When Salomon’s S/Lab Ultra ($180) first launched in 2017, we were excited: it was the first amply cushioned trail shoe in the S/Lab family, a collection of minimal kicks designed for the likes of ultrarunner Kilian Jornet. To create the S/Lab Ultra, the French company worked with three-time Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc champion and John Muir Trail FKT holder Francois D’haene, whose tall frame begged for more cushioning than Salomon offered at the time.
To address his needs, Salomon gave the S/Lab Ultra 26 millimeters of dual-density EVA foam—a thicker midsole than most of Salomon’s shoes get—with a polyurethane insert to help the shoe retain its cushion instead of packing out after a full day of running. D’haene wore a single pair of the shoes for all 211 miles of his John Muir Trail FKT in 2017. The pricey Ultra quickly became Salomon’s bestselling S/Lab product ever.
Now, though, Salomon has launched a more affordable version for the rest of us, called the Ultra Pro ($150). It has a slightly wider last, more padding around the heel, and a thicker, more durable mesh upper, while it keeps the S/Lab Ultra’s TPU-enhanced midsole, eight-millimeter drop, and external fit wings that maintain snugness while allowing the upper to expand as the foot swells.
As an injury-prone runner who has historically leaned toward soft, maximalist shoes because of their impact-absorbency, I was excited to see what Salomon would bring to the table. After totaling 16 miles in the Ultra Pro, I’ve been consistently surprised by how the shoe marries cushioning and responsiveness in a package that looks slim but delivers the comfort of something fatter. The midsole is bouncy without being stiff, and the eight-millimeter drop is offset by a gentle rocker, which makes for effortless transition from heel to toe and a fun, fluid ride that doesn’t beat up your feet. The external fit wings also help lock in the midfoot, solving problems I’ve had with my feet sliding forward on downhills in other Salomon models.
All you maximal loyalists getting excited thinking Salomon has finally made a shoe for you, take note: the Ultra Pro does not compare to the 32 millimeters of pillowy foam on monster trucks from brands like Hoka and Altra. Instead, it offers comfort while maintaining the agility and increased ground sensitivity of shoes with thinner midsoles. In other words, it’s exactly what a lot of runners have been waiting for.
I have yet to test these shoes on a run longer than six miles, so I can’t speak to their performance and comfort over ultra distances. However, on my first run in the Ultra Pro, I forgot until half a mile in that I was wearing new shoes at all. And that’s the highest compliment I can give.