Sunday, March 6, 2011

Montrail Rogue Racer Review - by Christian Johnson

I was recently given a chance to try out the new Rogue Racer from Montrail and I must say I was not disappointed. This is the first offering from Montrail that fits in the minimalist category, weighing in at an advertised 8.8 oz. Pulling the Rogue Racers out of the box they felt ridiculously light and I have to admit I was a little worried I might get injured running in them. With that in mind I decided a short easy run on the grass would be the best way to give them a try. Looking at them on my feet I noticed the outsole was hidden by the upper. Upon closer inspection I could see the outsole flares only a few millimeters from the upper, meaning the platform of the shoe is nearly the same size as the runner's foot. I found out on the park run that it translated to ground control and put that to the test on the next run, 2,200' up and down a mountain.

Right away the lug design on the sole became apparent, It seemed to do well on dry stuff but the lugs are so short they just can't get a purchase the mud. They weren't exactly treacherous in sloppy conditions but I would have preferred a deeper lug for the slippery stuff I encountered on of my standard ascent/descent runs. Something I really liked on the technical stuff was how they felt like a part of my foot. They were tight, but not constricting on my foot, giving me greater confidence in my foot placement. In other words my foot didn't swim inside the shoe, even when my socks were sopping wet from the snow. I have pretty average feet, I run neutral and don't require extra width but I still like room in the toe box and the Rogue Racer's felt perfect in this area. I wouldn't call them roomy, but almost soft and compliant. In some shoes I feel like my toes are hitting a brick wall, but not in these, no toe bang whatsoever.

With no foot pain or hot spots from the previous two outings, the final test would be a 20 miler on dirt. The trails are a mix of sand, hard packed dirt, and a few rocky sections on Antelope Island (site of the Buffalo Run - 25/50k, 50/100 miler). The Rogue Racers have a minimal amount of heel to toe drop, meaning the heel is very close to the same height as the toe, in this case a 18mm heel and a 9mm toe. For some folks that strike heavily on their heel (not necessarily a bad thing) they may notice the shoe will sound like it's smacking the ground after landing, as the platform is not rockered. I've been trending to a mid foot landing, but still strike with a light heel, as the evidence left in the dirt suggests. I believe Montrail recognized this (not for me personally, but generally speaking) by offering protection where it is needed most, in the heel and mid-foot sections of the shoe and while the protection is there, it is not bullet proof like the old Hardrock's, Continental Divide's and Vitesse (I went through 6 pair each of the latter two). At the end of the 20 miler my felt fine overall but my forefoot was slightly sore the following morning. No doubt the soreness is directly related to the lightweight aspect of the shoe, but I believe that the foot can grow stronger and adapt if given the chance.

In conclusion, I would give the Rogue Racer's a 7 out of 10. They are light, responsive, and flat out make me feel fast. However, the traction is suspect on wet stuff and they haven't been around long enough to see how they hold up over time.

Christian is a frequent contributer to the Wasatch ultrarunning blog MRC.


wynn said...

Thanks for the great review Christian! I've been wondering about these and the badrocks. I'm still looking for a suitable replacement for the hardrocks.

Matt Hart said...

hey wynn.
the rogue is def NOT a hardrock replacement. it's a minimalist shoe for sure. the badrock is a good option, i've only run in it once so i can't really say yet. i've been stuck on the fairhaven lately. comfy w/great protection ~

Jeff Browning said...

I just ran 78 miles of Coyote Two Moon in the Rogue Racer with no issues. No blisters, no hot spots. Race was cancelled due to 9 inches of rain in 40 hours. I had no issues on the rocky, technical, super wet course....22,959 feet of climbing in 78 miles. It was my third pair too. Great shoe, no complaints. Small lugs do wear down a bit by 200+ miles on the shoe (you'll know where you put the most pressure/wear on a shoe), but overall, my 300 miles logged on one pair has them still holding up great. Even with our gritty Central Oregon sandy dirt, snow, and spring/winter mud. I'd give it a 9 out of 10 though...3 things I'd change...shoe strings too long (could belay someone off a cliff with those suckers), bit too many overlays (could be a bit lighter without all the overlays) and would love to see the drop be a bit less than 9mm. Personal preferences. Bronco Billy's two cents.