Thursday, February 19, 2015

Review: Salomon S-Lab Sense X-Series- Salomon Hits the Road without Forgetting the Trail

The Salomon S-Lab Sense X-Series is a 7.7 oz, 218 gram, 19mm heel/11mm forefoot $160 racing shoe that adapts the Sense mountain/trail racing platform towards a mix of roads and smoother trails. Salomon calls the X-Series, a shoe for "urban" racing, for varied terrain including trails and pavement. I think many will run and race these in the mountains  as well as the road. They are that versatile.

An incredible amount of versatility is provided at a very light weight. Think about it this is a very capable trail and road shoe that weighs about the same as the Kinvara 5 or Fresh Foam Zante (review)  and almost half an ounce less than the Adios Boost 1 (review)

The craftsmanship and care put into the design and construction,as with all the Sense shoes, gear, and apparel is outstanding, a work of shoe art! Salomon's S-Lab Sense line was my 2014 Innovation, Gear, and Apparel of the year (article). I have not run much in conventional Salomon shoes for years as the narrowness under the arch made them a non starter for me. No such issues with the X-Series understanding it is still snug under the arch and all over as a race and trail shoe should be in my opinion.

The  Sense X-Series is a trail road hybrid. My running in them to date, road and treadmill due to our 6 feet of snow on the ground, tells me that their "ideal" use will be for fast running on a mix of smooth trails and pavement where the lugs of the other Sense models: Sense, Ultra, and Ultra Softground are not required but a snug supportive upper, stable platform, and a bit of forefoot rock protection is called for.  

The upper is a work of art, truly. A pretty amazing feeling... that there is no upper. The only stitching at the lace holders. Very light yet supportive. 

  • cool single color. The entire logo strip over the tongue is reflective as are both sides of the strips over the heel. Plenty of reflectivity for that "urban" running. 
  • the toe area forward of the last lace area is a light soft-shell Lycra like material with the sides having a pattern of thin Sensifit overlays. 
  • back of the midfoot the upper is a ripstop mesh with very very fine holes, plenty of breathability and drainage. 
  • some will run them barefoot, I may too.
  • the tongue is minimally padded but I have not noticed any pressure from the quick laces except for the big toe side last lace holder . The tongue extends down on either side with a stretch layer at the midfoot the Endofit layer to support the midfoot. 
  • the Quicklaces have stayed as I set them, no fiddling on the run, a rarity with this approach. The lace pocket is a bit hard to get to under the laces. 

Midsole and Outsole

The midsole is made up of 2 densities of EVA. The white heel section under the red top layer is I think somewhat softer than the mid and fore foot red foam.  Or it may be the other way around as they are pretty close to each other in firmness, about 50C by my rough measurements, so firmer than most road shoes which are often about 45C.  So this is a firm shoe on the road, firmer than some may like it if your exclusive use will be the roads. If you mix it up with trails, just about the right balance of cushion and stability. 
The slightly softer white foam extends further on the lateral side than the medial side with the red firmer foam providing stability/support on the medial side. I can't stand stability shoes but may be due to the narrow platform and deeply sculpted heel cavity I don't notice an overly supported mid foot. The heel landing is firm and stable but in no way harsh. The black heel outsole material is firm and I think will wear very well on the road.

The forefoot rock protection is the 3D ProFeel Film, the gray in the picture below as well as relatively firm forefoot outsole. The ProFeel Film a thin TPU layer, not a plastic plate. It extends from the mid foot, where it provides very welcome stability similar to the Adios Boost Torsion, then forward under the forefoot. The front flexibility is outstanding, a shoe built for climbing fast then a stable ride down. Unlike the Adios Boost and its Torsion plastic which extend in strips on the medial and lateral sides the ProFilm is a layer of sorts. 
At front of the shoe the ProFilm along with a low stack height of 11mm and  relatively firm outsole in the forefoot may in my view  be part the "achilles" heel of X-Series, keeping it from making it one of the very best any distance road race shoes out there. I ran on both treadmill and on the road but in cold temperatures. Warmer weather will soften things up as EVA definitely hardens in the cold and they clearly were smoother on the treadmill. Keep in mind the design is intended for multi terrain versatility so something has to give.  
While deeply lugged none of the outsole protrudes beyond the overall plane that hits the road or trail The forefoot construction is incredible stable, firmly well cushioned yet flexible. The downside is that the forefoot is a bit slappy on the road for me, a bit too stable and firm on landing and push off,  not quite as smooth as some similar shoes such as the New Balance Zante or as snappy as the Adios Boost.

The X-Series fits snug as a race shoe and trail shoe should in my view. I went true to size and that feels about right. The arch area is snug as the upper is quite narrow there with the EndoFit stretch sleeve supporting the ankle. The toe area's light stretchy Lycra gives the toes plenty of toe top area. The width over the base of the big toe is a bit narrow for me or more likely I am feeling the last quick pull lace loop which is quite thick and rugged there.

Comparisons to Fresh Foam Zante, GORun Ride 4, adidas Adios Boost1

I compared the X-Series to several shoes, an X-Series on one foot the other shoe on the other, running a mile or so.  

  • The New Balance Fresh Foam Zante has a somewhat softer heel and a smoother flexing forefoot take off.  Zante has more overall forefoot room and close to the snugness of X-Series mid foot and arch but due to EndoFit elastic sleeve and what I see as somewhat narrower midsole under the forefoot X-Series is clearly snugger and narrower there. 
  • The GoRun Ride 4 (review) is softer in the heel and forefoot for sure given its largely exposed midsole outsole.  GoRun Ride 4 has a roomier forefoot, more comfortable but less race snug and for sure I wouldn't take them off the road. 
  • The Adios Boost 1 has a somewhat less harsh heel shock-more dispersed via the Boost, a thinner feeling forefoot but more snap. X-Series and Adios Boost 1 both have similarly supportive uppers but the Adios has a bit more forefoot width room, particularly around the big toe.
  • a comparison to the Nike Terra Kiger would be interesting. Heavier at 8.5 oz it does have a roomier forefoot and I have heard is good on the road.

Ride and Recommendations:
The Salomon Sense X-Series is an incredibly light and versatile road trail hybrid.  It has a great mix of capabilities at a weight matching or beating the lightest road or trail trainer racers. Coming from a long trail and mountain racing heritage this Sense should serve very well for its intended purpose of a mix of roads and "urban" trails, or I would say any smoother trails anywhere where tons of traction are not required and the terrain is not very technical. It is firm riding as most trail oriented shoes should be, but not in any way overly harsh in my miles on road at very low temperatures and felt better on the treadmill at warm indoor temperatures. Very flexible, it climbs exceptionally well.  I appreciated the firm stable heel, well held mid foot but could have used a bit softer smoother running forefoot for road miles, the equation changing for trails where the forefoot stability is appreciated. A bit narrow in the arch and forefoot it might not be a best choice for wider feet and or longer races. This said the Sense X Series is a race ready shoe for both roads and trails so one should expect a snug secure fit. A compromise for sure between road and trail but as close to a super light race and fast ready shoe for both terrains I have run in to date.

The X-Series were provided to me at no cost. The opinions herein are entirely my own.

You can pick up the X-Series at Running Warehouse (or shop for other fine shoes, apparel, and gear) via this link. At the same time you will support my blog. Thanks! 


stevespeirs said...

Thanks for the review, Sam. Definitely interested in these, but not sure if the forefoot width is going to be an issue. Decisions, decisions...

Derek Oxley said...

Awesome review Sam love the detail and comparisons recently picked up a Kiger's pretty like sticky bottoms