Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Salomon Sense Mantra | From the Road to the Trail


Salomon Sense Mantra -- fresh out of the box!
Introduction
If you are remotely familiar with trail running and mountain running, then you undoubtedly have heard of both Salomon’s running-related gear and their elite running team.
Kilian Jornet, Nerea Martinez, Ryan Sandes, Miguel Heras, Anna Frost, Andy Symmonds, Ricky Gates, Aliza, LaPierre, David Riddle, Adam Campbell, Stevie Kramer, Cameron Clayton, Emelie Forsberg… you get the picture: some of the best of the best in the world of trail and mountain running use Salomon’s gear.

When I read the following description of the Salomon Sense Mantra, I was hooked:

Based on the S-Lab Sense that Kilian Jornet used in winning the 2011 WS100, the Mantra adds only a few essentials to make it friendly for everyday running; a little more cushioning, a little more protection, and a longer OS tendon to return more energy.

Here are some of the specifications, a la runningwarehouse.com, of this outstanding trail/mountain shoe:
  • Stack Height: 21mm (heel) to 15mm (forefoot). So, a 6mm heel-to-toe drop.
  • Weight: 9.6oz in a men’s size 9, which is what I wear.
  • Cushioning: ample, lightweight EVA cushioning with the LT Muscle.
  • Upper:

o   The open mesh upper with the endofit sock-like upper really provides a fantastic combination of both a glove-like feel and plenty of stability for grinding it out over the long run.
o   The Gusseted Tongue does it what it is meant to do: it keeps debris out of the shoe, like dirt and pebbles.

  • Sole: the lugs are appropriately placed allowing for amazing traction on dry and wet trail, in muddy conditions, and on the road.
  • Quicklace system: the quicklace system on the shoe is one of the many selling points of Salomon running shoes. It makes adjusting the shoe on the go so darn easy, especially if you’re using this shoe for what it’s meant for; namely, running from the road to the trail! Personally, I like a tighter fit on the road and a looser fit on the trail, which I realize is probably backwards :-).

The Sense Mantra want to go out to play!

Initial Impression
When I first put on the Sense Mantra in the men’s size 9, I thought the fit was a bit tight. No worries. I merely took out the insole and put in a thinner insole. Ah, that hit the spot. Now it felt perfect! In terms of fit, I think it might be good to go a half-size up in the Sense Mantra, especially if you use this shoe for long runs when the feet tend to swell a little bit. The ability to easily adjust the laces with the quicklace system was super nice when I did a quick 1 mile road run to the trail.
Where will your Sense Mantra take you? From the road to the trail.
As I mentioned above, I like to have my shoes a little bit tighter for the road and a little bit more loose on the trails. So, when I hit the trail, I loosened both shoes in about 5 seconds. Love it.

Trails and Roads
To be completely honest, there is no terrain that this shoe doesn’t perform well on for easy to long runs. On dry, technical trails, running at an easy pace feels super smooth and secure. The lugs provide some great traction in the mud AND in the snow. Furthermore, I find this shoe to be solid for short or long jaunts on the road, too. The rock plate is great, and my feet are NOT crying at the end of a hard run on the trails due to feeling every stone. This is important to me, and I appreciate this feature of the Sense Mantra.

Furthermore, I the shoe is quite breathable. No complaints running in the summer, yet it keeps my feet warm in the winter. I’m not quite sure how the managed to pull that off!
2hr run in fresh snow, and my feet did not get cold.
In fact, I just finished running a 9.5mi road run from Cambridge to West Newton with my bike pack on (500ft of climbing, 362ft of descending) in an easy 77min with the Sense Mantra on my feet.

This shoe is perfect for when you want to hammer out miles on cruise control. Runningwarehouse.com says of the Sense Mantra:

Salomon Sense Mantra strikes a balance between feel for the trail and high mileage underfoot cushioning while offering lightweight performance for the serious runner.

As I’ve mentioned, if I’m going out for an easy run or a long run on cruise control, then I think this shoe is perfect. For races from 5k to half-marathon on the trails, I probably would not use this shoe just because I find it difficult to get up to a fast pace primarily due to the 6mm drop and the weight at 9.6oz. Remember, though, that this observation is unique to my style of running. Since I primarily run in shoes that are 0mm to 4mm drop and under 7oz, I prefer those specs for races when I need to run at a faster pace. But like I said, for anything else I think the Sense Mantra is great.

Remember: shoes are tools, and each tool serves a different function.

Durability
I suppose it’s difficult for me to comment on durability, though I do have 175mi on the Sense Mantra. The reason why it’s difficult for me to make a comment on durability is because 60% of those miles have been on roads, and this shoe is a road-to-trail shoe… not a heavy road shoe. Here are the pictures of the sole after 175mi:
 
The Sense Mantra after 175 miles.
Not too shabby, eh!? Even at 6mm heel-to-toe drop, it seems that I can still run with a front-foot to midfoot strike.

If you use this shoe as the tool that it is [i.e., a road-to-trail shoe], I really think you can easily get hundreds of miles from it. I will keep using this shoe for a few hundred miles. I love it.

OK, so it’s durable. It’s Salomon durable, and that’s pretty darn good!

Cons
The only con that I can think of is the following: the shoe seems to take a while to drain after it gets really, really wet. This isn’t that big of a deal, but at almost 10oz, it would be nice if it dried a bit quicker. Of course, by really, really wet I mean running through a stream… if it’s just running in the rain, then it dries pretty quickly.

Additional Thoughts 
I had reoccurring shin splits for about 3-4 months. While I cannot fully attribute the Sense Mantra to curing my shin splints, they played an important role in my recovery. Not only have I put a lot of miles on the Sense Mantra, I also wear this shoe almost everyday.... even to work!! My calves do not feel tight at the end of the day when I'm wearing the Sense Mantra, and I partly attribute my lack of shin splints to this shoe. So... I won't be taking them off anytime soon!

Conclusion
In conclusion, the Salomon Sense Mantra is one absurdly solid trail running shoe. Described as a shoe for the ground-and-pound of a high mileage trainer designed to get you from the door to the trail, the Sense Mantra does exactly what it’s meant to do. Furthermore, it’s durable, breathable, and stable.

Overall, I highly, highly recommend this shoe for both trail and mountain running. There’s a reason the Salomon Elite athletes love these shoes!!!

Well done, Salomon; well done! 

You can get the Sense Mantra for $90 at Runningwarehouse.com.

The following are just a few pictures I took while running in the Sense Mantra. Where will your Salomon Sense Mantra take you?
Running through the woods at Edmands Park

Castle Island

Waltham

Near Prospect Hill Park

Walden Pond

Walden Pond -- fresh snow!

Walden Pond
Note: I was sent a pair of the Salomon Sense Mantra to review for my blog; however, and with all of my posts, I say exactly what I think about the shoes that I review.

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