Salomon S Lab Sense Ultra Review – Final Update

The Salomon Sense Ultra shoes that I have reviewed and provided an update for on 17 July 2013 have been sent to the bin. I put on another 260 km (160 miles) since the update when they had about 1200 km (750 miles) of trail wear on a 50% rocky technical/50% buffed single track terrain environment. This gives a total of about 1460 km (907 miles) of wear before failure or US$0.12/km or US$0.20/mile. In my experience this is excellent wear and a reasonable cost per distance metric- particularly given the weight of this shoe.

Upper

I retired these shoes because the hole that I documented earlier has grown to such a size that small gravel is now routinely getting into the shoe via this hole and said small gravel is making it’s way under my foot, thereby making running uncomfortable.

L1020652

In the last 160 km (100 miles) the hole in the mesh upper has grown to a point where small gravel rountinely gets inside the shoe.

L1020653

A closer look at the developing and growing hole on the right shoe.

L1020655

…. and a similar wear pattern on the left shoe- but no hole yet.

Midsole

The interior of the shoe shows no wear out areas and the cushioning, although not what it was in the first 1000 kms (600 miles), is holding up. I can now feel a bit of discomfort at the tibialis anterior/posterior during and after long (35 km+) runs. If I switch to a newer pair of Sense Ultras this discomfort goes away so I think that the midsole cushioning has reached a critical point in the high use shoes. This critical point seems to be around 1000-1200 km (600-750 miles) for my use and terrain.

Outsole

The outsole has proven to be remarkably durable with no excessive wear any place on the surface and still plenty of grip after these 1460 kms (907 miles). As a supinator, the outside edges have preferential wear particularly at the heel as I have seen on all of the shoes I have ever worn. Too bad the upper failed as I expect I could get many more kms (miles) out of these.

L1020660

The outsole of the right shoe with highest wear at the heel and the outer part of the forefoot.

L1020659

…. and the left show- with a similar wear pattern.

Other aspects

Overall there are no areas, other than the outer portions of the mesh uppers documented above, of the shoe that have exhibited any excessive wear or breakdown/failure. The laces work as well as new and all of the attachment points are intact and in good condition. The increased coverage of the mesh upper with the polymer overlay at the toe seems to have solved the problem with delamination of the polymer overlay that occurred in all of the 2012 Sense shoes that I have used. It also apparent that peeling of the outer, ‘tread’ portions of the outsole has been resolved as well as neither these shoes nor a second pair have exhibited any such peeling.

I suggest here that increasing the area of the polymer overlay over the area of the mesh uppers that has failed would likely resolve this issue. This area sees a significant amount of trailside abrasives (rocks, plants, etc.) and a bit more protection should go a long way to increasing the life of the uppers.

L1020662

Everything is intact- except for the failed upper mesh. Bringing the polymer overly up over the mesh in the failed area would likely fix this issue.

Bottom Line

A great, light weight, high durability, low drop, very comfortable shoe which can take on just about any terrain with confidence. Highly recommended.

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17 thoughts on “Salomon S Lab Sense Ultra Review – Final Update

  1. Thanks for the final review of this model. I simply love that you write reviews in different phases of a product life, and not only throw out the sort of “hey, these shoes are magnificent after using them for nearly two weeks”-kind of reviews we see often.

    “…small gravel is now routinely getting into the shoe via this hole…” I don’t think you intended that to be funny, but I couldn’t help laughing while picturing the small stones crawling “routinely” into your shoes. Maybe also when you’re not using them. Just because they need some shelter, maybe.

    Sorry that this comment does not contain any scientific or experienced based or useful feedback 🙂

    • Hi Bjorn,
      One of the rare things in running shoe reviews is a ‘box-to-bin” analysis. It takes time and focus to provide such product life reviews but they are important to those who are doing their homework on a shoe purchase. So I decided that if I was going to put up an initial review I should follow up with mid-life and ‘end-of-life’ (eol) evaluations. Thanks for the encouragement as it is good to know that there are those out there that can take advantage of the reviews.
      As to the ‘small gravel’, it does seem to make its way in quite rapidly- almost as if the gravel were attracted to the shoe!
      Thanks again for the feedback.

  2. Thank you. I have been running in the Sense Ultras over the past week, but only have 37 miles in them at this point. I’m glad to know that I should still be able to put plenty of more miles on them. So far I love them. They are very light and responsive, but also offer a reasonable amount of support and protection.

    • Hi Lynn,

      Yes, I expect that you will have many miles of enjoyment from your Sense Ultras. I am still running in a second pair and have somewhere around 480 km (300 miles) on them and they are still performing well. Now that these shoes are on sale (avail. for about $130 US) I have bought a couple more pairs. The Sense 3 will not be available until spring and I still have not figured out exactly what that shoe is- it looks like it might be the ultra in Red/White and the ultra becomes a more aggressive, soft-ground version. See the following link:

      http://samwinebaum.blogspot.com/2013/08/outdoor-retailer-summer13-salomon-sense.html

      Good luck with your training!

  3. Great review! I’ve only put about 100 miles on mine but already experiencing the same tear on the upper, in the same location. It’s somewhat frustrating since the rest of the shoe is so amazing! I will try to patch it with some Shoe Goo or something similar.

    • Yes, that mesh is an issue, I have holes in a second pair and the beginnings on a third pair. I understand that they are changing the mesh material on the Sense 3 and the Ultra (which is now going to be an aggressive ‘soft ground’ model). Not sure but I think the 2014 Sense 3 is the direct replacement for the 2013 Ultra. I would wait until the new models are out before buying another pair.

    • Hi Jeff,

      Thanks. My purpose is to give a ‘full life’ review as such reviews are few and they are very important. I can only hope that these reviews help others make informed decisions.

  4. Loved your review !
    (and very pleased to “stumble” across your blog in general… i just shared it with a group of ultra runners in my countrey and they liked it as well)

    i’m already curious to see the same kind of review for the upcoming soft ground model of the Sense Ultra.
    these days i’m trying to descide whether to go minimal and go for the ultra (maybe wait for the SG version) or only “half-way” and wait for the Sense Pro already available at stores.
    your reviews offer great long term cost-benefit prespective.
    i think you’re actually the only reviewer i’ve seen who offers a cost-per-milage point of view.

    keep up the great work !

    Thanks,
    Michael

    • Hi Michael,

      Thanks for the kind words. As you know, there is dearth of ‘box-to-bin’ reviews of running shoes in general and particularly in models aimed at ultrarunning. A-priori, one might think, given that ultrarunning is centered around relatively high mileage training, that durability and the derived value per distance would be metrics that reviewers would quote. But since so few reviewers offer a ‘box-to-bin’ perspective, they clearly do not have the data to support any such metric. I am hopeful that others will begin to provide comprehensive, multi-point reviews.

      As far as the Sense-SG, I think that it will be a popular shoe not only for those runners who spend a fair share of time in muddy conditions but also the Fell running community and possibly desert runners. I will be obtaining a pair of these as soon as they are available (looks like initial shipments to the US start in January) as well as the Sense 3 (which I think might just be Sense Ultras with a red-white colorway). I’ll put up a basic out-of-the-box review and some initial running impressions and follow up as usual as the miles accumulate.

      w/r/t the Sense Pro, I will suggest that, depending on your running weight, you may be better off with the Sense 3 or Sense SG, as they are lighter. I have said on numerous occasions that weight matters- a lot, but this is significant in direct proportion to the weight of the runner. For a light weight like me (125-127 lbs) it is important, perhaps not so much for a 170 lb runner.

      Best of running in the New Year!

      • just to add some useful information – my weight is about 65kg (about 142 lbs).
        So, i guess that means the SG or Sense model will be better ?

      • Hi Micheal,

        Yes, in my opinion, the lighter shoe will be a better choice at your weight. As I understand the a argument, weight at extremities is more deleterious to running economy (as is expected from simple kinematical considerations (not to mention the additional negative mechanical dynamics at play)). Some consideration should be given to calf size as this will play a role as well, i.e. big calfs—> probably not as large an effect with the light shoes. Many mountain runners build up significant calf musculature from steep climbing (Jornet is a good example) so even though one may be a light weight, the calfs will be putting a significant amount of mass toward the ends of one’s legs. One of the theories as to why the Kenyan marathoners are such efficient runners is that they have very low mass (weight) tibia and associated musculature (combined with big Achilles tendons). Not sure how that ‘Kenyan efficiency’ maps onto Mountain Ultra Trail (MUT) running, if at all, but there is likely some optimum of musculature and net mass that is best for MUT. Just a thought.

        Without any calf muscle disproportion oddities going on, I would expect that you will notice the difference in weight of the shoes at your current weight. I continue to revel in the reality of how much better a light shoe runs when compared to a heavier equivalent- I’ll never save the lighter shoe for racing and use a heavier ‘trainer’ again. Just go with the light shoe if you like the way it feels and runs.

  5. I just picked up a pair of these recently in a sweet deal (two pairs for $150 – the other being a stability road shoe). I can’t wait to get them out on the trail and put them through their paces!

    Thanks for the awesome reviews, and the continued reviews on the same pair – like someone else said, it’s awesome that you follow up on the shoes. Cheers!

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