Salomon S Lab Sonic Update – 500 km and rolling

First impressions have held up for the S Lab Sonic- both positive and negative.

A final update for the S Lab Sonic is posted here.

I have put about 500 km (300 miles) on the S Lab Sonic and have found the shoe to deliver as a slightly improved replacement for the the 2015 S Lab X-Series. The improvements noted in a previous review have all been verified and distance tested. I would have more miles on these shoes but they are currently in a rotation with two other pairs of S Lab X-Series. On a positive note, the rotation does, however, give the opportunity to compare and contrast the S Lab Sonic with the X-Series regularly.

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Salomon S Lab Sonic after about 500 km (300 miles) on dry trails, muddy trails, snowfields, ice, stream crossings, and technical steep downhills.

Fit and Feel

As noted earlier, initial runs in the S Lab Sonic indicated that the fit and trail feel were somehow improved from the already excellent performance of the 2015 X-Series. These improvements have held up and continue to be evident with use.

The trail feel is exceptional with a nice balance of flexibility, protection, and grip. Part of this improvement is due to material choice (the new upper mesh material) and design (more extensive TPU overlays throughout the upper), but there also seems to be additional mid-foot support that is not as noticeable in the S Lab X-Series, but leads to additional comfort on any run.

The toe box width has been slightly enlarged relative to the X-Series and this also increases comfort just a bit- particularly on long (>30 km/20 mile) runs and in warmer conditions where foot swelling can be significant. However, technical downhill performance is similarly “just a bit” affected where there is noticeable additional lateral foot movement in downhill grades greater than about 20%. I do a lot of 30-60% grade downhill running so the slightly reduced performance of the S Lab Sonic is definitely a concern for any run or race that has substantial sections of downhill at grades greater than about 20%. But I have also found that I have gotten used to this additional displacement and have had no blister or rubbing issues for continuous steep downhill sections in excess of 4-6 km (2.5-4 miles). I plan to use the S Lab Sonic in an upcoming 60km mountain trail race with long sections of steep downhill so it will be interesting to see what transpires.

There is more “edge of foot” support that leads to a more structured feel for the shoe but at the same time this adds to the comfort particularly on long runs. I find that my feet are not as “tired” after equivalent length runs when compared to the S Lab X-Series. When compared to the S Lab Sense Ultra, the S Lab Sonic is much more comfortable with as good or better trail feel and only slightly reduced grip.

Venting and Drainage

The very breathable mesh used on the S Lab Sonic runs cooler than the S Lab X-Series and, as expected, drains well. I have experienced very good thermal performance up to about 80 F (27C) ambient, a point where the X-Series (with a lycra upper material) would begin to get a bit toasty. The Sonic will likely be a good summer performer.

The Achilles Heel – the Laces

I complained about the fabric laces on this shoe from the beginning and I have not become a convert. Traditional laces are fussy, floppy, and prone to loosening or coming untied altogether. I will admit to never being a good knotsmith (this Boy Scout merit badge was a challenge for me) but I do know how to tie a shoe and these laces will come loose without a double knot- a knot that is a PIA to undue after a 30 km run and your legs are stiff. There have been a couple of incidences of the lace loops catching on the sage around here and one incidence of the laces filling up with tiny burdocks which were also a PIA to get off.

Bottom line- bad choice for laces on the S lab Sonic. However, in Salomon’s defense, the shoe is intended for road and light trail use. I think it would have been a superior choice to ship the shoes with the speed laces and include a pair of traditional laces in the box and give the choice to the user- particularly at a price of $170.

Wear

Just as with the S Lab X-Series, the outsole wear is exceptional and at this juncture barley noticeable. I expected a bit more wear as the high wear-rating carbon rubber bits that were used in the X-Series were replaced with “red” rubber. Upon investigation, it may be that these areas (or the entire outsole) has been manufactured with silica particulate reinforced material that allows for similar wear and toughness as carbon rubber but also allows for colorants. In any case, wear is exceptional.

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Outsole of the Salomon S Lab Sonic after about 500 km (300 miles) of use on a 50/50 mix of buffed and rocky trail use.

Similarly, the upper has shown very little evidence of wear and it seems that the upper mesh material will be durable- contrary to the excessive wear noted by many users with a similar mesh that is used in the upper on the S Lab Wings (this is something I understand has been improved with the soon-to-be-available S Lab Wings 8).

L1030291

View of the uppers of the Salomon S Lab Sonic after about 500 km (300 miles) of a 50/50 mix of buffed and rocky trail use.

Cushioning is only slightly reduced at this point, but my experience has found that cushioning loss is not a linear function. It seems that cushioning eventually goes through a dramatic drop at some point and one has to be tuned into this to ensure that impact damage does not accumulate and possibly lead to injury.

concluding remarks

I have found the S Lab Sonic to be a slightly improved S Lab X-Series where the improvements have lead to greater comfort, better trail feel, better thermal performance, and enhanced drainage. The use of traditional laces on this shoe is a negative as far as I am concerned.

Stay tuned for a final update in the future.

 

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11 thoughts on “Salomon S Lab Sonic Update – 500 km and rolling

  1. Nice review as usual! I haven’t tried neither of the X-Series nor the Sonic but they look like good shoes. I have mainly been using the S-Lab Wings as they are my “Go-To”, both the non-SG and SG version. Definitely, I can confirm the mesh wear is an issue on the S-Lab Wings as wells as the sole slipping. But given that the shoe is close to perfect, I can get over it those small issues. Though I’m glad to hear that the mesh has been addressed in the S-Lab Wings 8!

    By the way, here is a look at Kilian’s shoes at Zegama last weekend. I was surprised to see traditional laces! I hope it’s not the general direction of Salomon
    https://carrerasdemontana.com/2016/05/22/zegama-aizkorri-2016-ya-en-carrera-ultima-hora-en-vivo-cronica-resultados-y-fotos/img_0556/

    • Hi Frederic,

      Wow, those are monster shoes… they have the beefiest looking outsoles that I have ever seen Kilian use. They look more like a light weight mountaineering shoe. Yes, let’s hope Salomon is not going to the “dark side” with traditional laces.

      Agreed on the S Lab Wings, although I cannot be certain that the mesh issue will necessarily be resolved with the Wings 8 but I understand that they are very aware of the problem on the Wings.

      You should give the Sonic a try- I would describe them as being a lightweight more flexible version of S Lab Wings- same fit but less structure and lots more trail feel. I still use the S lab Wings for tough super rocky sections with unsure footing (i.e. like extended scree fields and boulder hopping) but use the Sonic/X-Series for everything else except mud.

      • Kilian’s shoes look like a Sense Ultra SG chassis with an knit upper that more resembles the flyknit uppers predominantly used by Nike, but making their way to other manufacturers.

        I do concede that I have not run in shoes with such an upper – I have been entirely satisfied by the performance of Salomon’s offerings (both in the S-Lab variety and with the Sense Pro) – so I cannot say how it will perform, but my early impression is that I am not a fan. My assumption is that Salomon is making (at least testing) such a drastic change in uppers simply to save on weight. The change away from quick laces was bad enough, but I would certainly hate to lose the Sensifit and Endofit systems, which IMO, provide truly exceptional performance, foot integration, and overall comfort.

        When the time comes for my to update my X-Series to the Sonics, I do believe that I will replace the slow laces with a system like Yankz! or Lock Laces. It astounds me that Salomon chose not to keep the lace pocket, a wonderfully useful piece of tech, despite the laces change. Lace pockets are showing up on more shoes, particularly trail shoes, and have great utility.

      • Hi Aaron,

        Sorry for the tardy response, I have been out adventuring well out of range of digital EM waves the last week.

        Hard to tell what the uppers of Kilian’s shoes are made of from that pic but the shoes are clearly quite beefy. Not sure what the design direction at Salomon is at this point but I have been expecting some sort of “new” approach for a while. Salomon have made a splash in the cross country skiing market with their super light and stiff carbon fiber ski boots and with carbon fiber core technology for skate ski flex optimization. They have also used carbon fiber in the X-Alp alpine boot chassis in an interesting interdigitated cut-out for lateral support. Carbon fiber is a strong suit for Salomon and it seems that there may be some applications in running shoes. Now, lets hope that if they do incorporate functional carbon fiber in running shoes that the price of the shoes does not sky-rocket like it did for the cross country ski boots where the top-line boot went from about $450 US to $1,200 US!

        I doubt that they will deviate much from endofit though, since it has been such a uniformly praised technology. The speed laces and the lace pocket really need to be brought back to the Sonic- it is a shame that it was not included as an option. Be careful with using speed laces on the Sonic- the eyelets are punched and may not be very durable against a thin kevlar lace material.

      • Hi Frederic,

        Interesting- yes, it does look like a more advanced version of an XA Alpine but specifically for fast running. Salomon had an integrated gaiter in one of their first red S Lab running shoes in 2006 that they designed for Adventure Racing- the XA Pro 3:

        https://gearjunkie.com/salomon-s-lab-xa-pro-3

        I had a couple of pairs but eventually cut the gaiters off as they made the shoe difficult to get into and, in certain circumstances, they chaffed at the ankle- very painful.

        This new shoe looks like a refined version of the XA Pro 3 shoe with the laces inside and some sort of new “endoskeleton” holding the upper together.

        I look forward to seeing what becomes of this. Thanks for the link!

  2. Hi Robert,

    Great review, as always.
    This might not be a popular opinion – but I’m torn on the subject of the speed laces. Having run in the X-Series and now in the Sonic, I MUCH prefer the fit of the Sonic – even though it’s supposedly nearly identical. It’s not just that I can decide where the laces sit the tightest and where I allow them to have more give – it’s the fact that the Sonic has 2 more eyelets on each side, which distributes the pressure more evenly. The kevlar cords on the quicklace-system would likely not adjust properly here in a single pull – even with the proper eyelet design. I can usually feel pressure up top most Salomon after a couple hours of wearing them – coincidentally it was most noticeable on the X-Series, which I just used on the tarmac the brief time I owned a pair – but the Sonic is a standout for me in that regard.
    I do agree though that doing away with the lace pocket is just plain silly. I always tuck the loops under the criss-cross pattern of the laces on longer runs, but of course that’s a pain (and not something you’d try with cold or numb fingers and while fatigued).

    Cheers,

    Bernie

    • Hi Bernie,

      I understand the advantages of the traditional laces, as you have succinctly described, and that such laces are an important part of comfort to some runners. There will likely never be a single solution. The speed laces work for me as I have found no issues with hot spots around the laces, but this is different for everyone.

      I agree on the lace pockets but there may some hope- Emelie put up a picture on her twitter yesterday showing a pair of what she calls Sonics with speed laces and the lace pocket- but the uppers actually look like the X-Series (note the overlay pattern on the forefoot portion of the upper) with a white stripe under the laces. These may be the 2017 Sonics or some X-Series developmental iteration or she (like some of us) wants the Sonic with the speed laces and a lace pocket. Question is- will they offer the speed laces on the Sonic as an option (or the other way around) and therefore include the lace pocket, I sure hope so! Here is the pic:

      https://twitter.com/TinaEmelie?original_referer=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.irunfar.com%2F2014%2F05%2F2014-zegama-marathon-live-coverage.html&tw_i=471295451258683392&tw_p=embeddedtimeline&tw_w=469968922234474496

      Glad to hear you are liking the Sonic. I am racing in the Sonic this weekend at a 60 km mountain trail ultra with about 3000 m of ascent/descent. So far they have been great on just about everything and this race a has a significant snow field so I will be able to take advantage of the superior glissading performance as well.

  3. Robert,
    I wear a size 12.5 in the X-series but a size 12 in the S-lab Ultra and Ultra SG, do you think the S-lab Sonic fits the same as the X-series or more like the S-lab Ultra? Thanks for any help.

    • Hi Rain,

      The Sonic fits the same as the X-Series, at least for me. There is a slight difference in the toe box as the Sonic is just a tad wider but I do not think that this will substantively alter the fit. However, it is always best to try the shoes on so I will suggest that, if you want to be certain, that you order two to three sizes from Running Warehouse and try them all on and then keep the one that fits best. Running Warehouse has free two day shipping and return shipping so there is no cost to do this, just a couple days waiting time. If you have a store in your area that carries the S Lab products the same can be done there, obviously, but my experience is that not many stores carry a deep inventory of the S Lab products so size selection can be spotty. Running Warehouse often has the deepest stock for S Lab products. Also, in May, they had all the of the Salomon product at 20% off- unfortunately that sale is over.

      • Robert,
        Thanks for the quick reply. I’ll try that and let you know what I determine. Thanks for all the help and your reviews.

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