I’ve owned a fair number of Salomons in my day, but I’ve always been left with a feeling of unrequited love after a few hours. You see, I suffer from a tragic disease of the foot known as pedibus muricanus; or, in layman’s terms: ‘Murican Feet. I do not possess the narrow, euro foot needed to actually fit in their creations.
So, it was a surprising delight when I first stepped into their newly released Sonic RA Pro 2, an update to one of their popular road shoes from last year. They. Actually. Fit. I’m not gonna lie, I peed a bit. This, my friends, is a Salomon for the rest of us. And by rest of us, I mean those that will never, ever, under any circumstances, be confused with Killian Jornet.
But how do these things feel on the run?
I got the Sonic RA Pro 2 a bit before the dumpster fire that was my Boston Marathon, and used them on a 10 miler with some goal pace miles, plus some faster short workouts before the race. Post-Boston, I’ve used them for recovery and easy runs, plus some stride sessions. Overall, I’m impressed with how versatile and balanced they are. They don’t knock my socks off in any one area, but they also don’t have any major weaknesses.
For a company that makes seriously purpose-specific footwear that can ride the razor’s edge of weight and performance, this is a surprisingly simple all-arounder. The Sonic RA Pro 2 weighs in at 8 oz. in a size 9 (down a bit from last year’s version), but feels even lighter on the foot because of how well they fit. There’s a good amount of semi-firm cushioning, but not too much, and the heel to toe drop is 6mm (24 in the heel and 18 in the forefoot).
The engineered mesh upper has enough structure to hug the foot in the right places, but doesn’t feel restrictive at all. It breathes really well, even when I stupidly wore thick wool socks on a spring day in the 70s here in New York. The welded Sensifit overlays raking back from the midfoot towards the heel are unobtrusive and help to lock down the midfoot while leaving the forefoot largely unencumbered.
The lacing system allowed me to easily distribute the tension across my foot as I wanted. Extra eyelets allow for heel locking. In the past, Salomon models were always sized a half size up for me, these fit true to size. The interior of the shoe is really comfortable, which is de rigueur for Salomon shoes these days.
Overall the upper is a simple affair to look at, but only because so much thought was put into it. I have a narrow heel and wider forefoot with an almost flat arch and these fit me really well. I think they’d still work well for the narrow-footed pixies among us, as I attribute the flexibility in fit to the stellar upper’s engineered mesh.
The midsole uses something Salomon calls its VIBE Technology (their caps, not mine). It’s made from a combination of their OPAL cushioning inserts (designed to dissipate vibrations) and their EnergyCell+ midsole foam, a proprietary, lightweight foam designed to retain its cushioning properties and resist bottoming out after many miles. Apparently a lot of time, money, and science was put into this midsole configuration (it’s also featured on some of their top-end trail shoes). I’m really pleased with how it works, even if their naming systems leave me totally flummoxed. If pressed, I’d say it’s a bit on the firmer side, but it’s not harsh by any means. It’s enough cushioning to handle long runs capably, but it’s firm enough to handle speed as well. The opal inserts take a bit of the edge off the rest of the midsole precisely where it’s needed, and overall I enjoyed these at a variety of paces.
The outsole is, unsurprisingly for Salomon, a real gem. It features a mixture of blown rubber and their Contragrip rubber, which sticks like glue on wet surfaces. I even took them on park trails and was really happy with how they handled on the dry sections of trail. I wouldn’t take them on fells, but I wouldn’t hesitate to rock them in a non-technical 50k. The outsole is highly segmented and features geometric decoupling, which you can see in the recessed line going from the lateral side by the heel towards the medial side by the toes. This design is supposed to make for smoother transitions, and I can report that the Sonic RA Pro 2 transitions very nicely indeed.
If I had to compare it to another shoe I use a lot, I’d say it reminds me of a firmer and lighter Salming EnRoute, a shoe I love and still wear frequently. Another that comes to mind is the Adidas Boston; however, I find the Sonic RA Pro 2 a bit better cushioned in the forefoot, and the weight distribution for the Sonic Pro feels more balanced than the Adidas Boston, where the Boost always makes the midsole stand out in a bit too much. The VIBE midsole system doesn’t have the pop of Boston’s Boost, but it is still very nice and doesn’t pack down as quickly as the EnRoute’s midsole. I don’t have a ton of miles in them yet, but the Sonic RA strike me as the kind of shoe where the outsole goes before the midsole, and I don’t see the outsole going any time soon, so I expect to get a lot of miles out of these.
Yeah, you can go for something like the Skechers Razor 3, which weighs a bit less; however, I think the overall Salomon RA Pro 2 is a more versatile shoe that will last longer (that being said, I still love the Razor 3).
I actually don’t have a ton bad to say about these shoes, which is surprising, because I can usually find something. Okay, you twisted my arm.
The heel, while snug-fitting, has a welded collar that I can see bothering people who favor no-show socks. It wasn’t an issue for me, but something to watch for. I also wonder if the shoe wouldn’t transition even better with a slightly beveled heel, as at slower paces it can feel a bit less smooth at times. Again, this shoe wasn’t designed for yogging, so I’m not dinging it for that–just one to grow on. I love the design of the shoe but I didn’t love my colorway as much as the white on grey version they also have out. Oh, the laces are also too fucking long. How in this day and age does this still happen?
Overall I’ve been really happy with the Salomon Sonic RA 2. For a company that’s had a real Sam and Diane relationship with road shoes, I think they’ve finally made a shoe that will appeal to a broad variety of runners. It’s really well built from premium materials, lightweight, works at a variety of paces, and at $130 is surprisingly cheap for a Salomon, especially in this new world of $150 being the old $120.
It wasn’t a shoe that I put on and made me yearn to turn quarters at the track, but it also didn’t lull me to sleep. It was a solid grinder on all runs.
I liked this shoe enough to buy a pair in my correct size, size 12, even though the kind folks at Running Warehouse had sent me a free pair that I used for this review. There are a number of exciting new lightweight trainers these days, and while these may not stand out on specs alone, I think their versatility, looks, and construction make them a really solid option.Shop SONIC RA PRO 2