Salomon Ultra Pro review
Salomon says the Ultra Pro 'provides long-distance comfort, protection, and support to help your feet as they fatigue, as well as ample grip for any surface.' Sounds good, right? Well, it did to me.
Initially, I went up half a size due to my previous experience, and to allow for foot swelling during longer runs. I found that this shoe is particularly roomy compared to other Salomon offerings. I returned them for my standard UK10, which was a good fit with plenty of room to spare.
Salomon gets a bad rap for making narrow shoes, but that certainly isn't the case with the Ultra Pro, which is designed for distance and with a broad range of runners in mind.
Generous toe box and welded overlays
Out of the box, the shoe is particularly vibrant in the Cherry Tomato/Fjord Blue combo I purchased. It definitely stands out from the crowd if that's your thing.
The 3D stretch air mesh upper is overlaid extensively with rubber, which runs into the heavier weight toe bumper and suggests that this should be a protective and durable shoe.
It's a well-coordinated, neat design and doesn't look as aggressive or as obviously bulky and rugged as some offerings from other manufacturers.
The generous toe box allied with the mesh upper provides plenty of room for your foot to expand as you run. The twin Sensi Fit wings on either side of the upper draw in the internal EndoFit sleeve, which allows for a precision fit without putting pressure across the bridge of your foot.
The flexibility and ease of adjustment allow you to really fine-tune the fit, which is impressive.
Salomon Ultra Pro gives you wings!
I struggled initially with the Quicklace but hadn't had much previous experience of it. After a few uses, it wasn't a problem to achieve a well-balanced and secure fit. Regardless, I'm still not really a fan and don't feel it provides anything better than standard lacing.
The Quicklace is secured and stowed through the top of the tongue (a change from Salomon's usual lace garage which is accessed from below), which is easy to access and store the mechanism.
It is a cinch to adjust on the go, but the process of extracting and stowing the slider and excess lace cancels out whatever time you save on the actual adjustment and securing. Great when your hands are cold though—mine often are!
I noted a sensation of heel lift when I first tried on and secured the shoe but didn't have any issues at all when running. The heel counter is sturdy and does its job well.
On foot, the Ultra Pro feels good; there is a generous sole, which, although wide and well-cushioned, feels well planted. It isn't the softest-feeling shoe. Actually, it felt a bit firm on the first outing, but never harsh.
As time has gone on and the shoe has broken in, it feels great—on the firmer side but comfortable and supportive. If you value ground feel, it's perhaps not the shoe for you. It's somewhat like an ATV, cruising over rough ground with a minimum of fuss and ample protection.
The 5mm Contagrip MA lugs on the outsole are small but plentiful and provided good traction on the hard-packed stone trails I usually run on. The grip on flat and moderately sloping grass is very acceptable, but I didn't feel hugely confident on anything more extreme.
Obviously, very heavy ground is catered for in other Salomon models like the Speedcross range, so it would be unfair to criticize the Ultra Pro too much for its limitations in the mud.
I live about 4 miles from my local trails with a combination of a flat grass path and road to get there when I choose to run it.
On the road the Ultra Pro performs really well; the small, plentiful lugs feel like a substantial, slightly too stiff road shoe. As good as you could expect from a trail offering and certainly the best I have experienced.
I can't really comment on breathability as I have only used the Ultra Pro during the Irish winter when that is NEVER an issue. I have been impressed with its ability to keep water out though.
On a wet day, my foot has been damp, but the upper doesn't become sodden and leave your feet soaked through thanks to the substantial toe bumper and rubber overlays.
During one particularly adventurous outing, I ran through some very boggy ground (basically a stream) where the water was in over the top of the shoe. Although my foot and the Ultra Pro was soaked, I didn't ever feel uncomfortable as I have with other shoes in a similar scenario.
The roomy toe box allowed enough room for my wet sock to expand without rubbing. I was very pleased with that.
Toe bumper keeping out the snow
I had some issues early on with the Ultra Pro: I found my foot twisting in it, meaning the outer toes rubbed against the toe box and upper causing blisters.
I took the Ortholite insoles out to find that there is quite a substantial arch support, which I figured was throwing my foot and causing the annoyance. I replaced the insole with a more neutral, flatter one and found that it solved the problem.
A 20km run and no issues later and the Ultra Pro was back in the rotation. I'm a little disappointed that I had to find a solution to this as I have never had any major issues with arch supports in a shoe before. Maybe it's just the way Salomon builds their shoes.
My only other gripe is the tongue which didn't provide much cushioning from the Quicklace or the lace grommets. This could be problematic especially since the shoe is geared towards long-distance running. A more cushioned tongue is definitely required.
In terms of durability, I'd be very confident that the Ultra Pro will last well. The upper achieves something tricky in that it is soft and pliable yet robust. I am always concerned that this type of overlaid construction will come apart, and the shoe will suffer over time.
I see no signs of this being the case, and I have put them through quite a lot of punishment so far. The sole seems to be pretty durable as well. There is some minor wear in the places I normally see on my shoes, but if anything, it is lasting better than most, which is impressive.
I run in it, and it does what I need it to, but I just don't feel like it's the one for me. I find it a bit dead and lacking in feel, and it just doesn't give me everything that I want from a shoe.
The issues I have had with it would be bearable if they were isolated, but the sum of them leaves me somewhat disappointed. My expectations are always high—as consumers and runners, I don't think we should have to compromise.
It's a solid shoe for long, slow running but with a few tweaks it could be wonderful, and maybe in the next iteration, it will be. Fingers crossed.
Tip: see the best trail running shoes.