Montrail Trans Alps ReviewJune 29, 2016
- Burly outsole
- Super durable
- Great protection
- Full-foot rockplate
- Excellent traction
- Relatively narrow fit
- Slow to break in
- Not very versatile
The brand-new Montrail Trans Alps is a beefy, burly trail shoe that’s best described as a runnable lightweight hiker. The substantial full-rubber outsole, full-foot rockplate and sturdy upper make the Trans Alps at home on technical, rocky, serious mountain terrain—although those same details make it much heavier than its more versatile, all-around peers (the Montrail Caldorado, for instance, which is a less burly, lighter weight model released simultaneously). The Trans Alps excels in its niche, but is probably overkill for almost everything else.
Montrail has a long, well-respected history in the hiking and trail running community, although the purchase a few years ago by outdoor giant Columbia made some fear the Portland-based company would lose its way. The new Trans Alps model (along with a new lightweight trail racer named the Caldorado) ought to alleviate those concerns. The Trans Alps is a rugged, durable trail shoe that fills a specific niche (with the stable rounded out by the FluidFlex, Montrail’s all-around road/trail hybrid model.
The Trans Alps is a monster of a trail shoe that might be better classified as a hiking/trail-running hybrid. With a full-foot rockplate, 6mm lugs, reinforced mesh upper, and wraparound bumper, this is one of the most aggressive, rugged trail shoes our wear-testing team has seen this year. It’s no surprise that there’s a weight penalty for those features, and a size 9 tips the scale at 13oz.
This is a shoe for serious mountain trails where there is no reason to make a compromise on traction, stability and durability to shave a few ounces of weight. Overall, the new Trans Alps is a sturdy, durable shoe for the toughest, most technical mountain trails, but unsurprisingly, it also has the weight penalty to match.
The upper has a mix of both welded and stitched overlays, but the interior fabric is smooth and comfortable. Some of the interior seams are noticeable with thin socks, but it’s likely that Montrail designed a shoe like the Trans Alps to be worn with thicker socks. Multiple wear-testers mentioned the narrow fit through the upper. One commented, “I felt like my foot just didn’t have all the room it needed. They weren’t uncomfortably narrow, but I did notice it, especially in the earlier runs. This may have been due to the incredibly stiff sole in these shoes. The Trailshield is a co-molded material that is supposed to be lightweight and flexible, but I found the sole to be incredibly stiff.”
Over the terrain it’s designed to tackle, a less aggressive, less burly shoe simply would not be as fast. That said, the Trans Alps is almost certainly overkill for more groomed trails, tame singletrack, and gravel roads. Unsurprisingly, the wear-testers who ran a section of pavement to the trailhead in the middle of a trail run reported that the Trans Alps were clunky and stiff on the road. Taking Montrail’s intended purpose seriously though, led one wear-tester to comment that he didn’t really expect to go fast in the Trans Alps because that’s just not what they’re built for.
Security of Fit
Despite the relatively narrow upper, some wear-testers had trouble with extra height and volume in the midfoot. Without wearing heavier-weight socks, it was difficult to lock the laces down tight enough to get a really secure fit. Some initial heel slippage was also resolved by experimenting with eyelets, lacing patterns, and lace tightness.
By design, the Trans Alps is at the heavier end of the spectrum. It’s just not possible to build a lightweight trail shoe for this niche with features like full-wrap bumper and full-foot rockplate. As one of our wear-testers observed, “the Trans Alps is a TANK. It’s relatively heavy by some running shoe standards but too light for hiking standards.”
Given how heavy and beefy the model is, wear-testers were surprised at how responsively it ran. One noted that the Trans Alps isn’t as nimble or flexible as less burly peers, but works exactly as intended when you think of it as a runnable light hiker.
Unsurprisingly, this is where the Trans Alps shines. The Trans Alps full-coverage 6mm lugs bit into loose soil and grip rocks and roots securely, and wear-testers felt confident on ice and snow. The wraparound bumper protected the entire foot, while the full-length rockplate was a secure barrier against sharp rocks and outcroppings. Combined with Montrail’s FluidFoam midsole, the TrailShield outsole offered the best protection in this category without completely sacrificing responsiveness or groundfeel.