Salomon S Lab Sonic – Final Update

I posted initial impressions and a 500 km update on the Salomon S Lab Sonic previously.

I currently have about 800 km (500 miles) on a first pair of the S Lab Sonic including use in buffed mountain trail single track, mountain double track, rocky technical mountain trail, across rivers, scree, snowfields, and high ridges, very limited paved road, and in one mountain trail 60 km race. I am putting up this final update now because these shoes are in a rotation with a couple of pair of S Lab X-Series and I will not likely take them to true end of life (EOL) until the end of the summer. I am still using a pair of X-Series that have over 1800 km (1100 miles) on them and they are still performing well in shorter (10 km or less) runs and as a hiking shoe. I expect the same, with one exception noted below, to be true for the S Lab Sonic.

L1030306

Salomon S Lab Sonic after about 800 km (500 miles) of mountain trail running- holding up nicely!

Given that the S Lab Sonic is a very slightly modified version of the S Lab X-Series (reviewed here, here, and here), it is no surprise that it performs similarly- meaning that this shoe is an excellent and durable performer in the mountains. Having logged very limited road miles (<80 km (50 miles)), I will not make any comments on road performance.

I will, however, comment on the use of traditional laces and the removal of the “lace pocket” on the S Lab Sonic- the bottom line is that this is a mistake and Salomon should at least provide for the option of speed laces. The speed lace/lace pocket technology is a superior solution to securing and fitting a trail running shoe for a whole host of reasons that I do not need to enumerate here as they are patently obvious. I am hopeful that Salomon will move on from this “experiment” and return to the 21st century, at least with the S lab shoes. So, ignoring the issues associated with the traditional laces on the S Lab Sonic, what follows is the rest of the final update.

upper

One of the primary changes from the S Lab X-Series to the S Lab Sonic is a a switch from a lycra-like upper material to a very light mesh material. With over 1800 km (1100 miles) on a pair of S Lab X-Series, I have yet to wear out an upper. Not so with the S Lab Sonic- the medial upper area near the flex point is beginning to wear through at this point. This type of mesh upper is well known to accumulate abrasive dirt within the the mesh and lead to excessive wear out (as has been reported on the S Lab Wings in particular). I have been told by other athletes that they have worn out this area on the S Lab Sonic in as little as 400 km (250 miles). Obviously I have gotten better wear than that but this area is likely to begin to fail within the next 150 km (100 miles).

L1030314

Medial upper area on the S Lab Sonic showing excessive wear of the mesh material at the flex axis (within the small triangle of mesh defined by the TPU overlay just above the “3D Flex” graphic. The TPU overlay constrains the mesh and induces high strain which combined with dirt particle accumulation leads to wear out. Experience will vary on wear out- with wear out times from as little as 400 km (reported by other athletes) to more than 800 km (in my case).

The lateral area of the upper at the flex axis is still intact and does not show significant wear.

L1030310

Lateral upper area on the S Lab Sonic showing minimal wear of the mesh material at the flex axis after 800 km (500 miles).

I am just starting to see the heel counter wear that was typical in the X-Series. This wear ends up not affecting performance as I continue to wear a pair where this area is worn down through the underlying cushioning material and I have experienced no discomfort or “hot spots”.

midsole

At this point (800 km (500 miles)), the midsole is still performing to expectation and I have not noticed any substantial reduction in cushioning. I have noted an increasing frequency of sharp rock awareness that seemed to not be present at the outset. I expect that there is enough EVA compression that some of the sharper rocks are now having a greater impact on the bottom of my foot.

outsole
L1030307

The outsole of the Salomon S Lab Sonic after 800 km (500 miles) showing very little wear and no preferential wear at the outside outsole edge and, particularly, the outside heel area.

Wear, as in the X-Series, is outstanding. I have yet to wear out one of these X-Series/Sonic outsoles even after over 1800 km (1100 miles).

comfort

Again, as with the very similar X-Series, the comfort of this shoe is excellent and is not noticeably deteriorating. This shoe continues as the most comfortable trail running shoe I have ever worn. One advantage to the S Lab Sonic over the S Lab X-Series is that the Sonic runs noticeably cooler due to the lightweight mesh upper. The lycra-like mesh utilized in the X-Series, although not hot, ran warmer- a good thing in cold weather but not a good thing in hot conditions. With the cooler performance comes the potential upper wear-out in high strain areas; as usual all things involve compromise.

value

Although these shoes are not at EOL, a value calculation yields a current per mile cost of about $0.36US. The X-Series came in at about $0.21US/mile. The question will be exactly when will the mesh upper give out to the pint where too much debris is getting into the shoe and causing issues. I expect that, based on the observed wear to date, I will likely get another 250-350 km before upper wear-out. That would give a per mile cost of about $0.25US/mile, a bit higher use cost than the X-Series. Of course some users have reported that the S Lab Sonic upper is wearing out in as little as 400 km (250 miles) which gives an unacceptable use cost of about $0.68US/mile. Obviously use varies and the user also plays a role. For my use, stride style, and size the S Lab Sonic represents a good value, particularly for a racing quality shoe.

Bottom line

Salomon have managed to not screw up the excellent X-Series product from 2015 and have retained a high performance, light-weight trail shoe that provides a high level of long run comfort, superior trail feel, high durability, and all-around performance on mountain terrain. Highly recommended, but be aware of possible upper mesh wear-out issues.

I will be using the S Lab Sonic in rotation with S Lab X-Series exclusively for training and racing this season including an number of mountain trail 50km-60 km races as well as some possible longer races in the fall.

Based on some information trickling out of Europe and State Side, it seems Salomon will have a new program to offer for 2017. I will put up a “rumor post” on this subject soon.

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4 thoughts on “Salomon S Lab Sonic – Final Update

  1. Another great review Robert, I always highly value these extended use reviews.

    However, I think we should start making a semantic distinction and separate the speed lace system and the lace pocket into two different technologies; I see you refer to them almost as one ” The speed lace/lace pocket technology…”. By linking them verbally, we create the idea that they are one system (that can be added or removed in unison) and not two symbiotic technologies.
    Even if Salomon stays with the slow laces, it is my hope that the lace pocket would be brought back as it is a tool of great utility, regardless of the lacing system employed.

    The wear you’re noticing around the flex axis is similar to the wear that I’ve experienced on my Sense 4 Ultras, which are showing wear, but have not yet broken through. I do not experience any elevated debris ingress at this point of wear. I have noticed other users with more wear – and in different areas – on the S4U upper at similar mileages.

    Excited to see the rumors post…

    • Hi Aaron,

      Yes, I agree that the two are separate technologies and that regardless of the future of the speed laces that the lace pocket is a great idea. However the “pocket” may need to be substantially larger for the traditional laces, but perhaps still a reasonable size. If I remember correctly, Salomon brought out both the speed laces and the lace pocket at the same time so they have been linked from a product perspective from the beginning. And now when Salomon offers a product with traditional laces the lace pocket is not a part of the design, perhaps because their designers see no need for a lace pocket with traditional laces?

      There seems to be a large variation in upper wear on trail running shoes, supposedly due to use in different terrain. I can understand this when comparing a midwestern grassy, woodland trail use to use in the Rockies, but I seem to get better wear than a number of other users that I speak with even though I am on rocky technical steep trail (including scree) about 50% of the time and the comparison runners are on similar or much less aggressive terrain. So I think there are other important factors for upper wear. First is fit- some users like a “tight” fit and my experience is that these runners go through uppers very quickly. I have also noticed the same thing when runners use a size too big- the folding and creasing of the upper leads to high wear points and, often, a short life for the upper.

  2. What are you doing? These shoes are clearly not meant for trail running, but for asphalt, city/road running! 😐

    • Hi KD,

      So they say… but… as far as I am concerned road shoes are the new trail shoes! Give it a try…. they will work for some but perhaps not for others.

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