I’ve been a fan of Salomon’s technical footwear for some time. I love my X-Ultra hikers to death. That said, when I came across these new road runners late last year, I maintained a healthy sense (see what I did there?) of skepticism.
You might predict, as I did, that Salomon would need some time to catch up to well-established names in the running-shoe biz. Delighted was I to find that the Salomon Sonic RA Max not only meets my expectations for a daily trainer but exceeds them in almost every imaginable fashion.
The Salomon Sonic RA Max
Simply put, this is one of the best feeling shoes I have worn out of the box. The Sensifit system, which runs throughout the arch does a great job keeping the back half of the foot locked down.
The Sensifit system runs throughout the medial and lateral sides of the arch and integrates with the heel.
I also have to mention the laces. Now, typically, I wouldn’t mention something as unassuming as a shoes’ laces, these laces demand your attention.
They are highly tactile, obnoxiously long, and never come undone (even when off-roading). They feel great to lace up before a run, making the process of heading out the door all the more enjoyable.
A minimalist tongue and compressible foam inserts at the heel provide an even closer fit at minimal weight or discomfort. There was no bunching of fabric, and I experienced no sliding off my heel up out of the shoe.
The tongue and heel design are minimalist and comfortable.
The toe box is beyond roomy, and quite possibly more spacious than most downtown apartments in major cities. I feel this is the biggest area where the shoe could improve.
In my test runs, when I picked up the pace, I noticed a good deal of lateral slipping in the forefoot. This inward shifting also causes me to develop blisters on my toes on several runs.
I know knitted uppers are in vogue nowadays, but in this man’s humble opinion, I almost always prefer a good mesh. In the Sonic RA Max, the mesh is very thin and lightweight; you’re even able to see through it at parts.
The shoe comes in at a cool 265 grams (9.3 oz) [size 9], and I’ve yet to experience no issues with my feet feeling clammy as I do in more poorly ventilated shoes. They also seem to do a decent job at keeping out water, perhaps leveraging elements from their trail shoes.
About 200 km (125 mi) on these, the upper has no visible tearing or splitting. Salomon did a great job reinforcing “high-wear” areas like the ball of the foot and the tip of the toes.
Close-up of the plastic reinforcements in the forefoot.
From a purely aesthetic perspective, the Sonic RA Max is affirmatively average. It’s not as hideous as some trainers that resemble your dad’s old New Balances (funnily enough, New Balance actually has a “Dad Shoes” section of their online retail store), but it’s not something you really want to throw on for casual use.
Moreover, the only two colourways available fall on the darker end of the spectrum (black and navy), and not even Eliud Kipchoge looks fast wearing dark-coloured shoes. I know this was probably done with the trail-heads in mind, but a few additional options would have been nice.
Top-down view of the Salomon Sonic RA Max. No visible wear to the upper after 200 km (125 mi).
The most obvious feature of the midsole is its stiffness. This is especially apparent in the medial midfoot. This shoe is partitioned in two way: medial and lateral sides, and forefoot and midfoot.
This is not just for appearances; the forefoot is very flexible whereas the midfoot is extremely rigid; likewise, the foam on the medial side is firmer than on the lateral side.
Bottom-up view of the Salomon Sonic RA Max. Salomon’s Geometric Decoupling (shown in red) demarks different parts of the midsole that carry different properties.
The VIBE midsole, which is composed of two types of foam, is a bit less comfortable than other shoes I’ve recently worn (Nike Vomero, Hoka One One Clifton) but with this being marketed as a stability trainer, that is to be expected.
It also offers a fair bit less protection against the ground than the aforementioned shoes, with a maximum of 20 cm of cushioning in the front of the shoe out of the box.
Profile of A) lateral and B) medial sides of the Sonic RA Max. Note the midsole compression on the lateral side (denoted by red arrow) compared to the medial side (more pronounced in right [lower] shoe).
While I do like to be able to “feel” the ground underfoot, I have felt minor foot pain after longer runs on concrete, encouraging me to shift my footstrike more towards my more cushioned heel (30 cm). In future models, I would like to the foams more equally distributed throughout the midsole.
The pattern of the outsole provides decent traction on the road that performs reasonably well on turf and the trail. The aforementioned decoupled outsole I believe, contributes to more natural flexibility of the foot while running on these surfaces.
After 200km (125mi), the rubber in the forefoot is visibly compressed. However, the Contagrip outsole is largely intact. As someone who has worn through outsoles in less distance, I am quite pleased with how the rubber has held up.
Close-up of outsole wear after 200 km (125 mi)
- Comfortable, secure fit, especially in the heel
- Stiff, responsive midsole
- Durable materials
- Nice laces J
- Toebox too wide
- Minimal forefoot cushioning for a daily trainer
- Limited colourways
The Sonic RA Max is a wonderful foray into the road running realm for Salomon, though there is room for minor improvements. I would recommend this shoe as a daily trainer or for longer workouts on asphalt or packed trails.
If you like a snug, stiff stability shoe, there are few better options than the Salomon Sonic RA Max.
Updates to Salomon Sonic RA Max
- The Salomon Sonic RA Max is a performance shoe that’s designed for those who want to tackle the roads. It has a platform that caters to both overpronators neutral runners. Its design focuses on a sporty vibe, which may be appealing to athletes and fitness enthusiasts.
- The upper unit makes use of a breathable mesh to provide comfortable coverage. Welded overlays and a collar binding grant security for the foot and long life for this product’s façade.
- VIBE is a midsole configuration that involves two cushioning units. The first one is a full-length foam that delivers responsive cushioning and long-lasting support. The second is a smaller compound placed in the heel section for a springy underfoot experience.
Size and fit
The Salomon Sonic RA Max has a standard running shoe length. It features a regular sizing scheme to accommodate the preferences of runners. The available widths are B – Medium for women and D – Medium for men. The semi-curved shape of this road companion mimics the natural curve of the human foot.
The outsole unit of the Salomon Sonic RA Max features geometric decoupling, which is the strategic separation of the heel, midfoot and forefoot sections through deep trenches. These divided units have independent points of contact, so when one segment receives the impact shock, the others don’t get affected. Such a design is believed to smoothen the heel-to-toe transition.
The geometric decoupling of the RA Max causes the platform to go in a more lateral direction during movement, thus countering deviation in pronation.
Wet Traction Contagrip® is an outsole compound that’s meant to protect the rest of the sole unit from wear and tear. It also doles out traction over dry and wet surfaces.
The forefoot area has blown rubber. This compound is soft and responsive, so it can potentially add more cushioning and springiness to each step. Moreover, it is capable of gripping the surfaces with sureness and ease.
Just like in the popular Salomon Speedcross 5, EnergyCell+ is a midsole foam that runs the entire length of the Salomon Sonic RA Max. Its purpose is to cushion the foot throughout the running session and maintain its form, even after many uses. It has an energy-returning capacity to enable enlivened steps.
Opal is a small cushioning unit that’s inserted into the back part of the platform. Its job is to give a bouncy performance. It doesn’t add much to the weight of the shoe.
VIBE is the term used to describe the collaborative functionality of EnergyCell+ and Opal. The combination of these two technologies results in the mitigation of impact forces during the striking phase of the gait cycle.
The Ortholite® molded sock liner is an additional layer of cushioning that’s placed above the primary cushioning system. It’s contoured to the shape of the underfoot, allowing it to give support to the arch and other areas that usually aren’t cushioned.
A breathable mesh material makes up the majority of the Salomon Sonic RA Max’s upper unit. It allows environmental air to seamlessly enter the foot-chamber and maintain a cool and dry in-shoe experience.
The welded sensifit™ overlay system is like a web that covers the forefoot, the sides, and the heel. The fused material reinforces the structure of the upper, making sure that it stays intact. This system also helps the traditional lacing system when it comes to giving a secure fit.
The collar has welded sections to keep it taut and sturdy.
The lightly padded tongue keeps the instep comfortable while allowing more space inside the foot-chamber. A lace-loop in the middle anchors it to the shoelaces, thus preventing it from shifting to the sides during the run.