Montrail have been making run shoes for some time, 1997 actually. In all those years I have never tried or used a Montrail shoe. Criminal I know. It’s not because I didn’t want to, it’s just a case of never having the chance. They have always appeared to be (wrongly?) a US shoe.
I have many US based friends who have used Montrail and loved them but getting hold of a pair in the UK was never easy. So I guess I need to thank Columbia Sportswear (Montrail’s parent company) for stepping in where The North Face pulled out and becoming headline sponsor for the UTMB in France.
To signify this new collaboration, Montrail have released a limited edition of the Bajada II Trail Shoe – The UTMB.
Now information seems a little mixed at the moment how it will be possible to get these shoes. My contact at Mountain Hardwear (also part of Columbia Sportswear) has informed me that they are a ‘limited edition’ if so, I may keep my pair for years so that in the future they are worth millions…
Joking aside the Bajada II is an appealing trail shoe for longer distance races or training.
Drop is 10mm, so the more more ‘natural’ runners out there who prefer a low drop shoe will soon be clicking off this post. However, before you do, read on a little!
I love 4mm and 6mm drop shoes (not lower though) and I love the feel that these shoes provide. However, when I run longer and my technique gets sloppy, 8mm is my sweet spot. It allows a little more flexibility and certainly I can understand why Montrail have picked the Bajada II as the UTMB shoe.
20mm rear cushioning, 10mm front cushioning, 10mm drop, good grip and a rock plate make this a great all rounder for the ‘neutral’ runner when running a long on the trail. The Bajada II will excel when time on feet is without question going to be 20+ hours and anything up to 40 ish hours or longer.
My standard shoe size is UK 9.5 and the Bajada II is true to size. Weight for the UK 9.5 is 12.5oz/ 353g to draw comparison, the TNF Cardiac (in the same size is) 10.6oz/ 300g and the Scott T2 Kinabalu is 11.6oz/ 328g. So the Bajada II is not the lightest shoe on the market!
It’s a comfortable shoe to wear. The heel box is plush, padded and holds the heel well.
The toe box has plenty of room but not too much room and protection at the front is good with a hard wearing reinforced stitched on section to protect from rocks.
Lacing is threaded through nylon hoops stitched onto the upper and the laces are relatively standard but hold tight when tied. The tongue is stitched into the upper with elasticated panels on either side to allow some flexibility but most importantly to hold the tongue in place with little or no movement. The tongue is also well padded and when laced up provides a nice secure foothold.
Reinforced panels on the side of the shoe provide structure and foothold. It works! Your foot feels nice and secure.
The sole uses ‘FluidFoam.’ It may sound like a fancy name but I love Montrail’s description: ‘No midsole gizmos. No gels, airbags or plastic parts. Just pure, responsive foam from heel to toe.’ Praise be. Finally a straightforward description of cushioning in a shoe.
The outsole of the shoe is interesting and very different to what other brands are using at the moment. Made up of a series little squares, the ‘Gryptonite’ is used in different ways to enhance grip. Closed and condensed around the heel, rows of 2 all around the outer edge and the front and then groups of 5 spaced out in the mid section. It’s definitely a grip for trail running and not muddy or fell type racing. On hard trail and rocks the shoe runs and feels really great. It’s a soft outer sole but not too soft. One would almost be mistaken in thinking this was a Vibram sole. I’m impressed. Also the sole is flat (no cut aways) and that is very reassuring. Montrail say: ‘Sticky carbon rubber with multi-directional lugs delivers aggressive traction across a variety of surface conditions.’
The blue section clearly visible in the outsole is ‘Trail Shield’ and this is Montrail’s rock plate. It works! I had little or no discomfort running on irregular surfaces and that is a real plus, especially when running long. Say at UTMB! This doesn’t compromise the shoes flexibility too. I found running mid to forefoot still had good feel and flex that allowed me to run in my natural way. Montrail say: ‘Trail Shield is a lightweight, flexible material that is co-molded between outsole and midsole for underfoot protection.’
The upper is open mesh over the toes that allows some breathability but at the sides of the shoe it is much denser and reinforced. They feel a little over engineered to me and that is almost certainly why the shoe is on the heavier side. BUT and this is a big but, the shoes will almost certainly withstand a battering on rough terrain and if you are a bigger or heavier runner, they will hold your foot firm and add some welcome security.
I need more time in the Bajada II to test longevity, wear and tear and how long the sole lasts but on first impressions, it’s a great shoe that is pleasing to use and wear. It is without doubt a robust shoe and that is reflected in the weight. A 10mm drop and with plenty of cushioning (20/10), it will certainly suit runners who are going to spend a great deal of time on their feet (even though they are heavier) and the overall plush feel is welcome after many hours.
I need to be clear that the Bajada II already existed before this ‘limited edition’ UTMB version came out. As I understand it, this shoe will also be the same price as the normal Bajada II. Yes folks, you are not paying a premium for the UTMB badge! RRP £80
…will not make the shoe any better, lighter, faster or will allow you to fly with ease over the mountainous 100 miles that the Chamonix course will throw at you. But it is a nice touch and what I honestly feel is a good trail shoe at a very good price. Many comparable shoes are well over the £100 mark.
The Bajada UTMB will only be available in the UK from Accelerate and will be the only introduction from the Montrail range to UK shores in 2015. I also believe that the Bajada II will be available at the UTMB expo.