Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3 - Women's Review
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Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3 - Women's
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|Pros||Superior comfort, light on foot, protective cushioning, stable architecture, breathable upper, great traction||Well-cushioned midsole, excellent traction, good stability, excellent at everything including long distances, high value||Light, very protective, excellent mud shed, superior traction, surprisingly stable||Efficient energy return, great traction, surprisingly sensitive, stable||Affordable, comfortable, good crossover shoe, great for beginning trail runners|
|Cons||Lace pocket is difficult to use, tight collar can bite into the ankle, pricy||Stack height takes some getting used to, less customizable lacebed||Narrow fit, runs small, rigid construction, takes time to break-in||Pricy, require a short break-in period, heel cup won't suit everyone||Not rugged enough for technical trails, less sensitive|
|Bottom Line||Our favorite shoe offers a well-balanced ride with one of the stickiest and most confidence-inspiring outsoles we've ever seen||With a comfortable and responsive midsole and enough room in the forefoot for toe wiggle, you'll be happy running mile after mile||Stable and deliciously sticky, this contender is just a crusher all the way around, built for training runs and long distances alike||A very responsive and comfortable shoe that is great for long and short distances provided you can swallow the higher-than-average price point||If you are looking for an affordable shoe to run light trails and fire roads, look no further because this is the perfect shoe for you|
|Rating Categories||Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3||Hoka Torrent 2 - Wo...||Dynafit Feline SL -...||Hoka Tecton X Trail...||Brooks Divide 2 - W...|
|Foot Protection (25%)|
|Comfort and Fit (15%)|
|Specs||Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3||Hoka Torrent 2 - Wo...||Dynafit Feline SL -...||Hoka Tecton X Trail...||Brooks Divide 2 - W...|
|Measured Weight (per shoe)||8.68 oz (size 7)
9.8 oz (size 9)
|7.41 oz (size 7)
8.6 oz (size 9)
|9.45 oz (size 7)
9.8 oz (size 9)
|7.13 oz (size 7)||8.0 oz (size 7)|
|Heel-to-Toe Drop||8.6 mm||5 mm||8 mm||4 mm||8 mm|
|Stack Height (Heel, Forefoot)||26.8 mm, 18.2 mm||31 mm||Not disclosed||33 mm, 29mm||20 mm, 12 mm|
|Upper||Textile/synthetic||Engineered mesh||Mesh, continuous nylon||Engineered mesh||Synthetic mesh|
|Midsole||Energy Cell, polyurethane foam||EVA||Feline SL midsole||ProFly X, dual carbon-fiber plates||EVA|
|Outsole||Rubber||Rubber||Sticky Pomoco Outer||Vibram Megagrip Litebase||Rubber|
|Rock Plate?||Not disclosed||None||Not disclosed||No||Yes|
|Wide Version Available?||No||No||No||No||No|
|Sizes Available||4 - 13||6 - 11||5 - 11||5 - 11||5 - 12|
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 pick through technical terrain without slips. Unlike most Salomon shoes, the forefoot feels wide and molds to your foot after a break-in period. Just be ready to stomach the higher price. If you can swing it, we suspect these shoes will be your go-to trail companions.
This shoe is designed to go the distance, providing excellent protection on long, rocky trails, technical terrain, and steep switchbacks. The EnergyCell midsole is superiorly responsive, offering just enough protection through the heel and midfoot. We love the tightly knit upper because it is 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. The performance on various trails ranging from easy to technical is top-notch. While it's not considered a "high protection" shoe, it is superior to most trail runners we've tested without an overly rigid architecture.
We tested this shoe for 200+ miles 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 a thing. While the forefoot has only 18.6mm of cushioning, it's ample enough to balance sensitivity with protection, a balancing act that we don't often see hit with such precision.
The upper is also quite impressive. We tested it on the beaches of Mexico and California over soft sand 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. 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.
Durable, sticky, and ultimately trustworthy, we would gladly choose the S/Lab Ultra 3 for various trails and conditions. In fact, we reach for it in most conditions. The ContraGrip sole hosts a durable rubber that sticks to tricky surfaces like kitty litter over rocks. The lugs are 4mm, 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. This is always the shoe we reached for when we knew steep, slippery, and challenging trails were on the horizon. When taking on the steep switchbacks of the Old Horsethief Trail in Ouray, CO, we came into contact with mud, rocks, roots, gravel, and slabs.
In all conditions, we were happy to feel no slips while sticking to steep and dry sections on both the up and downhill. When encountering deep mud, the Ultra did slide around a little but still managed to offer enough lateral stability to keep moving forward. Additionally, the sole of the shoe sheds mud exceptionally well. Of all the shoes we tested, this is the one we'd trust most 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.
This shoe is quite sensitive with a precise fit and a medium amount of cushioning (26.8mm in the heel, 18.2mm in the forefoot). 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. This trail runner earns a high sensitivity score because of its less cushioned nature, which also protects our feet.
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 Ultra's 8.6mm drop felt just as stable.
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 flat ride. It allows space and flexibility for the muscles in your feet and toes to fire at their maximal capacities, allowing for your body to create even more stability on its own. Flexible and stable, it earns high marks in this category.
Comfort and Fit
The S/Lab Ultra 3 is one of the most comfortable shoes that we've ever slipped on but still has a specific fit that we appreciate. 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 in 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 toe bump or 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 8.6mm, 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.
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. This is criticism that we maintain with all of the Salomon shoes we tested.
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 8.68 ounces per shoe for a size 7 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. It embodies the sensation of "fitting like a glove" and is a good choice for training, races, or long-distance missions into the backcountry.
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. We've been choosing to wear it for everything from steep, technical sky runs to smooth cross-over terrain. This product offers the best balance across our metrics — if the fit works for you, we do not hesitate to recommend this shoe to anyone looking for a reliable trail runner.
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. Though, if you're on a tight budget, you might want to look elsewhere. If budget is your main restriction, the Salomon Speedcross 6 is a good alternative that provides epic traction. 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 2 is one of the most affordable shoes we tested, but keep in mind you will lose some significant performance features with this price cut.
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