Monday, May 2, 2016

Shoe Review: Salomon Sense Mantra 3

I am still on my quest to find the perfect shoe that will keep my feet happy for Twisted Branch 100K in August.  I have tried a couple of brands that I liked in the past, one being Scott, and found that the so-called "upgrades" that haven't been ... aren't.  I used to love the T2 Kinabalu.  Nice light shoe, that even at 11mm heel-toe drop still felt minimal, shed water and never left you with that squishy shoe feel ... well, it just isn't the same in the 3.0 version.  Scott "upgraded" the outside of the shoe which may hopefully fix the issue the old version had where the uppers just blew out after not many miles.  However, this has left the shoe feeling much heavier and less flexible.  I also felt that the sole felt thicker and heavier and, still at 11mm drop, felt like 11mm drop.  Like wearing a high-heel.  This no longer feels like the light ride that I fell in love with.  AND, worst of all, the sizing has definitely changed.  I have worn a size 10.5 men's in the previous versions of the Kinabalu and have always had a good thumb's-width between the end of my big toe and the tip of the shoe.  No more.  Size 10.5 and my toe is at the end of the shoe.  Thanks for killing my dream shoe, Scott.

I have recently enjoyed running in the Salomon Speedcross 3.  Unfortunately one of my worries about the shoe came true.  All of the reviews that I read said that the shoe can make your feet feel pretty hot ... not bad when you're slogging through wet cold mud, but not fun on a hot dry day.  I recently tried these shoes on the Black Diamond Trail (rail-trail type of terrain) and enjoyed them for about the first 3 miles.  These shoes have no business on this type of terrain unless it is just soft slop.  They were not meant for flat, hard surfaces.  I have taken note and this will not happen again.

So I started looking at the Salomon Sense Mantra 3.  I have run in older versions of the Sense Mantras and had a killer run in them at the 2013 Oil Creek 50K, but haven't run in them since because despite all that I loved about the shoe I did find it to be a bit stiff on forest roads and rail-trail type terrain.  So I was a bit hesitant when I checked out this new version.  When I first looked at the shoe online I noticed that it looked much wider, almost boxy.  Definitely not like the sleek narrow shoes that Salomon are known for.  So this sort-of turned me off.  The sole had also been changed and didn't look as grippy.  But then I started researching reviews and read nothing but good stuff.  I was looking for a shoe that would be equally as comfortable on forest roads, rail-trails, and single track trails.  I think I hit gold on this one.

Here is how Running Warehouse describes this shoe ... "Don't have time to head out to the mountains but don't want to be limited to the hard asphalt? Look no further than the Sense Mantra 3. With a dual-density midsole for cushioning and a lugged outsole for durable traction, this versatile shoe is ready to go straight from your doorstep to the awaiting trails. A snug fitting upper keeps your feet secure and protected from any debris that gets in your way."  OK, sounded promising.


  • Compressed EVA runs the length of the shoe for underfoot cushion.  Yup, cushy but not Hoka-esque and has good foot-to-trail feel.
  • Injected EVA in the forefoot provides underfoot cushioning.  No idea what this is but it feels good.
  • ProFeel Film is a thin TPU film in the midsole providing midfoot protection without losing ground feel.  OK, again, no clue but it feels good.
  • Contagrip is a uniquely designed outsole of differing densities, providing durable traction over varying terrains.  The lugs are tiny but sticky, so great on rocks and dry trail and not-deeply muddy trails.
  • OS Tendon system acts like a real tendon by flexing to provide stretch and balance during the heel-to-toe transition.  The shoe is definitely flexible and my feet feel totally comfortable on rail-trail surfaces, so I'm thinking this will be a great shoe for Water Gap 50K in the fall.
  • Open Mesh throughout the upper is breathable and quick drying.  Here's what I was really looking for.  I need good drainage for the creek crossings of CT50 and breathability for hot dry runs like how it could be for Twisted Branch.
  • Sensifit overlays on the upper wrap the foot for a close, secure fit.  Now this is what I'm talking about.  Salomon has hit it on the nose with this feature.  The shoe fits so secure, like a sock, that I don't experience that sloppy side-to-side and toe-bashing shit on steep downhills.
  • Endofit a sock like upper that yields unmatched comfort and fit.  See above statement.
  • Quicklace made from durable Kevlar fibers provides easy shoe entry and exit and a secure fit.  Another feature that makes adjusting the tightness and security of the shoe so easy.
  • Friction Free Lace Eyelet makes for quick and easy one pull lacing.  Yup.
  • Lace Pocket tucks laces out of the way while running.  Definitely cool ... no snagging the loops of your laces on roots.
  • OrthoLite Sockliner is composed of anti-bacterial material for reduced odor and moisture while adding cushion directly underfoot.  Always a plus ... will be put the test more after a few more wet runs.
  • Propriotection provides a individualized feel while protecting your feet from rocks and debris.  Again, no idea what this is but it sounds good.  I ran on some mildly rocky stuff today and my feet felt like they had good protection.  Probably not a huge selling factor for this shoe since I don't think it is meant for running on seriously rugged trails, but still a nice feature if you have to hit some rough spots on a normal trail terrain.
One thing that is not mentioned in the description of the shoe itself or its technologies is the wider fit of the Sense Mantra 3 compared to its previous versions.  This version really has an almost Altra-type toe box.  There is a huge amount of room, so much so that it really threw me off when I put it on.  I was not expecting a Salomon shoe with this kind of room.  I worried that this roominess would lead to a sloppy feel.  My worry was quickly relieved.  One yank of the quick laces and the shoe becomes a second skin on all the other parts of the foot while still leaving the toes the ability to move in freedom.  I ran downhill on some sections of trail today with steep pitches and experienced so minimal forward movement of my foot in the shoe that I would easily say it was NO movement.  NO toe banging on the front of the shoe.  I also hit some water and it drained well and didn't leave me feeling squishy.

I gotta say, Salomon is hitting it OUT OF THE PARK this year with their shoes.  I am pretty certain that the Sense Mantra 3 is going to be my shoe for the upcoming Thom B 52K and Cayuga Trails 50 mile races; it has all that I am looking for for the type of terrain that I will find in both of these races.  And we'll see how things go from there but I feel pretty confident in saying that this shoe is looking like a hot contender for Twisted Branch.  It is so far passing the biggest test ... secure fit on steep down hills ... one of the biggest issues I had at last year's race.

So if you have worn the Sense Mantra in the past ... well, this is not the same shoe.  I really have to say it is better than ever.  And all I can say is ... Salomon, I wish you had a place for us mid-to-back-of-the-packers ... we are the ones who could give an honest review of the durability and comfort of a shoe since we wear them LONGER and tend to put a little more poundage on them than your average elite racer.  Think about it.

1 comment:

  1. This is going to sound controversial for anyone who’s really into trail shoes, but I think Salomon Fellcross are the best shoes ever made for running on trails.