Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Salomon S-Lab Sense Soft Ground


The Salomon trail running range caters for a vast range of running types and terrains. Sat at the centre of this catalogue is the piece de resistance, the S-Lab Sense. The stripped-back racing shoe, with all the technological knowhow of the Annecy based company evident throughout. The familiar red colour scheme signifying its sole purpose in allowing us to run fast and light along the trails without compromise.

In order to specialise the shoe for wetter and slicker ground, Salomon released the Soft Ground version of the Sense. In doing so they found the sweet spot between functionality, performance and specificity, particularly in notoriously tricky British fell conditions. The Soft Ground bridges this gap by combining the superb minimalist elements of the Sense range, but adding an aggressive outsole with deep luxurious lugs. Although not the shark tooth shape of the Salomon S-Lab Speed, (http://enhancingexistence.blogspot.co.uk/2016/03/) they are still hugely competent in greasy conditions. By combining almost infinite grip, with race ready Sensibilities (see what I did there), Salomon have come up with The mountain shoe for the market. Yes there are other options out there, that may suit some people, but they don't come without compromise. Salomon have come up trumps with the S-Lab Sense SG's and they currently sit as my favourite shoe. 

I threw on a brand new pair of the 6th generation of the S-Lab Sense Soft Ground to support 2 legs of a friends Bob Graham Round attempt. They required no bedding in, immediately out the box they fit like an old pair of slippers. Over the next 20 miles and 10,000ft of ascent the SG’s took the terrain in their more than competent stride – be it bogs, thick mud or even wet rock. They’re also now a meagre 225grams, so even after the punishing climbs and descents from the worst the Lake District has to offer my legs felt fresh and my feet light. It's a foregone conclusion what will be on my feet when I take on my own Bob Graham Round next year.

Climbing high in the SG's on the Bob Graham Round

Over 6 generations of S-Lab Sense, the fine tuning is evident throughout the shoe. The fit seems more generous than before with a squarer toe box that allows toes to splay more. Yet despite this, accuracy isn't compromised at all, the 'Endofit' technology means the sock like fit makes the shoe genuinely feel like part of your foot. This in turn gives supreme confidence when hammering descents at high speed. Foot placement feels accurate on technical terrain increasing performance.

Despite a minimalist mindset when producing this shoe, Salomon has in no way sold the end user short on protection. The obligatory Profeel Film is ever present to protect your foot from rocks and other obstacles. And although not completely bombproof in order to maintain minimalism, in turn it doesn't affect proprioception whatsoever. In respect of race performance and dexterity this is the ideal level of protection. Whereas some more dense soles on the market could offer more layers of protection, they do so at great cost to speed over technical ground.

The upper on the shoe is the usual sumptuous combination of exotic materials and glued overlays. The mesh keeps debris firmly out, yet the plastics ensure longevity. It's this area that truly separates the Salomon shoe from its rivals, these shoes are made to last, even in the harshest environments. In previous iterations of the Sense range I've eventually split them at the sides where the toe box flex's most. This has clearly been identified and now rectified with strategically placed reinforcements to these previously vulnerable areas. I've currently run just over 300 miles in a pair of Sense SG's and they show little sign of wear. This despite spending several hours in punishing bogs and rocky conditions at the Salomon Nevis Ultra and having daily runs in the Peak District where the peat is notorious for degrading shoe materials.

Not only is it a win all round with the shoes upper, they also looks damn sexy! The combination of red with black detailing make these the Ferrari of the trail shoe market. Maybe a little loud for some peoples taste, but undeniably eye-catching.

Turn up to any mountain/fell race and you'll see Sense SG's in abundance. This is for good reason, there's little else on the market that comes close to this hybrid of technological and minimalist oxymoron. With durability and functionality optimal throughout the design, I can't imagine anyone being disappointed with a purchase.

Taking on the technical ground with ease at the Salomon Nevis Ultra