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Welcome to the third iteration of Salomonís S/Lab Ultra.

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The unspeakably beautiful S/Lab Ultra first edition. I just had to post this photo.

The first edition was such a classic it is ridiculous. Released in 2017 they were gorgeous, easily the most beautiful trailrunning shoe I have ever seen. And equally gorgeous to run in. They were so good, I bought 8 pairs and my last pair sadly disintegrated a few months ago (yes, in 2020!). They were also unbelievably popular amongst the trailrunning community, and I could tell that just by noticing the number of people I encountered wearing them. If Salomon simply remade the first edition S/Lab Ultra right now, I would probably buy another 8 pairs.

The second edition of the S/Lab Ultra (both versions) were, in my opinion, horrible. They are the only Salomon shoes that have ever given me blisters. Twice. And not after a long run, but after about 10km. There was something weird about the heel. Really weird. The sole was inflexible and the running experience a travesty. I really hated these shoes.

So there we go. From the sublime to the ridiculous. And now the third edition Ultra awaits us. Buckle up readers.

The Shoe Itself

The texture is far more uniform than previous editions and comprises a single, coherent structure with the supportive structural bands incorporated into the overall mesh upper. The shoe has an elasticated, sock-like opening. The sole is Contragrip with lugs that are notable but not overly pronounced, the lugs are approximately 3mm deep. It uses the Salomon Quicklace system that has been around for ages now, and these fit into a lace pocket after being tightened. The lace pocket has an elasticated front, but no hook to hold it open. The toe height is 20mm and heel height 28mm and this therefore represents a heel / toe drop of 8mm. The weight of each individual shoe (UK9.5) is 300g. The cost of the shoes is around HK$1,898. Personally I got them cheaper than this due to the fact I have a loyalty discount from the store I bought them from. Guessing many people reading this are in a similar position to obtain such a discount.

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The gaping mouth of a hungry monster. The plastic ring of the S/Lab 3 awaits your foot.

Putting the Shoe On

An unusual title, but the Ultra 3 deserves a mention. Putting the shoe on is traumatic. I am not trying to squeeze my feet into shoes that are too small; they fit perfectly. You need to get your foot through the elasticated sock-like opening. This is strong, durable elastic. I have genuinely worried about either injuring a finger, or scraping skin off my heel, when putting these shoes on. They are so disturbing to put on that on a few occasions I have simply put on other shoes when the S/Lab 3 would have been first choice.

The Fit

So putting them on is difficult. But how does it feel when they are on? AMAZING. Is the answer. The shoe envelopes your foot with the overall structure providing a secure fit without any pressure points. The previously obnoxious elastic serves its purpose perfectly; helping to hold the shoe securely in place. Your heel locks in place easily, without the shoe feeling claustrophobic. It all just feels so comfy. The classic Salomon Quicklace system is useful in adjusting the fit, but I get the impression you could run in this shoe without any laces at all if necessary.

Running in S/Lab Ultra 3

The shoes feel light and flexible. Despite the 20mm+ cushioning, you can feel your stride and there is a natural, progressive flow when running on trails. On mixed mud / rock terrain it is easy to alternate stride patterns and rhythm to ride the trails smoothly and fast. These shoes feel so good (once they are finally on) that you donít even think about them. I have found it almost entirely unecessary to adjust the laces during runs, once they're on, they're on. They are a part of you.

The Contratrip sole provides great grip on rocky mud paths and trails in general.When things are wet underfoot the sole does become slippery on rocks, or mossy asphalt or mud slopes. But there are not many shoes that do not become slippery under these circumstances when it is wet underfoot.

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The S/Lab Ultra in its natural habitat, out on the trail amongst the shrubbery.

On technical, rocky trails, you get a real sense and feeling for the trail. It is engaging. That is quite unusual for a shoe designed for ultras. The mesh structure of the main body of the shoe is very protective. Shrubs and branches seem to glide off it. The ride is protected enough to allow you to be aggressive and attack the trail with disregard for the odd miscreant sharp rock. I have certainly whacked my foot on a few occasions and the toe box has proven to be up to the job Ė it is a strong, rubbery structure that curls around the front. The shoe holds your foot so securely that you do not need to worry about your foot sliding forward inside the shoe even on the steepest of steep (30+% gradient down for example). Although obviously, if youíre not confident on downhills, these shoes wonít make you suddenly amazing, so please be careful. Trust me. Iíve been on enough truly obnoxious trail descents wearing them to know they are great. Not just good. Great.

I have found the toe box to be relatively wide as compared to other Salomon shoes. This may not be Insta-friendly. But it is trailrunning friendly. As for the flats, I have found these shoes to be very natural and inviting. The midsole is controlled and bouncy and there is a natural transition through the stride, due to the flexibility of the shoe I mentioned earlier. But I hardly ever run on flats, so please bear that in mind.

Running in Hot and Wet Weather

In the hot, humid Hong Kong summers the shoe feels hot. Almost all shoes do. The mesh upper does ventilate the foot but because it is also a strong, rugged structure the ventilation is less than, for example, the Salomon Sense Pro 4. When the shoe is wet, becuase the fit is so good your foot is still held in place and I have never encountered the insole slipping or curling up under my foot on steep downhills, which is a problem I have encountered in other shoes when they are wet.

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After 200+km. If I had bothered to clean them they would have looked even better.

Wear and Tear

I have been running in the S/Lab Ultra 3 for a couple of hundred km and they still look immaculate. Not just the upper, but also the soles which are showing only very slight wear. I run on a lot of trails and not much concrete so maybe this helps with regard to general wear and tear. I often encounter shrubbery that catches the foot, or totally overgrown paths with branches that scrape the upper so reckon I have given them quite a hard test. Definitely impressed. Only time will tell how this story further unfolds.

Pros

1. The fit is incredible.

2. An amazing running experience, natrual and engaging.

3. Minimum fuss, almost no need to adjust the shoes during a run.

4. Excellent protection on rough trails.

5. Secure fit and almost no slipping makes them amazing on downhills.

Cons

1. Extremely hard to put on.

2. Pretty expensive.

Conclusion

I have been running in the S/Lab Ultra 3 for several months now and adore them. In fact, the more I run in them, the more I like them. They feel so simple and natural when you are out on the trails with such a pleasant ride; yet offer such amazing support on rugged trails and steep, technical downhills. I've been thinking about this for a while and these are the best trailrunning shoes I have ever used. No doubt about it. Finally a worthy successor to the original S/Lab Ultra. The S/Lab Ultra 3 is a great, great trailrunning shoe.

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10/10
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