Salomon S/LAB PULSAR 3 trail running shoe | Tested and reviewed

This aggressive and tanky trail racing shoe is Salomon's latest bid for a top spot at the podium. Let's see if it finishes first...

from Salomon
RRP  £190.00
star ratings on Salomon Pulsar 3 trail running shoes

by Megan Durkin |
Updated on

Salomon are considered titans in the realm of trail running shoes and racing shoes alike, and they have now presented us with the latest instalment to the PULSAR line, the S/LAB PULSAR 3. This model sports a new Matryx mesh upper, a tough rubber compound outsole, and plenty of other great features.

Designed for use on short and intense trail races, this unisex shoe seeks to help everyday competitive runners go faster on trails. It's fairly lightweight, weighing in at 215g per shoe on home scales. The cushioning is moderate, keeping bulk down whilst still preserving comfort. The drop is 6mm, with 24mm at the heel and 18mm under the forefoot. Compared to the Salomon S/LAB PULSAR 2, this model claims to offer better stability and precision, improved grip, and foot wrap to give runners better confidence on technical terrain.

Flaunting an eye-catching red, white, and black colour scheme, the shoe sits pretty in the box. The jazzy design, weightless feeling, and almost transparent upper immediately impresses. But looks aren't everything – our tester put these trainers to work on her local Scottish trails to determine whether the Pulsar 3 lives up to Salomon’s promises.

Salomon Pulsar 3 trail running shoes in the woodsLFTO | Megan Durkin

Pros

  • Responsive and agile
  • Grippy across all surfaces
  • Good cushioning and bounce

Cons

  • Not suitable for people with wide feet

Upper

The Matryx mesh upper is extremely lightweight. It wrapped around my foot down to the outsole, giving a secure feel around the midfoot and heel. Flexibility wise, the upper excels, fitting almost like a sock. I was able to feel at home in the shoe within the first half of my very first run. The upper is tremendously breathable, so while water can get through and wet the foot, sweat and puddle evaporate away from the skin quickly.

Toebox of salomon pulsar 3 trail running shoe
©LFTO | Megan Durkin

There is no traditional tongue on this shoe meaning you must pull a bit to get your foot into it, but once you’re in, you’re secure. Zonal padding under the lacing system and around the heel enhances comfort and dampens hot spots for blisters. Across several runs there has been little sign of wear to the upper, suggesting decent durability. My only gripe is the material under the lacing system extended too far up and was slightly abrasive against the front of my ankle, mitigated by sock adjustments.

Midsole

Thanks to the dual compound energy foam midsole, my temperamental knees remained happy, even pounding the downhills and over many miles. The cushioning is good with a powerful return on each stride. With firmer foam on the forefoot and a softer foam in the middle, the construction was comfortable.

Side profile of salomon pulsar 3 trail running shoe
©LFTO | Megan Durkin

My feet felt protected on tumultuous trails, but ground feel was maintained, meaning those preferring more sensitivity underfoot would enjoy this shoe. Achieving this balance between comfort and sensitivity offers runners an edge for precision, particularly at faster speeds. The shoe is responsive and feels fast and light. Inevitably this is a trade off with stability but after a small adjustment period it was not an issue. This shoe would not be the most appropriate for beginner runners, but they were not designed for beginner runners anyway. A shoe like Salomon's stable and low-profile Sense Ride 5 is best if you're newer to trail running.

Outsole

Salomon increased the lug depth from 2.5mm on the previous model to 4.5mm for the PULSAR 3 and you can definitely feel the difference. The tread pattern is aggressive, with forward facing chevrons on the forefoot for running fast uphill and reverse chevrons on the heel for digging in on technical downhills. However, the lugs are not deep enough for super muddy areas, for which you'd want a hardy fell running shoe instead.

Lugs of salomon pulsar 3 trail running shoe
©LFTO | Megan Durkin

The contraGRIP outsole proved steadfast on pretty much all the terrain I encountered. Slippery grass, fine. Damp rock, solid. Loose ground, chilling. The optimised rubber compound used in the outsole did provide superior traction and instilled confidence on technical terrain that has been previously lacking on my cautious descents.

Features

The lace pocket is tight and secure after an initial struggle to get it all tucked away. Previous models have given me issues with laces coming loose. The Matryx mesh is amazing, as is the midsole foam but they come together to produce one of the narrowest fitting shoes I have encountered. Whilst this is not a problem for my long skinny feet, this shoe would not be appropriate for runners with feet on the wider side. Sizing up may also be a good idea, I usually take a 7.5 but the size 8 fits me wonderfully.

Our tester wearing Salomon Pulsar 3 trail running shoes
©LFTO | Megan Durkin

Previous Salomon and non-Salomon trail shoes have given me grief with the shoe digging into my inner right arch. Why this happens is a mystery. But the flexible nature of the PULSAR 3 meant that the shoe was able to mould to my slightly different right foot, leaving both sides happy.

Sustainability

Salomon does not utilise recycled materials in this shoe, but they do offer one shoe crafted entirely from recycled materials. The brand has successfully phased out PFC usage in all its shoes since 2022. Additionally, Salomon under Amer Sports is a Fair Labor Association participant. They also source leather from tanneries certified with gold or silver ratings from the Leather Working Group.

Narrow Toebox of salomon pulsar 3 trail running shoe
©LFTO | Megan Durkin

While Salomon progresses toward sustainability goals, aiming for all products to display environmental performance data by 2030, opportunities for improvement exist. Watchdog groups such as Good On You and the Ethical Consumer Group express dissatisfaction with Salomon's transparency among other aspects. Also, why should it take six years to implement?

Verdict

Balancing on rocks with the salomon pulsar 3 trail running shoe
©LFTO | Megan Durkin

The S/LAB PULSAR 3 is a snazzy, lightweight, grippy, and responsive trail shoe, perfect for experienced runners looking for the extra edge on short to medium length runs and races. We'd avoid it if you're looking for a proper ultra trail running shoe, but the PULSAR 3 can still handle a good few miles before the support starts to lack. Recommended for everyone except beginner runners, and those with feet on the wide side. A pleasure to run in, this shoe justifies its’ hefty price tag and it had me smiling for miles.

How it was tested

LFTO trail running tester Megan Durkin

The shoes were tested by Megan Durkin, a recent addition to the LFTO tester team. They were taken for adventures out in Edinburgh’s Pentland hills, among other local trails including over Arthur’s seat. Megan gave the PULSAR 3's a thrashing over distances from 5km to half marathon length. She's been running seriously for over 3 years, completing road half marathon races, running the Yorkshire 3 peaks, and trail running over the alps on solo missions.

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