Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Ultra Gear Review: Salomon S-Lab Sense 4 Ultra Soft Ground

More Salomon Reviews: Ultra Gear Review: Salomon S-Lab Advanced Skin 5 Running Vest...

Salomon S-Lab Sense 4 Ultra Soft Ground

I REALLY REALLY love these shoes but...


The truth is, I have a love-hate relationship with these ruby slippers.  They are sometimes hard for me to love but they are also very hard to let go!  I have climbed many mountains and had many single track adventures in these sneakers and we share many wonderful memories together.  My feet have been VERY happy...but they have also been very sad at times.  

These are my favourite trail runners EVER because they allow my toes to spread like no other shoe I have worn before- with a nice roomy toe box.  I LOVE them because they have absolute monster truck tread that makes me feel like spider woman in the wet muddy trails. They fit like an absolute glove and wrap perfectly around the foot and encourage natural footstrike with their minimal 4mm heel-toe drop.  They are hands down the lightest trail shoes I have ever worn and it feels DIVINE to run weightless.  Every gram lost is proven to decrease energy consumption and thereby increasing efficiency- running faster or longer without as much fatigue.  I will never be able to run in heavy shoes again after having experienced wings on my feet! 

BUT...there are times when I did not love these shoes... when travelling across icy wooden bridges and rocks covered in island green slime their firm, gripping outsoles are unforgiving.  I have been seen, literally crawling on hands and knees across these obstacles all the while cursing my beautiful red shoes.  No photo's have surfaced, thankfully...but I have provided entertainment for my trail buddies!  And for the first 6 weeks wearing my last pair I cried in pain- as they chewed into the side of my foot (lateral maleolus, you know, the outside ankle bump), creating a raw burning spot requiring tape until I worked my feet into them.  Either my foot changed or this recent pair sit's that much deeper.  And sadly I ran with completely numb toes for hours on end during our first 5 weeks together- in both pairs. I have been quoted saying..."They are the perfect shoes!  Except for the fact that I can't feel my feet." a few too many times.  Personally, I need a bit more cushion for the long haul.  I have a history of compromised circulation and my feet often need more protection and cushion than others, especially during ultra long training and these shoes are designed to be light and fast red rockets-not like fluffy pillows on your feet.

These are minimal shoes- light weight, minimal cushioning and a very low- heel to toe drop.  Which are excellent features if you are seeking a fast and light race shoe!  But, combine that with a stiff /firm sole means these are a specialty shoe and may not be for every foot.

We have now worked through our early relationship problems and are in a happy place once again.  Good timing, considering we are going on a 100km road trip very soon.  But...just as I am settling in and starting to forget about the aches and pains...there are already signs of wear.  6ish weeks in and the threads are thinning in the uppers- paying the price for light weight wings. These shoes are not meant to endure heavy volume training for months on end, I have learned since meeting them.  Instead, these beauties are like 'ultra racing flats'. Enter the Salomon Sense Pro's- similar but oh-so-different and an awesome training shoe! A review is coming soon so watch for that...

Summary: Salomon S-Lab Sense 4 Ultra Soft Ground

  • Light weight
  • Amazing grip on mud and dirt!
  • Best lacing system on the planet- if it fits your foot
  • Snug slipper like fit
  • Wide toe box
  • Might be too firm under foot for some

  • Tread may be too agressive for hard packed trail/road

  • Lightweight uppers aren't as durable as other Salomon shoes

  • Expensive   

Remember- every foot (and every shoe/foot relationship) is unique- and I have not heard of other runners having these same foot problems with the Lab Sense Ultra.  So, be sure to try them for yourself to see if you hit it off.

2016 UPDATE:  Salomon is coming out with the latest version this season, that speaks of a more durable upper!  Hurray!  I may have to give these ruby slippers another go;).  I do sure miss them...


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