THE RUNDOWN: Salomon’s Sonic RA debut road shoe is a firm and fast everyday trainer.

Surface: Road Stability: Neutral Stack Height: Medium

Salomon’s Running Avenue is a trio of road shoe models designed to accommodate a range of experience and goals. Beginner runners should start with Sonic RA Max, which is the cushioned trainer of the three. We took the middle road, and tested the Sonic RA, an everyday shoe with a firm sole that provides a dynamic and nimble ride. The Sonic RA Pro is for seasoned runners with clean biomechanics or intermediate runners who want a lighter race shoe with a fast ride. The Max has a 10mm drop and the Pro has a 6mm drop.

One of the big features in the Running Avenue line is Salomon’s “Geometric Decoupling” which runs down the center of the sole to create two different support platforms. In the Sonic RA, that decoupling runs down the middle, for a balanced load distribution. In the Max, the decoupling runs toward the outside of the sole, providing more of a platform for the big three toes, whereas the Sonic Pro shifts the decoupling toward the big toe for a smaller support platform and faster toe-off transition.

The philosophy behind all of this is to prioritize pushing the foot forward rather than correcting over- or under-pronation.

Weight: 8.6 oz. (men’s 9), 7.4 oz. (women’s 7)
Offset: 8mm
Heel/Forefoot: 28mm /20mm
Topsole: Vibe Technology TPP in heel and forefoot
Midsole: Energycell+ midsole
Outsole: Blown Rubber outsole with Wet Traction Contagrip
Upper: Sensifit woven mesh
Price: $130

Photo Credit: M.T. Elliott

100 Miles In: The Review

The first few runs in the Sonic RAs were stiff, yet also fast. The soles reward good biomechanics with just enough energy return, and the rigidness provided stability. They also have a snug fit (almost tight) across the midfoot and then widens at the forefront. The stretchy mesh uppers provide enough give that the fit didn’t rub my fifth metatarsal. After a few runs, the mesh breaks in some, and while it isn’t a form-fitting mesh like some other uppers, the fit stays firm without feeling restrictive. Salomon uses a reinforced cage for the upper under the arches, and the mesh is see-through, allowing greater breathability.

The firm cushioning is a reminder that you’re not a beginner. Get distracted or sloppy with your gait, and the less forgiving foot-strikes will regain your attention. During more mindful times, the shoe provides just enough energy return to help ease kicking over the next stride without stealing power from the footstrike. The Vibe Technology is a softer polymer positioned under the heel and forefoot for added cushioning and to dampen vibrations. It’s easier to notice this feature on missteps, when your heel or forefoot land with a thud; otherwise its lack of road noise is just the kind of thing you’re not supposed to notice when running smooth.

The sole grips well on road surfaces, from rough asphalt to smooth sidewalks, and even has a little bite on hills. The Contagrip did well on wet sidewalks and the torsion of those awkward 90-degree turns when rounding a block. The Sonic RA holds up on flat hardpack trails, too, though we only ran on those occasionally since Salomon has plenty of options on trails.

After 100 miles, all the materials seem broken in, not broken down: The stiffness of the sole allowed for some flexibility and torsion, the mesh upper never became loose-fitting and the midsole maintained its minimal cushioning. The tread on the outsole shows minimal wear on the lateral (blue) side in the heel and toe, and it’s just a bit more wear than the medial (black) side. This lightweight shoe is at its peak during stride workouts, but is fast and fun during all but long-distance training runs. This is the type of shoe you’ll want to race in.

Photo Credit: M.T. Elliott

There’s the Rub

On runs longer than 10 miles, the firm soles underfoot left me wishing I had chosen to test the Sonic RA Max, the slightly more cushioned trainer. The vibration dampening is a nice feature, but the energy return from the firm sole seemed to be lost on my legs once they were fatigued. In all fairness, a more cushioned trainer is a better fit for those long slow distance days anyway.

The decoupling groove is a nice feature, but it’s just the right size for gravel to get wedged into. There were a few runs where I had to stop and remove the offending rock because I tired of trying to scrape it out while running.

On cambered roads, especially running in gutters, the toes can slide inside the front of the shoe. That’s fairly common in most shoes, but it seemed more noticeable in the Sonic RA—which may be linked to the decoupling design not focused on the road-induced pronation, or just my perception since the rest of the shoe feels so secure. At one point the finishing knot of a tongue seam started to rub against the top of my foot, but a quick re-tie and centering of the tongue and this was resolved and didn’t occur on later runs.

TL;DR

The Sonic RA is a snug-fitting trainer with a stiff and selectively-cushioned sole which creates a stable and responsive ride. As part of a trio of options, this shoe is for intermediate runners with decent running form. It is a fast shoe on short and middle-distance runs, but isn’t a race shoe. The Sonic RA loses some luster on longer runs, when the firmness of the sole and the dampening features above the midsole seem to come into conflict. Choose this shoe for most training runs and even your next 10K race, and grab a more cushioned pair for longer run.