the top of the shoe – from water and pebbles alike.

So, the XA Alpine Advanced is a technical performance shoe, designed for tough terrain and inclement weather. What makes it a techwear hall-of-famer, however, is how it combines its performance chops with blacked-out, understated, futuristic style. It looks at home on wet city streets just as well as on the trail. The ankle-hugging mid profile makes it perfectly suited for tapered pants like Acronym P10 or Enfin Levé Ameztu; in fact, Enfin Levé uses them on the product shots of their Ameztus.

This is not a cheap shoe, but neither is it overpriced. If you compare it to a high-end sneaker you are getting a ton more performance tied up into a beautiful package. The biggest downside is that Salomon is less than forthcoming about the labour conditions and environmental impact of their production and supply chain – factors every decent company should be transparent about.

Salomon XA Alpine 2 Advanced in running and bizcaz fits.

Form: 9/10

Master of transitions, not only between shifting weather and terrain but also between different activities and style contexts. The sleek, black exterior pairs particularly well with slim, minimalist silhouettes.

Function: 9/10

Superb for challenging and varied winter terrain when you need to stay fast and light. The sole gives solid traction and the snug upper combines water- and dirt resistance with breathability. Not ideal for hot weather or extended walking/running on hard surfaces.