The Salomon S/Lab Phantasm CF is a terrific racing shoe that’s comfortable enough to use for a lot of training too. The only problem is its high price, which puts it up against even more impressive carbon racing options.
- Fast, efficient ride
- Outsole grips well
- Works for both training and racing
- Price pits it against better shoes
- Lacks top-end speed for short races
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Salomon is known for making some of the best trail-running shoes available but it has yet to make a major impact in the competitive world of road shoes. The original Salomon S/Lab Phantasm was a good racing flat, but it was overpriced and lacked the comfort and bounce of super-shoes with carbon plates.
The Phantasm CF looks the part of a true super-shoe. It has a 35mm stack of a lightweight, bouncy foam in the midsole, a pronounced rocker and a composite fibre plate to improve efficiency on the run.
I’ve loved the running I’ve done in it, which included a marathon. However, it’s not quite as impressive as the best carbon-plate racing shoes, and its high price is off-putting.
Salomon S/Lab Phantasm CF Review: Price And Availability
The Salomon S/Lab Phantasm CF will be available from May 2022 and will cost £200. That’s £30 more than the original Phantasm, which will remain in the range as a lower-stack, lightweight racing option.
At £200 the Phantasm CF is cheaper than many super-shoes, such as the Nike Vaporfly NEXT% 2, Asics Metaspeed Sky and New Balance RC Elite 2, which cost £210-£225, but there are cheaper options, including the £180 Adidas Adios Pro 2 and the £170 Puma Deviate Nitro Elite.
Check availability on Salomon | £200
Design And Fit
While it doesn’t hit the 40mm maximum stack height set by World Athletics, the Phantasm CF is still a well-cushioned shoe, with 35mm of foam at the heel and 26mm at the forefoot to give it a 9mm drop. My UK size 9 weighed 243g, which is heavier than many carbon-plate racing shoes – most come in around 230g in my size, with some (the Vaporfly and Metaspeed Sky for example) just over 200g.
The upper is made from Salomon’s Matryx material. It’s an open mesh that breathes well and I had no problems with getting a secure lockdown around the midfoot and heel, though the ill-fitting tongue needed adjusting each time I put the shoe on to get into the right position.
Stack height: 35mm
Weight: 243g (UK 9)
I found that the shoe ran slightly long in my normal size; a half size down may have worked better for me. However, I have a narrow foot and those with a wide one may be best off sticking with their usual size because the Phantasm CF is narrow in the midfoot.
In the midsole you have Salomon’s Energy Surge foam, which is made from a combination of EVA and OBC. It’s not as soft and squishy as Pebax foams, but it does feel comfortable and springy underfoot.
The Reverse Camber geometry is perhaps the most notable aspect of the design of the shoe though. The aggressive rocker shape speeds you through your footstrike and, in tandem with the Energy Blade CF plate, creates a satisfying pop off your forefoot.
The plate is made from composite fibre, which means the shoe is more flexible than full carbon shoes. It is forked at the back, but has a full plate at the forefoot – and sandwiched by two layers of the Energy Surge foam.
One area you’d hope a predominantly trail-focused company like Salomon would excel in is the outsole, and the Contragrip rubber used grips well on wet roads. There is exposed foam on the outsole but the Energy Surge foam seems hardy, so I wouldn’t expect it to degrade as quickly as a soft Pebax foam. If anything, I expect durability to be a strong point of the Phantasm CF compared with most plated racing shoes.
How I Tested The Salomon S/Lab Phantasm CF
I’d be the first to recommend sticking with tried-and-tested gear on race day, but I broke all the rules with the Salomon S/Lab Phantasm CF by using it for a marathon a few days after receiving it. I crossed the finish line in 2hr 36min so it felt like a resounding endorsement of its capabilities.
I’ve also done a shorter speed session on the track in the Phantasm CF and some easy running to see how it fares as a daily trainer.
The Phantasm CF delivers a beautifully smooth ride, and its contact with the ground is quiet compared with many other shoes. I did a couple of short shake-out runs in it before the marathon and felt confident it was going to be comfortable over 42.2km, and it was. The foam is not soft, but the rocker design and the fact the plate isn’t full carbon means the ride never felt harsh even in the latter stages of the marathon.
I wasn’t going all-out for a PB and ran the race as a progression, increasing the pace steadily throughout the first 30km while keeping it fairly relaxed before running the last 12.2km hard at around my usual marathon pace. The Phantasm CF is the perfect shoe for this kind of marathon: cruising along in it feels effortless thanks to the smooth ride, and I had plenty in the tank to push harder in the closing stages.
Over the marathon distance I’d say the Phantasm CF is a great racer, even if you are pushing all-out from the gun, and if you’ve struggled with the stability of softer super-shoes like the Nike Vaporfly it would be a viable alternative. However, it is heavier, and for me it lacks the pace and bounce of my favourite racing shoes, like the Alphafly, Vaporfly and Asics Metaspeed Sky.
That becomes more apparent when running at faster race paces. I did track work in the Phantasm CF at around my 5K and half marathon paces, and it lacks the snap you want at those sharper speeds. It’s still quick, of course, but it feels much better when cruising at marathon pace.
It’s comfortable and enjoyable to use for easy runs, and works as a great all-round option for training and racing. The rocker gives it a similar feel to the Saucony Endorphin Speed 2, although it’s firmer and more stable.
Is The Salomon S/Lab Phantasm CF Worth It?
No, unfortunately. The Salomon S/Lab Phantasm CF is undoubtedly a terrific shoe that I’ve loved running in and will continue to use for training runs. However, at £200 it is too expensive to recommend, especially given the competition.
For £10 more you can get the Vaporfly NEXT% 2, which is a more accomplished racing shoe at any distance, and there are also faster shoes available for less than £200, like the Adidas Adios Pro 2 and Puma Deviate Nitro Elite. I’d even say that the Saucony Endorphin Speed 2 delivers a similar experience to the Phantasm CF and that costs £155.
Still, there is much to like about the Phantasm CF. It is more comfortable and stable than many carbon shoes and I expect it to prove more durable too, making it a leading all-round option, even if I’d still suggest the Speed 2 provides better value in this area.
If you mostly stick to marathon distances and above it is almost as good as the best carbon shoes, and that smooth ride helps tick off the miles at slower race paces. It’s in shorter events where I feel the gap widens.
Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.