Fun for My Feet

Wednesday night, I came home to a package with new Montrail Highlanders. After checking them out, I was pretty excited to give them a go. Unfortunately, I was wicked exhausted from two killer days at work, so I bagged the run. Even though I had to wait until a repairman left after 10 tonight, I’m glad I got out tonight.

I’m not sure the last time I would have called a new pair of shoes fun, but I just ran in my new Highlanders for the first time, and that’s what they were. Fun. These shoes had me zig-zagging back and forth over the small grassy areas along the bike path. Later on, I was sprinting up and down some of the small hills… really stretching things out. It felt good.

Not only were the shoes fun, they felt like someone had custom molded them for my feet. The heels were snug and supportive for a minimalist shoe. The tongue and upper were firm, but there weren’t any hints of pressure that I’m all too familiar with from road shoes. Oh, and the toe box. First off, the entire shoes had great back to front roll/feel. I’m used to shoes with good roll (and most shoes in general) having little toe space. Well, in the Highlanders not only could I wiggle my toes at any point in my stride, including my foot strike, but I felt like I could articulate most of my forefoot and even some of the arch. Maybe there is something to minimalist shoes after all.

These are not “comfort” shoes. I’ve had shoes that feel like I was wearing pillows on my feet – the Highlanders aren’t those shoes. What these shoes have is great fit and feel.

As for my description as “minimalist,” that’s more a description of the class of shoe I think the Highlanders fall into rather than the set of features they have. If I was writing from the British Isles, I would call these fell running shoes, but as I’m stuck in balmy Arlington, Virginia for the time being (at least until Hawaii next week), I’ll keep calling these minimalist shoes. Though in keeping in the fell running train of thought, I’d imagine the nasty lugs on the soles would be great on mud, grass, and loose dirt. They might be a bit dicey on wet slick rock. I haven’t tested these in the mountains yet, so I’m not yet sure of the forefoot protection on jumbley/pointy/foot-eating rocks. As these are minimalist shoes with great articulation, I would advise the reader (and myself) to increase run length in these shoes slowly. The shoes give the muscles in you feet a bit of a workout. This is great in the long run, but as most shoes have a great deal of support thereby restricting foot movement and hindering foot muscle development, I know that at least my feet aren’t very strong at the moment.

Oh, and one last thing. These are pretty cool looking shoes! My Highlanders have a coloration that’s not not yet posted on the Montrail website. Maybe they are the 2007 models. The shoes are orange on the instep and black on the outside… very reminiscent of the Nike Jasaris of the mid to late 90s. This gives the effect that someone watching you run from the side will see alternating orange and black as you run by. [I should probably disclose that I’m a sucker for anything orange.] Radiating out of both sides of the laces are reflective, nay, shiny silver stripes. These shoes are flashy.

[Note that these are an old version of the shoe, but you get the idea]