I’m lucky enough to get to personally test out a lot of different shoes. Every now and then I get to run in a shoe that is an absolute pleasure to run in from the very first time I slip it on. The Salomon S-LAB Sense Ultra definitely fell into this category. These are one of the new shoes for 2013 that build on the original Salomon Sense platform which was designed to meet the needs of Salomon’s elite trail racers (and many others around the world). The S-LAB Sense Ultra is the lighter version of the two, the other is the Sense Mantra that I reviewed a few weeks ago.
Sliding into these shoes for the first time, they felt quite snug. They definitely wrap your foot in a sock-like feel. I found that after a couple of uses they were easier to get on and off. They laced up with Salomon’s quick lace system, but the Sense Ultra “laces” fed across the soft, comfortable tongue and pulled up to tighten. Once tightened, the small closure and excess lace stowed nicely in the lace garage. All done up and ready to run!
I took the Salomon Sense Ultras out on their maiden voyage on a day I had planned 50km of trails. I knew (theoretically and from first hand experience) that a run this long in brand new shoes could be a disaster. My planned route was two 25km loops, with my vehicle in the middle. I figured I could risk 25km in them and then have a pair of worn in shoes waiting in my car to change into. To my delight, my feet felt so good that I wore the brand new Sense Ultras for the full 50km of trails over 5.5 hours and didn’t have the slightest foot issue.
Last weekend I wore these shoes for the 8+ hours it took me to complete my first 50 miler. Again, these shoes were great and I had no issues other than a small blister on the top of my big toe right at the end of the race.
The Sense Ultras had a nice light, breathable upper. I found the mesh let lots of air flow while not letting too much trail debris through. I found that dust would make its way in just enough to make my socks dirty, but nothing that would cause problems with my feet. The mesh also allowed water to escape as fast as it entered, so even in wet conditions my feet weren’t sloshing around in trapped water. The inside of the upper was well designed and would likely have felt great without socks (though that’s not my cup of tea). The fabrics were smooth, and really hugged my feet which made for a secure, but not tight, fit. The toe box had just enough rubber structure to provide protection when I inevitably kicked rocks and roots on the trail. On top of all this, the black and red colorway looked great!
The soles on the Sense Ultras were similar to those of the Sense Mantra which I have been running in this year. They were a low drop (4mm) shoe with 13/9mm of cushioning. They were definitely designed for a mid or forefoot striker, but still have enough foam to cushion some sloppy strides. The Sense Ultra was lightened up with a bit less material, and had a slightly different heel tread pattern. As with the Sense Mantra, the chevron lugs offered lots of traction, but were still smooth and stable for dry, less technical terrain. The lugs were aggressive but very low profile so I didn’t ever feel my foot rolling laterally under me.
I didn’t find anything I didn’t like about these shoes. They were light, agile, and super comfortable. Best of all, these attributes held up even over 50 miles. If you’re looking for a speedy, lightweight, and very trail-worthy shoe I would highly recommend checking out the Salomon Sense Ultra.