With a rare opportunity to vary my shoe testing grounds this spring, trading high and dry Colorado for wet and root-y Virginia, I was excited to see how one of Salomon’s best ever shoes, the Salomon S/Lab Pulsar 2 ($180), might handle these two different surface types.
Like a surfer not trying to expose their favorite break, I won’t name the spot I ran consecutively for five days straight, but I did a series of runs from race efforts to intervals to easy laps. The beauty of this trail system for a shoe like the Salomon S/Lab Pulsar 2 is that I imagine it to be the terrain the designers had in mind when creating it: full gas, steep ascents, technical descents — all chances to push these lightweight racers and yourself to new PRs.
Based on our experience, Salomon has made significant improvements to the Salomon S/Lab Pulsar — read our Salomon S/Lab Pulsar review — with the release of this S/Lab Pulsar 2. While Salomon remains a very broad shoe company — not literally as their shoes still run frustratingly narrow — with shoe styles for every type of runner, the S/Lab range generally and the S/Lab Pulsar 2 specifically is still narrowly focused on high performance. It has an actual weight of 6.2 ounces or 175 grams for a men’s U.S. size 9.
The Salomon S/Lab Pulsar 2 took the title of best overall in our Best Lightweight Trail Running Shoes guide. Read on to find out why.Shop the Salomon S/Lab Pulsar 2
Salomon S/Lab Pulsar 2 Upper
Undoubtedly, the upper was one key area in the original Salomon S/Lab Pulsar that needed attention. The Salomon S/Lab Pulsar 2 now has a much more pliable ankle collar, removing the frustrating and time-consuming process of getting the original version on your feet. Even though the shoes still have a sock-style design, they are so much more wearable, with a smooth and flexible feel during the putting-on process. The toebox has very little volume though, to the point that I sometimes forgo wearing socks to give my toes just a bit more wiggle room. Like the Nnormal Kjerag, Kilian Jornet’s debut shoe post-Salomon, the S/Lab Pulsar 2 has no removable insole. For normal foot shapes and foot strikes, this is a benefit in that there is no slippage or irritation. And as mentioned, it makes going sockless easy.
Aside from the upgrades to the ankle collar, the upper as far as I can tell is unchanged from the original S/Lab Pulsar. The Matryx mesh is reinforced with super strong aramid fibers. I still run from time to time in my original S/Lab Pulsar and there is still no damage to the sidewalls in around 300 miles of wear. Matryx is gaining traction as it is now the material for weight-conscious footwear. It’s used in the new Arc’teryx Norvan SL 3 and the aforementioned Nnormal Kjerag. It’s a premium product no doubt but it’s truly very strong and exceptionally light.
Once you properly fit the S/Lab Pulsar 2 — it runs very true to size for me— the fit is so perfect that the Quicklace system is somewhat redundant for my wide feet. Those with narrower feet may disagree but I don’t apply much pressure at all to the laces except to snug them up so there is no slack to avoid snagging. My feet are held in very well despite not cranking down on the laces for support. The typical Salomon lace garage on the tongue allows you to stow the tab adjuster and is reminiscent of the way Salomon has done this for years.
Color association is meaningful in product marketing and hierarchy. As Salomon’s logo has evolved — well, taken on a retro reboot — the signature red color of the S/Lab days of old returns for the S/Lab Pulsar 2. This is a fast-looking color and whatever psychological advantage you gain from feeling fast, there is some free speed to be had.
Salomon S/Lab Pulsar 2 Midsole
Besides the upper, the one other area that needed the most attention in the new Salomon S/Lab Pulsar 2 was the midsole. Salomon has achieved a better balance between the plushness of the midsole foam and the ankle support, particularly on descents. This refinement ensures a comfortable and secure fit in the face of the lightweight nature of the shoe. The S/Lab Pulsar name owes credit to propulsion and the shoes are rockered so much so that when looking at it from the side, there is daylight to be found under the forefoot and under the rearfoot. It’s that stark. The Energy Foam EVA provides a plush sensation from heel to toe and the drop remains the same as the original, at 6 millimeters. The stack height is 24.5 millimeters at the heel and 18.5 millimeters at the toe.
You must be rather light on your feet though when bombing descents with variable terrain and rock as there is no rock plate or other midsole protection. This means it’s not necessarily a technical mountain racing shoe nor for skyrunning. I’ve taken many brutal stabs to the foot when landing hard on sharp rocks. But for soft and mild terrain, it is very easy to relax into a comfortable midfoot stride, and the shoe can support most runners in distances up to 50 miles.
Salomon S/Lab Pulsar 2 Outsole
Now we can come back to the earlier point about testing the Salomon S/Lab Pulsar 2 in a much different environment to my hometown trails. In the original S/Lab Pulsar I found the traction on the outsole’s Contagrip rubber with its 2.5-millimeter lugs to be quite bad on dry, loose surfaces. The compound sticks to dry rock quite well, which is the other major feature where I live.
But how did it stack up to Virginia’s much different surfaces? The trails were very wet, with long sections covered in leaves and even some sections of off-camber wet stone. I bombed around these trails with a lot of confidence and it’s safe to say these shoes do much better on moisture-rich trails than in the dusty ones at home.
Though it’s a shoe specifically for fast trail running, it also has excellent road-to-trail characteristics.
Salomon S/Lab Pulsar 2 Overall Impressions
With the updated heel and tongue construction on the Salomon S/Lab Pulsar 2, Salomon improved the only real flaw on the original S/Lab Pulsar. And though the outsole isn’t perfect on a ton of different surface types, this is as great a lightweight trail running shoe as they come. The rockered design and propulsive midsole foam help push you forward, and the fit is near-perfect and even very durable.
There are few lightweight trail shoes that can really compete with the S/Lab Pulsar 2, but if you are looking for additional ideas, check out our updated Best Lightweight Trail Running Shoes guide, where the Salomon S/Lab Pulsar 2 took the title of best overall.Shop the Salomon S/Lab Pulsar 2
Call for Comments
- Are you running or racing in the Salomon S/Lab Pulsar 2?
- If you used the original Salomon S/Lab Pulsar as well, how does this second version compare for you?
[Editor’s Note: If you’re affiliated (i.e., an employee, ambassador, etc.) with a brand, please share your relation in each of your comments on this article. Thanks!]
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