Monday, February 15, 2021

Salomon Running S/Lab Phantasm Review

Article by Jeremy Marie

Editor's Note: We welcome Jeremy from France to the RTR test team with a review of the Phantasm in English.

Salomon S/Lab Phantasm (180€/ $180)

Introduction

As mostly a trail runner, I’ve always had a bias towards Salomon, be it their shoes, clothing or equipment (man, those S/Lab backpacks!). I had quite good experiences with their first road-running focused shoe, the S/Lab X-Series. Just a bit harsh underfoot, but the fit, the versatility (for differing paces or surfaces) and the durability really had me convinced at the time.


Taking a five years forward jump in time, the running shoe landscape has seen drastic changes, with the introduction of “super foams” from every major manufacturer, to the inception of carbon-plated shoes.


Salomon did not follow this last trend, preferring to build upon their very nice Optivibe technology and introduce their Energy Surge midsole and keeping a somewhat more flexible platform for the Phantasm.


Tester Profile

Jeremy MARIE, French, 40y/o. Running since 2013 and quickly transitioned to trails, focused on ultras since 2015 : TDS, Maxi-Race, “100 miles du Sud”, 90kms du Mt Blanc, GRP 120kms, Some shorter mellow races (Saintelyon 45kms, Ecotrail Paris 45kms…) with always in the mix road and flat running, but not many road races. Recovery/easy runs ~4’45/km - 4’30/km 


Pros:

Jeremy: 

Cushioning to weight ratio

Versatility

Airy upper with a nice conforming fit

Good foothold despite the unstructured upper.


Cons:

The upper may not fit narrower feet

The laces easily come untied

Unstructured upper is a hit or miss


Stats

Estimated Weight US9: 6.8 oz  / 193g 

    Sample: men’s (US10.5): 212g - 7.4oz

Midsole Stack Height: 14mm forefoot / 20mm heel, 6mm drop

Available now including RTR partner Running Warehouse US here. $180 / 180   


First Impressions and Fit

The Slab Phantasm is a thing of beauty, almost ostentatious given its flashy red coloring, true to its S-Lab pedigree. It just screams fast, and this impression is confirmed once you take the shoes in hand: how light it is! 


The paper-thin upper, completely see-through, is astounding, very comfortable and foot-conforming, despite the first impression of a harsh plasticky feel.


Once you put the shoes on, and deal with the sometimes finicky tongue, you immediately know that you’re in for a hell of a run. The R-Camber -Salomon vision of a rocker- is noticeable even when walking, so is the amount of cushioning. Comfortable upper, comfortable midsole, sticky outsole...the early messages delivered by the Phantasm are very positive.



Upper

Photo: Salomon


The first impression with this upper is two-fold. First, it looks plasticy, almost harsh...and then its incredible thinness strikes you. It's an astonishingly light, see-through upper made of TPU. 

I hope it’ll help with its durability but...beware of brambles and thorns if going off-road with the shoe. With around 100 miles in it, sometimes off-road, I cannot see any issue with it, and it has become more supple and that initial plastic feel has disappeared.


It is made of a single piece of mesh and TPU with some welded overlays to help foot hold.

I find the fit quite generous, especially in the toe box where I get sufficient space for some toes splay, and did not feel any discomfort even during 2 hours runs. And I have pretty wide feet upfront...think Hobbit-like.


The midfoot I think can be a hit or miss depending on the foot shape. Given the unstructured upper, users with a narrower foot may have to tighten the laces quite a bit and might not find the fit very adequate, as it won’t really hold the foot as some sock-like engineered-mesh upper.

There’s literally no heel counter, you can fold it with your pinky, as you can  the whole upper. See my video below which shows the pliability


There’s minimum, albeit existing and efficient, padding for the heel and under the ankles. 

I think it helps with foot hold, and did not encounter any foot slippage nor blisters when running, no matter my sock thickness...and I like a generous fit. 


I think the shoe fits a bit long (see photo above).  I always choose 10.5US and I may be good with half a size less, but I really like having space upfront...and the foot hold is so good that I have had no issues.


I have two small complaints about the upper. First, the flat laces...they’re kind of slippy, and may come untied quite easily. As they are slippy, they move easily in the four eyelets, and keping the desired fit can be a bit cumbersome.

There’s a fifth eyelet (not visible on Salomon website) for those heel-lock lacing pattern.

The second one is the tongue, which is not gusseted, and that usually folds on the sides when putting the shoe on. It’s no big deal as it is easily fixed when tying the laces, but I think that a gusseted tongue may solve this without adding much weight nor limiting breathability.


And talking about breathability, I think the pictures give a good idea of how airy the upper is. It will be highly appreciated in summer but during winter, be sure to wear some warm socks...or get some cold toes!


Overall I find the upper really fantastic, with a striking simplicity, almost a purity, that is perfectly spot on. It just  works!  Eliminating superfluous elements is not something easy, keeping only what’s needed, and Salomon nailed it here. And it saves a lot of weight to allow more midsole material to create a comfortable ride.


Midsole

The shape of the midsole is quite a departure from preceding Salomon road offering. I’ve run in: the first SLab X-Series (nice, durable, versatile, a bit harsh), the RA Pro (less harsh, and I was tepid on the upper and some..clunkiness) and the Sonic Accelerate (don’t have anything bad to say about it…). I  appreciated them quite well and found they worked nicely with my strike. 


But this new R-Camber shape, inherited from Salomon’s skiing experience, creates a pronounced rocker that really pushes you forward and gives the shoe an incredibly smooth transition, at almost all paces. I’m a mid to forefoot striker, and never ran in a shoe with a rocker. 


I tried the Hoka Carbon X but did not like the inflexibility of the shoe. In the Phantasm, if a bit weird at first while walking, the rocker is more “gentle”, probably due to the sole being more flexible than in carbon-plated shoes. Instead of forcing you to follow the shape of the midsole, it really accompanies you along the gait, without interfering much with your natural strike and foot roll.


The midsole uses Salomon Energy Surge which is “a mix of EVA and Olefin”. It is an evolution of the midsole foams used  in some of Salomon current road and trail shoes (Sonic 3 line, Sense Ride 3, Sense Pro 4). 


This material is springy, smooth, comfortable and creates an equally smooth ride, dynamic but never harsh. Compared to the Sonic 3 Accelerate, the ride is much more dynamic, but never harsher.


                            

Outsole


Photo: Salomon

The outsole uses Salomon Contagrip FA compound, with a full contact design. It has some grooves going from the front to the external rear part of the shoe, probably to shave some grams and help with flexibility.


There’s no reminiscent traces of decoupling grooves as exist in the Sonic line. Considering the S-Lab Phantasm is a performance-oriented shoe, it seems a sensible decision.


It’s a pure roadrunning-designed outsole, made to grip on bitumen, cement, road, and I can say even on wet roads, the grip is adequate. The only time I’ve slid with this shoe was on the road’s border, with a bit of mud and water, and I was running at my 5kms pace (3’35/km…). So the outsole will be perfectly fine for its intended use, i.e roads (dry or wet) or dry trails, but that’s all.


The durability seems to be good, as usual with Salomon outsoles, and I cannot see any sign of wear after ~100 miles. I’ve read someone else reporting the same after 400 miles.




Ride

The ride of this shoe is incredible. I’ve no experience in recent “supershoes” (never run in a Vaporfly, nor Endorphin…) so someone else may not be as blown away as I’ve been, but man…what a  ride! It’s smooth, easy, fast, dynamic, fun, and versatile. 


The shoe works for all my paces, be it cool runs, tempo runs, 30” repeats, hill repeats, 5kms test run...It just works, and always helps you go forward, and I’ve never felt constricted by the shoe, probably due to the lack of a carbon plate.


The midsole material combined with the R-Camber geometry really propels you, in a very natural way. I’ve looked at my different training intensities and see that the paces were a bit higher, and the sensation was of an easy, forward-propelled floating ride. It may be purely psychological (you know that feeling, you get new shoes, supposed to be “fast shoes”...and they’re red - everybody knows that red is fast...well….) but I like to think that I know myself enough to get rid of this “new toy” sensation.


And most of all, I find the ride “enjoyable” It’s a shoe I may take for every run - if I were less of a geek and always want to compare different shoes. But for me, it works, every time, and I never ended a session with beaten up legs.


Conclusions and Recommendations

Overall It is not much to say that I’m having a great time running in the S-Lab Phantasm!


The striking almost transparent upper, the enjoyable ride, the overall performance of the shoe and one that really works with my stride without forcing it into the shoe design makes for a fantastic shoe.


It’s comfortable, cushioned (for a long-distance racer, or lightweight trainer, keep in mind that it is not a recovery shoe the likes of a Hoka Clifton of an Adidas UltraBoost of course), springy, dynamic and versatile.


Considering the unstructured upper, it is better to try before buy, as I think it may not work with every foot shape, nor everybody's preference for such a...transparent upper (in a visual and physical meaning).


As someone who usually enjoys Kinvaras, and the Sonic Accelerate, this S-LabPhantasm is just in another class. I should probably try one of the recent plated “super-shoes” to see how it fits in this category.

Score 9.5 /10


++

Incredibly light and airy upper

Smooth, comfortable ride

R-Camber geometry and midsole material make for a fast, dynamic, propelling ride.

The rice, which looks reasonable in this 200$+ era of carbo-plated shoes….


--

The thin tongue easily folds on the sides

Laces easily come untied

Unstructured upper is not for everyone.


Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE


Sonic 3 Accelerate (RTR Review)

Looks like the Phantasm wingman. I really appreciate the Accelerate 3, and still have a pair in my rotation. It’s comfortable, reliable, has enough cushioning for me. It  is dynamic enough for interval runs but...The Phantasm is just all of this turned up to an 11, and so much more. 


Lighter, more dynamic, faster...For lighter or faster runners, they could be a great combination as an everyday trainer and a racer. I cannot really knock them as they are complementary, but if I had to choose only one, it would be the Phantasm, as you’re losing nothing vs the Accelerate, but gain so much more…


Adidas Boston 8 (RTR Review)

I think this shoe fits in the same category as racers and  versatile up-tempo trainers. But...that’s all. The Boston looks and feels  like a shoe from the past century, heavier, harsher, noisier, with a strange fit…

And I still appreciate the Boston 8, but it’s just not in the same league. Phantasm all the way.


Adidas SL20 (RTR Review)

The SL20 has been a pleasant surprise. I find the ride comfortable, less harsh than the Boston, and the fit works better with my foot shape. I find it very versatile, a bit harsh for slower runs but totally adequate otherwise. I even used it last summer for trail running among rocks and stone (nothing too technical but very harsh terrain) and had no issues doing so. Actually it was the only pair I brought with me for 3 weeks spent around flat land in south of France, in rocky Verdon trails and in Annecy going up and down the famous Semnoz without any harm.


But once again, the Phantasm is miles ahead, be it the upper, the fit, the ride, the comfort...But would have I brought the Phantasm as the only pair of shoes for such diverse conditions? Nope.


Saucony Kinvara 10 (RTR Review)

A favourite of mine, since the K3. If I was less of a shoe geek, I may be fine using Kinvara for everything road-related. Versatile, comfortable and  fits my feet well. The K10 upper is more cushioned, less race-oriented and can be more forgiving for the days when you need some structure. As with the Sonic 3 Accelerate, I think it can work really well in combination with the Phantasm. Durability, given my experience with Ks and Salomon shoes, will be far better with the S-Lab, lessening the quite significant price difference. 

Kinvara may be an easier reach for everyday, but the performance and fun is definitely on the Phantasm’s  side.


Adidas Adios 5 (RTR Review)

As much as I enjoy the Adios 5 (which I think has been quite controversial) with its combination Boost and Lightstrike midsole, it really screams “old school design” when facing the Salomon offering. I can run fast in both shoes, maybe faster  in the adios, but my legs feel much fresher when running in the Phantasm, and I can run fast much longer with it. No hesitation here, Phantasm nails it...but its street price is twice the Adios’ ..


Our July 2020 preview article and Salomon interview about S/Lab Phantasm and Pulsar is here


The Phantasm is available internationally. US release date currently unknown.


Reviewer Bio

Jeremy MARIE, French, 40y/o. Running since 2013 and quickly transitioned to trails, focused on ultras since 2015 : TDS, Maxi-Race, “100 miles du Sud”, 90kms du Mt Blanc, GRP 120kms, Some shorter mellow races (Saintelyon 45kms, Ecotrail Paris 45kms…) with always a good part of road and flat running, but not many road races. Recovery/easy runs ~4’45/km - 4’30/km 

PB (...not too fond of races, just love running and training :) ): 

10kms (2015): 36’25, 

5kms (unofficial, during training session 2020): 17’45

TDS 2015: 21h, 

100 Miles du Sud (2016): 21st, 31hours

Ecotrail Paris 2018, 45kms: 5th, 3h23min

Run around 50-120kms/week adding lots of cycling (total around 15-20h weekly….)


Tested samples were a personal purchase. The opinions herein are entirely the author's.
Comments and Questions Welcome Below!
Please let us know mileage, paces, race distances, and current preferred shoes

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12 comments:

Jeremy said...

Following

kiwirevo said...

How far did you feel they'd go? Eg. Would you run a marathon in them?

Anonymous said...

really wish Salomon would give a U.S. release date....

Jeremy said...

Kiwirevo: definitely yes, I’d run a marathon in them. The o my real road marathon I’ve ran was in kinvara 5, and I felt ok u til the end, and the day after. And those SLabs are more cushioned, and really left my legs « fresh » even after long hard runs.
TBH, I’m thinking of using them for my first Ironman....once I’ll be able to do it....

Dan said...

I see the Pulsar is finally available in the US for sale. Review coming soon?

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Dan,
Pulsar review soon. Pairs on the way. Not an easy one to snag!
Sam, Editor
Thanks for reading Road Trail Run! See our index page with links 100’s of in depth 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!

kiwirevo said...

Thanks. Just ordered a pair and managed to get them for NZ$210. Looking forward to seeing how they compare to my old slab sonic 2s and hoping that I don't get numb little toes like I did in all the RA and Accerate/Balance and Predict shoes. Fingers crossed...or toes crossed

Mo said...

What distance would this shoe be best for? 10k or half marathon? Would you choose to run a marathon in these?

Jeremy said...

Kiwirevo: nice that you took the plunge! Let us know how you feel about them once you’ve tried!

Mo: I think it may depends on your personal preferences. If you’re used to « true old racing flats », you may find the Phantasm almost to gentle (cushioning, stack, fit). Otherwise, I think that this shoe will handle 10k to marathon (3h-3h15, not slower IMO) with great success. On short courses, the snap of the midsole and the lightness of the shoe will feel great. Over longer runs, such as a marathon, the cushioning, albeit a hait firm for some people, will be appreciated. The rocker profile proved to be efficient through the gait and propelling you forward. This plus the good stability of the shoe will help on the long runs.

Unknown said...

How do you compare the Phantasm to the Razor 3 and Fuel cell Rebel?

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Unknown,
RTR Editor Sam chiming in as I don't think Jeremy has run Rebel v2 or Razor.
Phantasm is a much more stable and substantial shoe than either. It is "firmer" for sure than the super bouncy Rebel and not as springy and a touch firmer than Razor. It relies on a semi rigid rocker profile while the Rebel is flex and Razor somewhat in between, It's midsole feel and return is more measured but decisive so more a responsive feel. There is plenty of comparative cushion it just feels different due to the composition of the Energy Surge midsole (EVA Olefin blend) vs autoclaved and airy EVA/TPU of the Rebel and its bounce, with the springy feel of Hyperburst coming from supercritical processed EVA. Phantasm is lighter than Rebel and somewhat heavier than Razor but has a more substantial outsole.

Unknown said...

Thank you Sam!

Best Regards,

Rick Paradis