That title is a little misleading, an exaggeration, maybe even a bold face lie…nothing “tames” the Zane Grey 50 Mile Endurance Run, it survives. Call the title what you want but these shoes did more than survive and they did it well in spite of a few unexpected flaws.
My favorite shoe over the past 3 years has been the La Sportiva Wildcat. Why? It’s the only shoe I’ve found that can handle the rocky trails of Arizona and not leave my feet feeling like they were put through a meat tenderizer. But Sherman tank protection comes at a cost, in trail running shoes that cost is weight. I’ve gone through five other brands/models trying to find a lighter shoe with enough protection. I’ve come to the painful conclusion that 7 oz. trail running shoes have no place in my closet. I have a pair of 9.9 oz. shoes (from a company not named Montrail) with over 300 miles on them that I really like, with probably the best rock plate available for any weight trail shoe. But my Achilles can’t handle more than 20-25 miles a week of the 4mm heel to toe drop without screaming surrender. So my quest continues to find a neutral, sub 10 oz. shoe with a heel to toe drop closer to 10mm and good rock protection. Enter the recently released Montrail Bajada.
Already having an 8+ oz. pair of Montrail’s in my closet that left me with a nasty bruise between my Fibular sesamoid and 2nd metatarsal head for a month, I was reluctant to give Montrail a second chance. But on paper, or iPad screen in today’s world, the Bajada met all my requirements.
The only requirement I didn’t have was good looks and it’s a good thing too, because the Montrail Bajada’s color scheme is butt ugly. The shoe style (shape) itself is ok, but the color scheme looks like it was designed by the kindergarten coloring contest last place finisher. Orange’ish sole (that turn salmon/pink within 100’ of the trail head when covered with dust), burgundy or as Montrail refers to it Tawny Port mesh uppers, some black fiber and acts as support for the mesh upper, bright orange laces and the Montrail name printed in what appears to be camouflage salmon/pink, white trail barf design. Do they not have a color wheel in the Montrail design studio? Oh, I understand how graphic designers think, I work with them every day, my real puzzlement is with upper management that looked at these, said “they’re beautiful!” and ultimately approved them for production?
As far as shoe performance goes my first impression was the Bajada’s felt soft and spongy, much like my previous bruise brother shoe from Montrail. But once on the trail I was surprised by the forefoot protection. I ran up my favorite rocky climb and pounded the descent with reckless abandon with no protection issues in the forefoot. I did hit a pointed rock in the middle of my heel on the descent that caused a sudden “get back on your midfoot dummy” reminder but nothing that lasted longer than the next 10 strides. I’ve noticed this a few times since then too but it’s not a problem. The forefoot-only Trail Shield™ stops between the mid foot and heel but the 20mm heel offers enough protection for those few times I get a misplaced pointed rock. Over the next 50 miles I started getting used to the soft slipper like feel too. I can’t say that I prefer it but I gained more confidence as I ran in the Bajada’s that the soft, spongy, slipper like feel did not mean no protection. I also became unconcerned the spongy feel meant loss of energy, that should be used to propel me forward instead of compressing the sole, since normal times on my favorite loops started to drop.
So the decision was made…I put the Bajada’s back in the box with less than 60 miles on them and saved them for the toughest, roughest and most beautiful 50 mile trail run in the country, Zane Grey 50 Mile Endurance Run. Known for rocky trails and over 10,000’ of climbing this year’s Zane Grey 50 would be brutal in the forecasted record heat.
The Highline trail, Zane Grey 50 is run on, was every thing as advertised and more. “Rocky” doesn’t adequately describe more than half the 50+ mile distance. Add to that record heat with minimal (zero) shade between miles 19-35 it made running through and even laying in the icy water crossings too much to resist. After exiting every water crossing I could feel the water being squeezed out the mesh upper with every stride. Within a few hundred feet the Montrail Bajada’s felt dry again (even though they weren’t totally dry but the soggy feeling was gone).
After 50 miles of the toughest, roughest 50 mile trail run in the country and more than half a dozen water crossings the Montrail Bajada’s lived up to the Montrail tradition. But I do have issues with the durability of the Montrail Bajada’s. After only 120 miles the midsole is severely compressed (see first image, first row below. Also note the salmon/pink color of the midsole with a little trail dust on it…that doesn’t wash off). Note how the midsole is compressed out the rear on the bottom of the two profiles (yes, so I revert back to being a heel striker when tired) and airy mesh upper that let water drain so quickly after each water crossing tore in the arch area on the left shoe (see second image, top row below). The material just looks like it disintegrated. Also on the left heel the Gryptonite™ outsole is separating from the EVA midsole (see first image, second row below). In the last picture (second image, second row below) you can clearly see how the midsole has compressed and spread widening the orange midsole around the outside of the black Gryptonite™ outsole and between the separations of the outsole heel.
Weight shouldn’t be an issue with the midsole compression problem since I weighed in at 165 lbs. after finishing Zane Grey 50. Compared to the La Sportiva Wildcat that I routinely get 500-700+ miles out of with very little noticeable wear I was disappointed with the lack of durability in the Bajada’s. I’ve come to expect this from a sub 7 oz. shoe but weighing in at 10.3 oz. I expected more than 120 miles from the Montrail Bajada before they fell apart.
Lastly, although the Montrail Bajada offers excellent protection from normal Arizona trail rocks (anything smaller than a volleyball) larger rocks I would normally run on or propel myself off of are now dangerous because the Montrail Bajada’s tend to slide off instead of gripping the rock face like other trail shoes I own. This shouldn’t be an issue on most trails around the United States and even in Arizona I only have a few trails where this causes me concern, but it should be noted you need to learn how your shoes handle different conditions before simply bombing down the trail.
Weight: 10.3 oz. / 291g
Drop: 10mm (20mm heel, 10mm forefoot)
Feel: soft, spongy, slipper like
Rock Protection: Very Good – Excellent in the forefoot
Color: available in Tawny Port, Black or Stainless, Valencia
Conclusion: Am I recommending the Montrail Bajada?
Yes, but with caveats. The Montrail Bajada is a good 10 oz. shoe with enough rock plate protection to handle even the rockiest trails. But don’t expect to get very many miles out of them before they start to break down and have to be replaced. The Montrail Bajada’s I tested completely fell apart before 120 miles. To put that in perspective if you want to wear them in a 100 race you need to take them right out of the box and run the race because if you try to break them in they won’t make it to the end of the race.
I can’t afford to replace my trail shoes every 120 miles (or 10 days on average) so my plan is to wear the Montrail Bajada’s only during races and continue training in my La Sportiva Wildcats.
If you have experience with Montrail Bajada’s I’d like to read your comments below (please comment here and not back on the Trail Running Club Facebook Group). Did I just get a bad pair and yours lasted longer? Are my expectations out of whack, in this day and age of technology, men floating around the Earth in a Space Shuttle and Mars Rovers is it still impossible to make a durable sub 10 oz. trail shoe that lasts more than 120 miles and a company can also make a profit selling them for $110 MSRP?
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