You may have had this experience. You’re in a restaurant and you order a cold beer or root beer. The waitress serves it to you in a large frosty mug. You mentally calculate how heavy the mug will be to lift, but when you do so you find that it’s almost light as a feather. That’s because the glass mug is actually made of plastic! This is what it’s like when one comes into contact with the Montrail FluidFeel trail running shoe. When you open the box, the shoe looks burly (at least 13 or 14 ounces), bulky and slow. And the midsole, which flares out everywhere, signals that this shoe is one very serious trail explorer. But that’s just appearances.
The FluidFeel only looks like a heavyweight model; it weighs 10.3 ounces and comes with an 8mm heel drop. The feel of this hybrid running shoe on trails and roads may surprise you. Read on to see my impression and verdict.
Upon trying on this coal and sail red-colored model it’s noticeable that, at a half-size up from walking shoe size, this is one of the most snug-fitting shoes on the market. The shoe initially felt so snug and tight that it felt as if they had been glued onto my feet. The top of the shoe is low from the mid-foot to the toe box; I felt some irritation on the top of my feet. Due to the snug fit, I also experienced a forefoot hotspot that I’ve never felt before. Keep in mind that my feet are quite narrow and thin/flat, so I wondered who could wear this shoe.
Fortunately, the shoe loosens up after repeated wearing, although this proved to be a matter of weeks rather than days. Still, in order to get my feet into the shoe I had to substitute a thinner sock liner from another shoe and wear the thinnest pair of socks in my collection.
On the road, the FluidFeel has some of the feel of the La Sportiva Helios, even if it fails to share the sleek looks of the latter trail runner. On a hard-packed dirt trail, the product delivers a nice bounce. On sidewalks, the ride is smooth due to the blown rubber in front while allowing for some road feel. The ride is fine on asphalt and the flexible sole makes it easy to get up on one’s toes to sprint. For a bulky looking shoe, the FluidFeel makes for a very good street racer.
One troublesome concern is that the shoe’s heel cushioning is oddly indistinct. I don’t think this is due to the heel drop. Instead, it appears to have more to do with the way the shoe’s rear-foot is structured. It seems that it’s not feasible to land on the heel pad without undue effort. (Oddly enough, the FluidFeel’s heel pad can be felt while walking.)
On a crushed gravel track, the FluidFeel is a great performer. It feels light while being fully protective. The shoe makes you land on your mid-foot, which those who are attempting to modify their running style will appreciate.
On a hard rock trail, this hybrid is stable and protective but there’s some slippage due to the weakly gripping outsole. Speaking of stability, the FluidFeel has a hard plastic stability arch. It’s something you cannot feel while running or walking, but it’s there to benefit minimal to moderate pronators who may wish to use this neutral shoe.
The FluidFeel makes for a very comfortable walking shoe due to the large helping of blown rubber in the forefoot.
The FluidFeel is built on a very good platform. Perhaps in its next iteration, the shoe will be tweaked to be useable by a greater number of runners. Some alterations might include a wider fit, a higher toe box, a more flexible upper, and a heel pad that feels like it’s “there.”
The Montrail FluidFeel may be the shoe to wear to a 5K or 10K run. Your competitors may think you plan to lag behind in a “clunky” shoe. Imagine their surprise if you win!
Verdict: While it appears to be a burly mountain trails running shoe, the FluidFlex is a lightweight hybrid crossover shoe. This model will work for those who like to run on smooth to moderate trails. It also makes a fine, durable trainer for those who run on concrete, asphalt and/or crushed gravel surfaces. Some will be able to use the shoe as a covert street racer.