Salomon’s S-Lab Sense 3 Ultra is a racer’s shoe; it’s an attractive option for runners looking to bust a fast trail 10K 50K, or minimalist runners looking for increased protection and support for longer ultra distances. This latest version of the S-Lab Sense greatly improves fit, thanks to a lacing system that keeps the entire upper nice and snug against the foot on irregular terrain.
Security of fit The previous version of the S-Lab Sense 3 fit well through the forefoot and midfoot, but less well through the rear foot. Fortunately, this update to the Sense 3 Ultra improves fit on the heel area. The geometry of the midsole and sole is slimmer in the rear foot area, and the welded overlays of the upper are adjusted on this version to pull in the full heel. An internal fit sleeve keeping the upper snug against the midfoot while the Quick Fit lacing system keeps the entire upper nice and snug against the foot on irregular terrain.
Stability on impact Triangular lugging on the Contragrip outsole isn’t particularly deep, but their grip is dependably stable on a variety of surfaces, including mud and wet rocks. The lugs are directional, with the forefoot area improving traction on climbs, and the heel area improving motion control on steep descents. Relatively low stack heights in the heel and forefoot allow confident stability at foot strike as well.
Smoothness (flexibility) Midsole EVA on the Salomon S-Lab Sense 3 Ultra is denser and more durable than the previous version, but still provides a smooth ride in testing. Moderate flexibility through the mid-foot allows a measure of natural foot flexion. Salomon’s impact-dispersing Profeel film is extended further towards the back of the foot on the Sense 3 for increased protection on technical terrain.
Comfort Upper material of the S-Lab Sense 3 Ultra is a more breathable open mesh than the Sense 2, with quicker drying and improved ventilation in hot conditions. The lacing system on the Sense 3 is essentially unchanged from the Sense 2 so if runners who liked the Quick Fit laces the first and second times around, will be thrilled with this latest model. I discovered the drawback of the system is that the thin laces dug into the top of my midfoot if cinched too tightly, especially on steep downhills.
Comfort around the heel is outstanding, and the interior lining is soft and seamless to prevent hot spots. One potential issue for experienced minimalist users will be the toe box shape of the Sense 3, which is built on the same racing last as its predecessors and will feel too narrow for runners accustomed to wide toe boxes and full toe splay on landing.
Speed and agility This has always been the hallmark of Salomon’s S-Lab footwear line, and the Sense 3 Ultra still earns high marks in this category. One concern is that the overall weight has increased slightly from the Sense 2, but not nearly enough to impact overall performance in our testing.