Before I decide to spend £140 on any running shoe, I need to know as best I can that I’m going to get a good return for my investment. Am I going to get that much desired high quality, great fit, durability, and technical performance mile after mile on all terrains?
Would the Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra be truly worthy of its price tag?
Well, the results are in. And to help you in your decision-making process, I decided I needed to give these ‘bad-boys’ a little bit extra attention.
Fit & Feel
From day one, when I first unboxed them, I really liked the whole look and feel. They came with all the usual high-end S-Lab features, which I’ll tell you about later, but putting the shoe on was like putting on a lovely warm, soft, snug cushioned slipper.
They fitted beautifully. They locked the ankle in well, and with a surprising amount of cushioning around the collar for such a light shoe. And they had plenty of that needed toe room in the toe box.
The S-Lab part of the name means the product is co-designed by members of the elite Salomon Racing Team and is, therefore, a genuine and authentic performance shoe.
So to really put them to the test, I decided to run a minimum of 300 miles which must include mixed terrains, dry conditions, wet conditions, short runs, and long runs.
The longest run is 50 miles which for me is around 10 to 12 hours and an actual race. I chose the John Muir Way 50k Ultra-Marathon (in 5:17:34).
How would they cope with that? Would they fall apart halfway through? Would they hurt my feet so much that I couldn’t do 2 hours never mind 12 hours?
Would they give me the confidence to run the downhill technical trails at speed, and when I say speed, I’m no Killian Journet. I’m a middle-aged man with arthritis in my left knee. I can be so wobbly on my feet at times that people now call me ‘Crazy-Horse’.
How did the Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra fare up under the grueling tests of the Crazy-Horse? Well, I can tell you right up front, the Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra trail shoes not only coped, they totally blew me away.
My first run in these shoes was unbelievable, no breaking in time needed. I planned to do a gentle 6-mile run but ended up doing 18 miles on light trails, sandy beach, dry rocks, and a little tarmac.
I average 50 miles a week and over the course of the next 3 months, I put the shoes through all the predetermined tests. I did over 300 miles and I have to say, the shoes passed every test with flying colors.
Even after a 50 mile 12-hour run, my feet felt great. No blisters and every toenail intact.
I even took them to the rocky trails of Tenerife and they were just amazing. Yes, living up to my reputation as Crazy-Horse, I did trip and fall during one of my speedy descents but I have to be honest, I was wearing a different shoe at the time.
Outsole & Insole
Any complaints I hear you ask? Well, there is one, the shoe squeak. Squeaky shoes are my worst nightmare. I tried everything, even rubbing in a little vaseline and light oil between the amazingly cushioned ortholite insole and the shoe but I just can’t get rid of that squeak.
Maybe it’s just the pair I have or maybe it’s me and not the shoe. Anyway, it’s no big deal. I’ve learned to live with it. I just turn the music up on the MP3.
So anyway, what do you get from a pair of Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra trail shoes? You get a shoe that is light, 275 grams for a size 9 and which has an 8mm drop (my preferred drop).
You get a shoe with that contagrip sole, great for a variety of terrains, although I have to say on the wet rocks and tarmac, it wasn’t so good.
You get the Sensifit system and the Endofit that just wraps around your foot providing a precise, snug and secure fit. You get the quick lacing system, minimal lace one-pull lacing system. Easy-on, easy-off.
In addition to all this, and what is really important if you’re spending that kind of money is you get 'The Big D' (Durability) 300+ miles and little to no wear and tear on either the upper or the sole.
These shoes are pricey. So back to the question, “Are the Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra trail shoes worthy of their price tag?”
For me, an absolute yes! You get a high performance and durable shoe that the average runner can wear and enjoy mile after mile.
Good to know
- Salomon’s S-Lab Sense Ultra comes with a Premium Wet Traction Contragrip outsole. This material is durable enough to withstand various terrains and surfaces that runners commonly encounter during nature runs. Whether wet or dry trail, the robust outsole was designed to deliver the right amount of traction and protection underfoot.
- The EnergyCell + technology makes use of a high-rebound compound. It gives runners a more efficient energy return, as well as a reasonable level of underfoot cushioning. The combination of all these benefits results in a smoother ride.
- The Profeel Film Chassis is also located on the platform. This technology aids in making the heel-to-toe transition smoother. Because it links the rear part of the outsole to forefoot, the steadiness is maintained in the midfoot area underneath the shoe.
- The upper is composed of a breathable mesh that quickly discharges water and dries up. This material provides ventilation to the shoe, as well as a system for water dispersion.
- A quick lacing system was integrated into the shoe to make lacing fast and convenient. The midfoot section of the upper compresses when the top of the laces is tightened. Runners only have to make small adjustments to customize the fit.
The Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra is a unisex shoe, but it comes in men’s sizes. The shoe length can go as small as a size 4 to as large as a size 13, but this depends on the availability of stock at specific stores. The shoe is available in D - Medium or standard width.
For the shoe to last longer and withstand rough terrain, similar to the well known Salomon Sense Ride 2, the outsole was made with a Premium Wet Traction Contagrip. Soles made of this material are divided into two areas with different densities. One is hard while the other is soft. In the case of this shoe, the Contagrip is mostly found in the forefoot and midfoot, while the cushier zone is located on the heel for impact attenuation.
The outsole’s tread was designed to eliminate debris and to provide grip. It is made up of diamond-shaped lugs which are spaced strategically to prevent tiny objects from getting stuck between them. Aside from that, they are intended to burrow underneath the ground, creating traction that pulls the runner forward without slipping.
The OS Tendon System has been inserted into the outsole to provide even more energy return, improved balance, and a fair amount of support. From its name, this system acts like a real tendon, allowing the outsole to retain its shape no matter the immensity of the stretching or flexing. All of this happens while balancing the dispersion of energy.
Same as the shoe's latest version, the Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra 5, this shoe's midsole is made up of an EVA foam with varying densities. It combines a softer foam for comfort and impact attenuation, and a firmer one for protection against debris on the trail while also giving an agreeable response.
Additionally, the cushioning and responsiveness of the dual-density EVA are reinforced with the EnergyCell +. This full-length platform is located right underneath the foot so that it can ensure the runner feels long-lasting rebound throughout the run.
Salomon’s ProFeel Film covers the forefoot until the midfoot section of this part of the shoe. It is a TPU film that does not weigh the footwear down. It acts as an extra layer of protection on the forefoot, an area which commonly steps on tiny particles. The film also aids in the foot’s heel-to-toe transition since it acts as a link between the forefoot and heel.
Inside the shoe is an Ortholite Molded Sockliner. This extra layer of cushioning is shaped similarly to the curves of the underfoot, making the footwear seem like it was customized from the inside. This sock liner also has an anti-bacterial property that prevents the rise of odor-causing bacteria.
The upper was made with an Anti-debris Mesh to keep particles from going inside of the shoe. The material doesn’t just stave off debris, but it also allows air to go into the foot-chamber, thus maintaining ventilation.
Runners need not worry about running in low-light conditions because the materials that make up the upper are reflective. Night runs shouldn’t be a problem since the shoe is still visible in the dark.
In-shoe comfort is heightened by the EndoFit. This Salomon patent is a cleatie construction which delivers a sock-like fit and sensation to the runner’s foot. It gives the right amount of snugness without compressing the toes.
SensiFit, a seamless overlay design, wraps all the components of the upper. This design innovation further offers a secure fit, delivering snugness to the midfoot while allowing the toes to expand or splay.
An Asymmetrical Quicklace system was added to the upper to make lacing easy and fast. The laces are made of sturdy Kevlar fibers. The thin laces make it easy to loop the strings through their respective lace holes.
At the top of the laces is the lace garage or lace pocket. Runners will be able to keep the excess laces in this add-on to prevent them from being a distraction or a cause of tripping when on the move.