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 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

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