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Salomon Sense Mantra Trail Running Shoe Review

jtaylor_articleI’ve not run in Salomon’s for several years so was excited to have an opportunity to check out one of the newest offerings, the Sense Mantra. Salomon designed the Mantra to be “a trail running shoe for midfoot strikers.” The chassis for the Mantra resembles the S-Lab Sense that Kilian Jornet and many other elite ultrarunners are currently sporting. In fact, it’s near impossible to miss the bright colors and consistent design themes of the Salomon shoes. Design changes in the Mantra include more “cushion, more protection and a more substantial OS tendon for energy return.”

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First Impressions

I had mixed feelings on the shoe when I opened the box. It looked bulkier than I had expected. I thought the black and neon green/yellow was sharp looking but was expecting the reds and oranges of many of their current designs. The shoe weighed 9.7oz for a size 9.5 Men’s and fit true to size. Having predominately run in minimal to lightweight shoes over the past couple years, these felt big and clunky on my feet but to be fair, they really weren’t any bigger or heavier than the Brooks Cascadia’s hanging on my wall and in fact have a lower heel drop then the Cascadia’s.

My first run was on sandy/hard pack mixed trail for bout 6-7 miles down by the river. (near my van…haha) The shoe did fine in sandy conditions although I noticed it was pretty warm inside the inner sleeve. The shoe performed great for the conditions, very grippy, good connection on the hard back and especially in the sand. Subsequent runs on the foothill trails along the Sandia Mountains proved that the tread was indeed suited to rocky, granite gravel conditions as well.

Features of the shoe

  • Low Heel to Toe Drop (6mm – midsole thickness drops from 16mm (heel) to 10mm (forefoot))
  • Dynamic Traction – Patented traction system that allows for maximum surface and traction on dry surfaces and the performance of larger lugs in the mud
  • OS Tendon – Balanced flex and improved energy return
  • ENDOFIT – Internal fit sleeve designed to hug the forefoot and improve feedback and foot wrapping
  • PROFEEL FILM – Protection from the trail in a lightweight and flexible application

Features I Liked

The shoe is very sturdy. The outsole is solid with good cushioning and fantastic tread. The tread held up well on trail and rock, sand and hardpack. Here in Albuquerque, the trails are primarily dry, rocky, loose with some sand.

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The lacing system is pretty cool. It gives a secure snug fit and does it quickly!

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Although I didn’t get a chance to use this shoe in the cold winter weather, I think I would do very well on snow and ice.

One of the designs Salomon put in this shoe was protection and I felt like they did a good job with this. Inevitably on the trails here, I’ll stub my toe and unless there’s a bit of protection on the front of the shoe it can really do some damage; to my toe and the shoe. Salomon’s toe protection (see picture) in the Mantra is top notch. As a side note, I think this is one of the reasons I like this as a training shoe, not for racing. For racing, I want the bare minimum, just enough cushion and protection without sacrificing weight and feel. For training, I am more willing to take a few extra ounces, a bit more stiffness and some extra protection and cushioning.

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Features I Did Not Like

Okay, sorry but I have to get on my SOAP BOX for just a moment. What exactly is it about this shoe that makes it specifically a shoe for midfoot strikers? Salomon is silent on this point, or if it’s because of the OS tendon energy return, cushion and protection then I think they still need to explain WHY these features make it a better choice for the midfoot striker. I feel that until the industry sets some standards, every company should have some sort of information sheet that would define how they look at barefoot, minimalist, neutral and support shoes as well as what they’ve done to address these definitions in their shoes. With so many new and existing companies jumping into the “minimalist” genre, it would be nice for some standardization of terms.

Off Soap box.

With regards to the Mantra, my guess on the midfoot strike is the heel forefoot drop. That seems to be the main feature that is different from other like shoes. My guess is that a forefoot strike would have zero heel drop. The Mantra is solid enough for a good trail training shoe and held up well although it was a bit bulky for my tastes. In my previous review of the Merrell Mix Master Move, I really liked the fact that the Merrell worked just as well on road as it did on trail. The Salomon is definitely a trail shoe only. And, I have no idea what the OS tendon energy return system is. Sorry, just never felt it at all. I usually assume that’s more for marketing then being a real mechanical advantage type feature.

In addition to the bulky feel, I couldn’t figure out what to do with the excess shoe lace. I did eventually figure this out on their website. They designed a little pouch at the top of the fit sleeves to stuff the excess lace into. Not sure I’d have ever figured that out on my own. The internal sleeve fits snug, a bit too snug for me. The sleeve also increased the temperature in the shoe, something I wasn’t crazy about.

Runners Who Might Enjoy this Shoe the Most

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If you are looking for a solid training shoe for the trails this shoe is for you.

If you like a low heel-to-forefoot drop without sacrificing solid construction and good cushioning this shoe is for you.

If you run trails more than road this shoe is for you.

If you like Salomon’s lacing system and inner sleeve design this shoe is for you.

For more information:

http://www.salomonrunning.com/us/minisites/sense-mantra/

– Jason Taylor


Talk Some Tread

  • Have your worn the Salomon Sense Mantra’s? What do you think of them?
  • What did you think of the unique lacing system?

If you are interested in the Salomon tread, you can purchase the Sense Mantra at Running Warehouse (Shoes, Packs, Clothes, Lights, and more…plus 2-day free shipping!).

About the author

Jason Taylor Jason Taylor reawakened his love of running in 2008 and continues to pursue longer ultra adventures. Jason’s life goal is to inspire, influence and transform others through his love for running and his passion for life. For more information on Jason, check out the About page.

3 Responses to “Salomon Sense Mantra Trail Running Shoe Review”

  1. on 30 May 2013 at 12:04 pm olga

    http://www.irunfar.com/2013/05/salomon-s-lab-sense-ultra-review.html#respond

  2. on 11 Jun 2013 at 4:09 pm Benedict

    thanks for the nice review from a minimalist perspective.

    My biggest beef? after 12 they stop sizing up by half (Merrell is the same way). What’s going on here? Kids these days have bigger and bigger feet and I can’t imagine there aren’t other runners who would actually like to run in a shoe that fits 🙂

  3. on 25 Sep 2013 at 7:39 am Steven

    It’s all relative. I was just thinking after my run in the Mantra this morning about how light and minimal they are! I think Salomon calls the series ‘Road to Trail’ now. The Mantra is definitely better suited to trails but you can lay down 5mi of road to get there if you needed to. This shoe offers a surprising amount of protection in both the underfoot and toe areas. I would race in these on medium to non-technical trails. The toe box is pretty generous. My toes end at what looks like a size to large but the shoe fits everywhere else and there isn’t any slop. I like them! These might be a safe bet for someone flirting with minimal shoes but wishing to take a baby step that direction before jumping in the deep end.