Over seven years, the Salomon’s S/LAB Sense trail running shoe has become a legendary piece of equipment in the world of trail running. Minimalist, efficient and a winner on the podium, its trademark red hue is still among the fastest on the most famous trail races around the world. But why was it designed? To help Kilian win. From there, the Sense has become much more. (To view the video below with subtitles, click "CC" box on the bottom right of the video. Article continues below.)
If the Sense trail has become iconic, it is thanks to the unusual way in which this trail running shoe has been designed. It all began in 2010, when Jornet returned empty-handed from the Western States 100 trail race. He didn’t expect to lose and he wasn’t happy. “I’ll be back next year, but I’ll be back to win, and we need to review all the equipment,” Jornet said to Patrick Leick, today Salomon’s Service to Athletes Manager.
Salomon’s product design team racked their brains to deliver Jornet a shoe that would help him to victory the following year at the Western States. The challenge was before them and the stakes were high. To create a trail running shoe that corresponded perfectly to the champion’s needs in only one year was a challenge. The normal time from conception to finished product of a technical shoe like the Sense would normally take two years.
In one year, Salomon’s designers succeeded in creating a new type of running shoe for Jornet. As planned, he used it in his winning return to the Western States one year after his disappointing result. Still, Salomon designers had some lingering frustrations with the shoe they had built. More innovations were required. They concentrated on Jornet’s stride and biomechanics. In order to gain more speed and precision, he needed to put all his weight onto his forefoot.
This was reflected in the design, which aims to concentrate the runner’s energy into the forefoot, “the place where, biomechanically, everything happens”, as Benjamin Grenet, Salomon’s Footwear Design Manager, explains.
Seven years later, the seventh edition of the Sense still answers precisely to the same idea and the same ambition: to concentrate all the energy into the forefoot. Of course, in the meantime, the shoe has been improved with technical innovations and through the evolution of new materials.
The S/LAB Sense has given birth to a whole range of trail running shoes that bear the name and values of the original Sense. Although the S/LAB Sense is and will remain Kilian Jornet’s trail running shoe, today a new flagship model called the Sense Ride 2 offers a more accessible model for even more trail runners.
Cristelle Robert, Salomon’s Footwear Director of Global Product Marketing, presents it as “an easy shoe, the one we can recommend to any runner who wants to try trail running or simply improve their performances."
The Sense is a prime example of how close collaboration with athletes can lead to products that benefit the greater population. In this case, working with the greatest trail runner on the planet eventually helped Salomon build a shoe for trail runners of all ability levels. As Patrick Leick says, the mantra is: “One shoe, one athlete, one race."