Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Salomon Sense Mantra Review

For those of us who are not Killian Jornet, Salomon has released a shoe in the Sense line with a little more substance and bang for your buck while still sticking to the light weight and natural motion building blocks. The Sense Mantra is marketed as daily high mileage trainer that still provides a low drop (6mm) to encourage a mid foot strike while adding a little more cushioning and support than the Sense or Sense Ultra. The Salomon Sense Mantra weighs in at 9.6oz with an MSRP of $120.

The mesh upper with synthetic suede overlays boasts “seamless 2nd skin construction” which enables the shoe to be worn with or without socks. It is breathable and flexible, but not flexible in the sense that it's sloppy. It is definitely supportive. I was talking to one of the buyers at Summit Hut here in Tucson the other day and he was telling me how you can cinch down the the Salomon running packs super tight, but the straps will still allow some flex without compromising the overall security of the pack. In other words they remain tight and supportive, but non restrictive.
Salomon obviously uses this type of fit technology in their whole line of products, in this case, EndoFit. EndoFit is an inner sleeve that wraps the foot providing stability, comfort and terrain feedback to your feet. EndoFit, in conjunction with the seamless mesh upper, lightweight overlays and lacing system, provide a fit unlike anything I've ever experienced. When I slipped the Salomon Sense Mantra on for the first time it almost felt tight, but after a few minutes it just felt like a a natural extension of my foot. I was blown away. You have to feel it to believe it.
The shoe also features a lightweight toe bumper which did a great job of protecting my toes from accidental impacts. It also features Salomon's quick lock lacing system with a lace garage on the tongue. This is my first pair of Salomons and I really enjoy the lacing system. The laces stay tight and the quick lock system is a little more convenient than bunny ears.

The Sense Mantra has a 6mm heel to toe drop which is a sweet spot in the differential department for a lot of people. I found this drop to be rather sweet for me as well. It encouraged a mid foot strike while providing enough cushioning in the heel for gnarly descents or those inevitable times on the long run when your oh so perfect form breaks down.
The EVA in the midsole is quite firm. I would almost prefer it to be a little softer, but it didn't effect the ride in a negative way. The shoe is both responsive and protective. Some of that protection can be attributed to the flexible “pro feel film” rock plate which is visible through the outsole. I was able to bomb down hills where sharp rocks abound without the fear of getting a bruise.
The Sense Mantra is flexible, but not terribly so. I imagine most “minimalists” will end up complaining about it's lack of flexibility, but then again I wouldn't consider this a minimalist shoe.

The outsole features non marking lugs that vary in density depending on their placement for increased traction which Salomon calls “Contagrip”. The lugs are also multidirectional and vary in both size and shape which Salomon calls “Dynamic Traction”. I found that the tread pattern and technology did a swell job on every surface I encountered here in Southern Arizona.
Another feature is the “OS tendon” which is a visible TPU band that stretches from heel to toe and is said to improve transition and increase energy return. The OS tendon is another one of those features that would be hard to say if it actually works unless Salomon manufactured a pair of the Sense Mantra without an OS tendon specifically for me to try. It's a cool concept nonetheless.

Overall thoughts
From the moment I slipped these shoes on my feet I loved them. The EndoFit is phenomenal. The differential, ground feel, protection and support are all blended perfectly in this mid weight package and hey, let's be honest, it's a damn good looking shoe!
Just don't expect the Sense Mantra to be a minimalist shoe, because it's not, but rather a shoe for the rest of us. A shoe for people who want support and protection for high mileage weeks on technical unforgiving terrain but also want to get in on the positive benefits of the passing minimalist trend such as ground feel and mid foot strike encouragement.

Note: The Salomon Sense Mantra runs large, so if you're ordering online, order ½ size down.
(I will update this review with the shoes overall durability as I rack up the mileage in the coming weeks.)

UPDATE: I have put about 200 miles on these shoes, including the Old Pueblo 50 Mile Endurance Run, and they're holding up very well. No rips or tears and minimal to normal wear on the tread. The support and cushioning were definitely sufficient for 50 miles.
The only complaint I have is that my big toe nails rub against the top of the shoe/toe bumper on the upper interior which causes some soreness and has even put holes in my socks if they're too thin. Luckily, there hasn't been enough friction to give me a black toenail.

Finishing OP50 in the Salomon Sense Mantra

UPDATE 2: At 275 miles my Mantra's developed a rip in the upper where my forefoot bends. The midsole also felt compressed and I started developing shin splints. It's possible that the shin splints came from some other aspect of my training and I'm sure some other runners would have run in these shoes until the upper blew out, but I retired them as a precaution. 

Here they are after 275 miles:

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What are your thoughts on the Salomon Sense Mantra?


  1. They for sure run large, I ordered a 9 and a 9.5 normally I take a 9, returned them all and will try the 8.5. I love how locked in my foot feels with the lacing system.

  2. Thanks for your feedback! I found the fit to be the same. I ran a 50K today in them with 4,000 + feet of gain and loss and they felt great! No blisters or rubbing. The fit seems perfect 1/2 size down!

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  4. Hey dude, I just want to be really, really sure about this... can mild to moderate overpronators make use of this shoe?

    And damn! thanks for the heads up on the half size down.

  5. Justin,
    If I was going to put them in a traditional category (neutral, support or motion control) I'd probably say neutral. But it's been my understanding and experience that those categories are pretty irrelevant on the trail because of the uneven footing.
    Let me know your thoughts if you end up trying them out!

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    2. Korey,

      Thanks for the insight! I managed to try it out at a local outdoor shop 2 days ago. The fit is amazing. I was expecting my little toe wouldn't fit too well in the toe box but turns out I was wrong, fortunately. I'm usually a size 9 but maybe I'm getting 8.5.

      Will probably get a pair a few months from now

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  7. Made no mistake ordering a pair of 8.5s. Just finished a 13km run and the ride was smooth! Snuggest fit I've had from a shoe. Road or trail, this show owns both.

  8. Hi Korey,

    I am a relay race runner. I practice 5-6 Ks, twice/week, mainly on road and sometimes on treadmill. Would you still suggest this pair for my use as well?

    PS: I really love the colour of the shoes. Looks damn cool!

    1. I suppose you could, but personally I wouldn't. The ride is too firm for mainly road in my opinion.
      A shoe you might consider which I haven't tried yet are the Pearl Izumi EM Road N1 or EM Road N2.
      If you end up going with the Mantra, let me know what you think!

    2. The shoes you mentioned also look quite nice but the brand isn't available in India.
      Forgot to mention earlier, other than running will use it for day to day activities also. Like going to work

    3. I have found a similar looking pair from Reebok but technically differs from this Salomon model.
      Please have a look
      Let me know your view about it.

    4. I think almost any "trainer" will fit your needs.
      I still wear my worn out Mantra's for going to the grocery store and such, they look good. But I just didn't find them to be comfortable running on cement.
      Best of luck!

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