Salomon S/LAB Ultra 2 Review

Salomon gear holds a special place in my heart. There’s just something about the brand that makes me want to use it. Salomon makes shorts, packs, shirts, water bottles, shoes, and other items that are specific to trail running and ultrarunning. Pair that with their stable of top athletes and inspiring videos, and it is easy to see why Salomon has such a high profile in our niche community. So when they drop an update to a shoe focused specifically on the ultrarunning crowd, I want to see what it is all about. The Salomon S/LAB Ultra 2 ($180) weighs in around 10 ounces, has an 8mm drop, and features a unique color way representing sun up to sun down. In this video review, we go in depth to show off its features and discuss how this shoe performs.

Salomon S/LAB Ultra 2 Review Transcript

Welcome to Trail Trials, the video-review section of iRunFar. My name is Travis Liles and in this video we’re taking a look at the Salomon S/Lab Ultra 2.

As its name states, this is the second version of the S/Lab Ultra. It weighs 285 grams (10 ounces) in a men’s size 9. It’s a unisex shoe, which means that if you want to go out and grab the women’s weight–I couldn’t find it. I looked on Salomon’s website and other websites. It would be less than 285g (10 oz). There’s an 8mm drop from heel to toe. The sole measures 26mm at the heel and 18mm at the toe.

This shoe is directed mainly at the ultrarunning crowd, which I find interesting because this is another shoe from a major trail running brand that is focusing on that subsegment of the market. The shoe is part of Salomon’s S/Lab line, which is the highest caliber in terms of their materials and research and development. It’s what all of their major, professional athletes wear. In fact, this one was designed in conjunction with François D’haene, a major mountain athlete.

Even the colors of this shoe are about long distance and wearing it for a long time. That’s what the faded look is [the shoe is red at the toebox and fades to black at the heel]. It’s day to night, or night to day: that’s what they’re trying to convey with this color way. This is a shoe that you can wear for a long time for long adventures.

With those things in mind, let’s get up close and personal and see what this shoe is all about.

The Salomon S/LAB Ultra 2. All photos: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

Salomon S/LAB Ultra 2 Outsole

Let’s start off by looking at the tread. This shoe uses what’s known as the Contagrip MA compound. This compound is meant to cover a wide variety of terrain and distances. It’s designed for durability and to be the best of everything. What I found in my testing is that the outsole is a little bit sticky, a little bit soft, and a little bit rigid. It’s supposed to hold up over time, and so far I don’t see a lot of wear patterns from it. It’s supposed to work across a lot of different terrain types. That’s done by being this middle-of-the-ground compound. It’s not really focused or specific to anything.

The lugs aren’t really deep; they’re sort of shallow but there are a lot of them. Whether you’re in a long-distance race or adventure, you’re going to encounter rocks, roots, mud, gravel, streets, pavement, a whole lot of stuff. This is a tread pattern and lug depth that work well in a lot of different scenarios, with a compound that’s supposed to hold up over a long amount of time. In my time of testing the shoe, I haven’t seen a lot of breakdown or anything anomalous.

If you’re a Salomon user, you’re probably noticing some pretty common things [with this outsole], lots and lots of lugs with this bladed look. In the back we have the reverse lugs, for braking and going downhill. Up front you’ll see the lugs are pointed and meant for climbing. They provide traction when you’re going uphill.

In the middle, you probably noticed this window that looks into the midsole. What we have here is Profeel Film–try saying that one twice. Profeel Film is a rock plate, sandwiched in the midsole. It’s not hard and a traditional plastic like a lot of rock plates you see. In fact, if you push your finger on it, you will feel it bend in there a little bit, and that’s the point. The idea is that it deflects obstacles as they poke into the bottom of it. A lot of times, a rock plate is a large, hard piece of plastic that sits there [gestures under the forefoot and midfoot]. The downside of that is when you land on things, you’re sort of forced to rock one way or the other [mimics the movement of a foot tilting at the ankle] because it doesn’t have a lot of give. This Profeel Film is meant to kind of absorb [a rock], deflect it, and push it away without being a really hard impact. You’re less likely to roll an ankle, slip, or fall because it’s not quite as aggressive a movement.

You’re going to have some feel to the ground. Even though this is an ultra shoe, this is not a max-cushion shoe and it doesn’t have a hard rock plate. You have a little ground feel. It will be muted, but it’s not a tank-like shoe where you can’t even feel what’s underneath you.

The Salomon S/LAB Ultra 2 outsole.

Salomon S/LAB Ultra 2 Midsole

As we move onto the midsole, what you’ll notice is a pretty standard foam all around. You won’t see any blocks or breaking or anything that’s meant for pronation control. That’s not really in here–it’s very much a neutral shoe. This is the Energy Cell+ foam. The intent of this midsole is to be a general-purpose foam that works for a lot of things. Again, it’s designed for long distance, so the midsole is designed for comfort and durability.

Salomon is really pushing the idea of [the shoe being intended for] ultras. It’s not a max-cushioned shoe, but in terms of Salomon’s world, this is a thicker-cushioned midsole than you’re going to find on a lot of the S/Lab stuff. A lot of the S/Lab stuff is luggier or designed for a specific kind of event, whether it’s muddy terrain or VKs [vertical kilometers] where you want speed and a precise fit. This shoe is meant more for that middle ground. If I was to classify this midsole, this is more of a classic type of midsole. It’s not really thin, and it’s not overly thick. It’s that standard type of midsole in terms of impact and cushioning and it does well in a lot of scenarios.

I wore this on some really rocky stuff. And my first 20 miles on these shoes was actually road running and they felt good, they transitioned well. The midsole is a little firmer than a Hoka One One shoe, or if you’re used to something with a lot of squish to it. This is a more responsive type of midsole. Even though it’s cushier than some of the other S/Lab models, you’re still looking at a slightly firmer, speedier feel when you’re running in these. Depending on your style, that could be exactly what you’re looking for.

The Salomon S/LAB Ultra 2 lateral upper.

Salomon S/LAB Ultra 2 Upper

Moving on to the upper, it starts with EndoFit. The EndoFit is a bootie-type construction, almost like a slipper. If you look inside the shoe, you’ll see a black [piece] down in the corners. From the top eyelet down to the bottom eyelet, this is all one [piece] wrapped inside of the shoe. The tongue is attached to a bit of a gusset on the inside. That gusset extends down all the way to the midsole. It wraps itself around and is on the other side of the midsole as well. When you slide in, one of the first things you notice is that it’s a really good fit in terms of hugging your foot and it feels sock-like. Because of that and the lack of stitching, there aren’t a lot of hot spots to be had on the inside from rubbing. Your foot really is protected inside the shoe.

Here along the sides is what’s known as the Skin Guard. The Skin Guard is this TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane)-injected mesh. You can see this spiderweb all along the sides, both medial and lateral. This is meant for reinforcement of the [upper]. Instead of being just for a straight-up mesh design, this is meant for durability in high-abrasion areas. I would say it also adds some support to your foot. When you’re moving laterally, you don’t feel like you’re blowing out of the side of your shoe, which can happen sometimes in the more all-mesh types of shoes.

Moving onto the front, you’ll notice this toe bumper. Salomon continued this TPU [along the sides of the shoe] and thickened it up along the sides to a toe bumper, and that’s where the outsole comes up and connects at the front for a fairly good toe bumper. Again, it’s not a bomb-proof tank shoe, but it has enough protection to protect you from those big hits and bumping and kicking of things.

As we move our way to the back, you’ll notice that the mesh really starts to disappear and it starts to be a lot of this molded, TPU kind of rubbery material. That’s what makes up the entire heel cup. This heel cup is really interesting because there’s not a hard piece of plastic in there [demonstrates by squishing the heel of the shoe downward with one hand]. It’s really easy to fold down, but it keeps its structure from these TPU overlays.

One of the things I was not sure about when I put this shoe on was this aspect. I wasn’t sure how well it was going to be able to hold my foot in, but it does a really awesome job. It almost feels like it suction cups to the back of my heel. Depending on the heel, your results may vary. It fits the heel very well; it’s soft at the top of the heel cup. Going downhill, I didn’t feel like there was a bunch of pressure on my Achilles tendon. Because the heel cup is flexible yet sticky, it felt like it moved with my heel really well.

Moving up here to the laces, this is the classic Salomon Quicklace fit. You’ve got your lace; it’s one, big piece of lace that runs throughout the shoe. The eyelets are made of fabric–there’s nothing hard or plastic. It’s all very soft and pliable materials throughout. You get the shoe on and it has a nice, bootie-like feel. You’ve got the heel grip, you pull the lace tight, and it should hopefully cinch your foot down.

One of the things I was worried about was that because of this Quicklace system, you can’t really adjust your shoelaces up one more notch. You’re stuck with what this is, but with the heel cup along with this upper, it actually does a really awesome job of locking your foot in.

When you look slightly further forward, you see these wings that are meant to keep the upper part of your midfoot in place. This is a really sticky shoe. What I mean by that is when you put your foot in it, it feels fast and it grips. It’s able to manage hitting tough turns and downhills really quite well. If you are a previous owner of the S/Lab Ultra, what you’ll note is that one of the pairs of wings was removed [gestures toward the front of the shoe, near the bottom eyelets]. It seems there were complaints online that those were adding some restrictions in the upper. So, to give a little bit more space, Salomon removed those [second] wings and only kept the ones at the top. I would probably say that’s beneficial to more runners because this is a narrow-fitting shoe.

If you look at the shoe, it’s streamlined. If you look at the bottom, it’s not like a platform. It’s got a fairly narrow toebox and a fairly low-volume toebox as well. This is one of those things where, I would say, it’s built for speed more than comfort. You can get both, of course, it’s always going to depend on your foot type. This is definitely a slim-fit shoe.

The last thing I’ll call out on the upper is the Quicklace garage. You put the shoe on, you lace it up, and you slide the lace lock directly into the garage and it keeps them from getting snagged.

The Salomon S/LAB Ultra 2 medial upper.

Salomon S/LAB Ultra 2 Overall Impressions

I have a couple of dislikes. One is that it’s a pretty narrow fit. Because of that, you have a low toebox; it’s a little bit narrow. The shoe itself is a little bit narrow–it’s considered a slim-fit shoe. Depending on your foot type, this just may not work for you. It could also depend on how much your foot swells over the course of an adventure. That may be something to look out for.

Another thing is that the shoe is long. What I mean by that is, I wear a size 9 in just about everything. This [gestures to the shoe he’s holding] is a 9 and I feel like a size 8.75 would be about right, but an 8.5 would be too small. Maybe it’s the unisex sizing, I’m not sure. For me, this shoe is just a little bit long but I don’t think I could do anything different because it has a low toebox and it is a little bit narrow. If I pushed my foot back more, I just don’t think I’d have enough room for my toes to wiggle.

Quickly, the laces, I just don’t feel like I have the ability to dial in the fit the exact way that I want. And the sock liner, this insole got wet and it curled up under my foot as I was descending down a steep hill [pulls it out of the shoe and tosses it over his shoulder]. That’s not great. You can glue it in with some shoe glue; I’ve done that on other shoes in the past and it works fine. It’s just annoying.

Lastly, the outsole, it works pretty well in most cases, but one place I found where it’s not so great is on really slick stuff. I’m here in Portland[, Oregon], out in the [U.S.] Pacific Northwest. Stuff gets slimy and mossy, and these things slide. There were even times where I was running on a road or a sidewalk and if it was a smooth, wet sort of area, these shoes had a little bit of slide to them that was not super-confident feeling.

Let’s look at what I do like. Well, secure fit, when you put this thing on, you feel ready to go. It’s a shoe you put on and you go, “Yep, I can run fast in this.” It’s got a smooth ride on trails and roads. I’ve worn this for a bunch of road running and trail running and it works really well on both. You feel confident and fast. When you’re on pavement, it doesn’t feel slappy or out of place. It just works for a lot of different cases.

Lastly, it looks cool. That’s a preference of mine. Not all trail shoes do. Maybe they’re really tall or they’re really bulky looking; they’re not great for just wearing around after you’ve retired them to your closet.

Read up on more new trail shoes for fall-winter 2019.

Call for Comments

So with that, questions? Comments? Thoughts of your own? Leave them below this video. Thanks for watching and we’ll catch you next time.

[Editor’s Note: If you’re affiliated (i.e., an employee, ambassador, etc.) with a shoe brand, please share your relation in each of your comments on this article. Thanks!]

More Trail Running Shoe Options

To find more options for trail running shoes, check out our Best Trail Running Shoes article, our Best Trail Running Brands article, and our full collection of trail running shoe reviews.

The Salomon S/LAB Ultra 2 view from top.

Travis Liles

resides in Portland, Oregon where he is a husband, father, and a technical specialist for a software company. In his spare time, he is exploring his new home in the Pacific Northwest, getting more vertical but still not living in the thin air, while producing "Trail Trials with Travis Liles" video gear reviews for iRunFar.

There are 17 comments

  1. WeiDe

    had the shoe now for a few days. my first run was 40km on forest roads, gravel. maybe 600m vert in total. They are comfortable and direct. I do not feel i lose power due to squishiness. It is quite slim, interestingly i feel that the Slab Sense 7 is wider in the front and a better overall fit. However the Sense 7 is really tough on my calves, which the Ultra 2 is not.
    One thing i noticed; the toebox is low, meaning the toenails suffer especially on the downhills. I do not have that in the Sense 7. I would give it a 8 out of 10, cause it has great fit and feels secure, also it rolls well and the heel is soft, which is a key reason i bought it (and the Sense 7) after having a highly aggrevated achillestendon for years (no issues in soft or very low heel counters, but cannot wear the usual used in Hokas for example). Wont wear it at Western States, cause i am sure my toes would suffer way too much. Will opt for the Saucony Peregrine Iso instead. Not as snug but also low to the ground and much more comfortable (i got around 500 miles on them and no wear yet).

  2. James

    I had 2 pairs of the S/LAB Ultra 1. The 1st pair got holes in the toe box within less than 100 miles. Exactly the spot where WeiDe above commented that the toebox runs low. I went back to Salomon and they replaced the shoe without question but did tell me at the time it was a “racing shoe” and not meant for day to day training. The 2nd pair also got holes in the upper within 100 miles, where the toe box flexes when running on rocky/technical trails. This review doesn’t speak to the changes since the first version. Where improvements made outside of a weight reduction? A different review suggested the upper mesh was lighter, which makes me wonder if durability will be an issue again.

    I’ve been impressed with the durability of the S/Lab Sense Ultra, which was essentially the first generation of this shoe, as well as the recent Ultra Pro model.

    1. Christophe Stahl

      Thank you Travis for testing them and posting the review. It’s very nice to hear about a shoe from a large shoe maker.

      James, I heard one change is the lower pair of wings were removed. I had to watch the video a second time to listen for more differences, but the music going in a loop in the background is kind of distracting and makes it hard to concentrate. I did not hear any other one, so it looks like a minor upgrade. I did not research weight or material differences though, maybe there are more changes.

      Anyway, I really like the first version of the S/Lab Ultra but I don’t think I’ll get the second version. The main issue for me is the price and the risk of the mesh in front breaking down too early. I am only at 160 miles in my S/Lab Ultra first generation and they look very durable, but I know there is a risk or the front mesh breaking too early. As WeiDe mentioned with toes hurting, I think the pressure in front of the shoes going down hill helps breaking the mesh. I had this issue during my 3rd 50k in the rain in a pair of Speedcross 4; the mesh on the exterior in the front just cut open on both shoes at the same time. The S/Lab Ultra look better in that way because of that second layer of thicker mesh, but Jacob mentioned below he had a bad experience already.

      For the issue about not holding in very slippery conditions, If you like Salomonn, I would go with the Speedcross and their 6mm lugs that really get you anywhere in confidence. Maybe the new Speedcross 5 are more durable than the Speedcross 4. Anybody up for a review on those?

      For me, a comparable shoe to the S/Lab Ultra was the New Balance Leadville 3 which I bought 6 pairs of for half the price of the Salomon when I learned they were discontinued. Those last from 240 to 325 miles so far. My favorite shoes for anything other that wet conditions so far.

      Thank you all!

  3. Jacob

    The last on this shoe is terrible. Like others above, they developed holes in the top toe box and on the sides within the vents in a short time. They are very narrow, but the toe box is a bit longer than the previous version. The ride is comfortable over long distances, but I wouldn’t spend $180 on another pair (of these) anytime soon.

  4. Rufus

    I have a quick question on the Speedlace system: You say there is no plastic in the lace holes (different than Salomon Pro Max that had plastic insert). Do you think a regular shoelace could fit through?

    I’ve had issue with speedlaces and the pressure they create on the foot where they cross over. This is exacerbated by the ridiculously thin tongues that previous Salomon shoes have had. I like the look of this shoe (and Salomon fit/midsole) but unless the tongue is thicker than previous or speedlaces can be replaced it’s a non-starter.

    Has anyone taken a look at the Salomon Odyssey Triple Crown? It sure looks like a shoe in the vein of Salomon Ultra Pro or S/LAB Ultra but with good old fashioned shoelaces.

    1. Lightning

      “Has anyone taken a look at the Salomon Odyssey Triple Crown?”

      No, but I just took a look at it on the REI website, and I dig the tye-dye color, and the review that says it has a wide toebox. Heavish, but that’s not something I care at all about in a training shoe.

  5. Ken

    I’m with Rufus in that if these had regular laces I’d give them a try. The speedlace system doesn’t work for me. Otherwise a narrower shoe would suit me just fine.

  6. Justin

    Great write up!

    I guess I’ll be the lone voice of support here: I adore the first version of this show and can’t wait to get rolling in the new version. For me, they’ve been absolutely bombproof, and I’ve never had so much as slip in any conditions – including mud.

    I guess there’s something for everyone.

    One thing I did want to point out: the midsole is actually three different materials: there’s the PU in the mid foot and then if you closely at the medial side you’ll see a firmer EVA insert extending from the arch towards the back of the shoe. While I wouldn’t call this a “support” shoe, it actually does have medial support.

  7. Steve

    The naming is very confusing. I have the s/lab sense ultra (first generation without the gradient) and they are bullet proof- on like 800km right now but they probably need replacing soon. I bought them because the normal s/lab sense beat up my feet too much for day to day training and they didn’t last long for the price. However the high drop coupled with the firm midsole has given me all sorts of new problems and they aren’t nearly as comfy as a thought. Shame the new softer version sounds like it’s not built to last.

  8. Paul

    Does anyone know a place in the LA area where I could try on a pair?

    I’m intrigued by this shoe but don’t like the idea of ordering online a shoe I’ve never tried.

  9. Rickard

    JD Ultra 2 has harder cushioning and a tighter fit compared to Sense Ride. Ultra is a better shoe for quite technical (ultra)trails, and Ride is a better shoe for long untechnical up- and downhills. I´d say Ultra is a TDS/TDG shoe and Ride is a UTMB shoe.

  10. -mohit

    Terrific wheels. A little more volume in the front foot and mid foot would be a great update. The structure provides body to the shoe and hence the weight, so less nimble.; yet its a sacrifice worth investing in for all day-all night affair. Got to be a little extra alert when traversing slick rocks and roots. But good is good on almost any terrain.

  11. Jeff

    A few thoughts — comparing these only to other S-Lab models:
    1. S-Lab Sense Ultra has better traction and fit, but is far less protective over rocks than the S-Lab Ultra 1/2.
    2. S-Lab Ultra 1 feels sluggish compared to both the S-Lab Ultra 2 and the Sense Ultra, and fit is compromised due to the extra wings.
    3. S-Lab Ultra 2 has minor changes versus version 1 but feels significantly better in terms of ride and fit for me. Biggest drawback is the grip is far less reliable than the Sense Ultra or any other SG S-Lab shoe.

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