When I started running trails back in 2005 I bought a pair of Montrail Vitesse and thought they were the best shoes ever made. Hindsight being 20/20 I realize just how clunky the Vitesse (meaning "speed" in french) actually were. Since then I've tried numerous models of Montrails from the Hardrock tankers to the lightweight Rogue Racers and despite it's lack of durability one of my old favorites was the Masai. Probably because it was the lightest shoe I had tried on the trail at the time and it didn't seem to bind my foot to a certain shape. I mention this because the newly released Bajada reminds me an awful lot of the old Masai in more ways than one
The pre-release hype around the Bajada was mostly geared around the idea that it was a more protective version of the Rogue Racer and that had me pretty excited since I really enjoy the Rogue's but just can't tolerate them on rough, long trail runs. For rougher terrain I used the Masochist but never really fell in love with the shoe. There are aspects of it that I like such as the protection underfoot, the cushion and stable platform but the upper just doesn't agree with my foot all the time. The extinct Masai and newer Rogue's lack the protection and cushion but have great uppers that are much more comfortable.
The Bajada is the best of both shoes with a comfortable upper (that has absolutely no durabiilty, see Upper section), plenty of cushion with protection and an improved outsole that actually maintains grip. With the added features the weight is increased a bit over it's little brother, the Rogue Racer's by ~3 oz, coming in at 10 oz. each for size 8's. As for sizing, the Bajada's run a bit large so I would suggest going down by a 1/2 size from most other models. For instance I wear an 8.5 in the Rogue's and Masochist's, but a size 8 was perfect for the Bajada's. They are priced just above the $100 mark which is right on par with other shoes of this caliber.
The Outsole: Montrail uses rubber compound they call Gryptonite that I have found to be less than "grippy" in wet or muddy conditions. Personally I think the grip has more to do with the lug pattern than the rubber compound, but what I do I know, I'm just a runner. The Bajada's use a similar pattern to the Rogue Racers, a 3-pointed lug, but with twice the depth which is actually quite effective. They're still not ideal in slippery conditions but seem to work better than the Masochist. The small "blocks" are reinforced on the right side of the heel where many of my shoes have shown significant wear in the past. After 250 miles the outsole is still holding up strong.
The Midsole: The midsole feels a lot like the Masochist. Plenty of cushion and protection with about a 9mm heel to toe drop. The energy return is noticeable, especially after wearing more minimal shoes. The midsole still feels new after 250 miles and shows no signs of collapse or unusual wear.
The Upper: Reinforced plastic provides support in the mesh upper with a lightweight but protective toe counter. A padded tongue keeps the top of the foot happy, but the narrow toe box had my toes smashed on the first steep descent. Part of it was because the laces had come a little bit loose but no matter, the next steep descent I experienced toe bang once again. I should point out I had plenty of room in front of my toes, in fact slightly more than 1/2 inch. Despite the toe bang I was really enjoying the shoe until I started to feel more and more debris rattling around inside. As I stopped to clean out the shoe one day I noticed a tear developing on the inside, near the arch where the plastic support joins the mesh upper. Both shoes had torn completely open after 150 miles. The toe also showed some similar wear issues, although it did not tear completely through.
Unfortunately this is where I draw the other comparison with the Masai; lack of durability. There is clearly a problem with the interface between the plastic and mesh. After tearing the plastic completely loose I find it hard to believe that the plastic is actually doing anything in the first place since it anchored little more than 2mm of contact. I ended up taping the shoe and continuing for another 100 miles just to see if I could wear out anything else on the shoe but the upper proved to be the weak point. Although I did manage to develop two huge heel blisters from the excessive foot movement now that the shoe was blown wide open.
Overall I really like the shoe, but I can't possibly purchase another pair knowing they will only last 150 miles before they blow out the upper. Fix the upper and I would run in this shoe again without a second thought.
You might also like Christian's review of the Montrail Rogue Racer from March 2011.