Thursday, March 29, 2018

Salomon Sonic RA Pro Review; Light, Easy Going, Any Pace Road Cruiser

The Sonic RA Pro is called out by Salomon as the Quick Transitioning model in its new three shoe Running Avenue line . It is the lightest model in the line at 8.3 oz/235 g weighing  0.3 oz/9 g less than the Sonic RA. It has a lively, easy going natural ride at all paces .

Weight: 8.3oz/235 g (M9), 7.1 oz./201 g (W8)
Stack Height: 18/24mm, 6mm offset
$130. Available now.

It differs from the more classic daily trainer Sonic RA and more guidance fore foot support oriented Sonic Max (RTR review) in 4 key ways:

1. Pro has no mid foot outsole rubber as the other two have.

2. The longitudinal Geometric Decoupling line is furthest to the medial side to speed transition and for me also provides a more natural run feel.
RIGHT: SONIC RA PRO                        LEFT: SONIC RA
3. The midsole heel features a 6mm Opal insert to reduce vibrations whereas Sonic RA and Sonic RA Max have 12mm heel Opal inserts and also include 6mm forefoot Opal inserts.
BOTTOM:  SONIC RA PRO                    TOP: SONIC RA
4. Pro has lighter single piece mesh upper without the mesh saddle of the Sonic RA and Sonic RA Max,with more minimal SensiFit underlays, and a less prominent toe bumper.

One would expect given these features and the “Pro” name that it is the speedster of the group.
Read on to see we found.

First Impressions and Fit
Sam: The fit is true to size. The use of a single type of dense, relatively soft mesh and more minimal toe bumper overlays has the fit the most comfortable of the three Running Avenue models if a touch less secure at mid foot and a touch lower and narrower at the toe. Other than the noted absence of the big more rigid and high toe bumper and fewer Sensi Fit underlays, it is pretty much indistinguishable from the Sonic RA. The safety yellow fading to dark slime green color contrasting with the green Sensi Fit underlays screams functional purpose but is a bit loud. As with the Sonic RA the laces are way, way to long.

The upper is a single layer and single type of mesh and is entirely seamless. It is nicely breathable although as of yet temperatures have not been high enough to really test.

On the interior of the midfoot we see Salomon’s SensiFit underlays, the green lines above and below. Most prior Salomon trail and road shoes before the Sonic RA line had external SensiFit overlays. Here they move to the inside. Also in a change from many Salomon performance shoes, and also the case with the other RA shoes,  the EndoFit bootie construction is gone.
The front of the shoe has a few translucent overlays and a relatively (compared to Sonic RA) soft but long toe bumper. The height volume is slightly lower and the toe slightly pointier than in the Sonic RA but has not been an issue at my true to size.
We have a conventional leatherette top of the tongue with mesh further towards the toe with light dense modular padding. Lace up is secure if a bit thin over the center of the tongue. I continuous pad there might have worked better.
The heel collar has modular pads at the achilles and around the ankle. The fit here is secure but not as plush as many heel collars. I have had no irritation issues with medium weight socks.

With an 18mm forefoot and 24 mm heel stack, the  Pro has 2mm less forefoot stack and 4 mm less heel stack than the RA Sonic and is a 6mm drop shoe.

The midsole is called out as having Salomon Vibe technology. Vibe is made up of two key components:
  • Energy Cell+, a compressed EVA which is very light for the stack provided, relatively but not overly firm 
  • Opal vibration reduction inserts. In the Pro a 6mm heel insert. 
The combination of firm response from the midsole (and great outsole coverage) with relatively or no shock vibration felt due to Opal is a neat innovation. Salomon scientists have calculated that 35% of forces applied to the legs (50% being shock) are from vibration, primarily tibial vibration. Taming these, as done here, can reduce muscle fatigue and I find makes the ride on a relatively firm midsole more enjoyable and easier on the legs at all paces and distances than say New Balance RevLite.

Opal inserts are a Thermoplastic Polyproylene (TPP) material which is lighter and softer than TPU's such adidas Boost and Saucony Everun, and with different cushioning properties. The Opal insert sits in a cavity below the heel and is not glued in to allow for not only vertical but lateral vibrations to be attenuated. Not to worry it won't move or come out as the lasting board covers it. I find that the Opal inserts are highly effective in reducing vibration in what is a responsive firmer midsole.
In the Pro the 6mm Opal insert is only at the heel and it is 6mm in thickness vs. 12mm in the Sonic RA and Sonic RA Max.

Quite frankly I did not notice the reduced Opal thickness in the heel and the lack of Opal in the forefoot or the lower stack that much, maybe because the removal of the midfoot outsole also made the Pro softer overall if a bit less cushioned and also a little less snappy in transition. I think the 2mm less heel stack to 6mm relaxes or slows the transition maybe a touch to much in combination with the removal of the mid foot outsole.

Bottom line is that I found the overall combination the most enjoyable to run at slower paces of the Sonic RA line as it transitions so smoothly. The Salomon marketing calls out that the Pro is "Quick Transitioning". Yes this is true but if the Quick part could involve more responsive snap, I find the RA Sonic a touch snappier and more decisive.

We have Salomon famous Wet Traction Contragrip rubber on the Pro with a firmer flavor at the heel and tip of toes and softer blown rubber up front. The grip is outstanding on all surfaces wet and dry and unlike many shoes in its weight class there is plenty of rubber thickness. Durability has been excellent to date. The outsole rubber material  up front appears is identical in firmness across the three RA models.
The upfront rubber is considerably softer than the somewhat similar stack midsole and Vibe insert racer, the S/Lab Sonic 2.
Salomon S/Lab Sonic 2 Outsole
Sonic 2 includes a Pro Feel film stabilizing layer at mid foot making the personalities of the shoes quite different. The Sonic 2 is a snappy, firm racer and fast tempo shoe whereas the Pro is a comfortable easy going, up tempo racer and even slower pace daily trainer.

The outsole has the RA line's trademark decoupling line with the longitudinal line shifted furthest to the medial (inside) side of any of the Sonic RA models. The shift in the decoupling line smooths transition and make them a touch less stable up front than the Sonic RA. You might say I can't see the difference but it is clearly felt across the three models and is most noticeable in the RA Max the light guidance support model where the slight change in position towards the lateral side provides noticeable forefoot support in combination with a slightly wider on the ground and upper platform. The science for the Decoupling Geometry comes from the work of Simon Bartold a prominent sports podiatrist long involved in shoe design who is now at Salomon.
RIGHT: SONIC RA PRO                        LEFT: SONIC RA
In contrast to the other two RA models there is no mid foot outsole rubber which I think contributes to the easy going feel and transitions while somewhat reducing snap and response compared to the Sonic RA.

The ride was a surprise. Given the weight and Pro designation alone. I expected a snappy, firmer cousin to the Sonic RA. Yes it has a touch less cushion than the Sonic RA but overall I found the Pro to be a more easy going, more natural ride than the Sonic RA with not quite the performance snap and stability I like in a faster pace shoe. They actually feel slightly softer, while never bottoming out or feeling mushy, and are even easier on the legs and to run in many ways, especially at slower paces, than the Sonic RA.

They are not as cushioned by the stats of stack height (24/18 vs. 28/20) and have less Opal vibration reduction on board but on the run the difference is less noticed than the numbers might indicate. It seems the elimination of the mid foot outsole and maybe even the reduction of Opal inserts contributes to the easy going, comfortable ride feel.

I ran a variety of distances and paces and the ride was always fluid and easy to transition, if lacking some of the pop and response of the Sonic RA.  They have been delightful and an easy choice for any purpose or length run. I tend to like my faster shoes with some inherent stability and while the Pro is stable, the lack of any mid foot outsole or Pro Feel film was noticed.
The Sonic RA Pro is a tremendous amount of shoe for its light 8.3 oz weight. It has a substantial outsole, very adequate cushion from its Energy Cell+ midsole, the Vibe tech, and has a fine comfortable upper which leans towards but not does not quite get to a performance fit. Runners who are looking for a do it all shoe that is light , relatively low drop at 6mm, stable and easy to run at all paces, including for some racing, should consider the Pro. While it is "Quick Transitioning" as Salomon claims it feels less responsive and snappy than its slightly heavier Sonic RA cousin making it lean more towards training than racing for me. It lacks a bit of a get up and go sharp personality. Adding back some ProFeel Film or a light outsole coverage at mid foot would perfect the shoe in my view.

Sam's Score 9.50/10
-0.25 As the performance Pro shoe in the line, a touch more snap would be welcome
-0.15 for not including the excellent mesh saddle of the Sonic RA to better yet lock the foot down.
-0.1 for very, very long laces. Why or why..

Salomon Sonic RA Pro vs. Salomon Sonic RA(RTR review)
Strange but for easy runs of any distance I will reach for the Pro but for faster runs the Sonic RA. The extra upper and mid foot outsole makes the Sonic RA pop better at pace and the weight difference is negligible. Nod to the Sonic RA while not quite as much fun and easy going is more purposeful and versatile for me,

Salomon Sonic RA Pro vs. S/Lab Sonic 2 (RTR review)
The Sonic RA Pro might be thought of as a replacement for the racing Sonic 2 It is not despite having similar stack stats of 24/16 for Sonic 2 and 24/18 for the Pro with identical 6mm Opal inserts. The key difference is that the Sonic 2 is 2mm lower at the forefoot, has firmer forefoot rubber, no decoupling geometry, and has a ProFeel film stabilizing plate at mid foot. It is way snappier, firmer, and dynamic.  Ironically, Sonic 2 upper is more commodious and soft with the EndoFit bootie holding things together but a bit loser and broad at the lace up and ankle collar compared to the Pro's. The result is that the Sonic 2 is highly dynamic, responsive firm forefoot racer which due to its Vibe insert can train and the Pro is a more easy going trainer that can race occasionally. If you are seeking a single do it all shoe go with the Pro, if you want a firm fast and super comfortable long racer fast trainer go with Sonic 2. My personal nod goes to the S/Lab Sonic 2 here.

Salomon Sonic RA Pro vs. Saucony Kinvara 9 (RTR review)
The Kinvara 9 is 0.7 oz lighter but you will pay for that as it has far less durable rubber so you won't get the miles that you will in the Pro. Unlike the Pro, it has an internal bootie construction and a substantial free floating mid foot strap to secure the foot into a softer very comfortable  mesh upper. Upper nod to the Kinvara. Underfoot, despite not having the rubber coverage at mid foot or for that matter all over of the Pro, the Kinvara has a more dynamic and stable ride but not quite as an easy going one. Kinvara is a more versatile shoe overall. Nod to Kinvara if the purpose is faster running and long racing with less concern about longevity.

Salomon Sonic RA Pro vs. Brooks Launch 5 (RTR review)
The Sonic Pro has a superior upper and mid foot midsole geometry despite lacking the rubber there of the narrow waisted Launch. While the Launch 5 has a wonderfully light and soft new upper and is somewhat more cushioned it has for me inadequate mid foot support from the upper and narrow on the ground platform at faster paces. Clear nod to the Pro.

Salomon Sonic RA Pro vs. Saucony Zealot 3 (RTR review)
The Zealot is 0.2 oz heavier with comparable outsole coverage. It is somewhat more purposeful and dynamic in its response while more cushioned at the forefoot due to it 24/20 stack, 2mm more there than the Pro. I prefer the Pro upper and its snugger, simpler to dial in fit. It's a toss up really as both provide a tremendous amount for their light weight. If you prefer a more easy going yet easier to transition ride go with the Pro. If you want a steady, slightly more stable workhorse for longer workouts go with the Zealot.
The Sonics was provided at no cost.The opinions herein are entirely the authors's

Sam Winebaum is the Editor and Founder of RoadTrailRun . He has been running and shoe geeking for 45 years. As he turned 60 in 2017 he was thrilled to clock a 1:35.24 half.

For Sam's full run bios se our Reviewers Bio Page here.

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kiwirevo said...

Did you notice any size difference between the SLab Sonic 2s and the ra pros I was a 10.5uk in the sonic 2 but the 10.5uk ra pro is giving me numb little toes after 3miles. Not sure if I should go bigger for room or smaller (which is what lots of people on the Salomon site say) to move the little toe further forward. Another option might be to go to the standard RA if it's roomier

Anonymous said...

How would you compare them to the NB Zante v3?
My feet are well wrapped in the very confortable upper of the Zante but I am looking for a little more cushioning on the fore foot and a more secure ride for longer runs.

Gill said...

Please compare it with salomon sense ride ?

MG said...

The endofit, profeel film and the outsole rubber on the S/Lab Sonic 2 creates a contact with the tarmac that is indispensable when the target is to keep moving forward all day long in an urban setting. (thank you for the review)

Colin Steinke said...

Did the upper break in at all? I tried these at a shop and the overlays felt a bit constraining but otherwise the shoe felt excellent.

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Colin,
The Pro breaks in somewhat more than Sonic RA but not much more over time than when new. Unless the toe areas and Achilles area are a particular issue for you they fit supportive and secure.
Sam, Editor

The Stoat said...

When I put these on I immediately thought that they felt like the trail shoe that I wished that Salomon would make - somewhere between the very minimal 'Kilian' S-Lab sense and the vast array of bulky heeled 8mm drop (Ride, XA Elavate, Sense ultra etc...) shoes that I don't warm to. Better still they don't have that silly quicklace. The outsole looks like it could cope in the dry... I'm almost wondering if I could do TDS in them.

The Stoat said...

^^^ P.S. Side by side they feel very similar to my Nike TK4, but slightly narrower fit, higher toebox and more supportive upper. A 5-6mm trail tread on these and I'd have my holy grail.

Unknown said...

Hi Sam,

Many thanks for this great and informative review. I have just discovered the joys of the Salomon Sense Ride as my first trail shoe and absolutely love it.

Would you be able to suggest if the Sonic RA or RA Pro would offer similar fit and feel and drop? I'm so happy with them I essentially want a road only version.


kiwirevo said...

Hi, will you be getting the 2nd versions for review?