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The results are in. Let it be known that—based on some articles on the internet, a majority of the reviews on their website, and all those hikes i did in europe in my 20s—it certainly seems undeniable that salomons are the preferred shoe of most european hikers. (dear international friends: please let me know if this is a completely fictional stereotype that i’m inventing from nothing.)
It makes sense that salomons would be so popular there, given that they’re a european (french) company that uses quality-yet-affordable materials. Plus, their shoes have long done a great job of catering to the european style of hiking and trails. That being said, the bulkiness of their trail runners has limited their popularity stateside.
Well, europeans and americans alike can rejoice because that time may be no more: the new salomon ultra glide is the company’s first affordable and truly lightweight trail runner to hit the market. It offers up a tantalizing and totally viable alternative to some of the more popular brands found on america’s long trails. With a blend of tried-and-true salomon trademarks and some new, unique features, this shoe hits the right price point and is worth giving a shot—depending on what type of hiker you are.
Salomon Ultra Glide At a Glance
Who Should Get the Ultra Glides?
There is nothing extreme about any aspect of these shoes. They’re incredibly inoffensive. By almost every metric, i think that they fall very firmly in the middle of the spectrum. They aren’t as minimalist as altras, they aren’t as cushioned as hokas, and they don’t have as much drop as brooks.
The only category where they do top the list is weight. The ultra glides are the lightest of any of the favored trail runners by at least an ounce per pair.
If you’re looking to enter the trail runner game, these shoes are a great place to start since you can go up or down with any features that you like or dislike. Similarly, if you aren’t a fan of one of the aforementioned features in the other brands, but you didn’t know where to switch, you might find your fit in the ultra glides.
Circumstance of Review
I’ve hiked and run over 300 miles on these shoes through mixed terrain. Multiple days of rain, mud, and prolonged wetness. A fair share of suffering the elements in these things. Primarily I used them on single or two-track dirt, sand, and gravel. But they’ve gotten in a bit of rock-hopping and creek-fording as well. Anything that the PNW can throw at you in spring and summer, really.
Key Features of the Salomon Ultra Glide
Rocker reverse camber design: this is a unique feature that i’ve never really experienced in another trail runner. I know north face has a similar shoe, but on that shoe the curve itself is quite gradual and barely perceptible. The ultra glide is great if you’re looking for an intro to the rocker style or want just a little bit extra of that “gliding” feeling.
Quicklace tying: i used to hate the quicklace system on salomons, but then i realized it was because it’s easier to over-tighten the laces on these shoes than it is on normal laces. It’s also undeniable that the stashable pocket on the tongue for the laces is sweet. So once i figured out how to stabilize the tightness, i really came around to this style.
3D Mesh: Advertised as a feature for “maximum breathability,” I found the extra mesh on the inside of the shoe to be more like an attempt to compensate for the lack of breathability built into the shoe. Wasn’t a huge fan of it, but it’s not a dealbreaker.
Contragrip Outsole: The tread on these shoes is advertised as one of their key features—maximum grip and minimal wear. I found that to be mostly true. The lugs have held up well, and I haven’t found myself sliding anywhere that wouldn’t be expected (externally at least; more on internal slippage below).
Salomon Ultra Glide Pros
Longer lasting comfort: there’s a great amount of cushioning and rock protection in these shoes. Definitely not as minimal as altras or as platformy as hokas. I took a 25-mile hike on them, and my feet were barely sore afterward. Likewise, i’ve taken them for multiple 10+ mile runs with minimal disturbance.
Not too narrow: i’d grown so accustomed to the open plan flooring of the lone peaks that i didn’t know how i would like these. And for reference, i like to wear hokas in wide because i think my feet trend wide—especially given how flat they are after all these thru-hikes.
Extremely lightweight: as stated before, they are actually some of the lightest trail runners on the market at the moment. And for the amount of cushioning that comes with it, i can’t complain.
Solid versatility & durability: after 300 miles, the tread has worn evenly and at a reasonable rate. I don’t see any reason not to get another two or three hundred miles out of them easily. They’re well-suited to a lot of different terrains out west as well. Slickrock, gravel, sand, and pavement are all totally manageable.
Quicklace: this is a pro if you like it and a con if you don’t. If you’ve never tried it before, give any pair of salomons a spin in person and see what you think.
Salomon Ultra Glide Cons
Slippery insoles: this seems to be a common sentiment across much of the internet. Salomon went with a different insole for this shoe compared to some of their previous models (perhaps for weight, perhaps for cost?), and unfortunately, it didn’t pay off. I don’t normally have any problems with the insoles on this shoe, but once the shoe got properly wetted out, then the sole did indeed start to slip around.
Not very quick-drying: similarly, once this shoe does get properly bogged down, it takes an above-average amount of time for it to dry. I’m not sure where the discrepancy occurs, but i guess that 3d mesh couldn’t handle six straight hours of washington rains. And for the record, a friend who was wearing altras on the same hike had their lone peaks dry out significantly faster.
No place for gaiters: as gaiters become more prevalent on long-distance trails across the country, i haven’t seen many companies adapting their shoes to accommodate that. Maybe we’re a smaller demographic than we think we are. Or maybe we just deserve all those pebbles in our shoes. At any rate, rei does sell one type of gaiter that doesn’t require velcro, but i don’t know. There’s so many steps required just to put them on and keep them tight. It’s like assembling a whole ikea shelf before taking a single step.
These are the first affordable shoes from salomon to offer a viable alternative to the more popular thru-hiker trail runner brands (i’m sorry, but what thru-hiker is dishing out $180 for a pair of shoes). I don’t think the ultra glides fall particularly short in any aspect, either. In fact, if you’re putting in consecutive 25+ mile days on trail, these bad boys might save you a bit more discomfort in camp than other shoes would.
So, if you’re looking to try out trail runners before a big hike but don’t know where to start—or if you’re looking to divest yourself of the altra frenzy—the ultra glides are a great option. They offer comparable durability, comfort, and features. And at the same price as most other trail runners, you can pretty much count on salomons being of just as good, if not better, quality.