Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Salomon S/Lab Genesis Review: Something Very Different from the Lab!

Article by Sam Winebaum

Salomon S/Lab Genesis ($200)


Introduction


Let’s get this out of the way right away. The Genesis is the most mellow and riding mellow, softest, spacious S/Lab shoe I have ever run and I have run almost all of them over the last decade plus. I can also even say it is the most friendly, easy going Salomon trail shoe I have ever run. 


In a sense it follows the trend set by the Pulsar and especially Pulsar SG and Ultra Glide as it shares the same energetic soft Energy Surge midsole. It is even softer, less structured and not as densely protective under foot than the Pulsar Trail and Trail Pro with their firmer lower layers of Energy Surge and Energy Blades.


Yet, the Genesis is the shoe that took Mathieu Blanchard to a spectacular 2nd place at the 2022 UTMB and was on the feet of Ryan Sandes, who help develop it in the S/Lab where athletes can custom specify their gear, as he went 1100 km in 17 days across Africa in his recent Navigate Lesotho project. 


Ryan describes the Genesis as “more of an adventure shoe for really long days in the mountains or being out in the environment (like 24hr missions) than a racing shoe.” 


The Genesis has not only that soft Energy Surge midsole foam but unlike the S/Lab Pulsar no firmer medial insert relying on TPU panels for support on a considerably broader platform at the heel leading to a weight of exactly 9 oz / 255 g in my US9 sample. 


Further, unlike the Ultra Glide and S/Lab Pulsar,  its front rock protection is Salomon’s well tested Pro Feel film instead of a hardened foam as those two have or a longer firmer foam layer as the non S/Lab Pulsar have and all of this on a relatively low front stack height of 22mm for the Genesis. We have a Contagrip outsole with 4.5mm lugs. 

The upper is Matryx, but unlike the S/Lab Pulsar’s is not as foot conforming (to my narrow to medium feet)  or dense being far softer and more pliable in feel. To understand its broad fit especially at midfoot and the side quite flexible black TPU panels we must return to the purpose of the Salomon S/Lab, specific foot shape and purpose built shoes and other gear for Salomon elites all entirely made in house at Salomon headquarters and design center in Annecy. 

I was fortunate to visit the Annecy Design Center and  S/Lab in 2018 (Article). I of course saw  the evolution of the Sense for Killian’s needs and foot (and later the Pulsar), the S/Lab Ultra for Francois d’Haene’s incredibly narrow foot (and v1 was indeed very narrow up front)  I saw the actual last used to make shoes to Ryan’s foot shape…so broad at mid foot that in regular lasting and shoe shape he had to size up multiple sizes. I did not get a picture of Ryan’s last but did of Caroline Chaverot’s. 

So here with the Genesis , we have a shoe developed in large part for Ryan with a broad fit that can be adapted, to a certain extent through the stretch rear and the panels drawn in by the overlays and quick laces. 


So yes all this adds up to a more mellow riding, light on the foot and on the ground feeling, broad fitting S/Lab shoe than any previous. Is it ultra worthy for the masses and if so what kind of courses, if any? What are its ideal uses? Who might it fit best and who not so well? How does it compare to other Salomon and to other contenders? Please read on to find out what I discovered in my testing which included Northeast rocky rooty moderately technical trails, a door to trail run, a decent uphill run on Utah single track with in the test mix A/B test runs to the Ultra Glide and Nike’s Zegama Trail


Pros:

Energetic, flexible and soft ride with lots of front ground feel 

Forgiving bouncy cushion, especially at the heel

Broadest highest volume fit yet for a Salomon trail shoe

Fun ride on more mellow cruiser trails

All terrain Contragrip outsole both firm and soft p with 4.5 mm lugs. 

Light at 9 oz / 255g for decent stack and especially for full coverage outsole


Cons:

Somewhat shaky medial midfoot upper and underfoot support, especially on technical terrain, for narrower lower volume feet

Forefoot protection is on the thin side given soft foam and ProFeel

Likely not the best option for technical trails at ultra distances.

Requires good agility in technical terrain.

Stats

Sample Weight: men's 9 oz  / 255g (US9)  /  women's oz / g (US8)

Stack Height: 30 mm heel (spec and measured) / 22 mm forefoot, 8mm drop 

Available now from Salomon HERE. $200


First Impressions, Fit and Upper

Sam: In various shades of gray with a few muted yellow upper highlights and a yellow medial midfoot midsole section which may be a very slightly denser Energy Surge foam.  

The eye is immediately drawn to black midfoot TPU panels, more extensive on the medial side than lateral side. Not the best looking S/Lab shoe but once dusted up a bit everything blends in. A note about trail dust.. The Matryx upper seems to do a really good job repelling it and not absorbing it as even after runs on quite dusty Park City trails they shine like new although the pics below are out of the box!

Matryx is a textile that includes aramid (Kevlar like) fibers for durability and also to deliver the  light weight with support. Here it is far softer and more pliable than the snug fitting Matryx uppers of the S/Lab Pulsar and is more similar in feel to the Matryx materials in shoes such as the Hoka EVO Speedgoat.

My purchased sample is a half US size up from my normal US8.5 and I could have easily and better gone true to size whereas in the S/Lab Pulsar I am at half size up US9. Very few if any should need to size up here given the wide Ryan Sands lasting of the shoe.

The heel hold is excellent from a combination of the thin broad densely padded inner bolsters, very pliable, high and forward reach plastic  overlay heel counter and the draw of the quicklaces forward of the rear. 

This said, being pliable, the heel counter is not the most supportive in more technical terrain, less so say than in the Ultra Glide's, a shoe I A/B tested against the Genesis on Park City single track for a few miles.

The midfoot is spacious. In addition to the somewhat effective side black panels we have a densely and well padded tongue whose upper knit ties into the rear knit collars as a single unit. This construction also keeps debris out with the sides letting water drain out. Recall Ryan running hundreds of kilometers across Lesotho.  

The tongue is attached to a full lower inner bootie of soft stretch material extending all the way to the front and ending before the toe box. I think it could be a bit less soft and stretchy and more supportive but again, likely for Ryan’s broad foot, it was I think speced this way. 


The quick laces are effective and easy to adjust and for once the lace garage is very easy to use. 

The front of the tongue has thin mesh covering to prevent dust and debris from entering.


Overall the midfoot is adequately supportive for my narrower to medium volume foot with the fit is focused for long distance comfort more than technical trails hold. 

The toe box also follows that theme here: broad, quite unstructured and very comfortable. It is similar in volume to the UltraGlide but with lighter more pliable less stretchy materials and with a less stiff but extensive toe bumper.

All in all a super comfortable toe box area for long distances at moderate paces and not the hyper dialed in, snug and precise fit of past Salomon S/Lab


Midsole

The midsole is Salomon’s Energy Surge foam an EVA Olefin copolymer block blend. It is unclear if it is dual density to pressing but potentially the heel area with its welcome bevel is slightly softer.  The main midsole appears to be exactly the same firmness as the S/Lab Pulsar, UltraGlide, and the top layers in the Pulsar Trail and Pulsar Trail Pro. Even if somewhat dual density, essentially it is a single layer of softer foam as we do not have the firm medial insert of the S/Lab Pulsars or the firm lower layer of the Pulsar Trail and Trail Pro.  

The black midfoot panels provide some “flexible” to the foot shape and strike support but are not as supportive as they might appear. I personally would have included the firmer midsole medial insert of the Pulsars here.


The soft theme continues with the front rock protection as instead of the hardened foam protection (and propulsion) plate of the S/Lab Pulsars and Ultra Glide  or the firm more densely protective front  of S/Lab Ultra with its PU insert,  we have a ProFeel film layer as in many past S/Lab but here in a much softer foam platform than Energy Cell+. There is a lot of ground conforming trail feel and adequate if not super deep rock protection upfront.  Having a film instead of a foam layer upfront gives the Genesis a long easy flex if not as much response as the Pulsars so again that long mission focus Ryan was seeking.

Overall the midsole is soft and bouncy with most notably a gentle friendly heel landing and a helpful bevel, a somewhat shaky midfoot in terms of stability and then a well cushioned if not deeply cushioned feeling soft forefoot that contours to obstacles more than eliminates them. 


Comforting and easy going for long moderate terrain and pace runs and hikes is this midsole's sweet spot. I would add it is also excellent on road but lacks the explosive nature there of the Pulsars where the lighter weight and plate like foam front insert make that shoe so fast on all surfaces. 


Outsole

The outsole is Salomon’s Contagrip with 4.5 mm lugs in an almost full coverage pattern. The full coverage and big outsole for sure adds stability to the soft foam above. While I commented that the stability at midfoot was not ideal for me the lower you go in the stack the more stable the feel so at the ground things are very stable. They climb easy and very smoothly due to their flex. The lugs also play quite well on road. 


I have not run the Genesis in the wet but did take it A/B with the UltraGlide on my other foot on sandy/gravel moderate single tracks in Utah for a short run. The grip of the Genesis was noticeably better. Given the flexibility of the platform and the quite deep lugs I think they will be a great shoe on hard packed snow with the upper while not waterproof should not absorb alot of water and being spacious should be good for winter socks 

 

Ride and Conclusions

The Genesis performs as intended as a shoe for long ventures where a forgiving easy ride and broader fit are called for, say running 1100 km across Lesotho, or a day or more on moderate well groomed trails for most of us.  It for sure is race ready as Mathieu Blanchard proved at UTMB but don’t expect a super stable densely protective ride here. It’s more about bouncy/energetic, on the soft and roomy side with flex and great grip in the mix.


The Genesis is light at 9 oz / 255g and light on foot in feel from upper to platform..   

For sure it will be on my feet for snow runs or in muddy conditions as it is for me a soft ground type of shoe. 


It is not Salomon’s high mountain technical long ride for me, although its traction is certainly up to those tasks where I might select the more protective S/Lab Ultra  Sense Ride, or the Pulsar Trail. Neither is it for fast and agile quick stuff where the Pulsar SG or Pulsar Trail Pro play. 


With some improvement in the midfoot stability and a more substantial front protection I might change my mind but then you would end up with the Ultra Glide essentially a shoe that is 1 oz / 28 g heavier with a shallower less effective outsole. I think those with a broad midfoot will likely find the stability at mid foot better than I did as after all this is broad foot Ryan’s shoe


I didn’t think I would ever call an S/Lab trail shoe mellow and friendly but here I can !  I  wouldn’t mind a more protective and propulsive hardened foam rock protection or a couple more millimeters of front cushion to bring it in at a 6mm drop shoe. 


While more than adequate, it could also use some improvements to the mid foot and rear stability and a bit less of an easy going flow down and forward which it has in spades. With these  changes it might become a more versatile shoe and thus at $200 a better value,

Sam: 9.00 /10

Ride: 9 Fit: 9 Value: 8 Style 8 Traction 9.8 Rock Protection: 9

😊😊😊1/2


Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE


Salomon Ultra Glide (RTR Review)

The Ultra Glide has a 32mm heel / 26mm, 6mm drop so about the same heel height but more forefoot stack. It weighs 28g / 10oz more than the Genesis.  I ran it side by side with the Genesis in Utah for a short run. 


With its included hardened foam rock plate it is more protective up front but has a less agile duller forefoot feel with a shorter stiffer flex than the Genesis. Overall it is less bouncy and soft.  Its upper is denser and more supportive towards the rear of the shoe as it has a full heel rigid heel counter and collars unlike the Genesis, but is less comfortable and light on foot. Its lower profile outsole has less grip but is a bit more friendly on road.  For those “long missions” on moderate terrain and for a roomier upper Genesis, otherwise if you liked Ultra Glide stick with it and save some money.


Salomon Pulsar Trail (RTR Review)

The Trail has a higher stack height is heavier by about 1 oz /28g , more cushioned and protective. It's upper has plenty of support but is denser and thicker. It has a more secure fit than the Genesis for me at the same size US9 and comparatively runs smaller as I was fine at half size up whereas I could have gone my true to size with Genesis and its lighter upper. The Pulsar Trail is rocker based with plastic rods with and has a firm lower layer of foam so is more protective but also a less flexible and bouncy i feel. At $130 it is a better value for an all around trail shoe. 


I only had one run in the Pulsar Trail Pro so can't compare in depth but can say it is a weighs about the same as the Genesis, has a rocker and Energy Blade, more stack height and is a more agile shoe than the Trail or Genesis intended somewhat more than those two for fast shorter runs. Our review is here

Salomon S/Lab Pulsar SG (RTR Review)

Same basic foam (plus I think the essential medial firmer post that the Genesis lacks) same 4.5 mm lugs but in a different pattern, Matryx upper but of the much snugger and precise variety, a much narrower rear landing platform, a more protective and much more propulsive front rock plate and far lighter weight and you get the Pulsar SG. A fast joy to run on any surface and even roads. The Genesis is much more mellow in fit and ride, more suitable for long slower runs on moderate terrain. If I had to pick one shoe regardless of use between the two it would be the Pulsar SG as there are other options similar to Genesis for its intended uses but none really quite like the Pulsar. 


Salomon S/Lab Ultra (RTR Review)

It's been a while since I ran the Ultra but for sure it has a firmer, more stable, densely protective big mountain feel and purpose and while broadened a snugger more precise fit with the Genesis a softer bouncier roomier and more easy going S/Lab and quite a contrast. 


Nike ZoomX Zegama Trail (RTR Review)


I took the Zegama for an A/B test run with the Genesis on my somewhat rooty rocky New Hampshire trails. The Zegama has a more solid rear and mid foot hold, considerably more midfoot stability, almost too much, and a deeper cushioned more protective forefoot. It has a rockplate under the outsole that also acts as a moderate propulsion plate. 


It is stiffer upfront with a bit of a rocker and some far front flex. Its cushion is firmer than the Genesis and firmer than road shoe ZoomX with a sharp quick rebound.  


Its upper is overall more secure especially at midfoot and at the rear, somewhat warmer. It has a broad but low toe box while the Genesis toe box is not quite as broad but higher in volume and more pliable and comfortable. 


I found the Zegama faster on smoother terrain, more stable but not quite as friendly in cushion feel if more amply cushioned. It is for me a better long distances option, only lagging the Genesis a bit in agility and climbing ability. No question the Genesis traction is superior and on all types of terrain and for all kinds of conditions whereas the Zegama’s is best kept to drier conditions due to its rubber and stiffer platform up front. 


Saucony Xodus Ultra (RTR Review)

A very close comparison. The Xodus Ultra has a core of PEBA foam surrounded by an EVA frame. It too has a friendly softer (but not quite as soft as Genesis)  ride, generous upper fit, and easy flow. It has a higher stack height especially at the forefoot (about 3-4 mm more) and includes Saucony woven rock plate which delivers similar flex to the Genesis and with the added stack height more protection. 


It has a similar 4mm lug outsole to the Genesis that is decent for sure but which in some of our test pairs showed premature lug shearing

Its upper in similar fashion to Genesis has a quite broad and easy midfoot fit and a much more rigid heel counter, almost too rigid.  It is about 1 oz /28 g heavier but still just sub 10 oz and is a better value at $150.


Topo Ultraventure 3 (Review soon)

Now in testing, the Topo has more forefoot and heel stack height at 35/30  At about 10 oz / 283 g it is 1 oz / 28g heavier but is also considerably higher stack and thus more cushioned. 


Its upper has a similar focus on a generous fit and pulls it off somewhat more smoothly than the Genesis with a better mid foot hold, a broader yet toe box and a full heel counter. 


Underfoot we have a similar riding softer foam, Topo’s Zip Foam 2.  The Ultraventure is somewhat more rigid in flex and does not include a rock plate but none is really needed given the 30 mm front stack and outsole.  


The Ultraventure outsole is lower profile with 3.5mm flatter broader less aggressive lugs, more partial in coverage  and less aggressive so not as suitable for big mountain and wet grip as the Salomon’s.  Both have equally pleasant rides with the Topo a better value at $150. 


S/Lab Genesis is available now at Salomon HERE


Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 65 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. 2022 will be Sam’s 50th year of running. He has a decades old 2:28 marathon PR. These days he runs halves in the just sub 1:40 range if he is lucky, 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, if he is not enjoying too many fine New England IPA’s.

The Genesis was a personal purchase. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased through affiliate links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'

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3 comments:

Anonymous said...

You forgot to mention how much easier this shoe is to get on versus the s lab pulsar. Big deal for us old folks trying to out on shoes.

Anonymous said...

Hello RTR not sure what direction Salomon is going with in this shoe. Guess it’s good that Halloween is coming because this shoe looks like it was made by dr Frankenstein.

Nick said...

I love your reviews, but I do disagree with it being unstable and loose on the midfoot. So far, I have been pleasantly surprised with how stable it has been, especially given the wide toe box and me having a very narrow foot. I felt like the heel was very locked in, and the midfoot, though wider than most Salomons still had a decent hold, on the sides but mostly from the upper holding it in. I think it's a much better version of the UltraGlide with a much better foot hold and stability. It is more dense, and a little more form witting than the UG, even with a wide toe box. I didn't like the UG because I didn't feel like it had any hold on my foot.

Perhaps having a bigger size through this off for you? Or, sometimes opinions are just different. But again, I do love your reviews.