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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: Montrail FluidFlex

Is the Montrail FluidFlex a WYSIWYG trail runner?

In the past, I had an interesting experience with the Montrail FluidFeel running shoe as it looked like one type of shoe (heavy and bulky) but ran like another type (light and nimble). So I was interested to see if this would be the case with Montrail’s FluidFlex model. Read on to see the verdict.

Montrail-FluidFlex1

I came across the FluidFlex at Fleet Feet in Davis, California. The shoe has a surprisingly racing flat-like look for a trail running shoe, but then it weighs only 7.6 ounces; it’s quite light. And it looks bold in coal with red Montrail side lettering and a yellow FluidFoam midsole. I wound up buying the FluidFlex hoping that the shoe might prove to be as light, fast and flexible as it appears to be.

I can say right off that the FluidFlex offers great cushioning in a lightweight shoe. It’s nice to walk in and only the asymmetrical lacing system lets others know that this is not a racing flat. The fit is narrow and secure but not tight because of the highly flexible upper. The fit at the rear of the shoe is exemplary; one’s heels and ankles are well surrounded and protected.

The FluidFlex fosters such a smooth ride while running that I began to think of it as the Montrail Glide runner. The shoe has a floating sock liner which adds to its uniqueness. On the road, the shoe’s high level of flexibility allows the feet to go through the proper landing cycle — heel, then mid-foot, then forefoot. The shoe does not interfere with one’s normal foot strike, and allows the feet to land flat.

The feel of the FluidFlex on roads and trails is quite similar to the Pearl Izumi E:Motion Road N1 and the La Sportiva Helios. On asphalt it simply feels good to run in.

On a track the FluidFlex makes one feel like Steve Prefontaine, possessing the ability to put in some strong, fast laps. The heel padding is soft but the landing is secure and anything but mushy. The fast and steady nature of the shoe is maintained on a crushed gravel trail.

The FluidFlex has a flared sole that supports and reinforces a high level of lateral stability on a hard-packed dirt trail. The hybrid nature of the “town and country” sole underfoot provides just enough grip on a hard-rock trail to keep one traveling straight ahead rather than slipping and sliding. The sole also allows the feet to move sideways while in motion. It may be counter-intuitive but this provides a reassuring measure of stability control.

Montrail FluidFlex

The FluidFlex feels low-to-the-ground and it has a minimalistic 4mm heel drop. For some runners (especially long-term heel strikers), this will signal the need to break in the shoe slowly and carefully. In my case, I initially experienced some soreness in my calves and stinging in my heels. But this was only temporary.

The Montrail FluidFlex lives up to its name, providing fluid flexibility in a shoe that’s more protective than it’s looks would indicate. While it may be a lightweight shoe, it’s quite durable in use. My well-used pair has minimal signs of wear on its still vibrant black and yellow sole.

Verdict:

The Fluid Flex is a WYSIWYG trail running shoe. It is the shoe that it appears to be and more.

Runners, whether fast or slow, should be able to use this shoe as a trainer on a wide variety of surfaces. It will serve as a good marathon trainer and race day shoe for some competitors and as a fine 5K to half-marathon shoe for many. Joggers with inflexible feet and runners fast enough to chase cheetahs will benefit from the shoe’s ultra-flexible, blown-rubber cushioned forefoot.

The FluidFlex is an excellent trainer to run in even if you never go near a natural trail.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

The Montrail FluidFlex retails for $90.00.

This review initially appeared on the Blogcritics website:

http://blogcritics.org/running-shoe-review-montrail-fluidflex/

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