Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3 Review

Designed for long-distance comfort and performance, the Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3 ($180) – is sure to please fans of its predecessors. With just enough changes in this version to make it interesting, the Ultra 3 performs well in a variety of terrain, weather, and types of users. Let’s take a look at this improved shoe, including its enhanced breathability, protection, and classic speedlacing system.

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Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3 Transcript

Hey, and welcome to Trail Trials, the video review section of iRunFar. My name is Travis Liles and in this video we’re looking at the Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3.

Let’s start off by talking about the specifications. The Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3 is exactly what it sounds like, this is the third version of the Ultra shoe so it’s a shoe that’s meant to go a long distance and cover a variety of terrain. It’s more of a general purpose long-distance shoe. It has an 8-millimeter heel-to-toe drop, it has a sock-like upper, a very well wrapped up midfoot, as well as an all-purpose outsole with a little bit of an additional midsole added from version two to three, to add a little more cushion over those long-distance miles. Let’s get up close and personal and see what this shoe is all about.

Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3

The Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3. All photos: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3 Outsole

If you’re familiar with the S/Lab Ultra 2, what you’re going to see is an exact replica of what that shoe brought. In fact, what we’re looking at here is the Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3, and if I bring the S/Lab Ultra 2 in, you can see that it’s almost a one for one, in terms of what they look like. Same tread pattern, same spot for the Profeel Film rock shield. Let’s talk a little bit about what those things mean. First off you have 4-millimeter lugs. From a view of this, they’re deep enough, more of a general purpose, to cover a lot of different ground on this type of outsole. For reference point, this shoe has a little over 200 miles on it, so it looks really good in terms of how well it’s holding up. Reverse lugs here in the back, a bit of a gap. We have the window cutout here that shows the Profeel Film. That’s the rock plate and you get a little bit of that exposure here. It’s a thin, almost a carbon fiber-y-looking type of plate that’s sandwiched in here, inside the midsole. But it still remains some flexibility without being a super hard, deflecting plate inside the shoe.

We work our way up toward the toe of the shoe and you can see all these sorts of various diamond pattern or uphill climbing type of tread pattern. Overall, if you know Contagrip, this is Contagrip. That’s a compound that’s used here, it’s good enough. It is not super sticky. It is not super hard. And it generally works well over a bunch of different areas. My only comment is always, so far I feel like where the issue doesn’t do great is on really smooth, wet surfaces. There is no friction or anything to be had. There is no grip, there is no little teeth. There are no things here adding to the surface area. So I feel like this can get a little slick on that, but in terms of rocky stuff, in terms of really technical terrain, in terms of even road running, it feels like it can do a lot well and I think it really excels in sort of that dry type of environment.

Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3 Outsole

The Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3 outsole.

Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3 Midsole

We move on to the midsole of the Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3. Looking at the previous version of the shoe, it looks very similar and that’s because it is. According to Salomon, there’s been an addition of a little extra padding in the midsole and specifically in the midfoot. It also has a little bit of a sportier ride to it, and I can verify on feel that this shoe, compared to the last version, definitely feels a lot more snappy, less sloppy on the road, and it transitions better heel to toe. It’s got a little bit of a rocker vibe to it, but it’s not necessarily a full-blown type of rocker in a maximal shoe or the types of things that we’re seen in carbon-plated shoes out there. Overall, it has a pretty good feel that covers a lot of ground – long distance, it’s ultra, it’s meant to do a lot of things and does a fairly good job of providing enough protection, cushion, snappiness, enough of everything that when you’re in those various states of terrain, this is something you forget about from the shoe standpoint. You don’t feel things poking through, when you’re going downhill you can move fast, when you’re going uphill there’s not anything holding you back. You’re not sinking down into something that’s too soft. It’s definitely a middle type of hardness foam, so definitely on the softer side of where most Salomon shoes fit.

Over here, you have a couple of different types of foam in the shoe and you have this little white cut out here, which is on both sides of the shoe, and this is just slightly softer. You get a little vibe of it when you stick your fingernail into it, this top foam is slightly softer than what’s sitting in this midfoot section. That’s what adds a little bit to that firmness when you have toe takeoff, because you’re not sinking down quite as much in this area, it’s giving it a little snappier feel. But for the most part, with the exception of this block that exists from the inside all the way to the midfoot, across the shoe, you have that midfoot area that’s harder foam. Everything else, single density, all the way around. Salomon lists this as a midfoot-striker shoe in their literature that’s on their website.

Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3 Medial View

A medial view of the Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3.

Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3 Upper

As we move into the upper of the Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3, this is probably the biggest change and the most positive area of this shoe and maybe in Salomon shoes in general. This is one of the better-fitting-out-of-the-box uppers and even over the long term type of uppers that I’m used to wearing, and have tried over my years of running. It looks a little weird, you’ve got this little sock-looking thing at the top. This is a full-length kind of boot that’s built into the shoe. It starts back here at the collar, and you can see where this sits. It goes all the way through and fits all the way down almost to the toes. It’s the spandex-y boot that sits all the way inside the shoe and it does a really good job of keeping your foot in place, hugging that foot without even having to put the laces on. So you can slide your foot in right now and have a good, secure fit and you can see the way that the shoe is built, it’s sock first, a secure hugging of the foot, and then externally you have this rubbery feeling type of mesh. So it’s mesh with a rubbery coating on it that is attached to these various points on the shoe that lock your foot down.

Where that’s different from the last version of the Ultra is you’re not going to see is those wings. This previous version had this wing contraption and for me this was always a weird fit. I could feel this in the way that it just felt like an external piece that was on the shoe that was trying to do something but definitely didn’t do exactly what I was hoping for. I think this design comes through and makes that wrap happen better and instead of being a really precise fit here with the wing, you’ve got a precise fit over the entire shoe. So again, we’ve got this mesh that’s rubbery and abrasion resistant, this shoe’s got about 200-plus miles on it. That same type of rubber overlay is really existent across the entire shoe, and it makes – with very few lines, very few anchor points – sort of a sock and then this overlay and the laces. So they create the wrap by this boot feel and this whole lacing system creates a really great cradle of your midfoot without putting too much pressure in those types of things on the foot.

In the back here on the heel, it is all fabric and super flexy, so there’s not any heel cup in here to hold anything back. I was a bit nervous about that but it almost feels like a suction cup on the back of your foot; you add that plus this boot feel, you can go really loose on the shoes and the shoe will stay connected to your foot.

From the toebox standpoint, it feels like it’s a little bit wider, for a reference point, size down about a half size. The nines just felt too long for me, the 8.5s are about right. If you look at it compared to the previous version, it’s just a little bit wider, you got a little more room and it’s a little less pointy at the apex of the shoe. That helps in terms of a comfortable ride, also your toes can splay out a little bit more here.

From a protection standpoint on the front, it still this rubber laminate over the top of the mesh where it gets really solid, so there’s no holes or anything, whereas the rest of this rubberized mesh is a little bit breathable. It’s rubbery, it’s this toe cap that comes up the apex of the shoe. The outsole wraps around and provides a fairly sturdy toe cap at the end.

Lastly, it is a Salomon so it’s got the Quicklace system. Love it or hate it, it’s here. The shoe-garage pocket that sits here, so if you put these things on, tighten it up and plug your little keeper inside. It has a nice clean fit, keeps things from getting caught where you’re snagging your shoelaces on things.

Salomon SLab Ultra 3 Lateral View

A lateral view of the Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3.

Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3 Overall Impressions

In closing, there’s a lot to like about the Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3. I think Salomon set out to have a shoe that can cover a lot of distance in a lot of different terrain, and I think they’ve done that with the shoe. If you look at races like UTMB, you see the start line, this shoe is all over that. They obviously have an audience, they’ve got these mountain-y types of trails and runners that are gravitating toward this shoe. I think from the standpoint of Salomon and me personally, this is the most accessible shoe from Salomon that I’ve ever worn. A lot of Salomons are too narrow, I can’t get the right fit, I feel like there’s not enough protection or the lugs don’t quite agree with me. In the overall, this is the most approachable. I’ve got a little bit of a wide foot though I don’t wear wide sizing. But this is one if you’ve wanted to get into a Salomon shoe but haven’t been able to get there, I think this is one that’s probably going to fit more people than some of their other types of offers like maybe their S/Lab Sense 8 Soft Ground shoe, which is a really narrow, racy type of shoe. This is more of the general, fits everybody, but is still a high performance shoe.

The upper is awesome, this is maybe my favorite upper and fit on a shoe that I currently have. It’s sock like, you stick your foot in there and it holds everything in place even without using the lacing system. You could put this shoe on, loosen it up, and probably hike around in it and not have a problem with the shoes slipping around on your foot. It has that type of athletic, streamlined, secure fit without having to jam down and really pull the laces and make them tight. If the upper part of your foot is fatigued, you could loosen these up, you’re going to have a fit that holds true. From a wideness standpoint, even compared to the Ultra Glide, this is a better fit. I could not get that shoe to work for me, it was just too narrow. This has a little bit of a wider fit even than that, which is a max cushion type of shoe.

Overall, the only complaints I have for this shoe are two. One is the Contagrip. There are certain scenarios where I don’t feel good in the shoe and it is on really slick, wet things. An example might be a rock, a slick really rounded-off rock in a river that’s kind of mossy. This doesn’t have the kind of grip that sticks to that. Or even out road running in this shoe and there’s been rain and I step on the white line, there’s a little bit of a question in terms of, is the shoe going to slip out from under me? So, in the slickest type of conditions, this grip is not sticky, less so even than normal shoes I wear. A road shoe, that has at least some friction. This thing gets really slick in those types of conditions. So that’s just something to look out for. But across the variety of other terrains, it obviously works well. You see the shoe everywhere, it is all over the place, especially in European races, most of the runners that are standing around are wearing a shoe like this.

The second part is, whatever the uppers are made of, they really hold stink in. I have a lot of shoes, like, a lot of shoes. And this shoe, and Salomons in general, they hold a smell. I don’t know why that is, I don’t know what the specifics are but this is a shoe that, post run, I leave it in my trunk, open the trunk up a day later, and I know that it was in there. That’s not the case with a lot of my other shoes. If you live in a small apartment or you’ve got somewhere where this shoe might be closer to the living quarters, that could be something to keep in mind. Obviously that’s a small thing and it could just be my body chemicals with this, but I can absolutely say, this brand of shoe compared to every other shoe that I have holds sweat and the smell of athletics a lot more than my other equipment does.

Overall, I think this is a good shoe. They set out to do something the covers a lot of ground, that’s going to fit a lot of foot shapes, and is very approachable while being fairly high performance and going to a high-end racing shoe in the mountains, I think the shoe checks a lot of boxes.

Shop the Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3

Call for Comments

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More Trail Running Shoe Options

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

Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3 Top View

A top view of the Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3.

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.