My favorite way to write gear reviews is about stuff that I’m genuinely excited about, regardless of what it is or how I got it. The Montrail Rogue Fly trail running shoes are one of those cases. This is a story of a girl and her shoes. They were not perfect, but they just felt so darn good that she ran in them anyways.
I should start with the caveat that Montrail shoes and my feet get along really well. Everyone’s feet are different, everyone needs something different from their shoes, but if you’re open to experimentation and/or you have a good history with Montrail shoes, you should definitely give the Rogue Flys a try.
Most of my running is on trails and most of my favorite running is on technical mountain trails. My go-to shoes are the Montrail Mountain Masochist, which are fairly cushioned and supportive. I’ve been curious to try some lighter-weight shoes, but without going “minimalist”. I’m sure that minimalist shoes work great for some people, but my personal strategy is “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and I have no desire to risk injury to try something I don’t need. But lightweight and minimalist don’t have to be the same thing, and the Rogue Fly is a great example of that.
The Rogue Flys are definitely light (6.6 oz for Women’s size 8). When I put them on the first time, they felt so much lighter than my usual Mountain Masochists that my feet practically levitated off the ground of their own accord. My stride was naturally snappier and faster when I ran in them. I liked them so much that I decided to wear them when I ran a half marathon trail race up and down Mount Diablo, and this is where I discovered a flaw. Ever since a nasty case of ITBS a couple years ago, I’ve been messing with (both intentionally and unintentionally) my downhill stride. I had figured out that over-striding on downhills was causing my IT band to flare up, so I stopped doing that. But, of course, at that point in time I had swung to another extreme and had picked up the tendency to lean too far back and land on my heels while running downhill. There are certainly other issues with this, but the Rogue Flys exacerbated the heel-striking problem because I couldn’t lace them tight enough around my foot to prevent my heel from sliding forward as I landed on it. I always pre-lube my feet, but I developed some not particularly awesome blisters on THE BOTTOMS OF MY HEELS (the Diablo course loses over 3000ft of elevation in less than 7 miles). NOT COOL.
Clearly part of this issue was technique, but even after the initial blisters heeled and I worked on my form (don’t lean back, land midfoot… maybe how I originally ran downhill?), I still had heel friction issues with the original Rogue Flys. It didn’t keep me from wearing them (a testament to how awesome they are), but it did limit me to running shorter distances (say 10 miles or less), since there is inherently less downhill and therefore less opportunity to have heel friction.
I considered just punching an additional lace hole to try to fix the problem, but Montrail actually fixed it for me. They came out with a new color (grey and hot pink… they are awesome) and I bought them, even with the heel issues, because they are just that good, folks. Well, it turns out that they made a small tweak in this new version, moving the loop that you thread the laces through on the tongue further up the tongue and slightly to the outside of the center of the tongue. On my first pair, I had noticed that the tongue seemed to slip to the side a little, but I hadn’t connected the dots between this and my heel slippage problem. However, the new design is MUCH better at keeping the tongue in place, which is, in turn, very good at preventing the heel issue. If you have low volume feet, I’d definitely say you should get the newer grey/pink color, rather than the initial red/yellow. They’re currently not sold as different versions, but they are different in a small but crucial way. They show the models all the same on the Montrail website (with the original lace design), but on the Amazon page, you can see that the the loop is at the 3rd grommet on the red/yellow version, the 4th grommet on the green/grey version, and the 5th grommet on the grey/pink version. It’s definitely odd that Montrail doesn’t say anything about these slightly different versions, but to me, the fact that the loop got moved in each subsequent iteration (the red/yellow was the first color available, then green/grey, then grey/pink) says they were aware of the issue and worked to address it. Why they don’t take credit for it is a mystery to me.
Especially with this change, the Rogues are absolutely my go-to shoe for shorter runs. Sadly, I don’t think they’ll start coming with me on long Sierra runs any time soon because they just don’t offer enough protection from technical trails and they’re not super heavily lugged, so wouldn’t provide great traction in particularly gnarly trail conditions. But it is very refreshing to run in a lighter-weight shoe when appropriate and I think it definitely helps me turn up the speed on those shorter runs, which helps me from just plodding through everything at all-day mountain adventure run pace.
And there you have it, a really sweet piece of gear that comes with my stamp of approval. If you had any different (or similar, anyone else with those heel slippage issues?) experiences, please feel free to share in the comments.
DISCLAIMER: I bought these shoes of my own accord and reviewed them because they work great for me.