Salomon Ultra Pro, is it the Great Pretender?
Posted on September 14 2018
Ok, so here's my bias, I am a big Salomon fan. I start with the expectation that any shoe they bring out will be great so any new shoe has a lot to live up to.
The Salomon Ultra Pro is a slightly de-tuned version of the SLAB Ultra2 and this was my first opportunity to compare them. The Ultra2 is my favourite shoe, in my view perfect for Hong Kong trails, so I was curious to see how the Ultra Pro compared.
I picked a favorite route, the Wilson trail from Parkview over Jardines Lookout and down to Sir Cecils Ride, then up the stream scramble back to the Wilson trail and then Parkview. This is the Strava route if you are interested https://www.strava.com/activities/1838030550 about 10k, 637 mtrs of climbing, every surface imaginable including some pretty hairy stream climbing
Conditions were perfect for testing. Light drizzle making the steps and stones wet and greasy, soft trails after overnight rain and plenty of water in the stream and loads of green slime.
So for the techy's.... The Ultra Pro is a mildly de-tuned version of the Ultra2 based on a slightly different last and upper. They have the same ContraGrip outer and around 8 grams lighter.(292g v 300g). 5mm lugs v 4mm on the Ultra so I think that equates to about another 100km before becoming racing slicks. Some people have a challenge with the relatively narrow fit of the Ultra2 and the Ultra Pro is a little wider in the toe box and the wrap around stiffeners are made of a mesh and sewn construction rather than the heavier plastic/rubber construction of the Ultra2. Pretty much the same midsole construction with the same 8mm drop and dual density EVA. The Energy Cell on the Ultra Pro is made from TPU which is the same family of materials as the adidas Boost material compared to the larger PU energy cell in the Ultra2..... They also come in a male and female version.
You have also guessed it, my test colourway is a break from the usual eye-burningly bright salomon colours to a sombre battleship grey. A perfect match to the weather
Personally I don't care much about shoe color, a couple of times through the clarts and they all look alike but some people will like this level of understatement.
So the route takes you over Jardines Lookout and down to the quarry and then up to the antenna on top of Sui Ma Shan usually with fabulous 360 degree views of the whole island. The serious gloom today reminding a job needed to be done.
On wearing, the Ultra Pro does feel roomier than the Ultra2 but with the same cosseted Salomon fit. Same lacing structure and I couldn't feel much difference from the alternative wrap-around stiffeners. Personally I think the stiffeners were a step back for Salomon on both shoes, extra weight to solve a problem that wasn't there.
Most shoes will cope well with going up so no problems on the Jardine steps. Comfortable fit, assured grip, precise placement... usual Salomon stuff.
I love the fast decent down the other side to the quarry and often chase the Strava segment but today I needed photos. Nowhere near my 2.54 minute PR so Luis Alvelais can rest easy with his crown. Two steps at a time felt secure and controlled even on the greasy steps. No issues on the sandy transitions, plenty of confidence building grip.
More climbing to the Antenna and the shoes felt comfortable and secure. I tightened the laces at the top before the decent to Sir Cecils and powered down setting a PR. Surprising, but more likely my previous efforts were sloppy. The mid-sole rock protection is great and none of the impacts felt painful
Cushioning was adequate but I was beginning to notice the wider fit. For me that's not a great thing as it tends to lead to my orthotics slipping inside but I know many will welcome more breadth than the Ultra2.
The smoother path on Sir Cecils provided an opportunity to get a feel of the performance in a normal stride. The 8mm drop combined with the same 42mm toe-off as the Ultra2 makes for a nice transition propelling you forwards. The TPU energy return cell didn't feel as bouncy as I would have expected and the Ultra2's larger PU cell feels more springy. I actually think adidas Boost is too soft but that's another story.
So onto the stream scramble. Not strictly runnable but I wanted to test the grip in more extreme situations. wet shoes on wet slimy rocks, steep ascents, wet shoes on dry rocks etc.
What I look for in shoes is predictability. Like in skiing, no matter how good the gear, if you hit ice you will slide so balance and foot placement is just as important but the shoes need to be predictable.
Contragrip on Salomon shoes is great and it lived up to expectations here. Even when in a small slide, the breakaway feels controlled, like its digging into the rock to keep hold but honestly this is as good as it gets from any shoe and fits the HK trail conditions perfectly. Top marks.
So in conclusion I really like the shoe, I expected too, so maybe I am just confirming my bias but at the same time the performance is what I have come to expect from Salomon. I don't like it as much as the Ultra2 which is simply magnificent and while I would race in the Ultra2, I would train in the Ultra Pro. The width, I don't need and even with tight laces I felt my foot was not held quite so firmly as in the Ultra2 and consequently I found the top of the shoe pressing into my ankle. The height of the shoe at that point is exactly the same as the Ultra2 so it can only be my foot is moving forward slightly.
The shoe is $600 hkd cheaper than the Ultra2 which will appeal to many but I do think you notice the difference. Its a good shoe compared to a magnificent shoe, so if you can, get the Ultra2, but if you want a good back-up to save your Formula 1's for the big occasions then the Ultra Pro could be your training shoe.
Check them out here
Mens Ultra Pro ......... bit.ly/MensUltraPro
Womens Ultra Pro .... bit.ly/WomensUltraPro
SLab Ultra 2 ............. bit.ly/SlabUltra2