Welcome! The intent of Anecdotes from the Trail is to share my experiences while trail running or racing (occasionally on the road too.) And to feature other trail runners and their accomplishments. You may see the occasional gear review or even contest. Please visit from time to time. Happy trails!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Running Shoe Review: Salomon Sense Mantra

My Salomon Sense Mantra trail running shoes

A little over a month ago, I was heading up to Chattanooga to take part in the Rock/Creek Stage Race, a three day trail running event in the surrounding Chattanooga mountains. Sixty miles over three days on mostly single track trail. And I was on my way there without a decent pair of trail running shoes.

My trusty Brooks Cascadias had run their course (sorry for the pun) some time before and when I went to replace them I purchased the Montrail Bajadas. Big mistake! With less than 150 miles on the Bajadas, I blew out the upper on the medial side of both shoes. Now I have Hulk feet, that is true, but I've never had that happen before in a pair of shoes. I didn't get around to going back to the store to replace the Bajadas when the stage race came up. I grabbed two pairs of my road running shoes and that's what I was planning to run with in Chattanooga. Except that at the race, I stopped by the Salomon vendor tent and the rep was giving runners the opportunity to test run in their shoes. I know it's the golden rule to not try something new on race day, but on day two and three of the stage race, I ran in the Salomon Sense Mantras and I was hooked.

Rockin' the Mantras at the
Chattanooga Stage Race
Fast forward a bit and I now have a couple of pairs of the Salomon Mantras thanks to the guys at Salomon.  Along with 42 miles I put on the shoes at the race, I've put about 75 trail miles on my current pair and they've been great.

The shoe is advertised as "A trail shoe for midfoot strikers", but I'm more of a heel striker. Less on the trail, but definitely when on the road. Being used to the Cascadias which have a higher heel drop, I thought this would be a feature that would give me some trouble. At least at first, but that hasn't been the case. In fact, I feel it has helped in my foot strike transition and I have had no calf or shin trouble. The Mantras do fit a bit narrow for my foot, but so far that has not been a problem.

Two features of the shoe that I really like are the gussetted tongue (or "Endofit sleeve" as Salomon calls it) and the unique lacing system. The tongue or sleeve snugs up well to my forefoot and is immediately comfortable. The lacing system works well to provide a snug fit without it being too tight. It's also a plus that I never have to worry about untied shoe strings (something that Brooks Cascadia are unpopularly known for, as much as I love them). I like that you can took the plastic end of the lacing into a hidden sleeve on the top of the tongue too.

We've had quite a bit of rain in our area the last couple of months, so running on trails recently has been a bit of a slippery affair. Any feedback I would have on the traction provided by the shoes would be unfair until I had a chance to get in a few more miles in drier conditions. Having said that, I also run on quite a bit of granite in my area and the shoes have responded well with good grip on the rocky surface. Also in regards to the rain and considering sweat from summer running, I have finished several recent runs where my shoes are drenched. I've found the Mantras to have really good ventilation and they also have the ability to dry off relatively quickly.

One feature of the shoe that I would like to see improvement with in future versions of the shoe is better protection from the trail. The trademarked "profeel film" in the shoe is a thin carbon fiber sleeve that is embedded in the midsole. While I agree with not wanting to loose "feel" with the terrain, I have had a couple of cases on rootsy or rocky terrain where I felt it a little too much. For you true minimalist runners out there, you may think that's no big deal, but for someone like me who is used to a beefier shoe I realy notice it.

Overall, I really like the shoes, especially the light weight aspect of them. As mentioned, I really like the fit with the help of the inner sleeve and lacing system. I'm looking forward to taking them through a serious week of trail running at the 2013 TransRockies Run in Colorado. If they continue to do well for me, I'll most likely run in them during the Pinhoti 100 in November.

Disclosure: Salomon Running provided me with two pairs of the Salomon Sense Mantras to test wear. Opinion of the shoes are my own. For the manufacturer's tech page listing the shoes features, click here. Below is a Salomon Running produced video on the shoes.

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