Salomon S-Lab Sense 4 Ultra SG (Soft Ground) – Review

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C’mon, GET A GRIP!

Oooooh grip! I love grip…. before you read anymore, I strongly suggest that you read my very recent review of the new Salomon S-Lab Sense 4 Ultra HERE

I loved the Sense 4 Ultra but I did say that due to the precision fit, 4mm drop and relatively tight toe box, it would not be a shoe for everyone! I suppose the same should apply here… it does BUT I do think that other factors come into play for the ‘SG’ version.

First and foremost, when running off road and when running in muddy, sloppy or technical terrain you most definitely need a shoe that is going to hold your foot, allow little or preferably no movement and of course be precise. That is the Sense 4 Ultra SG. So you see, although normally I wouldn’t say squeezing your foot into a shoe is a good idea, with a SG version it is acceptable based on two key principles:

  1. The shoe is not ‘too’ tight and in anyway causes discomfort, pain or unnecessary stress.
  2. You are not running for hours and hours.

If you fall into the above two options and you are thinking that the SG maybe or maybe not for you; it may well be worth a risk for the supreme fit, comfort and grip.

As with the Sense 4 Ultra (non SG) the new shoe has had thorough reworking taking into consideration much of the feedback not only from everyday runners like you and I but also the elite Salomon runners such as Kilian Jornet.

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SG stands for Soft Ground and as such, this shoe is all about grip when it’s needed. So, for many, the Sense 4 Ultra and Sense 4 Ultra SG go hand-in-hand and I think it’s fair to say that many will have (or at least wish for) both pairs of shoes.

©iancorless.com_Sense4SG-9072 The new shoe has been left alone in certain areas and tweaked and improved in other areas. Lets be clear, although it’s called SG it does make a perfect trail shoe for all conditions in my opinion. Admittedly, I wouldn’t want to run a pure hard trail in them but if I was mixing up dry trail, rocks, gravel, water, mud and a whole multitude of other surfaces, this is and would be my shoe of choice.

The Salomon S-Lab range very much follows the ethos of FAST and LIGHT but as the ‘Ultra’ name suggests, the shoe has a little more added to increase longevity and comfort. As with the Sense 4 Ultra, cushioning is 9mm and 13mm with a 4mm drop. I keep saying it but 4mm drop is not for everyone so don’t be tempted to use this shoe just because Kilian and the rest of the team use it… be sensible with shoe drop! The Fellraiser or Speedcross may be better options for you?
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The SG upper, like the Sense 4 Ultra has been revised. The fit has been tweaked with additional support added to the mid foot. Additional room has been added to the toe box but it’s marginal in my opinion. Sensifit has also been tweaked and the mapping on the upper is now different and holds the foot more secure.

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Sense 4 ULTRA on the left and the Sense 4 ULTRA SG on the right

Materials on the upper vary between the Sense 4 Ultra and the SG, the SG is more durable and arguably less breathable. The Sense 4 Ultra had additional toe box protection and the SG has even more added wich makes complete sense considering the shoe will be used in tougher terrain. If you read my Sense 4 Ultra review you will know how much I love Sensfit, Endofit and all the usual Salomon buzzwords. In a nutshell, for me, no shoe on the market fits as well as a Salomon Sense and I am inclusive in that statement; the Sense Pro, Sense Mantra 3 and so on all have that wonderful precise and secure hold. It’s the best! (If the shoe fits you)

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The SG is obviously a shoe for the rough and tough and the tongue has been changed to provide added protection and security. The fit between the upper and the tongue has been re-designed to reduce any possibility of debris entering. The lacing system and lace pocket again make the Salomon Sense stand head and shoulders above other shoes. It’s reliable, logical, provides great overall tension and of course, what you don’t need is stored away. The obvious downside is that adjusting tension is very difficult. So you’d have to make a call if that works for you! Many have said to me, ‘what if the lace breaks?’ In all honesty, I have never had a lace break and I don’t know anyone else who has.

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As with the Sense 4 Ultra, the SG has a complete overhaul of the outsole. The Contragrip lug pattern has been changed and the lugs are deeper to provide additional grip when the ground is soft and muddy but not so much grip that you cannot run on dry, hard or rocky trail. The compound has been revised and I noticed a difference on wet rock. The shoes have better bite. I said in my Sense 3 Ultra SG review (HERE) that although the shoe is called SG I wouldn’t necessarily say it would be my out-and-out soft ground shoe. The same applies here! I think the Sense 4 Ultra SG is an improvement on the previous model but if I just wanted a shoe for mud, I would potentially look at another option. Don’t get me wrong; this is not a negative comment. For example, Salomon make the S-Lab Fellcross and that would be ideal… the Sense 4 Ultra SG is designed for multiple surfaces, including soft ground and in those uses, they excel!

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In Use

What can I say, the SG runs as well if not better than the Sense 4 Ultra. They do feel a little different and this is primarily down to the lugs on the bottom of the shoe. With the extra lug height, it does make the SG feel a little more cushioned, it may be placebo but I don’t think so.

Fit between the Sense 4 Ultra and SG is almost the same. No, it is the same. The only difference comes in the material used on the uppers. The ‘Ultra’ has a more breathable and lighter upper in comparison to the SG which is a great call by Salomon. One could almost say that the shoes are Summer (Sense 4 Ultra) and Winter (SG). Of course it’s not that simple, particularly if you run in the UK! We don’t have summers, so, they are both winter shoes ;-).

The toe box of the SG feels the same as the Sense 4 Ultra in use but does have more protection..

Running in the shoe is a dream. Foothold and protection is awesome. The shoe has plenty of flex and suppleness (especially after 3-4 runs) and the Endofit, Sensifit and Quicklace make the precision feel of the shoe shine. I really struggle to find any negatives. Grip in the heal area is brilliant and once on and laced up, you have no foot movement. Just whaT I want from a shoe that would tackle technical terrain.

The grip is definitely improved over the Sense 3. On my local trails I noticed improved grip on softer ground and transitioning between surfaces is seamless. Ironically, the SG does feel nice on the road but I don’t recommend too much, particularly if you want the sole to last! On wet rocks, pavement and tarmac the outsole noticeably provided a more secure and reassuring contact with the ground. Is it the best out there? No, probably not. But this outsole is designed for ultra and mixed terrain, soft ground just being one aspect. I’d have no problems with the SG being my ‘go to’ trail shoe for any race or training run.

On that note, is it really an ultra shoe, by that I mean could I run for hours and hours in it? No I couldn’t. I love the 4mm drop but for me, I think I’d need something a little more relaxed for real long stuff, a 6mm or 8mm drop version would be sweet. Lets be clear though, that is me being greedy. The Sense 4 is an S-Lab shoe and as such, it’s all about speed and efficiency. On the right feet, these shoes will fly!

PROS:

  • Light
  • Responsive
  • Grip
  • Fit
  • Black and red (my fave colours)

CONS:

  • Too tight for some
  • Expensive
  • I struggle for cons!

It’s always difficult reviewing a Salomon S-Lab shoe as to be honest; I find it very hard to find negatives. The negatives are more often than not based around the shoe not being suitable for some people because of width, drop and so on.

The same applies here! The Sense 3 Ultra and Sense 3 Ultra SG were both brilliant shoes and the Sense 4 incarnations of both shoes are better! It’s hard to believe but they are.

Weighing in at 260g for a UK 8.5 (true to size fit), the Sense 4 Ultra SG is without doubt one of the best ‘grip’ trail shoes I have used. I do wish that Salomon would make this ‘exact’ shoe with a 6mm or maybe even a 8mm drop.

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As with the Sense 4 Ultra: the Sense 4 Ultra SG has OS Tendon, Profeet Film, dual density EVA, racing last, Quicklace, Sensifit, Endofit and a series of other notable technologies making this shoe the best 4mm drop shoe on the market… should the precise fit work for you!

Recent changes in the Salomon Sense range now make the Sense 4 Ultra (dry fast trail), Sense 4 Ultra SG (mixed trail) and the Sense Mantra 3 (road and trail) my shoes of choice. I keep going on about the Sense Mantra 3 (Here) but I think this is a great everyday shoe.

My final question is, will we see a new Sense Pro?

 

Specs for the Sense 4 Ultra SG

  • Sensifit
  • Quicklace
  • Racing Last
  • EndoFit
  • Lace Pocket
  • Quick Dry Mesh
  • OS Tendon
  • Profeet Film
  • Dynamic Traction
  • Contragrip Aggressive Outsole
  • Midsole Dual Density EVA
  • Cushioning Front – 9mm
  • Cushioning Rear – 13mm
  • Drop 4mm
  • Weight 260g / UK8.5

Check out the Salomon S-Lab range HERE

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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

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