Monday, February 10, 2020

Salomon Sense Pro 4 Multi Tester Review: A Totally Rebuilt, Highly Refined & Complete Package for Fast Trail Running

Article by John Tribbia, Jeff Valliere, and Sam Winebaum


Salomon Sense 4 /Pro  ($140)

Official Weight: 215 g | 7.6 oz. (Size US 7W), 255 g | 9.0 oz (Size US 9M)
Estimated Weight: men’s US 9: 9.35 oz / 265 g  
Samples: 9.75 oz/278 g men’s US 10, 9.1 oz / 258g men’s US 8.5
Stack Height: 25mm / 21mm (4mm drop)
Available: February 2020. See below for shopping options.
MSRP:  $140


Introduction
Jeff V:  The Salomon Sense Pro 4 has been completely rebuilt from the ground up, with an improved outsole, Optivibe midsole and retooled upper.  I liked the Sense Pro 1 and 2, with the tread more appropriate for moderate trail use and they felt a bit thin underfoot for rocky technical terrain. The Sense Pro 3 looked to be a bit more worthy of technical trails, with deeper more aggressive tread, but I found the shoe to be exceptionally tippy on technical technical terrain, where I often rolled my ankle (which I pretty much never do).


Sam: I agree with Jeff the Sense Pro 3 left much to be desired. Firm and harsh and not particularly stable despite its speed focus, it was not a fun shoe as the Sense Ride 2 was despite that shoe’s lean towards road trail hybrid. With the Sense Pro 4 and new Sense Ride 3 (RTR Review) getting top to bottom new designs, the Sense Pro 4 now slots where the Sense Ride 2 sat but with more of a pure trail focus from upper support, all new vibration attenuation, more rock protection and more aggressive  traction. The Sense Ride 3 moves to all around heavy duty trail purposes (gaining considerable weight in the process) while sharing Optivibe and getting a heavier duty upper, more protection and stability than Sense Ride 2, Sense Pro 3 or even Sense Pro 4


John T: Not to sound like a broken record, but I can’t help but to reiterate that the Pro 4 leaves the Pro 3 in the dust by leveraging the aggressive tread and providing a shoe that is laterally stable, protective on technical terrain, and provides a versatile all-mountain shoe that is praiseworthy on buffed or rocky trails, and excels in off-trail and rock scrambling.

Pros:
Jeff V:  Response, secure yet accommodating fit, underfoot protection, traction, dampening, stability, agility
John T: traction, toe and forefoot protection, breathability (awesome for summer running & racing), stability, lightweight
Sam: A complete package for fast trail running: outstanding upper, vibration dampening stable and protective ride, agility decent flexibility, all terrain traction.


Cons:
Jeff V:  I would be hard pressed to come up with one.  Perhaps the lace garage could be a bit easier to use.
John T: breathability (definitely not a winter or snow running shoe despite traction features, so cold!)
Sam: No obvious shortcomings here for intended purposes.



Tester Profiles
John Tribbia (5' 6", 130lbs) is a former sponsored mountain/trail runner who has run with La Sportiva, Brooks/Fleet Feet, Pearl Izumi, and Salomon. Even though he competes less frequently these days, you can still find John enjoying the daily grind of running on any surface, though his favorite terrain is 30-40% grade climbs. He has won races such as America's Uphill, Imogene Pass Run, and the US Skyrunner Vertical Kilometer Series; and he's held several FKTs on several iconic mountains in Boulder, Colorado and Salt Lake City, Utah. If you follow him on Strava, you'll notice he runs at varying paces between 5 minutes/mile to 12 minutes/mile before the break of dawn almost everyday.
Jeff  runs mostly on very steep technical terrain above Boulder often challenging well known local FKT's. 
Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 62 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. Sam has been running for over 45 years and has a 2:28 marathon PR. These days he runs halves in the just sub 1:40 range training 30-40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces on the roads and trails of New Hampshire and Utah. He is 5'10" tall and weighs about 165 lbs.


First Impressions and Fit
Jeff V:  I was immediately impressed with the Salomon Sense Pro 4. It looks sleek and fast, is light and immediately upon sliding it on, I knew this was going to be a fast and competent shoe.  It feels as though it has a very good balance of lightweight, top speed performance, blended with adequate protection, traction and cushioning. Fit is true to size and very precise/secure without feeling the least bit confining.  The toe box is more roomy than other high performance Salomon I have run, just enough for comfort, swell and splay, without sacrificing foothold.


John T: visually, this is a sleek and good looking shoe. The colorway is your typical Salmon white or black with whatever color they are choosing to use each year. In the past, it has been red, gray, or a light turquoise. This year’s sky blue is eye catching! The fit and feel of the shoe are just as impressive as its aesthetics. As Jeff mentions above, the Sense Pro 4 has an accommodating fit, such that you can make it snug or loose as you prefer, but it isn’t constricting. Moreover, Salomons typically fit medium to narrow feet better and the Pro 4 doesn’t deviate from that much, though there is a little more play in the forefoot compared to a S/Lab Sense or even a Speedcross. More than anything, I noticed that the Pro 4 is slightly softer underfoot than previous versions. 
Sam: The look and fit is classy and says fast. Two colors, only a hint showing through of the Sensi Fit underlays makes for an elegant purposeful package.  
The fit is performance oriented and true to size. The rounded front and nicely raised toe bumper helps banish the old Salomon over constrictive low fit but there is no mistaking that the Pro is not a slipper like fit but one that will keep you locked to the fast underfoot platform.

Upper
Jeff V:  The mesh upper is minimal, flexible and breathable, with enough protection to not have to worry about getting dinged up in technical terrain.  The Sensifit overlays are actually more like “innerlays”, integrating seamlessly with the quicklace system and imperceptible from the inside. The Endofit booty style tongue aid in step in ease, comfort and security.  
Sensifit “innerlays” from the inside.

The toe bumper is very sleek and streamlined, almost non existent in appearance, but is substantial enough for good protection on most trails no matter how technical.
The quicklace is very secure and easy to get the correct tension on the first try.
The Endofit booty tongue/side lace integration creates a very streamlined fit and feel.
The heel counter is low, but well structured, and is stable and protective without feeling overbuilt.
Sam: A simple appearing upper which gets the job done very well. The dense mesh is easy on the foot and appears durable. I like the new lace garage which loads the laces down from the top but wish the opening was a touch broader for ease of stuffing, The laces themselves are soft and thin as the Sense Ride 2’s were, and not the more rigid, thicker and more noticed usual quick lace cords as used in the Sense Ride 3.
John T: With an upper that hugs all parts of your foot, it almost feels like you are wearing a sock. The Pro 4 is very breathable and has an engineered mesh that is fairly soft to the skin. I wouldn’t recommend wearing the shoe in temperatures below 20 *F, given how breathable it is. Lacing is efficient and easy to use. 


Midsole
Sam: The Optivibe midsole technology is all new and in general concept and materials shared with Sense Ride 3 and Sonic 3 road shoes including the Sonic 3 Balance we reviewed here, The Optivibe midsole combines a energy "returning" Dow Infuse Olefin based main midsole with high elastic properties (rebound) and a single proprietary embedded rear, dense rubberized EVA  viscous memory foam heel insert shock and vibration reducing called out as the JPAD by Salomon


The JPAD insert is designed to tamp down vibrations which leads to reducing muscle activations and thus is said to reduce fatigue and improve recovery.The new Optivibe system was described by Salomon as the difference in vibration between riding on a gravel road (usual midsoles) and on paved road (Optivibe). Optivibe improves vibration dampening by 15%  and shock absorption by 8% while also not changing rebound. It clearly works but don’t expect a bouncy soft feel here at the heel. 


The resulting feel is highly cushioned, dense, highly protective, and with less shock and vibration than the Sense Pro 3, Sense Ride 2 or prior Salomon Energy Cell+ EVA with Opal insert midsoles which were also was designed to reduce vibration.


Interestingly I found the Sense Ride 3’s similar Optivibe midsole and especially the rear almost to protective, dense, and back weighted. No surprise, I guess, as here with faster running purpose  with a 4mm drop vs 8mm in the Sense Ride 3 (more height and weight at the rear) the midsole feels more balanced not only in front to back weight but in providing enough protection without over dampening and deadening feel and movement as the more long distance focused Sense Ride 3 feels to me,


Jeff V:  The Optivibe midsole replaces and improves greatly upon the full length EnergyCell+ midsole of its predecessor, which in that particular application was a bit harsh in ride. The Optivibe midsole does a wonderful job dampening shock and vibration on fast downhills, hard rock and pavement, all in a relatively minimal package.  While not necessarily plush, I am amazed at how well the Sense Pro 4 feels underfoot and would have no trouble running in it on just about any terrain for much of the day. Response, stability and predictability are all excellent.


John T: As Jeff mentions, the Pro 4’s Optivibe midsole is a welcome upgrade that reduces shock and vibration on all types of harsh terrain. Similarly, I enjoyed the additional softness of the midsole compared to previous models. This softer feel had no impact on snap back or response. 


Outsole
Jeff V:  The Premium Wet Traction Contagrip outsole with 5mm lugs is impressive on every surface I have run on, from smooth buffed out trails, technical rocky trails, loose off trail, snow, mud, rock, wet rock and low grade dirty ice.  Durability thus far has been very good, showing essentially no wear over the 30+ rough miles of testing thus far. Underfoot protection is very good considering the weight/profile of the shoe and I never find myself needing to dance through rock gardens or technical terrain.


OK, on sheer ice, any shoe needs a bit of help
Sam: A great all around trail outsole. Enough lug height for softer terrain but not to much for smoother harder stuff. I did find traction only average on very hard snow (not quite ice) that was also wet due to temperatures but it is otherwise superb on drier colder hard snow and any other terrain.

This said I do miss the lower profile more hard ground lug design of the Sense Ride 2 and 3. Soft ground (slightly higher lugs)  and hard ground (slightly lower) versions of this shoe would be neat. 


The Pro Feel rock protection, which also contributes to forefoot stability, is outstanding. There is a very pronounced very easy flex point at about the laces mid-point with some decent flexibility further forward under the ProFeel for climbing and agility but not so much that the shoe loses front stability. I wish for a touch more very front flexibility for fast climbing and on soft ground as the Sense Ride 2 had but… to get that flex, protection (as ti did in the Sense Ride 2) would suffer, Can’t have everything and here the choices are spot on for the intended fast any trail any more technical trail running,


John T: Just for kicks, my first run in the Pro 4 was on the roads. I wanted to determine how well this could crossover from road to trail and I was pleasantly surprised how smooth it felt on rigid terrain like sidewalks and tarmac with a relatively aggressive lug height. Notwithstanding, it isn’t as roadworthy as the Sense Ride 2. Without fail, the Pro 4 is best on all trail terrain including, but not limited to, cruisy dry dirt single track, techy and rocky terrain, scree, and even off-trail and scrambling. In short, the outsole sticks to most anything in warm and cold temperatures so be ready to glide uphill and bomb downhill with little to no hesitation.


Ride
Jeff V:  The ride is quick and spirited, responsive and the Optivibe midsole is remarkable at dampening vibration and providing adequate cushion/protection underfoot without feeling at all harsh.  Very stable and predictable. 
Sam: Concur with Jeff. The Sense Pro 4 has the spirit and the goods to get you up and down trails and across the flats at speed with great protection and agility. Gone is a fast (but often harsh) ride of prior fast and lighter Salomon without the new Optivibe midsole. I particularly enjoyed them on hard packed snow.


John T: The Sense Pro 4 offers a stable and comfortable ride. In contrast to the Sense Ride 2, the Pro 4 offers a flatter curve in the last, giving it a less “road running” feel and a more action oriented ride. On the ascent, the Pro 4 offers a nimble and agile shoe, especially when dodging technical obstacles. On the descent, I would argue this shoe performs best by keeping the foot close to the shoe at all times and having a low center of gravity and broader platform that prevents ankle rolls and lateral wobbliness.  As a result, higher than your typical speed descents are not only possible but expected. The cushion from the Optivibe midsole is soft enough and provides the right amount of protection for any piercing terrain. Like Jeff says, the ride is anything but harsh.


Conclusions and Recommendations
Jeff V:  The Sense Pro 4 is a serious upgrade over previous versions and especially over the 3rd version, which for me was a bit of disappointment due to it being very tippy/unstable and also a somewhat harsh ride with little protection.  


The Sense Pro 4 is a completely rebuilt shoe, now very stable, responsive, relatively light, agile, predictable, secure yet accommodating fit, protective underfoot, amazing traction and great dampening due to the Optivibe.  This is a legit race shoe for just about any terrain, but especially on technical trails where traction, foothold, agility, protection and predictability are paramount. I would also easily recommend as an uptempo daily trainer, as protection and durability are certainly adequate.
Jeff’s Score: 9.7/10




Sam: A big and successful upgrade to the snug, lackluster, rough riding Sense Pro 3. Salomon is going to increasingly distinguish between Pro line and S/Lab with S/Lab shoes being very particular athlete focused and Pro learning from those shoes but more generally broad in function, fit and appeal. Here we have a shoe that sits very near to the current S/Lab Sense models but with a more general purpose outsole, more forgiving midsole, and an upper more accessible to more feet. 


The Sense Pro 4 now very clearly occupies the fast all purpose position in the non S/Lab part of the line up with the Sense Ride 3 moving up to the more heavily cushioned longer run position. From a secure but not constricting upper, to more than adequate cushion and plenty of protection to an all trails outsole, if you like to move along fast on trails, on pretty much all surfaces and terrain, it is a great “new” option. 
Sam’s Score: 9.3 /10
Ride: 9(30%) Fit: 9.5(30%) Value: 9(10%) Style:10(5%) Traction:9(15%) Rock Protect: 10(10%)


John T: Want a shoe that gets you up and down the likes of Mt. Tam in San Francisco, Bear Peak in Boulder, Grandeur Peak in Salt Lake city, Mt. Washington via Tuckerman’s Ravine Trail in New Hampshire, or even from Sierre to Zinal? The Sense Pro 4 will take you there, quickly and comfortably. The Sense Pro 4 is a secure fitting shoe with all of the right amounts of cushion, traction, and protection for any varied terrain. I think this shoe is appropriate for distances up to 30 or 40K
John’s Score: 9.6 
Ride: 9.5 (really fun and engaging shoe with stable and smooth ride)
Fit: 9.5 (secure fit with a little additional forefoot room)
Value: 9 (I can’t imagine very long distances or high mileage out of this shoe)
Style: 10 (I love the colorway and sleek style) 
Traction: 10 (high performing)
Rock Protection: 10 (toe protection, cushioning, and rock plate provide ample protection)

Watch Sam's Initial Run Impressions and Shoe Details Video (6:31)

Comparisons
Index to all RTR reviews: HERE


Salomon Sense Pro 3 (RTR Review)
Jeff V:  A world of difference, the 4th iteration is a completely reworked shoe, with better fit/upper, better midsole, better traction, more stability and better protection.
Sam: I found the Pro 3 to be a rough borderline unpleasant ride and fit with for a fast trail shoe shaky stability underfoot. The Pro 4 still is the fast shoe the Pro 3 was meant to be but improves dramatically in all areas.
John: The Pro 4 iteration is a much improved shoe compared to the Pro 3. Most notably, I appreciated the improved upper and stability in rocky terrain.


Salomon S/Lab Sense 7 SG (RTR Review)
Jeff V:  The S/Lab Sense 7 SG is lighter and perhaps better for dedicated uphill, but if you have to do a round trip, the Sense 4 Pro is.
Sam: Agree with Jeff here. A broader. more forgiving and more stable platform and less aggressive traction make the Pro 4 more versatile but when I try for a “shorter” trail PR I will still reach for the SG.
John: The Pro 4 is a better descender and better all around trail shoe compared to the S/Lab Sense 7 SG. If I want something very light and efficient through muddy or wet conditions, I would choose S/Lab Sense 7 SG.


Salomon Sense Ride 2 (RTR Review)
Sam: I have mentioned the Ride 2 several times above. The bottom line is that the Sense Ride 2 was a great light road to trail hybrid with a forward flex for climbing but had less rock protection and while also comfortable a less secure upper (particularly at the rear of the shoe) than the Pro 4,
John: Agree with Sam regarding the Ride 2 being well suited for road to trail. Namely, the Ride 2 has slightly more curvature in the form of the midsole + outsole, giving it a more natural road running feel. Durability tilts toward the Pro 4 given its denser rugged mesh upper. My forefoot would often blow through the upper after 200-300 miles in the Sense Ride 2, but I think I can get at least 100 or more additional miles out of the Pro 4 before any material breakdown.


Salomon Sense Ride 3 (RTR Review)
Sam: Considerably heavier than the Pro at 10.6 oz vs. 9.35 oz or its predecessor Ride 2, the Ride 3 becomes the heavier duty longer run shoe in the Salomon line up. It is a great shoe but I find it in comparison more back weighted due to its higher drop and raised sidewalls and on the plus side of that incredibly stable and secure with Its ride more muted and quite dense if superbly cushioned. Ride 3 is more all day and any trails shoe vs the Pro 4 as the race and fast jaunts option. 


Nike Zoom Terra Kiger 5 (RTR Review)
Jeff V:  Similar performance, the Kiger 5 upper is not quite as secure and traction is good, but not up to par with the Sense Pro 4.  On moderate trails, one could make a case for either shoe, but on technical trails, Sense Pro 4 is superior.


Skechers Go Run Speed Trail Hyper (RTR Review)
Jeff V:  The Skechers is lighter, more responsive and for sure a quicker shoe on moderate to mellow terrain.  Sense Pro 4 has a more secure and all around and more refined upper and much better traction.
Sam: The lighter Skechers is more fun to run for sure with its combination of springy Hyperburst out back and Ultraflight upfront backed up by a very lively rock protection/ propulsion plate. The Pro 4 gets close in terms of ride smiles but isn’t quite there with a denser if more protective feel. In terms of any terrain versatility and durability I lean towards the Pro and for smooth terrain for sure the TRL.
John: I like the Skechers Goodyear outsole rubber for scrambling and playing around in the rocks and on cruisy smooth trails. But as Jeff and Sam mention, I would lean toward the Pro 4 for any serious technical terrain. The Pro 4’s breathable engineered mesh upper and efficient lacing gives the Pro 4 another score advantage.
2020 Run Introductions YouTube playlist HERE 
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The product reviewed was provided at no cost. The opinions herein are the authors'.
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21 comments:

Anonymous said...

Value: 9 (I can’t imagine very long distances or high mileage out of this shoe)

Just curious do you guys ever update the actual life you get out of a shoe that you wind up using? For example I remember a concern re the Skechers Go Run Speed Trail Hyper on durability- did they actually hold up?

Maybe an end of the year update report on all the shoes folks ran in ( I do know you provide some updates- but a more coordinated effort?)

Grant Humphrey said...

Perhaps a comparison to the torrent is on the cards? Seems as though they are very similar if not uncanny in their design?

John Tribbia said...

following

Sam Winebaum said...

For most or many not the long distance Salomon. So I feel value is good for purpose. And this is a very solidly built shoe. Great idea on a car mag style long term test durability updates!
Sam, Editor

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review! How does the Sense Pro 4 compare to La Sportiva Bushido 2?

Jeff Valliere said...

Anon, I only run ~1,400 miles per year (though with ~500,000 feet of vertical gain), so it is pretty rare for me to run in a shoe for more than 100 miles, just given the amount of shoes to review, then factoring seasonal conditions and such, so the best I can do is give best estimates based on the wear I see over the more usual 40-70 miles I may put in on any given shoe. I run on rougher terrain than most (rocky, rough trails, off trail, scree, talus, etc..), rarely on smooth buffed out trails, so if there is a weakness in an outsole, I will likely find it.

Grant, I would say that the Torrent has a bit more cushion underfoot, slightly more plush, but not mushy at all. The Sense Pro 4 has a far superior upper, better traction and is even speedier and more agile. Hoping to review Torrent 2 soon, so stay tuned.

Lito said...

Hello from Spain..
I really enjoy reading your reviews.
I have a question I would like you to answer, if possible.
I weigh 190 pounds more ore less, and I regularly use the xa elevate for short (20 to 30 kms races) ultra pro For training and 40 to 50 kms races and sense max 2 for 40+ races in mellow trails.
Now I am thinking about leaving the xa elevate for sense 4, and ultra pro and sense pro for sense ride 3 or xodus 10.
I would like to know what you guys recommend since you have tried all of them.

Best regards and keep going!!

MK said...

Really helpful review, as always! How would you compare the Sense Pro 4 to the X Alpine Pro?

Pierre said...

Hello RTR Team
By the past i've got problème with midfoot fit in the sense pro 2 (too narrow) ; with the sense ride 1 & 2 it's OK, but the with the sense 3 i've again discomfort.
The peregrine 10 fit m'y foot well.
Could compare the fit with the peregrine 10.
Thanks

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great review. Just curious what leads you to say it is not a long distance shoe? From the review, sounds like it has a nice ride, not harsh, is forgiving with plenty of protection. So what characteristics leave you to believe it is not a good shoe for long distance if all of the above is true?

For instance, the SLAB Sense shoes are known to be very firm and not forgiving which makes it not great for long distance for most people. But sounds like Pro 4 has plenty of stack and enough softness that is plenty forgiving and protective.

Dan said...

Anon, my assumption is a good "long distance" shoe is in the eye of the beholder. Plenty of Salomon athletes run 100 milers in their shoes. I enjoyed the Pro Max for my 2 hundred milers last year. I'm excited to give the Pro 4 a shot. I have enjoyed the Pro 3 so far and found it an excellent 50k shoe on really technical terrain. A hair more cushioning would be welcome.

Xavier said...

What a great review! I can't help but feel like this is a sense 7 ultra, it's going to be a great addition a year or so down the line for me (unless someone can provide me a size 10.5...) . And I can't wait to see how it compares to the pro 3, I'm currently using 2 pairs and I have very few complaints, like not being the best at hard flat trails. And the outsole only gets better as it wears down.

And the comparison to the 7sg was also insightful as I have a brand new pair in the box. The regular 7 has been amazing on all but hard flat trails, but that's a rarity for me anyways!

Stefan said...

Hello RTR Team,

thank you so much for your great reviews! I really would enjoy a comparison between the Salomon Sense Pro 4 and the La Sportiva Kaptiva.

Bobcat said...

I would love to know how the cushioning compares to the React foam of the Kiger 5.
I'm happy to use that shoe for 100km +, but I would like a more technical shoe with better wetgrip. Also any comparison to the Norvan LD cushioning? (which is also a polyolefin/EVA blend from their sister company)

Jeff Valliere said...

Lito - Xodus 10!

MK- X Alpine Pro heavier and better protected for talus hopping and off trail.

Pierre - Sense Pro 4 I think a bit more forgiving in forefoot, if peregrine 10 works for you, I think Sense Pro 4 will as well.

Anon - IMHO, for longer distances, I look for more cushion underfoot, like a Hoka EVO Speedgoat or EVO Mafate, Speedgoat 2-4 or Xodus 10, but everyone has their preference/tolerance level. Not to take away from the Sense Pro 4 at all though.

Dan - exactly.

Xavier - Thanks!

Stefan - Will have to revisit Kaptiva when things thaw here a bit. FWIW, I hardly remember/run in the Kaptiva, but that will not happen with the Sense Pro 4 (if that tells you anything.... :) ).

Bobcat - Have not yet run in Norvan 2 yet, but will add when I can. Kiger 5 is a great shoe, but think you would like Sense Pro 4 better.

AndyHyde said...

Cheers for another great review. Wouldn't really have looked at Salomon but might give these a try... How do they compare to the Scott supertrac RC or the VJ maxx (as it would be one of these spots it takes in my armoury). Thanks

Anonymous said...

So, I would go as far to say that this is Salomon's best shoe since the S-Lab Ultra (black and red first edition - best shoes they ever made).

Jeff Valliere said...

AndyHyde - Sense Pro 4 best of bunch, more durable than Scott and more forgiving cushion and superior upper to both.

Anon - A strong case could be made.

AndyHyde said...

That's big talk. Gonna have to get a pair now!!

Nabil said...

great review guys! sense pro 4 looks a worthy successor to my favorite slab sense ultra which i have ran in since 2017 for all my 100k ultras. ive gone through 2 pairs of the sense ultra (1st pair: 445km & 2nd pair: 620km). i think the wait is over.

Bobcat said...

@Nabil 2017 Sense Ultra was also my favourite, I did over 1000 km on them, but I was stupid not to buy more pairs cuz when I was ready for a new pair they were sold out. The 2018 Ultra was my worst shoe of all time. Sense Pro 1 and Sense Mantra I also used alot, but Sense Pro 2 I hated the fit. So keen to check out this new Sense 4 Pro.