Gear: A second look at the Salomon Sense Mantra trail shoe

Time to take these shoes out in the snow!

Time to take these shoes out in the snow!

So it’s been a couple of months and many more miles since I first wrote about the Salomon Sense Mantra trail shoe. Looking back to what I initially wrote, I said the shoe had a great fit, was light, and the tread on the sole gave me excellent traction on a variety of trail surfaces.

But that was after a relatively small volume of miles. The initial quality was excellent, but how would these shoes fare under higher volume? And in more demanding conditions?

Wear and tear

I made sure to include trail miles in my training for a marathon last month, with the idea of reaping the cross-training benefit that trail running provides. And of course, there are the hills. While many novice marathoners will train on flat courses as much as possible, I tried to resist that urge. Part of that was hitting the trails.

Over the last couple months, mileage on the Sense Mantras has crept upward on rugged, technical trails. The stitching has held up well, with no signs of loosening. The laces thus far have not frayed. The insole insert is also intact, despite my supination issues.

And most importantly, the tread is in great shape. The multi-directional nugs I lauded on my initial review have just as much bite now as they did when I first laced them up.

I imagine that when I hit 300 miles or more, I might see some degradation. But so far, the Sense Mantras are proving to be sturdy enough for the task of tackling rigorous trail running.

Performance in demanding conditions

So it’s safe to say we have a durable shoe here. It’s also been noted that on dirt, bare rock, loose rocks and on steep inclines and declines, the Sense Mantra performs well. The grip provided by the shoes’ tread design is remarkable.

But my test runs had been in rather ideal circumstances. Yes, the trails are tough, but the weather and surface conditions were pretty good.

Last week, I had a chance to change all that.

It rained, sleeted and snowed on and off over the weekend, giving the area where I run trails a nice coating of frozen precipitation. In some parts, it was a good 3 to 4 inches deep. So off to the trails I went.

The conditions when I got there were affected by the smattering of people who had hiked, run and biked there. The result: a good mix of packed snow and ice. Most people won’t run in these conditions without sole spikes embedded in their shoes, or wearing some sort of external traction gear like Yaktrax or Microspikes.

Forefoot tread design. Check out the nugs, those cleet-like knobs that help your grip the trail.

Forefoot tread design. Check out the nugs, those cleet-like knobs that help your grip the trail.

I went without any of that. So how did it go?

In a word, excellent. Over 4.4 miles filled with icy stretches, inclines and drop-offs, I had very few slips. Traction going uphill was good, and on the downhills – where this could have gotten really messy – I had solid control.

A lot of that has to do with the tread design. Those nugs I mentioned earlier have a multi-directional aspect which provides grip for uphill and downhill running. This type of tread is designed to have bite, and even on an ice-and-snow mix, I had great traction.

Heel tread design. The multi-directional aspect of the nugs is what separates this shoe from most other trail running products.

Heel tread design. The multi-directional aspect of the nugs is what separates this shoe from most other trail running products.

Conclusions

I had high hopes for Salomon’s Sense Mantras after my initial testing, and over time they’ve proven their worth. But what sold me was their performance in the snow. If you can get the kind of trail grip and feel I had in those conditions, you’re guaranteed pretty solid footing on just about anything.

I’ve tried many different shoes for trails, usually with overall good results. But many of them had drawbacks. Some were too heavy; others came with the injury issues that seem to be more common with minimalist products.

I have no complaints on this one. So if you’re looking for a serious trail runner, this is a recommended buy.

Specs

Weight: 8.5 ounces

Profile: 6mm drop

Price: Retail $120; as low as $80 on some websites

Features: Quicklace lace tightening system; multi-directional nugs on the tread; Profeel Film for forefoot sole protection

Bob Doucette

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6 thoughts on “Gear: A second look at the Salomon Sense Mantra trail shoe

  1. Hi Bob, thanks for the great review.
    I’m looking for a pair of door-to-trail shoes as I’m about 2 miles by road from my two local trail spots. Do you think these could fit the bill, or is the tread design to aggressive to run on tarmac?
    Thanks in advance.

    • I think it depends on the surface you are commonly encountering. If what you’re running on is mostly mixed snow and ice, these will work well. If it’s mostly just hard ice, you’ll want spikes or some other type of add-on traction. If it’s mostly dry but cold pavement, regular road shoes would be better. The kicker is that you *can* run on pavement in these shoes, and they’ll be super comfortable and will perform well. But you’ll wear down the nugs much more quickly and reduce the shoes’ efficacy on dirt/mud/snow.

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