Many trail runners are at least passingly familiar with Montrail’s recent history. The conventional wisdom is that a great brand was victimized by its acquisition by Columbia in 2006. This perception is especially common when it comes to Montrail’s most popular shoe ever, the Hardrock. Naturally, the whole truth is a bit more complicated than this version of the story — at least according to my sources — but it is fair to say that the Montrail brand lost a bit of its luster in the year or two after the change in corporate ownership.
Well, the end of that chapter in the Montrail story seems to have begun no later than last year with the release of the Mountain Masochist, a shoe which in the ensuing months has won the devotion of rank-and-file runners and professional gear testers (e.g. iRunFar and Outside Magazine) alike. After testing the shoe myself, I agree the Mountain Masochist is the epitome of a balanced, all-conditions wilderness running workhorse.
Let’s first review the Masochist’s design, then I’ll share my experience with the shoe in the “lab.” (All photos are expandable for better viewing of details.)
The Masochist is built on Montrail’s VEL last, which offers a medium-volume fit and roomy toe box. As you can tell from the photo above, the VEL last also has the slight “banana” shape typical of shoes built for neutral, normally arched feet.
The midsole of the Masochist is single-density EVA with instep posting (the blue portion of the midsole in the above photo). The midsole also integrates a flexible, lightweight rock plate. Heel/toe drop is 10mm (20mm heel/10mm toe).
The outsole of the Mountain Masochist has large, angled blades in the forefoot and deeper lugs all around the perimeter.
The upper offers good protection without going overboard. Overlays are limited to functional features like the five canvas strips (inside and out for 10 total per shoe) which secure the lace cage for a uniformly snug midfoot.
Per the WRC scale, the actual weight of the Masochist is 11.1 oz for the men’s 9.0 and 9.6 oz for the women’s 7.5.
On The Trail
Based on the specs of the Masochist, I expected the shoe to feel nimble and fairly low to the ground. In testing, the shoe more or less lived up to expectations, but with caveats.
First, some runners may find the heel a touch “wobbly.” As best I can tell, this is due less to any narrowness than to the shape of the outsole. In the photo below, note the slightly rounded edges (fore-aft as well as side-to-side) where the heel greets the ground.
I can’t say I personally experienced a significant sensation of instability on the trail, but there was also certainly no confusing the ride of the Masochist with that of, say, the Vasque Mindbender. (In the event you’re a regular reader and this observation has you wondering if the Masochist is the smoking gun behind my recent ankle mishap, the answer is “no.”)
Second, the midsole of the Masochist is primarily single-density EVA. Being a softer compound means a bit more cushioned ride than shoes with denser (double- or triple-density) midsole compounds. I personally prefer a very firm midsole, but many runners like this bit of additional shock absorption. The other implication of a less dense midsole is that it will tend to collapse into itself with the miles. Notice below the telltale creases beginning to form in the midsole of my Masochists. (The photo was taken after roughly 150 miles.)
Neither of these caveats are universally problematic; they are more a matter of preference than anything. And even though these two elements of the Masochist run counter to my personal preference, I still look forward to lacing them up. The reason is that while I like some other shoes in my closet better for one particular application or another, there are few that are as versatile as the Masochist. Whether the question is fit, traction, durability, or weight, the Masochist just works.
The perfect match for the Masochist is the trail runner who likes the smooth, cushioned feel of mainstream road running shoes, but wants a bit more protection than is provided by road shoes or hybrids (e.g. Montrail’s Rockridge). It is not particularly well-suited to flat feet. (If this describes you, Montrail’s most suitable offering is the new Sabino Trail.) The Masochist is relatively light, but entirely capable of standing up to harsh trail conditions.
For neutral runners who want to do substantially all their trail running in just one pair of shoes, the Mountain Masochist is one of the better options available.