The 8 Best Salomon Running Shoes To Tackle All Terrain
Salomon’s running history began in 2001 when it released its Raid Race trail shoe. Due to a combination of robust construction, comfort, and fit, it was a forward-thinking design for the time, and it brought some of the best features of hiking boots into a running shoe. Since then, Salomon has continued to expand and earn the trust of pro and amateur trail runners alike, and the company now boasts a deep roster of shoes for all kinds of off-road adventures.
Firm and Fast
If you like a plush, cushioned shoe, we’ll save you some time – look elsewhere (Hoka One One is a good place to start). Across the board, Salomon running shoes are firm, even when the company advertises them as “cushioned,” and they’re designed to give you a responsive ride with a good feel for the ground. The company has devised two key technologies to achieve that feel. The first, called Vibe, debuted in 2017 and is found in shoes like the Sonic and Sense Ride, and it’s a midsole construction that involves two different materials: Opal and EnergyCell+. Opal is a lightweight, soft thermoplastic polypropylene cushion that sits closest to the bottom of your foot, and below that is a layer of EVA-based EnergyCell+, which is tuned to absorb shocks and rebound quickly.
The second major technology is Salomon’s Advanced Chassis design, a support feature that the company has used for over a decade. The chassis is a layer of plastic (in older shoes) or dense foam (in newer shoes, such as the XA Elevate) located between the midsole and the rubber outsole, and it’s designed to add rigidity and help the midsole cushioning keep its shape. For runners, the chassis creates support and stability, which is especially important when negotiating uncertain terrain.
Tight Laces, Tight Grip
Salomon has also made innovations on the uppers and outsoles of its shoes. Many of its models come with a Quicklace lacing system, in which the laces are tightened or loosened using an adjustable cinch. The slack end of the laces can then be stored in a small pouch on the tongue of the shoe. Quicklace keeps laces from getting caught on rocks or plants as you run, and it also allows you to fine-tune the fit more closely than with a traditional lacing system.
Salomon running shoes are renowned for their grip, and that’s largely thanks to the Contagrip outsole the company uses. A special rubber formulation that Salomon produces itself, it comes in a high abrasion version for excellent durability, a softer compound for flexibility, and a wet traction compound for slick conditions. These compounds are mixed and matched to create outsoles for different conditions (harder trails vs. soft and muddy ones, for example), and together they create excellent grip across all kinds of terrains.
How We Chose These Salomon Running Shoes
The shoes below represent the top running shoes from Salomon for both road and trail. To choose them, we talked with a Salomon brand rep to better understand what’s new and notable in the lineup, analysed past Runner’s World reviews, and used our knowledge of the running market to pick out the most important kicks. The write-ups below provide a general overview of the shoe, but we also linked to the full RW review for several of these models. When we review a shoe, we test it in our lab and on the feet of hundreds of wear testers, and then we give an in-depth breakdown of the shoe from upper to outsole. If you’re interested in a particular model, check out the full review to get a wealth of info on its performance.
Whether you’re scaling a mountain or toeing the line for a road race, there’s a Salomon shoe that’s built to handle the conditions you’ll face. Check out our favourite pairs below.
BEST FOR ULTRAMARATHONS
S/Lab Ultra 2: R3,399.00
Light and fast
Rubber outsole grips a variety of surfaces
Potentially too firm for some runners over long distances
Salomon isn’t shy about advertising what this shoe is built for: not just running ultramarathons, but winning them. Designed with input from French ultrarunner François D’Haene, the latest version of the S/Lab Ultra has been tweaked to be lighter and more durable than its predecessor, while still maintaining the bouncy EnergyCell+ cushioning and a grippy rubber outsole. It’s built to go fast, with an emphasis on energy return, and it can stand up to the grueling conditions you’ll find in an ultramarathon.
BEST FOR EVERYDAY TRAIL RUNS
Ultra Pro: R2,499.00
A little more cushioned than the S/Lab Ultra 2
Lightweight and flexible
Lacing system caused problems for some testers
The Ultra Pro is based on the S/Lab Ultra above, but it offers more cushioning and makes a better pick for non-elite athletes. Despite the added cushioning (which comes in the form of a durable polypropylene insert), the Ultra Pro is not a plush shoe. It has just enough cushion to keep you comfortable over uncertain terrain and longer distances, but it’s firm enough to give you good ground feel. Like the S/Lab Ultra, the Contagrip outsole and deep lugs on this shoe provide great traction, and it’s a solid choice for a go-anywhere trail shoe.
MOST SUPPORTIVE TRAIL SHOE
XA Pro 3D: R2,299.00
Stable, especially for heel stikers
On the heavier side
Salomon’s top-selling trail shoe, the XA Pro 3D is a direct descendant of the XA Pro first released in 2002, and it can handle nearly any surface you’ll encounter outside. Designed for stability, it’s a hefty shoe (about 379g for men’s and 328g for women’s) that’s geared toward heel strikers due to its high drop (11mm). The shoe also uses Salomon’s 3D Advanced chassis in the midsole to provide extra stability and responsiveness. A wet traction Contagrip outsole gives you sure footing across all kinds of terrain, both wet and dry.
BEST FOR MUDDY RUNS
Speedcross 5: R2,199.00
Outsole eats up mucky trails
Protective, close-fitting upper
Another popular model from Salomon, the Speedcross is built to power through wet, mucky trails. The latest version has a wider toe box and a redesigned, highly protective upper. Unlike many other Salomon running shoes, these have relatively plush cushioning, especially for heelstrikers. The EnergyCell+ foam provides good bounce on firmer trails, but the mud is where these kicks really shine: Those massive, widely spaced lugs provide plenty of bite and easily shed loose dirt, and since they continue all the way up to the toe, the shoe climbs well, too.
BEST FOR TRAIL RACING
Sense Pro 3: R2,499.00
Can handle a variety of terrain
This shoe blends a road-racing-flat feel with trail running technology to create a trail race shoe that’s both aggressive and nimble. It’s lightweight, with a slim 26mm-thick midsole that features a slim piece of EVA, and it’s best suited for light gravel and smooth, flowy trails, with moderately outsole lugs that help you stick to the various terrain.
MOST CUSHIONED TRAIL SHOE
Sense Ride 2: R2,099.00
Performs well on a variety of terrains
The Sense Ride 2 is a versatile, comfortable trainer that works well on all kinds of trails—and is forgiving enough for the occasional jaunt on the pavement as well. Testers found it has a comfy, stable ride on a variety of surfaces, the Contagrip outsole offers good traction, and an internal sleeve on the upper, called EndoFit, provides a snug wrap around the foot. The EnergyCell+ midsole and OrthoLite insole combine for a cushioned feel that keeps your feet in shape for long kilometres, but this is a Salomon shoe, so it’s still plenty responsive.
BEST FOR ROAD TO TRAIL
XA Elevate: R1,699.00 (On Sale)
Stable and protective
Shallow lugs may falter in mucky terrain
Serious overpronators will need more support
The XA Elevate is the rare shoe that performs well both on the road and off. Salomon’s Quicklace system provides a consistent fit and keeps laces out of the dirt, and this shoe features the company’s Advanced Chassis midsole construction for extra support (although, overpronators might need something more). Like other Salomon running shoes, the Elevate has a Contagrip outsole for excellent grab on rough terrain, but the shallower lugs on this model make it comfortable to wear on pavement, too. Topped off with a breathable mesh upper, this shoe can take you anywhere you want to go.
MOST SUPPORTIVE ROAD SHOE
Sonic RA Max 2: R2,299.00
Cushioned and supportive
Contagrip outsole for traction
Not very flexible
The plushest model in Salomon’s small line of road running shoes, the latest iteration of the RA Max comes with a wide toe box and a wide medial post in the midsole to support your feet, and is geared toward newer runners. The Vibe midsole, made up of EnergyCell+ and Opal cushioning, provides plenty of shock absorption for miles of comfy running on the road. You’ll also get Salomon’s Contagrip outsole for excellent bite in a variety of conditions.