Montrail Fluid Feel II

There’s normally not a lot of benefit to having a size 12 foot, unless heavier shoes and people mocking your clown feet can be seen as positives. One benefit, though, is that Jason (i.e. this sites creator) wears a size 13, and has been kind enough to send me a few size 12 shoes to review for him. First up, the FluidFeel II from Montrail.

Name: Montrail FluidFeel II
Surface: Roads, Trails
Purpose: Training
Type: Neutral, Cushioned
Extras: FluidFoam midsole, Gryptonite outsole (partial)
Price: $110

The FluidFeel II (FFs) is styled as a hybrid road/trail shoe, meant to be capable of ticking away the miles on pavement and dirt. I’ve always found these so-called hybrid shoes a bit dubious, because I’ve run in plenty of road shoes that work great on the trail, and vice-versa. Off the bat, the FF’s specs and design didn’t get me salivating. At 10.2 oz. in a size 9, and with looks that I would call pedestrian (if I was being kind) I pegged these as heavy, slow, and fugly–a veritable trio of meh, if you will.

Here’s the thing: they actually don’t suck. In fact, they performed quite well despite their weight and looks. Allow me to elaborate…
Specs as per Montrail:

  • Full length, compression molded FluidFoam™ midsole
  • High-abrasion carbon rubber heel
  • Blown rubber midfoot and forefoot
  • Midsole: Compression-molded FluidFoam™
  • Ride Height: 18 mm heel, 10 mm forefoot
  • Outsole: Gryptonite™, blown rubber DSP
  • 10.4 oz/ 296g

Form

Let’s get this out of the way: I usually like Montrail’s designs (the Bajada and Rogue Fly are still in my rotation after 2 years and lots of miles) but it’s almost like the designers were aiming for the middle with these. They’re missing a certain je ne sais quoi, but I don’t know what it is. It’s almost like they were designing a trail shoe for the Air Monarch set. On the plus side, you won’t worry about getting them muddy, and their build quality inspires confidence.

Fit and Feel:
The FFs run pretty true to size, erring ever so slightly on the big side. It’s not that they run long, it’s just that they seem designed to accommodate higher volume feet (like mine). The toe box is neither hugely voluminous, nor is it miniscule. It’s, uh, average–yeah, that’s a word I’d use to describe a lot about this shoe. The upper is almost seamless and wrapped my foot nicely, although I do find the tongue unnecessarily padded. The lacing system is very straight forward, but the laces are too short to do any fancy lace-lock techniques. It’s almost like they just plain included the wrong laces.

The FFs have contoured mid- and outsole areas in the lateral and medial sides of the midfoot. This was initially a concern, as I have lowish arches and typically don’t do well with contours in those areas, but I didn’t have any problems as a result. They also run fairly wide–a plus for me–and as a result felt very stable.
Their cushioning feels downright pillowy but with a slight firmness underneath, probably from the amount of rubber on the outsole. We’re not talking Hoka soft, but you won’t be mistaking them for minimalist any time soon either. They’re comfortable enough that I would wear them as every day shoes, if I wasn’t so vain (n.b. I am that vain).
Montrail Fluid Feel II

Function:
I’ve taken these on a variety of runs–from easy recovery runs on pavement, to tempo runs on a mix of trail and road–and I’ll be damned if they didn’t exceed my expectations across the board, despite the hum-drum looks. Even with the lugged pods on the outsole, they’re extremely smooth on the road; and because of the lugs they grip very well on the trails I tend to frequent in the park across from my house (a mixture of horse paths, wood chips, some single track with roots, and a little soft ground). The combination of an almost all rubber outsole with the wide base also makes the FFs feel inherently stable at all speeds. Did I mention the grip is very good? The grip is very good.

Best argument in their favor: I started my second run in the FFs planning on doing roughly 4 miles at an easy pace since I was feeling tired. I started grooving along the first mile and before I knew it, 7 miles had hummed by at close to my tempo pace.

Final Thoughts:
Besides the aforementioned need for an aesthetic overhaul and longer laces, I have relatively few quibbles. I think the tongue could be a little thinner and it seems you could shave a few oz. without meaningfully impacting performance, but overall I was very satisfied. The only two scenarios where I wouldn’t opt for them are in a race or on very technical terrain; to be fair, they’re not really designed for either of these scenarios so I can’t ding them for that.

Despite my initial skepticism, the FluidFeel IIs are in fact solid hybrid shoes, highly capable on roads and trails alike. On paper or in person they may not look like much–kinda heavy, relatively high drop, etc–but the sum is greater than the parts. I’m glad I had the opportunity to try them out, because they really are a swiss army shoe of sorts: comfortable soaking up lots of miles on trails and roads, but still capable of handling faster speeds.

Just goes to show you: looks ain’t everything! (but please make v. III better looking)

Thoughts?