Funny, it may well have been a while since my last proper running trip to Snowdonia, yet with a week booked the last two things I expected was Costa del Wales and footwear that made ‘Sense’ out of Mountain Running.
I love the Peak District, the running in the whole area is very good with options of open fell side and very hilly trails. It is a good proving ground for the higher regions over to the west and of course further north. Choosing training routes that climb, descend, then climb a few times more, with the corresponding descents, can really help to set you up for Snowdonia. Yet, nothing can replace the actual experience of running in the British high mountains. Regardless of this, the fact my running time has been somewhat curtailed this year we headed to Snowdonia and a ‘make it up as we go along’ trip, fully mobile moving to wherever we fancied. What we didn’t expect was the weather. It was amazing, not just warm, but hot. A real Indian Summer, with shirt sleeves well into sun down.
For me what I didn’t expect was to find a pair of shoes that I already enjoy wearing and then to discover that as soon as they are put to use in a real mountain environment that they just come into their own. On the surface they do not look like the grippiest of shoes and the midsole is more about combining performance with protection from the ground and less about being a softer more forgiving cushioned shoe. Designed by runners for runners who enjoy the mountains, the Salomon S LAB Sense Ultra 3 is already a firm favourite of mine, but surely on steeper rougher ground or even loose steep terrain they just wouldn’t cut it would they? I was expecting to feel overly tired from descending in them and I went away with real concerns to wearing them day in day out. Surely I would at the very least require more depth to the grip and something with the reputation for sticking to rock like glue.
How wrong can you be!
I knew the Sense 3 was nimble, quick to run in (even at my mediocre pace) and extremely light, a definite bonus. The two big days were going to be a run up to the summit of Cader Idris (791mts) all be it along the easier of the routes, the Pony Path, plus the big one, Snowdon (1085mts). From steps built by ‘mountain engineers’ to loose gravelly ground and short step sections, with the addition of stone slabs and a short pull to the summit. So yes the shoes received a test both up and down. Obviously, the Pony Path is perhaps not the sternest test, but our chosen route over Snowdon would be.
Starting from Nantgwynant we would climb a total just shy of 1000 metres. Ascending via the South Ridge and then returning down the Watkins Path. Short rocky scrambles, more man-planted-steps and step mountain paths made up much of the ascent. Retuning via the Watkins Path for my mind, is always a test as folk have slipped here and caused themselves pretty serious injury, or worse, over the years. The initial descent is steep, loose shale and patches of worn away scree. You want your shoes to grip and hold you, remain nimble and give you good ground feel. I moved cautiously over this ground, although reasonably confident from the day before that the shoes would do their job. I was also cautious as I wasn’t too sure how my strength would be in the fast repairing left leg (full quad rupture and surgical repair in March). It was all good. Then came a nice looping run along the ridge line before more of those man-planted steps and a fairly rapid decent to Afon Cwm Llan and a welcome plunge pool. Boy was it hot, to such an extent we were taking stops along the way just to cool off.
So the Salomon Sense 3’s. Yes, a massive thumbs up, they did everything I had asked of them and I suspect more. The shoe does deserve a little more play time here in the UK and I think more respect for what it can do for your mountain running. I for one will getting these out a little more often and it is clear they are built for the mountains. 9 out of 10, yes that good. Oh the missing 1/10? I would just like them to be a little bit wider, 3mm (size 9.5), but not much more, would do it. Yes, Salomon may well say they are a racing shoe, but these days I don’t race anywhere, so what the heck. This is my second pair, they have worn well and I do like the fit, from the lacing through to the under foot feel and protection. They just work, well for me anyway, as an everyday training shoe.
To find out more about the Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra’s, just ask away @RunStu on Twitter or you may like this page: http://www.accelerateuk.com/shop/product/506/S-LAB-Footwear/Salomon-Sense-3-Ultra/