The Columbia Montrail Fluidflex F.K.T. – F.K.T. stands for “fastest known time” – is an attractive, lightweight trail running shoe. Is it a shoe that also holds up as a daily trainer for those who run on hard city surfaces? See my verdict below.
One can almost tell by looking at a pair of the new Fluidflex F.K.T. that it has the soul of a fast shoe. It’s just 9.5 ounces in weight and feels lighter on one’s feet. The shoe has a seamless upper and an outsole that is almost identical to the one on the bottom of the Montrail Fluidflex, circa 2013. According to Columbia Montrail, which provided a sample for review, the Fluidflex offers “enhanced mid-foot stability and a smooth ride on the trail.” Of this, there’s no doubt.
The Fluidflex has a minimal 4mm heel drop and a protective Trail (rock) Shield in the forefoot. The shoe appears to be semi-curved, is slip-lasted for comfort, and provides a snug fit. Notably, the shoe comes with a commercial grade, high quality, aftermarket-looking insole. It’s impressive and means that the runner who buys this shoe will not need to make a post-purchase drive to the local CVS or Walgreens.
The tongue on the Fluidflex is overly short, especially for a trail shoe, but this is a minor quibble. A second quibble has to do with the fit. My narrow feet wished for more headroom in the forefoot and a bit more space on the lateral side. My small toes were crying out for more space! Luckily, the upper loosens up with the passage of miles, so patience has its virtues with the Fluidflex.
On a dirt and rock covered trail, one can feel the Fluidflex’s lugs dig in. These lugs may be relatively small but their strength becomes more apparent on a newly mowed grass trail. They dig in so well, so securely, that it feels like one’s running on clawed cat’s feet. Excellent!
On a hard-packed dirt trail, the shoe offers a B to B+ ride. The Fluidflex is just nimble enough to bring out the mountain goat in a runner. On a trail made up of large and small hard rocks, the Fluidflex provides all gain and no pain.
Switching to an urban surface of concrete, the Fluidflex delivers straight-ahead foot strikes with some bounce but not too much. It’s clear that this is a highly protective shoe, something that’s also apparent on asphalt. And this is a great tempo trainer – lock onto a pace and the shoe will stick to it like an auto set to cruise control. Nice.
The two flex grooves cut into the forefoot of the Fluidflex do indeed provide for a substantial amount of flexibility. This makes it a joy to use as an urban trainer. Whether you are a midfoot or forefoot striker, this shoe will accommodate your style. One caveat about this model is addressed to mild to moderate pronators: The current Fluidflex does not appear to be quite as stable as the earlier Fluidflex and Fluidfeel models – both of which I’ve run in.
This Fluidflex is consistent with earlier offerings from Montrail in terms of delivering on its promised smooth ride. If you ran in the La Sportiva Helios trail shoe, for example, and are looking for a similarly comfortable non-jarring ride, the Fluidflex is one to take out for a test spin.
One final and additional quibble before we arrive at the verdict. Because of the use of foam insoles, city and trail shoes are becoming increasingly soft. I would love to see a model from Columbia Montrail that offers additional firmness from the midfoot through the forefoot – not a tremendous amount of firmness, but perhaps 20% to 30% more than is present in the current Fluidflex.
At a price of $110, the Columbia Montrail Fluidflex F.K.T. is a high value shoe. Its build quality is exemplary, and the company has gone above and beyond in terms of details like providing an upgraded insole. While the shoe works well on both country trails and city streets, I believe its pluses are most readily apparent when it is used as a daily townie trainer.