Shoe Review: Salomon S/Lab Sense 7 SG
As you might know, here at Run Coed y Brenin we like Salomon. That’s not to say that we don’t like other brands, far from it. With brands such as inov8, Hoka, On, Saucony, ASICS, Altra, Scott and others all producing top notch footwear, the 2018 trail runner has never had it so good!
However, having now sold over 2000 pairs of Salomon shoes in the 4+ years that we have been operating, we are definitely confident that their shoes are amongst the most comfortable, well-built and innovative on the market.
The S/Lab Sense shoe is a ground-breaker. Developed as far back as 2010 with prototypes worn at the super-harsh Western States 100 by Kilian Jornet and subsequent mountain events for that year, 2011 saw the incarnation of what has become an industry benchmark shoe.
(NOTE HERE: We realise that the S/Lab Sense isn’t for everybody, but for those that love the previous Sense shoes, please read on!)
Over the last 7 years the Sense has developed to be a low-drop, super-light favourite of trail runners across the globe and with the SG (Soft Ground) version the tools are there for any trail to be tackled from a dusty 100-miler to a short, sharp, gnarly, wet and muddy mountain trail.
The Sense has always come in a standard and soft ground (SG) version, with the main differences being the more aggressive grip on the soft ground – perfect for those (normally) pretty crappy UK trail conditions (especially in Coed y Brenin for 8 months of the year!)
So, when Matt Ward took out the all-new S/Lab Sense 7 SG from a trusty Salomon manila cardboard box a few weeks ago what was he expecting? Improvements? Sure. Innovation? Definitely. Comfort? Yes. Top notch build quality? Of course. Superb slipper-like fit? Why not! The good news? These criteria have been met and exceeded in what Matt feels is possibly the best shoe that Salomon have ever produced.
Firstly, don’t get me wrong. The Sense 7 is not for everyone. With a 4mm drop, a new narrowed heel cup, minimal forefoot protection and super-lightweight uppers, some might feel that there just isn’t enough to the Sense 7 SG to make them feel confident. For that runner who needs some extra stability, cushioning and support then the Sense might not be for them. But, for a shoe that helps grow the confidence of a trail runner in terms of precision fit, accuracy on foot plant and enables mid to forefoot strike, then this is the real deal.
In terms of grip the Contagrip stays, the sole lug-pattern stays, however it’s possible that with the narrower heel profile (see below) the precision is even better. That might seem a little odd to those that like a big hearty heel base when they plant, but if you think about it, with a mid to forefoot strike on say 80% of your run, you just don’t need that extra volume at the back.
You still get the Profile Film ‘rock plate’ too, which does give that little bit of extra protection when the rocks get pointy.
The uppers and tongue area are where we perhaps see some of the biggest changes on the Sense 7. When I first saw the toe box of the new Sense I have to admit I was sceptical. The toe area protection rand is now situated underneath the uppers, which looks sleek as hell, but leaves you wondering where the protection is for the toe-kicks on rock n roots. Fear not, the protection is there, with more supple rubber and on the 50 or so miles I have covered in these to date, on some pretty gnarly terrain, there has been no issue on this aspect.
The closed-mesh upper of the Sense 6 is also replaced with a more open-mesh textile for the 7. On first look this might make for a shoe that would leave the runner with colder feet in the harshest UK winter conditions, and that remains to be seen, but in terms of debris ingress into the shoe I can’t see there being any problem with this new upper textile.
Next up? Tongue and lacing. All new once again. The 7 gets the top-loader Quick Lace treatment, as used on the Ultra and Ultra Pro, and is all the better for it! This now means a lot less fiddling the get the lock and excess lace into the ‘garage’ (pocket to us in the UK). It also means that there is less tension across the instep of the foot and the whole freedom aspect around flexibility of the shoe just feels, well, better!
The new lightweight, less absorbent (in terms of water), more tactile tongue is simply beautiful and that material extends across the whole of the heel cup uppers too. Spot on.
Also new is the insole, or should I say lack of it. Look inside the new Sense 7 and you’ll see a very minimal insole, that is also permanently stitched into shoe. This has two advantages in my view. 1. It won’t come out (pretty obvious huh!) but that also means no loose insole rucking up and flapping about when the shoe gets wet and you are hurtling on a descent of your favourite hill, and 2, it also means that people like me can fit their trusty minimal footbeds in to the shoe (just about) to ensure a perfect fit and foothold when the shoe is on.
In terms of fit, wow! The 7 SG fits light an absolute glove. Once you have got used to the fact it is like a climbing shoe to get on when you first take them out of the box, you’ll be fine. After two or three runs they will feel like part of your feet, seriously.
When I first wore a pair of Sense shoes in 2011 I genuinely thought that they would be too minimal for me. For about 6 months my calves were agreeing with that thought as I had to get my body used to the fact that a 4mm drop and a natural running feel shoe was pretty radical. Once I got there, I never looked back and for me now 4mm is an absolute ‘sweet spot’ in terms of drop and the forefoot strike promoting Sense is an absolute dream.
After six versions I always thought that they just couldn’t improve on that last one, surely! But you know what, with the Sense 7 and Sense 7 SG I think they have.
Wet conditions do little to dampen the spirits as almost 1000 trail runners across across a weekend of racing at Coed y Brenin for the 2018 Salomon Trail Marathon…