Today is a first for RunningPhysio – our first shoe review. We've talked at length about shoe selection in previous articles so now it's time to review one of the top trail shoes on the market – Salomon Sense Mantra…
The Sense Mantra is a good looking fella. Its dark blue upper, white heel and electric blue stripes give it a sleek, modern look. It's a shame I'm about to get it covered in mud and sheep sh*t!
For me the key qualities of a trail shoe aren't in its tech spec. Really it boils down to 2 questions;
Do they perform well on multiple surfaces in all conditions?
Are they comfortable?
There's a phrase you sometimes here about football players, “I like Messi, but how would he do on a wet Wednesday night in Stoke?” My point is all the technical ability in the world is no use if you can't handle the reality of performing in tough conditions. Like Stoke.
So I've been patient and held back my review of these shoes. I've waited. I've watched the weather, prayed for wind and rain and an opportunity to really test the Sense Mantra. Today the conditions were finally, ideal. A perfect storm, quite literally.
Weeks of rain have soaked the trails and today's wind has been strong enough to fell trees in some parts of the country. Excellent! I knew today would be a great opportunity for a proper test. I took the Salomons out for 10 miles on every surface you can think of. Up hills, over rutted farm land and through puddles. All the while a side wind threatened to blow me off my feet. If they can cope with this, they can cope with anything! They coped, brilliantly!
The Sense Mantra scored top marks for stability when rated by how many times I fell arse over tit. The AOTI (Arse Over Tit Incidence) is a highly scientific measure that examines incidence of falling during a trail run. Falling to the ground scores 1, a fall with full face plant scores 2 while simple slips without falling score 0.1. The Sense Mantra scored a perfect 0. No slips, no falls, no face plants.
I consider that pretty impressive. I find most shoes struggle with certain trail hazards. Clay can be a slippery nightmare. Muddy cambers that curve down to ankle deep puddles (like the picture below) are a common pitfall. Your foot hits the slight camber at speed, slides underneath you and you find yourself in the puddle. I'm pleased to say the Salomons coped with all of these without difficulty.
Comfort is key when it comes to shoe selection. There is even some evidence in the research that selecting based on comfort may help reduce injury risk and improve performance. I like a shoe that you don't even notice is there. Like a comfy, well worn slipper. I tried trail running in my actual slippers but ended up being chased by a greyhound. Can't think why.
In all seriousness though I found the Salomon Sense Mantra a very comfortable shoe, no pinching, no blisters and an easy ride. What's more is they did a good job of keeping my feet dry despite the conditions. The Salomon Speedlace System is also a useful feature which means the laces can be easily tightened and tucked away. This prevents the awkwardness of trying to untie wet laces with cold, numb hands after a freezing winter run. The shoe also combines good protection with a lightweight design – a good combination! They are currently available online for around £90.
For a more detailed breakdown of tech spec see this review from the running shoe guru.
Closing thoughts: I liked the Salomon Sense Mantra. I found they coped well on all surfaces, even in wet, windy conditions. They were comfortable throughout and have some useful features. One point to remember though with all shoes is everyone will have a different experience based on their feet, running style and a host of factors. These are worth a try though. Try a pair on, give them a test jog on the treadmill if possible and see how you find them!