Salomon S-LAB Sense 3 SG (Soft Ground) Review

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I test a great deal of shoes and these days rarely do I get a shoe that I really don’t like. All the brands learn from each other and I guess ‘borrow’ ideas to help develop their own shoes and so therefore the playing field starts to even out. In the old days I would test a ‘neutral’ shoe, decide if I liked it, look at the grip or lack of and then review it. However, we are spoilt for choice these days… 12mm drop, 8mm drop, 6mm drop, 4mm drop, 0 drop and then road grip, road-to-trail, trail, dry trail, wet trail, soft ground, fell and so on. Jeez it can be exhausting and that is from a reviewing point of view. I’m pleased to say, that as a reviewer I get provided all my shoes and so if I don’t like a pair, it’s no big deal. However, had I spent a £100+ on a pair I’d feel a little perturbed to find out that I didn’t like them. So, I take reviewing shoes seriously! After all, what I write may well influence you to spend your hard earned bucks. I always try to remain impartial, inevitably though some personal thoughts and preferences will come in and when they do, I usually try to be very clear when making those points. I wrote an article a while ago and it may be wise to read it (HERE) before reading on.

©iancorless.com_SalomonS3SG-8111So, Salomon Sense 3 Ultra SG (soft ground) do I like them? Yes, I love them!

I picked up this particular pair of shoes in the middle of 2014 and I have run on road (not too much) trail, hard trail, soft trail, rocks, snow, ice, mud, bog, fell and downright disgusting ploughed farm fields of mud and they have performed in most scenarios remarkably well.

I know Kilian wears Sense (not the ultra) as does many of the Salomon racing team and yes, it’s easy to be convinced that the shoes are great because they wear them. But genuinely, for me, the Sense Ultra really is the dog’s bolx. 

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Why?

As with all the Sense shoes, Salomon use a fitting system within the shoe called ‘*Endofit’ It’s a sock-liner that holds the foot in place providing THE most comfortable fitting shoe on the market. (My opinion, obviously.) So, if you haven’t tried a Sense shoe on before, don’t order online, as you may well need to play around with sizing to find your ideal fit. Get the correct fit and the shoes are a dream to wear. Many say that the toe box is too narrow but I actually haven’t found that. Yes, they may be narrower than some shoes on that market but not as narrow as others, so again, try this out for you.

*Endoft – an internal fit sleeve designed to hug the foot in exactly the right places and improve feedback and foot wrapping.

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Once your foot enters the shoe it’s like a custom made glove. You really notice it when you move to a shoe without Endofit. This is something I do a great deal when testing so that I understand the pros and cons of respective shoes. The SG has Salomon’s unique lacing system and the ‘garage’ to stow any excess lace when tied. I have yet to find a person who doesn’t love this lacing system.

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The ‘Ultra’ version of the Sense has more cushioning than the normal ‘Sense’ and therefore it is designed for longer running. However, I think for most people, the Ultra version offers the ideal cushioning irrespective of racing distance. Of course I give a fair amount of personal preference here, so please keep this in mind if you really like the ‘feel’ of the ground as the normal ‘Sense’ may well be for you?

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The ‘SG’ part of the Sense 3 Ultra SG refers to ‘soft ground’ and it basically takes the Salomon Speedcross, strips it down into a racing shoe that is lighter, provides more feel of the ground and ultimately makes it a faster shoe. I don’t agree 100% here, so, you will have to read on…

The shoes pros and cons

Lets start with the ‘SG’ part, as ultimately this is the ‘USP’ of the Sense 3 Ultra SG. It’s an aggressive sole shoe that as one would expect provides grip on multiple types of terrain. For me, the shoe excels on any trail that is dry with a loose surface. Mud is also easily dealt with if not too sloppy. BUT if you get on really muddy trails and very wet slippery grass/ fell the SG does not perform as well as other shoes. So yes, this is a criticism. However, I very much see the Sense 3 Ultra SG as a ‘go-to’ trail shoe when I need something that works well on a multitude of surfaces in one run. If I wanted a shoe for an out and out muddy fell run then I would choose the inov-8 X-Talon 212 (or similar.)

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The ‘Contagrip’ sole compound is relatively hard wearing and non-marking. I have used my test pair for 6-months and they show significant wear but I have been hard on them. I have not used them purely on soft ground. For example, my daily trail run always includes 2-3 miles of road/ tarmac and that really can impact on any shoe over time but the SG has handled that well. On dry trail and rock the SG are great but when rocks, tarmac or road get wet, grip can be compromised. On VK (vertical kilometre) courses they have been excellent, for example the Chamonix VK that twists and turns on dry and rocky trail. However, on a grass VK such as the Dolomites, grip was compromised.

©iancorless.com_SalomonS3SG-8116Endofit is awesome and for me provides the most reassuring, secure and comfortable fitting shoe on the market. The toe box may be a little narrow for many runners but I had no issues and I usually prefer more room.

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Toe protection is good from a reinforced toe box. The rear of the shoe is snug, comfortable and if you have the correct size shoe, you have no slipping or movement. Lacing is legendary and the lace garage is perfect.

4mm drop does mean you need to be an efficient runner with a mid to forefoot strike, so, if you are hitting the ground with your heal first, this is not the shoe for you. Feel for the ground is excellent and cushioning is great for such a light and responsive shoe. The ‘Profeel Film’ provides protection from sharp and/ or irregular objects so hours in the SG are not a problem. The shoes are neutral with no support, so if you like a little arch support (Salomon Speedcross) or you are prone to Plantar Fasciitis the SG is probably not for you. 

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Conclusion

The Salomon Sense 3 Ultra SG is a great shoe. It’s not perfect though. If I were looking for an out and out soft ground shoe then ironically the ‘SG’ would not be it. But if I wanted a shoe for daily training or racing that handled a multitude of different surfaces then the SG would always be my shoe of choice (and is.) When I travel, and I travel a great deal, the Sense 3 Ultra SG is always in my bag.

So is this shoe for you? Well, only you can answer that question. But if you are looking for a shoe that can:

  • Handle a multitude of mixed terrain.
  • Has low drop.
  • Supreme foot hold.
  • Good cushioning.
  • Excellent lacing,

Then the ‘SG’ should be a shoe you consider.

If you want a shoe for running ‘just’ on soft ground, then no, ironically the SG is not the best shoe for you.

You will already know this but any product in the Salomon S-LAB range is not cheap. But I do really feel that in the Sense Ultra you get what you pay for, a high-end shoe that if it were a car, it would be a Ferrari.

Finally, no one shoe will ever do all things well. Want to run road? Get a road shoe. Want to run road and trail? Get a ‘City Trail’ shoe. Want to run on the fells in thick mud? Get a fell running shoe. Want a shoe that manages to mix all of the above (admittedly, not too much road) then the Sense 3 SG (or the new Sense 4) is going to be a tough shoe to beat.

In March 2015 the new incarnation of the Sense SG will be released, the Sense 4. Here is a sneak preview:

The Salomon S-LAB Sense 4 Ultra SG 

Salomon S-LAB Sense 4 SG

Salomon S-LAB Sense 4 SG

The Salomon S-LAB Sense 4 Ultra SG is new for 2015 and will be available in the UK from March (tbc.)

  • The sole has deeper lugs and the sole compound has been adjusted.
  • The already brilliant Endofit has been tweaked to avoid less debris entering the shoe.
  • Additional room in the toe box.
  • Additional mid-foot support.
  • A new upper will provide a better fit using Sensifit and additional width has been added to the toe box.
  • Fit will apparently be even better than the Sense 3.

Specifications for the new Sense 4

WEIGHT 264 g  (SIZE UK 8.5)

 

UPPER

Quick drying breathable mesh

Propriotection™

Sensifit™

Quicklace™

Racing last

Lace pocket

EndoFit™

 

SOLE CONSTRUCTION 

Mud & Snow non-marking Contagrip®

OS Tendon

Dynamic TRACTION

 

CHASSIS

Profeel Film

 

MIDSOLE

Dual density EVA

Moulded EVA

 

SOCKLINER

Die cut EVA

 

MID SOLE HEIGHT

13mm/9mm – 4mm drop

Check out Salomon S-LAB HERE

Salomon Logo

 

8 thoughts on “Salomon S-LAB Sense 3 SG (Soft Ground) Review

  1. Thanks for this review, it confirms some of my thoughts… which I was not sure about.
    I agree with the fact they they are a good compromise for all kind of situations, if I have to choose a pair of shoes without knowing what condition I will find, the Sense will be my choice.
    But when it comes to specific kind of terrain, they show some weaknesses.
    Wet terrain (and wet rocks) are its main weakness and in my experience a normal pair of “street” running shoes behaves better. This is probably due to the small surface of the sole in direct contact to the terrain and the hard rubber used for this model. But that’s ok, once you know it, you adapt yourself.
    I’m having another issue though, It’s about the “insole”. At the beginning the insole was not detachable from the shoe. I bought a new pair 2 months ago and they have this new insole that you can take out of the shoe. I actually was quite happy with that because I could clean it easily, but once I used the Sense on a rainy/snowy day, something happened to the insole and since then, it never stayed in its place. It slips under the foot and moves in the shoes towards the back, so that the sense has become unusable, unless without insole (which is not a good solution).
    Anyway I’m looking forward to wearing the Sense 4, but I’m also very interested in its direct competitors like the Inov-8 Race Ultra 270, the new and redesigned North Face, with vibram sole, and the Lasportiva Bushido.

  2. Great review, Ian and I appreciate how much time and trial you put in to wearing these shoes before giving them your blessing.

    I have a more or less retired pair of Sense Ultra that I finally cut the toe box at the left big toe to make the show wearable. So yes, if I buy another pair I’ll have to be a lot more picky about fitting at the store.

    I did really enjoy them, road to trail and back but I would have benefitted from that elusive “wider toe box”.

    Another feature that is great OMG this shoe is how light it is and that it still has an effective rock plate.

    Do you know if they have widened the toe box at all?

  3. Pingback: trendy trailrunning trivia | roger henke's fancies

  4. Ian, I have invested in pair of SG 4s. I was expecting a lot after your review and the wonderful time I have had, and am still having, with my two pairs of Sense Ultra HGs.
    First, the SG 4s feel a touch longer and wider in my usual 9.5. So the stunning fit I’m used to with the HGs isn’t quite present. I’m wondering if I should have gone down to a 9.
    They also feel quite a bit stiffer through the mid-sole (probably because the HGs are like slippers!) They are starting to ease out but probably need a good thrashing for several hours in the Lakes.
    There also seems to be more rigidity coming through the upper where there is more protective material than in my HGs.
    I’m sure the shoe will loosen up in time.
    Clearly there is a place for both in my cupboard!

  5. Pingback: Salomon S-Lab Sense 4 Ultra SG (Soft Ground) – Review | Ian Corless host of Talk Ultra podcast

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