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Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3 - Women's Review

A great trail shoe that offers a streamlined fit with a grippy, confidence-inspiring outsole built to tackle the most technical terrain
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Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3 - Women's Review (For plenty of responsive pep that feels nearly weightless, check out the updated S/Lab Ultra 3.)
For plenty of responsive pep that feels nearly weightless, check out the updated S/Lab Ultra 3.
Credit: Ally Arcuri
Price:  $190 List
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Manufacturer:   Salomon
By Ally Arcuri ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 26, 2022
78
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#2 of 20
  • Foot Protection - 25% 7.0
  • Traction - 20% 8.0
  • Sensitivity - 15% 9.0
  • Stability - 15% 8.0
  • Comfort and Fit - 15% 8.0
  • Weight - 10% 6.9

Our Verdict

The Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3 is superior through and through. This hardy trail shoe deservedly earned high scores for its outstanding performance on technical, slippery terrain. Stability, protection, and traction balance perfectly to help you pick through the most technical terrain, making this shoe our go-to recommendation for runners who love complex, rocky trails. The sticky lugs offer a trustworthy ride, even over sketchy rubble and technical kitty litter. If you can handle the high price tag, we believe this is one of the best trail shoes on the market — if the fit works for your foot. It's ideally suited for all types of running on the trails, from ultra races to training runs to long mountain fast packs. Check out our article on the best women's trail running shoes to see how it ranks versus competitors.
REASONS TO BUY
Great weight distribution
Stable architecture
Breathable upper
Well-tractioned
REASONS TO AVOID
Lace pocket is difficult to use
Tight collar can bite into the ankle
Pricy
Editor's Note: This review was updated on May 26, 2023, with additional findings after our Spring round of testing the newly updated version.

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Bottom Line A unisex shoe that offers superior performance across the board, boasting a protective yet sensitive ride with a grippy outsole and exceptional durabilityThis is our go-to recommendation for runners seeking a comfortable, well-tractioned shoe for short and long distances alikeFeaturing an upgraded upper and a stable zero-drop design, this shoe is a dependable and comfortable trail running option, ensuring comfort even during extended runsThis is the shoe you want if you need something rugged to tackle slippery, muddy, and otherwise messy trailsAn affordable and functional trail shoe that is perfect for new runners, budget-conscious runners, any anyone looking to tackle moderate terrain
Rating Categories Salomon S/Lab Ultra... Hoka Torrent 3 - Wo... Altra Lone Peak 8 -... Salomon Speedcross... Brooks Divide 4 - W...
Foot Protection (25%)
7.0
7.0
7.0
9.0
6.5
Traction (20%)
8.0
8.0
7.0
9.0
7.0
Sensitivity (15%)
9.0
7.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
Stability (15%)
8.0
9.0
8.5
6.0
7.5
Comfort and Fit (15%)
8.0
8.0
9.0
6.0
7.0
Weight (10%)
6.9
8.0
5.3
5.8
7.4
Specs Salomon S/Lab Ultra... Hoka Torrent 3 - Wo... Altra Lone Peak 8 -... Salomon Speedcross... Brooks Divide 4 - W...
Sizes Available 4 - 14 US
regular
5 - 11 US
regular
5.5 - 12 US
regular and wide
5 - 11 US
regular and wide
5 - 12 US
regular
Measured Heel Stack Height 27 mm 26 mm 23 mm 34 mm 29 mm
Measured Heel-to-Toe Drop 8 mm 5 mm 0 mm 13 mm 8 mm
Rock Plate Not disclosed No TPU Not disclosed No
Measured Lug Depth 3.5 mm 4 mm 3.2 mm 6 mm 3 mm
Measured Weight 8.05 oz 7.52 oz 8.14 oz 8.54 oz 7.82 oz
Upper Anti-Debris mesh with sockliner Mesh Ripstop Mesh Textile/synthetic Mesh
Midsole Energy Save PU foam with Profeel Film rock protection EVA Altra EGO Energy Cell+ DNA Loft
Outsole Salomon Contagrip MA Rubber MaxTrac Rubber TrailTack rubber
Heel Tab Type None None Finger loop None None

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3 is a unisex shoe that offers a protective and amazingly nimble ride. Our favorite features are its specific fit and super sticky outsole that can carry you through technical terrain without slips. With a measured drop of 8mm and 27mm total stack, the newest iteration provides more cushion than versions past, making it an even better choice for all distances.

Performance Comparison


salomon s/lab ultra 3 for women - the outsole of the s/lab makes it one of the best for runners...
The outsole of the S/Lab makes it one of the best for runners looking to tackle technical and varied terrain.
Credit: Ally Arcuri

Foot Protection


This shoe is designed to go the distance, providing excellent protection on long, rocky trails, technical terrain, and steep switchbacks. The Energy Save midsole is superiorly responsive, offering just enough protection through the heel and midfoot. We love the tightly knit upper because it is nearly impervious to heavy sand and other pesky particulates.


The S/Lab Ultra 3 provides minimal water protection but dries out quickly after tromping through rivers and puddles. While it's not considered a high-protection shoe, it is protective without being overbuilt or feeling heavy. We tested this shoe on variable terrain, from wet and muddy to rocky and dry. The underfoot cushioning is responsive with just the right amount of squish. It doesn't come with a rock plate, but the midsole does an impeccable job spreading out the impact from sharp rocks and twigs, so you don't feel sharp impacts. While the forefoot has only 19mm of cushioning, it's ample enough to balance sensitivity with protection, a balancing act that we rarely see hit with such precision.

salomon s/lab ultra 3 for women - the s/lab ultra is a shoe that is suitable for rugged trails, grassy...
The S/Lab Ultra is a shoe that is suitable for rugged trails, grassy rolling hills, and whatever terrain types you may encounter in between.
Credit: Ally Arcuri

We tested the S/Lab on the sandy beaches of California to learn that the perfect combination of the upper and tapered heel collar doesn't let sand inside. The synthetic materials dry out nicely in wet and muddy weather, and they don't deform when completely saturated, offering more protection than most traditional trail runners.

As you can see, not much smoke is wafting out of the upper mesh - it is mostly escaping via the collar. This directly correlates with how much protection from water and sand the upper provides, which in this case, is quite a lot.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Often, after submerging a running shoe in a stream or the ocean, we think, “This shoe is never going to be the same.” In the case of the S/Lab Ultra, this is not a concern as it bounces back to its perfectly broken-in shape in no time, even after being thoroughly hosed off.

salomon s/lab ultra 3 for women - the moment immediately following an accidental spill into a mud...
The moment immediately following an accidental spill into a mud puddle. The body of the shoe bounces back well after being saturated, but the one-pull lace mechanism needs to be cleaned thoroughly after a dunk like this.
Credit: Ally Arcuri

Traction


Durable, sticky, and ultimately trustworthy, we would gladly choose the S/Lab Ultra 3 for various trails and conditions. In fact, we recommend it for some of the rockiest conditions. The ContraGrip sole hosts a durable rubber that sticks to tricky surfaces like kitty litter over rocks. We measured the lugs at 3.5mm, offering enough depth to stick to muddy trails.


The geometry and placement ensure that your feet stay solidly placed, even when encountering slippery technical surfaces. When facing deep mud, the S/Lab did slide around a little, which all of the other shoes we tested did too, but it still managed to offer enough lateral stability to keep moving forward. Additionally, the sole of the shoe sheds mud exceptionally well.

From sunny summer days on the trail to muddy scrambles, the S/Lab Ultra 3 is up for any challenges you throw at it.
Credit: Ally Arcuri

Of all the shoes we tested, this is the one we most readily recommend for scrambling or adventurous missions. It rides close to your foot with enough space for your toes to spread, giving the body a biomechanically-sound pattern of muscular engagement while rock scrambling. The traction is hard to beat with sticky rubber and grippy treads that so efficiently shed mud.

salomon s/lab ultra 3 for women - the outsole of the s/lab is super grippy, while the lugs do a great...
The outsole of the S/Lab is super grippy, while the lugs do a great job biting into whatever terrain is beneath you.
Credit: Ally Arcuri

Sensitivity


This shoe is quite sensitive, with a precise fit and a medium amount of cushioning. It doesn't have a rock plate, so you can feel the undulations and changes of the trail, but the overall shape doesn't allow for sharp rocks to dig in pointedly. It's not as sensitive as those with less cushioning, but it offers just the right amount of intimacy for its level of protection. If you like to feel the trail underfoot, the S/Lab Ultra 3 offers just that without compromising protection.


We ran over rocky conditions to test relative sensitivity. We could feel the rocks when running, but they never actually impacted our feet. As a result, we felt nimble, light, and free on the trail. Very few shoes can hit the balance point between sensitivity and stability, but the S/Lab does so with ease. If you want something with a lot of cushion, this won't be it. But for fantastic sensitivity with just enough cushion, this might be a great pick.

salomon s/lab ultra 3 for women - the s/lab is one of our go-to recommendations for runners who want a...
The S/Lab is one of our go-to recommendations for runners who want a super sensitive trail running shoe.
Credit: Ally Arcuri

Stability


This shoe is relatively stable with a low-to-the-ground feel, a regular-width toe box, and a geometry that offers excellent lateral support. We felt confident charging over technical rubble when striking with our heel and forefoot. This stability comes from a specific fit and broader base that evenly distributes impact with each step. We tend to view zero-drop shoes as some of the most stable, but the 8mm drop on the S/Lab feels just as stable because of the overall build and weight distribution.


We tested the S/Lab Ultra 3 over rocky and technical terrain. With every step on uneven, immovable obstacles, we noticed the midsole wrapping itself around objects and distributing force evenly. The lateral stability is helped by the well-thought-out TPU skeleton that anchors at the lacing system to provide stability across the top of the foot. This shoe is unlike those advertised for stability. It doesn't incorporate shanks and isn't sunk down with a rigid or heavily cushioned sole. Instead, it is light and flexible, with a wide base that provides a flatter ride. It allows space and flexibility for the muscles in your feet and toes to fire at their maximal capacities, allowing your body to create even more stability on its own.

salomon s/lab ultra 3 for women - this is a close-up look at the thoughtfully-designed lacebed. it is...
This is a close-up look at the thoughtfully-designed lacebed. It is structurally sound enough to provide lateral support without added weight or rigid pieces like those employed on other shoes.
Credit: Ally Arcuri

Comfort and Fit


The S/Lab Ultra 3 is comfortable but still has a specific fit. The shoe is neutral-fitting with a regular-width toe box that breaks in with use. It is worth noting that our two main testers have completely differently shaped and sized feet, yet they unanimously agree on the comfort and fit of this shoe. The upper is incredibly light and breathable, making it an excellent choice for warm weather. Overall, we love the precise fit of this shoe, even when running downhill. We experienced no extraneous movement, even on technical terrain.


On long runs, especially in the mountains, a specific fit with a bit of extra room for foot swell or thick socks is unparalleled in importance. This shoe is a nice choice for those that like a little extra wiggle room in length and just enough width to spread the toes. It doesn't offer additional arch support, but the extra height on the heel provides a little extra cushion for longer runs. Its heel-to-toe drop sits at 8mm, offering nice cushioning for the heel or forefoot striker. It's also a good choice for those that have both narrow and wider feet, as it molds to fit your unique anatomy.

salomon s/lab ultra 3 for women - the upper mesh is just flexible enough to create comfort for runners...
The upper mesh is just flexible enough to create comfort for runners with narrow, wide, or average feet.
Credit: Ally Arcuri

When putting the Ultra 3 on, one of the biggest annoyances is its tighter collar and near useless “pocket” for the laces. While the single pull laces are easy to use, you can't re-lace them to get a better fit. This ultimately means a bit of extra time fiddling around with them before getting moving on your run. The single pull also gets gummed up with dust and dirt and isn't as smooth over time. Instead of using the pocket, we tucked the excess cordage under the lacing lattice, which worked well for getting the shoes on quickly. In the future, we'd love to see this Salomon hallmark feature be omitted or improved, as we don't think the design is very user-friendly.

salomon s/lab ultra 3 for women - an up-close look at the less-than-desirable one-pull lace system of...
An up-close look at the less-than-desirable one-pull lace system of the S/Lab Ultra. Shown here caked in mud that needs to be painstakingly removed with soap and warm water to maintain the functioning of the lacing mechanism.
Credit: Ally Arcuri

Weight


In the world of trail runners, this shoe is, comparatively, mid-weight. However, many trail runners these days are slimming down on heavy or clunky components, setting the norm to be a lightweight ride. The S/Lab Ultra 3 sits right at the 'normal' mark, weighing a modest 8.05 ounces per shoe for a size 6.5 US.


Underfoot, the weight is distributed evenly. There is no abnormally heavy sole, and the upper is super light — the shoe feels just like an extension of your body, thanks in part to the sock-like fit of the heel collar. It embodies the sensation of “fitting like a glove” and is a good choice for training, races, or long-distance missions into the backcountry.

salomon s/lab ultra 3 for women - the well-fitted s/lab rides like a natural extension of your body.
The well-fitted S/Lab rides like a natural extension of your body.
Credit: Ally Arcuri

Should You Buy the Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3?


The S/Lab Ultra 3 is one of our main testers' favorite shoes. Unlike most Salomon brand options, it offers a wider relative fit, a comfortable and stable ride, and an outsole that seemingly sticks to everything. It also has a more versatile profile, meaning it can be worn on fire roads and technical trails alike, though we recommend it predominately for the latter. This product offers a great balance across our metrics — if the fit works, we do not hesitate to recommend this shoe to anyone looking for a reliable trail runner.

salomon s/lab ultra 3 for women - for exceptional grip, great comfort, and superb durability, this is...
For exceptional grip, great comfort, and superb durability, this is one of our favorite shoes to recommend to runners who want to tackle technical terrain.
Credit: Ally Arcuri

What Other Trail Running Shoes Should You Consider?


There's no denying that the price tag on this shoe, and many others, will take a dent out of your wallet. The durability is middle of the road as well. We've seen these shoes last upwards of 600 miles (with friends that use them year after year), but we've also seen the uppers get slashed after encountering a sharp rock. However, if you can swallow the price and are looking for a shoe that earns high marks for performance across the board, you will likely see the value. If budget is your main restriction, the Salomon Speedcross 6 is a good alternative that provides epic traction and a beefier shoe overall. While still in the mid-range in terms of price, it is significantly less expensive than the S/Lab and may be more accessible for some. The Brooks Divide 4 is one of the most affordable shoes we tested, but keep in mind you will lose some significant performance features with this price cut.

Ally Arcuri