Salomon Sense Ride 3 Review

When looking for an all-around trail running shoe that can handle smooth surfaces such as sections of pavement and buffed-out trail as well as technical mountain terrain, there are few options on the market. Typically, my favorite shoes for smooth trails suffer in steep or loose terrain and vice versa. This has always made shoe selection for racing quite confusing as well, and as someone who really doesn’t like changing shoes during an ultramarathon, I find that having a competent all-arounder is one of the only things that I’m in control of come race day.

The Salomon Sense Ride debuted in 2017 and looked to be the sweet spot for runners who couldn’t quite handle the narrow fit and firm/minimal cushioning of an S-Lab shoe, but wanted the same sort of nimble feel on technical trails. The first version of the Sense Ride featured a narrow-forefoot fit that quickly ruled it out as an option for anyone with a wider forefoot. The second version improved the fit, but the Vibe cushioning seemed to go flat after about 100 miles in the shoe. In the Salomon Sense Ride 3 ($120), the brand employs its new Optivibe midsole foam which really improves the fit and transition of this shoe, making it one of my favorite shoes of 2020.

The Salomon Sense Ride 3. All photos: iRunFar

Salomon Sense Ride 3 Upper

This upper has a softer and more malleable feel than its predecessors and is primarily made of tough, anti-debris mesh. Salomon’s Endofit/Sensifit technologies are very evident in this shoe particularly, and the initial feel of sliding these shoes on reminds me of the S-Lab Ultra which costs $60 more. There is a great feeling of lockdown with the Ride 3 and I never had any issues with my foot sliding around or friction blisters. Welded-on overlays reinforce the toecap and rand of the shoe, but are otherwise fairly minimal despite this shoe’s durability. Per usual, Salomon’s Quicklace technology is very easy to use and seems to last through a lot of abuse thanks to Kevlar laces. I especially appreciated the tongue on the Ride 3 as it never wrinkled or buckled or really required any re-adjusting while out on the trail. I could tighten the Sense Ride 3 for a greater locked-down feel on technical downhills or keep the shoe relatively loose if I was running roads.

While semi-flexible, the heel cup of the Sense Ride 3 does feel very built up, especially when first trying on the shoe. This built-up feeling in the heel is primarily due to the midsole, and more on that to come in the midsole portion of this review. The heel collar is soft and well padded, and in conjunction with the gusseted tongue and lacing system, there is very little debris that gets into this shoe. With the thickness and durability of the mesh also comes the feeling of locked in heat and moisture. My feet did not dry out after creek crossings and even after runs where my feet would sweat a great deal in the shoe, it still took an overnight for the shoe to dry out in the arid climate where I live.

A note on fit, over the last several years, the only Salomon shoe that I’ve been able to use for an ultra distance rather than a shorter training run has been the S-Lab Ultra. The Sense Ride 3 features an accommodating toebox which is enough for my bunion-riddled forefeet and some toe splay.

The Salomon Sense Ride 3 lateral view.

Salomon Sense Ride 3 Midsole

Optivibe is Salomon’s updated take on the Vibe midsole which debuted in the original Sense Ride shoe. The functional aim of the Optivibe foam is to reduce vibrations and muscle fatigue while providing an energy-returning ride. While the Vibe midsole foam seemed to feel a bit too firm for my liking, the full-length Optivibe midsole material used in the Sense Ride 3 is a pleasure to experience. The ride is still very responsive and protective, but this is the softest-feeling midsole I’ve run in from Salomon. To be fair, the Sense 4 Pro also uses a full-length Optivibe midsole, and you can read iRunFar’s thorough review by gear tester Craig Randall.

With an 8mm heel drop (25mm heel to 17mm forefoot), one wouldn’t expect too much of a difference in the transition and ride from older versions of the Sense Ride. However, when you first try on the Sense Ride 3, the shape of the heel and midsole foam is chunky and definitely noticeable. This took some time for me to get used to and I would say that it does have the feel of a stability shoe, but with a neutral ride. Additionally, the shape of the midsole does benefit heel strikers more so than forefoot strikers. I found that descending in the Sense Ride 3 to be very smooth due to the heel-toe transition of the midsole. Road running in this shoe is also palatable, and it makes for a great door-to-trail option.

The Salomon Sense Ride 3 medial view.

Salomon Sense Ride 3 Outsole

For runners familiar with Salomon trail shoes, the combination of a Profeel Film rockplate and a Contagrip outsole will be very familiar. The Profeel Film offers great protection while also maintaining great ground feel. The Contagrip outsole continues to perform as the industry standard for a low lugged, sticky, all-around outsole, and it performed well on loose and steep mountain terrain as well as hardpacked and muddy trails. Wear on the pair I tested is non-existent to minimal and, consistent with the rest of the shoe, I expect it to last and perform well for at least 500 miles.

The Salomon Sense Ride 3 outsole.

Salomon Sense Ride 3 Overall Impressions

The Salomon Sense Ride 3 is a great all-arounder, a shoe that you can put on and forget about regardless of the terrain or distance. That being said, there are some drawbacks and considerations in the design of this shoe. All of the protection and durability that the Sense Ride 3 offers comes at a cost, and a women’s size 8 weighs 10 ounces and men’s size 9 weighs in at 10.5 oz. That being said, the shoe doesn’t feel heavy and it performs well in technical and rocky terrain, both ascending and descending. But, the weight means that it is a shoe I would more likely reach for in a 100 miler rather than a 50k.

If you’re someone who has eschewed Salomon trail shoes based on their narrow fit and last, I would encourage you to check out the Sense Ride 3s. The fit will please a broader audience and they do seem to break in the more I wore them. While I wasn’t overly impressed during my first few runs, the shoe seemed to really break in around 50 miles and get better and better. I am still appreciating the utilitarian nature of the shoes and when I’m headed out of town for the weekend these are my go-to trail running, hiking, road running shoes.

Call for Comments

  • Do you run in the Salomon Sense Ride 3? If so, can you share your thoughts on the shoe?
  • Have you run in multiple versions of the Sense Ride? If so, what similarities and differences do you find in this version three?

[Editor’s Note: If you’re affiliated (i.e., an employee, ambassador, etc.) with a brand, please share your relation in each of your comments on this article. Thanks!]

The Salomon Sense Ride 3 top view.

Tom Caughlan

is iRunFar's Minimalist Gear Editor. Tom’s passion for trail running and specialty running retail experience shine through in all of his highly technical reviews, which do range outside minimalist shoes.

There are 6 comments

  1. Bryson

    Good shoe if you don’t run on rocky terrain. My outsole completely separated from the midsole at 180 miles and the upper has a huge hole on the outer side by the ball of the foot. Not very durable unfortunately. The Sense 4 Pro has the same amount of miles on the same terrain and no durability issues.

  2. Charlie

    I have around 70 miles in the Sense Ride 3, 150 miles in the Sense 4 Pro, and over 350 miles in the Sense Ride 2. I previously wore Hoka Speedgoat 4s and Altras.

    My experience with the Sense Ride 3 differs. I just don’t enjoy running in them at this time. They feel notably heavy and back weighted to me with little benefit. The forefoot cushioning and underfoot protection is identical to the Sense 4 Pro as far as I can tell, so the extra cushioning and protection of the Sense Ride 3 is largely in the heel. I heel strike half the time, especially on longer runs and ultras, but even then I have trouble seeing myself using the Sense Ride 3 for an ultra. I’m using it more as an easy run shoe or a backpacking shoe, and for those I have no major complaints. My shoe preferences also changed, since the Sense Ride 3 is not too different in weight than the Hoka Speedgoats I ran in before. I really like the upper on the Sense Ride 3 and the fit.

    I ended up using the Sense 4 Pro for a 40+ mile 7K+ feet of vert trail run in June, and am glad I went with those over the Sense Ride 3. Lighter but with very similar forefoot cushioning and protection and enough cushion in the heel for long descents so my teeth didn’t work themselves loose. For a 100 miler, I would probably get a second or third pair to change into. Fit not as wide as the Sense Ride 3, but I loosened the laces in the front and it worked well enough. The Sense 4 Pro is much more similar to the Sense Ride 2 than the current Sense Ride 3 is. Salomon’s naming seems inconsistent here. My complaints about the Sense 4 Pro are (1) narrow fit, (2) fits as much as a half size long, and (3) outsole lugs are softer than in the Sense Ride 2 so the Sense 4 Pro lugs are more worn out than I’d like. However these complaints don’t add up enough to be a deal breaker for me.

    I really like the Sense Ride 2, so much that I ordered 3 pairs recently which hopefully will last long enough so that Salomon will release a similar enough shoe down the line. Again I had a different experience with the Sense Ride 2’s cushioning. I thought the first 100 miles were notably firm on my feet to where I’d be reluctant to do runs longer than 2 hours, but at around 150 miles I found them to be quite comfortable and the Sense Ride 2s became my do it all shoe whether it was an easy run, tempo, 20 mile road, or even 25 mile trail with 5K+ of rocky vert. The cushioning on my pair of Sense Ride 2s with 350 miles still feels firmer than my Sense 4 Pros with 150 miles. However, underfoot protection from sharps is less than I’d like in the Sense Ride 2 and the upper is not as secure as the upper in the Sense Ride 3 and Sense 4 Pro.

    So I would say that if you really liked the Sense Ride 2 for how light and fast feeling it was, consider the Sense 4 Pro. If you straight up want more heel cushioning and already do your long runs and ultras in heavier shoes and prefer it that way, get the Sense Ride 3.

    1. Hubert

      A perfect description, I prefer the Sense 4 pro in all aspects. I did not use a sense ride 2. With the Sense ride 3 I feel like having a weight at my feet and you feel the 8 mm drop more than with other shoes with 8 mm drop as the Inov-8 Roclite 275 for example.

  3. Steve W

    I’ve got about 120 miles on my Sense Ride 3s now exclusively on NE technical single track and flat rail to trail paths. got a hot spot on my little toe on the first run (I never get hot spots!?), tried different socks and no issues since then. Very comfy shoes as I’d hope. The shoes do seem to “break in” a concept that I find strange in non-leather shoes. The only drawback is that they definitely retain moisture. In the current heat wave, I’ve been sweating A LOT and the shoes, in my definitely humid climate, now take more than a day to dry out (even with the AC on)

  4. Chuck

    I have been running almost exclusively in Sense Ride shoes since they were released a few years ago. I even put over 1,000 miles on a single pair, although many of those miles were on a treadmill at sea. I used my first pair of Sense Ride 3s during the Run Steep Get High Limitless Challenge on trails in Boulder, CO, putting over 80 miles and 29,200 feet of vert on these shoes in one week. Unfortunately, the eyelet failed (the lace sawed through it!) around mile 400. On my second pair now and being more gentle with tightening and loosening the laces. Despite the failure on the first I still very much like this shoe.

  5. Pete

    I’ve got about 300 odd miles in a pair of these. As a previous comment mentioned, they do seem to require a break-in period. After that, though, they’ve been very enjoyable. My feet are narrow, so I do have a lot of loose shoelace bopping around, but that’s not a huge deal. Many of my runs take me on roads, technical trails, and groomed trails and the shoe feels nice on all of them.

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