The Salewa Ultra Train is the shoe I hoped it would be, with one circumvent-able flaw. In the past month I have worn it on rugged backpacking trips in the Colorado Rockies, as well as on several trail runs and mild hikes to better understand its optimal range.
Review: Salewa Ultra Train
Some may find the Ultra Train to be a suitable mountain running shoe. I generally prefer more nimble models, however, like the Salewa Lite Train (review) or Salomon Sense Pro (long-term review), since nearly all of my runs start and finish with pavement and non-technical dirt.
Instead, I’ve found the Ultra Train to be ideal for high route-style backpacking: steep, uneven, and rocky footing with extensive side-hilling, boulder-hopping, scree skiing, and snow travel, both on-trail and off-trail. The Ultra Train is suitable for non-technical trails, too, but for that purpose I would be willing to sacrifice some of its precision handling for more underfoot cushioning.
The Ultra Train may be best compared to the La Sportiva Bushido. Both are light and agile hiking shoes, or capable mountain running shoes, depending on your preferences and needs.
Key specs and features
- 10.1 oz, men’s size 9; 12.0 oz, men’s size 11.5
- 8 mm drop
- Stack height: 23 mm (heel), 15 mm (toe)
- Neutral motion
- Breathable mesh upper with reinforcing exoskeleton
- Moderately aggressive outsole made by Michelin
The Ultra Train is true to size, at least in 11.5. I am also size 11.5 in Altra, La Sportiva, Merrell, and Salomon. It seems designed for an average foot volume. My foot is below-average in volume, and the Ultra Train is a bit oversized for it.
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The single flaw
The Ultra Trains feature Salomon-style quick laces, which can be an asset in time-sensitive events (e.g. ultra marathons) because they make for fast on/off and tension adjustments.
Unfortunately, my Ultra Train laces slowly loosen, presumably due to insufficient friction within the toggle. This results in increasingly lost control. The problem is most notable in technical terrain, when the shoe incurs the most lateral and fore/aft pressure. Of course, reliable control is needed most in such situations.
(Note: Not everyone seems to have this problem, per Vlad.)
There are three solutions:
- Regularly re-tighten the laces;
- Tie a slip loop over the toggle to prevent it from backing out; or,
- Re-thread with conventional laces.
I’m annoyed by these “solutions” because they shouldn’t be necessary. Nonetheless, they’re effective workarounds. Conventional laces would be my ultimate pick. My experience with other brands is that the quick lace cord (a kevlar core with a nylon sheath) is prone to abrasion, especially in gritty environments like the desert; and the loop of excess cord can be snagged by vegetation if I am not wearing gaiters.
Besides its lacing system, I like everything else about the Ultra Train.
The Michelin-made sticky rubber outsole is moderately aggressively and has extensive surface area. Its grip proved reliable on steep dirt, rain-soaked and hail-covered tundra, and granite talus and slabs.
The toe bumper lip is starting to peel away, which is fairly common. It can be fixed easily with some Aquaseal.
The Ultra Train sits relatively low to the ground and thus offers precise handling in technical terrain. It has a stack height of 23 mm and 15mm at the heel and toe, respectively, and a drop of 8 mm. This puts it higher than the Lite Train (17 and 12), about comparable to the Salomon Sense Pro (23 and 17), and lower than the Altra Lone Peak (25 and 25) and Brooks Cascadia (27 and 17).
While I found the Ultra Train to be sufficiently comfortable for consecutive hours of trail hiking, it’s relatively thin EVA midsole cushioning will limit its use for big miles on non-technical trails. Intentional design tradeoffs, I suppose.
The Ultra Train has a forefoot rock plate. Its stiffness has proven helpful in kicking steps and holding edges on steep dirt and grass slopes, and lingering snowfields. It also partially compensates for the relative lack of underfoot cushioning.
The upper is a mix of mesh and synthetic leather. The mesh is very airy, to the degree that a strong wind can be felt in the toebox. This will allow the dissipation of heat and perspiration, and improve dry times. But keep the Ultra Train out of areas with fine desert sand like Escalante — they will become a sandbox.
The upper’s lower perimeter is wrapped with rigid coated fabrics. This wrap improves lateral control and resistance to abrasion and bumps, like when kicking steps or (accidentally) rocks. The wrap also increases water-resistance (by about a half-inch), but will trap more water after being submerged.
The Ultra Train is a solid pick for technical hiking and trail running. I plan to use it on several more end-of-season hikes in Colorado before the snow starts to stick next month. And barring something new and better, it will be go-to next season as well.
Disclosure: Salewa provided me with the Ultra Trains for review. This post contains affiliate links, which help to support this website.