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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.)
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.
Endofit 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.
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.
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
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)
Quick drying breathable mesh
Mud & Snow non-marking Contagrip®
Dual density EVA
Die cut EVA
MID SOLE HEIGHT
13mm/9mm – 4mm drop
Check out Salomon S-LAB HERE