Thursday, March 11, 2021

Salomon Running S/Lab Pulsar Multi Tester Review: The Ultimate Trail Racing Machine? For Sure the Lightest!

Article by Jeremy Marie, John Tribbia, Adam Glueck, and Sam Winebaum


Salomon S/Lab Pulsar ($180)

Introduction

Sam: Salomon pinnacle run shoes are born in the S/Lab where products are designed, prototyped and built in house at the Annecy Salomon HQ to the exact specifications of top athletes in many sports including of course running but also nordic skiing, alpine skiing, and ski mountaineering. 

Shoe upper and apparel prototyping and assembly area

I visited this incredible blend of full on factory, skunk works, and corporate HQ in 2019 (RTR Article) and saw specific models being crafted on the spot from uppers to midsole molding to assembly for Francois D’Heane the S/Lab Ultra on a super narrow last to others on an incredibly wide forefoot last for Ryan Sandes. The now venerable S/Lab Sense was initially created for Kilian Jornet’s first Western States and has continued as Salomon’s peak racer for now 10 years, essentially unchanged. 

2011 S/Lab Sense #001/108 Killian raced Western States in #000

As Killian has more recently focused on iconic shorter races such as Sierre Zinal he closely collaborated for several years with S/Lab on a new shoe that would be very agile, yet lighter, more cushioned, dynamic yet also highly supportive. 


The Pulsar is a  shoe for the particularly varied terrain of Sierre Zinal. I have run Sierre Zinal four times and fellow reviewer John Tribbia twice, and much faster than me, and this race is a true test of all trail running skills over a 31km distance:

  • over 1500 meters of climbing in the first 10km alone, first on road then very steep trails 

  • A flatter mellow near road uphill for another 700 meters of climbing, followed by a more technical gradual downhill, 

  • ending with an elevator shaft last 6km decent on rockier trails, through meadows and even very steep pavement to the finish.

A very special shoe was required. And the S/Lab delivered! 

https://youtu.be/F2ZUOECq2pk


Killian wore an early Pulsar in 2019 shattering John Wyatt’s record by close to 4 minutes with a 2:26:35 which at an incredible 7:22 per mile for a course with 2200 meters of climbing and 1100 meters of descent. 

Photo: Salomon Running IG. (Photo Credit: @jsaragosa @martiskka)

Clearly this barely 6 oz / 195g shoe is an elite marvel but could mere mortals enjoy and run it fast too? I was eager to find out as my best Sierre Zinal was in the 1980’s in the Nike Terra TC road shoe in 3:01 and they were shot after one race, Great on the climb and “flats” but after that no support and I struggled mightily on the technical and downhills! 


Spoiler alert: The Pulsar addresses the needs of Sierre Zinal: very steep climbs, faster “flats” and moderate downhills on smoother surfaces transitioning to more technical, and a very steep relatively short downhill with a design and execution that matches what was is required for all three “zones” of the course. Will this incredibly light 6.2 oz / 195g marvel meet your trail running and race needs? Is it also a strong road racer as well? Read on to find out!


Jeremy: First seen on Kilian Jornet feet during a record-breaking race in Sierre-Zinal 2019, the SLab Pulsar finally comes to us mere mortals. Using technologies inherited from the Me:Sh project, a Matryx upper (aramid fiber reinforced mesh), and a  brand new midsole material Energy Surge, this shoe is a real paradigm shift in the Salomon S-Lab racer line, taking the Sense line off the top. Even its color is a departure from the red/black/white scheme.


In Europe where I run, Salomon is by far the first band that comes to mind when talking about trail shoes - that is not to say that it is the most seen - , so moving from a successful line as the Sense by offering the Pulsar is quite a bet for Salomon.


Adam:  I’ve always loved a go-fast, lightweight, trail shoe that made you feel like you were rocketing over the terrain.  The first Salomon shoe I liked was the S/Lab Sense 6.  It was extremely light, bright red, and with a light but comfortable upper and on road or trail I liked how responsive and controlled it felt.  


The Sense line is iconic for Salomon, as it’s the bright red shoe that rocketed Kilian Jornet to the top of podiums around the world.  There’s a reason this shoe wasn’t called the Sense 9, and that’s because it isn’t an incremental improvement over the Sense 8, but a ground up revolution of new technology and optimization.  This isn’t just Salomon making their racing shoe lighter, it’s Salomon making their racing shoe better.  


Pros:

  • Amazing amount of substance (security, stability, cushion to weight) at a mere 6.2 oz/  175g Sam/Jeremy/Adam

  • Despite its lightness and apparent lack of structure, the upper is very secure. I almost don't need to tighten the quicklace. Jeremy/Adam/Sam

  • Like wearing a comfortable sock with an incredible midsole and outsole glued to it Jeremy/Adam/Sam

  • Agile, secure, easy, fast, comfortable, trail, road...you name it, the Pulsar delivers  Sam/Jeremy/Adam

  • Very responsive and very fast even on road. A  great option as a very light road racer for those needing support/stability Sam/Jeremy/Adam

  • Flawless highly secure, comfortable,  “non painful” trail race fit upper Sam/Adam

  • Once “laced” no adjustment needed Sam/Adam

  • Low profile outsole gripped on very hard bumpy snow, was not in the way on road. Sam/Adam

  • Padded lace garage solves that perpetual comfort issue, No sharp feel from laces Sam/Adam

  • Beautiful polished and perfected design and execution. Several years of Killian and Salomon tweaking his S/Lab Sense replacement  Sam/Adam

  • combination of midsole foam and geometry results in a responsive, propelling ride that's never jarring. Jeremy/ Adam

  • Light, agile, low profile and comfortable upper, extreme bounciness in forefoot, precise  John

  • Ultimate Trail Racing Machine Sam

  • Agile, with a well cushioned lively feel forefoot and effective rocker, even on road Sam

  • Also a great option as a very light road racer for those needing support/stability   Sam/Jeremy

  • Cushion-to weight ratio is second to none. Above every shoe I have run, road or trail. Jeremy

  • outsole works in a variety of terrain, dry trail, light mud, rocks, and even road Jeremy 


Cons:

  • Hard to pull on and then stuff laces due to non stretch upper and integral tongue. Some give with time. Once on though...perfection. Never had to adjust quicklace. Sam/ Jeremy/Adam

  • Early concerns about midsole durability due to side wall creasing. Race only  shoe? Sam/John:

  • Much prefers a mid/forefoot strike Adam/Sam

  • Soft while standing, on the run the heel, while it is well cushioned, is quite firm due to low heel stack of 23mm, narrow landing,  and medial firmer support wedge. May limit distance versatility for heel strikers. Sam

  • Jeremy:...mmmh….the name sounds like something out of Star wars?

  • Lacing is tough to get right, heel instability (especially when bombing downhills and heel striking), minimal heel cushion John

  • Probably a bit harsh/thin for over a half marathon race on the road for me still.  Adam

  •  Lugs are short enough that they won’t work as well in deep mud/snow.  This is a trade off as big mud lugs add weight and you don’t benefit as much in dry conditions.  Adam

  • I miss the red of the S/Lab Sense.  These are a sleek looking shoe, but they don’t scream fast from a mile away just with their color.  Adam


Tester Profiles

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 


John Tribbia (5' 6", 130lbs) is a former sponsored mountain/trail runner who has run with La Sportiva, Brooks/Fleet Feet, Pearl Izumi, and Salomon. Even though he competes less frequently these days, you can still find John enjoying the daily grind of running on any surface, though his favorite terrain is 30-40% grade climbs. He has won races such as America's Uphill, Imogene Pass Run, and the US Skyrunner Vertical Kilometer Series; and he's held several FKTs on several iconic mountains in Boulder, Colorado and Salt Lake City, Utah. If you follow him on Strava, you'll notice he runs at varying paces between 5 minutes/mile to 12 minutes/mile before the break of dawn almost everyday.


Adam is a cross country ski racer from New Hampshire.  Along with skiing, he’s a big fan of endurance sports in general and does a lot of running.  He’s much faster at skiing, participating in the curtailed2020  NCAA’s skiing for Dartmouth College, but can run a 4:43 mile (in trail shoes), 16:59 5k (wearing the Sonic 3 Accelerates), and has won a few small trail races you’ve never heard of.  His mileage varies depending on how much snow is on the ground, but he trains about 700 hours a year including 1200 miles of running and 4000 miles of skiing and roller skiing.  You can follow him at his IG: @real_nordic_skier, his blog: https://adamglueck.wordpress.com, & on Strava https://www.strava.com/athletes/9267222


Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 63 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. Sam has been running for over 48 years and has a 2:28 marathon PR. These days he runs halves in the just sub 1:40 range training 30-40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces on the roads and trails of New Hampshire and Utah. He is 5’9” tall and weighs about 164 lbs.


Stats

Estimated weight: men's 6.2 oz/ 195g (US9)  /  women's / (US8)

  Samples: 

  men’s  5.96 oz  / 169g (US8.5), 202g / 7.1 oz (US10.5), 6.84 oz / 194g (US11)

Official Midsole Stack Height: 23mm heel /17 mm forefoot

Available now. $180  


First Impressions and Fit

Jeremy: Featherweight. Elegant. Sock-like fit. Comfortable. No-fuss design, just the bare essentials are here. All these elements struck me when first opening the Pulsar box and putting my feet in them.


The colorway is a subtle mix of grey and white and seems to be exempt of coloring chemicals, a bit like what Adidas has done with some of their trail shoes (to be confirmed). It’s a real surprise to get a SLab “dry trail” shoe without a majority of red in the mix. It looks like Salomon really wanted to break with the past and promote the Pulsar as  a fresh new line having nothing in common with the past.


Looks-wise, the shoe is a real hit for me. And the bright color will let the trails leave their marks on it, giving a little “story” to the shoes, like what Brooks has done with the Catamount.

It’s a nice departure from the bold “SLab Racing red” of the Sense line.

Picking them up, the weight just seemed...absent. I had to take out my scale, just to check…My 10.5US shoe comes just shy of 200g. For a trail shoe, with an apparently comfortable midsole stack. It’s even lighter than the S/Lab Phantasm, a pure road shoe with a transparent upper. Really unbelievable.


The top part of the upper, near the collar, is stretchy and needs to be pulled out quite firmly in order to put the foot in. 

There’s no tongue, just a sock-like upper, and the shoe needs to be put on like a sock. The first few times were a bit cumbersome, but it seems that the shoe gains a bit of give -or it’s me gaining the habit- and the more you put the shoes in, the easiest it gets.

The upper is soft (I have yet to try it sock-less, even if it is not designed for this purpose) and fits perfectly despite the apparently narrow platform (I have quite wide feet).


While walking, the difference with the Sense (Sense 6 was the lasto for me) is significant. More stack, softer, a noticeable rocker...there’s nothing in common with the Sense


Striking looks, striking fit, an unusual feeling once put on. Everything pushes to try the shoes on the trails...and the road!


John: One word - turbo. This shoe is light, fast, and ready for varied terrain.  I was immediately excited about the Salomon S/Lab Pulsar. It looks really fast, is incredibly light, and has a near unnoticeable presence when on foot. More to the point, it feels featherweight and bouncy, which undoubtedly means it is perfect for top speed performance on a variety of surfaces. Fit is true to size and basically sock-like and made secure using Salomon’s patented quick lacing system. I like that it has a lower profiled built-in anti-debris system and it doesn’t feel awkward. The toe box has ample room, but is not wide. The heel fit feels narrow and the heel contact area appears smaller, which gives me a little wobbly sensation so I will pay attention as I run in them more.


Sam: A beautiful looking highly refined design with nothing left to chance, nothing more than needed for purpose. It took me several minutes, literally, to get them on the first time as the opening is so tight. Not to worry it gets easier but the Matryx upper is totally non stretch with integral tongue and rear collars somewhat stretchy but purposefully snug to lock the foot once in, It’s a struggle and then the quicklace has to go into its snug pocket but once it was in I never had to adjust the laces and wondered more than once if I even needed them snugged so we have iimpeccable hold, security and support. 


The material is very thin yet with a rugged not very pliable feel with the aramid fibers providing not only key support but claimed abrasion resistance. Once I was in after the struggle, a big smile as there is a resounding lock at the heel as we have a low true but pliable heel counter construction (unlike the S/Lab Sense 7 SG). I felt  a comfortable yet well held midfoot and a surprisingly roomy toe box for the fast purposes here.  I particularly appreciated the padded lace garage.


Totally true to size on both my narrower right foot and considerably wider left for a wonderful race type fit that reminds me of the adidas adios Pro in some road ways. I have an S/Lab Sense 7 SG and it has no where near the comfort or effective volume.

Adam:  The Pulsar is a beautifully engineered shoe. When I first took it out of the box, I was shocked by how light it was.  I’ve got the Saucony Endorphin Pro and NB Rebel V2, and picking up this shoe felt like something on another level.  This was a trail shoe, and it was 30g lighter than the lightest road shoe I own and 24g lighter than the S/Lab Sense 8 in my size US 11. 

While hard to get on at first, the upper instantly fits your foot like a sock, and is both comfortable enough with a roomy toe box to forget you’re wearing a shoe, and secure enough that you barely even need to tighten the laces.  


With such a good upper and at so light a weight, the Pulsar could be forgiven for having a brutally harsh ride, but shockingly it’s bouncy, responsive, and cushioned.  The fit is true to size, and although the platform is narrow, the stack height is low enough and the foam firm enough that it feels stable enough for technical trails.  


Upper

Jeremy:The upper is made of Matryx material, created by the french company Chamatex, that Salomon already used in other shoes (Cross /Pro, Slab Cross) and also used by Hoka in some shoes (SpeedGoat Evo, Mafate Evo, Rehi Evo).


Matryx is a special mesh containing Kevlar and reinforced with aramid fibers. I cannot yet attest to its durability in the Pulsar, nor in the Cross/Pro which is the only other “Matryx-infused” shoe that I own. It has a reputation of being durable, so time will tell, as I usually am a “shoe eater”.


It’s indeed a breathable material for sure. I ran in temperatures around 0°C, and I’m glad I had warm socks. I’ve also run under the first sunny days in France  (15°C) and never felt too hot, despite the apparent density of the mesh. As far as I can tell it will work with a variety of temperatures, the adjustment variable being the socks.

The insole is stitched in, so non-removable, and seems to be minimalist. You will also note the laminated medial arch support underlay which has a soft almost suede like feel as does the insole. 

The fit may seem a bit constricting at first, at least for my wide feet. This sensation only lasts the first couple of kilometers in the shoe. Then the upper really seems to stretch more and perfectly conforms to your foot. 

 

I’ve used this analogy several times previously but the tongue-less, one piece design of the upper really gives the impression of wearing a sock. No heel hard heel counter but there is one, no heavy duty stone-guard (just a minimal protective layer at the front), and yet the shoe feels very secure.


Note that I’m used to trail shoes without a lot of structure - and prefer so, and keep in mind that this shoe is more or less designed for short to middle distance races, where the lack of support won’t be too harmful.


I find the upper secure, transparent, like an invisible hand that holds your feet without constricting it. The classic quicklace is coming to the party too, and considering the absolutely perfect fit of the upper, I can even run without tightening it that much.

The only negative point I have to mention about this upper is that it is quite annoying to put the quicklace in its pocket,

Save from this detail that’ll cost you...5-10 seconds when putting the shoe on, the upper is a work of art, from function to design...Actually I would say its  the pinnacle of functional design upper for a trail shoe.

John: Jeremy captures just about everything about the upper. I love Salomon’s quicklace systems in general, but it doesn’t work well in the Pulsar. Despite the sock-like fitting upper that secures the foot quite well, the lacing is needed for the extra precision. However, the lacing eyelets have very little friction to keep the laces still, which means most of my lacing attempts required two hands and some maneuvering to get the lace in the placement I need. Ventilation of the upper is excellent, which was proven during my cold feet during test runs in 20 degree temperatures in snow. 

Sam: Let’s get the quicklace stuffing out of the way first. It is a struggle to get the lace pulled into place as it needs to be (and given the upper I wonder how much it is even needed) and then stuffed into the tiny very tight pocket. I found pinching at the Salomon “S” helped and after a few runs it got somewhat easier. Once in place I never had a need to adjust. And in a welcome improvement over other quicklace garages the tongue side is padded.

The upper itself is a combination of Matryx EVO material and a stitched and heat overlay attached integral tongue and ankle to achilles collar stretch material which creates the tongue, debris collar and upper part of the achilles collar. 

The heel counter is rigid at its rear vertical but not so rigid that you can’t press it in and easily so when you hit the mesh areas and is more pliable but present as it goes forward and goes lower.

The notch of stretch upper at the far rear achilles is more pliable yet secure. 

The far rear of the heel counter is un padded with bolsters of foam further forward just below the upper knit stretch collars. 

These bolsters are just below an underlays which run at that level from the ankle collar all the way forward just below the lacing and on both sides. This system creates a top wrap of the foot and protects it from any lace bite. Note also the medial arch support underlay of the same soft suede like material as all the internal underlays are.

There is no traditional sockliner. The lasting board seems to serve as the sockliner and also has a soft suede like surface, This approach obviously also saved some weight. We also see in place of a sockliner’s arch support a medial  underlay rising at the arch. The upper and shoe around the foot and underfoot is very stable at midfoot.


The Pulsar has a fully wrapping translucent overlay at the rand, the nterface between upper and midsole.

Upfront it serves as part of the toe bumper which does not extend far up and over the toes but is stout for such a light shoe. 

By not overdoing the bumper’s over the toes coverage or height up the upper the Pulsar maintains its very very flexible front of shoe flex, for climbing and also for a noticeable easy final toe off on the flats, trail or road. Note also in the photo above how the denser diagonal mesh areas are eliminated over the toe area to improve comfort and flex. 

Ah the Matryx material… We have seen Matryx in shoes such as the Hoka EVO Mafate and some other Salomon. 

Essentially aramid Kevlar like fibers are woven into the rest of the 3D mesh. The aramid fibers are the yellow black seen above stitched into the diagonal bands of mesh. They add structure and also abrasion resistance.




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The result is a non stretch, very thin but 3D upper that is not particularly pliable and for sure not stretchy yet at the same extremely foot conforming and comfortable for race and fast run purposes. It disappears on the foot, provides incredible support and has a toe box that is relatively roomy, very secure and with no narrow squeeze feel. 

Adam:  The upper of the Pulsar is a thin, Matryx sock.  It’s not very flexible, but conforms to the foot with incredible comfort.  Despite minimal structure, it is remarkably precise and makes you forget there is anything on your foot.  Compared to the other super light uppers, this one seems more comfortable, durable, and breathable.  


The Pulsar has no tongue and has a gaiter like sock that wraps around the ankle.  While this stretchy gaiter bothered my heel on the sense 8 (got some chafing over the Achilles), issues are completely eliminated in the Pulsar.  


The Matryx is remarkably soft and comfortable.  There’s padding around the ankle that greatly enhances comfort.  The quick lace stays taught and the padding on the integrated “tongue” stops it from digging in.  Some people complain about the difficulty of putting laces in the lace pocket, but it isn’t too inconvenient.  These shoes won’t slip on, but once you have them on your feet, you forget that you’re wearing them.  Even without tightening the quicklace, the Matryx does a good job holding your foot.  If I could put this upper on every shoe I own, road or trail, I’d do it.  It’s that good.  


Midsole

Jeremy: The midsole uses Salomon new material, Energy Surge, which is a Dow Infuse foam with a higher proportion of Olefin to EVA than what we’ve seen in Sense Pro 4.


It is the same combination I’ve already met in the SLab Phantasm, but with either a different proportion or a different durometer. It is a bit firmer than what I’ve experienced in the Phantasm, which is normal considering it is a trail running shoe. This ensures a stable run on the trails without harshness, where the Phantasm may be just a bit too soft for this use if there are rocks or even ground. This difference in firmness can be felt on the road, but even there, the Pulsar is never jarring. 


It results in one of the softest Salomon trail shoes I’ve tried - but it is not to say that the midsole is soft! It has the perfect amount of give without any mushiness. It’s more comfortable than the Slab Ultra (the first version that I still have!), and there’s no comparison with the Sense 6, my last S/Lab Sense.


The latter feels firm, harsh with minimal cushioning compared to the Pulsar. I’ve ran some very fast-rolling races with it (SaintExpress 45kms, Ecotrail 45kms, both with a mix of forest trails and asphalt) as well as a short mountain race (35kms in technical terrain), and I would hugely prefer to run them with the Pulsar giving the amount of cushioning without any loss in precision and stability.

The R-Camber profile of the shoe, like the one I’ve appreciated in the Phantasm, seems even more pronounced here, with the same benefit of a forward propelling platform. The shoe just pushes you forward in a very efficient and “gentle” way. I thought I would have found a more pronounced rocker profile on the road shoe, where the stride is very linear and controlled, but it is definitely more noticeable in the Pulsar than in the Phantasm.


As with the Phantasm, this midsole geometry works perfectly with my midfoot strike and allows for an effortless run. I was a bit skeptical of having such a rocker profile on a trail running shoe, but the proof is in the pudding, and it works very well for the mellow trails around home. 

I found the midsole material very forgiving and I finished my runs with relatively “fresh legs”


John: Jeremy captures the technical details of the Pulsar very well. What I love about the Pulsar is the lightweight and responsive one-two punch for its classification as a trail shoe. 


Based on how my legs felt after a 13 mile run in them, I don’t think I would go any longer than the distance of Sierre-Zinal (31K) because my legs actually felt pretty beat up. I ran in this shoe across varying terrain (road, trail, technical trail, snow / ice) and tried to push uphill and downhill - I found the midsole provided really great rebound and bounce when I was focusing on a midfoot strike. In fact, it felt almost like the forefoot was spring loaded but a heel strike would feel comparably dampened. So, as I picked up the pace while focusing on a forefoot landing and rebound, a 5:20 per mile pace effort felt like there was another gear and I was able to get going faster on fatigued legs at the end of my run. With my lazy heel striking gait , especially on downhills, I ended up not using the optimal part of the midsole and was left with some sore legs. On technical terrain, the midsole provides sufficient protection and stability, but again I found it most optimal with a forefoot focused footstrike. 


Sam: The midsole platform as the others have said is brand new. Gone is the prior firm and dense S/Lab Sense 8’s Energy Cell+ replaced by the new Energy Surge Dow Olefin EVA blend. This new midsole is also different from the  similar Dow Infuse used in Sense Pro 4 in having a higher proportion of Olefin in the mix. 

Energy Surge benefits are described as follows by Salomon:

  • Softer Durometer (Comfort)

  • Significantly less compression setting (Durability)

  • Significantly faster recovery from compression setting (Rebound)

  • Lightweight

  • Flexible

I would agree with these characteristics based on my testing but a midsole platform is more than just “foam”. Geometry and the outsole design also are in the mix. Recall my introduction where I talked about what I see as the 3 zones required for Killian to smash the Sierre Zinal record: nimble climbing, smoother ground even road to more technical fast pace performance, and downhill prowess all in the lightest possible package.

Digging further into the platform we see a swallow type tail for downhill landing leverage and a notably low profile far rear of the shoe and pronounced rocker. Best not to land way back!

There is a firmer medial midfoot foam insert for stability (the slightly grayer color above), some rock protection and propulsion and protection from a more flexible (than Sense Pro4 and for sure Sense 7 SG) Pro Feel film, a very flexible far front of the shoe for climbing and finally the R -Camber especially in combination with the Pro Feel and the front flexibility for rocker propulsion on the flats. All “zones” of terrain performance were clearly felt during my testing. 


We must also consider the relatively low stack height of 23/17 although this is more stack than the 20/16 of the Sense 8  or the 25/21 (with higher lugs in the mix) of the Sense Pro 4 (RTR Review), the very narrow on the ground platform, especially at the heel and the incredibly light weight, lighter even than just about any road racing flat and considerably lighter than its predecessor the Sense 8 which weighs 0.8 oz /25g more with less stack height.


The midsole has very noticeable bounce and dynamism at the forefoot, a firmer stable midfoot area, and a narrow but stable enough heel landing. I got different results and impressions depending not so much on the terrain but as John says above where I was landing. 


During two runs I was fresh and fast and I was off the heels and they were highly dynamic and forgiving front to back if not the most cushioned at the heel but more than adequate even on a steep section of downhill road during my trail run. 


A third run at fast paces on road when I was tired and more back on the heels and I could clearly feel the heel firmness and low stack there as well as the firmer medial section of midsole. This tells me that this shoe’s midsole favors fresh legs, a mid to forefoot strike, shorter faster efforts, and racing. 


Adam:   I’m pretty much going to echo everything Sam and John said.  I’ve usually found Salomon to have excellent uppers and outsoles with stable and responsive but not light or bouncy midsoles.   This new Energy Surge foam is revolutionary though.  Considering the low weight of this shoe, any cushioning at all would be an impressive achievement, but it’s actually really bouncy and dynamic.  The platform is narrow, but thanks to the relatively low stack height (23/17), it’s stable enough for me.  The Pulsar’s midsole seems to have a higher durometer insert on the medial side and a slight rocker shape.  The heel has a slight dovetail at the back (though less than the Kinvara 12) that helps cushion a little while heel striking on descents.  


The midsole and platform truly comes alive when mid foot striking and the faster you go the better it feels.  This is not a soft foam, but it rebounds energy and the more force you put into it the more it gives you back.  The firmer middle of the midsole transitions you to the bouncy forefoot quickly.  Protection from rocks is adequate, but this shoe prefers mid/forefoot stride and paces under 8 minutes/mile.  This is a shoe that encourages you to go faster, and rewards you for doing so.  


Outsole

Jeremy: The outsole may be the only thing in common with the past S/Lab shoes, being the classic Contagrip material with the “dry trail” lugs pattern. Salomon usually slightly changes things in the pattern of lugs height but functionally, it stays quite the same. It works well on dry trails, rocks, an is a bit slippery on wet rocks, OK in light mud and...does not cope well with deep mud.

Outsole durability has never been an issue for me with Salomon shoes and I can’t see a reason for this one to be different.


John: The grip is good across varied terrains and functions well in cold or warmer temperatures. The outsole is not amazingly durable, given that I have noticed some wear after 25 miles in them, but I have mostly accumulated miles on road (with other terrains mixed in). Despite this being more of a lightweight race shoe, the rock protection is noticeably there and is suitable for navigating off camber, rocky and navigable scree fields. That said, I don’t envision using this shoe for muddy and wet snow conditions, because the outsole lug height just doesn’t dig in enough.

Sam: The outsole is more than adequate for the mixed terrain of forest climbs, roadbase and gravel road, pavement, and moderately technical final sections of...Sierre Zinal without mud in the mix. It was also fine for road running due to its long high surface area lugs. The lugs appear to be not much more than 3mm in height. And like a broken record… recall this fully capable outsole is on a shoe that weighs barely 6.2 oz / 195g


Adam:  The outsole is clearly a place where Salomon saved some weight with very thin lugs.  They’re slightly more minimal than even the S/Lab sense 8, but aside from a few tiny strips of exposed foam, this is a full coverage trail outsole with an excellent grippy rubber compound.  You’ll lose out on grip in mud, but this is a full trail outsole (better than some outsoles I’ve tried on much burlier trail shoes) in a shoe that weighs 14% less than the Endorphin Pro road racing shoe.  



Ride

Jeremy: Oh. My! I have yet to bring it to technical terrain, but on my usual trails the shoe is a blast. I’ve (almost!) effortlessly beaten some PR, cruised along flat rolling terrain, short and steep hills, downhills...all with a big smile. Not only is the shoe a real racing machine, it’s also a incredibly fun shoe to run in, due to the combination of the geometry, the cushioning, the fit, the grip…

The more you push it, the more the shoe gives it back to you and encourages you to push even harder. The Sense 6 was a shoe that begged you to go hard, but it was in a very “brutal” way, harsh and firm. The Pulsar does this even better but never harms you. It goes with you, like a friend that pushes you in the back on a hill to help you. And it’s so efficient that you don’t notice how fast you’re going until you look at your watch or at Strava post-run.

Despite the narrow platform (narrower than the Slab Ultra), the shoe feels very stable, helped by a reasonable stack height for the amount of cushioning.

The ride is never jarring, even when going for long stretches on asphalt.

And it is one of the biggest surprises with this apparently pure trail-racing machine: it’s also an incredibly competent road racing shoe. The outsole design never gets in the way, and the softness of the midsole is just perfect for my tastes as a road running shoe.

Add to this an adequate 6mm drop that’ll work with the majority of runners, the sock-like upper and an amazing weight of 202g for my 10.5US  and you have one of the best road racer I’ve ran in. I’ve yet to do a one-to-one comparison with the phantasm, the latter being a bit softer and probably a better choice for long distance.


John: If you are a forefoot striker, this shoe is especially designed for you. A forefoot runner will find the Pulsar to be among the most responsive and springy trail shoes you have ever worn. The experience is difficult to articulate but the best exaggerated comparison I can make is to those bouncy shoes with spring loaded bottoms. There is very little energy loss in the return push off. I specifically found this to be the perfect shoe for rolling terrain (off- and on-road), but it most definitely performs quite well in technical terrain with great forefoot precision and control. Even more pleasing to me is that these shoes climb exceptionally well. I haven’t found many shoes where the springy energy return felt on fast and flat terrain translates similarly to very steep grades. My only nitpick is that I found the narrow platform to be unstable with a direct heel plant, especially on steep, long downhill grades. Of course, I can’t complain too much about a shoe that is fast, responsive, and weighs 6 oz. holding up to the trails. 

Sam: I concur with John on all points in his take on the Ride. The magic of the ride here is in the substance at such a lightweight and the forefoot dynamism of more than adequate rebounding cushion, rock protection that also amplifies the R-Camber rocker and a agile very flexible far front toe off for climbing but which also provided a strong impulse on smoother flatter terrain. Yes, best run off the heels and fast on firm surfaces. I have not been to Park City during the test period with its rolling well groomed single track but it would be an ideal shoe for those trails and one I plan to tackle some of my shorter test loop PR’s with them as soon as I am there as well as for sure for the Triple Trail Challenge half where last year I ran in the Sense Pro 4 which were fine but lacked in forefoot cushion and impulse.


Adam:   I agree with John and Jeremy here.  I’ve had to do most of the testing on the road as I’ve been dealing with icy snow on all my favorite trails, which should not be the natural environment of the Pulsar.  I’ve tested the Pulsar with micro spikes on trail and while the cushioning is responsive, I feel like it hurts their main advantage of light weight.  My micro spikes are heavier than the Pulsars themselves, so putting them on more than doubled the weight!  

I’ve taken the Pulsar up to 8 miles at a time on the road, and they felt cushioned and responsive the entire time.  If I was racing anything under a 5km on the road, I’d pick the Pulsar over any of my road shoes.  The Pulsar much prefers a mid or forefoot strike and I feel that the stability under heel strike is a noticeable weakness.  The Pulsar also climbs wonderfully, and it’s flexible enough that it doesn’t hit the same limitations of rockered shoes on steep grades.  The rocker never feels like it gets in your way or is something you have to build the momentum to tip over, but rather encourages you to lean into the climb and strike more and more on the bouncy mid foot.  Previous Sense shoes encouraged you to go fast, but were brutally harsh.  I ran a 4:46 mile in the Sense 7 SG, but that shoe was painful on the road.  It would feel good when you were flying along on softer terrain but leave you feeling beat up after.  

Adam did an A/B test run to compare Pulsar to S/Lab Sense 8. Watch his initial review with that comparison here.

 

The Pulsar keeps that incredible lightness and response, but replaces the harshness with rebound, giving you back that energy and keeping your legs fresher.  I’m excited to hit my favorite trails in these once the ice melts this spring to see just how fast they’re capable of going.  They’re just a lot of fun to run in.  


Conclusions and Recommendations

Jeremy: Salomon finally made a departure from its successful Sense line and it’s a big hit!

I was spoiled by the road-oriented Phantasm, but the Pulsar really blew me away. 


They started from scratch, using all their technologies, the shoe making some appearances here and there along the way, iterating on prototypes, working with Kilian Jornet from real in race performance to finally offering  a trail-racing shoe that’s even more efficient than the Sense, but immensely more friendly, gentle, cushioned, with a better fit, that will work for more runners and more distances.


Moreover, the shoe can also double as an incredibly efficient road-racing machine that puts to shame the majority of them out there. And it’s a joy to run in. The fun factor is very high in the Pulsar.

I’m almost sure that it would also be a perfect ultra-shoe for me, as I find it more comfortable (cushion and fit-wise) than the Slab Ultra with which I ran my last ultra-trail.

I’m eager to see the further development of the Pulsar line (maybe a SG version?)

Jeremy’s Score : 9.7 /10

-Ride: 9.8 fun ride, secure, versatile, efficient through gait…

- Fit: 9.6 conforming fit, snug but not too tight, secure. Laces almost unnecessary, lace pocket is a bit cumbersome

- Value: 9 Standard SLab price, depends on the durability of the midsole and outsole(I usually get around 600kms in Sense, 800kms in Sense ultra…). Upper durability should not be a concern.

- Style: 10 Sleek style, colorway, great departure from standard Sense. Could be used as a walking shoe when the midsole/outsole will be torned.

- Traction: 9.7 versatile do-it-all outsole, except for slippery mud, or deep mud. Obviously not designed for this.

- Protection: minimal toe bumper, adequate protection underfoot.


John T: If it is good enough for Kilian it must be good enough for us? Mostly a big yes! I have been lucky enough to race Sierre-Zinal twice several years ago. If I recall, both times I remember wishing I had a better shoe choice and rode the struggle bus when most runners were just beginning their acceleration into the downhill finish.  Though neither runs were during his record breaking run in the Pulsars, Kilian was well ahead atop the finishers podium. What I glean from testing the Pulsars is that they are a perfect design for a course like Sierre Zinal and I wish I had them when I was back racing. Great on steep uphills and rolling terrain, efficient on road (dirt or pavement), excellent across chossy footing with solid grip to those surfaces, and (as long as your legs are happy enough and you are not a heel striker) an absolute beast on the downhill. In other words, the Pulsar will take you over a mix of challenging and fun terrain, quickly and comfortably. It is a secure fitting shoe with all of the right amounts of cushion, traction, and protection for any varied terrain. I think this shoe is appropriate for race distances up to 30 or 40K.

John’s Score: 9.5 /10

Ride: 9.5 (really fun and engaging shoe with stable and smooth ride)

Fit: 9.5 (secure fit with a few points off for lacing inefficiencies)

Value: 9 (I can’t imagine very long distances or high mileage out of this shoe)

Style: 10 (I love the colorway and sleek style) 

Traction: 10 (high performing, all-terrain)

Rock Protection: 9 (it's a pretty low profile race shoe that isn’t going to save you from rocky obstacles)


Sam: The Ultimate Trail Racing Machine. Not an ultra shoe for most but for faster shorter trail racing and running on highly mixed non soft ground terrain (such as Sierre Zinal for Killian and up to a half on smoother terrain for me) the combination of responsive bouncier cushion and dynamism especially at the forefoot, great mid foot stability, super secure breathable upper, and adequate outsole at incredibly light weight is a fantastic experience and technical achievement. While weight is vital (for Killian anyways!) I wish for a slightly wider and/or higher heel stack for more versatility and range for mere more heel striking mortals such as me, even if it pushed the weight up to 7 oz, a level that only one road racing super shoe gets under. And in closing.. Please think about that we’re talking a trail shoe and one that can also race roads.

Sam’s Score: 9.47 /10

Ride:9.3(30%) Fit:9.7(30%) Value:9(10%) Style:10(5%) Traction:9.7(15%) Rock Protect:9.4 (10%)


Adam:  The Pulsar is a revolution for Salomon’s go-fast trail shoes.  The S/Lab Sense was a one trick pony (albeit very good at that one trick), that could be a harsh, light shoe for short technical trail racing.  The Pulsar manages to be lighter, with a better upper, and with enough cushion to be an exceptional road shoe.  As a statement, the combination of the sock-like upper, responsive rockered midsole with bouncy yet firm enough to be stable foam, and a legitimate trail outsole is a staggering feat of engineering.  I’d love to see a version of this shoe with a bit wider platform and more stack height (with the exact same upper, call it the Pulsar Ultra) that I could take on even longer days in the mountains, but this will be my go to trail shoe for speed, intensity, strava segment hunting, and racing for the foreseeable future.  It’s so light that it makes you question why all your road shoes are so heavy, and just a joy to run in.  

Adam’s Score: 9.78 /10

Ride:10(30%) Fit:10(30%) Value:9(10%) Style:9.5(5%) Traction:9.5(15%) Rock Protect:9.5 (10%)


Watch Sam's and Jeremey Initial Salomon Pulsar Video Review (19:40)

Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE


Hoka Torrent 2 (RTR Review)

John: The Hoka Torrent 2 is one of my favorites. The Salomons are more sock-like and form fitting in the upper and produce an energetic rebound, while the Hokas provide more cushion, more width in the forefoot, more protection, and a larger base to absorb the terrain. If I am going fast, short, steep, and where I need some pep in my step in technical and non-technical terrain, I’ll go with the Pulsars, but I will put the Torrents on for most anything else. 


Jeremy (Torrent 1): I’ve had a great experience with the first Torrent. It was my first Hoka trail shoe and found the cushioning very nice, forgiving but not soft (I don’t really like soft cushioning in trail shoes). It was comfortable; responsive, and the traction of the shoe was really nice. It worked great for racing (did a 55kms trail race as a first outing with the Torrent…) and also for slower runs. The fit is way looser than the Pulsar, a bit insecure and the larger platform did bother me at times. Like John, the Pulsar is more energetic, a bit firmer, a lot more “peppy”, fun and playful.

For fun, control, precision, racing the Pulsar is #1 by a large stretch. For everything else, the Torrent is a safer bet (albeit I had some durability issues: after 400kms, the lugs were out and I had a big hole in the mesh)


Salomon Sense Pro 4 (RTR Review)

John: The Sense 4 is broader, more forgiving, and has a more stable platform. It is a decent uphill shoe and an absolute beast on the downhills. The Pulsar is lighter, more energetic and precise, and better dedicated for race day.

Sam: John makes a great comparison. I would add the Sense Pro has more aggressive traction and a stiffer long flex pattern making the Pulsar a far more agile climber as well as fast flats shoe and the Sense Pro a more stable platform which I found more forgiving and stable if firmer at the heel and less dynamic up front. 


Skechers Speed TRL (RTR Review)

John: I really like the Skechers Goodyear outsole rubber for scrambling and playing around in the rocks and on cruisy smooth trails. Both are extremely lightweight and yield a springy energy return. The Speed TRL has better protection underfoot and a broader base, while the Pulsar feels more lively and wins in the ride and fit security categories.

Sam: John is right. The broader base of the Speed TRL leads to a more forgiving ride especially at the heel on firmer surfaces. The Speed TRL was my 2019 trail shoe of the year.  It is springier in feel due to its Hyperburst foam and front PEBAX propulsion/ protection plate but doesn’t climb quite as well as it is less flexible.  It has a similar 23/19 stack with 2mm more at the forefoot and is a lower drop at 4mm vs 6mm.   It comes in a still incredibly light 8 oz / 227g but think about it that is almost 2 oz more than the Pulsar but$55 less. It’s upper is fine but just can’t compare to the total security of the Pulsar’s. I would flip a coin between these two but for its value and a more versatile ride in a similar super fun to run capable trail shoe I would lean TRL. 


Salomon S/Lab Sense 7 (RTR S7 SG Review)

Sam: I can only comment on the SG version. It’s upper is considerably snugger and more constrictive but worked for me. I prefer the Pular’s as it has at least equal hold, more front room, and a far more substantial heel counter and rear stability. The SG has a very rigid profile in comparison to Pulsar’s distinct front easy flex and rocker so doesn’t climb smooth hard surfaces  as well or roll along flatter at faster paces as smoothly  It’s midsole is firmer and more firmly responsive as opposed to Pulsar’s bouncier feel and is clearly harsher in ride even with the big lugs in the mix. It obviously has deeper soft ground traction. It can move along on firmer smoother ground and road very well but is more punishing overall. 

 

Salomon S/Lab Sense 8 (RTR S8 SG Review)

Adam:  The Pulsar improves on the Sense 8 in every “sense” with the sole exception of the outsole.  The 8 and 8 SG have slightly deeper lugs which will hold up better in mud.  However, the Pulsar is significantly lighter, has a more comfortable upper without any of the chafing issues, has far more responsive and protective cushioning, is much better on the road, and is a joy to run in without any of the harshness.  


Watch Adam's Initial Video Review and A/B Compare to S/Lab Sense 8 (2:24)

Salomon S/Lab Sense 6 (RTR Review)

Jeremy: No comparison. The Sense is a shoe from the ancient world. Firm, somewhat harsh, you need to be in perfect physical condition, nimble, light in weight and on your feet to enjoy it, whereas the Pulsar also delivers during the bad days with its comfortable cushioning. It’s more efficient, propulsion, is less jarring, and its fit is better...

Adam:  Agree with Jeremy here, the Pulsar is a better shoe in every way.  ‘


Salomon S Lab Ultra 1 (RTR Review)

Jeremy: The first version of the “François d’Haene designed” ultra shoe. I’ve successfully run an ultra with them, 22 hours in the shoe with no harm, no blisters. I don’t think I’ll have the opportunity to run an ultra in the Pulsar, but comparing the two on the same terrain at home, I feel the Pulsar may be a better bet for me even for long distance. 

It’s softer but does not lose precision, the fit is better and just a bit less supportive, and the rocker profile will help on flat and rolling sections. Once again the Pulsar is better.

Adam:  The Pulsar has a far better upper (more comfortable toe box, more durable, much more precise), and benefits from a rocker and more responsive foam.  For aggressive mountain running, I’d still be tempted by the greater protection from the thicker midsole of the Ultra, but on anything other than the White Mountains, I’d take the Pulsar. 


Salomon S Lab Ultra 3 (RTR Review)

Adam:  The S/Lab Ultra 3 was the first shoe I ever ran a trail Ultramarathon in and I don’t think the Pulsar gets all the way to replacing it for that.  The Pulsar is in another weight and responsiveness class, and I prefer its upper as well.  The Ultra 3 has slightly more rock protection and a gripper outsole and I’d feel more comfortable with in on jagged rocks above tree line on mountain ridges.  For all other trail running though, I’d take the superior cushioning technology, upper, weight, and responsiveness of the Pulsar.  Once again, I’m waiting for the Pulsar’s upper and foam to show up in a shoe with a bit more stack height and outsole to replace the S/Lab Ultra for long distance mountain running.  When I’m going out the door for a trail run though, the Pulsar’s so much fun that I’ll grab it over the Ultra 3 most of the time.  


Nike Terra Kiger 4 

Jeremy: Grip in mud is better for the Kiger thanks to higher lugs. I find the upper of the TK very comfortable but the Pulsar is in a class of its own. The fit is better in the Pulsar, the cushioning is better, and the shoe is far more versatile.

The price is not comparable though…


Salomon S/Lab Phantasm- road context for Pulsar (RTR Review)

Jeremy: The Phantasm shares the same midsole material (dialed a bit differently) and R-Camber rocker geometry. It’s equally effective at propelling you forward with just the right amount of flexibility not to be constrictive. The Pulsar is a tad firmer underfoot, and as a consequence I think it may be more effective for short distances races, whereas the Phantasm with a slightly softer underfoot will work well for middle to long distances races.


Adidas Adios 5 (RTR Review)

Jeremey: As far as I love and have a bias for the Adios line, honestly the Pulsar is by far a better shoe .I can’t think of a scenario where the Adios would be a better choice. The fit is quite strange in the adios (locked midfoot, almost sloppy toe box, fits long…) and the midsole is firmer and “slappier”.


Adidas XT Boost (RTR Review)

Sam: Going all the way back to 2015 the XT Boost is one of my all time favorite door to light trail shoes. Fast everywhere. It no longer compares to the totally modern Pulsar being far heavier but its combination of EVA with a front Boost insert, higher drop, plenty of stability, and climbing flexibility still has it on my shelf for use and it still compares favorably to the Pulsar in being yet more versatile. 

Tested samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. No other compensation was received by RTR or the authors for this review from . The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.
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25 comments:

Jonny Greenberg said...

Thanks for the review!!
I hear similar praise here to the reviews for the innov-8 g270.. would you choose one over the other in terms of comfort and versatility??

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Jonny,
An interesting comparison. While the G 270 is almost 3 oz heavier it is also a fast agile shoe. It has more cushioning for sure overall, more outsole, and a very good upper. It does not have much more heel cushion stack than Pulsar but it more stable there as broader and in the end more cushioned . It is also zero drop vs 6mm which can make the heel feel lower whereas the narrowness of the Pulsar platform and if you heel strike on flats also feels low . I would say it is more versatile and a great fast shoe choice for mere mortals whereas the Pulsar lives in the land of the fast and while I am not "fast" anymore is super fun to run on fresh legs. It is also a superb hiker on technical terrain due to its flexibility and grip. it doesn't have a rock plate but protection is adequate. Haven't been on enough rocks with Pulsar to really compare that aspect.
Hope this helps.
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!

William Colvin said...

Thanks as always for another great review! Your team is the best! I am curious however if anyone had a problem with heel/achilles irritation? I know there have been major concerns with heel rub with the Puma Deviate Nitro but I have over 50 miles on that shoe without any rubbing at all. The Pulsar on the other hand tore up my heel in less than 30 minutes. I loved them otherwise, but with trying 3 pairs of socks of differing thickness and having a problem every time they just didn't work for me.

L said...

Thanks for another great review! As someone with a wider foot that has worn the s/lab ultra 2 in 10.5, would you recommend sizing up? Sounds like you think the forefoot is narrow but kind of accommodating?

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi L,
Thanks for kind words. You did not say if you sized up or not in S/Lab Ultra 2. Did you? One of the other reviewers may be able to answer better than me. I did not run v2 much but did v1 and its incredibly narrow front of toe box and front side overlays was painful. This fit is accommodating here and if on the narrow side I think what is required for its race fast purposes
Sam, Editor

Jeremy said...

Hi L,
I've run quite a lot in the SLab ultra v1 and I would not size up in the pulsar. Just get the same size and your feet will be happy.
Although the platform of the Pulsar looks narrower (and actually, it is, the outole of the Ultra is wider, be it in the forefoot or the heel), the upper is much more accomodating.It looks narrow, it is "adjusted", tight, but not constricting and my quite wide feet feel well in the pulsar in 10.5US.

Jeremy said...

Hi William Colvin,
I must confess that I don't have any issue in the Pulsar around the heel area (and anywhere else frankly). No heel rubbing even with almost untied laces, even when repeating ups&downs, with thin or thick socks...The heel hold is perfect and nothing moves...
Maybe you choose the wrong size?

L said...

Thanks Sam, Jeremy!

I stayed 10.5 in the ultra 2, ultra 3 in 10.5 actually felt quite a bit narrower and not nearly as comfortable. I've gone up to 11 in Dynafit shoes before.

William Colvin said...

Thanks Jeremy. I am pretty consistent size 11 and the shoe felt good everywhere other than the heel...maybe even a bit long in the toe. I think it was just the height and the angle of the heel wrap for my physiology. A big bummer though because it is a great shoe. Thanks for the feedback!

Sam Winebaum said...

My apologies. Confused Ultra 1 with 2. V1 had a very comfortable toe box for me, overly voluminous for anything technical while v2 was agonizingly almost narrow and firm at the front sides. Pulsar sits between but leans in room towards v1 but with far superior hold. Sam,Editor

Mike Loobs said...

I have a 12.5 in the Ultra 3 and Pulsar, both fit fine, but the Pulsar is noticeably more narrow, but as mentioned in the review, they do give once you get going.

Comparing the two, the Ultra 3 feels dull (although I do like the upper - and the purple) while the Pulsar feels snappy (some give - then pop), for mine, not dissimilar to say the ride of the Nike Zoom Fly Flyknit (on harder surfaces). And thank you Salomon for addressing the lace bite by padding out the tongue.

On the trail what I love about the Pulsar is that sock like upper. If you're moving, you can just throw your foot at a spot and forget about it. And despite low lugs they are quite grippy.

I have a 50K coming up that is trail with some road sections, nothing super technical. Can't wait to race in them, although I'm conscious of how many miles I put on them ahead of that.

Thinking back to the Sense line, my legs would be aching after a half. No idea how Kilian ran Western States in them but then again, I'm not built like a jockey (I'm huge compared to him at 70ish kg's lol). Glad they have a fast shoe that a normal sized humans can run in!

Matt D said...

I tried a pair of the pulsars on a few shorter runs before ultimately deciding to return them. It felt as tho a 1/4 of the shoe was missing under the arch side of my foot to where my foot was spilling out of the shoe. I don't have a wide foot,but the pulsars were one of the narrowest feeling shoes at heel to midfoot I've ever tried. They caused significant pronation if I didn't really focus on a solid forefoot strike. They felt really enjoyable from a weight and bounce perspective, but are among the least stable trail shoes I've ever tried.

JustARunner32 said...

I have about 100 miles in my pair now and can say that the midsole has gotten a bit softer and have started to notice it has lost a bit of that pop in the forefoot. I know they have it a a racer but it still can be a really good daily trail shoe & road shoe for 10k or less. I wouldn't take the shoe for more than 15 miles, your legs will def start barking. Pulsar & speed trl are my go tos now for the trails. I really feel like this shoe is the razor 3 with a trail outsole. I get that same fun, fast, responsive & kind of do it all feeling. Razor is not as soft for sure but the pulsar just really is the shoe a razor trail could be. Wondering if you guys thought razor too?

Also, heard rumors of an actual razor trail? Has the new adidas terrex speed ultra & pro on the RTR teams docket yet for testing? Looks like the terrex division has finally got my attention again with these two shoes.

Great review as always RTR Crew!

Ryan said...

How does the Pulsar compare to the Arcteryx Norvan SL? Seems like the weight is close to identical.

Sam Winebaum said...

HI Ryan,
Unfortunately I don't think any of our testers have run it but our Norvan SL review is here:https://www.roadtrailrun.com/2019/05/arcteryx-norvan-sl-review-feathery.html
It has an EVA Polyolefin mix midsole so something similar to Pulsar. they have a similar stack with a bit less in the forefoot and weight about 0.5 oz more
Sam, Editor

Thetreegeek said...


I'm a huge fan of the Sense Pro 4. It's an incredible shoe with loads of grip that has taken me across all 48 high peaks of the NH White Mountains, in a single season. The white mountains are very unforgiving, especially above treeline.

How does the Pulsar compare on technical trails? Most of the reviews I have read or watched only show road running results, or snow running.

Anonymous said...

@thetreegeek

Yes, I am wondering the same thing. I am looking at buying either the Pulsar or Sense pro 4 for running in the white mountains, and I would like to know which will be better in terms of overall grip and sense of flowing/speed on technical downhills.

Sam Winebaum said...

Sorry Thetreegeek missed your earlier question and will also try to answer for Anonymous,
At least for me, and I suspect most as I am very familiar with the Whites ,the Sense Pro 4 would be a better choice. Somewhat broader, more stable and protective than Pulsar. More substantial grip too. That is unless you are Kilian where I am sure he would fine! As I hope made clear in the review the Pulsar was really designed for the terrain of Sierre Zinal where everything is very runnable ( i have done it 4 times) and paces are fast up down flats, unlike the far more technical Whites.
In the fast and light for Whites also take a look at Inov-8 TerraUltra G270. While its rock protection is not up to Sense Pro 4 it is super agile shoe and I enjoyed a lot of "hikes" in the Whites with it last summer with no issues. It's review is at the index linked below as is Sense Pro 4 review
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!

Xavier said...

I've been running in the Sonic pro 2 on all types of runnable trails for the past year and apart from the upper I'm having a difficult time seeing why something like the pulsar is necessary? The Sonic pro 2 has excellent cushioning and response and is awesome on flat and downhill (no other salomon trail shoe i have excels at this), and gives me nothing to complain about even on technical climbs. Thoughts on a comparison of the pulsar with something like the Sonic pro 2, 3/4 accelerate/balance? These are also at least $50 lower in price. A pulsar at $130 or lower might be worth it though.

Scott said...

Xavier, I understand where you're coming from as I bought a pair of Sonic 3 Accelerate with the idea that it might be used as a fast trail shoe.

Now I have both the Sonic3 Accelerate and the Pulsar. The Sonic feels like a wooden clog compared to the Pulsar. The Pulsar is vastly lighter with softer, yet more energetic cushioning. And it has a sole that will give better grip on dirt.

The fit of the Pulsar is much different too. It's as if it's shrink wrapped around your foot; yet doesn't feel tight. The unknown for me is whether I will find the Pulsar as comfortable on a long run since I have not done any 25+km runs with it yet.

Xavier said...

Scott, I pulled the trigger on the Pulsar but only have 2 runs with them this week. It's definitely a unique experience for a Salomon product, no shoe has ever felt this way in terms of the midsole softness and geometry. I have both the Sonic RA Pro 2 and 3 Accelerate and they're way bulkier but would probably feel better on long flat runs? Only tome will tell.

And I used the Sense 7 SG on the same day as the pulsar and the sense midsole feels so antiquated, I don't know how Salomon got away with selling this when there are so many advancements in midsole material and geometry recently.

Something I have noticed with the pulsar is that I will need to use my thinnest socks possible since the upper is literally like a sock. If/when I get another pair I might opt for a size 11 instead of 10.5.


Thank you to Roadtrailrun for the excellent review and information!

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Xavier,
Thanks for your kind words! As far as the fit I found it incredibly hard to pull on the first time as new and no stretch. It gets a bit better but the fit is truly glove like but I find plenty of room. Not sure I would size up unless a very wide foot as it might affect performance for intended use.
Sam, Editor

Scott said...

Xavier has a point about sizing up. I've run up to 30km with my size 9 but if I was to indulge myself I would get a 9.5 for ultras.

Hopefully other manufacturers will re-discover that weight matters. I am running at a higher cadence and pace in these Pulsars,and unless the trail is particularly muddy or rocky there is no need for more bulk.

Scott said...

What's up with these shoes?
Nobody else is putting up a review. Does roadtrailrun have an exclusive on this? I find it odd that such an exciting shoe is getting no reviews.

I've already got mine so I don't need my hand held but I do look forward to seeing some additional quality observations.

ninedeeb said...

Can anyone confirm if the fit of the upper and toe box is similar to the SLab Cross?