Salomon Sense Ride – not impressed

The Salomon Sense Ride trail running shoe was pre-announced at the Summer 2016 OR  and became available in June 2017. I received a pair a couple of weeks ago and have put about 150 km on them in a 50/50 mix of smooth buffed singletrack and rocky technical trail. After reading a review by some trusted users I was looking forward to a potential lower cost shoe that had much of what the S Lab Sense Ultra 2017 offers and could be used for the bulk of training, saving the S Lab Ultra for races and more technical efforts. Well, miracles are fantasy and that is what has prevailed in this case. Based on my running mechanics, style, and terrain the Sense Ride is no S Lab Sense Ultra.

Salomon Sense Ride is a cushioned trail running shoe with some new anti-vibration technology (Opal inserts across the footbed). The colorway shown here is a dark blue with orange accents- the orange is much deeper in hue but the sunlight in Sun Valley is currently being filtered through a bit of smoke from fires from the north and south and this affects the color sensitivity calibration of my camera image sensor for directly reflected light. A truer color representation is evident in the indirectly reflected light pictures below.

construction

The Sense Ride has the typical “rocker” profile that is common among shoes with higher cushioning.

A mild but effective rocker is used on the Sense Ride.

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. The tongue is minimally cushioned.

Flexibility is good whilst still including the ProFeel film technology for rock protection. The flexibility is accomplished with three lateral flex axes that traverse the width of the outsole. There is a similar flex axis at a slight diagonal across the lateral heel area. Proprioception is OK but is inferior when compared to the Sense Pro Max high cushion shoe, and is nothing like that found with the S Lab Sense Ultra.

The stack comes in at 27mm heel/ 19mm forefoot which is a nice “cush” level and 1mm more than that offered in the S Lab Sense Ultra. But this shoe also has Salomon’s new vibration-reduction technology called Vibe which, in this shoe, includes a full-foot insert of the vibration-absorbing Opal material. This is different than in the Sense Pro Max (and the S Lab Sonic 2) where the Opal is two separate inserts- one in the forefoot and one in the heel. The Vibe technology is nicely described in this review of the S Lab Sonic 2. I am not a fan of the Vibe technology and there will be more on that below.

The outsole utilizes the Premium Wet Traction ContraGrip material which is an excellent performer across the board for the highly variable conditions of trail and mountain running.

My size US 7.5 (40 2/3 EUR) weigh in at 233 gms (8.2 oz) which is well within the weight range for a racing shoe. This shoe is not a Salomon racing product as it is intended for general training and trail running, but it could clearly be used as a racer.

upper

The Sense Ride upper is constructed in a fashion that is very similar to the S Lab shoes and includes all of the fit technologies that have made the S Lab shoes such a near-optimal fit benchmark in trail running products. As mentioned above, these fit technologies include EndoFit, SensiFit, Salomon QuickLace, and a shaped foot bed. The Sense Ride also has a substantial OrthoLite foot liner which provides a bit more cushion.

The upper mesh is a reasonably light weight material but clearly heavier and less flexible than the mesh used in the S Lab Sense Ultra. This mesh does not drain as well or dry as quickly as the S Lab Sense Ultra- both of which are important considerations for broad use on trails.

The Salomon Sense Ride has a very large volume that does not accommodate smaller feet. The shoe is built on a very different last to that used for the S Lab Sense Ultra. It seems to be designed for bigger, beefy feet. Drainage and associated drying are OK, not great

I am not sure how this happened but somehow Salomon have managed to totally screw-up the fit of this shoe even with the superior fit technologies being employed. First off, the upper has too much volume and it seems that Salomon is trying to accommodate some foot shapes that are so voluminous that the standard fit technologies are not capable of providing a secure fit for lower volume feet. Second, there is a large difference in the shape of the last for the Sense Ride. This is exhibited when one puts the Sense Ride shoe on where it just easily slides on as if you were putting on a loafer- with support and fit on par with such a shoe (or a Hoka or Altra). The S Lab Sense Ultra is built on a very different last that leads to a fit more like a cross country ski boot where the foot slides in with a bit of constraint and then engages in a final position that is snug and fully supporting around the entire foot leading to a high level of control and proprioception. Control and proprioception are not strong points for the Sense Ride.

I thought that perhaps I needed to size down and I tried this with a US 7 (40 EU) and found no improvement in fit and the shoe at this size was close to being too short for long run comfort. So sizing down will not fix the problem.

midsole

With a 27mm/19mm stack this shoe should feel ultra-cush but such does not obtain. I find the “ride” of the Sense Ride to be firm when compared to the S Lab Sense Ultra and this is obviously due to the inclusion of the vibration-reducing Opal inserts. Just as I found with the Sense Pro Max, the Opal material leads to a somewhat jarring experience on trails and this is something that, for me, is undesirable. I still do not have, nor have Salomon offered, an explanation of why the mid-to-high frequency vibrations that the Opal supposedly eliminates are so important. I expect that there could be some correlation to muscle micro-tearing but that is going to be very much a function of individual biomechanics and biometrics that a lot of data would need to be collected to support any claim for broad efficacy. As a lighter weight runner I find the material to not be an improvement. A heavier runner might have a different experience.

outsole

The outsole has a design that is essentially identical with the S Lab Sense Ultra and uses the same Premium Wet Traction ContraGrip material. The lug design and material combine to provide some of the best broad-use traction performance available today. As mentioned earlier three shoe width wide flex axes are included in the forefoot with a smaller axis at a diagonal at the heel. These add flexibility to a shoe that would otherwise be very stiff, given the full foot Opal insert.

Salomon Sense Ride outsole. Nearly identical to the S Lab Sense Ultra in design and materials. One of the best performing outsoles currently on the market.

This outsole is very durable as i now have over 1500 km (1000 miles) on a pair of S Lab Sense Ultras with hardly any sign of wear- even in the rough, rocky training terrain that I use on a daily basis.

running performance

Primarily due to the very poor fit but also due to an overly firm ride, the Sense Ride exhibit a weird combination of lack of control with a somewhat jarring feel. The worst of two worlds. On any trail even hinting at “technical” these shoes start to detach from my feet and lead to a disjointed and disturbing trail experience. Although the Opal inserts begin to “break-in” after about 30 miles, the firm ride never seems to dissipate.  Compared to the super-high control, very high proprioception, and super-cush ride of the S Lab Sense Ultra the Sense Ride are embarrassingly bad. After 150 km of hoping for “break-in”, these shoes have been put to the back of the shoe closet where they are likely to gather a thick layer of dust.

price

$120US. A seemingly great price considering it is a Salomon shoe with all of the superior fit technologies and a new vibration reduction material. But given just the poor fit the shoe has zero value.

bottom line

A poorly fitting, low proprioception, firm riding shoe that cannot be recommended*.

*note: I am a lighter runner (125-130 lbs) with a predominant forefoot strike and a high cadence (190-200 spm @ training pace). A heavier runner with a midfoot-to-heel strike and/or a lower cadence may find a very different feel in this shoe.

 

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