2017 Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra
Shoe Type: All-around Trail
Stack: 26mm Heel, 18mm Forefoot
Before we get too far into this I just want to say that I’m not going to get into the nitty gritty details of this shoe, or babble on about how it compares to previous iterations or other models in the S-Lab lineup… Nope. I’m going to talk about what I like and don’t like from the perspective of someone who’s not a super competitive runner, but likes to get out on trails as much as possible and has run in a variety of shoes.
Got it? Ok, let’s do this!
First let’s talk about the fit of the Sense Ultra. Personally, I think it’s just about as perfect as I can expect a shoe to fit. It does seem to run a little big, and I had to buy a 1/2 size down. But, in the end the shoe fits very securely in the heel and through the forefoot, but still leaves plenty of room for my toes to spread out a bit. The Endofit system is a sock-like padded tongue that wraps around the midfoot and really makes for a very secure and comfortable fit. The name might be gimmicky, but in use it works very well.
Now, supposedly this shoe is wider than some of the other models in the S-Lab lineup, but that doesn’t mean it’s wide. I still think this shoe runs on the narrow side, and you’re definitely going to want to try it on before you plop down any cash.
I purchased the 10.5 size and after spending a lot of time on a variety of trails I believe I chose just right. For reference I have a bunch of other shoes and the sizing is as follows… Altra 11.0… Brooks 11.0… Saucony 11.5… Montrail 11.0… Hoka 11.0… Adidas 10.5.
The upper also seems very well made, as it should on a shoe that retails for $180! The material seems tough, and is pretty breathable. The overlays are well placed, and there isn’t a lot of excess volume creating bunching once the laces are snugged up.
In my opinion they’ve done a great job balancing a number of factors. A super breathable shoe will usually also drain well, but it also tends to let in more fine debris. The Sense Ultra hits the sweet spot and it pretty breathable, drains pretty well, but offers good protection from fine dust and dirt.
Also, I’ve recently spend a significant amount of time running in wet muddy conditions and have found that gloppy mud has a pretty difficult time sticking to this shoe. The mud shedding ability of the upper isn’t something I often think about, but I’ve been impressed with how little extra gunk this shoe picks up in these types of conditions. The shoes also dry out quickly meaning I can soak them one day, and they’ll be ready to go again the following day. Lastly, the uppers seem very resistant to stretching, even when wet. I’ve spent a couple of longer runs out in the rain from beginning to end and the shoes fit as well during the last mile as they didn’t during the first.
The heel is another area that I’ve been very happy with. The lower part of the heel is slightly more rigid and as you near the top it get’s slightly softer. This makes for a very comfortable fit around the ankle bones with no digging or cutting. There are also slightly thicker heel pads that create a distinct heel cup. It’s not super aggressive, but it is effective. There’s no slop, and no weird rubbing. It’s just holds on and disappears.
The outsole is Salomon’s Contagrip formulated to provide increased grip in wet conditions. It actually works pretty well. It doesn’t necessarily provide gecko-like security, but I found it often stuck when I didn’t expect it to. Just today I ran a route with 2000+ feet of elevation loss in the last 2 miles. It was raining and muddy, and these shoes inspired confidence. That said… wet, off-camber roots are still slick as s#!t and will put you on your ass in a hurry 😉
The lugs have good depth, and are well spaced being neither too far apart or too close together. They shed mud well enough, and run smoothly on pavement should you encounter some when out and about.
The midsole also falls right in the goldilocks zone. It’s neither super cushioned, nor too minimal. It’s firm and responsive, yet has a soft catch. The Profeel Film–a thin protective plate–doesn’t add too much stiffness, but provides adequate protection. On longer runs I haven’t felt the need for more cush, and on short runs they’re not overly heavy.
So far I’ve got ~50 or so miles on these shoes and if I had to complain about one thing it would be the lace garage. The laces themselves actually work great. They’re easy to tighten, they don’t seem to stretch at all when soaked, and the lock holds strong without slipping. But the garage is awkward to use.
As you can see in the image above the laces crisscross directly over the top of the lace pocket making you do a little tug-o-war with the pocket after you’ve tightened the shoes so that you can stash the excess cord. It’s not the worst thing in the world, and once you get everything tucked in it stays put and is comfortable. On a shoe that is so well engineered and thought out this area just feels cumbersome.
Overall I’ve been really happy with the Sense Ultra. It checks a lot of boxes and fits my foot better than any trail shoe I have tried. Whether I’m going for a short lunch run on the trails behind my office, or a long run on technical trails with lots of vert here in the Green Mountains these shoes just work.
So, if you’re in the market for a new trail shoe you’re going to want to check out the 2017 S-Lab Sense Ultra! Assuming it fits your foot, there’s a good chance it do exactly what you need it to do.