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Review: Mavic Mantra All-Mountain Cycling Shoes

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I was so happy with my Mavic Tempo shoes that I jumped at the opportunity to get a pair of their Mantra All-Mountain shoes to try. The first time I saw the Mantra, I thought it had laces tucked away under its huge top strap, so I ignored it and moved on. Bike shoes with laces have their place, but I wasn’t in the market. The next time I sat down with the Mavic sales rep he pointed out that they were sans laces. I ordered a pair right then.

To see if the Mantra’s live up to my expectations, hit ‘more’

Mavic calls the Mantra their “high performance technical AM shoe” and they weren’t joking. They spent some time designing this shoe, and it fits a niche that is bigger than most people think. I’ve been looking for an XC type shoe (stiff, not too heavy, no laces) that has softer rubber on the bottom so I don’t slip of rocks when I dab, and a bit more material and durability than standard XC shoes. It is hard enough to find a stiff sole mated to softer rubber compounds on the bottom, never mind all the other features on my wish list. The Mantra provides though. It has a proprietary rubber compound for the lugs which Mavic calls “Contagrip”. It isn’t as soft as some rubbers that we see on soles of shoes but it’s close, and grips much better than any other bike shoes I have. Dismounting or “dabbing” on slippery rocks is much less frightening now.

The sole has a carbon insert to transmit as much power as possible to the pedals. I like this blending of XC and AM. The carbon insert doesn’t get in the way of walking in these shoes any more than in other stiff bike shoes, and they are quite comfortable for some walking – I hiked a couple of very hard miles in the Rocky Mountains in these. That being said, if you know you are going to be walking a huge amount, then there are other shoes that are better suited for that.

The upper is completely bonded so there are no stitched seams that might be uncomfortable to your foot. Not ever a problem for me, but the thought is nice. And it does give a nice clean look to the upper. Mavic says that this gives “exceptional comfort” and “pressure free foot hold”. That may often be true with seamless uppers, but it doesn’t quite work out here. I’m not saying the upper is uncomfortable, it’s not. In fact it is quite comfortable, but not as much as their Tempo shoe. It isn’t “pressure free” either. The shoe squeezes both sides of my forefoot a little. It does do it quite uniformly though, and it doesn’t bother me out on trail, but I notice it when I put them on and when walking around. This is probably partly my foot shape, but it also has to do with the durable rubber toe protection that the Mantra has. It doesn’t matter how supple the upper of a shoe is if its shape is being influenced by some very stalwart pieces of rubber. Of course I really appreciate the rubber protection on the toes for other reasons, but it does affect the comfort of the forefoot. Like I said though, it hasn’t been an issue out on the trail or even after walking quite a ways.

Mavic touts a tri-density composite insole with a high density vibration absorbing heel. I can’t tell whether this bit is effective or not, but every little bit helps I guess. The insole does look like a quality piece though. The extra wide strap for the top of the foot is a nice touch. It makes for a very comfortable, snug two-strap shoe. You can’t get these as tight as a ratchet shoe, but most ratchets are a pain for real world riding anyway- they break or loosen out on the trail. Straps rarely have any problems. You can strap it down pretty snug if you want though, and the extra width of the top strap gives a fair amount of extra protection for the top of the foot. Another nice touch is the tongue. It’s an EVA foam material with large vent holes throughout and reinforced with mesh across the top and a light fabric bottom. The tongue looks burly but is comfortable and the venting seems to work quite well.

I think these shoes are now one of my favorite pairs of riding shoes. The added protection around the toe means they aren’t quite as comfortable as some shoes, but they are still quite comfy and the extra protection and durability is a large part of what these shoes are about. They survived a 9 hour mud and rain fest in the Rockies without even showing it. I hosed them off, let them dry, and they looked as good as new. If you are worried about the fit or comfort level, try them first. They may be hard to find compared to some brands, but most retailers should be able to order a pair. It comes in full and half sizes from 4.5 – 12 which is a bummer if your foot is bigger than that, but for the rest of us, I highly recommend the Mantra.

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