Salomon S-Lab Sense 4 Ultra – Review

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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?

Potentially NO!

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.

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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)
  • Durability
  • Protection

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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The heel area is plush, snug, has no hot spots and holds the foot firm. Uphill or downhill you have 100% reassurance.

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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!

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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.©iancorless.com_Sense4-8580

To explain things a little more clearly, look at the image below comparing the Sense 4 Ultra to the Sense Mantra 3.

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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.

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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.

Summary

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!

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Final conclusions:

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

Propriotection™

Sensifit™

Quicklace™

Racing last

Lace pocket

EndoFit™

Outsole: Non marking Contagrip®

OS Tendon

Dynamic TRACTION

Chassis: Profeel Film

Midsole: Dual density EVA

Sockliner: Die cut EVA

 Check out Salomon S-Lab range HERE

Salomon Logo

 

Salomon Sense Mantra

Salomon Sense Mantra

The Salomon Sense Mantra may very well be a shoe that introduces ‘new’ runners to mid or forefoot running with cushioning and comfort and a 6mm drop or provide efficient runners with a shoe of greater comfort over longer distances.

The ‘Mantra’ is the the second brother to the S-Lab Sense that Kilian Jornet used in winning the 2011 WS100, the first brother being the ‘new’ S-Lab Sense Ultra.

Why the Mantra?

Well, the Sense and Sense Ultra at 4mm ‘drop’ may very well be two of the most desirable shoes in the run market place at the moment, but for many it may very well be a step too far… especially if coming from a conventional road or trail shoe with a 12mm drop.

Drop? What’s that then… well in the Mantra the ‘drop’ is 6mm. Clearly shown in this image.

Heel Drop Salomon Sense Mantra

Drop is quite simply the difference between heel and toe height. The ‘lower’ the drop, in theory, the more natural the foot strike. It has long been proven that a mid to forefoot strike is far better for efficiency. However, until the ‘barefoot‘ and ‘minimalist‘ movement primarily fuelled by Chris McDougall’s book ‘Born to Run‘, many of us probably didn’t even know what our shoe drop was…

Drop isn’t everything though. Cushioning is also really important. In the Mantra the cushioning at the front of the shoe is 10mm and 16mm at the rear, so, a cushioned shoe!

This additional cushioning combined with a 6mm drop clearly means that the Mantra is firmly placed at enticing two types of runner:

  • Firstly, Sense or Sense Ultra users who want a low drop shoe with additional cushioning for longer races or training.
  • Secondly, runners who have been using ‘conventional’ shoes who would like to move to a lower drop and improve run technique with a mid – forefoot strike.

The Mantra in a nutshell offers a little more cushioning than it’s S-Lab brothers, a little more protection and a longer OS Tendon to return more energy. The lower heel drop will allow tendons/muscles to absorb more shock from the running motion and remove stress away from joints. Ultimately, this improvement in run technique will provide greater running efficient for less effort, less injury and a more balanced runner.

OS Tendon? This provides a balanced flex within the shoe and according to Salomon provides improved energy return.

Key Features of the shoe:

Endofit : This is one of the key features of the Sense range that I love. It is an internal sleeve within the shoe, almost like a sock. It does mean that the ‘Sense’ range can be a little awkward to get on at first making you even question if you have the right size shoe. But once your foot slides in you are rewarded with a tight fitting shoe that grips the foot providing a firm, secure and confident feel. Designed for Kilian Jornet so that he could run without a sock. Please keep this in mind. I have gone true to size and use a thin sock and they feel great. If you are planning on using a more padded sock you may need a half size larger.

Salomon Sense Mantra sole

Dynamic Traction : A Salomon patented system allowing for maximum surface area and traction. Designed for ‘Road to Trail’ the Dynamic Traction grips in the dry and provides security in mud.

Profeet Film : Quite literally a thin fim that runs through the top of the midsole to provide security and protection from the trail that you will run on.

Sensifit :  The upper wraps the foot for precision.

Quicklace : A renowned feature of all Salomon shoes with a ‘garage’ the top of the tongue to store excess lace.

Weight is around 260g for a UK9.5 so it compares well to the Sense Ultra at 230g and The North Face Single Track Hayasa at 280g (this shoe has a 10mm drop).

Testing

Early days yet but as one would imagine,  this shoe brings many benefits to an already growing shoe collection. As an alternative to lighter and lower drop shoes such as the Sense or Sense Ultra, the Mantra will provide some welcome additional comfort on those longer days on road or trail.

Watch this blog and I will be back with an update as the miles and mud accumulates.

Salomon Running available HERE

Salomon Sense Ultra

The long awaited ‘Sense Ultra‘ has arrived. THANK YOU Santa……

As many of you will know, the ‘Sense‘ has become the shoe of choice for those who are wanting to run on trail with a minimalist and responsive shoe. However, we can’t all be as efficient as Kilian Jornet or Andy Symonds.

The Sense Ultra offers a little more but holds true to all the elements that have made the ‘sense’ so popular.

The Salomon S-LAB Sense Ultra Racing is one of the lightest trail shoes ever made. It is heavier than the Sense but has added strengthening of the sole for longer and harder races.

It has the new lacing system: Quicklace this reduces the weight of Sense.
Dynamic Traction:  allows the Salomon S lab Sense  optimum grip in all conditions. It wasdeveloped by Solomon with the greatest athletes without any compromise. It has different grip and texture which has been designed to optimize grip when it is necessary.
EndoFit: has an inner liner to the shoe designed for positioning the foot optimally.
Drop: a low 4mm drop to provide a natural contact and feel with the ground.
OS TENDON: Thanks to this system inserted in the sole of the S lab intermediare sense, there is a natural flow with excellent energy return.
Profeet Film: is a protection film that will protect your foot area from angular or sharp objects that are on the trail. The Sense offers maximum protection despite its lightness.
Weight: 240g in 8.5 U.S.

When you lift up the box you think wait a minute… they forgot the shoes! Not so. These ‘runners’ are super light.

The lacing system as with all Salomon in reassuring and holds the foot firm.

The addition of the internal ‘Endofit’ makes the shoe more comfortable than you would ever imagine. They can be a little tight to get on at first and you may initially think; uh oh, wrong size. But once your foot is it is snug and supremely comfortable. The most comfortable shoe I have ever worn.

I am not a small guy and the therefore I always felt the original ‘Sense‘ was maybe just a little too minimal for me… certainly on longer runs! not so with the ‘Ultra’. The additional cushioning is immediately apparent.

The sole has grip but nothing like the ‘SLab Softground‘ or ‘Speedcross‘. The shoe is therefore certainly more suited to road and hard pack (or rocky) trail. If your running in soft ground they perform perfectly but if you are a great deal of mud the added grip of the Soft Ground or Speedcross may be a better choice.

In use they are a dream to wear. On the roads they are light, responsive and provide that feel that I have had with traditional racing flats. The bonus with the ‘Sense Ultra’ is the hold of the foot. The speed lacing and Endofit provide supreme comfort. On the trails this becomes even more apparent as the foot moves from left to right with changes in terrain.

It’s early days in testing but this shoe will not be of my feet for a while… they are so comfortable I would even be tempted to use them as slippers.

Now then, I need to go run…..

As a foot note, (no pun intended) Spring/ Summer 2013 will see a new Sense model – ‘Mantra

I saw this shoe earlier this year at Cavalls del Vent. A couple of the Salomon runners tested the shoe (Emelie Forsberg and Philipp Reiter) By all accounts a great edition to the range but too early to provide some detailed feedback.

The Mantra will be an everyday trainer in the same mold as the Sense and Sense Ultra. It’s a door-to-trail hybrid. With it’s 16mm heel and 10mm front (6mm drop as opposed to 4mm) and 260 grams weight, it looks to be a featherweight trainer without requiring the user to go to a 4mm drop shoe. Salomon has been heavily delving into exactly how different heel-to-toe drops effect actual stride speed which has resulted in their “Natural Motion Construction.”  A lower heel drop supports a mid-foot or forefoot strike that in turn better enables muscles, instead of joints, to absorb shock. Ultimately, their argument is this builds greater balance and overall running efficiency. More to follow….

Sense Mantra

Sense Mantra