Shoe Reviews

Salomon Sonic RA MAX Performance Review

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By Austin Bonds

Salomon, lauded for their stellar trail shoes, is chasing down other popular brands for a piece of the road shoe pie. Their offering is small as of this writing, but the Running Avenue (RA) line, three distinct models tailored for different types of runs, is a meaningful start. The SONIC RA is an excellent daily trainer; for more cushioning and a hint of extra stability, opt for the SONIC RA MAX. Finally, for speed work at the local track and race days, reach for the SONIC RA PRO. Let’s take a closer look at the SONIC RA MAX this outing.

Navy-Air Force Leaderboard

The Good

The RA MAX, as I noted a few moments ago, offers a touch more stability (without the inclusion of a medial post) than the SONIC RA, courtesy of 2 additional millimeters of heel cushioning and a wider toe box. Speaking of the heel, the RA MAX drop is 10 millimeters (30 in the back and 20 up front). In spite of the bulky look at first glance, the MAX is surprisingly light (9.3 ounces 264 grams in a men’s 9) and fits true to size. Though the RA MAX doesn’t appear to be available as a wide, the thin, breathable upper, minimal overlays, and spacious toe box will accommodate more feet based on these beneficial characteristics. Step-in comfort is decent, but it’s no Brooks Glycerin. I’m excited to report that the thin tongue—a recurring gripe—stayed in place without slipping and gave me no irritation.

The Sonic RA MAX ride skews firm and stiff, but the smoothness is unmistakable. Every step felt nice as I repeatedly transitioned through the gait cycle. The midsole is made of Energy Cell + and Opal; combined, they form Vibe Technology, a “system to attenuate vibrations reducing a potentially harmful load to the body while delivering a responsive ride.” Translation? Less pain in the lower legs, particularly the shins.

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Salomon RA Sonic MAX

The Bad

I give Salomon credit for trying on the design. The light blue upper is one color option available across all three models, but it’s a lackluster effort compared to what Nike and Adidas are producing. Colors and patterns and accents aside for a moment, I do have two valid concerns with the RA MAX, issues that persisted run after run. The first is the padding lining the inside walls of the heel. I tend to be leery of shoes that incorporate this feature as it suggests to me that the heel counter can’t keep the feet secure inside the shoe without its inclusion. Run after run, the left shoe slid on the heel, noticeably during uphill stretches. I didn’t develop a pronounced blister, but a hot spot repeatedly emerged precisely at the placement of the rear wall padding.

The second concern is the medial side of the toe bumper. After my first nine-mile run in the MAX, I noticed a hot spot developing on the large toe. I attended to the redness with Run Guard in subsequent runs, but I felt the toe bumper rubbing the first toe again as the sweaty miles unfolded. The humidity in the Southeast is stifling right now, so form breakdown at the end of a run may be a contributing factor to the rubbing. A second factor that may be adding to the irritation is the wide toe box. My narrow feet did notice more movement up front in the Sonic RA MAX, a far cry from the glove fit that is the Salomon S-Lab Speed 2 I reviewed in April. Finally, this is a minor gripe, but the laces are too long.

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Salomon RA Sonic RA

Salomon Sonic RA MAX Conclusion

After unboxing the Sonic RA MAX, I figured the name lent itself to maximum cushioning. The MAX indeed provides more protection than the SONIC RA or SONIC RA PRO, thus affirming its place as the ideal long run model among the three choices, though, as always, the runner ultimately defines usage preferences. Finally, I’m not sure why all three models are priced at $130. Since they constitute a continuum, prices should reflect the model’s unique features, but that’s a Solomon decision and runners will spend their dollars accordingly.

For added perspective, I checked the Salomon website for SONIC RA MAX reviews. 4.8 stars out of 5 based on 19 reviews is respectable. There were no 1 or 2-star reviews, but the one 3-star review singled out the ankle “ridges” (his term) I alluded to earlier. “Enduring blisters and blood so far hasn’t been ideal,” he said of the ridges situated in the heel. I concur. Blisters and blood are not ideal.

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