In 2021, many of the best men's walking shoes are taking tips from trail running shoes to make your outdoor experience sportier and more comfortable. But you're wondering what the difference is between choosing a more long-distance orientated approach shoe like Scarpa's Mescalito over a hybrid hiking shoe, like Salomon's X Ultra 4 GTX, and which is the most versatile, then we have the answer…
Scarpa's Mescalito falls into the camp of walking shoes that have been beefed up with sticky rubber and a stiffer midfoot for use on technical terrain, including scrambling over rocks at higher altitudes. It's been popular with climbers for a few years, not just for its rock-wrangling abilities but for having a bit more flexibility and cushioning than most approach shoes, making it better suited to longer hikes on the flat. It sits towards the top of Scarpa's range.
Salomon X Ultra 4 GTX is the latest iteration of a hiking shoe that has taken trail-running elements and placed them into a durable and stable package that claims to protect your ankles too. It's more traditional in its construction walking than the Mescalito, but it's also next-gen in its use of trail running shoe tech, which has to handle greater velocity while still being lightweight. It's the pinnacle hiking shoe from Salomon.
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Scarpa Mescalito vs Salomon X Ultra 4 GTX: design and features
Scarpa's Mescalito is designed to be stiffer than a regular walking shoe, to allow you to climb up boulders by using toeholds and edging. This calls for a stickier rubber than you will find on the X Ultra 4 GTX. The Mescalito features a grippy Vibram MegaGrip outsole, and additional rubber covers the toes and the sides of the foot for added protection and grip.
Because the water-resistant upper is made from suede, it will form to your foot, over time, for an individual fit. Despite using this natural material it actually shades in at around the same weight (780g per pair) as the X Ultra 4 GTX. This is down to Vibram Dynamis technology which reduces weight and is backed up with a bi-density midsole for added cushioning, making it more comfortable over longer distances.
Salomon's X Ultra 4 GTX
The idea of a hybrid walking shoe can sound confusing, but all it really refers to is a walking shoe that has borrowed some cool tech from its trail running cousins in order to be lighter and more nimble, without sacrificing stability. Salomon's X Ultra 4 GTX achieves this with its ADV-C Chassis which targets articulations in the outer foot to optimise stability without limiting mobility.
Then the Contagrip MA outsole locks onto the ground while the sizeable toecap offers good protection at the front. The Quicklace laces are designed to be easy to use even when wet and the upper features Activesupport 'wings' connecting the lacing system to the chassis, to bring even more stability.
Scarpa Mescalito vs Salomon X Ultra 4 GTX: comfort and performance
Creating a walking shoe that can also attack actual slabs of rock calls for a delicate balance between stiffness and flexibility, which the Mescalito does strike well. The grippy sole and rubber around the toes allows you to jam your foot into gaps between boulders and scramble up rock with confidence. Meanwhile, the shoe is flexible enough to go on long hikes without discomfort. The treads of the outsole are not as deep as the Salomon X Ultra 4 GTX, but then again this allows for better grip on rocks because of the greater surface area.
The suede upper is hard wearing and breathable in the heat, despite being water resistant, although it does collect a lot of mud if you take it into stinking conditions. When it comes to the walk back down a descent, the Mescalito feels stable, surefooted and rugged enough to shrug off any close encounters with rocks.
Salomon X Ultra 4 GTX
A walking shoe that offers protection, stability and yet is lightweight enough to feel nimble is a hard trick to pull off, but the Salomon X Ultra 4 GTX achieves exactly that. You can really feel the extra support stabilising your ankles over rough, uneven terrain and it inspires confidence.
The performance in muddy conditions is very good, with the grippy, durable outsole combined with waterproofing and a cushioned but reassuringly sturdy midsole. While it does have a chunky toe protector, this shoe is less suited to moving over boulders than the Mescalito, but that's the compromise you have to make for additional durability and the flexibility to allow an efficient, running-shoe style toe-off.
Scarpa Mescalito vs Salomon X Ultra 4 GTX: verdict
Each of these shoes has their strengths, both are leaning into the trail running shoe archetype of fast and light, and both retain expertise in their original roles, which is no mean feat. The Scarpa Mescalito wins on rockier, less muddy missions while the Salomon X Ultra 4 GTX takes the crown for more traditional trails.
But which is versatile enough to take the overall win? It has to be the Salomon X Ultra 4 GTX, whose light yet sturdy construction will keep you trucking throughout the seasons and in a wide variety of conditions, with a heavier pack or without.