Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra Review

If you have not been out trail running during the year, the winter can be a great time to start. For those of us that live in areas of the country or regions of the world where a wonderful, white, ice-y/powder-y substance falls from the sky accumulating in such a way that roads, towpaths, and sidewalks turn into snowy trails, you might want to consider a trail shoe for the winter months.

One great road-to-trail shoe is the Salomon Sense Mantra, which we previously reviewed.

Salomon was kind enough to send me a pair of the Sense Ultra to review for my blog. 

Spoiler: this is my favorite shoe for speed / racing on trails!


As you might recall, I reviewed the Salomon Sense Mantra earlier, which I determined was best for long distances and as a long distance trainer as opposed to a racer. Of course, super fast sub-5:30hr 50 mile athletes like Matt Flahtery, race in the Mantra, but I think it is a bit too difficult to run fast in that shoe.

Enter the Salomon Sense Ultra

The Salomon Sense Ultra is, according to the Salomon website, “a lightweight racing shoe for midfoot and forefoot trail runners, the S-LAB SENSE ULTRA provides midfoot protection and durability for long, demanding races.” The S-Lab Sense Ultra is based off of the original S-Lab Sense model that was constructed for Kilian Jornet’s Western States win- enough shoe to withstand 100 mile ultra, and with enough cushion and heel lift to not get too exhausted. The S-Lab Sense Ultra is a bit lighter and more durable than the original S-Lab Sense.

Here are the specs of the S-Lab Sense Ultra, according to Running Warehouse:

Weight: 7.5 oz (size 9)
Stack Height: Heel (19mm), Forefoot (14mm)

CUSHIONING·      To keep weight down, this shoe contains no additional cushioning technologies.

MIDSOLE·      Proprioception features a low heel-to-toe offset to promote mid-foot striking.
·      OS Tendon system acts like a real tendon by flexing to provide stretch and balance during the heel-to-toe transition.·      ProFeel Film is a thin TPU film in the midsole providing midfoot protection without losing road feel.

UPPER·      Open Mesh throughout the upper is breathable and quick drying.·      Protective Rubber Toe Cap keeps toes safe from bruising on trails.
·      Endofit a sock like upper that yields unmatched comfort and fit.
·      Tongue Cover keeps shoe free from debris.
·      Seamless Sensifit overlays on the upper wrap the foot for a close, secure fit.
·      Quicklace made from durable Kevlar fibers provides easy shoe entry and exit and a secure fit.
·      Lace Pocket tucks laces out of the way while running.
·      Strobel Last with the upper stitched to full length fabric for a comfortable underfoot feel.

OUTSOLE·      Contagrip is a uniquely designed outsole of differing densities, providing durable traction over varying terrains.
·      Dynamic traction uses offset lugs to provide unparalleled grip on hard, wet, and loose surfaces.

First Run
My first run in the S-Lab Ultra was with my housemates friend from Tennessee, Lacey! We went on a fun 3.5 mile run on road and primarily trail. After running with her, I went for another 8.5 miles on the trail. So, my first run in the S-Lab Ultra was 12 miles. The 4mm drop and 7.5oz was immediately noticeable. These shoes feel fast!!! I found myself getting to tempo pace on the trail and grass much easier compared to runs in the Sense Mantra. After the run, too, my calves felt completely fine despite the lower drop and somewhat firm ride.


Comfort: These shoes fit like a glove, which can be either a good thing or a bad thing depending on how you like a shoe to fit. For more technical trail running, I like the shoe to fir more like a glove for stability purposes. It is important to note, though, that the forefoot is a bit on the narrow side. The foot does not slip around whilst running, and never once was I bothered by the shoes while running. That’s good—never want to be cognizant of what’s on your foot while running! I’m also a huge fan of the quicklace system. I love NOT tying my shoes!

Relaxing by the T after Dinner and a Long Run

Distance: I think this is a great shoe for trail races of any distance up to the marathon distance or 4-6 hours of running. I know it is made for 100 mile ultras, but I need a bit more shoe and a bit more cushion if I am going to be running all day. If you have an efficient stride, though, and used to running for a long time with less shoe, then maybe you can run in this shoe for super long ultras like Kilian and other Salomon runners!

Surfaces: Road v. Trail: This is NOT a road shoe. I found running on the road to be an odd sensation, perhaps because of the amazing contragrip dynamic on the sole of this shoe. If you are going to run / race on the trail and there is some road involved, I would not want to run on the road in this shoe for more than a mile or two. As for trail, this great for ANY trail. I have fun on gravel, compact dirt, wet mud, technical trail, etc. This shoe grips, and the worse the conditions, the better and better it performs!! The fact that is so light with a low heel-to-toe drop, too, allows for more stability.



Drop: Like I said, it is 4mm drop and feels fast. This is what I want in a shoe for trails and for races. Perfect.

Weight: 7.5 oz, baby! Lightweight the way I like it!

 Sole: the contragrip and dynamic traction with lugs of different lengths/widths/offset is really great for grip for diverse trail conditions, which I mentioned above.

Breathability: the openmesh really is breathable. In the summer, I found no complaints with my foot overheating—love it!!

Durability: after about 125+ miles of running on trails and hiking on some trails, the sole looks more or less new still. SUPER durable shoe IMHO, but others have said they have worn on the sole in 250 miles. That won’t happen with how I run, I guess. Despite the narrowness of the shoe, which usually results in me ripping the mesh by the pink toe, this seems very firm and I do not see it ripping any time soon. This is probably due to the awesomeness of the strobel last.

From Mesh is nice, pinky toe are will not rip! Woot!

Drainage: The openmesh allows for easy drainage. I ran in puddles, and my feet dried a LOT more quickly compared to the Sense Mantra.

Protection: the protective rubber toe cap really does protect the toes! No toe pain when hitting rocks, also because of the sock like fit. Also, no pain when stepping on rocks in this shoe. I’m not sure if there is a rock plate, but haven’t felt stones while stepping on them. PLUS!


 Narrowness: Again, if you don’t like a narrow, glove like fit, then this shoe is not for you. Because of the narrowness, you need to take sizing into consideration. I’m normally a men’s size 8.5, and wish I could try the size 9.0. I needed to take out the insole for my foot too fit. Toes can bleed, too, sometimes if you do not size up. Narrowness for some can also result in a lack of stability. It depends on your running style.

Breathability: This is a very breathable shoe, but you will need to wear thicker socks for when it is cold or when there is snow. Another reason to size up depending on the time of year you will wear them.

Daily trainer/Price: This is a more expensive shoe. I save these for trail runs in which I will most definitely need GRIP, as well as for races, so I’m not sure I would use them as a daily trainer because of the price, though they are on sale now.


It is pretty difficult to complain about a trail running shoe that was designed an entire team of runners around the world. This is a racer. This is a FAST shoe. This is a shoe that I feel comfortable wearing running fast downhill, more technical trail. In fact, it is the only shoe I will go to for right now if I’m going to run on trails that might be even a bit technical. It is low to the ground, it has great ground feel, and offers a lot of stability for my running style, especially since I am prone to rolling my ankles. In terms of a fast racing shoe, I am not sure there are many shoes that can top the S-Lab Sense Ultra.

This is definitely one of the top-3 trail shoes of 2013! Get them for the winter, friends!
They want to run fast.... they are waiting!

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