Salomon S-LAB ULTRA Shoe Review

It has been a while since I slipped on a Salomon shoe for my daily runs. No particular reason, sometimes when testing shoes, I find a real winner and then that becomes my shoe of choice. I wrote last year how I loved the Nike Wildhorse 4, I still love them, and they go everywhere, I would say that they are my ‘go to’ shoe that handles a little of everything with loads of comfort, security and all in a great looking shoe. 

I have always been a fan of the Salomon S-Lab Sense both in normal HERE and SG HERE (soft ground) versions, however, for me, they are just a little too minimalist for everyday running and longer runs.

The S-LAB ULTRA is a shoe that may well be a game changer for Salomon. 

To clarify, Salomon fans are already happy with the Sense shoes and its variants, however, I cannot tell you how many times I have had messages asking me to feedback to Salomon the need for:

  • Wider toe box
  • Higher drop (8mm)
  • More cushioning
  • And all the same goodies that made the Sense such a great shoe.

Well, the S-LAB ULTRA is the shoe! 

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

It’s that classic red colour that Salomon utilize so well and at first glance you know it is a Salomon shoe. It’s a good-looking shoe, the fade between red at the front and a darker colour at the rear is ‘sexy,’ if a shoe can be sexy?  

The first thing you notice are two straps on either side of the outside of the shoe. It makes the shoe look a little heavy and somewhat over engineered. This is a protective Skin guard – more on that later.

 The toe box is visibly wider, beefier and well protected.

 

The cushioning is visibly deeper both at the front and rear. This is, as Salomon says: “Energysave® foam insert in the forefoot adds long-lasting cushioning and protection from rocks and rough ground, while ENERGYCELL+ foam in the bottom unit ensures a smooth, consistent ride.”

The grip looks pretty classic for a Salomon trail shoe. It’s red, with a standard trail lug that is not too aggressive. So, this shoe is obviously not designed for mud, it is a hard trail shoe that can be used on a multitude of surfaces, be that wet or dry. It is, “an all-new Contagrip® outsole, with premium wet traction and reverse lugs on the heel area, delivers confident grip, especially on the downhills.”

At £160 a pair, they aint cheap!

On Salomon’s website, they say the usage is ‘Racing Only’ but I have to disagree, this is a brilliant day-to-day comfy shoe that can handle pretty much anything with comfort, road too! Maybe this advice comes based on the price and they would recommend another similar Salomon shoe for day-to-day and keeping the S-LAB Ultra for special occasions… nah! If they are that good, use them I say! But the Salomon Sense Ride has an 8mm drop with 19/27mm cushioning and a similar outsole and they are £50 per pair (£110) cheaper. So. It is worth considering a training/ racing combo? – HERE

THE SHOE

 

Cushioning is excellent with 18mm at the front and 26mm at the rear, this provides an 8mm drop which for me is the perfect drop for longer runs. It’s a light shoe, but not super-light. A UK8 comes in at just under 300g. In a UK 9.5 (my size) it weighs 340g which is exactly the same as the SCOTT KINABALU HERE – there actually is a great deal of similarity in these shoes. My Nike Wildhorse 4 though are 290g in the same size, so, if I was a weight freak, the Nike’s win hands down!

I always say this about Salomon shoes and two things always stand out:  

The lacing with the storage pocket.

ENDOFIT internal sock liner.

 The ENDOFIT is just so awesome, it hugs the foot, holds it, secures it and keeps it protected. It is perfect. Other shoes come close, but I think Salomon ‘just’ win each time. Nike Wildhorse 4 has something similar, it is awesome and, in all honesty, why I love the Nike shoe so much. The other shoe that is similar is the VJ XTRM HERE. Actually, the ‘new’ reinforcing on the outside of the new S-LAB Ultra does a very similar thing to the Fitlock on the VJ.

 

The new straps on the outer of the shoe are significant, there is four of them, two on each side. Two lower, two higher – the laces pass through them and when you pull the lace tight, they bring the shoe in tighter in four key points, in addition with the sockliner, the foot is held firm in one of the most reassuring and comfortable grips I have experienced. 

The laces are classic Salomon. You pull them tight, slide the toggle down and then stuff the excess in the little ‘garage’ at the top of the tongue – so simple it is ingenious.

The inner of the shoe is pretty much seamless, so, if you wanted to go soulless you could. 

The heel box is plush, padded, really comfortable and holds the foot firm.

The toe box is wider and has an excellent toe bumper to protect against the terrain.

This shoe has been designed with a great deal of influence from Francois D’Haene and you can see why. He runs long, and he needs a shoe that can handle long hours on his feet, provide comfort, toe splay, cushioning and grip without losing many of the aspects of what has made the ‘Sense’ range so popular. 

The upper of the shoe is a breathable mesh with Ortholite Impressions which add structure and reinforcement to the shoe.

Midsole is cushioned and really is excellent on longer runs. Combined with the 8mm drop this is a great shoe for those who are running 80km and beyond. The combination of compressed EVA and Salomon’s EnergyCell make them very comfortable but not spongy. At all times, the S-LAB Ultra feels firm on the ground, allowing you to feel the ground but still run with precision.

 The outsole is classic Salomon. However, the S-LAB Ultra has a ‘new’ Premium Wet Traction Contagrip that works really well on a multitude of terrain, wet or dry. There is a Profit Film in the chassis of the shoe which protects against rocks and sharp objects – it is rock plate! 

IN USE

Slipping the S-LAB Ultra on you immediately notice how comfortable they are, the ENDOFIT just does its job perfectly and you can use them around the house without laces, they are that comfy and reassuring. Pull the laces and you feel your foot held in one of the most comfortable and tight embraces. It is so reassuring. I do not like sloppy shoes and my foot moving around inside the shoe – no chance of that here. BUT the laces are had to adjust, it’s all or nothing! However, I find this system preferable to the BOA system which adidas are using – at least I can pull my laces really tight in the Salomon. 

At the front end the additional room is very obvious in comparison to a pair of Sense.

The cushioning is also noticeable, you get that wonderful slightly bouncing feel when walking around.

On road they provide great comfort and grip and for sure, if I had to run large road sections in a race or training, I’d have no worries using this shoe. On hard pack trail they do a great job providing feel for the ground but not at the compromise of protection. The outsole is aggressive enough to grip when it is required. In mud they are pretty useless, the lugs are just not aggressive enough so keep that in mind. On grassy banks going up or down, they were great. On wet grassy bank in the wet they did slip once or twice – nothing crazy and I never fell over. On rock, grip is excellent in the dry but just a little compromised in the wet. In comparison to the Nike Wildhorse 4 in the wet, Salomon’s grip is superb, the Nike’s are a liability! 

The S-LAB Ultra is a solid all-rounder – be that road, trail, rocks, sand or whatever. It does nothing brilliantly and nothing bad. It’s a solid shoe for the long game, hence the Ultra title. To provide a scenario, I would say a S-LAB Sense is a Formula 1 car for shorter, faster and more aggressive races, whereas the S-LAB Ultra is better for Le Mans 24-hour race.

CONCLUSION

The S-LAB Ultra is for those who require a shoe that can handle a little of everything in a cushioned 8mm drop shoe that has great looks. ENDOFIT is just brilliant but I am well aware that not everyone likes it; I love it! The laces do the job brilliantly, again, not everyone like this type of lacing because of the lack of adjustment. The lugs are middle of the road and for some, may not be aggressive enough and despite the ‘wet traction’ name, the Contragrip is still not 100% in the wet. For example, inov-8 has the new Graphene and Sticky Rubber outsole and that really works. At £160 they are expensive, which is maybe why Salomon recommend them for racing? There is a great deal to like in the Salomon S-LAB Ultra and they have been used regularly by me as my ‘daily’ shoe for my 8/9 mile run as I have a whole mix of terrain that includes 2-miles of road, canal tow path, forest trail, gravel path and a little mud – the S-LAB Ultra handles all this superbly. I travel a great deal and these shoes provide me a simple solution as to what shoes to take as I know I can pretty much do anything in them. They are solid shoes and recommended. 

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Mountain, Ultra, Trail and Skyrunning Review of 2017

As a year comes to a close, I always like to look back and consider the highlights of the year, not only personal highlights but global highlights of the running world.

It is a daunting task at times.

The running year is now so full that it can be difficult to remember what happened just weeks ago, never mind months ago. So, with this in mind, please consider that this article is my thoughts and not a definitive highlight of 2017.

Having said that, I am going to make some huge mistakes and I am going to miss some key people, races and performances.

I welcome you, the reader, reminding me of what they are – please, just be nice!

So, let us look at 2017.

I was considering going through chronologically and in all honesty, it may have been the better solution to the task at hand, however, I have just gone on impulse! 

Western States was won by Ryan Sandes and I have to say, it was a sweet victory for the South African who over the years I have considered a great friend. Ryan was my first ever interview on Talk Ultra podcast and I love his story. The non-runner who became a runner who eventually won Western States. It’s a dream story. While on the subject of Western, we also need to mention the ladies champ, Cat Bradley. While all the top contenders faded, Cat ran a sound and solid race to take the biggest win of her life. It was no one-off, something she has proven recently by setting a FKT in the Grand Canyon – Rim – to – Rim – to – Rim fastest known time in 7:52:20

Francois D’Haene racing in China, April 2017

Francois D’Haene is the best 100-mile mountain runner in the world – end of the story. The dude has been nailing it for years and when Rob Krar won 3 100’s in one year, so did Francois. The Frenchman has consistently dominated the distance and when the trail has vertical, he is almost unbeatable. In 2017, he elevated himself to a new level firstly beating the ‘unbeatable’ Kilian Jornet at UTMB and then setting (obliterating) the FKT for the John Muir Trail. He also ripped MIUT (Madeira Island Ultra Trail) apart, and the previous CR set by Zach Miller. Without doubt, Francois is the male ultra-runner of the year in my eyes. We just need to see him at Hardrock 100 now!

Andrea Huser blows my mind constantly. She is the most impressive and consistent runner in the ultra-world and I often ask the question, if she raced less, would she win more? She has a string of top results but often has missed the big win. But when you race as much as she does, you can’t help but just nod in respect.

Caroline Chaverot was unbeatable in 2016 and 2017 started with some issues, issues that she has battled with throughout 2017. Despite this, she won Hardrock 100. It was a great victory and not one without controversy… she left her bleeding pacer on the trail for others to help. Just recently she rounded out her year with a win at Saint E Lyon in France – the classic November night race.

Ida Nilsson and Tim Freriks kicked off their seasons with victory at Transvulcania. Ida’s win was to be expected, but Tim’s win was a revelation. The ‘cowboy’ then went on to set a FKT in the Grand Canyon. Ida continued her great running throughout 2017 and then the duo turned up at San Francisco 50 and both won again – they topped and tailed the year and we can expect big things in 2018!

Jim Walmsley and the PR machine in many ways signified a new era in the sport of ultra-running and not all for the better in my opinion. The hype around the 2017 Western States before the race pretty much had Jim with his buckle, the Cougar and a new CR. The reality was very different. Jim then went to UTMB and showed signs of learning the craft. He watched Francois and Kilian and paced his day. It eventually went wrong but he rallied and closed out strong. A definitive moment for Jim and I was well aware that this would be a turning point for his 100-mile future. He then confirmed he would run on Reunion Island at Raid de la Reunion! While I can admire the decision, for me, it was always going to be a questionable decision in regard to his ‘professional’ development. But I am being judgmental and I hope not in a negative way. I ‘get’ that Jim wanted to run on the island but the step-up from UTMB was huge and despite leading the race, he eventually dropped around the 100km mark. It has been a huge learning year for the fast man and I still hold true that up to 100km, the guy is pretty much un-matched. I am looking forward to seeing him nail 100-miles in 2018 (maybe 2019) and when he does, watch out, it will almost certainly be super-fast and mind blowing. 

Kilian Jornet pretty much was missing from the mountain, ultra and trail calendar for the past 18-months and rightly so. He had set targets on the final summit of his Summits of my Life – Everest. A failed attempt in previous year and then Nepal earthquakes had put things on hold. No bad thing. Kilian learned, progressed and then finally summited Everest twice in one week which blew the minds of the whole world. Of course, anything so amazing has questions raised over it and rightly so. Just recently an article appeared and Kilian responded. Read HERE. More will come to light in regard to Everest and ultimately one has to assume the Everest film will answer all questions. Post Everest, Kilian started running again and won a super-fast Sierre Zinal, he won Hardrock 100 with a dislocated shoulder, placed 2nd behind Francois at UTMB and won Glen Coe Skyline. In the winter, he has had operations on his shoulders and now is in recovery and waiting to get back into the SkiMo season. Kilian has nothing to prove in my eyes. What does 2018 hold? Who knows really, ultimately, Kilian is at the top of his game and he will go where his heart takes him… expect a Zegama appearance, a Hardrock appearance, maybe the Bob Graham will be on the cards and maybe he will be back in Scotland for Glen Coe. Who knows? Whatever the path, he will inspire.

Camille Herron won Comrades, wow, it is the holy grail of road ultra-running. She then followed with a DNF at Western States and Leadville and I, and others, was left wondering what had happened. Oh, my word has she put the record straight. In recent weeks Camille has set a 100-mile world record 12:42:39, a 100km USA track record 7:36:39 at Desert Solstice and then went on to run for 12-hours and set a 12hr All-Surface World Record 92.708 miles. She is the new Ann Trason and arguably, she will be in for a shout as ultra-runner of the year.

Courtney Dewaulter can push Camille close. This lady won Run Rabbit Run (again) this time losing her vision in the final 10km. She then went on to win Moab 200 (actually 238-miles) outright and then recently ran 250.079km / 155.391 miles in 24-hours setting an American record. Wow!

Nuria Picas came out of the wilderness of 2016 and quite rightly, finally won UTMB. Nuria was unstoppable for many years but the big loop around Chamonix had eluded her, I firmly believe she can consider her career complete with this win!

The UK’s Dan Lawson flew around the Gobi Desert to win with a new CR at the 400km Ultra Gobi. Dan is the UK’s hottest prospect at the long game, particularly when you consider past runs on the Grand Union Canal and 2nd at the iconic Spartathlon.

Marco De Gasperi pioneered the way for Skyrunning on Monte Rosa in the early 90’s and has had incredible journey as one of the most respected mountain runners in the world. Finally, in 2017, Marco became the Skyrunner World Series (SWS) champion after an incredible season of consistent running and podium places – a true inspiration.

Maite Maiora moved up several notches in 2017 and was a dominant force on the Skyrunning circuit with a string of victories and podium places. 2017 was her year in the sky! But let us not forget Ragna Debats, she had an amazing full season and triumphed over multiple distances in addition to a great run at the IAU World Trail Champs. Also, Sheila Aviles came of age… a name to watch in future years! For the guys, keep an eye on Jan Maragarit.

UTMB had arguably the greatest male line-up of elite runners ever and it turned out to be great show down and we saw the confirmation that US runners are getting UTMB. Tim Tollefson was again flying the flag with a 3rd place. It is only a matter of time until we see an American win the big dance around France, Italy and Switzerland – will it be 2018? It could well be if Francois d’Haene and Kilian Jornet don’t run.

Hillary Allen has represented the USA in Europe for a couple of years now and once again she was doing so in 2017. However, it all fell apart, before my eyes, at Tromso SkyRace in Norway. She fell many meters, bounced on the rocks below and came away with some serious injuries. Thankfully, the recovery process has gone well and I wish Hillary well for 2018.

Ruth Croft has been in the mix for some time and I think it is fair to say that her victory at ‘Templiers’ in France recently has elevated to the New Zealander to a new level for the coming year… what does 2018 hold for this lady?

2017 most certainly has been a FKT year – Iker Karrera, Darcy Piceu, Francois d’Haene, Tim Freriks, Cat Bradley, Alicia Vargo, Rickey Gates and so many more have all taken the Fastest Known Time discipline to new heights but I wonder if ‘Stringbean’s’ FKT on the Appalachian Trail is the one that should have had more press and coverage? He soloed the AT quicker than Karl Meltzer and Scott Jurek and without help, but, relatively slipped under most radars. Read here.

Jeff Browning crushed the 100-mile distance in 2016 and did so again in 2017, he is a great ambassador for the sport.

Luis Alberto Hernando is for me, arguably one of the most talented runners in the world. But he is a quiet guy who in many ways, keeps himself to himself. He races hard and crushes the competition. In 2017, he once again became IAU World Trail Champion on a course that he, and many others said, didn’t suit him. The guy is pure class!

The UK’s Damian Hall came to running late in life (not that he is old) but he has slowly and surely chipped his way through the ultra-ranks and this year just missed the top-10 at UTMB – an incredible result.

Tom Evans broke on the scene by placing 3rd at MDS Morocco and in the process set a new benchmark for UK based runners to aim for. He followed this up with some other solid results in 2017 and I, like many others, wonder what 2018 holds in store.

Rickey Gates ran across America. Nuff said! Read here.

Ueli Steck, the Swiss Machine, died on the mountains and left the mountain world devastated by his passing. Here.

Alex Honold free soloed El Cap in arguably one of the most awe-inspiring and risky climbs in the history of the sport. It is quite literally, off the scale and beyond comprehension. I know it’s not running but it is without doubt worth a mention! Here.

The infamous Barkley once again served up another serving of spine tingling history with John Kelly finishing and Canada’s Gary Robbins left wiped out on the floor in tears. You can’t make stories like this up.

Gary Cantrell (Lazarus Lake of Barkley fame) organised a race that went through his garden, The Big Backyard Ultra. Every 60-minutes, runners set off on a loop. During the night, the loop changed. The principal was simple, you keep going till one man or woman is left Standing. Well, Guiiiaume Calmettes was that man in 2017 running 245.835 pipping Harvey Lewis. 

Rachid Elmorabity once again won Marathon des Sables in Morocco proving that he is the greatest multi-day desert runner in the world at the moment. Elisabet Barnes, 2015 MDS champion once again returned to the sand pit after missing victory in 2016 and was unstoppable with a dominant and impressive force of sand running.

MDS Peru followed on the 32-year traditions of its Moroccan big brother with the first edition in Peru’s Ica Desert. This was the first time any event was allowed permission to take place in this amazing National Park. It was great first event with Morocco’s Rachid Elmorabity and France’s Nathalie Mauclair taking the top honours.

Michael Wardian did what he always does, run and run and run throughout 2017. But he kicked off the year with a world record running 7-marathons on 7-continents in 7-days. The guy just continues to impress.

Best shoes of 2017? Well, this is well and truly a can of worms and I can only answer from a personal perspective. The Nike Air Zoom Wildhorse 4 here blew my socks off and is now my favourite day-to-day trail running shoe. For when it gets technical, gnarly, muddy and I need an aggressive shoe, the VJ Sport iRock2 here has set a new benchmark for me in regard to grip.

Best clothing? inov-8 have continued to impress me with not only excellent run shoes but appeared to match. They now have a really specific line of products (including packs) that make them an excellent one-stop shop for anything that you would need for a messy and muddy 5km fell run to the tough and challenging 100+ mile UTMB.

Best moment of 2017? That is a serious toughie but maybe Ryan Sandes finally taking that WSER top slot. I know how much he wanted it and he didn’t have an easy journey obtaining it. Huge respect! But hey, I have been inspired by so many in 2017.

On a personal note to conclude:

For me, I started travelling in January and I stopped in December. Yes, I have been on the road for 12-months and I consider myself to be truly blessed for the opportunities I have had to follow my dreams and make a living from it. I never take it for granted! While I could go into the details of each trip, I won’t. Every race is documented in words and images on this website and my social channels and you can find out about them should you so wish.

INSTAGRAM here

TWITTER here

FACEBOOK PHOTOGRAPHY here FACEBOOK TALK ULTRA here

PHOTOGRAPHY WEBSITE here IMAGE SALES here

Don’t forget Talk Ultra Podcast which has documented this sport HERE

BUT, and this is a huge BUT. My passion, and my work calendar comes at a price. I have a son, a family and an amazing partner, Niandi. They have all been neglected in 2017 with my travel and race coverage. It’s a dilemma and one that keeps me awake. I struggle for answers but I want to say THANK YOU for the support to all those people who mean the world to me, you know who you are.

 

Transvulcania La Palma – The Movie

 

A hard and extreme Ultramarathon, proof that only men of iron and women of steel can overcome, many try, many want to, but only a few will achieve the goal. The body is pushed to extremes in a race that all who participate call spectacular, breathtaking, addictive, and challenging. The 2012 event included a stellar line up with athletes travelling from all over the world to take part. To reach the goal of the finish line is everybody’s dream but the reality is not an easy one… welcome to the fourth edition of the Salomon Transvulcania Nature Trail