Montrail makes a number of lightweight trail running shoes that are well suited for ultralight backpacking, and one of the most popular is the Hardrock. For good reason. They come in the classical “Montrail fit” (wide toe box, snug heel cup), as well as a wide version (EE width). I tested the wide version. The Hardrock may not be the absolute lightest trail shoe out there, but it’s an excellent balance of light weight, fit, comfort, support, and durability.
Montrail’s IntegraFit (wide toe box, supportive arch, snug heel cup) is not for everyone. It’s a matter of trying these shoes on to see if they work for you. If your feet like them, you may become hooked for life. For me, the “Montrail fit” in the wide version (fits to EE width) of the Hardrock was a match made in heaven.
A close look at the Montrail Hardrock. The uppers are made of various synthetics which are very durable and double sewn. They incorporate lateral webbing that connects directly to the lacing system for increased lateral stability. A midsole TPU plate, a pronounced side rand, and a double toe bumper provide rock protection. Shaped foam padding in the heel strike zone and arch area provide comfort, fit, and pronation control for high-mileage endeavors. The outsole is Montrail’s Gryptonite GT rubber with an aggressively lugged tread to provide very sticky and long-wearing traction.
Although the Hardrock protects your foot well, there are a couple of seams on each side of the toe area that are vulnerable to thread wear. Seam failure on the sides of the toe box is the biggest problem I have with hiking shoes. Although I did not have any problems with the Hardrock, I strongly recommend coating side seams with McNett FreeSole (liquid urethane) when the shoes are new to enhance their durability and extend the life of the shoe.
These shoes were designed for the Hardrock 100 endurance race held at Silverton, Colorado. I live about 50 miles from there, and have hiked much of the course wearing the Hardrocks. Actually the Hardrock 100 route was easy terrain compared to where I took them. I wore the Hardrocks over all types of terrain, ranging from rough trails to off-trail conditions with steep uphills, downhills, and sidehills. I also wore them through miles and miles of sliderock and glacial rock fields. I can say unequivocally that the Hardrocks are very stable, supportive, comfortable, and tough.
Many of the photos with this review show the Hardrock being worn “bare”, but I always wore them with short gaiters to keep water, snow, mud, and debris from entering through the top.
At first I found the heel cup to be a little too tight (for me), and preferred to wear them with thinner Coolmax socks. As they conformed to my feet more, I found them comfortable to wear with cushy merino wool socks. The Hardrock responded very well to different lacing techniques for different conditions. A little looser was just fine for continuous climbing. On steep downhills I definitely liked them laced tight over my instep to prevent toe jamming. And on steep sidehills I liked both the toe box and instep laced tighter to prevent rollover.
The outsole on the Hardrock is Montrail’s sticky Griptonite rubber in a very aggressive tread that provides superb traction. Of the many different hiking shoes/boots I have used, I would have to say that the grip and traction of the Hardrock is among the very best.
Since they have no WP/B membrane, the Hardrock gets wet easily and is fairly slow to dry out. There is more padding in the ankle and tongue area, which makes it very comfortable to wear, but in wet conditions it also makes it soak up more water and stay wet longer. On backpacking trips in really wet weather, my shoes and socks stayed damp the entire time. I got the Hardrocks incredibly muddy on a couple of trips, and was amazed at how easily they cleaned up.
Overall, the Montrail Hardrock is an outstanding trail shoe for those who want a good balance of light weight, comfort, support, traction, and durability. There are lighter trail shoes out there, like the Timberland Delerion and Inov-8 Flyroc, that are lighter and dry out faster, but may not provide the other desired attributes for long distance hiking. It also depends a lot on your feet - if the “Montrail fit” works for you, Montrail may become your shoe company.
Specifications and Features
- Manufacturer: Montrail (http://montrail.com/)
- Year/Model: 2006 Hardrock Wide
- Style: Low-cut trail hiking and running shoe
- Materials: Various synthetics
- Midsole: TPU plate, shock absorbing foam, posted for pronation control
- Outsole: Gryptonite GT sticky rubber with aggressive lugged tread
- Sizes Available: men’s 7-15, half sizes to13; women’s 5-11; two widths
- Weight: Measured weight men’s size 11.5 wide 31.7 oz per pair (899 g), manufacturer specification 26 oz per pair (737 g) for size 9.5
- MSRP: $95