Monday, December 12, 2011

Gear Review: Montrail Mountain Masochist

I do not claim to be a runner.  I leave that to people like my wife who somehow seem to think that running for long periods of time is "fun."  Don't get me wrong; I think running is okay, but it's definitely not what I call "fun."  I do it to maintain my cardiac fitness for long days in the mountains.  

Since my training plan is ultimately tailored to long climbing days, my running usually happens on trails for moderate distances.  Running 3 to 6 miles is not uncommon, and I have been known to run more than that for endurance depletion workouts.  When running, no piece of gear is more important than your footwear.  Here's what I'm looking for in a trail runner:

The Montrail Mountain Masochists
Perhaps more than anything else, the overriding concern I am looking for in a trail runner is traction.  The tread and the rubber should have sufficient grip to stick to a vertical pane of wet glass.  The last thing I need 4 miles deep into the woods is to slip on the trail and get injured.

Weight and Durability
Weight and durability usually come as a trade-off.  When I'm out for a 10 mile run, it's great not to have to carry extra weight around on my feet.  However, I also have a tendency to use my gear until it falls apart, so I appreciate when a piece stands up past its normal lifetime.

Fit and Support
Also important are fit and support.  With all the aggressive movement that occurs inside a running shoe, good fit goes a long way in preventing blisters and other over-use injury.  Further, my trail shoes need to offer appropriate support so that my joints don't feel as though they're being sliced open lengthwise with a red-hot screwdriver.  

There are many things I like about my pair of Montrail Mountain Masochists.  First and foremost, they fit.  I've tried on more than a few pairs of shoes, and Montrail's shoe lasts, whether in boots, trail runners, or climbing shoes, fit my wide foot better than many other brands.  With this fit also comes a decently cushioned platform.  It's certainly not the same thing you'd see on a pair of street runners with the word "air" in the name (and it shouldn't be!), but I've yet to have a problem on hard-packed or even crushed-gravel trails. 

The shoes are fairly lightweight, coming in at 10.8 ounces, significantly less than my usual all-purpose Five Ten Camp Four approach shoes that weigh in at nearly a pound.  The light weight owes much to the mesh that composes most of the shoe, which also makes them quite breathable.  Montrail offers a Gore-Tex version of the shoe, which may be appropriate for the light-hiker version of the model, but I find it completely useless in a running shoe.  No matter how great the liner is, I've yet to find a piece of Gore-Tex footwear that was as breathable as mesh.  If I am running, though, I'm already going to be generating a lot of foot sweat.  In other words, if I run through water without a Gore-Tex liner, my foot will be getting wet.  However, if I run at all in a Gore-Tex liner, my foot will just be wet with sweat due to a lack of breathability given the high-output nature of the activity.  For my money, breathability wins the day.  The Gore-Tex is just not worth the extra $10 to $15 you'd pay for it.

The Mountain Masochist offers a relatively durable platform as well.  After more than 150 miles I have not noticed any significant wear save for some slight sole separation just beginning to show near the heel of one shoe.

My biggest complaint with the Mountain Masochist is the (lack of) traction!  In general, Montrail's proprietary Gryptonite does a decent job of adhering to dirt, rock, and organic matter.  It is certainly not the best I've seen, but it's not sub-standard. 

However, the second you introduce any water into the mix, it's game over.  Whether it's rain, mud, a puddle, or even just high relative humidity, it seems the Mountain Masochist can not stick to anything with a few drops of liquid on it.  Yesterday, while running back to my apartment at the tail end of my run, I literally fell over on the sidewalk.  I put my foot down with slight lateral motion to move aside for someone walking by and found myself with my left cheek on the pavement (that's face cheek, not butt cheek, by the way). 

This was not the first time I've ended up on the ground because the shoe failed to stick on a wet surface where other footwear would have been fine.  Ultimately, the lack of wet-surface traction is an unfortunate reality of what would otherwise be my new favorite pair of shoes.  The Mountain Masochist loses major points as a trail shoe, where good traction on all types of surfaces is a must.

The Montrail Mountain Masochist is a decent contender in the trail running department, especially for those with wide feet.  The shoe is light, breathable, and durable.  Unfortunately, the positive features of the shoe are overshadowed by a severe lack of traction on wet terrain, leading to a search for an alternative with better grip.


  1. Hi - thanks, Susan, for stopping by and commenting on my blog, today. eat run sail

    Hope to see more of you there... and I am following this blog now.


  2. Hi Elle! Thanks for following me, too! :)

  3. Hmmm...doesn't sound very promising! Good review. I've become a big fan of minimalist shoes this year and have found the Merrell Barefoot line to be great for trails.

    And wow--your go big goals for 2012 are, well, HUGE!! Most impressive!

  4. Thanks for stopping by! I've been excited about the La Sportiva Raptor, but the shoe just doesn't fit my foot very well, otherwise I'd be in a pair of those.