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Gear Review

5 5

Crazy Good, Crazy Light

I used to be a big fan of Montrail Shoes, and went through four or five pairs of the Masai before they were discontinued. I've not really liked any of their shoes since: they all seemed to be be heavy and clunky. However, that's all changed with the Rogue Racer.

This is literally a game-changer. It is astonishingly light but provides nearly all the support and cushioning of a traditional trail shoe. I tried them on, ran in them once, and had no hesitation in wearing them for 50 km trail race. I had no foot issues at all.

The amazing thing is that they weigh almost as little as super-minimal trail shoes like the New Balance Minimus or the Merrell Trail Glove. But they provide a lot more cushioning and protection. You may or may not think that is a good thing, but my experience is that the hillier the race, the more cushioning I want on my heel so that I can run fast downhill. Also, the longer the race, the more I want just to be able to put a foot down without worrying too much about placing the foot precisely, avoiding sharp rocks etc.

The Rogue Racers feel very much like a traditional trail runner (like the Brooks Cascadia) but ditch 40% of the weight. I don't know what sort of voodoo Montrail have been cooking up in their research department, but the results are stunning. Expect to see this shoe winning a LOT of races.

If Montrail were to tweak the shoe at all, here's what I would suggest. The forefoot is really nice: soft enough to provide great trail feel, but firm enough that sharp rocks don't leave you limping. However, it's got a noticeable concavity to it that I think is undesirable. The only discomfort I felt with this shoe (after a 4.5 hour race) was right in the middle of the forefoot. I don't know if this is related to the concavity, or just because that's the thinnest point of the sole. But either way, I would flatten out the concavity (which doesn't seem to have much benefit), and thicken the middle of the forefoot by a millimeter or so. Secondly, I would be tempted to drop the heel slightly. After running in near-flat shoes, the heel stack seems high. As I said above, this means that the cushioning is great for thundering downhill, and I didn't experience any instability, but I think Montrail could improve the shoe by dropping the heel 2 or 3 mm.

Despite my niggles (Hey, nothing's ever perfect, right?), this is really a breakthrough shoe that is brilliantly designed. I have more than ten different pairs of trail shoes, and these are the shoe I reach for without hesitation for any long, hilly runs. I'm planning to wear them next in the Pocatello 50.

Responded on

I wimped out of running the full, "50-mile" version of the Pocatello 50. (Just too early in the season for my legs.) But I did wear these in the 60 km 'short' race.

The course had just about every adventure a trail race can throw at you: fallen trees, big puddles, rivers, mud, snow, snow, and more snow. I like to race in lightweight shoes, but I was in two minds about whether to wear my Cascadias for better traction and more protection. Finally opted for Rogue Racers, and they performed admirably. The micro lugs in the sole looked like they might be slippery in the mud, and indeed they were, but while watching other runners, nobody else seemed to be faring any better, no matter what they had on their feet. I found that the shoes dried out fast after river crossings, and also did a surprisingly good job of shedding mud.

They provided enough protection for me to charge hard, even with tired legs, but were light enough to help me go fast (and win a trophy!) I'm planning to keep wearing them as my shoe of choice for long trail races.