When Salomon got in touch earlier in the year asking if I would like to continue to be a part of their Insider programme and test some more shoes, I agreed and excitedly awaited a parcel in the post from France. Over the summer I’ve posted my thoughts on Instagram and Twitter, but I’ve decided to write up my conclusions in a full blog post as well.
The Salomon S-lab Sense 4 Ultra shoes are perhaps most recognisable as being frequently seen on the feet of such household names as Kilian Jornet, Anna Frost and Emelie Fosberg (if your household is an ultra household, that is). The striking red and white design is iconic of the Salomon brand, and I was really pleased to get to try a pair of these out as I’d seen them on so many of my running heroes’ feet.
The S-Lab Sense 4 Ultra is a unisex shoe and comes in two versions – one for soft ground (referred to as SG in the model name) and one for hard ground. The SGs are black and red, so as you can see I was trialing the hard ground model. With summer in Scotland being as it is, I did most of my miles in these in pretty soft muddy ground, but after around 100 miles in them I’m ready to share my thoughts.
The most noticeable thing about the shoes other than the colour scheme is how lightweight they are. The soles are solid and thick, but the dense material is very light giving a very free feeling on the feet. Unlike the Salomon Speedcross 3 (which I have previously trialed), the toe box is a lot wider. This made the shoes feel a lot more comfortable for me, which when your preference is for long, long, races, is obviously optimal. If you suffer from swelling of the feet during long runs then these will be a lot more accommodating than the Speedcross 3s.
The shoes have a thick rubber toe guard on the outside of the shoes which provides excellent protection against the inevitable kicking of rocks. The soles themselves are thick and dense, with almost a plastic-y feel – the grip is extremely sturdy and the deep lugs give impressive grip on loose, gravelly downhill terrain. There is also a very effective mesh upper which allows for good ventilation but keeps trail rubbish out, as well as the Salomon QuickLace tying system.
I found the dense and hard soles a bit uncomfortable at first, and the lack of any padding or cushioning provided a bit of a bumpy ride. Bearing in mind that I have been doing much of my long runs this year in Hoka Stinsons, that is hardly surprising though. I expect that anyone used to trail shoes with cushioning would find these a bit of a different experience, but those who prefer minimal shoes will be in their element. With a heel to toe drop of 4mm they will be a shock to those who are not used to a low heel drop, so transitioning carefully is recommended if this is new to you.
I really loved these shoes, but the solid sole and lack of cushioning just does not suit my annoyingly sensitive feet for long runs. I love wearing them for short blasts around the gravelly forest trails next to my house, but I wouldn’t be able to do an ultra in these Ultra shoes, sadly. They feel great on my feet and I love how close to the ground you feel whilst wearing them, but after about an hour the balls of my feet start burning and the bones start aching and it’s time to head for home.
Salomon S-lab Sense 4 Ultra Shoes Key Facts:
– Ultra Distance
– Neutral Stability
– Only mens’ sizing used, women should subtract 1.5 sizes from their women’s size.
– I found them true to size and my usual trail shoe size was fine.
– £145 (Salomon website)
– Savvy online shoppers will find them from as low as £75 elsewhere.
Disclaimer: I was sent these shoes by Salomon in exchange for sharing my thoughts on my social media channels. I decided to share these thoughts on my blog without prompting, and as always; they are my own. There are no affiliate links in this post. You can read my full PR and Media policy HERE