When I was putting together a list of the most exciting trail shoes for 2017, I was torn between nominating the Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra or the Salomon XA Enduro as my number one choice. I’ve since purchased both, and have my initial thoughts posted on the XA Enduro. Now that my preliminary tests have been completed, I’m realizing that the Sense Ultra should have topped my list. I really like the XA Enduro, but feel that the Sense Ultra has a much better fit and feel overall.
For those unfamiliar with the new Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra, it’s important to note that this is not the same as the SLAB Sense 6 Ultra or SLAB Sense 6 Ultra SG. I have no idea why Salomon chose to give this shoe such a similar name, as I’m sure it’s going to cause issues with product differentiation. The Sense 6 Ultra and Sense Ultra have similar uppers, but the Sense Ultra has a much thicker midsole.
Fit and Feel:
The Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra is one of the more comfortable shoes I’ve ever tried on. Right when I slipped my foot into the Ultra, I knew it was a match made in heaven. I ordered a size 12.5, just like almost all of my other shoes, and it fits true to size. My size 12.5 came in at 12.35oz/350.2g. If you’ve worn Salomon SLAB shoes in the past, the feeling of comfort and precision found in the Ultra will be like an embrace from an old friend. The combination of Sensifit, Endofit, and Quicklace hold the foot securely, with plenty of room upfront for my toes. The biggest difference in the fit and feel of the Ultra compared to the XA Enduro comes in the heel. For whatever reason, I just can’t seem to get my heel locked down in the XA Enduro. I don’t have this problem with the Ultra though, as my heel stays firmly locked into place without any friction or rubbing.
The fit of the Ultra reminds me of the fit of the SLAB Wings 8. The difference being the Ultra feels a little more plush and comfortable. The Wings 8 has a firm and almost harsh ride and fit before they break in. The Ultra, with Salomon’s new EnergyCell+ midsole is an evolution in fit and feel. I think a big part of this is that Salomon is using a much better insole. The insoles on the Wings and Wings 8 were paper thin and bunched up in wet weather. Salomon is using a thicker and much higher quality insole on the Ultra.
For the upper of the Sense Ultra, Salomon uses a breathable anti-debris mesh. On the mesh, Salomon uses a welded Sensifit overlay to provide lateral stability through the midfoot. Under the upper, Salomon uses it’s tried and true neoprene Endofit sock-liner as a tongue with a lace-garage up top to hold onto the kevlar Quicklaces. The comfort and fit of the Sense Ultra is second to none.
The toebox of the Sense Ultra offers plenty of room for my toes. The shape is similar to that of the SLAB Wings 8, with slightly more vertical volume. The toe guard up front offers just plenty of protection for the unexpected log jam or stone kick.
The midsole of the Sense Ultra is a dual density EVA with 25mm in the heel and 16mm in the forefoot for a 9mm drop. The EVA composition is Salomon’s new EnergyCell+. To me, this is the greatest advantage the Sense Ultra has over the SLAB Wings 8. The midsole on the Wings 8 is firm and a bit harsh. The Sense Ultra midsole is still stable, but offers a much more comfortable ride. This plush midsole is also what separates the Sense Ultra from the Sense 6 Ultra in the SLAB lineup, which has a much more stripped down midsole.
The outsole on the Sense Ultra uses Salomon’s new Premium Wet Traction Contragrip. This is the same compound used on the SLAB Wings 8, and from personal experience, it is a phenomenal compound. This version of Contragrip sticks to everything and has proven to be highly durable. The big advantage of the Sense Ultra of the Wings 8 in the outsole department is the new outsole design. The Wings 8 had a series of shallow trapezoidal lugs clustered tightly together. The Sense Ultra uses deep trapezoid shaped lugs that are more widely spaced. This design with more leg space and depth should give the outsole a better handle on a wider range of trail surfaces. The Wings 8 (non SG) didn’t shed mud very well, and it looks like the Sense Ultra will do much better.
The Sense Ultra uses Salomon’s Profeel Film rock protection, extending from the arch of the foot through the forefoot. Salomon has been using version of this rock protection for a few years now, and I’ve never had it fail me. Profeel Film offers the perfect amount of protection without hindering the toe off and flexibility of a shoe.
My initial impression of the Salomon SLAB Sense Ultra is very positive. With competition like the La Sportiva Akyra, Salomon XA Enduro, and Altra King MT in my Spring shoe rotation, miles are going to get logged by the top performers. So far, the SLAB Sense Ultra is leading the pack by a pretty wide margin. I’m looking forward to logging more miles in the months ahead and will have a full review come summer time. At $180, the Sense Ultra is not cheap, but if it’s like my other Salomon SLAB products, the per mile cost will turn out to be similar to lower priced footwear.
If you’re looking for a premium trail shoe with extreme comfort, stability, cushion, and versatile grip, give the SLAB Sense Ultra a try.