First up, Trail Runner Porn!!


Catchy title huh? Never been done before either, truly.

This is just another trail shoe review although I would certainly say that the Montrail Rogue Racer is NOT just another trail shoe. And more than just another trail shoe review, it’s that special time in a blogger’s life – the first entry. Before either of us knows what has happened, this will all be over. It will probably be done wrong and leave at least one of us reflecting on what a wasted opportunity this was and perhaps feeling just a bit dirty. But that’s to be expected – look at the title, right?

So throw on some super thin socks and let’s do this thing.

Like an expensive bitch that everybody wants to slip their dogs into, Montrail has a fine pedigree. To be precise, they have been called Montrail for 18 years now and existed for over a decade before that. In the ’90s they also took out a patent on stretch Gore Tex and picked up normal world awards for their hiking boots. Yes, your reviewer can read a Wiki page. More importantly, Montrail shoes embrace the foot with a feeling that they have been made by people who understand both shoes and feet. The Mountain Masochist, for all its too-heavy, small-toe-abrading shortcomings is a rightfully popular and versatile shoe. The Streak, sadly discontinued but still available in the wonder of online sales space, is a great looking trail shoe that just keeps on getting it done for neutral feet that shun bells and whistles.

RunningWarehouse doesn't have the best export policies, but they do have the best image galleries - click image for 360 on Rogue Racer

But those shoes aren’t minimal. Montrail’s Rogue Racers are minimal. The obvious comparison has to be the New Balance MT101, and it is a brilliant shoe – light, durable, up for it, not much fun in mud or clay, or even hard road surfaces if you’re much over 80kg, as many trail runners are. The Rogue Racers are maybe 40-50 grams heavier in a men’s size 9 than the MT101s. This, however, is not the reason why the Montrails aren’t being sold by weight. The Montrails are being sold by performance, wildly unexpected comfort, and pursuant word-of-mouth like this. My mate has 2 pairs of MT101s and 2 pairs of the much-more-suited-to-every-possible-surface MTE101s, aka MT101 Internationals with their NB MT870 ballsy luggy sole. But each time we run together he’s closer to ordering himself a pair of Rogue Racers. Just like I’m closer to punching New Balance in the face for only making MTE101s up to a UK12.5/US13.

None of which has yet really said much about the Rogue Racers. First impression on laying hands on them was that they are a lot lighter than they look and that the exoskeleton that hugs the shoe to your foot looks to have been inspired by Inov-8’s with a similar looking system. On putting them on, however, I would have to say that they put my Roclite 295s (3 pairs so far) to some shame. The Montrails feel like they know your foot works and that they are the latest point in an evolutionary line of shoes that know how your foot works. This isn’t to take away from any more recent brands, as most brands of trail shoe are. It’s awesome to put on your familiar stripped-back trailrunning shoes and feel like you’re about to head off on an adventure. But it’s also an adventure to put on minimal trail shoes that feel incredibly comfortable and happily walk around with no slip-slide and the laces still undone.

Let's shred trail, clumsy bitches!

Unlike most other trail shoes, their Montrail ancestry included, the Rogues have a soft top. Coupled with their comfortably roomy toebox, this is definitely a key to their feeling so good on the move. On the one hand, they will not give you much protection if you kick rocks and roots with the upper of your shoe. My average is probably one decent bump every 20-30km, usually from daydreaming or fatigue. If you run like Steve Urkel, maybe get some gumboots instead. They probably won’t slow you significantly. On the other hand, shoes that do give decent upper protection at the toes can really cause as much pain and damage as you might hope that they prevent – especially if you like running in something thinner than a football sock. Long downhills on shoes with tight toe protection can produce miserable results for anybody with a wide foot or who likes a shoe that hugs close. For my money, the strectchy upper on the Rogue Racers is a great solution, and it will be interesting to see who else brings out soft top trail shoes once this catches on.

The only actual problem I have found with the upper construction is that there is an unsealed seam near the front of the inner arch where a ribbon of denser harder material has been sewn to create strength and maintain shape. On a 25km run with no socks, this did rub up a nice blister which is now a nice tough spot when I run barefooted in them again. No such blister or discomfort happened previously wearing them with thin socks.

As far as the sole goes, on first running these shoes are just confusing!! They’re too light to be so comfortable, and they’re too comfortable to feel so fast. Through whatever combination of composites they’ve gone with, the clever folks at Montrail have come up with an insane feelgood:weighnothing ratio. Over time, though, there is an awareness that there really is not much serious substance between the insole and the outsole. The wafer-sponge inner has compressed in response

Even Urkel knows the importance of recovery nutrition.

to the weight and shape of my foot and in a couple of places every now and again I get a sense of the position of some of the triad clusters of shallow lugs beneath my feet. This is no big thing, it is certainly not a problem. It’s a reminder that in both trail running and buying minimal gear, less is often more. Choices have to be made about which sacrifices to make – do you want to spend less buying the shoe but love it a bit less on the run, do you want to be couch-comfortable but wear something that weighs about a pound, do you want to feel fast and move fast and does it bother you that maybe that will come with a niggle here and there, etc.

As far as the outer goes with grip, these haven’t yet let me down anywhere that almost any other trail shoe wouldn’t have failed. Were they good in 4-inch deep muddy clay? Not especially, big lugs would have been better there, and if running a course likely to be more than 10% muddy clay it would be worth looking at something with deeper lugs. That said, the outsole is amazing. It definitely grips better than the MT101s, whereas the MTE101s might be your shoe of choice for the MudClay100. These feel more stable on wet rocky surfaces than the MT101s which certainly have a feeling that they’re wanting to slide on some gentle angles, and even on wet rock faces around streams and at face angles of greater than about 40 degrees I would only give Inov-8’s sticky rubber compound about a 5% advantage in terms of grip. Simple solution – use these for trailrunning instead of playing Wet Spiderman. And even on pointy broken up gravel roads, the Rogue Racer soles work just fine, no edge really presents a problem and the flex of the sole means most angles and solids are a good opportunity to land and push off again.

I have read somewhere a review questioning how good these are on technical trail and also saying that they are only suited for runs up to around 20k. Would have to disagree. My first reaction to running in these was that they will likely be the shoe for my first 100-miler later this year. They just feel great, they feel reliable, there is a sense of confidence with each fast footfall, and while they feel brilliant on a few surfaces and, at worst, really really good on the rest, they, like most Montrails seem to, just happily cross a mixture of surfaces for hours on end without any thought that another shoe would definitely be better.

Again, a qualification, these are probably not for the beginner but neither is ultrarunning. Your feet will want some strength conditioning as a foundation at the very least before wearing these or you’ll definitely feel the fatigue between your bones the next day. Best suited to neutral runners, there is a mild rise at the arch and some slight pronators will definitely be able to play in these, even without joyless crippling orthotic inserts.

If this review doesn’t make you want to try a pair, that’s cool – you might be one of the runners or non-runners properly not suited to this shoe or completely happy already in something else. Or you might just need to watch this video of a guy who, despite currently having a broken foot, probably has the best job in the world. I would caution against his recommendation that you should size up. If you are at the limits of whatever shoe size you’re in, maybe yes. Otherwise, the stretchy upper will give you close to a half-size after the first 2 weeks of wear anyhow.

Tune in next week for another running review on something awesome or somewthing awful.

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About Roger Hanney

Ultramarathon runner. Wannabe adventurer. Writer. Australian HOKA ONE ONE guy. First Type 1 to complete the 4 Deserts Grand Slam. www.runeatsleeprun.com www.type1ultra.com
This entry was posted in Montrail, running shoe review, trail running, trail shoe review. Bookmark the permalink.

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