Salomon Sense – Review

Given all the hype it’s had, it’s natural to think that the Salomon Sense might easily disappoint. After all, this is Salomon’s first offering of a lower profile shoe, a huge departure from their range of well-cushioned trail thrashers. First sighted as the prototypes in which Kilian strode to victory at WS100 2011, and then all his subsequent victories for the past year or so, it would be natural to question how much can be attributed to the shoe, given the pure talent of the wearer.
Victory at WS100 2011. Image:
The unbearable lightness. Image:
The whole team gets in on the act. Image:
The Summer launch of the Sense in the US and Europe was a massive success, and the popular sizes were like gold-dust. Not due to launch in Asia till Fall 2012, I managed to get my hands on a pair from the US just after they were made available. When the package arrived it felt as if the courier box was empty! Then taking the shoebox out, it really didn’t feel like there was a pair of shoes in there!
First feel of the Sense! 
Straight out of the box, the Sense is gorgeous. It looks and feels fast, not surprising since it’s profile has been whittled down to a mere 180g for a size US10. Given that I’m wearing a US7.5, the shoe feels like a low-slung speedster. The clean red and white combo adds to the sleek visual.
Sparkly new shoes 🙂
Putting it on, the Sense is a snug fit. I have narrow feet and it fits like a glove. The Endofit sock-like construction inside is supposed to enable you to run in comfort without socks. I wear the same size in the Sense as I do my other Salomon shoes, but I also wear my shoes a size larger than my normal shoe size for ultras. These fit me well with plenty of room in the toebox. I found the best part about the fit to be how snugly I can lace the midfoot portion up. I find the length of the shoe doesn’t affect my running (unless it’s too small), but if I can lace up the midfoot portion so it hugs my foot well then I’m good to go. Also prevents my toes crashing into the front on descents, saving me a lot of pain and black toes. I would recommend runners with wide feet to try the shoe before buying. Going up half a size might be an option, but this really is built on a racing last and none of the other shoes in the Salomon range have a fit like this. It’s more like the Inov8 X-Talon 190.
I’d been running in my Inov8 F-Lite 230 to get used to the lower heel drop again. The S-Lab 4 has a 12mm heel-toe drop, compared to 4mm on the Sense, and plunging straight into the Sense would’ve given me very sore calves!
So then, there’s nothing left but to take them out for a spin. My first run in them was a revelation. I’d done a hard run on the same course the day before in the F-Lites, and it was the fastest I’d posted so far this year. I didn’t think I’d be able to push hard again in the Sense, but whaddya know. Almost the same time as my run in the F-Lites, this time without someone to chase and tired legs to boot. Could’ve just been a good day. Or it could’ve been the Sense. One run may have been too early to tell, but I LOVED it. I’ve clocked up some decent miles in it now, enough to tell that I’m totally smitten.
Fast maiden run! 
What’s so great about the Sense? First, it’s the fit. I’ve discovered I like mine laced up tight. I like the new improved Quicklace system, with a top-loading Lace Garage. It feels better and less fiddly, and whilst it took me several adjustments to get the pressure right, at least the toggle was much easier to get to! Bombing down the hills on the trail in confidence plays a huge part in the enjoyment of my trail runs, and the racer-fit and weight of the Sense makes you feel like you’ve got the agility of a mountain goat (in my dreams!). Another major plus are the TPU toecaps. There’s plenty of wiggle room despite the narrow fit, and the protection offered is an absolute godsend. I’ve kicked enough rocks from carelessness and fatigue to know it hurts like a bugger even at the best of times. The F-Lites are racing snakes in their own right, but have minimal toe protection. The Sense has this pretty well covered. My first toe stub on the trails was met with surprise at the absence of resulting pain, then followed by a new-found confidence in demolishing the downhills with my new toe guards. Result! I did test these further by loosening the laces to a comfortably snug fit, and my downhill capers hurt a lot more with my feet sliding forward in the shoe and smacking the front.
Since I’ve been ‘training’ in the F-Lites, a comparison is inevitable. I like the F-Lites a lot, and with all the hype I didn’t honestly think that the Sense would be much more than a glorified racer. The reality? There’s something about the Sense that makes you fast. It’s not just the fit and the weight. There’s a palpable energy return from the midfoot construction that’s significantly different from the ‘soft’ soles of the F-Lites.
All the specs! Image:
With the combination of the OS tendon (for balanced flex and energy return), Dynamic Traction (the offset lugs which adjust to provide the best grip in varied terrain), and the Profeel Film (a rather sexy carbon-look sheet in the midfoot section that offers protection from the nasty sharp stuff), Salomon seem to have gotten it really right with the Sense. There’s enough feedback from the soles to give you a great sense of the trail you’re on, but a surprising amount of protection from what I’m guessing to be the Profeel Film.
There’s something about carbon that’s really sexy! The new Profeel Film. Image:
Running the last few weeks in wet and slippery conditions, the grip offered is brilliant. This all adds to a great running experience, thumbs up in my books after my disastrous river crossing in the Speedcross 3!
Any downsides? Yup! I ran barefoot in these to test out the Endofit sockliner .. and came back with a massive blister on the back of my heel (and blood all over the lovely white lining!!). Running sockless in these isn’t for me – the back of the shoe is a little too high for me and rubs my Achilles raw. 
And the insole doesn’t detach .. I like taking the insoles out when I’ve washed my shoes! But if that’s as bad as it gets, I’ve no complaints.
I’m looking to use these in the upcoming 100km in Sabah, and we’ll see if I’m still singing it’s praises then!

These are now available at World of Sports for $299 .. and the XT Wings S-Lab 5 is out too!

Ultra168 have a great review on the Sense, and for the miles he’s logged in them, these should last far longer than the measly 200km they’re purported to be good for. Yay!

And in 2013? I’m looking forward to the new colour combo, and perhaps the Sense Mantra for heavy training days! Here’s a sneak preview from Alpenglow Sports. 
Image: Alpenglow Sports

0 Comment

  1. Hi, i currently own a pair of Speedcross 3 CS. How different is it in size? As snug fitting? I would like to get a pair but because there's no Sense in Malaysia, i need to get them online. I do not want to end up getting a pair being too tight/loose.

  2. Hi Eugene, The Speedcross has a similar snug fit to the Sense, and that's probably the closest idea you'll get from the Salomon range. The general fit is closer to that of a narrow racing shoe, with a generous and more rigid toe box. If you have wider feet, these may not be the shoe for you. The Sense Mantra (launching next year) is meant to be a more general fit. If you've got normal/narrow feet then I suggest getting the same size as your Speedcross. I find the Speedcross fit a little smaller than the S-Lab 4/5. If you're really unsure, go a half size up. Unfortunately, I can't guarantee that my advice will provide a perfect fit for you, but I hope it helps your final choice! All the best and let me know how you get on. Cheers! Jeri

  3. Hi and thanks for your feedback! Manage to get myself a pair online and it fits perfectly – size similar to Speedcross and it's much more "softer" feeling. Love it as it's as light as a pair of road running shoe. Yet to bring it into a trail and see it all works out. Thank you again for your reply, and Happy New Year! May you end up in more podium finishes in 2013! 🙂

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