Sunday, June 24, 2018

Salomon Ultra Pro Review: Versatile and Roomy. All Day, Any Trail Comfort and Performance

by Jeff Valliere and Sam Winebaum

Salomon Ultra Pro 
Introduction:
The Ultra Pro joins Salomon's excellent fleet of trail runners as a secure yet widest fitting, well and relatively softly cushioned option with the longest easiest flex. It shares features with new S/Lab Ultra but also differs slightly:
  • both have the new Energy Save forefoot insert but here it is TPU instead of a PU insert as in the S/Lab,
  • both have two external Sensi Fit wings tied to a new tongue design and vertical loading lace garage. The S/Lab's are a dense pliable rubber like material the Ultra Pro's a combination of mesh and a sewn on overlay type material, 
  • both have a dual density midsole whose heel layer is somewhat softer in the Ultra Pro
  • both have excellent Contagrip rubber with 5mm lugs on the Ultra Pro and 4mm on the S/Lab, with the Ultra Pro having what seems to be slightly softer black rubber and a slightly wider forefoot ground platform. 
The design of the Ultra Pro is clearly intended for Ultra racing and really any trail run's comfort and security while not sacrificing performance. So how do they run? Jeff and Sam ran them in Colorado, Utah, and New Hampshire to find out.


Stats
Weight: US M9 10.3 oz/292 g, US W7 8.8 oz/251 g
Tested Pre Production Sample US M9: 10.7 oz/303 g
Tested Pre Production Sample US 10 12.06 oz/342g
Stack Height: 27mm/19mm (8mm drop)
$150 Available August 2018

First Impressions:

Jeff: Wow, these shoes look really trick, with a sharp contrast of Salomon (Ferrari) red and a vibrant cobalt blue, they are visually stunning in person and just look fast.

Out of the box, the Ultra Pro does not feel particularly feathery and in fact appear at first glance to be a touch large in overall mass when compared to other Salomon shoes of the same size (Ride, XA Elevate, S Lab Sense Ultra), more in line with the Pro Max (though the outsole is slimmer on the ground).

Sliding my feet into the shoe however, it is immediate pleasure and cinching the quick lace provides a gentle, but secure hug of the feet.

Sam: One of the sharpest color ways on any shoe this year for me, road or trail, When I first saw them at Outdoor Retailer they instantly jumped off the display, even surrounded by dozens of other neatly colored shoes.
My pair was a half size up from my normal size 8.5. With heavy trail running/light hiking socks the fit was perfect, so a true to size should work for most with more normal weight socks although if you wear heavy socks a half size up also works just fine for a non narrow foot.  Note that in addition to its width the Ultra Pro has a very roomy soft pliable mesh upper minimally constrained by overlays beyond the outbound SensiFit straps. As a resul,t the front of the shoe is comparatively wide with plenty of overall volume. Those who have struggled with Salomon narrowness and low volume, and even compared to the roomier 2017-2018 Salomon such as the S/Lab Sense Ultra, Ride and XA Elevate should certainly consider the Ultra Pro if these others were to snug.

Upper
Jeff: The 3D Stretch Air Mesh with Sensifit upper is a work of art, very comfortable, supportive and well ventilated.  
The Sensifit wings/external overlays are comfortable and do a great job snugging the foot and without excessive pressure.
The toe bumper is sturdy and protective, integrating cleanly with the welded overlays that offer further protection and support.


It is impossible to convey in a photo, but the Ultra Pro has a very generous and accommodating fit, enough so that for those with higher volume feet and those who are unable to squeeze into the more stereotypical race fit of Salomon shoes, this will be a huge selling point.  In addition to having a more generous fit, they run at least a half size big, as I have much more toe room than I do with any of my other Salomons (and I have run in most of them).  For my low volume foot, I can cinch the laces enough to keep pretty well planted on the shoe for the most part, but for faster, steep, technical downhills I have found that I have to crank the laces more so than I would when using the Sense Ride, the XA Elevate and S Lab Sense Ultra (version 1). The only shoe I find I need to tighten even more so is the Pro Max and even so, I don't get quite as secure of fit with the Pro Max.

When descending steep downhills however, especially at faster speeds, I notice that even with the laces cinched as tight as I can stand, my foot slides forward some causing discomfort to the top of my foot, where the hard plastic grommets used for the lace eyelets are pressing through the relatively thin tongue.  This is not an issue on flats, uphill or gentle downhills, but on sustained steep descents, I have felt that pressure at times, particularly from the 2 grommet down (middle eyelet) on the medial side.  It was more of an issue on my first few runs, but over the months I have been reviewing, I think I have subconsciously adapted with both lacing technique and terrain choices.
Sam: I echo Jeff's comment on the generous fit. My foot is by no means wide but is wider than Jeff's and my trail running terrain and pace is more mellow than Jeff's. I had no issues with sliding and no need to over tighten the quick laces and I was at a half size up. Could it be that my thicker socks made a difference including also contributing to not once noticing the grommets as Jeff did?

Jeff: The Ultra Pro has the speed laces that work so well for Salomon, though the routing is very much integrated with the tongue and access to the lace garage is from the top vs. the bottom in other/previous models.
I find it slightly more convenient when stowing excess lace and the pull tab, but requires a bit more work and finesse when actually tightening and takes a bit more work to relieve the pressure when taking off the shoe.
Above another view of the laces, lace garage and Endofit booty style gusseted tongue. I really like the fit and feel of the Endofit and security it provides, but in this instance, I find the tongue to be slightly on the thin side and as mentioned above, experience discomfort from the lace eyelets under certain circumstances.  A bit more padding would help, but I would love to see these eyelets revamped to be a bit more forgiving, as I had the same issue with the XA Enduro.

Sam: As in the S/Lab Ultra the new design integrating the last 2 lace loops into the Sensi Fit wings puts lace up pressure further out on the foot greatly improving the comfort of the quick laces. I agree with Jeff that the tongue is a bit on the thin side or maybe not as densely padded as it could be.  The somewhat stiffer ,denser tongue of the S/Lab Ultra works better for me but I had no real issues with the tongue here and certainly far fewer issues than in the 2017 Salomon of the older design where pressure from over tightening was often a struggle.  To tight on a climb, loosen, then not tight enough on the descents. Again my thick socks in the mix may mask some of the pressures here. I had them nice and snug with no unusual discomfort and rarely if at all adjust on the run,
The heel counter is sturdy, protective and somewhat stiff.


Midsole
Jeff: The midsole is well cushioned and great for all day outings on most terrain, but is a bit on the flexible side and not particularly responsive.  The Ultra Pro caters to all day comfort and cruising at moderate paces.
Sam: The dual density midsole is well cushioned. Strangely I found it firm for the first few miles of each run then softened just right.
The heel are just above the outsole has a softer foam layer than the rest of the midsole. The heel softness is comparable to the S/Lab Sense Ultra and is softer for sure out back than the S/Lab Ultra and the XA Elevate, but maybe a bit firmer than the Ride which also has the Vibe insert out back which the Ultra Pro leaves out.

Salomon Energy Save
Upfront, just above the forefoot outsole, the Ultra Pro has an Energy Save insert made of TPU, in the same family of materials as adidas Boost and Saucony Everun.  The TPU is supposed to stay more consistent in its compression feel and rebound during runs and for the life of the shoe than conventional EVA. I think I could feel it doing its job.
S/Lab Ultra PU insert
The  S/Lab Ultra also has Energy Save insert but in a wider and shorter shape. It is made of PU. PU as also found in Brooks DNA AMP in the entire midsole of their Levitate has a dense more slowly pneumatic compression and rebound than TPU and better shock absorption than EVA for me. While slightly better protected and with that pneumatic feel, which is also handy over sharp obstacles in protecting and also conforming, the S/Lab Ultra's forefoot feels slightly lifeless to me. It is also a stiffer narrower shoe (upper and on the ground footprint) with a shorter flex. It is more agile and not as easy going, or for that matter easy to smoothly and quickly toe off on the flats as the more flexible and slightly bouncier Ultra Pro. 

I also prefer the midsole trail feel and overall midsole protection and protection of the Ultra Pro to the quite thin and soft feeling S/Lab Sense Ultra as well as to the feel of the Sense Ride whose protection and cushion seems to thin out at its quite far forward softer flex point leading to foot fatigue on rougher steep terrain for me. 

The XA Elevate as does the Ultra Pro has a longer further back flex point and is the firmest and stiffest of the gang up front with the most protection, and for me the best response. That said, XA seems to struggle on steeper climbs taken at a run due to the stiffness but hikes them beautifully. Ironically, it is at the other extreme the most responsive and fastest on road or firm flat surfaces of the group for me given its more rocker profile, stiffness and firmness and has a very snappy response.

Outsole
Jeff: The Premium Wet Traction Contagrip Outsole is among the best out there, if not the best in my opinion.  The 5mm lugs are adequately deep for loose dirt and off trail, while not feeling to obtrusive for mellow paths and even roads.  The rubber compound is extraordinary and clings to rock slabs extremely well and is particularly advantageous when wet, providing amazing wet traction.



The durability of the outsole is also among the best out there and with 80+ miles on mostly rocky, rough terrain, wear is very minimal to non existent.

Overall Impressions and Recommendations:

Jeff 
I like the Ultra Pro a lot. It is very comfortable, has great cushion, traction, protection, runs smooth, is versatile and handles the trails (or just about anything else) very well.  It is a touch on the heavy side and not particularly responsive, but I am OK with that given it is not intended to be a light weight speedster.  I think Ultra Pro is an excellent training shoe or a great pick for Ultra distance events for all but the front of the pack and for those who are attracted to all the fine attributes Salomon has to offer. of durability, traction, and foot hold.  For those who have had fit issues in the past, this more accommodating fit will widen the range of prospective customers.  For longer, more casual days, the Ultra Pro has landed a top spot in my rotation.
Jeff's Score 9.4/10
- .2 for weight of my pre production sample.  It would be great to see this shoe shed some grams
- .2 for plastic lace grommets combined with thin tongue.  It works for some shoes, but this bothers me sometimes and may bother others as well depending on your foot and preferred terrain.  This would be an easy improvement.
- .2 for response
Sam
So many great choices from Salomon. One size really doesn't fit all here. We have several shoes of near comparable weight with differing upper fits, ride feels, and flex types to choose from. The Ultra Pro has a great balance of attributes starting with its most accommodating yet secure upper via the SensiFit external wings, its soft pliable toe box with equally soft overlays and is, with exception of a bit more padding for the tongue has a very well executed upper that caters to the trend towards comfort with security.  This upper proves that a trail shoe upper doesn't have to be a painful straight jacket to function effectively. 
Next up would be its excellent balance of cushion, stability but may be a bit muted response. Last would be its longer easier flex with plenty of protection, resilience and some gentle rebound from the Energy Save insert.  All great stuff but a bit more snappy response and agility up front would be nice.  While it does not have the response of the XA Elevate, the Vibe vibration attenuation of the Ride, or the rock solid agility of the race fit S/Lab Ultra the Ultra Pro hits all the bases well leading to a most versatile option, for not only for Ultras but for all trail running. In our samples, and we will confirm with production versions, its weight is its only notable downside.
Sam's Score 9.6/10
-0.2 for weight of pre-production sample
-0.2 for more forefoot response feel. A bit to soft and easy and lacking in snap.

Comparisons:
L to R: Pro Max, Elevate, S/Lab Sense Ultra, Sense Ride, Ultra Pro
All weights are for our pre-production samples.

Salomon Ultra Pro vs. Salomon S/Lab Sense Ultra (290 grams or 10 1/4 oz. US Mens size 10) (RTR review):  
Jeff: The Ultra Pro is heavier, but offers more protection and support for longer days, though at slower paces.  The S/Lab Sense Ultra has a more precise race fit and is much more nimble and agile, but in comparison can feel a bit thin underfoot in rocky terrain compared to the Ultra Pro.
Sam: I didn't care much for the Sense Ultra. It has a nice upper, second only to the Ultra Pro but lacking somewhat in support for me on rougher terrain. Underfoot, I found it soft and quite thin up front.  I much prefer the Ultra Pro's solid versatility but miss the light agile weight and feel of the Sense Ultra.

Salomon Ultra Pro vs. Salomon S/Lab Ultra (316 grams or 11 1/8 oz. US Men's size 10) (RTR review):  
Jeff: The S/Lab has a slimmer fit, particularly a more tapered toe box.  Though company stats conflict, at least our sample S/Lab Ultra is about an ounce lighter per shoe, which helps it feel more agile and also a little more responsive.  Foot shape and fit preference will be the deciding factor here (and partly budget).
Sam: The S/Lab may cause issues for wider feet and tricky toes way up front. I had very unusual side of toe pressure in them limiting the number of hours I could run them. Back of the toes the upper is a thing of beauty and is wonderfully supportive and superior to the fine Ultra Pro's. In terms of ride the S/Lab is firmer for sure at the heel and has a stiffer forward flex. While its PU insert is slightly more protective and stable feeling it leads to less trail feel and a stiffer shoe. The Ultra Pro just rolls along easier and more comfortably and in fact is for me faster on smoother flatter terrain.
Top to bottom:  Pro Max, Elevate, S/Lab Sense Ultra, Sense Ride, Ultra Pro

Salomon Ultra Pro vs. Salomon Sense Ride (302 grams or 10 5/8 oz. US Men's size 10) (RTR review):  
Jeff: The Sense Ride has a little more of a dialed in fit and costs $30 less, but is not quite as protective as the Ultra Pro, which has more cushioning that is also more forgiving.
Sam: While I think the Ride"s rear Vibe insert is a huge plus in reducing tibial vibration fatigue, the Ultra Pro has a more accommodating and comfortable upper for long miles. While the Ride is overall slightly softer cushioned and has the same stack its far forward soft flex leaves my toes more fatigued than in the Ultra Pro with its longer flex and the Energy Save insert.

Salomon Ultra Pro vs. Salomon XA Elevate (310 grams or 10 7/8 oz. US Men's size 10) (RTR review):  
Jeff: The XA Elevate was my favorite shoe last year and I'll pick it and recommend it over the Ultra Pro.  It costs less money, has better fit, has better protection, is more lively and has at least as good, if not better traction.  The Elevate has a much more firm feel, so if running 100 milers, one might appreciate the added and more forgiving cushion of the Ultra Pro.
Sam: My 2017 favorite too! It was my favorite because of its performance at two extremes: on steep rough terrain due to its upper, bomber forefoot protection and overall stablity and oddly also on smoother, flatter and hard surfaces due to its firmness and fantastic response. While the XA has more distinctive positive highlights for me, the Ultra Pro operates somewhat better across a wider range of situations and distances with a touch more comfort. 

Salomon Ultra Pro vs. Salomon Sense Pro Max (302 grams or 10 5/8 oz. US Men's size 10) (RTR review):  

Jeff: The Ultra Pro has a better fit, is more stable and has better traction.  Cushioning is comparable, as is response (or lack thereof).
Sam: The Pro Max has 2mm more heel cushion and 4mm more forefoot cushion than the Ultra Pro so what I would call a maximal type shoe. It  is clearly more cushioned than the Ultra Pro but comparably a  very stiff and more lumbering shoe despite comparable or even lower weight. It's upper is more old school Salomon and not as  comfortable. It is still the most cushioned Salomon but leans more towards being a road trail hybrid. Other options in max cushioned are at this point better. 

Salomon Ultra Pro vs. Skechers Performance Max Trail 5 Ultra (283 g or 10 oz US Men's 9) (RTR review)
Sam: The upcoming Max Trail 5 is considerably more dynamic especially at toe off while climbing and on the flats and has not only soft bounce but excellent midsole stability. It is very light at 10 oz and has a massive 8mm more forefoot cushion and 4 mm more heel cushion.  Its upper is incredibly comfortable but won't take you easily or at all into high mountain rough terrain and conditions as things do move around conditions the Ultra Pro will handle just fine. Its outsole has very large lugs but durability on rock doesn't hold a candle to the Salomon Contagrip here. On the right terrain: namely smooth and flatter, the Skechers is incredible in its dynamism and leg friendly softness and way more fun to run but is just not as versatile as the Ultra Pro as an all around trail shoe, 
Top to bottom:  Pro Max, Elevate, S/Lab Sense Ultra, Sense Ride, Ultra Pro
Reviewer Bios
Jeff Valliere is a former pro cyclist who now runs and climbs the mountains of Colorado. He has been top 5 Masters, top 25 overall, at the Pike's Peak Marathon several times, finishing 2d Masters in 2015. Jeff loves vertical accumulating more than 500,000 vertical feet per year, has climbed all the Colorado 14's and 200 of the 13's and has held FKT on several.   
Sam Winebaum is the Editor and Founder of RoadTrailRun. He has been running trails and roads and run shoe and tech geeking for 45 years. As he turned 60 in 2017 he was thrilled to clock a 1:35.24 half as well as 2 days after his 61st birthday a 3:40 marathon.  He also runs trails in rocky rooty New Hampshire and smooth Park City, UT. 

The products reviewed in this article were provided at no cost. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.
Comments Questions Welcome Below!
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14 comments:

Jeff Valliere said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeff Valliere said...

Following

Chad said...

I thought I read that the Ultra Pro does not have Profeel Film for rock protection, is this right? All other Salomon trail shoes do as far as I know. Since the stack hight on the Ultra Pro is not significantly higher then the other Salomon shoes like the S-lab Ultra, XA Elevate, etc are sharp rocks more easily felt or is the TPU insert dense enough to provide sufficient sharp rock protection?

Anonymous said...

Hi guys, when you say its a dual density midsole, do you mean the same as the S/LAB Utra 1/2 with a harder density on the inside? Its not clear from the images - the dual density could be seen on the earlier models when zooming in.

Salomon have really started to make shoes for me with these latest models. A bit of pronation support, good uppers, now if they just provided traditional laces they would be really getting it right. First thing I do with Salomon shoes is chop the laces and squeeze some traditional laces through. I know its one of their things, but for me the speedlaces just cause excess pressure on the top of my foot and in some shoes really irritate my foot/heel on the inside - with traditional laces in, all the pressure is gone.

hawkhandler said...

Thanks for the great reviews. I'm trying to find a shoe for my first 50 miler and longer slower trail runs in general. For shorter runs and mixing up the paces on trails I love the New Balance Summit Unknown (probably because the 1400 is my all time favorite road shoe). However I don't think my feet will be happy in those for 10+ hours. I'm debating between the Ultra Pro, XA Elevate, S/Lab Ultra and S/Lab Sense Ultra. Love to hear your thoughts on what you feel can handle the distance without sacrificing too much performance.

Jeff Valliere said...

hawkhandler - for ~50 miles, I would probably pick the Ultra Pro, as it has more plush and forgiving cushioning than any of the other Salomons you listed and better protection than all but the Elevate. The added room in the forefoot would certainly be an advantage on longer runs, certainly over the S/Labs and a little better than Elevate.

sam winebaum said...

Hi Chad,
Will double check on presence of ProFeel or not in Ultra Pro. Given the flex suspect not. The TPU insert has provided very sufficient rock protection for me.
Sam, Editor

sam winebaum said...

Hi Anonymous,
Thanks for asking. Best I can tell both S/Lab Ultra and Ultra Pro have a similar design dual density midsole. Both have softer foam wrapping the heel just above the outsole to near midfoot, then a firmer layer above They differ in that both layers in S/Lab Ultra are firmer. S/Lab Sense Ultra has the soft layer at the heel as the others do and it is softer heel foam than Ultra Pro, I found the Sense Ultra to soft at the heel and to thin at the front and much prefer Ultra Pro back to front.
Sam, Editor
Thanks for reading Road Trail Run! See our page with links to all shoe and gear reviews HERE. You can also follow RoadTrailRun on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram where we publish interesting run related content more frequently as well as links to our latest reviews. Shopping through links on articles help support RoadTrail Run and is much appreciated!

Brendan said...

Hi,

Firstly thanks for all the great reviews and testing you do. It provides brilliant insight, when there's so much out there and so little to go on before purchasing this stuff is a god send. My last two purchases have been through much deliberation on this site (Skechers ride 7 and Speedgoat 2).

The 2 shoes of 2018 I was waiting on was the Hoka Torrent and the Ultra Pro. Torrent seemed to nail it in your opinion and this has done well, fitting into the Salomon fleet with a slightly different offering.

So my question- how does the Ultra Pro fair against the Torrent? Is the torrent the faster and lighter option and the Ultra pro providing more all day comfort. Or does the Torrent do this as well as the fast stuff? If the Torrent is more nimble than the Sense Ultra then it's far more nimble than the Ultra Pro. Does this mean then that it doesn't do the other stuff so well?

Thanks in advance!

Jeff Valliere said...

Both are great shoes, but would go with the Torrent if you are looking for more versatility like all day comfort, great for day to day training AND the ability to let it rip in race/PR/uptempo scenarios. Both shoes handle rugged terrain well and I would not hesitate to recommend the Ultra Pro for just about anything, except going your fastest.

Jeff Johanson said...

Thanks for your great reviews,
Which has the most accommodating toe box in order? Torrent, Elevate, or Ultra Pro?
How does the traction of the Hoka with its new sole compound compare to the Salomons? Which has the best grip?
For running in the White Mountains of NH up to potentially 30 miles (well hike/run slowly as that’s ugly terrain) what would be the finish for 1st, 2nd, 3rd? Or perhaps something different even?

Thank you,
Jeff in MA

sam winebaum said...

Hi Jeff, the Ultra Pro most followed by Torrent then Elevate for toe box room. For Whites no question for me XA Elevate as it is the most stable and protective if toe box works. It is not the old super narrow Salomon toe box but isless roomy than others
Sam,Editor

Anonymous said...

Ok in comparing the sizing of the Torrent to the Ultra Pro, how is it? I picked up the torrents in a 10.5 for a near perfect fit, but I'm coming from just about strictly wearing Altras, so the toebox is feeling a bit snug. I'm sure I'll get used to it with time.

sam winebaum said...

Hi Anonymous,
I was a half size up from my normal 8.5 as that is what Salomon could provide. With heavier socks, light hiking weight the fit was perfect. This said with more normal run socks true to size would have been better. I would say the toe box is comparable if a bit wider than Torrent but also of very soft mesh and overlays as outlined in the review so while not Altra wide the closest in a Salomon to date. I would go true to size.
Sam, Editor