Product Review–Asolo Mantra

Let me say right now, I get compliments on these shoes.  These are good looking shoes. And they have the benefit of actually looking like shoes and not off-road-vehicle tires. They come in these colors: brownish, blackish, clown-hair orange and lime soda green. I like the brownish version.

The Mantra is pretty narrow, which is saying something, as I have pretty narrow feet. The new leather is a bit stiff and requires some breaking in. The first day or two was a bit uncomfortable, but, since the laces go down almost completely to the toe cap, I found that I could tweak the fit quite easily. It took me two weeks of wearing them everyday, all day to break them in.  I wore them at home, to the office, to the dog park in the morning for Lucy’s loud and frenetic explosion of pent up joy and enthusiasm, to the farmer’s market, walking the sidewalks of Oakland and Berkeley, to friend’s houses and I wore them on evening and afternoon hikes with Lucy. (We hike 4-7 times a week. A short hike is 1.5 miles of moderate terrain and long hike is about 5-6 miles of pretty strenuous up and down. She’s pretty beat after the long hikes. I hike five miles and she runs about seven or eight and falls asleep in the car about ten to twelve minutes after we leave the parking lot.) So the shoes got a lot of wear in the first two weeks and felt fine after that. Again, customizing the fit through strategic lacing really helped.

The Mantra is very light weight and stays snug around your foot very nicely.  It is a surprisingly easy shoe to hike in. I say surprisingly because I had thought a shoe so light would not provide much purchase. It has very little stiffness in the sole and I can feel the rocks and roots under my foot very often. This took a little getting used to, but is not a bad thing for some light to medium hiking. You can really be aware of what is going on underfoot.

I was a happy camper for about eight months.  I wore them everywhere, everyday, and then the tread under the ball of the foot was gone. The tread on the heels and around the ball looked good, but under the ball was flat.  I noticed this on the same stretch of trail that made me rethink tennis shoes in the first place. So, I was kind of in my original predicament. My shoes had lost their purchase to a great degree.  I tried rethinking how I walk, stepping differently on the downhills, and that helped a bit. I just didn’t want to buy a new pair of shoes so soon. My confidence was waning and it seemed like I had pissed away a hundred and thirty dollars plus tax on what seemed to be a too-soft sole.

Well, I was warned about wearing them everyday. So, I thought I would try an experiment.  I would order another pair, wear them only for hiking and wear the “old” pair everywhere else and see how long they would last.

When I got them, the new pair felt even narrower than the first pair, but the magic custom lacing again helped. Wearing them only for hiking meant that it took a much longer time to break them in: a couple of months.

At this point, I have had the old pair for one year and seven months. The first eight months I wore them everywhere, including hikes. After that, no hikes. I have had the new pair for six months and only wear them on hikes, with one or two excursions in town, when I don’t want to show up in broken down shoes.

The new Mantras look good and are holding up well.  And I have started running on parts of the trails. The new shoes work very nicely, pretty good cushioning and firm grip, even down some of the steep parts of the trails. That’s impressive to me, the running neophyte.

As expected, the old pair looks like crap and fit like a custom-made glove.  The leather is cracking in a couple of places. The sole under the ball of the foot is worn down to where I can see some of the interior of the shoe. A stitch has broken on the inside ball of each shoe. Still, they have remained intact and usable far longer than I thought they would.

Would I buy them again? Yes, keeping a rotation, but I also would like to try something with a little stiffer sole. Just to see what it is like. I am going to look into what Asolo has to offer, and some of the Scarpa shoes are not hideous.

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