Salewa Ultra Train ReviewSeptember 29, 2016
- Outsole durability
- High quality
- Uncommon colors
- Uncomfortable toe bumper
- Thin laces
- Lace grommets
- Stiff heel counter
Salewa’s new Ultra Train is their first foray into traditional trail running shoes. The Ultra Train is a neutral, 8mm drop off-road shoe with a supportive upper and durable, grippy Michelin outsole. Some issues with fit and comfort keep the Ultra Train from being best in class, but Salewa proves themselves to be a promising newcomer in the trail running category.
Salewa has a history of making high-quality, performance oriented outdoor gear for climbing, trekking, and backpacking. Their line of boots, approach shoes, and light hikers is well-regarded, especially in Europe, where the Italian brand is more well-established. The Ultra Train is a versatile off-road shoe for a variety of conditions and terrains. The outsole is made with durable, sticky rubber from Michelin with tread design drawn from mountain bike tires, and the upper is a combination of stretchy mesh and stitched fabric overlays. The overlays provide lateral support, but add weight and form a toe bumper that some of our wear-testers found uncomfortable. While the collar and interior of the shoe are comfortable, some runners may have trouble with the stiff heel counter. Overall, the Ultra Train is a very promising new entry into the trail running category, but some minor updates could make it a standout shoe.
The Ultra Train’s uppers are wide enough to be roomy but not so wide they feel sloppy or uncomfortable. The heel collar and the underside of the tongue have moderate cushion covered with soft fabric that doesn’t cause any abrasion, and the stitched overlays don’t protrude through to the interior thanks to a substantial tongue gusset. At the front of the toe box, one of our wear-testers had an issue with the spot the stretchy mesh meets the very firm toe bumper. When the mesh stretched up, he reported that the front of his toes and nails got caught on the edge of the bumper. This issue could be alleviated by using a denser, less stretchy mesh or by extending the edge of the toe cap back another half inch. Some runners may also have an issue with the heel counter, which is much stiffer than comparison models.
The Ultra Train has great toe spring that encourages a quick stride and foot turnover. The midsole material is responsive but firm enough to feel snappy and not sluggish. The variegated lugs and protective sole also encourage a confident, rapid pace over a variety of terrain. The overall impression is that the Ultra Train is a quick shoe, particularly for its size and weight.
Security of Fit
Salewa uses a proprietary 3F system on their shoes and boots, including the Ultra Train. The system is comprised of a firm bar underneath the arch that connects to the heel collar, throat and lace holes. On Salewa’s hiking boots and more technical footwear, the 3F system has a direct, unbroken connection between the elements, but for the Ultra Train, the system involves heat-bonded rubber overlays that don’t directly connect. The 3F system is an innovative design, but it’s not clear that it made a noticeable different in how the Ultra Train fit or performed. The 3F system is paired with thin speedlaces, which are often difficult to adjust and keep tight. The Ultra Train’s three center lacing grommets are simply small loops of shoelace anchored to one 3F rubber piece, and our wear-testers had some concern about the long term durability of this design.
The Ultra Train’s outsole was produced in collaboration with Michelin, and the result is a thoughtful, agile design that draws on mountain bike tires. The tread is divided into two distinct sections, with a softer green compound with larger lugs on the medial forefoot and lateral heel, and a harder black compound with smaller lugs covering the rest. The goal is to maximize durability while still placing the grippiest type of rubber and lug design where most runners will get the most use of out it. The result is an outsole that’s agile, sticky and confident over a wide variety of terrain and trail types.
The Ultra Train’s EVA foam midsole and neutral 8mm drop platform are straightforward features, with no proprietary tech or groundbreaking designs. Nevertheless, those features are basically industry standards for a reason and the Ultra Train’s midsole is a tried and true performer on the trail.
The Ultra Train shines in this category. The full-coverage blown rubber outsole is made with durable multi-compound Michelin rubber with no exposed EVA foam. The 3F strap under the arch also provides some lateral rigidity and protection. The stitched fabric overlays on the Ultra Train’s upper wrap the foot in a protective shell, and the dual-layer front bumper effectively shields runners’ toes from errant rocks and roots. Although the mesh sections are stretchy, the weave is tight enough to prevent most dust intrusion, and the full-length tongue gussets help with this.
Jason is a trail runner and ultra-marathoner who lives with his wife and children in the frozen tundra of northeastern Wisconsin.