Unlike the vast majority of the running shoes I’ve reviewed over the past few years, I own the pair of Salomon S-LAB Sonic’s your eyes have set upon opening up this review. They came my way via Run Coed Y Brenin and it’s something I’d been looking to try out for a while. I remember when Max King and Ellie Greenwood started wearing Salomon branded road shoes for Comrades, it intrigued me. I run more road miles or light trail, then full on tech trails and fells, due to my geographic location. Could the S-LAB Sonic offer some of the benefits of their trail siblings? Would I prefer them to the Sonic Pro, which I’ve previously reviewed.
First things first, there’s no denying it…… they’re red. Well theres not a lot else going on bar the white branding. If you don’t want to stand out on when running, you’re going to have to look elsewhere, as this is the only colour option. On a daily basis I prefer more subdued colours for walking/living in, but I have to admit, bold colours when running look great and spur me on to push harder. If I liken it to sports as a kid, only the best had the flash kit, so you don’t want to make yourself look like a fool.
But hang on their a minute. Stop. The glaring elephant in the room…… no Speedlace. Salomon have put shoe laces on a S-LAB shoe?! Are they mad?
When I first started using Salomon’s shoes I was sceptical about their use of Speedlaces over conventional laces. I mean, if I’ve managed 20 something years with laces, why reinvent the wheel. I’ve come to realise, for quick out the door securing, there is nothing better. That was until I slipped on the S-LAB Sonic. Combining Sensifit™ and Endofit™, with laces takes this to a new level. I find I can dial my fit in easier, with less need to make micro adjustments. I may be old skool at heart, but for me, personally, this is the best of both worlds. I love it. On a side note, the laces are flat, thin and don’t slip once in a double knot. I’ve had no issues with them, they aren’t showing signs of wear and neither have they tried to macerate my hands on freezing days after finishing a session.
As will have become apparent in my reviews by now I am a fan of both Sensifit™ and Endofit™. Both cradle the foot, the latter being a sleeve, and I’ve yet to find issue with this system. I like support across the mid section of my foot and this is always ample, precise and above all, consistent.
With the obvious out the way, what do I look for in a road shoe? Of course a cushion ride is a necessity, to dampen the shocks driven back through the leg from hard surfaces, but I don’t want to float on a marshmallow, nor run for 5 miles and find the midsole reduced to nothing. Weight, strip it away! As I’m not going to be running through bushes, past roots and over rocks, I want my shoe to be as light as possible, allowing my foot to breath, my cadence to be high and my stride to flow. And finally, for me, breathability is key. I run hot throughout the year. I was happy to run in the Sonic throughout winter, without the need for a thicker sock. Maximise the breathability, use light mesh panels and encourage air flow.
Since we started up top, the upper is constructed from a single layer of open air mesh. This in turn is combined with a nylon layer to aid abrasion resistance. As you can see from the image above, there’s not a lot to it on the face of things and the welded overlays provide structure. The welded toe rand keeps the toe box stable and prevents blowing open the mesh if you mistime jumping up a kerb. I found the toe box to be neutral, its not a wide chasm, but equally it wasn’t narrow. I could happily walk around in the S-LAB Sonic all day without worrying about pinching my little toe or rubbing either exterior digit.
The open mesh has held up well, I’m 90 miles into the shoe and there are no signs of wear. It has more to it than the Sense 5 Ultra and will shed more crud which is beneficial in the winter months.
At the back, the heel cup is supportive, minimal and I’ve had no slippage, whether it’s been a 3 mile blast, or 10 mile tempo run. One thing that is abundantly clear in the image, is the option for using the second lace eyelet for locking the laces down. Sometimes the old fashioned way has its advantages, though I have yet found myself needing to use them.
Across the shoe, the white logos and dark reds lines on the welded overlays are reflective, which is a brilliant subtle touch. In many respects, no one has an excuse not to see you, given in the day light they are screaming “I’m here!!” and in the evening’s reflect all manner of light.
Featured in the midsole, Salomon have opted for the Energy Cell+ to deliver maximum return, along with incorporating die cut EVA, for a consistent cushion. I personally have been a fan of the EVA. It feels more like a racing flat, than a hefty training shoe, despite having an 8mm drop (24mm/16mm). In many respects this have felt more closely related to a Saucony Kinvara, which has a 4mm drop. Big thumbs up. It feels lower, but offers more support to the arch over longer distances. I know some people say they can’t run in higher stacked shoes, but outside of a huge thick, wallowy midsole, going up the scale is never an issue for me.
On short sharp runs, the midsole has felt dynamic and responsive, working with my foot rather than as a handicap. On longer sessions it has consistently supported my foot. It’s encouraged me to push off and land more on my mid to forefoot, and this is definitely a shoe for more efficient runners.
Underneath all this red, you discover more red. If you don’t like red, I’m surprised you are still reading this. The outsole is a blend of Salomon’s Premium High Traction Contagrip®, combined with Premium High Abrasion Contagrip®. And grip it does.
Much like inov-8’s RoadClaw, they hold onto almost anything like glue, but unlike a trail shoe you don’t suffer from limited engagement through a series of lugs. The entire for to mid foot can strike, propelling you forward.
Wear has been very good. Outside of the usual discolouring in small places they have many miles left in the them and I’ll report later this year, when I’ve had more months to grind them down on tarmac, cracked pavements and muddied lanes.
All in all, the S-LAB Sonic have been something of a surprise. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the ride the Sonic Pro offered, however these are up there with the leaders of the road world. What’s more, without a blown rubber outsole, they shouldn’t wear through like cheese, but proof shall be in the miles.
However, it’s not all roses. For starters, a shoe thats the pinnacle of Salomon’s road/city trail range is a staggering £145 at suggested retail. Given there is only one colour choice and it is very much love or hate, it will divide even the most loyal of Salomon fans and pushes this beyond many’s acceptable budgets. Given the following of the S-LAB division, this could put people off switching from their favourite Saucony, Adidas, Brooks etc, where they have a plethora of colour choices, styles and price points. Many of their competition is £15-20 less. But then again, does the competition offer this much grip and potential durability? It’s a tough one.
At 220g, they are light and the breathability makes them feel lighter.
So, the Salomon S-LAB Sonic. How can I sum them up?
I’ve really enjoyed running in them and I will be putting many more miles in them this year. I love the ride, the grip is secure and the uppers offer breathability without falling apart. Yes, they may on the surface be a little blinkered with their single colour and price point, but in the longterm, will the latter be justified with their lifespan?
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