Montrail Shoes — Vegan-Friendly and Runner-Ready


Photo from blog.sierratradingpost.com
Montrail is best known for their non-urban premier trail running and hiking footwear for outdoor athletes. The website is definitely geared toward the more granola-type of greenie. But that shouldn't discourage you from using the shoe for both on- and off-roading. Their approach to sneakers is anytime but hippie-dippie. In my continuing obsession with finding the best and greenest running gear on the market, I tackled Montrail's trail runners as the second attempt to find perfection with exercise. I discovered the company by accident during a trip to Moo Shoes when I was shopping for a vegan walking- around-the-city loafer. I had yet to find a fully vegan athletic shoe, so I was excited to get a pair and to try them out. I contacted the company to get the skinny on their footgear. The folks at Montrail pointed me in the direction of Mountain Masochistâ„¢ for men and Streakâ„¢ for women. I recruited Lucy Jones, a New York native and instructor at S Factor, to strap-on the Streakâ„¢ and offer a woman's perspective of green gear. I would do my best to manhandle the Mountain Masochistâ„¢ which recently received Outside Magazine's 2009 Summer Buyer's Guide Gear of the Year Award.

All the Montrail shoes are "designed for use on a variety of surfaces from rock and pavement to grass and dirt. They are lightweight and responsive for the trail runner with a need for speed." Lucy and I developed a 3-month testing period with a combination of indoor and outdoor workouts that were a mix of short 3-milers and longer 10 to 12 mile runs. We ran in parks, uphill, downhill, on treadmills, in the dirt, on concrete, asphalt and grass in the rain, during road races and in sunny weather.


Photo by Matt Hart

The first thing to mention is that trail shoes are made a little different than a typical roadster. The Montrail's features include things like multi-directional outsole offering traction in every direction, Vapor-Responseâ„¢ midsole material, Gryptoniteâ„¢ "sticky rubber" outsole material that gets great traction on wet and dry surfaces, Trail Deflection Shieldâ„¢ to protect the foot from trail debris all with light and breathable hydrophobic mesh and a gusseted tongue to keep dirt out and feet cool.

The Review
If you like lots of support and a solid feel from a shoe, you're going to love these shoes. Green or not, performance, in the end, is why we buy athletic footwear.

This is what Jones reported:

I had never used Vegan shoes before so I was curious and somewhat wary about trying Montrail. They looked great on the website and when I got them, I was surprised at how stylish they were. The way they supported my foot, my arch and the sole of my foot was the first thing I noticed. I have rather flat feet that get a lot of use especially as I dance barefoot 3 times a week. The thick separation of the shoe's sole from the bottom of my foot to the ground created a really nice feeling running on unforgiving concrete. Because I teach dance, I'm always cautious of injury. The chance of damaging my feet has discouraged me from running more in the past. With Streakâ„¢, I felt like my foot was very protected and shielded from harm. The treads are thick making them comfortable on both gravel and pavement. I also felt good traction in wet and sandy spots, again soothing my fear of injury to my feet and ankles. I did feel like the shoe compromised ankle mobility, because it seems like the natural movement the ankle requires was somewhat limited with them. But I would definitely use them again. The fact that they don't use animal products is a major plus. The performance along with being animal-friendly makes this a great shoe.


Photo from Montrail

I couldn't have said it better myself. The more I ran in them, the more my body responded positively. The sturdy sole gave me a better connection to my stride than other shoes I've tried. Plus, they are light weight, and easy to manage. They were the first athletic shoe I had found that didn't use any animal products which is a huge issue I have with other shoe makers. The fact that they perform so well gives me hope that other companies will see veganism as a bonus not a drawback. When I ran in driving rain, my feet were comfortable and not super wet at first. But over time, my toes got waterlogged. When the rain stopped, there didn't seem to be any way for the shoe to recover from being wet.

I don't like the laces. I had to be super mindful to double knot them and pull them really tight before a run, or I'd end up losing time retying and retying them. But that said, I'm a little sad I have to move on and try other brands. It's a great shoe. It's not easy to find a running shoe that's animal-friendly and high performing.

And now the GREEN
The shoes are vegan approved, but besides that they don't have many other green features like other shoes such as Brooks' MoGo line. Montrail is currently working to change that by slowly integrating outsoles called Recyclonite which are made from 30% recycled rubber content. Recyclonite is available with their recovery flips, but as of yet, it's not durability enough to withstand the type of punishment trail shoes experience. The box they come in is made of 80% post-consumer waste with a nice creed on the side that has you raise your right foot and promise to reuse or recycle it and to be nice to others.

At the factory level, they are working to be greener. The processing they use to cut the insoles is being innovated to reduce waste and they have eliminated unneeded paper for packaging. They also are headquartered in the historic Ford Assembly Plant in Richmond, CA which was designed by the renowned architect Albert Kahn in 1931. When they refurbished it, they used only sustainable flooring and furniture. Plus, they used the unique saw tooth roof to affix enough photovoltaic panels to power the entire place with solar energy.

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