Salomon S/Lab Pulsar 3 Review: The Ultimate Trail Running Shoe for Fast, Technical Terrain

Lightweight, responsive, and built for extreme performance, Alastair shares why the Salomon S/Lab Pulsar 3 is a must-have for serious trail runners.

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Hey everyone, I’m Alastair, and today I’m going to be sharing my experience running my local Northern California trails in the Salomon S-Lab Pulsar 3. These shoes are designed with high speed, technical skyrunning-esq running in mind. They’re super minimal, lightweight, and incredibly responsive.

Let’s explore what makes the Salomon S/Lab Pulsar 3 so special and who they might be perfect for.

Salomon’s Memorial Day Sale is currently on (through May 29, 2024), with 25% off running shoes, hydration packs, apparel and accessories! Visit Salomon’s website for all the deals!

Salomon S/Lab Pulsar 3 Review: The Ultimate Trail Running Shoe for Fast, Technical Terrain 1 - Trail and Kale | Trail Running & Adventure

Key Specifications

  • Price: $200 at salomon.com or £190 at sportsshoes.com in the UK
  • Fit and Feel: True to size in length with a narrow width
  • Upper: Matryx mesh upper that is breathable and durable
  • Midsole: Soft and protective cushioning that doesn’t sacrifice on energy return and response
  • Outsole: Salomon’s Contagrip with 4.5 mm chevron-shaped lugs
  • Drop: 6 mm (24 mm heel, 18 mm toe)
  • Weight: 7.1 oz (201g) for a size US men’s 9

Performance review: Salomon S/Lab Pulsar 3

The Salomon S-Lab Pulsar 3 fits true to size, at least for those of us with average-narrow width feet. Salomon has a bit of a reputation for designing narrow shoes, especially in their premium S-Lab range, and the Pulsar 3 is follows this trend. However, for my average-sized feet, the fit is just about right. The Matryx upper hugs my feet like a glove, providing a snug and secure fit that’s comfortable over various distances.

You can also watch my performance review by hitting that play button on the video below (don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube Channel for more reviews just like this one):

One of Salomon’s proprietary technologies is their Quick Lace system. This system allows you to cinch up your laces in no time and then tuck them away in a neat little “lace garage” situated on the top of the built in tongue, in order to avoid any dangling laces, as shown in my photos below.

This is a small detail, but it significantly enhances the overall running experience by eliminating the annoyance of laces coming undone mid-run.

The midsole of the S-Lab Pulsar 3 is designed for responsiveness, which is crucial for tackling technical terrain. When you’re running on trails that demand quick direction changes and speed adjustments, a responsive shoe can make all the difference.

Salomon S/Lab Pulsar 3 Review: The Ultimate Trail Running Shoe for Fast, Technical Terrain 4 - Trail and Kale | Trail Running & Adventure

The midsole is firm, which offers excellent ground feedback – this means you can feel the trail beneath your feet, allowing for more precise movements. However, this firmness also means less cushioning, which might be a drawback for those who prefer a softer ride for long distances.

If cushioning is a priority, you might want to consider other options like the HOKA Speedgoat 6, which offers a thicker stack height and softer midsole foam.

The Contagrip outsole is one other area where the Pulsar 3 shines brightest. Equipped with 4.5 mm chevron-shaped lugs, these shoes offer fantastic traction, whether you’re ascending steep hills or descending rocky paths, the outsole lugs grip the trail with confidence.

Salomon S/Lab Pulsar 3 Review: The Ultimate Trail Running Shoe for Fast, Technical Terrain 5 - Trail and Kale | Trail Running & Adventure

The forward-angled lugs at the front of the foot and backward-angled lugs at the rear work together to provide stability and grip on both inclines and declines. This design helps you maintain balance and control, which is especially important on technical trails where a misstep could lead to a fall.

Climbing is undoubtedly one of the Salomon S/Lab Pulsar 3’s strongest suits; weighing in at just 7.1 oz for a US men’s size 9, these shoes feel almost weightless – what’s interesting however, is that the Pulsar 2 was even lighter, weighing in at 6.2oz.

This light weight reduces the strain on your muscles during climbs, allowing you to conserve energy throughout your hill climb or long run. The snug fit of the Matryx upper, combined with the effective lacing system, ensures that your feet stay secure without any heel slippage. This means that every ounce of your effort goes into propelling you upwards, rather than adjusting your footing or dealing with shoe slippage.

Salomon S/Lab Pulsar 3 Review: The Ultimate Trail Running Shoe for Fast, Technical Terrain 6 - Trail and Kale | Trail Running & Adventure

On flat terrain, the Pulsar 3 proves to be incredibly fast and responsive. The firm midsole allows for quick transitions and efficient energy return, making these shoes suitable for speed workouts and tempo runs on trails. However, the minimal cushioning can be a double-edged sword.

While it enhances responsiveness, it also means you might feel more sharp rocks underfoot than you may wish to. During long runs, especially on rocky terrain, this can become uncomfortable. For a more cushioned ride, the Merrell MTL Long Sky 2 Matryx might be a better alternative.

Descending in the Pulsar 3 is an exhilarating experience too. The shoe’s responsiveness and precise fit allow for accurate foot placement and total control, which is crucial when navigating technical descents at high speeds.

The narrow fit, while great for precision, can introduce some instability however. This is because a narrower footprint under the heel means less contact area with the ground, which can be a bit unnerving for some runners who maybe have some pronation issues.

Salomon S/Lab Pulsar 3 Review: The Ultimate Trail Running Shoe for Fast, Technical Terrain 7 - Trail and Kale | Trail Running & Adventure

Despite this, the excellent traction provided by the Contagrip outsole helps mitigate some of the instability, allowing you to maintain control on steep descents.

The Matryx upper is highly breathable as much as it is durable; running on hot days can be grueling, but the breathability of the Matryx material helps keep your feet cool and comfortable. This is particularly beneficial during intense runs where your feet are working hard. The ability to stay cool can make a significant difference in your overall comfort and performance.

Salomon S/Lab Pulsar 3 Review: The Ultimate Trail Running Shoe for Fast, Technical Terrain 8 - Trail and Kale | Trail Running & Adventure

Durability is another strong point of the Pulsar 3, the Matryx upper is tough and resistant to wear and tear, ensuring that the shoes hold up well even after many miles on rugged trails and because there is a strategically placed material overlays where your big toes wiggle, you don’t need to worry about them rubbing a hole in the Matryx mesh over time.

The Contagrip outsole, known for its durability, complements the upper by providing long-lasting traction and protection against abrasive surfaces.

The Pulsar 3 is versatile enough to handle a variety of terrain from rocky ascents to muddy descents and flat forest trails, these shoes performed consistently well in my testing. Their lightweight design makes them ideal for mountain running, where you need to be fast and agile. However, their minimal cushioning might make them less suitable for ultra-long distances unless you’re accustomed to a firmer ride – you’ll know if that’s you or not!

Best Alternatives Right Now

If after reading this review, you feel like the Salomon S-Lab Pulsar 3 doesn’t quite fit your needs, here are some excellent alternatives that are also worth considering:

Salomon S/Lab Pulsar 3 Review: The Ultimate Trail Running Shoe for Fast, Technical Terrain 9 - Trail and Kale | Trail Running & Adventure

Merrell MTL Long Sky 2: A solid alternative is the Merrell MTL Long Sky 2 Matryx. It’s similar to the Pulsar 3 in terms of responsiveness but offers a bit more cushioning. This shoe strikes a good balance between comfort and performance, making it suitable for both technical trails and longer runs – it’s also a little less expensive.

HOKA Zinal 2 review for web 11

HOKA Zinal 2: The HOKA Zinal 2 is another contender worth mentioning. It’s lightweight and responsive, much like the Pulsar 3, but with a slightly more cushioned feel. This makes it a great option for those looking for speed and comfort on technical terrains.

Salomon S/Lab Pulsar 3 Review: The Ultimate Trail Running Shoe for Fast, Technical Terrain 10 - Trail and Kale | Trail Running & Adventure

HOKA Speedgoat 6: For those who prioritize cushioning, the HOKA Speedgoat 6 is an excellent choice. It offers a thicker stack height, providing a softer ride that’s ideal for long-distance runs. The Speedgoat 6 also performs well across various terrains, making it a versatile option for trail runners – it’s one of my all time favorites.

Each of these alternatives offers unique features that cater to different running preferences, so it’s worth reading (or watching) our reviews first, and then trying them out to see which one works best for you.

Are they worth buying?

At $200, the Salomon S-Lab Pulsar 3 is a premium shoe with a premium price tag. They’re more expensive than some competitors, but the level of performance they offer justifies the cost. If you’re looking for a shoe that excels in climbing and technical terrain, and you have average-width feet, these shoes are worth considering. They’re a unisex shoe so no men’s or women’s for this one; this is quite common with Salomon’s S?Lab range and other high performance running shoes.

The Salomon S-Lab Pulsar 3 is an outstanding trail running shoe for those who prioritize lightweight performance and responsiveness. They excel in climbing and descending, making them ideal for skyrunning and technical trails. While they might be a bit firm for long-distance runs and narrow for wide feet, their overall performance is hard to beat.

If you’re after a high-performance shoe for technical terrain and fast runs, the S-Lab Pulsar 3 should be on your list to try out. They’re a bit pricey, but the investment is worth it for the right runner. Give them a try and see if they fit your needs.

Thanks for reading this review! If you found it helpful, please share it with a friend, and don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter for more running shoe reviews. See you next time! Peace! 🏃‍♂️💨 -Alastair

Alastair
Alastairhttps://www.trailandkale.com
As the founder of Trail & Kale, and seasoned marathoner & ultrarunner, Alastair loves bringing our readers independent running shoe reviews and gear insights to help you run your best. Learn more about Trail & Kale here.

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