REVIEW: Salomon S-Lab Ultra 3 Trail Running Shoe By Hanny Allston
Salomon S-Lab Ultra 3 Trail Running Shoe
By Hanny Allston
I have been fortunate enough to get my feet into a pair of Salomon’s new S-Lab Ultra 3 trail running shoes and their maiden run was a 21km loop around rough trails at Cradle Mountain. These shoes occupy a unique spot in Salomon’s S-Lab line up because their other shoes are lightweight, firm racing shoes, such as my previous heart-throbs, the S-Lab Sense SG trail running shoe which I used for my 700km Pyrenees Traverse in 2019. So, unlike other Salomon S-Lab shoes, the S-Lab Ultra 3 is designed for comfort over long distances… hence it probably would have been a great choice for the Pyrenees if they had been available back then.
A little history: I loved the original edition of the S-Lab Sense Ultra shoe which took the lightweight, minimalist upper from the S-Lab Sense range and combined it with a more cushioned, protective midsole for longer runs. However, I ran so many kilometres in these original shoes that tragically, they ended up in a dustbin. When the S-Lab Ultra 2 came along I was excited. However, I found this next edition of the S-Lab Ultra shoe to be a lot heavier and stiffer. Whilst this added more protection to the shoe, I felt that it was less nimble on rougher terrain. Further to this, the update felt wider and so my narrower foot tended to slop and slide around in the S-Lab Ultra 2’s. That is why I transitioned to the S-Lab Sense Soft Ground trail running shoes instead.
So, when Salomon announced the new S-Lab Sense Ultra 3 update I was a little wary. How would they perform over rough ground? However, yipppppeeeee! This new S-Lab Sense Ultra 3 has undergone a great update! With slightly more foam underfoot, a more responsive midsole and a completely redesigned upper, it has been exciting to experience this shoe perform on the rugged Tasmanian trails.
Pros of the S-Lab Sense Ultra 3:
· Protection: There is plenty of underfoot protection, ideal for rockier, rugged terrains. The shoe’s rock plate is hugely protective.
· Responsiveness: The shoe is firm and yet still maintains its responsiveness.
· Cushioning: The more cushioned midsole is a welcome change from the other firmer S-Lab models.
· Comfort: I love the new seamless upper which snugs to my foot. The shoe certainly is not narrow and will suit an average width foot, but the flexibility in the new upper still allows my narrow foot to be hugged in tightly.
· Grip: Whilst there have been no changes to the outsole grip, I like the way Salomon’s shoes perform on most terrains, especially drier or rockier trails.
· Gaiter: The shoe comes with a built-in gaiter around the ankle which definitely keeps most of the dust and dirt out of the shoe.
· Fit: I have found that these shoes fit true to my normal size. That is, I am always a UK 7.5 in Salomon shoes and I was a UK 7.5 in this model too.
· Sexiness: And… the S-Lab Sense Ultra 3 looks sexy!
Cons of the S-Lab Sense Ultra 3:
· Weight: After running in the original S-Lab Sense Ultras and then the Salomon S-Lab Sense SG shoes, these trail running shoes definitely feel a little bit heavier. It just took some getting used to.
· Breaking in: I feel that the shoe has taken a while to really wear in. It has taken a good 100km or so to allow the midsole to become more flexible and malleable to the terrain and my foot’s movements.
· Grip on wet terrain: On wet rocks I find these shoes can be a bit slippery. Just something to be cautious about.
· Difficult to get on: It can be quite hard to get your feet into the shoe due to the built-in gaiter and seamless, stretchy upper fabrics. Be prepared for this! Further to this, the new lacing pocket on this shoe takes slightly more work than other variations to tuck in the pull tab and lace. However, once in place the lacing is very secure and is highly comfortable.
· Price: As always, the S-Lab range comes at a higher price point. However, I believe you really do get what you pay for and I do highly recommend the S-Lab Sense Ultra 3 trail running shoe.
Official statistics about these shoes (US men’s 9):
· Official Weight: 290 grams
· Drop (height difference between heel and forefoot): 6mm drop
· Availability: Available now
Final comments about the S-Lab Sense Ultra 3 trail running shoe:
Initially I found the S-Lab Sense Ultra 3 trail running shoe a little firm and ‘clumsy’. But as I began to run more and more in them I found the shoe began to wear-in and I felt my agility returning.
I actually like that the shoe has a little more space around the toe box because as we run longer our feet can swell up to ½ a size. In fact, extra room just made the shoe feel even more comfortable (and I have also had success fitting the shoe to wider feet instore here at Find Your Feet). In other words, the fit is more conventional to a ‘normal running shoe’ than some of the narrower trail running shoes that Salomon has become known for. This definitely allows the shoe to be more accommodating to most foot shapes or the swelling that can occur over a longer run.
The new upper uses seamless technology so I found this really comfortable and non-aggressive on my feet. However, as the upper also houses a built-in gaiter around the ankle, it can be quite difficult to get your feet in! The upside of this is that this gaiter really does seem to keep most of the dust and dirt out of your shoes, which is very helpful here in muddier Tasmanian terrain.
The additional 2mm of cushioning that Salomon has added to this shoe is definitely a positive. Whilst still a firm ride for people unfamiliar with Salomon’s sole technologies, it really is a lot more cushioned and supportive than the rest of the shoes in the S-Lab line-up. I find that this firmer type of cushioning used by Salomon allows the shoe to be more responsive and less energy draining than a really plush shoe choice. I also like that this additional cushioning has not changed the drop of the shoe which remains a 6mm difference between the heel and the toe box.
Finally, so many of my trail running shoes have a really deep tread on the sole which means that whilst they perform wonderfully on muddy, damp terrain, they tend to run like a tractor on a smooth surface such as a fire trail or road. As someone who likes to mix up the trail types, I love that the grip on this shoe can allow me to move super comfortably on most terrains. I believe Salomon has really found a sweet spot with the depth and tackiness of the tread that they have used on the S-Lab Ultra 3’s outer sole.
So, in summary, I love these shoes and am eager to keep using them in a variety of terrains. I believe they are the missing, cushioned key in my Salomon shoe line-up. I congratulate Salomon on this shoe’s update and hope other runners can enjoy running in them as much as I have.