Our Favorite Trail Running Shoes
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Columbia Montrail Mountain Masochist IV Review
The Columbia Montrail Mountain Masochist has been filling an important place as an ‘all-arounder’ trail shoe for many runners since 2009, and thankfully for most of us, it hasn’t undergone any tremendous changes in the fit or ride since then. This spring, the Columbia Montrail Mountain Masochist IV ($115) will be released and though the changes are again relatively subtle, I am appreciating them. The fourth iteration comes in a bit lighter at 8.7 ounces (women’s) and 10.2 ounces (men’s), retains the 8mm drop introduced in the Mountain Masochist III, and costs slightly more. Overall, this very durable shoe is easy to choose when my runs consist of hard-packed dirt roads, softer singletrack, or even rocky terrain. It’s a shoe that can go any distance while keeping your feet and legs well-cushioned and protected out there on the trail.
Columbia Montrail Mountain Masochist IV Upper
The Mountain Masochist IV upper is made from a more breathable abrasion-resistant mesh that snugs up to the foot very comfortably and with less potential hot spots thanks to the new 3D-printed overlays which are much less obtrusive and restrictive around the shoe. These have been slimmed down significantly from the previous models’ webbing overlays yet still integrate with the lace routers to provide an excellent, accommodating fit through the midfoot. I feel like this change has improved the breathability and moisture management of the shoe overall, and it certainly eliminated a potential blister point for me at my medial great toe.
The traditional laces have been replaced with new, smooth-gliding speed laces that have worked flawlessly for me despite significant dust and dirt accumulation from various runs over the past few months. I appreciate the ease of a one-pull cinch to snug up the shoes and haven’t had any issues using gloved hands in chillier temperatures. The laces are a bit thicker than the ones used in other speed-lace or speed-dial set-ups, and it eliminates the pressure lines the thinner ones can create which my feet definitely appreciate.
Near the end of the padded, gusseted tongue, a lace pass-through has been attached to the reinforcement that now runs along the middle aspect of the tongue. The reinforcement protects the foot from the plastic speed-lace mechanism while the pass-through gives the long end of the speed laces a place to go without creating a pressure point like lace ‘garages’ sometimes do. Once the lace is threaded through this spot, there’s no reason to remove it; all the lace adjusting can be done with it in place which is a nice fuss-saving aspect if you’re changing socks or shoes mid-race.
The rest of the upper seems relatively unchanged from the Mountain Masochist III. The stiff heel counter provides ample support on uneven terrain and the trim padded ankle collar and Achilles notch remain comfortable but not overly squishy. The toe bumper provides adequate protection for most trail incursions via a thin and somewhat flexible rand with support from the outsole wrapping up through the center. All in all, the upper works better for me than all previous iterations.
Columbia Montrail Mountain Masochist IV Midsole
The Mountain Masochist IV is built on the familiar slightly curved Integrafit last with the FluidFrame midsole. This midsole utilizes Columbia Montrail’s same FluidFoam and FluidGuide technology as before to combine lightweight but effective cushioning with a bit of extra support medially for later miles when running form tends to begin revealing the accumulated fatigue. I have a rigid, neutral foot and appreciate every bit of the firm but responsive cushioning. I do not notice the ‘guide’ aspect of the midsole at all except that at the end of a long run, my feet and legs still feel well-supported by the shoes.
One slightly strange thing I’ve noticed each time I’ve put these shoes on—and it’s kind of hard to describe—is that the heel cushioning is very noticeable. It’s almost as if there’s a ‘pod’ of cushioning that is ensconced within the heel. The first few times I ran in the shoes, it almost made the heel-to-toe transition a bit clunky. The ride has since smoothed out, but the sensation of significant heel cushioning has remained. This is not a ‘bad’ thing, but is different from the other Columbia Montrail trail shoes I’ve worn.
The 16mm stack height of the heel and 8mm stack height in the forefoot keep the overall feel of the shoe relatively low to the ground thus eliminating any tendency toward ankle tilts or rolls when the shoe is accommodating various terrain features. Currently, I have over 200 miles in the shoes and still do not notice any significant loss of cushioning or comfort. I can easily see these shoes as 50k and 50-mile shoes, and if I ran 100s, I’d slot them in my list of top shoe choices as well.
Columbia Montrail Mountain Masochist IV Outsole
I was pleased to see there were no significant changes made to the outsole of the Mountain Masochist IV. The full-length Gryptonite sticky rubber outsole has the multi-directional lugs and shock absorbing rectangles arranged in the same tread pattern as the Mountain Masochist III. Similar cut-outs are present revealing the full-length TrailShield which I find to provide excellent rock and root protection here in Colorado. After 200-plus miles, I have barely smoothed the little tiny dots off the lugs and see no significant wear anywhere—not bad for a solid heel striker.
I’ve worn this same outsole on previous iterations of the shoe in a variety of climates from the wet and muddy Pacific Northwest to wintery rock-strewn trails in Ohio and then on the prickly, sandy, desert trails in Arizona. It’s simply a well-performing outsole in any of these areas. Of course, there are always times when larger, deeper lugs and more specific tread patterns can be helpful for extreme conditions, but for a generalist trail shoe, Columbia Montrail has it dialed in.
Columbia Montrail Mountain Masochist IV Overall Impressions
As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been a Columbia Montrail fan since the beginning of my trail and ultra days back when Montrail was one of the few companies making trail running shoes (RIP, dear Vitesse) in 1997. I love that the feel of the Mountain Masochist IV isn’t that far off from what I remember of the first Mountain Masochist I wore in 2009. Technology has come a very long way since then, but the fit, comfort, and overall feel of the shoe links past trail memories with current adventures, and I love that. The Columbia Montrail Mountain Masochist IV is an excellent all-around trail shoe that can cover most any distance with relative comfort and protection.
Call for Comments (from Meghan)
- Are you a Mountain Masochist wearer?
- What aspects of the shoe do you most appreciate?
[Editor’s Note: If you’re affiliated (i.e., an employee, ambassador, etc.) with a shoe brand, please share your relation in each of your comments on this article. Thanks!]