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

The Columbia Montrail Mountain Masochist IV. All photos: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

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 lateral upper

The Columbia Montrail Mountain Masochist IV lateral upper.

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 medial upper

The Columbia Montrail Mountain Masochist IV medial upper.

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 outsole

The Columbia Montrail Mountain Masochist IV outsole.

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!]

Columbia Montrail Mountain Masochist IV view from top

The Columbia Montrail Mountain Masochist IV viewed from the top.

Kristin Zosel

is a mom, wife, ultrarunner, physical therapist (on sabbatical), and transcriptionist for Her love of steep uphills, high mountain environments, and Swiss “lovely cows” keep alpine visions dancing in her head and strong cappuccinos in her mug.

There are 20 comments

  1. L

    I use to wear nothing but the Masochist and then a couple of years ago, I placed an order and something had changed….not in a good way. The back heel kept slipping up & down. I went to my local running store, tried on the same one and the same thing so it wasn’t just a fluke. I was so sad so I went to another shoe. I started researching to see if anyone else had experienced the issue I had and come to find out, they did, SO, I’m just wondering has this particular issue been addressed? I’d love to go back to the Masochist…the old Masochist.

  2. KristinZ

    Hopefully someone from Columbia-Montail will chime in. I haven’t had this problem in any of the four versions of the shoe, so I’m not sure.

  3. Kirk

    A few years we received a rash of returns on the Masochist based upon the fabric in the heal coming loose (adhesive no longer holding it in place) and creating a ‘slip’. All brands make mistakes and i’m sure they fixed this issue. Montrail appears to be on a slow ride to death, which is sad for the one time #1 brand in ultra running. We stopped selling them a few years ago.

  4. Moogy

    Sounds like I might give them a try Kristin. I really liked the original Masochist but have not tried any of the further iterations. I tried the Bajada III but was VERY disappointed. I think I ran about 20 miles in them and just gave them away.
    YAY for bringing back the Vitesse!!!

      1. Moogy

        Hi Bryon, I KNEW you wouldn’t like that comment. ;) I’ve been a wearer of Montrail shoes since they had a little tiny booth at Mountain Masochist 50 back in, oh, 1998? I loved the original Bajada’s, like you putting in around 500miles in the two pairs I owed, through all terrain. Maybe I was a bit hasty in giving the III’s a thumbs-down. But right out of the box, and this totally could have been a sizing issue, and this totally could have been a mind-set comparing the originals to the III’s, they felt ‘uncomfortable’ in the mid-fore midsole, like I had to change my stride to hit that sweet-spot that I never had to before. The uppers felt quite constrictive and this may have been because they were a half-size too small from a normal 11 that I wear. Put a frown on my face because I’ve been a Montrail supporter for many years, buying many pairs from your store even. It could have been a “one-off” pair and if I get another it may be drastically different. Maybe I would try a 11.5 if I had the chance.

  5. Bethany

    How narrow are these and the Bajada as well? I’m searching for a new shoe once I go through my stash of Pearl Izumis. I wore the first version of the Masochist years ago, but that was before bunions and pregnancies etc. I was a Leona Divide girl myself, but the Vitesse were awesome!

    1. KristinZ

      I wouldn’t call these narrow at all–maybe slightly narrower heel and roomy wider toe box (I have birkenstock/chaco feet and these fit comfortably). I didn’t ever wear the bajadas, so I can’t compare. I would say they feel somewhat roomier in the toe box than the Caldorado which my feet are also very happy in.

  6. L

    I ended switching to the Caldorado – I love that they can pretty much run over everything like the Masochist; however, I could use some more cushion after many hours – can anyone do some comparisons?

  7. Tom

    Very disappointed to see them move to the overlay. The webbing midfoot was really the MM’s best feature, in my opinion. It allowed for the perfect secure fit and responded really well if you needed to loosen things up late in a run. I’m also bummed about the speed laces…never had good luck them.

    I’ve had 15+ pairs of the MMs over the years. At one point it was my favorite shoe but the heel fit changed slightly with the MM III and I’ve been on the hunt for a new go-to ever since. I’ve got my eye on the LaSportiva Wildcats…they’re a bit bulkier than the MMs for sure, but the midfoot has a similar lacing system/fit to the earlier MMs.

  8. L

    The Caldorados are really good on technical stuff – think slick roots/rocks; however, I scream for cushion after several hours. I also own a pair of NB Leadville – they are so comfy but suck on the technical – they just slip & slide all over!!! Wish I could marry the two….or make running shoes out of my oofos! :)

  9. Nelson

    Great review! Ever since watching ‘Unbreakable’ these shoes have intrigued me, but for diferent reasons I’ve never given them a try. I currently run in the Wildhorse 4. Has anybody tried them both? Could you compare them? Thanks.

  10. Lisa

    I used to really love the Mountain Masochist II but with the III they changed the heel cup so that it dug into my heel. Tried on a pair of the III’s again a year later and had the same problem, so likely a design flaw rather than a manufacturing defect. Also sad to see the welded overlays, it seems like more and more manufacturers are using them but they seem to make the fit WORSE in my experience. Rather than stretching and molding to my foot like a mesh would, they wrinkle and rub and cause blisters. Any input on how the Mountain Masochist IV compares to the II?

  11. wildknits

    Ordered a pair of the MM IV (earlier then necessary due to the updates). On the plus side, they seem to have gone back to their originally sizing, which means the 7.5s I ordered are too long. The overlay in the forefoot unfortunately is right over my bunions and this may prove to be an issue.

    I agree with Tom that the overlay and speed laces were a mistake. I counted on the mesh and webbing stretching just that little bit that allowed the shoe to accommodate my odd shaped foot. The speed lacing system, due to it’s construction, made it nearly impossible to get my foot in the shoe (can barely loosen the laces enough to slip my foot in)!

    As other’s have pointed out there is no option to heel lock these shoes, which may be the death knell for me. I am reserving judgment until I try out a size 7, but I did notice a bit of heel slippage when walking around the house in the current 7.5’s.

    The steep hike in price was also a bit of a shock.

    Sadly I am unable to source a pair of the MM III’s in my size anywhere (does Columbia just buy up all the old stock and dump them??).

    The original pair (7.5) are being returned for a smaller pair. My fingers are crossed this will be a good fit, but I am not overly optimistic.

  12. wildknits

    Update to my 03/18/18 comment:

    Got the size 7’s and wore them around the house for a several days testing out the fit. Eventually decided to bite the bullet and get them dirty outside. After 20+ miles (in short runs of 4-5 miles) I ended up with a very annoyed left achilles tendon due to the fit of these shoes. The heel counter seems a bit stiffer and higher then on previous models. The speed lacing system doesn’t allow any type of heel lock, which I believe resulted in enough slippage to cause my achilles issue. I can still barely get my foot past the opening due to speed lacing system which just simply doesn’t loosen enough.

    Overall, it seems this redesign is a poor choice on Columbia’s part. I am hoping they come to their senses and go back to the old design (webbing, instead of overlays, mesh and good ol’ fashioned laces). Until them I am nursing along my MM III’s trying to make them last, rehabbing my achilles and looking for a replacement shoe from a different manufacturer.

  13. Jeremy

    I have worn the Masochists since 2010 and have really liked them. I use them for long distance hiking and have put 500+ miles on several pair from New Mexico to Steam Boat Springs. I just got a new pair in preparation for a thru hike of the CDT in 2019 and have put about 50 miles of training hikes into them so far. Seem to be about the same and I like the speed laces for quick take offs to rest the feet.

    The seem a little more light weight than I remember, but seem to be holding up so far.

  14. glen

    the old MM was the best all around trail shoe ever! but Columbia seems to be screwing around with the lasts, its sad because they had a great base of dedicated customers. all my newer Montrails get me heal blisters. they need to go back to the old shapes(lasts) and publicize it.

    1. RM

      Having burned out 20+ pairs of the MM up to ver IV, I was eager to like the latest release. Sadly, the new upoer and especially the speed lacing system don’t work to keep my mid foot and heel secure and tight. I hope Columbia will return to standard type laces with a heal lock eyelet option. I wonder what dedicated MM fans are finding to replace these iconic shoes?

      1. wildknits

        RM – I have yet to find a replacement shoe, but am now wearing the last pair of MM III’s in my size that I could find (after scouring the inter webs multiple times). They should get me through my upcoming 100, then maybe another month or so while I continue my search.

        I keep waiting for Columbia to respond to the all of the runners who have expressed dismay at the changes. But alas, we must be too small of the market share to care about. It seems the folks who love them for hiking and walking about town win out over the runners (who helped to build the Montrail brand in the first place).

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