Tim’s a big fan of Salomon’s trail runners, but the brand is only a few years into the road running game. Does Salomon’s new Sonic 3 range live up to the hype?
Wait Salomon? Aren’t they a trail running brand? Shouldn’t they stick to ridgelines and rubble rather than the road?
Not quite. Back in 2016 Salomon truly entered the road running scene with the Sonic series. It makes sense, most trail runners don’t exclusively pound trails and road running can be great pace training for getting off the beaten track.
Now that Salomon have had a few years to work out the subtleties, they’ve launched the Sonic 3 series with three models: Accelerate, Balance and Confidence.
The Accelerates are designed for speed, with an aggressive 6mm drop*, the Balance has an 8mm drop and the Geometric decoupling (more on this later) is more centred, while the Confidence has a 10mm drop and a 30/20mm stack height (height above the road) thanks to extra cushioning.
I grabbed a pair of Sonic 3 Accelerate runners because I’m a midfoot striker and I generally like to run fast on formed surfaces. So how did they go?
*Heel-to-toe drop, generally lower drops suit runners who land on their forefoot or midfoot, while higher drops suit heel-strikers.
Comfort & Cushioning
The Sonic 3s were a beaut fit from the get-go. My foot’s on the narrower side but, while there was room for a wider foot in there, the bootie upper locked my foot in place. They’re also pretty light, at a mere 223g they really feel like an extension of your foot, but I was worried that this lightness might mean there wasn’t enough cushioning for the footpath.
As expected for a Salomon runner, they felt firm on the ground. It’s been a complaint before that the trail-specific cushioning Salomon are experienced with has been too firm for the harsh repetition of road running, so I was keen to see how their new OptiVibe technology performed.
OptiVibe uses two kinds of foam in the midsole of the shoe, one dense layer that acts to soak up shock and vibration, and a lighter and more responsive layer underneath to help you push off. This works. You don’t soak into each footfall and can run with a comfortable rhythm without your technique getting sloppy as it does in a softer shoe.
If I had to sum up how Sonic 3 Accelerate runners feel in one word, it would be ‘natural’.
Fun fact: Salomon bought a digitally-modelled human leg (with muscles) to study biomechanics while developing OptiVibe. They reckoned they improved vibration dampening by 15% and shock absorption by 8%.
Push Off & Grip
The other major feature, which appeared in the Sonic 2s, is geometric decoupling. To put it simply, the outsole of the shoe has a deep groove from heel to toe that helps the shoe flex laterally. This makes landings smoother and more stable and helps you push off the ground efficiently.
I have a similar feature in my On runners, but appreciated the way the decoupling runs more diagonally across the shoe. I land on the outside of my foot, rolling slightly and pushing off through my big toe. In the Balance and Confidence models this decoupling groove runs straighter to account for the heel striking style and extra cushioning.
If anything, I would probably prefer an even firmer shoe for speed work, but the cushioning makes the Sonic 3 Accelerates comfortable for runs well over 10km. I’m probably just being picky too, I don’t run thaaat fast.
The grip on the outsole uses the same ContraGrip that Salomon is known for in its trail runners. So far the durable compound is wearing very slowly and has never slipped out on me, so I’m expecting a long life from these shoes.
The runners feature a bootie-style upper that wraps the foot, tech that’s been carried over from Salomon’s trail runners where a locked-in feel is essential. Being able to make quick changes of direction is still important on the road (especially when dodging prams, dogs or dog poo) and a breeze in the Sonic 3s, but I appreciated that Salomon went with traditional laces instead of their quick lace system as it makes the shoes very easy to take on or off.
There’s a bit of foam in the bootie that slowly moulds to the specifics of your foot. This has allowed me to run the shoe a little tighter than when I first got them, which is really great for speed work where you don’t want any movement within the shoe.
I’m lucky enough to wear a t-shirt and shorts to the office, so I really appreciated the Sonic 3’s understated black and white styling (with just a hit of teal highlighting the OptiVibe cushioning on the heel) that lets them fit in seamlessly. The mesh upper has a nice subtle texturing, but it’s tough, hasn’t begun creasing after a few months and seems to resist staining.
If you’re after a bit more personality you’re out of luck, you can have any colour as long as it’s black, and men’s and women’s look exactly the same. At least that’s a win for gender equality! The only part I don’t like is the reflective line that runs laterally over the toe of the shoe – it just looks like it shouldn’t be there, but no one else agrees with me so I might just be being a sook.
Salomon’s Sonic 3 Accelerate is a great road running shoe, in fact, it’s not that bad on some cheeky gravel either. Salomon have struck a balance between absorbing the shock and repetition of running on the road, with the responsiveness and natural feel of a firmer shoe. The styling is utilitarian, with more effort put into differentiating the Accelerate, Balance and Confidence for an option to suit your style.