Salomon running and hiking shoes have been a good balance for me over the past few years. The Sense Mantra is the shoe I have put more miles on than any other (regardless of brand) and has proven to be a solid performer in my book. The design of the Sense Mantra (like many of Salomon’s shoes) strikes a good balance between being too little shoe, and too much. For 2015 Salomon gives us the third version of this shoe, and departs somewhat from the earlier designs. Let’s have a look at it…
Sense Mantra 3 Specs at a Glance
- Type: Mixed Road / Trail
- Stack: 20/14mm
- Drop: 6mm
- Weight: 341g (12oz) Size 12 US
- Appearance: Blue n Grey is ok, but Red & Green make my day!
- MSRP: $110
CityTrail… City Trail??
CityTrail (without a space) is Salomon’s concept for more adventurous running in a mixed urban-trail environment. This video does a pretty good job of conveying their vision. In a nutshell, it’s about taking some concepts from mountain running and applying them in an urban setting, such as seeking routes with good vertical, and looking for off-the-beaten-path paths. This concept, along with Salomon partnering with various RD’s to create some interesting CityTrail courses/events opens the door to a wider audience who is maybe looking for a fun and challenging transition from running the roads… but not quite ready to tackle miles and miles of hills.
Salomon now has several models carrying the CityTrail designation, including the Sense Mantra, which was also their first shoe in the CityTrail line. The next section provides a little back history, or at least how I see the evolution of these shoes in the Salomon-Universe. If you’re not a history buff feel free to skip down to the rolling reviews…
The first and second generation Sense Mantra shoes were very similar, nearly identical is more like it. They both sported an almost S-Lab like fit but with a slightly wider toe box, a little more cushion and slightly more drop (21mm/15mm, 6mm drop) than say, the Sense Ultra… If you could live with giving up an ounce of weight, these shoes were right up there with the likes of the Sense Ultras. Not quite as light or responsive – yet, great footwear. They were also substantially less costly. When this happens in any product line, manufacturers usually make some changes to prevent the less expensive product from eating into the sales of their high end market. That sort of evolution is also necessary to differentiate products when your products are specialized.
Lo and behold, the Sense Mantra 3 arrived… heavier, wider overall, and not as nimble feeling as the either the Mantra 1 or 2. The toe bumper got downsized, and the outsole looks much more “city” than “trail” now, though Contagrip still remains their material of choice, which is good because it provides traction on wet surfaces. It seems like the Mantra’s got more of a downgrade. It’s not to say the Mantra is a bad shoe now, however the Sense Mantra 1 & 2 were great trail running shoes for me, even for ultra distance runs (I ran both Zion and the Grand Canyon in them). This third iteration of the Sense Mantra is less as a trail shoe, and more a shoe for running around town with some occasional trail – which really seems to be what Salomon wants us to do with them anyway.
The S-Lab X-Series was introduced around the same time as the Sense Mantra 3 and it looks a lot like the performance version of the Sense Mantra. (awesome shoe by the way!)
Here’s a photo comparison to backup some of the above observations…
Outsole Profiles – Click any thumbnail to compare.
Side Profiles – Click any thumbnail to compare.
Sense Mantra 3 Rolling Review
I paid $100 for them locally, despite being a little wary of the changes to the fit.
Out of the Box
Coming from my Sense Mantra 2’s I was expecting them to be more familiar feeling. The initial impression was one of a wider, bulkier shoe. They still feature Endofit, but the feeling is just not as good through the midfoot where I’m looking for that sock-like fit. I knew this going into the purchase and figured that they’d make a decent hiking shoe if I decided not to run with them.
First 50 Miles
After a couple of short runs I knew these would be not become a regular running shoe for me. Saying that they have been dumbed down seems a little harsh, but the previous Sense Mantras had a lean and mean feel to them, sometimes they were just barely enough shoe for long runs on technical/rocky trails. The Mantra 3 isn’t really more cushioned, they do feel more spongy however. There have definitely been some changes to the midsole of the Mantra 3 which is probably at work here. I have read some reviews that essentially say, the Mantra 3 is a fusion of various S-Lab shoes, but I would have to disagree with that. Those comments would be better aimed at the S-Lab X-Series, which are an amazing shoe and a direct upgrade of the Mantra in every way. Right now my opinion is, if you were happy with the Mantra 2, look to the X-Series. If the Mantra 2 was too narrow for your foot, then the Mantra 3 may be the ticket.
I didn’t give up on them though and took the shoes for a ~65 mile backpacking trip in the high country. I didn’t break them in well and ended up with some blisters, so that was a mixed experience. However I have since hiked some more with them and have not had any foot issues. These probably wouldn’t be my first choice for a light hiker, but not a bad choice. They handle the trails well and the Contagrip outsole from the previous generations still handles wet rocks pretty well. Another short run or two and I’ll be ready to add some thoughts at the 100 mile mark…
At 100 Miles
Sadly, these were non-starters for me. The glory days of the Sense Mantra and Sense Mantra II seem to have vanished and have been replaced by a bulkier and clunkier feeling shoe. Unfortunately that marks and early end for these shoes and this review :[
Verdict Thus Far
- Comfort: See comments in 50 mile report, above.
- Durability: Too early to tell
- Drain & Dry: They breath well and dried quickly enough while hiking after stream crossings, they don’t drain extremely fast however, due to the upper design.
- Stability: Good
- Grip On Roads/Solid Rock: Very good
- Grip On Loose Rock/Gravel: Ok, but previous generations were better
- Grip On Wet Surfaces: Very Good
- Grip In Mud: Slippery due to lack of lugs and shallow tread depth
- For racing use? They’re not streamlined enough for my taste.
- For training use? These could make a decent trainer, but a more cushioned shoe might be preferable.
- For use as hikers? More than likely this is the fate of my Sense Mantra 3’s. They’re relatively light for a hiking shoe. They seem like a fine choice for rocky trails, stream crossings, and the upper should be durable enough (time will tell) so using them for hiking and backpacking is logical.
- Ginger Runner has a good video review of these shoes, and my takeaway is generally the same as his.
About the Author’s Running Style/Locale
I’m typically a front of the mid-pack runner. I run fire roads and single track in the Marin County area, including Mt. Tam, the Marin Headlands, and all the under-respected hills north of there. Long runs on this hard-packed stuff can leave the feet fairly beat up. The surface consists of loose crushed rock, jagged bedrock, and hardpacked dirt. A typical run for me is 9-15 miles with anywhere from 1500-3000 ft of climbing. My “long” runs are in the 20-30 mile range, usually with 4000-7000 ft of climbing. I occasionally do trail runs/races in the 50 mile to 100k range. When I find a shoe I like, I tend to stick with it for as long as possible. I prefer shoes with 4-6mm of drop; I haven’t really adapted to zero-drop footwear. I also like a shoe right in the middle as far as cushion goes; I need to feel the trail under me. Essentially my shoe quest has been to find shoes that have feel nimble and responsive, yet keep my feet from getting beat up by the rocks and distance. Hike It. Like It.