What I am looking for in a good trail running shoe is one that I can run over 12 hours in, is comfortable, has enough support in the mid foot, and has some cushion in the heel. I also prefer a wide toe box and protection on top of the toe box for when I inevitably stub a toe. For those of you who have had the displeasure of seeing my feet after a 24 hour or 100 mile race you know that this is not a “nice to have.” This is a necessity for me.
Part of my pre-race routine involves an hour to an hour and a half of taping my feet and individual toes with moist burn pads and physical therapy tape. I typically get about 10 hours to 62 miles during races before blisters that have developed stop me from continuing. It’s like clockwork that right around mile 50 I start to feel uncomfortable and by mile 62 I am on the side of the trail or in the medical tent getting my toes and feet rewrapped. More often than not I have to stop a second time for maintenance on my feet before the end of a 100 mile race. I have lost as much as an hour and a half during one hundred mile races because of this issue. The only time in the past four years that I did not have to stop and attend to blistering issues was at the Vermont 100 in 2012, which turned out to be a PR race.
When I slipped these MMM’s on for the first time I was encouraged by the amount of cushion as well as protection in the heel and on the inside of the shoe. I also liked the feel of the amount of room in the toe box and the stiffness of the material used for protection on top of the toe box for protection.
The first real test for this shoe came on a one hour training climb which usually leaves me with stiff heels after the workout. There was ample cushioning for easy impact on the heel strikes. To my surprise I did not encounter the usual soreness or stiffness in my heels, especially the morning after this type of training session. The first test was passed. Now I need to head for the trails for a test run.
My test run consisted of a 15 mile trail run at Jockey Hollow in Morristown, NJ. During the first few miles on some mid technical trail I felt my forefoot slipping. This is actually a plus which will come in handy when running ultras. Everyone can expect their feet to swell a bit and this extra room will be useful, especially if any taping of blisters is required. For this 15 mile run a simple tightening of the laces sufficed. During the run the shoes actually felt so good that I decided that I would try them without taping my feet for an extended mileage run or under race conditions. After the run and the next day my feet felt good with no lingering hot spots or tender points that I was favoring.
I decided to wear these shoes while pacing team mate Julian Vicente at the Oil Creek 100 trail run (race report) on October 13th of 2012. I was going to follow through with the plan to wear these shoes without the usual taping of my feet routine. This could be a bit risky when you have to pace a team mate for almost 40 miles, especially when they have a very good shot at a top finish. My runner would be relying on me to get them to the finish and the last thing that I would want would be blister issues. I felt confident that the shoes would perform.
The Oil Creek 100 turned out to be a runnable course, but it is not a wimpy trail run by any means. There are fallen leaves, rocks, and plenty of roots to run over. Not to mention there are a couple of steep climbs too. After about 18 miles or so I felt my forefoot slipping and a hot spot on my left foot pad. This was due to my laces becoming loose. Once the laces were adjusted the shoes were very comfortable for the rest of the run. Inevitably everyone will experience loose laces from time to time. I do not think that there are issues with the laces themselves. After that the shoes never became a point of focus again during the remainder of the race. I am not sure about the exact amount time that I wore the shoes, but it was at least 10 hours. It rained during the second half of the race. I never had any concerns with slipping on rocks, roots or leaves. I was able to run through the trails and bomb the downhill’s when I needed to without reservation. Although I only ran just under 40 miles I think that the shoe performed well, especially during the rain and down hills. The cushioning was ample and my feet never really got that “tired” feeling that trail runners sometimes get during long runs. I only developed one hot spot during the run and it never came close to being a factor in slowing me down. That is huge for me or any runner who has blistering issues during ultras.
The Mountain Masochist is an extremely well fitting ultra-shoe. The total amount of miles and the wear pattern is unknown due to the limited amount of time that I have tested this shoe. What I can confirm from my experience with this shoe is that it’s a very solid performer. I can’t wait to try them out for a 24 hour race or 100 miler.