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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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Pearly Queen

Running Shoe Review: Pearl Izumi E:Motion Road N1

Has Pearl Izumi produced a pearl in the Road N1 training shoe?

Pearl Izumi motion

Pearl Izumi. It sounds like the name of a new toothpaste (“It will make your teeth shine pearly white!”). But Pearl Izumi means “fountain of pearls” in Japanese, and the company may have produced a pearl of a product in the Road N1.

This is a neutral running shoe with a unique appearance. When I opened the box supplied to me by the manufacturer, I noticed that the blue and yellow colorway Road N1 looks somewhat like a triathlon shoe and a bit like a skateboarder’s shoe. While it is built on a semi-curved last, it hits the eye as being semi-straight, a factor that brings to mind the skateboarding shoe analogy.

The Road N1 weighs 8.2 ounces and has a low heel drop in line with being a minimalist-style trainer-racer. One retailer lists the heel drop for this shoe as 7mm, but it may be irrelevant as the shoe is said to possess a variable depth midsole (a “dynamic chassis”) which permits it to be used by heel, mid-foot or forefoot strikers.

Pearl Izumi may have invented the seamless upper and it’s immediately clear that the Road N1 possesses an excellent fit. The shoe holds on snugly to the entire foot and especially so the top of the foot, yet it is anything but uncomfortable. The toe box is relatively low but it never rubs on the toes.

This shoe has a nicely padded heel counter and there’s an efficient lacing system which is slightly off-center. The manufacturer’s attention to detail is reflected in the simple fact that the shoe’s laces are neither too long nor too short. They’re just right!

Initially, as you hold on to the Road N1 and test its flexibility, it feels a bit stiff. But this is not a problem on roads; it feels flexible enough in action.

When you first walk in this shoe, it feels like you’re walking on top of an air cushion, nice and soft. Interestingly, there’s been some debate and confusion about the feel of the shoe on the run. Pearl Izumi states that its midsole “promotes a smooth and quick running sensation,” which is referenced elsewhere as an “ultra-smooth” ride. But one retailer’s website states that the shoe has minimal cushioning and a “semi-firm” ride. Which is it? I’d say the answer lies somewhere in the middle. I view the Road N1 as delivering a cushioned firm ride on a par with the feel of the Mizuno Wave Rider 16 running shoe. Cushioned but firm is not a bad thing. In fact, it may offer the best of both worlds to a large number of runners.

I think that Pearl Izumi is correct when it highlights the shoe’s quick running sensation. When jogging on a crushed gravel trail, I felt I could run at a quick pace, especially because the midsole is highly, unexpectedly protective. Even though the Road N1 has no dedicated pad, the cushioning at its rear is mid-range, not too firm or too soft.

The Road N1 produces an agile and pleasingly bouncy ride on a hard-packed dirt trail; it allows the runner to move confidently, even as the trail twists and turns. The shoe is just competent on a natural trail since the sleek, flat sole cannot generate much grip.

This product also feels fast on urban and suburban sidewalks. Forefoot runners will find that they can get up on their toes in this shoe, taking advantage of the blown rubber outsole. What’s surprising about the N1 is that it possesses a good deal of inherent stability, more than one would expect from an “N” (neutral) series model. There’s a yellow colored support bar built into the outsole which works well.

On asphalt, it delivers a steady-paced, relaxing journey. This translates into a good choice for a race day 5K to half marathon shoe. One caution about the shoe is that it should not be used on rainy days, as the flat sole will produce a slippery ride.

The Road N1’s quick but shielding suspension makes it a natural choice for running training laps on a crushed gravel track.

Verdict: With the Road N1, Pearl Izumi has produced a shoe that’s light, fast and protective. It should serve quite well as a daily trainer for mid-foot and heel strikers. Some fleet-footed runners may place it at or near the top of their rotation when it comes to shoes they wear on critical training days.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

A pair of Road N1s was provided by Pearl Izumi for review purposes. This shoe retails for $115.00.

This article first appeared on the Blogcritics website:

http://blogcritics.org/running-shoe-review-pearl-izumi-emotion-road-n1/

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