The Salomon Sense Ultra Pro has been my ‘Goldilocks’ trail shoe of the year so far. From upper to outsole, everything feels ‘just right’ for my feet. I’ve worn these on hikes and trail runs, and have yet to find something that I don’t like about them. The Sense Ultra Pro is built on the same platform as the SLAB Sense Ultra, and as much as I liked the SLAB Sense Ultra, I like the Sense Ultra Pro even more.
Fit and Weight: The Sense Ultra Pro runs large, just like the SLAB sense Ultra. I usually wear a size 12 in Salomon shoes, but needed to go with an 11.5 for the Ultra Pro. My size 11.5 comes in at a lightweight 12.6oz (357g).
My foot is shaped like a duck’s with a narrow heel, a slightly wide midfoot, and a wide forefoot. Salomon shoes tend to fit my feet very well as they have narrow heels, locked down midfoots, and just enough room upfront to let my toes splay. The Ultra Pro is no different. For reference, the fit on the Ultra Pro is more similar to the XA Elevate than it is to the SLAB Ultra.
The heel of the Ultra Pro cups the back of my foot well and is nicely padded. The heel also has a nice counter which keeps the back half of my foot in place on slanted and off camber trails.
The midfoot uses the same dual wing design as the SLAB Ultra, but ulizes a lighter material with inner mesh panels. This allows the wings to wrap my foot a little bit better and doesn’t inhibit airflow or drainage. The midfoot of the SLAB Ultra holds my foot very securely, and I haven’t had any slipping or movement while running fast on rocky downhills.
The toebox of the Ultra Pro fits my foot just about perfectly. The big toe area has a straight profile that allows for toe splay and downhill comfort without feeling sloppy or loose. The toebox is made of a laminate overlay that provides really nice protection from toe stubs. I’ve kicked a few rocks with tired legs and have been surprised with how well this shoe has protected my feet.
Salomon utilizes an open mesh for the upper of the Ultra Pro with a welded overlay for added security and stability. The welded overlay partners very well with the Sensi-Fit wings to provide a very secure ride without constricting the foot. This is one of those shoes you can lace up for a 10+ mile run with 3500ft of vert and not have to touch the laces until you’re done with your run. As I mentioned above, the wings use mesh inserts for breathability and drainage, which helps make them more comfortable than the SLAB Ultra.
The Sense Ultra Pro uses Salomon’s new top loader lace garage which is a big upgrade over their old design. This top loading design makes it much easier and quicker to make adjustments on the fly.
The Salomon Sense Ultra Pro is built on an 8mm drop platform with 23mm in the heel and 15mm in the forefoot. The midsole is EVA and has what I detect as the same durometer as the XA Elevate, which is softer than the SLAB Ultra. There is no Pro-feel Film rock protection in this midsole, as Salomon has opted for a PU (Polyurethane) insert called Energy Save. This PU insert starts at the arch and extends into the forefoot. PU is a denser and more compression resistant material when compared to EVA.
I was a bit worried about the lack of Pro-feel Film at first, as it’s one of Salomon’s many shoe technologies I’ve developed a real love for over the years. I tend to run and hike on very rocky terrain, so underfoot protection is more important for me than most. In use, the EVA and PU combination has been better than expected. For example, I did a 13 mile run this weekend on some trails that cover quite a bit of scree and talus. There were a few stretches of trail with rocks the size of my fist that can pound and grind feet like a meat tenderizer. The Ultra Pro really held their own. The protection is not as robust as the Pro-feel Film and PU combination on the Ultra Pro, but it’s still pretty good.
By giving up the bomb proof underfoot protection of the SLAB Ultra, the Ultra Pro makes gains in comfort. The SLAB Ultra feels a little harsh while running on fire roads and smooth trails, which is why I like them for hiking and/or running on more technical terrain. As I mentioned above, the Ultra Pro is more of a Goldilocks shoe that sits in the middle of the comfort vs responsiveness spectrum. This shoe feels great underfoot on asphalt and fire roads, but also holds its own when things get nasty.
I’ve also worn the Ultra Pro with a heavy pack, and I was really surprised at how stable they felt. I wouldn’t want to push them too far past a 30lbs load, but they can probably handle it in a pinch. With my son getting bigger every day, I think I’ll keep using the more stable SLAB Ultra until I’m no longer strong enough to lug his quicky growing body around.
For the outsole on the Sense Ultra Pro, Salomon uses the tried and true Premium Wet Traction Contagrip with a new, but very familiar looking trapezoidal lug pattern. I really love the use of widely spaced trapezoids for lugs. They provide nice surface area for traction, bit deep into trails for grip, and they shed mud easily on sodden trails.
Salomon lists many of their shoes as having the Premium Wet Traction Contagrip, but I’m starting to think that there might be different blends with different durometers. The Premium Wet Traction Contagrip on Salomon’s SLAB shoes feels a tad bit softer and stickier, but also wears down a little quicker. For instance, I wore through the lugs on the heel of my SLAB Ultra after walking around 150 miles on the Camino Portuguese. The blend of the Ultra Pro is identical to that of the XA Elevate. The rubber is very sticky on all but surfaces that are super smooth and wet. I’ve worn these on sandy rutted ridge routes, scree and talus fields, fire roads, and damp forest paths. The Ultra Pro has held up well and provided superb traction and grip on all surfaces.
Salomon Sense Ultra Pro vs SLAB Ultra
Many readers looking at the Ultra Pro are probably comparison shopping against the SLAB Ultra. I wanted to put together a quick list of the major differences.
The overlays on the SLAB Ultra are thicker, less breathable, and less flexible. The heel of the SLAB Ultra has less cushion in the collar and has almost no counter. The toebox on the Ultra Pro feels a tad wider. The eyelets on the Ultra Pro use friction free plastic grommets which allow for a more comfortable lace up.
The midsoles are what separate these two shoes the most. The Ultra Pro uses a softer EVA, has a smaller and seemingly less dense PU insert in the forefoot, and has no Pro-Feel Film rock guard. Both shoes have an 8mm drop, but the SLAB Ultra has 18mm in the forefoot, 3mm more than the Ultra Pro.
In use, the SLAB Ultra rides more stable and firm, providing more protection underfoot. The Ultra Pro is the more ‘runable’ shoe, with a softer EVA in use.
The outsole design is pretty similar for both shoes, but the SLAB Ultra has no lugs in the middle of the outsole. From there, you’ll just see minor pattern variations. In use, I find the SLAB Ultra to provide a tad more traction and stick, but at the cost of longevity.
Salomon XA Elevate (My Review): At $130, another high value pick. One of my favorite light hikers this year. The Elevate has a similar fitting upper to the Ultra Pro, a very similar midsole, and a near identical outsole. The Elevate is a little more firm and stable underfoot and has a full length Pro-Feel Film.
La Sportiva Lycan (My Review): The Lycan comes in at $115, and features a secure upper with a wide toe box. The midsole is firm and works well on all surfaces. The outsole lugs are a little shallow, but still seem to find traction on loose trails.
Nike Wildhorse 4 (My Review): A similar ride underfoot when compared to the Ultra Pro, but the comparisons end there. The upper doesn’t fit my foot very precisely and the outsole doesn’t stick to much. Still a nice pickup for $110 though.
The Salomon Sense Ultra Pro is a premium trail shoe that retails for $150. That price might seem a little high compared to the shoes I shared in my comparison above, but I’ve found the cost per mile on Salomons to be pretty comparable when evaluating the shoes I wear long enough to wear out. The Ultra Pro has a comfortable and secure upper that handles warm weather and nasty trails with ease. Although the midsole doesn’t have as much protection as the SLAB Ultra, it rides like a dream. The outsole has a grippy outsole that keeps me on my feet wherever I go. It can be difficult to write a review about a shoe I enjoyed this much, because part of me feels like I must have missed something. Every now and again though, a Goldilocks shoe comes along that makes all of the near misses and outright disasters worth the miles testing footwear for this blog. I hope those of you that give this shoe a try enjoy it as much as I do.