Wednesday, August 21, 2013

"What is this Trail Stuff anyway": Shoe Review: Salomon S-Lab SENSE

Trail folk are a different breed. They seem to take enjoyment in doing silly things like running 100km or an ungodly sum of miles as a race. They pass off 50km on single track trail with technical climbs that have you crawling up hand-over hand as if it were just a gentle day in the park (I will probably get yelled at by said trail folk because they claim it is a lot more difficult than that, but I stand by my bias). They prance like graceful deer along through the forest, infuriatingly so, that of course I had to do something about it.
When asked about what shoes are the "best" for running trail (what brand should I look at), you'll get a vehemently definite but different answer from every serious trail runner. They stick to their guns. One that had always piqued my interest was Salomon. I mean, come on, I don't want to be running in skis here; they make shoes? Yet, after Carl and I had done some more in-depth research, we learned that Salomon in fact does make shoes and heck, they make some pretty slick ones at that. So of course we had to go out and see for ourselves just what the hubbub was about.  This seems like a long build up to get into a pair of shoes right? Well yes, but it's fun and the allure of fluffy writing is oft at times too great to pass up. And with that out of the way, on to the review.
Salmon S-Lab Sense
Please note the dirt and fading of the white- I have done some serious trailing in these puppies.
The Salomon that I had to get my hands on were these new S-Lab Sense, Salomon's high performance shoes (my inflated opinion of myself obviously makes me think of myself as being the highest of performance) made with Kilian Jornet, the Western States Endurance Run 2011 Champion. These are pretty wild. Having never stepped foot into the mythical realm of trail and ultra running (I still think cross country is way out there), I didn't know what to expect. (If you are looking for a more durable and sensible trail shoe from the Sense Family, check out the new Mantra).

Coming in at just 7oz the S-Lab Sense is one of the lightest shoes I've ever run in. I had always expected trail shoes to be heavy because of all the tough rubber and protective uppers that so commonly grace these types of shoes. But these things are light. There's very little to them in terms of an upper and big thick lugs. The S-Lab Sense, like all Salomon shoes, uses Salomon's speed laces which help to keep the foot snug and fixed in the shoe very well as well as keeping the weight down. The Sense also sports what Salomon has dubbed ENDOFIT. The upper is all seamless and the tongue is attached to the sole via stretchy mesh which creates a very sock-like fit within the shoe. The S-Lab Sense won't be moving around at all while you're foot's in there that's for sure. And with the seamless upper it is very comfortable, so much so that a guy like me who likes to wear socks in my Nike Victory spikes actually felt pretty comfortable going sockless in the Sense. The upper is made of very thin mesh which means the shoe moves and breathes very well while on your foot, aiding performance greatly in muddy and rainy conditions to prevent water logged feet. 

Salmon S-Lab Sense

These shoes are built for speed in mind. Heel (13mm) to toe (9mm) drop is a low 4mm, and helps give the under foot impression that these are very much the trail version of a track or road racing flat. And along the bottom we also see some evidence that these aren't exactly your typical trail shoe and that they are built with the sole purpose of running fast, not necessarily with heavy trail in mind. 
Salmon S-Lab Sense

The bottoms are pretty flat for a trail shoe (and even a road shoe for that matter). The lugs are almost non-existent and very minimal. You can tell the shoe is meant for forefoot striking based on the location of the lugs and where Salomon has placed their new PROFEEL FILM, a thin layer of carbon along the forefoot, strething into the midsole.
Salmon S-Lab Sense

 Now for my qualms with the Sense. This is an expensive shoe. Coming in at $200 it is more pricy than a lot of the other racing shoes on the market today. That's not to say that it's not worth it; this ultra light racer is packed to the brim with new and cool technologies and tons of fun little nuances that make the Sense stand out in a crowd. I also find it odd that for being a trail shoe the lugs seem to be a bit of an after thought. True, they have dynamic lug placement meaning that the lugs are offset in certain places to allow better grip going up, down, sideways, long ways and whatever other ways you can think of. But I just don't see them being useful in very wet, technical terrain or especially over wet grass where you'll be sliding all over the place. These are great if you are going fast over packed, single track dirt paths or a little loose or through some straight muddy sections where you need something light that dries fast. One of the other issues I found what that the landing is very stiff or hard. The shoe itself is very flexible and responsive, but if I ever went on the road with the Sense I found the shoe made for a just a little bit too stiff of a landing. Road transition proved to be a bit of a no-no. The only other issue I could see with prolonged future use of the Sense is the durability. Being as light and as minimal as they are, I could see heavy trail use (like some of the serious trail nuts put their shoes through) could cause the shoes wear out slightly quicker than some of the heavy, built-up shoes.
Salmon S-Lab Sense
In conclusion, if you are looking for a light, comfortable, forefoot trail shoe for doing some serious speed work on soft surfaces but aren't afraid of spending a little more, the S-Lab Sense is a great shoe to try out. It may not be your typical trail shoe, and I think it's more inspired by racing flats from the road as opposed to the heavy trail grinders, but the Sense sure is fun.

As always, if you have any questions about these or any of the other shoes Runner's Mark carries, let me know! If you just like to talk running and the sport in general, shoot me an e-mail and I'll be more than happy to talk with you.

For our Men's Salomon Selection.
For out Women's Salomon Selection


No comments:

Post a Comment