The Sense Mantra is designed to be a relatively minimal ‘door-to-trail’ shoe, with a low heel-to-toe drop but with still enough under your foot to cope well both on and off road.
So while it has a more minimalist feel than traditional running shoes, it’s not an out-and-out minimalist shoe and doesn’t feel like it would need an awful lot of transitioning to make this your main shoe.
While that helps on the road, the biggest surprise for me from a trail shoe was the grip on the sole. When I think of trail shoes, I automatically think of big fat lugs and deep grooves that look like they’d chew up and spit out any depth of mud or grit. The sole on the Sense Trail, by contrast, looks more like a road shoe, with comparatively tiny, shallow grips pointing in various different directions across the foot.
On the top, the tongue wraps right around the foot and is stitched into the bottom of the shoe, making your foot feel super-secure, while the lacing system is quick to tighten but really robust with no slippage or give once pulled tight.
Picking the shoe up, the Sense Mantra are really light, but appear remarkably inflexible compared with other shoes I’ve had in the past. This could be the result of a puncture-proof plate that runs from toe to midfoot to protect the foot from any hidden nasties out on the trails, but either way, never felt a problem once you got the shoes on your foot and ran – which is all that matters.
Putting them on for the first time, they felt like slippers. The stitched in tongue is very comfortable, while the weight and the low profile all feel natural while still solid enough to give me confidence that I could take these out on stony ground.
Running late, I shoved the Salomon’s on and dashed to the start. As well as being extremely comfortable, the first real benefit was that lacing system: the shoes felt secure and tight within seconds, while the tightened ‘lace’ tucks in nicely along the tongue without needing to be wrapped around half a dozen times to tidy away all the excess.
The route quickly goes from tarmac to long, waterlogged grass, back via tarmac to a stony trail before more grass, and then churned up mud.
While those in front carefully chose their footing on each surface, I threw the Sense Mantra through the worst I could find. My confidence grew and grew as I did, with the shoes not giving me so much as a slight slip or a sharp stone. They’re not waterproof (no bad thing in my book, as if water struggles to get in then it tends to struggle to get out when you eventually do go ankle deep) but my feet stayed dry throughout.
In conclusion, I really like these shoes. I’ll still use road shoes for road runs, which means these are unlikely to ever be my default shoes, but I’ll certainly use them for Parkruns and jaunts along the canal and Transpennine Trail.
*Disclaimer: Salomon was kind enough to give me these shoes to review
NB: While only posted in April 2015, the above post was written in Autumn 2013