Thursday 26 June 2014

Salomon S-Lab Sense 3 Ultra Review

Salomon S-Lab Sense 3 Ultra
Salomon S-Lab Sense 3 Ultra Review: a comparison with the Sense 3 Ultra Soft Ground:
Welcome everyone to what I feel is a very exciting post, in which I will be reviewing one of the newest and latest releases in the top quality Salomon S-Lab, athlete-inspired line-up; the Salomon S-Lab Sense 3 Ultra. I will also be comparing it to its wet-weather twin, the Salomon S-Lab Sense 3 Ultra SG (soft ground). For a full review of the Sense 3 Ultra SG please click here!  

I have tried a lot of minimalist trail shoes over the past few years (as you can imagine), and occasionally one pops up that feels right, grabs your attention and takes you miles, and miles, and miles.....It is very seldom that two come along at the same time, but this has certainly been the case in relation to the Sense 3 Ultra and Sense 3 Ultra SG. Racing footwear has become far more of an easy choice. Simply look out of the window, and if its dry and hot out there, put on the Sense 3 Ultra. If its wet, slip on the SG version. Sorted!

What a beauty the Sense 3 Ultra's really are!
What Salomon say:
The evolution has continued from the input given by Kilian Jornet from his experiences in races such as the Western States 100. The shoe has been designed to be ideal for ultra-distance races in hot and dry conditions and boasts improved durability and stability in its third iteration. The Salomon S-Lab Sense 3 Ultra is a low, lightweight and breathable ultra distance trail shoe!

The S-Lab Technologies in the Sense 3 Ultra:
Natural running: The natural motion allows the foot to move freely with a low heel-toe drop of 4mm which helps with an even foot strike. The S-Lab construction reduces the weight making the Sense 3 Ultra the lightest, lowest racing shoe in Salomon's prestige range. Salomon also state that the low heel drop of 4mm promotes a midfoot strike with greater agility.

Salomon Sense 3 ultra: low, light and fast
Features of the shoe:
- Breathable open mesh upper
- Super lightweight around 230g (size 8)
- Low differential of 4mm (13mm heel and 9mm forefoot)
- Seamless SensiFit and 2nd Skin seamless construction enhances comfort
- Quicklace system with lace storage pocket
- Tongue cover prevents trail debris entering the shoe
- EndoFit sock-liner holds midfoot well and allows shoe to be worn with or without socks
- TPU protective toe cap
- Dynamic traction from a non-marking Contagrip sole
- Profeel Propriotection rock-plate in the forefoot with OS Tendon


Review and comparison with the Sense 3 Ultra SG:
Scoring: 1 = low, 10 = high on 10 categories important for a good natural trail running shoe, giving an overall score out of 100:

1) Weight: 9/10
A lightweight trail shoe is paramount to me, allowing an unaltered, natural running technique and stride. The Sense 3 Ultra come in a fraction lighter than the SG; 255g and 280g respectively. This is largely due to the absence of huge rubber lugs jutting out of the bottom of the shoe, but also taking into consideration the lighter-weight mesh uppers. I certainly do not have any complaints here, and the only way I could see to lighten the shoe further, without compromising durability, would be to lower the 4mm heel lift, therefore losing some material. Some though, would argue that this would limit its use as an ultra distance shoe.

2) Ground Feel: 9/10
The Sense 3 Ultra allows sufficient proprioception to make for a safe, agile and comfortable run over a variety of terrains. The rockplate in the forefoot, known as 'Profeel Propriotection' dissipates impact caused by sharp stones and trail debris well, without compromising on ground feel and sensory feedback during your run. This is ideal in long distance racing and training. The Ultra has better ground feel than the SG version, and therefore gains a point in this category.
Not too much between your feet and the trail
3) Protection: 10/10
The Sense 3 Ultra provides perfectly adequate protection in all the right places, keeping your feet safe but still maintaining a lightweight construction. I have not noticed any difference between the Ultra and the SG versions here.

Perfectly adequate protection for the toes and feet
4) Natural Foot Position: 6/10
The 4mm heel-toe differential in both the Ultra and the SG means I have to knock-off a few points here (one for each mm drop) as I have done in past reviews. The foot is not in a completely natural position. This may be better suited for ultra distance races and training runs, but I personally prefer a natural, unaltered  foot position of 0mm differential.

5) Natural Foot Shape: 9/10
Along with its soft ground wet weather twin, the Sense 3 Ultra are the best shaped Salomon shoes I have tried, fitting like a slipper. In the past, Salomon shoes often came up too narrow for my feet, but the Sense range seems to have a more natural fit by becoming far wider in the forefoot and toe box. There is still room for a slightly wider option for people like me with very wide feet, but they are definitely wide enough to comfortably use on training runs and long distance races.

Identically shaped
6) Comfort: 10/10
The seamless EndoFit and SensiFit constructions result in a trail shoe that holds your foot in all the desired places. The natural shape of the S-Lab Sense range means that the Ultra and Soft Ground are easily two of the most comfortable pairs of Salomon shoes I have ever worn and run in. They both feel identical to wear in terms of shape, with a more breathable upper on the Ultra and a heavier sole unit with slightly reduced ground-feel (on harder trails) on the SG being the only noticeable differences between the two.

7) Grip and Traction: 10/10
I have still, to date, never been disappointed by the performance of the Sense 3 Ultra SG in wet and slippery conditions. In my previous review of them (click here) I used the SG over a variety of terrains and was thoroughly impressed with their performance for wet weather conditions. When it comes to the Sense 3 Ultra, I have been equally impressed by their performance. Yes, of course they don't perform as well in wet, muddy conditions, but that is why Salomon have cleverly and thankfully released a wet and a dry version of the same shoe. When the ground is dry and hard, whether it be pavement, road, dry grass, dirt tracks, rocky terrain, mountain paths or gravel, the Sense 3 Ultra copes perfectly with it all. 

Showing the difference in grip between the Ultra and Soft Ground
Great grip for dry and wet weather descents
Fantastic grip for ascending gradients in wet and dry conditions
8) Durability and Quality: 10/10
There are still no issues to report with the SG, and I have put quite a few miles on them now. There are no signs of premature wear and tear at all. The Sense 3 Ultra's have followed in-suit and have performed equally well showing no reasons to worry over durability to-date, even with the more breathable uppers.

Not showing any worrying signs of premature wear
9) Pricing: 8/10
Both the Ultra and the SG retail at £140 in the UK. Therefore, the excellence of these magnificent trail shoes comes at a price. Being a part of the Kilian Jornet and Emilie Forsberg athlete inspired S-Lab racing range means they have been designed to meet the needs of Salomon's top athletes. To me, if I find a shoe that is comfortable to wear and performs just as I require, price is less of an issue. However, I would want both of the versions of the Sense 3 in my arsenal of trail running weapons to equip me for all weather conditions, and this really starts to get expensive! If these shoes were to drop in price to around the £100 mark, the Sense 3 range would obliterate their competition in the trail, mountain and fell running market!

10) Design: 10/10
I have completely fallen in love with the design and colour-ways of both the Sense 3 Ultra and the Soft Ground. When I put them on I immediately feel like a Salomon athlete, fast and light on my feet. Of course, due to the fact that I live in flat-as-a-pancake rural Cambridgeshire, this soon comes to an end whenever I encounter any kind of incline!

Both fantastic looking shoes!

CavemanClarke score: 91/100

What a fantastic duo the Salomon S-Lab Sense 3 Ultra and Sense 3 Ultra Soft Ground really make! With the ability to run naturally in a comfortable and lightweight trail shoe for racing and training situations, in both wet and dry weather conditions, this is a top quality and well executed combination. Simply throw both pairs in your kit bag and decide at the trail destination which pair is the most suitable for the terrain and conditions underfoot. This is a match made in heaven for the trail, mountain and fell running community. Both pairs are a pleasure to run in when worn for their specifically designed wet-or-dry trails, with a good level of 'cross-over' if weather conditions suddenly change during the course of the route you are running. 

The Sense 3 Ultra range gets a 'double-thumbs-up' approval by me!

Thank you Salomon for the opportunity to test and review these beauties! 

Happy running everyone,

For further posts on the Salomon S-Lab Sense range:

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