Gear review: A second look at the Salomon Sense Pro trail running shoe

A little dustier and broken in, the Salomon Sense Pro has held up well.

A little dustier and broken in, the Salomon Sense Pro has held up well.

It’s been awhile since I first opened the box on a pair of Salomon Sense Pro trail shoes and took them out for the first time. In between now and then, I’ve put triple-digit miles on them over some pretty rough stuff ranging from my local trails to alpine routes high in the Rockies.

It was all the way back in July that I did my first review of these shoes, shortly after taking them for a spin a few times. Months later, I have a clearer verdict of how good they really are.

In review

Going back to that initial review, here were some of my thoughts:

The fit was excellent. An interior sleeve in the shoe and a secure Quicklace system helps the shoe hug your foot, though not overly so.

The tread has a solid grip. Multi-directional nugs perform a lot like cleats on an athletic field. Through dirt, hard surfaces, loose rocks and on any incline, the tread is designed to give you security and grip going uphill and down.

The low 6 mm drop is ideal for mid-foot running, and the sole’s OS Tendon provides good energy return. This, while also being light enough (8.8 ounces per shoe) to feel unencumbered on the run and good feel for the ground. I might add that there is enough support and cushion to protect your feet, but not so much to where you lose a feel for the trail.

Obviously, the initial testing of the Sense Pro went well. But did it hold up?

Somewhere just under 13,000 feet, I'm taking a break. Ran some, hiked some up here. The Sense Pro is good in the alpine.

Somewhere just under 13,000 feet, I’m taking a break. Ran some, hiked some up here. The Sense Pro is good in the alpine.

Miles later

One of the things that I liked about the Sense Mantra (the shoe I tested and owned before the Sense Pro came my way) was its durability. It put on hundreds of miles before the tread finally began to wear down. Even then, the rest of the shoe held up, and that after being taken through dust, sand, mud, dirt and snow in training runs and races.

The Sense Pro is a close cousin to the Sense Mantra, and in that area, its bloodlines show. The Sense Pro has held up extremely well, showing no real signs of wear on the tread or the upper. The only way you could tell it’s been used is how dirty they are. So the durability of the Sense Pro seems to be a strength.

I also have to go back to the two things that really make this shoe a winner: Fit and traction.

To me, these are closely linked, especially for trail running. A bad fit with good traction is a waste of money, and vice-versa. When it comes to trail running, fit is even more critical, given the variable surfaces at hand. Same deal with traction. If the shoe fits like a glove but has you slipping and skidding on steep grades, you may as well be running trails in road shoes.

There is incredible confidence when you’re running in a pair of kicks that become one with your foot and leave you feeling as if you could climb any hill or bomb down any decline, regardless of how steep, rocky or loose the surface may be. It’s made a tremendous difference in my running.

The Salomon Sense Pro trail shoe, right out of the box.

The Salomon Sense Pro trail shoe, right out of the box.

Conclusions

I’m not surprised that Salomon’s Sense Pro has performed well as the miles have ticked by. Given past results, the durability of the shoe — a hallmark of the Sense Mantra — has also shined through with the Sense Pro. Given the technical and steep terrain encountered in two states, I’d I can recommend these for any recreational or more competitive trail runner.

The Salomon Sense Pro retails for $130.

NOTE: Salomon furnished me with a pair of the Sense Pro trail shoes for testing purposes.

Gear review: A first look at the Salomon Sense Pro trail running shoe

The Salomon Sense Pro trail shoe.

The Salomon Sense Pro trail shoe.

After hundreds of miles through dirt, rocks, mud and snow, through numerous races and scores of training runs, I finally had to retire my trail runners.

Salomon had generously provided those shoes to me back then, with the idea of testing them out and letting all of you know how I felt. They performed well and lasted a long time, especially considering the abuse I put them through.

Salomon approached me again about testing their Sense Pro – an upgrade from the Sense Mantra I tested previously, and I was all too happy to oblige. Would the Sense Pro live up to the reputation of its predecessor? The final verdict has yet to be given, but some of my initial thoughts are here.

Features

The Sense Pro comes in with a sole that is 10 mm at the forefoot, and 16 mm at the heel for a 6 mm drop – still light enough to give you a feel for our running surface, but thick enough to protect your feet.

The sole’s traction system is designed to give you grip in multiple directions. This is particularly helpful on uneven surfaces, and on uphill and downhill stretches where trail-grip needs change. The nugs are not as large as you would see in a more aggressively cleated design but I can tell you from experience that you’ll be able to climb walls with the traction you get, and in a variety of conditions.

A look at the tread design on the Salomon Sense Pro.

A look at the tread design on the Salomon Sense Pro.

The Sense Pro also includes Salomon’s OS Tendon, which is geared to give you proper flex in the sole as well as energy return.

The lace-up system is also different than your typical shoe lace. The Quicklace system allows you to tighten up and stay tight, and the loose end tucks under is a small pocket on top of the tongue. I want to say that the system is improved; my prior pair was a little more stubborn, whereas with the Sense Pros, it’s been smooth and easy, yet secure when tightened. This was a minor annoyance before (and a common gripe with some runners who prefer traditional laces) that seems to be moot now.

As in prior models, Salomon also included an extra layer of material called Profeel Film built in to the sole that extends from the arch to the toes, giving you a little extra protection from rocks, roots and stumps.

The Sense Pro also has a sleeve on the interior of the shoe that hugs your foot. So no sliding around in the shoe, a concept that dovetails nicely with the security you get with the Quicklace system. Anyone who runs any sort of distance can appreciate blister-free training, which is just one benefit here.

At 8.8 ounces, it’s also lightweight, though a tiny bit heavier than the Sense Mantra (8.5 ounces).

Finally, as you would expect in any decent trail shoe, there is added, tougher material around the toe box.

Performance

I had no reason to believe the Sense Pro would not live up to the experiences I’ve had in the past, and I was correct. My initial run took me through muddy and at times watery singletrack, and with the exception of the sloppiest grades, I had no trouble keeping my footing.

On another test run – hill repeats on a steep, loose and rocky incline – I found similar security on the uphills and downhills. Truthfully, I could have probably pushed harder downhill had I not been a little banged up in my knees.

Needless to say, in dry conditions, I hugged corners, climbed hills and bounded down slopes with high confidence. My feet were comfortable and the weight of the shoe was not a burden. The fit was snug and secure, but not tight, and I had plenty of room in the toe box.

Salomon is marketing the Sense Pro as a “city trail” shoe, but on the wilder, rougher and more technical trails I run, they did just fine.

I’ll come back to these shoes for a second look when I’ve put a bunch more miles on them. If they show the same durability of my previous pair, I’ll likely be running in the Sense Pros for a long time.

The Sense Pro retails for $130.

Bob Doucette

Coming soon: Testing the Salomon Sense Pro trail shoe

The Salomon Sense Pro trail shoe.

The Salomon Sense Pro trail shoe.

I don’t do a ton of gear reviews, but the ones I do are for products that I think can be highly useful to outdoor enthusiasts and athletes. I pick the gear I review carefully, give it a hard test, then put it out there for you all to read.

I’m even more selective about the companies I work with. If I’m going to accept an invitation by a gear manufacturer to test their stuff, it’s not going to be something I take lightly.

A little over a year ago, I accepted one such invitation, from Salomon Sports. The company was looking for trail runners to put their shoes through the gauntlet. I did just that, testing and, quite literally, abusing a pair of Sense Mantra trail shoes. Heat, cold, mud, snow, rocks, you name it. A few hundred miles and several trail races later, I can still wear these shoes. Their durability and performance is something I mentioned during two rounds of reviews.

So I am excited to work with Salomon once again, this time to test their Sense Pro, a sweet looking set of kicks that looks to have all the spirit of the Sense Mantra. I’ve already given them a baptism by mud and will be testing them quite a but over the next couple of weeks. So stay tuned!

Bob Doucette

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

Gear review: A first look at the Salomon Sense Mantra trail shoe

shoes

It seems the world of trail running shoes has taken a whole bunch of paths to find the right fit, so to speak.

We went minimalist. Basically uppers and a rubber sole. We’ve gone maximalist, with tank-like kicks that are the footwear equivalent of monster truck tires. People swear by both.

I’ve tend to veer toward the former approach, liking the idea of strengthening my feet and legs by allowing my feet to feel the ground rather than just steamrolling over it.

But there are limits. I’ve gone just short of barefoot and sandals. Foot injuries ensued, even with gradual, low-mileage beginnings. I went the next step up (a 3-mm drop with a slightly thicker sole) and had better results. But those old foot issues just kept cropping up. So the need to adjustment continues.

What am I looking for? Something with trail feel, something designed for people with a mid-foot to forefoot strike, but something that won’t wear out my feet once the miles start to pile up.

Salomon thinks they have that shoe: The Sense Mantra. They kindly sent me a pair to test. So what you have here is my initial look at the Sense Mantra; I’ll be revisiting the shoe a second time to see how well it holds up under higher mileage over time. Anyway, here are some of the product specs and my initial impressions…

The Sense Mantra has a thicker sole than minimalist or neo-minimalist shoes: 10 mm at the forefoot, and 16 mm at the heel for a 6 mm drop.

The sole’s traction system is designed to give you grip in multiple directions. This is particularly helpful on uneven surfaces, and on uphill and downhill stretches where trail-grip needs change.

The Sense Mantra also includes its OS Tendon, which is geared to give you proper flex in the sole as well as energy return.

The lace-up system is also different than your typical shoe lace. The Quicklace system allows you to tighten up and stay tight, and the loose end tucks under is a small pocket on top of the tongue.

Salomon also included an extra layer of material called Profeel Film built in to the sole that extends from the arch to the toes, giving you a little extra protection from pesky protrusions on the ground, like rocks, roots and stumps. This is particularly important for us mid/forefoot strike runners and for those who prefer highly technical trails.

The Sense Mantra also has a sleeve on the interior of the shoe that hugs your foot. So no sliding around in the shoe, a concept that dovetails nicely with the security you get with the quicklace system.

At 8.5 ounces, it’s also pretty light.

Finally, as you would expect in any decent trail shoe, there is added, tougher material around the toe box.

(salomon.com photo)

(salomon.com photo)

So how well does all this engineering come together on the trail? That’s what I aimed to figure out on some of the most technical trails I could find.

I do the bulk of my trail running at Tulsa’s Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness Area. The wooded ridges in this park are basically an extension of the Ozarks of western Arkansas, and the trails here are a favorite haunt of runners and mountain bikers. Ask anyone who has been there, and they’ll tell you that the trails at Turkey Mountain are some of the most rugged, technical and demanding routes you can conjure up.

I would agree. There are plenty of rocky, rooty and steep pitches interspersed with loose dirt and rocks and bare, slabby sandstone that usually crop up in the steepest parts. It’s on this demanding and at times hazardous track that I took this pair out for a series of test runs over the past several weeks.

green2

First off, the fit of the shoe is excellent. I have moderate arches and wide feet, and the shoe wrapped itself around my feet like a well-fit glove. While the shoe seemed a little stiff upon first examination, that faded away once I slipped them on and started moving. Through regular strides, jumps, sidesteps and varying angles of ascent and descent, and at various speeds, I experienced no slipping, blistering or hot spots. I’ve never had that sort of luck breaking in a new set of kicks.

And then there was the traction. Those multi-directional nugs (the grippy knobs on the sole, like you’d see on cleats) I mentioned earlier did their job. Uphill or downhill, and at high speeds, my thinking was, “this must be what it feels like when the big cats run!”

What that translates into is control. Ultimate control, and on various terrain.

And on a more personal note, no foot pain. Hallelujah. That’s saying something, given the abuse I subject myself to.

One small word of advice: If you’re the type who likes to use trail shoes for your pavement running as well, I’d advise against that. I’m sure these shoes would do just fine on the road, but the grind of pavement would prematurely wear down the nugs and reduce trail performance. Keep these puppies on the dirt.

The Sense Mantras have a suggested retail price of $120, but can be found online as low as $80.

Stay tuned for a follow-up review to see how well the Salomon Sense Mantra fares in terms of durability.

Bob Doucette

On Twitter @RMHigh7088

Coming soon: A look at the Salomon Sense Mantra trail shoe

shoes

I recently got a happy package in the mail: A pair of Sense Mantra trail running shoes from Salomon Sports. You might know this company for all of the great ski gear it makes, but trail runners and other off-trail athletes know this company for a whole line of other well-regarded products.

Getting a chance to work with the company in testing these shoes is a privilege, and hopefully I can give you some insight on what Salomon is trying to do with this shoe. The one thing I can tell you: Salomon is looking to strike a balance between low-drop shoes with high performance and “trail feel” while also protecting runners’ feet.

So look for a couple of reviews on these kicks soon: One on initial quality, and down the road, another that looks at more long-term durability and performance. Until then, these puppies are going to get some serious trail time.

Stay tuned!

Bob Doucette

On Twitter @RMHigh7088