Saucony Ultra Ridge GTX Review: Long Live The Boot
12.6 oz. (357 g) for a US M9,
11 oz. (312 g) for a US W7
32.5 mm in heel, 26.5 mm in forefoot (6 mm drop)
Hiking or trail running on cold, wet days
Gore-Tex liner, Xodus Ultra midsole and outsole, hiking boot upper
🟢 Excellent Xodus Ultra grip and cushion
🔴 Gore-Tex only extends to the ankle
🔴 Entirely too warm above 45 degrees
SAM: The hiking boot is dead. Most distance backpackers will tell you this. In our review of the Altra Timp 4, I talked about the massive shift going on as thru-hikers on the Appalachian Trail switch from boots to trail runners like the Altra Lone Peak and the Hoka Speedgoat. I, for one, am loathe to consider going back, mainly because the comfort, breathability, grip, and light weight of trail runners are superior to all the traditional boots I’ve logged miles in. Maybe, just maybe, if I knew I was going to end up post-holing through the snow for miles — which has been a little too common on my backpacking trips — I’d reach for a boot with a Gore-Tex liner. Even then, it wouldn’t be an easy decision — that’s how much I like my trail runners.
Still, people love a boot. The average consumer doesn’t have the same desires or aesthetic sensibilities as the average thru-hiker or ultrarunner. Lightweight hikers still command their share of the shoe wall at REI. People are drawn to the idea of a stable, supportive, and protective shoe that looks like it can take on the gnarliest of rock fields. Brands like Altra and Hoka have found success in mid-height versions of their popular trail runners, and Hoka has even struck gold with some of their mid-models catching hold in casual wear and fashion. There’s money to be made there, and other brands are taking notice and edging their way onto the scene.
Enter the Saucony Ultra Ridge GTX. This is Saucony’s attempt to tap into that lightweight, maybe a little fashion-forward, hiker market. They built the boot on the base of the Xodus Ultra, which, if you read any of our trail shoe reviews from last year, you know that we absolutely adored. Specifically, we loved that midsole/outsole combo of Peba cradled in a stiffer EVA carrier foam with Saucony’s PWRTRAC outsole underneath and a thin rock plate sandwiched in the middle. Saucony kept all that goodness for the Ultra Ridge GTX and added an ankle collar, overlay structure, and a Gore-Tex bootie for waterproofing.
The hiking boot is dead. Long live the hiking boot.
SAM: The conversation about whether or not this shoe is worth it begins and ends with that midsole/outsole construction we loved on the Xodus Ultra. They changed very little here, with the exception of possibly widening the toe box just a hair, which I count as a win. The cushion is springy, stable, and oh-so-nice underfoot. The EVA carrier foam creates a sort of soft cradle for your foot, and it’s a nice feeling on a hike. The PWRTRAC outsole is basically the same as we’ve seen on almost all of Saucony’s trail line this year (I think, with the exception of only the Blaze TR). It’s always solid. For the midsole and grip alone, it’s worth considering the Ultra Ridge GTX for your next multiday trip or day hike.
Since all this construction is built off what was a pretty great trail runner, I can even see some specific use cases where an ultrarunner with bad ankles took this out on a twisty, rocky, long effort (that was also very wet — I’ll elaborate in the bad). I think there’s a place for this kind of shoe in someone’s quiver if ankles are a concern.
Outside of the midsole and outsole, the heavily reinforced mesh and Gore-Tex upper is durable and protective. This is an attention grabber, for sure. My pair came in a bright Robin’s Egg Blue with tons of slashed overlays and an oversized Saucony logo, and it gets a lot of attention either from Instagram posts or while out walking around.
The ankle collar and tongue are plush and cinch down tight for that extra support. The Gore-Tex liner is, of course, plenty waterproof. Splash right through all the puddles you want, they won’t hurt you.Shop Saucony Ultra Ridge GTX - Men Shop Saucony Ultra Ridge GTX - Women
SAM: Me? I don’t love a boot for hiking and backpacking. The Gore-Tex liner makes this shoe hot, hot enough that temps over 40 or 45 Fahrenheit aren’t very comfortable. I don’t love the feeling of the padded collar cinched around my ankle., but these are my personal feelings. Wobbly ankles aren’t an issue for me, and I’m so on the record about waterproofing I’m starting to sound like a needle skip.
Zooming in on the shoe itself, apart from my reticence, there isn’t much to nitpick. The overlays for structure and protection are excessive, which, honestly, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. They look cool, but I’d imagine cutting some of them back could add some extra comfort and breathability to the upper. The ankle collar and tongue are very padded — so padded that the areas where they overlap in the front of the shoe are difficult to get comfortable with at first and pinch a bit.
To me, one of the benefits of a Gore-Tex boot is higher waterproofing to protect during deeper stream crossings. In the Ultra Ridge GTX, the Gore-Tex liner barely extends a quarter inch above where an ankle-height shoe would. Most of that extended height from the collar is not waterproof, just extra padded. This begins to beg the question, why? Why the mid-height and Gore-Tex if it’s only waterproof to essentially the high of an ankle-height trail runner?
Finally, we have to talk about these release colorways. They’re great, as far as colors go, but they’re just way too much for a hiking boot. The bright robin’s egg blue wears like a neon highlighter, especially in contrast to the earth tones most hiking clothes come in. There’s also a burnt red/orange that is slightly better but still so brutally out there. The colorways restrict the usage of the Ultra Ridge GTX to only hiking. Wearing it casually to the store or on a walk strays closer to clownish than it does fashion.Shop Saucony Ultra Ridge GTX - Men Shop Saucony Ultra Ridge GTX - Women
SAM: That’s the essence of Saucony Ultra Ridge GTX — it’s too much. This shoe is overkill, like sticking a Plasma Grenade to a Warthog in Halo 3. In no way does that make it a bad shoe. In fact, it’s an insanely comfortable mid-height boot made with some of the best components in the trail industry. It’ll rip down whatever trail you set it to. Outside of the colorways, I can see this appealing to all sorts of gearheads who want to stay on the cutting edge of what’s hot in trail shoes. It’s durable, waterproof, and has an exciting underfoot feel, plus loads of grip and protection.
When it comes to what you actually need on the trails, though? This might as well be one well-timed rocket away from a Killtacular. Sure, a Peba-cored midsole is comfy and fun, but that snappy bounce isn’t as much of a pace or endurance benefit walking under weight. The overlays are excessive and can certainly be slimmed out. The Gore-Tex is way too hot in temperatures over 45 Fahrenheit. The ankle collar is extra padded and a little claustrophobic. The colorways scream at your eyeballs.
I think there’s a world where a version of this in some tamer colors and possibly without Gore-Tex could be a really useful and even popular multiuse boot for work, casual wear, hiking, and hunting. I’d also be curious to see how useful this shoe could be for someone taking on ultra-distance races with weak ankles. Again, I think there would be more success there without the Gore-Tex liner. However, that’s not something I’d be great to test. I want a little less shoe for my distance efforts, and the Saucony Ultra Ridge GTX has too much going on to be interested in my boring tastes.
You can pick up the Saucony Ultra Ridge GTX for $190 on Saucony’s website using the buttons below.
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Sam lives in Baltimore with his wife and two kids and spends his days fixing espresso machines for Ceremony Coffee Roasters. He runs with the Faster Bastards when he can, races ultras, and has been working on completing the AT section by section. He thinks the best days are made of long miles on nasty trails, but that a good surf session, a really stunning book, or a day of board games are pretty all right too.
All-time favorite shoes: Saucony Xodus Ultra, Topo Athletic Ultraventure 3, Altra Lone PeakMore from Sam