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Running Shoe Review: Columbia Montrail Bajada III

The Columbia Montrail Bajada III (hereinafter, Bajada) is said to be “a versatile trail running shoe that can handle a variety of trails…” due to its “reliable cushioning and traction.”  (Running Warehouse)  Do we agree?  See the verdict below.

CM Bajada III

The latest version of the Bajada from Columbia Montrail offers a great fit; it’s snug but roomy in the right places.  The shoe weighs 12 ounces but feels more like 10 ounces under the feet.  It has a FluidFoam midsole, a sticky Griptonite Trail outsole containing an immense number of small lugs providing multi-directional grip, a Trail Shield to protect one’s feet, horizontal and vertical flex grooves, and a 10mm drop.  As with most running shoes these days, it has a seamless “socklite” mesh upper.

Columbia Montrail generally includes an upgraded, deluxe commercial-grade sockliner in their trail shoes, and this is the case with the Bajada.  Another bonus feature of the shoe is the set of elastic laces which provide comfort and “give,” yet they can be securely tied for peace of mind.

While walking to nearby trails, one will note that the Bajada offers a soft, comfortable ride.  And the shoe feels like it is just the right height – not too high off the ground and not too low.

On a gravel and dirt trail the Bajada offers good proprioception (ground feel) while remaining protective.  On a mown grass fire trail the Bajada delivers fine grip and yaw control.  You can feel the shoe moving from side to side but it returns to center quickly.  On a hard-packed dirt trail the Bajada feels fast and light.  It’s like driving a roadster on a curvy country road.

The toughest test for a trail shoe tends to be how it handles a hard rock trail – with both large and small rocks underfoot.  The Bajada earns an A- grade for grip, and a B to B+ grade for both the absence of slippage and protection.  You know a shoe has passed with flying colors on a hard rock trail when no cuss words are emitted by the runner!

CM Bajada III sole

Although the grippy lugs on the Bajada appear to be relatively small they provide tremendous purchase for moving uphill.  This would be a nice shoe to use to run up the Ventana Canyon Trail in Tucson.

On city/suburban roads the Bajada demonstrates its credentials as a hybrid shoe.  It’s bouncy on asphalt, earning a B grade for responsiveness.  On sidewalks it proves to be as stable as earlier-year Montrail shoes, such as the Montrail Fluid Feel from 2013.  (The Bajada offers more stability than the Fluidflex F.K.T. or the Caldorado II models.)

On roads the Bajada delivers B level cushioning.  The springiness provided by its insole is not dissipated; energy builds up supporting forward motion momentum.  Speaking of momentum, one can get on one’s toes and/or high-step in the Bajada to engage in speed training.  Yes, it will deliver a fast response if and when you need it.

Verdict

The Bajada does most everything well.  It is quite likely the Columbia Montrail model that will work best for the average runner.  (While I found the Caldorado II to be excellent, it rests upon a level of firmness that works for only a certain percentage of individuals.)

At a price of $110, the Bajada provides exemplary levels of grip, protection, cushioning, and responsiveness.  It’s a hybrid model that can be used as both a trail runner and a road trainer, and it will prove to be more than satisfactory for mid-range and long-distance runs.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

A sample pair was provided by Columbia Montrail for review.

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Running Shoe Review: Columbia Montrail Fluidflex F.K.T.

The Columbia Montrail Fluidflex F.K.T. (F.K.T. stands for fastest known time) is an attractive, lightweight trail running shoe. Is it a shoe that also holds up as a daily trainer for those who run on hard city surfaces? See our verdict below.

columbia montrail fluidflex fkt running warehouse

One can almost tell by looking at a pair of the new Fluidflex F.K.T. that it has the soul of a fast shoe. It’s just 9.5 ounces in weight, and feels lighter on one’s feet. The shoe has a seamless upper and an outsole that is almost identical to the one on the bottom of the Montrail Fluidflex, circa 2013. According to Columbia Montrail – which provided a sample for review, the Fluidflex offers “enhanced mid-foot stability and a smooth ride on the trail.” Of this, there’s no doubt.

The Fluidflex has a minimal 4mm heel drop and a protective Trail (rock) Shield in the forefoot. The shoe appears to be semi-curved, is slip-lasted for comfort, and provides a snug fit. Notably, the shoe comes with a commercial grade, high quality, aftermarket-looking insole. It’s impressive and means that the runner who buys this shoe will not need to make a post-purchase drive to the local CVS or Walgreens.

The tongue on the Fluidflex is overly short, especially for a trail shoe, but this is a minor quibble. A second quibble has to do with the fit. My narrow feet wished for more headroom in the forefoot and a bit more space on the lateral side. My small toes were crying out for more space! Luckily, the upper loosens up with the passage of miles, so patience has its virtues with the Fluidflex.

columbia fluidflex fkt

On a dirt and rock covered trail one can feel the Fluidflex’s lugs dig in. These lugs may be relatively small but their strength becomes quite apparent on a newly mown grass trail. They dig in so well, so securely, that it feels like one’s running on clawed cat’s feet. Excellent!

On a hard-packed dirt trail, the shoe offers a B to B+ ride. The Fluidflex is just nimble enough to bring out the mountain goat in a runner. On a trail made up of large and small hard rocks the Fluidflex provides all gain and no pain.

Switching to an urban surface of concrete, the Fluidflex delivers straight ahead foot strikes with some bounce but not too much. It’s clear that this is a highly protective shoe, something that’s also apparent on asphalt. And this is a great tempo trainer; lock onto a pace and the shoe will stick to it like an auto set to cruise control. Nice.

The two flex grooves cut into the forefoot of the Fluidflex do indeed provide for a substantial amount of flexibility. This makes it a joy to use as an urban trainer. Whether you are a midfoot or forefoot striker, this shoe will accommodate your style. One caveat about this model is addressed to mild to moderate pronators: the current Fluidflex does not appear to be quite as stable as the earlier Fluidflex and Fluidfeel models – both of which I’ve run in.

This Fluidflex is consistent with earlier offerings from Montrail in terms of delivering on its promised smooth ride. If you ran in the La Sportiva Helios trail shoe, for example, and are looking for a similarly comfortable non-jarring ride, the Fluidflex is one to take out for a test spin.

One final and additional quibble before we arrive at the verdict. Because of the use of foam insoles, city and trail shoes are becoming increasingly soft. I would love to see a model from Columbia Montrail that offers additional firmness from the midfoot through the forefoot. Not a tremendous amount of firmness, but perhaps twenty to thirty percent more than is present in the current Fluidflex.

Verdict

At a price of $110, the Columbia Montrail Fluidflex F.K.T. is a high value shoe. Its build quality is clear and the company has gone above and beyond in terms of details like providing an upgraded insole. While the shoe works well on both country trails and city streets, I believe its pluses are most readily apparent when it is used as a daily townie trainer.

Well recommended.

Joseph Arellano

This review was first posted on the Blogcritics site:

http://blogcritics.org/running-shoe-review-columbia-montrail-fluidflex-f-k-t/

Image credits: Running Warehouse; Road Trail Run

 

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