(My new review site is here, check it out: themicsup.blogspot.com)If you read my last review, you would have noted that I mentioned that when Kilian Jornet lost the 2010 Western States, he challenged Salomon to come up with a new way of hydrating and a new set of shoes. The new shoes they came up with were the Salomon Sense, a straight up racing shoe that cost you $200 and lasted you 200 miles. A buck per mile of shoe. From what I understand, you did get what you paid for, you got an incredible shoe, but not many people were biting.
In 2013, Salomon is releasing 2 altered versions of the Sense: The Sense Ultra, and here we have the Sense Mantra. The quick specs on mine (size 9.5) are 9.2 oz and a 6mm drop. These are marketed as a door to trail trainer, though you'll want these on your feet as often as possible.
These are true Salomon quality and style. I originally recieved a size 10 which is my normal size with this brand, but they were too big. These are shoes that are made to be worn barefoot or with a small sock on, and I had plenty of extra space. I swapped for a 9.5 and the fit was great, enough for a single pair of socks which is how I like to run. The Mantras feature a Endofit system for a close to "socklike" feel while the shoe is on, and they used their Quicklace system to button them down. They fit snug without feeling like you've got lacing digging into the top of your foot.
PERFORMANCE: These are touted as "door to trail trainers" so I tested them as that, asking them to perform not only on the trails but also on the "door to" portion. The day I received them I put them on headed straight out for an 8 mile ROAD run. Being winter in New England, I also had a little bit of ice and snow to deal with. Now, I've run plenty of awful miles on the road in trail shoes before, and they can be painful and heavy. With the Mantras, I still felt light, I was able to move at the pace I wanted to, and they acted no different than a straight up pair of road trainers. I had no problem with foot landing, no hot spots, nothing. I didn't have time for a trail run that same day so I only checked off the "door to" portion as PASSING.
The next day I woke up early and headed out to for an 8 mile trail run. The trail was 25% packed dirt, 25% rocky/rooty/loose singletrack, 25% flat traprock and 25% snow/ice. Looking at the traction on these shoes I thought I would be for a long day. Why I'm constantly surprised by Salomon I'm not sure anymore, but these only slipped on spots you expected them: the ice and snow. Unless I was wearing a cleated shoe, no shoe was going to grip on this stuff. The Mantras, even at 9.2oz, still felt really light and I almost think that's because they fit so well, they don't feel bulky. I intentionally made sure to put my foot down on sharp rocks, roots, hoping to be able to pass on some thoughts on the Profeel Film. Truth is I didn't feel anything other than my foot wrapping over the root or rock. Pain free.
There's enough cushion in these that they fit their billing as trainers. I could run mile after mile in these.
LOOKS: Meh. I think there's a huge group of people who are tired of the flashy colors and neon shoes, and these are your shoes. They are great looking shoes, and I'm actually pretty happy with the blue/white, but if you take a look at the green offering, I'm just not digging it.
RECOMMEDED FOR: Use them as directed. These are the best door to trail trainers on the market.
NOT RECOMMEDED FOR: Racing. I wish I could afford the Salomon Sense or the Sense Ultra, as they shave off the weight.
OVERALL: 10 out of 10. I'm giving that rating based solely on what they are marketed as. A $120 door to trail trainer. For that price you get above and beyond what you'd expect from a shoe at that price point.
UPDATE as of 1/18/2013: I have a race in the middle of the year that combines a 1 mile uphill road run, then a mix of ski slope and fire road, finished with technical trail climb and a technical downhill trail run. I said I wasn't going to recommend these for racing, but there's not another shoe I would want on my feet after putting some mroe miles on these. I've got them dialed in right now and am almost to that point where I want to just lock them up in a box and not touch them for fear of "ruining" them. The "weight" of the shoe is a non-issue, at less than 10oz they are still light enough for racing.