Speed, Cushion, Minimal Build: Sense shoes are Rare Breed

“Low, light and fast.” Salomon picked those words to describe its S-Lab Sense, a racing shoe new this year that is the most minimal in the company’s line.

This is not your average trail runner. The Sense shoes cost $200 and were designed in collaboration with Kilian Jornet, one of the world’s top ultra runners.

salomon sense shoes.jpg

S-Lab Sense

For the past few weeks I’ve trained and raced in the shoe, including in Chile last month for the Patagonian International Marathon. In that event I ran 26 miles over rocky ground, and the shoe provided a great compromise between protection and speed.

Salomon touts natural foot motion and forefoot running with the Sense. Many shoes do that. What sets the Sense apart is its protection and support, all while keeping its light, minimal feel on the foot.

These shoes are among the lightest I have worn, at about 6.9 ounces apiece. That’s half the weight of many trail runners. They are flexible, letting my foot move naturally, and they have a low drop of about 4mm from heel to toe.

The Sense shoes include foot-cradling uppers and the solid pull-to-cinch lacing system the company is known for. There’s a bit of padding in the midsole. A thin “rock plate” film in the forefoot and a lightly treaded sole give protection and grip.

running past glacial lake.jpg

The author on the Patagonian International Marathon course; photo by Chris Radcliffe

In Patagonia, I ran a 3:18 marathon on a tough course. The Sense shoes were about perfect for the venue — they provided just enough protection against the rocks while still providing something minimalist shoe junkies call “ground feel.”

To put it another way, they feel more natural. Each stride is not muted by padding in the heel and midsole like with traditional running shoes. Instead, running in the Sense shoes my feet knew they were on the ground, though without suffering the blows I associate with other minimal shoes.

On race day, I tugged the speed laces for a nice fit and took off. Marathons are no time to practice form and build foot strength, as many minimal shoes promote. Instead, the Sense’s flexible, close-to-the-ground build and light weight let me simply run hard and concentrate on speed.

At the end of the marathon my feet felt remarkably good. I was impressed with the shoes overall. While the price is high for day-to-day running, the Sense is so fast on race day that for many competitive runners the price will be worth it if you can go longer and move faster down the trail.

—Sean McCoy finished in 5th place overall in the Patagonian International Marathon. He is a contributing editor who lives in Denver.

Posted by Bfeltovi - 10/04/2012 04:28 PM

I’m confused. The shoes are meant for forefoot running and yet the photo shows the author testing them with a definite heel-strike stride. Does that make sense?

Posted by Mikkel Lund - 10/05/2012 02:26 AM

Great that Salomon is finally coming down, both in terms of drop and absolute height – the latter being the primary reason why I stopped running in XT Wings and Speedcross 2 – after having tried really low (and light) shoes, the Salomons were instantly degraded to shopping shoes ;-)

Posted by Sean - 10/17/2012 02:51 PM

Bfeltovi, you are correct in that I was heal striking more than normal. I think the image was shot at about mile 18 of a tough marathon and my form was breaking down with some soreness in my metatarsal left over from the Trans-Rockies. Interestingly, the low-drop shoe was still good and I felt OK to the finish.

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Posted by John - 12/27/2012 02:24 PM

The author is clearly heel-striking. A recipe for disaster in minimalist shoes- he should know better. It’s your own fault if you run like this and destroy your knees/hips, but to write an article on minimalist shoes with a clear heel-striking photo is inexcusable.

Posted by Anthony Geo - 12/31/2012 03:26 PM

I really wish shoe companies would come off the “minimalist” shoe bandwagon. Minimalist shoes dont work for everyone and I dont care how much you want to promote natural movement. I am an overpronator and tried several brands of minimalist shoes hoping I could build up strength and arch support only to hurt my feet so bad I couldn’t even ride a bike.

Posted by Levi - 01/13/2013 12:33 AM

Antony Geo
Minimalism has nothing to do with correct form and fore/mid foot striking. Before you bought your shoes, you should have gone to a form coach as it seems, that alone you could not manage a safe transition to a more natural running form. You are an overpronator, what means you are heel striking. In a fore/mid foot strike it does not exist. Forefoot touches the ground then the heel. There is no rolling,no pronation or supination. Get educated first, after you can talk about fads and bandwagons. Minimalist shoes work for everyone who gradually gets into them, as intended, and have a correct running form.

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