Montrail Trans Alps Shoe Review
Since I’ve been on the DL for mountain running for the past few months, I asked two reviewers to help pick apart the new Montrail Trans Alps and share their thoughts after about 300 miles. Both were asked the same questions, and their words are their own. This is a purely objective review: Neither reviewer is affiliated with the company in any way. Full disclosure: I received the Montrail Trans Alps from Montrail/Columbia as testers and passed them along to Tony and Nicklaus.
Tony Dalisio lives in Maine where he’s the 2015 Maine State Champ in snowshoe running, trail running, and cross country. He’s a biologist.
What’s your weekly mileage and terrain?
Tony: I run 80-110 miles / week on an even mix of road and trail.
Nick: I averaged around 60 miles of running per week during testing with 15k or more of vert in Boulder, CO. Good mix of techy mountain terrain and buffed out rolling single track with trail conditions varying from dry and dusty to muddy to icy and snow packed.
How many miles did you put on them?
Nick: 90 miles which includes a couple longer efforts.
What shoes do you normally run in?
Tony: I run in a different shoe every workout, and tend to run multiple thousand miles on each model. I rarely throw shoes away, and currently I cycle through the Adidas Tempo, Adidas Adizero Adios, Hoka Huaka, Hoka Rapa-nui Road, New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Road, and NB Fresh Foam Trail.
Nick: La Sportiva Mutants, La Sportiva Akasha, Salomon Sense Ultra 4, Nike WildHorse 3.
What was your initial, honest, out-of-the-box impressions of the Montrail Trans Alps?
Tony: It had a stiff / conformed feel, and the rubber toe cap was tight on the front of my foot (e.g. it pressed in on my big toe, but was not an issue when I ran in them). l iked the blue / yellow color aesthetics.
Nicklaus: Classic Montrail aesthetics in regards to the overall look and design on this shoe. With this shoe they’re not straying from what they’ve historically done and instead focusing on trying to improve on what they excel at. I can dig on the slightly out of character blue/yellow colorway as opposed to their normal grey with a minimal amount of color splash.
Fit. How was the fit? Are they true to size?
Tony: The Trans Alps have a narrow last (i.e. great for me, because I have narrow feet), and a solid heel-lock. They fit true to the 8.5 size that I tested.
Nicklaus: True to size. I wear size 12 in other brands and this shoe fit well and felt dialed in. No need to size up or down. Even with a wider foot they seemed to have a decent amount of room in the toebox area to allow for swelling over longer distances. For added toebox room you can remove the included cushioned insole and substitute something a bit thinner.
Ride. What do you (not) like about how they feel?
Tony: The Montrail Trans Alps are comfortable, but are not heavily cushioned shoes. Thus, they precipitate much ground return, and I found their efficacy best on what they are made for–mountain / trail running. These shoes seem lighter than the 12.5 oz they are when running on trails. Although, the relatively stiff and high ground response do not make for a smooth ride on the road, and the weight / large lugs are much more evident on the road. There is an 8mm heel to toe drop, but I found such had no effect on my natural mid / forefoot strike pattern.
Nick: The upper feels stiff but is offset by being fairly minimal and lightweight (just a few overlays and a toe cap). Most of the weight of this shoe which I estimate to be well over 12 ounces possibly close to 13 ounces at a size 12 is packed into the mid sole and out sole. This unfortunately gives it a noticeable unbalanced feel to the ride (similar to when mud clumps up and sticks to the bottom of a shoe) and made it feel way heavier than other shoes that have a similar weight. I would compare this feeling to trying to run in a lightweight hiker or approach shoe which while possible just doesn’t feel as natural as a lighter weight trail runner. Ultimately because of the ride it was a constant reminder during runs that I did indeed have the shoes on and they were heavy.
Quality. Did anything stand out on either end? Super nice or poorer quality?
Tony: The Montrail Trans Alps are remarkably durable, and I found very little wear after 300 miles. They have many overlays made of both rubber / leather that I posit is a contributing factor to such. The large 6mm lugs is quite hard rubber, and have also shown little wear.
Nick: While I’ve certainly experienced quality issues in the past with Montrail (specifically the Mountain Masochist II falling apart after 60 – 100 miles) it looks like they’ve since ironed out those quality control issues with the Trans Alps. I see absolutely zero wear on this shoe even after putting them through technical rocky terrain which I expected to chip away a bit at out sole.
The biggest standout on this shoe though is the included insole.
I found it to be an extremely high quality cushioned but not rigid insole that you would expect to pay thirty or forty bucks for in a store. This small detail helps add to the overall comfort of the shoe itself and was a nice surprise to see as it stands apart from the normal thin and cheap insole you find in most running shoes these days.
Little things. Laces, tongue, etc.
The laces have been structured with accented color thread on each side of the lace. This aspect, although aesthetically pleasing, disallows super tight knots (i.e. they seemed to loosen over time on long runs). The tongue is one piece connected to the rest of the upper, and is a perfect size and is quite comfortable
There’s nothing really special about the tongue or laces on this shoe and that is a good thing. They’re both minimal and they do their job well. The tongue is thin and stayed in place throughout the run. The laces were easy to get a good snug fit and I never had to stop to retie. Set and forget just like they should.
Best aspects of the shoe?
The responsiveness and large lugs provides great control over rock, snow, ice, and dirt. The rubber is particularly sticky, and is great for running on rock up hill. The additional rubber overlays, and rubber toe cap provides good protection from rocks.
This shoe was designed with the goal of offering a stable and protected platform while running across difficult and technical terrain and it really does this job well. Despite the flaws of this shoe I have no doubt that this would be a great option for long days running on technical terrain. Not having to worry about kicking rocks or your feet getting sore from stepping on rocks is the big selling point here.
What would you change about the shoe?
Tony: If I might apply Newton’s third law of motion to a shoe review, than what I love about this shoe also provides for some drawbacks. The many overlays on the upper are seemingly responsible for great durability and trail protection, but such made for slow water draining, and very little heat transfer. On multiple occasions I found my toes extremely cold (e.g. more so than other shoes in typical Maine winter temperatures), and I estimated that it took up to 10 minutes on some occasions for water to clear from my shoes when they got submerged. I also wonder if some may find discomfort from the heavily structured upper, particularly around the ankle collar. The large lugs are suitable for most trail conditions, but be prepared to carry additional pounds of soil with you in between such lugs if you venture into muddy conditions.
Nicklaus: I do think the overall weight of the shoe will be an issue for a lot of people and would lead them to choose a lighter weight shoe with slightly less protection such as Montrail’s own recently released Caldorado (ed note: Full review forthcoming. Psst, it’s awesome.) which appears to be almost the same shoe with less aggressive lugging and a few ounces in weight difference. I did have major traction issues with this shoe on rainy wet / snowy / icy terrain and it didn’t perform as well as I assumed it would. Yes, no shoe performs well on ice but this one is noticeably worse than other shoes I typically run. In muddy conditions this shoe performed as well as expected for not having super deep aggressive lugs.
Who/what would you recommend this shoe for?
This is a shoe for technical mountain / trail running, and this is one of the best of that category I have tried.
Someone looking to purchase a well cushioned but responsive and well protective shoe. This shoe seems to find a good niche in terrain that is steep and/or technical where a lot of the motion will be a combination of hiking and running. Definitely not your fast and flat short run shoe but one that can get you across difficult terrain and allow you to keep moving for hours on end.
Big question: Would you buy them on your own?
Tony: I am a poor representative to be asked this question, because I would never pay $130 for a pair of shoes. I get most of my shoes from Goodwill, Running Warehouse sales (Under 50$ is my rule), or as prizes from races. That being said, I really like this shoe for running on technical mountain trails, and snow. The durability is amazing, and I think if I were someone who splurges for such products, this is worth the buy. I think I would even get a second pair if I saw them show up on sale, and if these ever wear out 😉
Nick: I would not personally buy this shoe as I feel there’s a lot of other beefy trail shoes that are more dialed in but would definitely be curious to look at the Montrail Caldorado as a slightly lighter weight option. If Montrail brought the overall weight down and distributed it better throughout the shoe itself I would give it a second shot without hesitation.
If you’d like more information on the shoe, here’s Montrail’s website.
I’d urge you to visit your local independent running store if you’d like to purchase the Montrail Trans Alps.