Salomon Sonic Pro – Review – a stiffer, “Sense”ified X-Series

For 2016 Salomon is replacing the excellent S Lab X-Series shoe (reviewed here, here, here, and here) with a model called the Sonic in numerous versions- an S Lab version, a Sonic Pro version, and a Sonic Aero version. Salomon worked with Max King in 2015 to “improve” the X-Series hybrid road/trail shoe. It was mentioned that the major changes were in the upper mesh, the lacing system for the S Lab version (which uses a retro “standard” lace system), and the details of the TPU overlays on the upper. Well… there are more changes than just these. This review is of the Sonic Pro and will be followed by a review of the S Lab Sonic soon.

First let’s remind ourselves of how good the X-Series shoe was- it was received with uniformly excellent reviews from many reviewers from many different use perspectives. I particularly liked how the shoe performed on typical Western mountain trails in the US with surprising stability in even very rocky and rough conditions. With the exception of extended scree traverses, this shoe was a very versatile mountain trail running shoe coming in at flyweight numbers (218 gms for US 7.5, 40 2/3 (EU)). It remains my primary trail running shoe.

Now let’s talk about the difficult task of “improving” any good or great shoe. In my opinion this can only happen with very minor, evolutionary changes with the realization that the designers may not have a full grasp on why the shoe was so great to begin with. This can be analogized with fooling around with a many-term, non-linear, mathematical equation whilst not knowing what the term functionalities are and expecting to have predictive results- not likely! Such is perhaps the case here, but I will hold final judgement until I have fully investigated the S Lab Sonic. However, based on an initial 35 miles (50 km) in the Sonic Pro, things do not look very good. This is an initial impressions review however, and I will follow up with updates.

Sonic Pro

As mentioned above, the Sonic Pro is a 2016 derivative of the X-Series and carries a similar appearance and outsole. It is the heavier version of the S Lab Sonic, but is otherwise pretty much the same as the S Lab (I will have more on the S Lab version in a separate post). My US 7.5’s (40 2/3 EU) weigh in at 234 gms (8.3 oz) which is about 20 gms (8%) heavier than the 2015 S Lab X-Series. This is expected given that this is a “lesser” model in the Sonic line at a lower price point. The weight of the S lab version is on par with the 2015 X-Series.

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The colorways include the black with orange shown here (Salomon calls it “tomato red” but it is definitely orange), a monochrome bright blue, a monochrome bright yellow-green, and a tomato red with black (the reverse of the shoe above) for men. For women there is a purple with bright yellow-green, a monochrome teal blue, and a monochrome pink. Salomon appears to be reserving the monochrome red colorway for the S Lab version.

Construction

The construction of the Sonic pro is essentially the same as the X-Series with the same midsole, cushioning, drop, and perimeter structure. The Sonic Pro (and S lab Sonic) shoe and the X-Series are basically road versions of the Sense trail running shoe. What this means is that all of the fit technologies that make the Sense such a great trail shoe have been incorporated into the Sonic Pro along with a much cushier midsole but with a less aggressive outsole.

Upper

The upper is constructed of similar materials and design that was used in the X-Series. The lycra front portion of the upper has been replaced with a new mesh material that looks like a cross between the X-Series lycra with the mesh of the Sense line.

Th interior of the shoe incorporates the Endofit construction as in the S Lab X-Series and Sense lines of trail running shoes. This fit feature has received uniform rave reviews and general acceptance as a superior design element in current running shoes. The Endofit approach produces a secure yet very comfortable fit via an inner “sock”. This fit is often described as “slipper-like” and I concur. The TPU overlay reinforcements, called “Sensifit” by Salomon, take the familiar zig-zag shape, as usual, but also wrap around the toe area for some minimal protection.

Importantly, the upper shape has been changed- it now resembles much more of a Sense profile than the X-Series profile. The differences are primarily at the front of the ankle where the upper has been shaved down to look much more like the Sense topology. In fact the entire front profile is much more “flattened” when compared to the X-Series and can be described as a Sense-like upper grafted onto an X-Series chassis. This does affect fit and run feel as will be described later.

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Proflies of the Salomon Sonic Pro (top), Salomon S Lab Sense 4 (middle), and the Salomon S Lab X-Series (bottom) showing the Sonic Pro to be a a Sense-like upper grafted onto the X-Series chassis.

The side mesh panels on the outer side, the beefy nylon mesh rear portion of the upper, and the beefy nylon mesh inner side all remain essentially unchanged from the X-Series. As with the X-series, the design includes no toe protection other than a small front bumper. If you are a frequent “toe-stubber” then you may have some issues with this design.

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View of the Salomon Sonic Pro from above showing the new mesh material on the front section.

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A close-up of the new mesh material that seems to be a hybrid of the original X-Series lycra and the mesh used in the Sense line.

The ankle cup is still symmetric as was the case in the X-Series and the rear upper construction is unchanged.

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The ankle cup of the Sonic Pro is symmetric as it was with the X-Series.

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The heel and heel counter remain unchanged from the X-Series design.

Midsole

As with the X-Series, the Sonic pro is a highly cushioned shoe, at least in the Salomon universe. On Salomon’s 1-5 scale of “cushion” in their technical literature, the Sense 5 Ultra ranks at “2” whereas the X-Series is rated “4” where a larger number indicates more cushioning. This difference can be seen in the reported midsole thicknesses where the Sonic Pro has a 24 mm heel and 16 mm forefoot EVA stack whilst the Sense 5 Ultra has 18 mm heel and 14 mm forefoot stack. So 6 mm more EVA at the heel and 2 mm more in the forefoot. Both models use the cushier “triple density” EVA “EnergyCell+” construction (where a cushier EVA is strategically placed in a matrix of a less cushy formulation).

The Sonic Pro also uses the ProFeel film technology developed for the Sense series shoes so there is good protection from rocks if one uses this shoe on trails.

Outsole

The outsole is nearly exactly the same as the X-Series right down to the widths and the specific grip patterns. This is acceptable given the great performance that this outsole exhibited on the X-Series. The only notable difference is in the rubber composition in the medial toe-to-midfoot area where a carbon rubber is used in the Sonic Pro. Such carbon-particulate rubber compositions are tougher and more durable than non-particulate reinforced rubbers so this may lead to better wear for some users. However, even after over 1000 km my X-Series showed very little wear in this area. But if you “scuff” your toe you may see better wear.

This same carbon rubber insert on the medial toe of the outsole was seen last year in prototypes that Salomon athletes were wearing in mountain ultras (e.g. Kilian Jornet and Anna Frost at Hardrock) so there may be a wet or dry grip advantage with the composition and placement. I have not had these shoes in any truly wet or muddy or technical rock conditions yet so I cannot make any evaluation at this point. I will note that the S Lab Sonic does not have the carbon rubber in this area- it is exactly the same as the 2015 X-Series.

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Comparison of the outsoles of the Salomon Sonic Pro (top) and the Salomon S lab X-Series (bottom). The outsoles are the same with the exception of the use of carbon rubber in the medial toe area on the Sonic Pro.

Initial Running Impressions

I have had the Sonic Pro out for about 35 miles (about 50 km) on dry pavement, packed snow trails, some ice, and a bit of mud.

The Sonic Pro is so much like the X-Series that I expected it to run in very similar way. In some aspects it is the same- the same platform, the same cushion, and the same excellent mid-foot support. However the shoe is significantly stiffer than the X-Series and I have found this stiffness to seriously detract from the comfort of the shoe. It also detracts from the excellent proprioception that the X-Series exhibited. Perhaps the shoe will become less stiff with use but I am not sure what the purpose of stiffening the shoe is. With more miles this may become apparent, but I remain skeptical.

I have also noted a different, lower, level of support around the ankle as would be expected by the “Sensification” of the upper topology. This lower level of support has been felt in off-camber and other stability-challenging situations and for me detracts from the utility of the shoe. I expect that the Sonic Pro will not be as good a performer on trails and in the mountains as the X-Series was (is).

Other than the increased stiffness the shoe has performed similarly to the X-Series and, to first order, it represents a direct replacement albeit with a bit of a different ride, but still a nice ride. The cushion is nicely balanced and “natural” feeling and the grip on the road, packed snow, and mud is, as expected, the same as with the X-Series.

More miles will tell so stay tuned.

Price

$140 US. Expensive but a bit lower than the 2015 S Lab X-Series, although the higher weight should account for the differential.

Bottom Line

A stiffer X-Series with a modified upper topology. Be sure to try these on first if you are an X-Series fan as they do feel different, and, for me, negatively so.

 

Adventures With a Reliable Friend

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Our Westy parked at the Fall Creek Trailhead in Idaho’s Pioneer Mountains with the 11,865 foot The Devils Bedstead peak in the distance.

It has been nearly 23 years since we were thrilled to take possession of a 1991 VW Westfalia camper van. At the time, having recently moved to the mountain west from the east, we looked forward to adventures in the mountains and realized that the Westy (as Westfalia camper vans are colloquially known) was a great base from which to facilitate remote excursions. We were right and have never looked back or questioned our decision. Our Westy has been a reliable adventure partner ever since and we have been all over the west with her enjoying some remote and some not so remote mountain fun as well as a being a great base camp for mountain ultra-running training and racing.

In early 1994 we purchased the 1991 VW Westfalia Camper Van (Westy). We bought it from an older couple who had purchased the Westy new about a year earlier and realized that they liked the “concept” of camping more than the reality. So after finding themselves at hotels with the van rather than in campgrounds they sold it to us. The Westy was essentially unused and we paid almost what it sold for new a year earlier. Our Westy was “born” in September of 1990 and sat on a dealer lot here in the US for about 2 years before it was purchased by the older couple. This past year we celebrated her 25th anniversary with a nice camping trail running trip to Idaho’s Sawtooths. She has held up exceedingly well and at 160,000 miles still appears and runs as “new”.

We have taken her throughout the mountain west, the south west, and the Pacific Northwest including the states of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, California, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Washington, Wyoming, and Oregon as well as many national parks (Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Teton, North Cascades, Zion, Bryce, Arches, Point Reyes, and others), national monuments, and state parks. It has been great adventuring.

I am putting up this post to document where we are today with our Westy and to record the history of the vehicle for future use. If you are looking for a single vehicle that “does it all” for outdoor adventuring you may find this post of interest.

The Vanagon-based Westy

The 1986 US model year (and the 1983-1984 model year in Europe) introduced a new Vanagon model with a new water-cooled 2.1 l gasoline engine (called the Wasserboxer)  and a pretty much full overhaul and update of the rest of the vehicle from the initial air-cooled Vanagon introduced in 1980-1981. Many large and small issues were fixed and the engine saw substantial improvements in power, torque, and reliability. But the real improvements came in updates to the cooling system, the exhaust, the ignition, and the interior. Of course there were still “issues” and design flaws but they have been sufficiently “platable” and the 1986-1991 Vanagon, and the Westfalia Camper version in particular, have attained “cult” status.

One key aspect of the Westy Vanagon is the combination of substantial ground clearance, the “cab over front wheels” design, and the relatively low center of gravity all of which  gives this vehicle real off-road capability, particularly if you know how to drive on such terrain. We have had ours in some pretty rough conditions and she has performed outstandingly- and gotten to where we wanted to go!

VW stopped importing the Vanagon and the Westy derivative to the US in 1991, but the vehicle continued in production elsewhere, particularly in South Africa, where the last models were made in about 2003. There were continued improvements until 2003 and some of those were made available here in the US- more on that later.

Most of the 1986-1991 Westy versions imported to the US were  based on the GL trim-level of the Vanagon. This was the highest level of trim and included upgraded upgraded upholstery, electric motor window operation,  cruise control, high-level audio (for the period), available air conditioning, and exterior trim bits.

Here is what GoWesty, the center of the universe in the US for Westfalia-lia, has to say about the 1986-1991 model years:

1986-1991: These are the best of the Vanagons. They are easily identified by their rectangular (instead of round) headlights. The ‘86 and ‘87s had smaller thin steel “bumpers,” and the ‘88-‘91s had larger fiberglass “bumpers” and an added ventilation duct at the rear of each of the rear side windows. I put “bumpers” in quotations because neither the original thin steel or plastic “bumpers” were much of a bumper. They were more of a “might as well not have any bumper” kind of bumper. Many people think that these Vanagons were better because of the increase in displacement from 1900cc to 2100cc, but in fact this was the least important change. Indeed, the two engines are essentially identical in construction and design, with the exception of a longer throw crankshaft (74mm instead of 69mm, increasing displacement from 1915cc to 2110cc), and an improved #1 main bearing design. The more important changes were: improved exhaust, ignition, fuel injection (Digifant), brakes, and (most importantly) COOLING systems. The cooling system was COMPLETELY re-worked for 1986 and stayed basically unchanged through the end of 1991 production. The new cooling system had fewer parts, was much better at keeping air out, and was an easier system to maintain. Furthermore, the newer engine block with the better #1 main bearing design was also slightly bigger inside, enabling the displacement to be increased above 2300cc.  As a rule of thumb, I tell folks to stay away from Vanagons with round headlights. The price difference between a clean 1985 camper and a 1986 camper is small compared to the difference in value; the later is a much better vehicle indeed, and worth the extra money they command. Nice, un-restored ‘86-‘87 pop-top Vanagons run about $6-8k, ‘88-‘89s run about $7-9k, and ‘90-‘91s run about $8-12k. Exceptional examples can easily fetch double those figures.

The Westfalia Vanagon Conversion Design

The Westfalia conversion of the 1986-1991 Vanagon to a camper was (is) a highly refined and well engineered solution. This is based on decades of  experience that Westfalia accreted in such conversions. In fact the basic layout of the interior space used by Westfalia for the 1986-1991 Vanagon is still currently used in the only “Vanagon/Westy-like” vehicles available today- the Mercedes V-Class-based Marco Polo* and the VW California Van (neither of which are currently imported to the US). Even with the Sportsmobile conversion of the Mercedes “Sprinter” van in the US, the most popular layout (150S) is based on this design. I think this fully validates the concept that this layout is pretty much optimized. More on the Marco Polo later, but I will just note here that the MB Marco Polo is the current adventure vehicle used by mountain athlete Kilian Jornet. I will also note that MB bought Westfalia in 2001 and the Westfalia group were given “carte blanche” to make a camper out of the V-Class van. And what a great product they brought to market!

Interior Layout

Sleeping Accommodations

The interior space planning for the Westy is genius in application. The design is based on attaining comfortable accommodation for two adults and two children- the prototypical customer for the camper. As such two “double” beds are provided via a pull-out/reclining rear seat combined with the rear cargo area and a fold-down mattress in the forward-facing pop-top. It was intended that the parents would sleep in the more cushioned lower bed and the children in the upper “bunk”.

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Rear “rock and roll” seat folded down to make the lower bed. We have added a “memory foam” topper to both the lower and upper beds- mucho comfortable!

Pop-Top

The pop-top is the fundamental feature that makes the vehicle so livable as it not only provides a sleeping space but also provides headroom throughout the interior space- and views through the very large, zippered, screened vents in the canvas tenting enclosing the pop-top area (we have replaced the original tenting with the OEM updated version which has three vents- one on the front and one on each side of the three sided configuration; the original tenting has just the front vent).

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Top popped on a nice campsite above a lake in the Grand Escalante National Monument on a kayaking, mountain biking, and running trip in one of our favorite places in the Spring.

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At a campsite  at Wilderness Gateway which is in the easternmost extent of the Pacific Northwest rain forest along the Lochsa River in Western Idaho and southwestern Montana. The pop top is fitted with the optional rainfly in anticipation of six continuous days of rain. We highly recommend the rainfly as it protects the upper bed and extends over the luggage compartment above the cab allowing for dry storage of gear during rain events. Oh… and the Fiamma levelers are a great way to get your camper level for a good nights sleep.

Kitchen and Dining

The kitchen is highly functional and super efficient. It has a two burner stainless steel propane stove (with a pull-down stainless steel draining rack which covers the burners during clean-up), a stainless steel sink with a faucet plumbed to the 55 l water tank with electric pump, and a 3-way power refrigerator (propane, 12 V battery, and line voltage) underneath the stove area. The entire stove and sink area is made from seamless stainless steel ensuring that any water or food is contained should there be a spill or boil-over. Under the sink area is a drawer for utensils and a pantry and pot cabinet. When used in conjunction with the front seat table swung around to serve as a chopping and prep area the kitchen system forms a great work environment for cooking any level of meal. Another “dining” table that is stored above the storage cubbies next to the rear seat also rotates out to sit in front of the rear seat. Also the passenger front seat rotates to face the rear and the prep table can rotate over to provide a surface for eating or other activities. We have had up to 6 full sized adults in the van for dinner on a particularly raining evening, but 4 adults is most comfortable. The drivers seat also rotates but we never use it rotated.

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The two burner propane stove and sink area concealed under the hinged cover.

Views

Having a view from within the camper is very important for both aesthetic reasons and for safety- it is good to know what is going on around you in remote areas. The amount of continuous glass around the entire interior is one thing that makes the Westy design so superior to other such van-based campers. From the inside you get a panoramic view of your surroundings- surroundings which can be breathtaking given the ability of this vehicle to get to remote locations and primo camping spots! Many other van-based campers cut off the view from the inside with cabinets, etc. or they do not provide much glass at all. The Westy is about as good as it gets with respect to this.

The Westy as a “lifetime” vehicle

Why does one see so many pristine Vanagon Westys? Well…. one reason- GoWesty. This California-based company (Los Ossos) is, as I indicated earlier, the center of the universe for Westys in the US (and Canada, and other places as well). Lucas and his team at GoWesty have thoroughly and methodically gone through the Westy and improved, enhanced, and further developed everything from the engine to the brakes to the cooling system to the sleeping to the refrigeration…. you name it and they have had a hand in making the vehicle more reliable and more functional. GoWesty has also been restoring Westys to specifications (and prices) that are mind bending. A typical fully restored and updated 1986-1991 Vanagon Westy can sell for in excess of $70,000 after GoWesty is finished with it. It is essentially a new vehicle the likes of which is not available in the US at this time. Many think having such a “new” Westy is worth the price as GoWesty is currently booked out for over a year. Because of GoWesty, so long as you maintain the body and chassis and prevent rusting, the mechanicals can be replaced with updated versions with improved performance thereby making the Westy a possible “lifetime” vehicle.

Our Westy remained “stock” until June of 2008 when at 130,000 miles the original 2.1 l engine and cooling system were in need of overhauls. We contacted GoWesty and sent her off to “Westy Camp” for a full re-do. It was tough to see her disappear into the distance on a transporter but, knowing that there were many more good times to be had as a result, we were confident that this was good investment. And an investment it is- we spent a significant amount to bring her up to snuff just as anyone who has one will tell you. But, to us it is very much worth it, particularly considering that there are no similar vehicles available in the US today.

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Our Westy being loaded onto a transporter in June of 2008 for a trip to GoWesty for a full rehab.

We had a new 2.5 l engine and new transmission installed as well as bigger front disc brakes, an overhaul and updating of the cooling system, a full suspension upgrade, new exhaust, an auxiliary battery, a new propane tank, new OEM tenting, a 10′ Fiamma awning, and a slew of reliability items that GoWesty has a program for fixing. Also we got the beefy and nicely padded leather South African Steering Wheel- a big and very welcome upgrade from the spindly original (unfortunately I do not see this listed on the GoWesty site anymore). It took three months but we had the Westy delivered back just in time for some great Fall camping. It was essentially a new and very updated vehicle- nice! In particular, the increased power and torque of the 2.5 l engine makes a remarkable difference in the performance of the Westy on highways and off-road and you will still get 20-22 mpg. As far as we are concerned it has been a great investment and a joy to own.

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Fully outfitted at a campsite in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains. The awning is critical in the Mountain West for comfort as the sun is very intense for most afternoons and into the evenings in the summer.

If you think the Westy might be a something to look into, use the GoWesty site as it contains an entire library of technical artciles on buying, refurbishing, updating, and using a Westy. One thing that is important- there is no such thing as a “cheap” Westy as examples that sell for low prices typically end up being “black holes” of repairs and needed updates. If you fully familiarize yourself with the Westy and look at any available vehicle with a critical and educated eye you will be well served.

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On the banks of the Salomon River for some Spring whitewater kayaking.

After these 23 years we remain pleased with our Westy and the adventures it opens up for us- perhaps one will do the same for you.

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With our loyal companion- dogs love the Westy as it is a comforting and safe place.

*There is a remote chance that Mercedes will import the Marco Polo to the US as they have recently brought in the V-Class van in it’s most stripped down version. Here in the US they call it the Metris. Some US and Canadian outfits are looking at converting the Metris into a camper aftermarket but the execution of the Marco Polo is so good I will be waiting to see what develops. One issue with the Marco Polo for the US is that although it is available with 4 wheel drive, it does not have good ground clearance- something that is critical to getting around to remote places in the Mountain West. Also, it is estimated that the Marco Polo would be priced at about $85,000-$100,000 here due to import fees, etc. Here is a video of the Marco Polo Activity that Mercedes brought into the US for the Metris launch in June 2015. The “Activity” is the little brother of the full camper Marco Polo- it has the pop top and sleeping accommodations but no kitchen and associated stuff like the propane and water tanks:

 

 

2015 – Numbers for the Year, Training Recap, and 2016 Goals

My training “year” follows a December to December pattern due to a transition from trail running to nordic skiing right around late November- early December. It is a good time to tally the numbers, do some critical review, compare with 2012, 2013,  and 2014, and put together a training plan for the coming year.

Note: I am putting up this post primarily for my own use as an easy to access depository of the information and analysis. Writing such a post requires that one go through the exercise of analyzing, reviewing, summarizing, and deriving some sort of direction from the year of training and racing results. This analysis was typically in my training log journal but since there is a chance that others might find some value in this, I am putting it up here. If you have any questions/comments feel free to post such in the comment section.

This summarizes the fourth year of focused training and racing for mountain ultra trail running and Nordic skiing. There is good progress in most areas with one continuing and major deficiency- fueling for ultramarathons. More on fueling later.

The, now started, fifth year is a critical one for me as the primary long term goal I established at the outset of this return to racing is:

Starting in the fifth year of the program to have attained and maintained a high level of fitness combined with a calm competitiveness that I once enjoyed as a “prime-time” athlete back in the Pleistocene.

The metrics that I will gauge myself against for this goal are:

  1. Being no more than 10% back from the winning time in races that include National-level athletes, and no more than 15% back in races that include International-level athletes.
  2. Establishing age group course records in trail running.
  3. Always winning my age group.

All of these are challenging goals- the 10%/15% back challenge of #1 in particular. After considerable thought it has become clear that as a 60 yo trail runner and Nordic skier it is difficult to gauge one’s performances as there are so few participants in this age category. However course records, where kept, do serve as an all time, all comers metric against which one can evaluate performance in a more competitive and complete way. So doing some races with age-group course records in mind will be a focus.  Course records in skiing are not generally kept as they are not a good benchmark since the snow conditions on race day play a major role in speed. Now on to the 2015 Numbers and training recap.

The Numbers

2015

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2014

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Training Recap

2015 started off with a big set-back. I crashed out while skiing on a rutted hairpin turn at West Yellowstone in late November 2014 and injured my right rotator cuff. After a denial period it became abundantly clear that the injury was not going to heal with continued training and it may even not heal without surgery. Any level of cross country skiing was not possible given the dependence on shoulder strength. Even running was quite painful as the impulse response in the shoulder is significant (something that I had not realized until this point). So I needed to attend to this with some sort of treatment plan.

As I have fundamental distrust of the medical “profession” in the United States, I minimize any exposure to the soothsayers and profit-mongers. So after the requisite “evaluation” session with the orthopede, where, before even an MRI had been obtained, I was being scheduled for surgery, I put the brakes on that and proceeded to work with a PT to ascertain if healing could be accomplished without a surgery that is only, at best, 50% successful in the long term. The PT indicated that, based on her experience, it was apparent that there was either a severe strain or a tear in the subscapularis muscle and that, given my response to PT in the first couple of sessions, may allow for recovery via compensation (as tears do not heal without intervention) and that I might end up asymptomatic in a 9 to 12 month period. This is the path that I took and, with a focused PT treatment plan that I fully and enthusiastically executed upon, by April I was running at full volume with only minor shoulder pain and by June I was able to also re-start advanced strength training, including substantial upper body work. By November I was entirely asymptomatic, although I do not know exactly how durable I will be. Time (and crashes) will tell.

Of course this injury totally eliminated the 2014-2015 competitive cross country skiing season as I was only able to ski with no poles or only lightly use poles. So the Winter of 2015 was all about running, snowshoeing, and low level cross country skiing. I re-developed a taste for Winter running that, given that 2015 was a low snow year, was enjoyable mainly due to the fact that many of the summer trails were either “open” entirely or had been well packed. This allowed for a smooth transition into the running season without the painful “impact accommodation” period that always follows the very low impact cross country skiing season. Of course the early-March to early-April “ice” season was still extant and without the Salomon SnowCross and SpikeCross shoes conditions would have been lethal. Comparison of the 2015 numbers with 2014 numbers shows an increase in number of running sessions and a similar reduction in cross country skiing sessions reflecting the early switch to running.

The disappointment associated with the early season skiing injury was major. I had worked throughout the summer and fall of 2014 to build upper body strength, particularly max strength. This was spurred on by my realization years ago from observations made at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver (actually Whistler)  that the largest lever to improvement in cross country skiing is to develop a powerful double pole capability. The double pole technique has equal impact on both classic technique skiing where double poling is  a fundamental stroke and in freestyle technique skiing (skating) as the classic double pole motion is nearly exactly replicated in the V2 (or 2-skate) and to a lesser extent in the V1 (or 1-skate). So improvement of this ability has impact across the spectrum of motions that are used in cross country skiing. I also realized in the 2013-2014 season that I could double pole away from my fellow masters competitors and that, even at age 58, I was able to stay with the leaders particularly easily in double pole sections of races. I was doing this with a base that only included double pole roller skiing in summer and fall, dryland hill bounding, and on-track double pole workouts in season but with no specific strength training. After reading Training for the New Alpinism I realized that a max strength program as described in the book would likely result in significant increased capability for double poling. I followed a plan similar to that presented in the book and realized significant increase in double poling power and was very excited to see how this would play out during the 2014-2015 competitive season. Well, that season never happened but I am pleased to report that given continued focus on strength training, and max strength in particular, the 2015-2016 competitive season is looking good. Estimates from time trials and three races indicate that I am 2-3 minutes faster per 10 km (8-10% faster) in equivalent conditions this season even though I am now just weeks shy of 60 years of age. This just goes to show that there is always room for improvement, at least at this point.

I typically target about 700 hours of training as this volume has served me well for preparing for endurance sport competition over the past 40 years. At 908 hours, the year turned out significantly higher but this is because I am logging “active recovery” as part of training as my coach insists that it is critical to know what, if any, active recovery is taking place to ensure competitive health. Excluding the “active recovery” I have a total of about 700 hours in sports-specific (nordic skiing and running, and associated strength training) training. Of course, these volume data are only of value when viewed through a “time in zone” optic as will be reviewed below.

As for distance, it is remarkable that I have run almost exactly the same yearly total distance the past 4 years in a row- 2098 miles (2015), 2087 miles (2014), 2065 miles (2013), and 2067 miles (2012). The differences from season to season have been in the zone distribution and the addition of significant (about 2 per week) interval sessions the past two years (2014 and 2015). In skiing the distance is of course way down (due to the injury) at 1211 miles (2015) vs. 1848 miles (2014) and 1796 miles (2013) but still significantly less than 2012 (2120 miles). Without the injury, the season total would have been in excess of 2000 miles with significant (2 per week) interval sessions. That’s the target for this season.

I kept a focus on vertical ascention again and succeeded in exceeding 500,000 feet. Equaling or exceeding last years  600,000 foot mark was not attained partly due to the lack of skiing, as the total vertical for running is about the same from 2015 and 2014. The total this year is an average of about 1400 vertical feet per running workout which is about 350 feet less of vertical per running workout in 2015 vs. 2014. 2016 includes a goal to get the average vertical ascention per running session up to about 2000 feet as I continue to focus on very mountainous races.

I have extracted out the interval session data. I kept up the “Tenacious Tuesday” and “Ferocious Friday” weekly interval sessions with mostly lactate threshold workouts on Tuesday (hence “tenacious”) and VO2 max workouts on Friday (hence “ferocious”). Such intensity work was critical to performance and maintenance of  VO2 max and I am finding validity in this approach as summarized and detailed by Joe Friel in the book “Fast After 50” . Friel reiterates over and over how important the intensity work is, particularly for “senior” athletes. I can feel the very positive effects of committing to consistent inclusion of these sessions, both in running and in skiing. The intervals have a different impact (excuse the pun) in running than in skiing but it is all positive and necessary to be competitive. I note here that I have always enjoyed intervals- something that is not common. There is something about the structure and sense of accomplishment that comes with a regular diet of interval sessions.

On the subject of structure, I continue to find a regular weekly pattern to be most effective for training. This is something that I have adhered to for much of my athletic life, and when I tried other, less regular, approaches my fitness has fallen off.

So I will continue with the general weekly structure that I have had in place since the Pleistocene:

Sunday – long (endurance)

Monday – easy/off + strength

Tuesday – lactate threshold intervals (“tenacious” Tuesday)

Wednesday – long (endurance)

Thursday – easy/off + strength

Friday – VO2max intervals (“ferocious” Friday)

Saturday – FLEX: catch-up for missed stimuli, tempo efforts, long (endurance) to provide back-to-back efforts when appropriate w/Sunday long (endurance), etc.

This leads to a 14-20 hour week which I find manageable from both an energy and time perspective. In practice I end up looking forward to these workouts partly because of the weekly variety but also due to The Power of Habit (a book I highly recommend).

Microscopics

I am not going to present the full suite of microscopics (time series of distance, time, vertical ascention, and TRIMP) as I have in the past. I have not found the results to be of much use in analyzing and planning forward-going training. The microscopics are of value for context and other, more general information, but they do not play a significant role in planning, particularly in the ultra running season as races play such havoc with training flow given the significant taper and follow-on rest.

Training zone distribution is pretty much determined  by the regular inclusion of significant weekly interval sessions, however it is important to monitor training zone during the “easy” training sessions as it is all too difficult to keep out of the zone 3 “no man’s land” that will sap one’s ability to truly embrace  the intervals with the zone 4 and L5a-c efforts. Presented below is my training zone distribution for the 2015 running season.

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and compared to 2014 and 2013:

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As can be seen, in 2015 I managed to minimize time spent in zone 3 whilst maintaining significant fractions of total time in zones 2 and 4. This is the distribution of time in zones that I have been attempting to achieve for the past few years. The primary reason for attaining this result is the two-per-week interval session regimen that I held myself to. Another reason is that I increased the zone 5 work from about three percent to over 8 percent. I did this specifically to work on VO2 max as this is a capability that is continually challenged in older athletes, as reviewed by Friel in Fast After 50. As a younger athlete I had a very high measured VO2 max (low 80’s) so this is a capability that is important for me to maintain and, perhaps, develop. If one were to put any confidence in the algorithm that Garmin includes on the 920XT, it tells me that my VO2 max is currently 73, which seems a bit high but not outside of possibility. The 2016 program will continue with the VO2 max work but I will be adding some long, high zone 3/low zone 4 efforts to the mix as this is one capacity that I have not been concentrating on and may lead to a increased ability to respond in a dynamic way in races, particularly in the much shorter (30 min-2.5 hour) ski races.

As far as ultra running racing it was deja vu all over again with an inability to properly fuel after about 20 miles (32 km). I did two very mountainous races (100 km with 17,000 vert and 60 km with 11,000 vert). Both ended in disappointment even though I felt great about the training. The first 100 km was challenging because I went to the start line with a sore throat and although things went well for about 30 km once we climbed up to the high point of 10,000 feet at about 40 km, I started to loose consciousness and realized that racing was not a good idea. I was unable to consume anything from about 25 km on and this surely contributed to the consciousness issues . I made my way down to the 50 km point and dropped. In the 60 km race, once again an inability to fuel as a critical  3500 foot (1100 m) climb came up at the 35 km mark. Just as in the same race last year, I slowed down and let my stomach settle and then continued on to finish the race strong but not anywhere near what my potential is on that course if I can get the fueling down.

Based on my reading, the number one issue for competitive ultra runners is the ability to fuel throughout a race. As I said last year I need to either overcome this issue or move on. I have been encouraged by the content in a couple of recent podcasts on “Science of Ultra” specifically about fueling. If you have not checked out these podcasts I highly recommend that you do- they are very informative and the guests are respected scientists in their respective fields, not unqualified “experts” with very questionable “opinions”. These “posers” seem to have completely permeated the podcast world.  I will be practicing fueling on all runs (even shorter runs)- something that I have not been doing and something that is said to be critical to allow your system to accommodate the discomfort associated with fueling whilst pushing. Such practice may also allow for “upregulation” of carbohydrate absorption- a good thing.

Strength

I continued with a  specific strength training program this year. Included is a broad spectrum of units that work maximum strength, core, and what I call “stability” micro-muscle groups in the knees, ankles, and arms. The maximum strength program- a modified version of the program outlined in “The New Alpinism” book by House and Johnston- is designed to recruit and synchronize a number of major motor units. These exercises have made a big difference in power in double poling in skiing and has increased core stability on long runs. The protocol involves weight vested, max ability, low rep, pull-ups building to about 150% of body weight. I highly recommend such a program as it is a “strength not show” protocol to ensure that excessive muscle mass is not developed- an important consideration for endurance athletes where power to weight ratio is supreme. I also found that garhammers and weight vested step-ups to be very effective for power development in  both skiing and running. The version of garhammers that I do includes a 90 degree hold in the arms (rather than just hanging from the pull up bar) whilst proceeding with the full sequence of raises, including the leg extensions. This produces additional tension and challenge right the way through from the shoulders to the calfs- all in synchrony- a critical factor often overlooked. All of these exercises can easily be done at home in a minimum of space- no need to join or go to a gym facility.

2016

2016 goals include the three general goals outlined above to be facilitated by more racing than I have done in the past. In running I will concentrate on the 50 km-50 mile distance to try and develop an ability to fuel throughout a race. The plan is to do a 50 km race in April, a 50 miler in May, a 50 km in June, a 50 km in July, spend the rest of July adventuring in Idaho’s Sawtooths and White Cloud Mountain ranges, a 60 km in August, and  50 miler in the fall sometime. I will also be doing some shorter races when they coordinate with training. Hopefully this racing program combined with the fueling strategy above will work and I will be able to start finishing races on something other than wisps of carbohydrate vapor! Also a target of averaging about 2000 vertical feet per running session is in place since I will continue with a concentration on very mountainous racing.

As far as skiing, the plan is to finish this season strong with good performances in the February and March races leading up to Masters Nationals in late March where, based on results so far this season, I should be in contention for the win in the classic race and to be a threat in the freestyle (skating) race. Over the summer I will concentrate on  specific strength, double pole roller skiing, and hill bounding.  All of this is focused upon putting in place the best skiing fitness and tactical racing I can muster for the 2017 World Masters in Switzerland in late January.

Salomon S Lab X Alp Mid-layer Hoodie – Review

Salomon introduced a new line (called  X Alp) of mountaineering and ski mountaineering clothing, footwear, and packs late last year for a spring 2015 launch. The intention of the line is to facilitate “light and fast” adventures into the mountains whether by foot or by skis. The products are light, include new and/or innovative fabrics and constructions, and they are very tailored to the intended use. Only a limited selection of the line is available in the US and I purchased a couple of items and have now put these through some extended use this fall and, now, into winter. The item reviewed here is the X Alp Mid-layer Hoodie.  Whilst this piece is presented as a “fast-and-light mountaineering” garment, it turns out to be very versatile in other such high-output endeavors and I am surprised with how often I use it  either separately or as part of an upper body system.

S Lab X Alp Mid-layer Hoodie

The X Alp Mid-layer Hoodie looks like a rather pedestrian 3/4-zip mid-layer but upon inspection and use one realizes how versatile this piece is.

X Alp Mid front

Salomon S Lab X Alp Mid-layer Hoodie constructed of Polartec PowerGrid fabric and stretch woven wind-resistant overlays in strategic areas. This design yields a very versatile top in a number of high-output activities including running and cross country skiing.

The construction consists of a 3/4-zip design utilizing a lightweight base fabric of highly breathable Polartec PowerGrid with strategic areas (chest, hood, and wrists/forearms) additionally over-layed with a stretch woven wind resistant fabric. I find these overlays to be critical to the versatility of the mid-layer. A typical mid-layer without the wind resistant overlays has limited use as the high breathability of the PowerGrid fabric (or other typical fabrics used for such midlayers) would lead to poor performance in the presence of even a mild wind at cool to cold temperatures (about 40F/5C and below). The addition of the over-lays makes this piece an excellent stand alone garment in a wide variety of conditions, something that many other mid layers are not capable of. The additional warmth and wind protection in these strategic areas leads to surprising overall comfort combined with excellent breathability. The overlays also are somewhat water repellent and in light rain have allowed for continued performance for an hour or more.

The close-fitting, helmet-compatible hood is comfortably snug and is cut so as to not restrict peripheral views. With the stretch woven overlay, this hood is warm even in windy conditions.

The fit is what Salomon calls “active fit” which is a close fit but not tight. I find this fit to be comfortable, but, according to my wife, I represent a good example of a “skin and bones” user ( BMI below 20). Salomon have also designed the X Alp midlayer with their “Motion Fit” program that intends to facilitate large amplitude, dynamic, bind-free motions. The design also includes thumb loops, something that I seldom use, but something that I can imagine how they may be functional for some users in certain situations.

The zipper is asymmetric and closes to the right of the mouth eliminating that annoying “zipper-over-mouth” discomfort typical of many other mid-layers when fully zipped. Instead you have the soft, highly breathable PowerGrid material over your mouth- much better!

I have extensively used the X Alp midlayer both on trail runs  and while cross country skiing in a variety of conditions ranging from sunny and cool (<40F/5C) to sunny and well below zero F/-18C, to rain showers and cool (30-50 F/0-10C) temperatures. The X Alp midlayer performed very well in all instances. I have also used the X Alp Mid-layer on some high (>10,000 feet/3000 m) mountain adventures as a stand alone piece and in combination with a technical top layer in some adverse weather (snow, rain, hail, and high (>60 mph/ 100 kmph) winds). Performance has been exceptional.

For running, I have found the midlayer to be a highly versatile stand-alone top that I now use for all of cold weather (<40F/5C) runs whether it be sunny, lightly raining, or snowing. Combining the midlayer with a wind shell (like the S lab Light Jacket) or, if it is raining hard, the S Lab Hybrid Jacket, the versatility is even more remarkable. I have found this mid-layer to perform well in day-to-day winter conditions trail runs in valleys or in the mountains, on day long cool-to-cold mountain adventures, and as a midlayer for cross country skiing on cold (near zero F/-18C) days in combination with a performance top layer (e.g. S Lab Motion Fit Jacket).

The close-fit, helmet-compatible hood is critical for comfort in high wind and cooler temperatures. In a typical cool-to-cold weather trail run here in the Northern Rockies, it is most comfortable to have the hood down in the valleys and protected areas but once up on the ridges deployment of the hood makes all the difference. The hood is also a welcome addition for cross country skiing where it replaces the more common “babushka lady” arrangement of a buff brought up the back side of the head combined with a hat that the Norwegians have made popular. The hood option is a simpler, less fussy, and more versatile option in my opinion, but not often seen on the ski trails. Perhaps in time we will see more hoods in cross country skiing.

Price

$160 US. A bit on the expensive side but, given the versatility of the X Alp midlayer hoodie, a good value given how often one will likely use it from Fall through Winter and into Spring.

Bottom Line

The Salomon S Lab X Alp Midlayer Hoodie is a highly versatile, lightweight, and stand-alone winter running top and midlayer for cross country skiing. Combined with a wind shell, a water-resistant/waterproof overlayer, or a technical top layer (e.g. the companion S Lab X Alp Smartskin Jacket) a wide variety of high-output activities in mountain conditions can be comfortably pursued. Highly recommended.

 

 

Protect your skin

As mountain athletes we spend a great deal of time outdoors and, for many, much of this time is at high altitude. Solar exposure alone can be dangerous at any altitude but the combination of time and high altitude leads to excessive UV solar loads, loads that can be very dangerous for development of skin cancers. At 60 years of age I am now seeing too many friends and acquaintances dealing with the consequences of insufficient protection from these accumulative solar loads, some ending in very sad circumstances.

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Do take the protection of your skin seriously and use products that have been shown to truly block UV wavelengths. My experience is that any product must incorporate fine particle physical inorganic blockers in order to truly block the UV. These physical blockers include Zn and Ti oxides that, because they are wide bandgap materials, absorb and/or reflect the UV radiation. If the oxide particles are sufficiently pure there will also be no re-emission processes via impurity energy levels in the bandgap. So look for products that include high purity inorganic physical blockers.

Kilian has recently teamed up with ISDIN to get the message out:

 

Insurance…

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Given the recent announcement by Salomon of the shoe that will replace the S Lab X-Series- the S Lab Sonic, a shoe that does not even have speed laces (heresy!), I stocked up on a couple of X-Series. Hopefully Salomon (and Max King) did not ruin the X-Series with the Sonic although the inclusion of regular laces as standard is a very bad omen. We shall see…

Salomon Sense Propulse – Review – Salomon goes “Hoka-nuts”

Salomon announced the Sense Propulse (and the slightly cheaper, slightly heavier Sense Pulse) earlier this year. The highly cushioned shoe, as described in the press release, sounded a lot like yet another Hoka-like offering from a brand that has, in the past, eschewed this highly cushioned trend in running shoes. In fact this shoe perhaps represents a bit of a “mea culpa”  for Salomon since the founders of Hoka (Nicolas Mermoud and Jean-Luc Diard) were designers/executives with Salomon when Salomon chose not to pursue their design path toward maximum cushioned shoes. They left the company and started Hoka– the rest is obvious to even the casual observer.

So what does Salomon have to offer in the increasingly crowded field of highly cushioned running shoes? Well, in one word- EndoFit. As you may be aware, Salomon brought a new construction technology to trail running shoes with the Sense line (initially in the S Lab Sense (Gen I)). The construction is called “EndoFit” by Salomon and involves a separate, inner sock-like layer under the upper that snugly engages with one’s foot and produces one of the most (and, if not, the most) comfortable high performance trail shoe fitting systems currently available. Reviews of the Salomon EndoFit construction across the trail running community are nearly unanimous with respect to the superiority of the design. The combination of EndoFit with higher cushioning leads to a quite pleasant experience as will be detailed below.

My shoe closet is littered with numerous Hoka and Altra shoes that have just not worked for me*. The origin of my dislike of the shoes is in the lack of a stable and secure engagement of the shoe with my foot thereby leading to deficient trail performance in the form of a loose platform on top of a mushy midsole. Lateral movement vectors combined with even semi-technical trails is a recipe for inefficient and, at times, sketchy response. Proprioception is marginal at best. Add to this the increasingly reported “knee issues” with highly cushioned shoes and these combined factors have led to my shying away from the maximialist movement. I note that being 5’7″, 125 lbs, with about 7% body fat may not translate well to the use of such maximalist running shoes. At this “low end” weight range I can definitely feel that, independent of the poor engagement with the shoe, I am floating and moving laterally well above the outsole. This may be due to insufficient deflection of the midsole EVA which could potentially lead to a deficient “set” into the shoe. I have not seen any data on the elastic properties of the EVA compound that is being utilized but I know that these properties are non-linear and highly strain rate sensitive, so there may be a materials-based reason for my experience. A heavier runner might have an entirely different experience (more “set” and stiffer material response due to higher strain rates) so please keep that in mind when reading this review. However, for me, the ride is better in the Sense Propulse when compared to the other highly cushioned shoes I have tried; details follow.

I have put about 50 km on the Sense Propulse mostly on trail with some road running as well so these are initial impressions and I will follow up with updates as usual.

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Salomon Sense Propulse- Salomon’s entry into the highly-cushioned trail running shoe market.

 Construction

Overall the Propulse has a significant “rocker” geometry very much like that seen on many Hoka models. The “rocker” promotes a forefoot stride, helps with toe-off, and prevents the highly cushioned forefoot from impeding forward movement. These are all things that Hoka brought to the market years ago, so nothing new or different here.

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Salomon Sense Propulse profile view showing the prominent “rocker” geometry very much like that seen in many Hoka models.

All of the Salomon fit technologies are present including Endofit (a separate inner sock-like element engaging the foot), Sensifit (outer polymer overlays integrated with the Quicklace system), and the Quicklace system. A removable Ortholite sock liner is also present.

The shoe is quite flexible for such a cushioned construction which is partly enabled by the use of the Salomon ProFeel film technology that provides protection from rocks, etc. The ProFeel film allows for thinner and more flexible constructions whilst still giving significant rock protection and better trail/road proprioception. Such improved proprioception is one of the factors that distinguish the Propulse from many other highly cushioned shoes.

These size US 7.5 (40 2/3 EUR) weigh in at 335 gms (11.8 oz) which is on the high end of weight for a racing shoe. This shoe is not a Salomon racing product as it is intended for general training and road/trail running in the “CityTrail” concept that Salomon is currently pushing. See Salomon for further explanation of what “CityTrail” means as it seems rather artificial to me…. nor does the concept make much sense either.

Midsole

The Propulse midsole consists of a 30 mm (heel), 24 mm (forefoot) stack. This is provided via a dual density EVA midsole arrangement where a compression molded EVA element runs the length of the shoe and cushier injected EVA is used in cavities in the forefoot. This provides additional cushioning in the forefoot without increasing the stack height. The stack height is similar to a Hoka Clifton but the Sense Propulse comes in at a significantly greater weight (335 gms vs. the Clifton’s 212 gms for the same US size 7.5 equivalent).

Upper

The upper is a very breathable hexagonal knit outer mesh bonded to a denser very thin inner layer. The entire upper is quite cool and drains water well and therefore dries fairly quickly, at least in the low humidity conditions typical here in the Northern Rocky Mountains.

The ankle cup is symmetric and there is stiff structure around the ankle cup and heel. A solid polymer element is integrated into the back of the heel. A continuous polymer overlay across the toe area and a robust toe bumper are present.

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A closer look at the upper materials including the upper mesh material, toe bumper, and thicker polymer overlay across the toe area.

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A Closer look at the lateral portion of the upper of the Salomon Sense Propulse.

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Plan view of the Salomon Sense Propulse “CityTrail” running shoe.

Outsole

The outsole of the Propulse is made from Salomon’s proprietary “ContraGrip” rubber material with an array of three-pronged asterisk-like grip topology features. A much smaller version of this pattern is used in portions of the outsole of the S Lab X-Series. A smoother, higher wear, carbon rubber heel (rubber with imbedded particulate carbon that significantly increases the toughness of the material). The outsole is, in a general sense, very similar to that of the original Hoka Stinson EVO.

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The outsole of the Salomon Sense Propulse showing the “asterisk-like” pattern through the forefoot and midfoot and a smooth carbon rubber heel element.

Outsole Planting Area

One of the primary design elements in many of the current highly cushioned running shoe options is a significantly increased outsole planting area. Hoka found that a combination of high cushioning with a larger planting area lead to the best running experience for such designs. Salomon have followed suit with the Propulse as the outsole area is much larger than any of their other running shoe offerings. The outsole area is quite similar, once again, the the Hoka Stinson EVO. Presented below is a comparison of outsole widths with the Hoka Stinson EVO and some Salomon racing shoe products.

Salomon Propulse width

Comparison of outsole widths for Salomon Sense Propulse, Hoka Stinson EVO, Salomon S Lab X-Series, and Salomon S Lab Sense 4. A ll measurements taken from US size 7.5 (40 2/3 EUR) equivalents.

As can be seen the Sense Propulse is a slightly slimmed down Stinson, but is much wider in the heel than other Salomon comparison shoes. It should be noted that just 2 mm difference in width between shoes is very noticeable. Here we see much smaller differences in the forefoot width maximum on very different shoes but very large differences (up to 22 mm) in the heel width maximum. This indicates that the very wide heel element is critical to stability and comfort with the highly cushioned shoes. This makes sense from the reality of significant lateral motion vectors facilitated by the high cushion. With high cushioning and a narrow heel one might truly “tip over” whereas the wider heel will provide stability and a higher level of comfort.

Running Performance

As indicated earlier, I have put about 50 km of mostly trail running on the Propulse so far. This has been on dry trail with a mix of about 60% smooth single track, 40% technical single track, and numerous water crossings.

The feel of the shoe is very much like the Hoka Clifton from a cushioning perspective but has a much improved foot engagement that leads to enhanced trail feel, a sense of better stability, and increased confidence out of the box. This, I think, is due to the EndoFit system incorporated into the Propulse. Having a secure, slipper-like upper structure that integrates fluidly to the midsole and outsole just totally changes the running experience for the better when compared to other highly cushioned offerings. These are very comfortable shoes that will suit long, L1-L2 effort runs where either roads or trail are likely to adversely affect your feet.

The Propulse rides much better than the Hoka Stinson EVO primarily from the excellent proprioception, but there is also much less of a “dash pot” feel with each stride- something that has always been disconcerting with the other highly cushioned shoes that I have tried (with the exception of the Hoka Clifton). However, the increased weight of the Propulse (when compared to the Clifton or other racing shoes) is quite noticeable and detracts from an otherwise very pleasant experience. This is particularly significant for lighter runners where weight plays an increasingly important role.

Grip has been sufficient for dry trail conditions although I have not had these shoes on a complete spectrum of technical trail. Wet grip has been good as expected from the very large area, flattish outsole and, as mentioned earlier, the shoes drain and dry well.

I can recommend the Salomon Sense Propulse as a highly cushioned shoe with very good trail feel and high comfort. But this stability, trail feel, and comfort comes at the price of increased weight when compared to other similar highly cushioned shoes. Perhaps Salomon will bring a lower weight S Lab version out- not likely given the current ethos for S Lab products.

I’ll be putting more miles on these shoes in the near future but in the meantime they will be used for some long runs with significantly long downhill sections and also included in late race drop bags as potential replacement for the X-Series should my feet get beat up. Stay tuned.

Price

$150 US. Pricey, considering the weight but Salomon are offering a highly cushioned shoe with good proprioception and a secure platform, something that is typically not evident in the current highly cushioned product offerings.

Bottom Line

Salomon fit with Hoka Clifton cushioning at Stinson weight. Life is compromise!

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*  I have put reasonable mileage on the Hoka Stinson Evo, Huaka, Challenger ATR, and Clifton and the Altra Olympus. While I still put a pair of these maximalist shoes in my drop bag at later aid stations in longer races with significant late-race downhills, I have only twice used them in a race situation. The lack of proprioception with these shoes late in a long race is a bit alarming and possibly dangerous, at least for me.