Kicking steps into snow was not part of my race plan for the Ultra Race Of Champions 100k. The chore was, however, part of the race (see report here). Fortunately my shoes were up to the job, plus everything else thrown at them over 60 miles of rocky, muddy and hard-packed trails.
The Salomon Sense Mantra is a trail running shoe designed for midfoot and forefoot strikers with 6mm drop from heel to toe. The neutral shoe also has enough cushion and stiffness for heel-strikers transitioning to a midfoot landing. After running nearly the entire 100k-race in them I am impressed with the Mantra’s comfort and protection.
While less sensitive than most minimal shoes, the Mantra does provide fair responsiveness and feedback to the runner’s feet while keeping them well protected for very long runs.
The Gear: Salomon Sense Mantra
Where To Test It: Long trail runs over rock, dirt, leaves and (gasp) snow.
Who’s It For: Trail runners transitioning to a forefoot strike or minimal runners looking for a little extra protection for long days on the trail.
Boring But Important: With 6mm heel-to-toe drop (16mm-10mm) the Mantra provides a fairly solid platform for high-mileage training or competition. Runners who embrace minimalism may find them a little stiff.
Important Specs: 9.2 oz for US men’s size 9. Shoes designed to be worn with or without socks. Comes with Speedlaces. The outsole uses short but effective treads to provide excellent traction on dry to slightly soft surfaces.
Made In: China
Killer! In testing, these shoes handled everything from dry trail to frozen ground, mud and snow. They dry extremely fast, enough so that my crew was able to dry a soaked pair in the car in the time it took me to run about six miles. I wore them for the UROC 100k and finished with no blisters or foot damage.
Flaw: The shoe is not great in soft mud. The lugs are a little short for super soft conditions.
First Impressions: I love minimal feeling shoes and at first these seemed a bit too stiff and heavy. I quickly changed my mind, especially for long runs where extra foot protection helps ward off fatigue.
Who Should Buy It: Long-distance trail runners and those transitioning from a heel-strike to mid-foot running style and minimal runners who want a step up in terms of protection.
Contact Brand/More Beta: Salomon Sense Mantra
—Sean McCoy is a contributing editor. Our “First Look” column highlights new gear arrivals at GearJunkie.com. Photos © Monopoint Media LLC.