Okay, calm down. Yes I know it’s the Salomon S-Lab Sense 4. Yes, I know it’s the shoe that Kilian uses… yes, yes, it’s arguably one of the most desired shoes out in the market place. But is it any good and is it the shoe for you…?
Well, first and foremost. Is it the shoe for you?
Shock horror. Easy, easy, don’t go and throw your computer on the floor or punch the screen. More importantly don’t hate me. In all honesty, this may well not be the shoe for you!
To clarify, I am not saying the S-Lab Sense 4 Ultra is not a good shoe. Quite the opposite, it’s a great shoe with loads of great features and it’s a shoe that will delight and provide many a happy mile for the appropriate runner.
So what am I going on about?
Well quite simply, S-Lab is the pinnacle of the Salomon line up. It’s the bees knees, the dogs bolx, the big kahuna, the… you get the drift! Yes I know Kilian uses them! But I am not Kilian and to be quite honest, neither are you.
The Sense 4 range of shoes currently Sense 4 Ultra and Sense 4 Ultra SG are the evolution of the original shoe pioneered by Kilian on the trails of Western States many years ago. It has evolved and arguably the current model is the best shoe to date. Salomon have listened to the feedback and most notable improvements are:
- Improved grip
- Slightly wider toe box (slightly)
I don’t disagree. All the above boxes are ticked. Without doubt, if you are a Sense 3 user, lover and aficionado, you are going to love the Sense 4 Ultra. The shoe does feel different and from experience they feel great out of the box but even better after 3-4 hours of running in them. they just soften up a little.
The shoe is designed to be light and it is, 240g for UK8.5. It’s designed for dry trail, rocky and mountainous courses and in many respects the shoe is designed for long racing, hence the ‘Ultra’ name. However, this is not an ultra shoe for everyone! (more on that later.)
A 4mm drop shoe, cushioning is 9mm at the front and 13mm at the rear, for comparison, the Sense Mantra 3 has 9mm front and 15mm rear.
You may be asking, why has Ian mentioned the Sense Mantra 3?
Well actually, I personally feel that for many runners out there, the Sense Mantra 3 may very well be a better choice… controversial I know but I will go on to explain.
But first lets look at the Sense 4 Ultra in detail:
The shoe upper has been revised and is one seamless piece uber technology. Overall fit is better (that is hard to believe as the Sense 3 was awesome) and the toe box is a little wider.
To be honest, I did notice a little extra width but it’s marginal. If you thought the Sense 3 had a tight toe box, you won’t try the sense 4 and think wow, that is so much wider. If you want that, you need to look at the Sense Mantra 3. But toe protection has been improved and you have a great bumper to protect from rocks.
Sensfit mapping on the upper has been tweaked and I find it hard to believe but it does hold the foot even better than the previous model. I go on about Sensfit, Endofit and the Quicklace system all the time but for me, it’s the shoe fitting system that I compare all other shoes too. Yes, it’s that good!
The fit of the tongue has also been improved. Again, the Sense 3 was awesome so any improvement here is a bonus and after several runs I can confirm less debri/dust enters the shoe as the fit is ‘snugger’ than previous models.
The Contragrip sole has had a significant change with extra depth added to the lugs. Don’t get me wrong, this is not an aggressive sole. I merely compare to the Sense 3.
I would say that the most noticeable change is the outsole compound; It most definitely has greater grip on rock, road and gravel. Salomon say durability has also been improved? I can’t comment on that at the moment as it is too early in testing.
Slipping the shoe on, I noticed the improved fit immediately and almost questioned if I needed a size bigger? I didn’t. I just needed to tweak my foot, pull the tongue and adjust appropriately. I was a UK9.5 in Sense 3 and I am a UK9.5 in the Sense 4 Ultra (and Sense 4 Ultra SG for comparison.)
The S-Lab Sense was always designed to be worn with or without socks. Same applies here. Snug, snug fit and no seams to cause any issues. Endofit, Sensfit and all the usual Salomon S-Lab wonders are present and the shoe fits like a dream.
The heel area is plush, snug, has no hot spots and holds the foot firm. Uphill or downhill you have 100% reassurance.
The S-Lab range of shoes excel with a precision fit. By precision, I mean snug and for some that may well be perceived as tight. But that is the point… the shoe is designed to hold the foot secure and allow little to no movement. When running on tough and technical terrain, you don’t want a sloppy shoe. This is why I said in my introduction that this may not be the shoe for you!
If you are not a fore to mid-foot runner this is not the shoe for you. A drop of 4mm keeps you on your toes and you need to be efficient to make the most of the Sense 4 Ultra. Cushioning at 9mm is very good and ironically is comparable with the Sense Mantra 3. I did it again, I mentioned the Mantra 3!
Looking at the outsole you will see grip on the forefoot and the heal but no grip in the middle of the shoe.
To explain things a little more clearly, look at the image below comparing the Sense 4 Ultra to the Sense Mantra 3.
It’s really noticeable. The Sense 4 Ultra is more streamlined, narrower in the toe box, most definitely narrower in the middle of the shoe and a touch narrower at the back of the shoe. To clarify, the Sense 4 has a racing last.
You may now begin to understand my constant mention of the Sense Mantra 3 and why for many, it may well be a better choice.
Running in the Sense 4 as you would expect is wonderful and secure. The shoe is precise, has great flexibility, improved grip and overall improved feel over the Sense 3. It’s a winner! On technical terrain you have a constant feel for the ground and due to the tight fit, the shoe goes exactly where you want it to go and importantly your foot does not move inside the shoe. The Quicklace and Lace Pocket are still my favourite lacing option of any shoe. As in the Mantra 3, the OS Tendon really works in providing spring and the Profeet Film protects from sharp objects on the trail.
Although the shoe is called ‘Ultra,’ I see this model as being a great mountain race shoe for dry and rocky terrain. Could you run an ultra in them? Well, that depends on the runner, the distance of the race and how long you would be running. For me, I personally don’t feel I could run for longer than four (ish) hours in this model. As I say, this is very personal.
Awesome shoe for the efficient ultra trail and mountain runner who needs a shoe that offers precise control, awesome fit and grip for dry (non muddy) technical terrain.
DING DING DING
Okay, that is my alarm bell ringing – read on!
I said in my intro, ‘Shock horror. Easy, easy, don’t go and throw your computer on the floor or punch the screen. More importantly don’t hate me. In all honesty, this may well not be the shoe for you!’
The combination of tight fit, 4mm drop, racing last and narrow toe box may well mean that the Sense 4 Ultra is not the shoe for you to use. Don’t despair…
I have used the Sense 3 in both versions for months and loved them. I love the Sense 4 Ultra but having used the new Sense Mantra 3, I can honestly say that the Mantra 3 may well be my preferred choice for certain types of running.
If I was going for an out-and-out technical trail mountain run I would choose the Sense 4 hands down, The secure fit, improved grip and combination of features make it a winner. But I wouldn’t want to be out all day.
If I was going for a long run on dry trail with rocks, technical terrain and plenty of miles, I would go the Mantra 3.
The Sense Mantra 3 finally provides a real opportunity for many runners who wanted to use a Salomon Sense but couldn’t get a shoe wide enough in the toe box. The addition of 2mm to the drop is also an added boost to the less ‘race’ orientated runner. Yes I know Kilian doesn’t wear the Mantra 3 but you can’t have it all!
The Sense 4 Ultra has all the usual S-Lab traits and they have been tweaked to provide you, the runner, with arguably the best incarnation of the Sense yet. But it’s a specialist shoe as mentioned previously. The combination of 4mm drop, tight fit and narrower toe box will not be for everyone. However, if you have been using a Sense 3, you will almost certainly love the Sense 4.
If Salomon and in particular the Sense have been too tight and too low (drop) for you, don’t despair. The Sense Mantra 3 is an absolutely incredible shoe, has all the important ‘Sense’ features and you will not be disappointed.
Read a review of the Sense Mantra 3 HERE
Technical Specs for the S-Lab Sense 4 Ultra
- WEIGHT 240
- WEIGHT 1
- CUSHIONING 2
- STABILITY 2
- PROTECTION 2
- BREATHABILITY 5
- DURABILITY 2
- MIDSOLE HEIGHT 13mm/9mm
- DROP 4mm
Quick drying breathable mesh
Outsole: Non marking Contagrip®
Chassis: Profeel Film
Midsole: Dual density EVA
Sockliner: Die cut EVA
Check out Salomon S-Lab range HERE
Great review! I’ve worn these sites for a couple of runs and feel like they fit me significantly better than the S-Lab Sense 3. From a woman’s point of view on unisex shoes, they feel more secure on my foot (US W 8/ US M 7) and they don’t seem to rub my ankle bones or achilles tendons as much as the Sense 3’s. These shoes are amazing!
Thanks for the great review, Ian!
I’m loving that you do not simply recommend any S-Lab piece of kit to everyone even if it is of superb quality. Your balanced view helps out a lot!
I hope they address the poor quality of the upper around the edge of the toe box in this version. I like my SLab3’s and they’ve lasted really well so far apart from the material on the upper which has worn through after only 350 miles when the rest of the shoe is still in great condition.
James – the Sense 4, as I say in my review is completely new! New upper, new toe box and more resilient!
This is a race shoe. The upper is as light as possible and extremely quick-drying, making it very high performing. Probably what you want for a race shoe. If you want a heavier more durable upper, look elsewhere and stop bitching about the upper wear, although I’m sure the shoe still performs perfectly even with that COSMETIC wear.
Robbie, “look elsewhere and stop bitching about the upper wear” directed at whom?
People are welcome to question durability. The Sense range are expensive and many need more miles per buck. But yes, it is a lightweight shoe and therefore one can expect less life, but then again, if it is ‘just’ a race shoe, you would only use it a handful of times per year and therefore it would last? This is NOT the case. What I see (me included) is that the Sense range are ‘everyday’ shoes and race shoes for many people because the fit, feel and feedback is so good. The Sense 4 is definitely more durable than previous editions and therefore I think many users will be happy. It’s like anything, we all have a choice. I personally would prefer to pay more, get what I want and accept that I may need to purchase more…
Sense PRO vs Sense Mantra 3?
I don’t know yet if a new Sense Pro is planned so it’s not something to enter into. I have the current Sense Pro and would opt between Sense 4 and Mantra 3
I’m quite perplexed that they haven’t released a sense pro 2 as, in talking to a local salomon store manager, it is there most popular shoe behind the speedcross 3. Maybe it was drawing sales away from the sense ultra given that it is only slightly heavier but a full $60 cheaper and more durable.
Lucy, Salomon have not released a lot of shoes yet… so, that it is not say a Sense Pro 2 will not be released?
I bought a new pair of sense pros myself. The Sense Pro is still available and instead of making every shoe more similar to each other, it seems they’re diversifying models. The mantra and the pro was extremely similar (only the upper fabric was different). So it looks like they’ve altered the mantra and improving their overall range.
Yes it’s taking away sales from the ultra, but in a good way. It gives us a choice for runners who don’t want 4mm and want a beefier outsole. I don’t think they are opposed to this as they made a variation of a shoe probably for that reason. I’m not sure if it is more durable as the upper itself is the same fabrics as the older senses.
Very informative review Ian.
What would you choose for a 50 miler between sense 4 and inov8 270 ultra?
Mike – chalk and cheese and not comparable IMO. The Race Ultra has a wide toe box (very wide), the fit is a little sloppy in comparison to the Sense 4. For me, it would make more sense (no pun intended) to compare the Race Ultra (either 270 (4mm drop) or 290 (8mm drop)) to the Sense Mantra 3 (6mm drop) and then you would have a better comparison… for me though, the Sense Mantra 3 would win hands down and in answer to your initial equation – Sense 4 Ultra or Race Ultra 270, my answer would be Sense Mantra 3. 😉 I hope that helps.
I disagree with everything about the Sense Mantra 3. I have run in and really liked the original Mantra, the Mantra 2, 2 pairs of the sense pro (which I loved) and the sense ultra 2. To me the Mantra 3 feel like a huge step backwards for Salomon.
They have taken every thing that I loved about the Mantra, Pro, and Ultra and dumbed them down. Instead of a glove-like almost custom made for my foot feel, they are oversized, not just a wider toebox, but wider midfoot and heel. They now have a sloppy, generic fit. I literally have to wear the shoes as tight as they will go to hold my foot and I still can’t get that amazing feel the Pro and Ultra have.
That amazingly nimble ground feel combined with really great rock protection that the others have? Gone. Replaced with a mushy ground feel that somehow lacks control, yet also brings every rock, every piece of gravel to forefront of your mind.
Instead of combining the Sense Pro with the Ultra, these have taken away everything amazing about those two shoes. Gone is the nimble ground feel that protects from rocks and allows the runner to just run, gone is that custom socklike fit that the Pro and Utlra give. Thanks but no thanks. After a week of running the Mantra 3s, I’m relegating them to the back of the closet, to be ignored with my dress shoes and battered old Birkenstocks from my college days.
Dustin, you can’t disagree with everything as I said the Mantra 3 is wider, doesn’t hold the foot like the other Sense models and is less precise… pretty much what you say above. But the Mantra 3 will offer many runners a great shoe… particularly all those who have wanted a wider shoe. This is obviously the intention. For those who want the more precise feel, narrower toe box and 6mm drop, the Sense Pro will be the shoe for them! So although you may not like the Mantra 3 (and I can understand why) I still believe that in the SENSE line up – 4, Pro and Mantra 3 it makes perfect sense. Read my Sense 4 review if you haven’t already done so. Thanks for the feedback and thoughts.
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Nice review, but I am not a runner and I bougth them just BECAUSE THEY LOOK AWESOME!!!
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