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Reviews > Footwear > Trail Shoes > Montrail Hardrock Mid > Test Report by Thomas Vickers

Montrail Hardrock Boots

Initial Report - March 17, 2008
Field Test Report - May 27, 2008
Long Term Report - July 22, 2008

Thomas Vickers

40 years old
Male
5 ft 11 in tall (1.8 m)
175 lb (79 kg)
redroach@pobox.com
Southeast Texas, Houston Area


Tester Background:
I grew up in the piney woods of southeast Texas. Camping was a quick trip into the mosquito-infested woods behind the house. My style has evolved and over the last 4 or 5 years, I have begun to take a lighter weight approach to hiking gear (I still use sleeping bags and tents, just lighter versions). While I have flirted with lightweight hiking, I feel that I am more of a mid-weight hiker now. My philosophy is one of comfort, while carrying the lightest load possible.


Initial Report
March 17, 2008

Montrail Hardrock Boots

 

Manufacturer Information:

Manufacturer:Montrail

Website:http://www.montrail.com

Year Manufactured: 2008

MSRP: NA

Weight:NA

Information From Tester:
(all measurements approximate)


Color/pattern: Graphite

Weight :
Left boot: 1 lb 1.50 oz (497 g)
Right boot: 1 lb 1.60 oz (499 g)

Size received: 11

Tester's shoe size: 10.5

Initial tester expectations:
I really had no idea what I was getting when I applied for this test. The Hardrock Boots are not available on the website yet, but after viewing the Hardrock shoes I was hoping that I was going to get a mid height trail running shoe of some sort. For me, this meant that the Hardrock boots were probably going to be a tight fitting trail shoe with a mid-height boot top slapped on for fun.

Tester's Description:
The Montrail Hardrock Boots appear to be a cross between a trail running shoe and a hiking boot, with a lot more of the shoe's bloodline being apparent. There is no leather present on this boot, it all appears to be synthetic rubber and plastic.   Besides the height and speed lace system, the sole seems to be the only other boot-like feature that I have discovered on the Hardrock Boots. 

Hardrock Sole

The Hardrock Boots are an attractive gray and orange color scheme with black highlights on certain portions of the boot. The Hardrock Boots utilize normal bootlace guides on the first four lacing points, but the top four (two on each side) utilize speed lace hooks which are bright orange and easy to see and use. The laces connect to the tongue of the boot for several of the lacing points, then separate and go back to normal lacing points on either side of the tongue.

Overall, I have to describe this as a light weight mix of boot and trail running shoe. The design looks interesting after my initial inspection and I am rather excited to see how well it performs in the field.

Initial thoughts:
I normally wear a size 10.5 shoe, but I always buy size 11.5 hiking boots to accommodate my hiking socks and liners. When I saw that the Hardrock Boots were only a size 11, I was a bit worried. After slipping into my hiking socks and then putting on the Hardrock Boots, I was more than mildly surprised. The arches of the boots hit my foot arches perfectly and they were really comfortable right out of the box.  The toe box on the boots was also large. In fact, the toe box is much larger than I ever expected.  The toe box is very definitely boot-like for me with tons of room  for my feet. Not too much room, but plenty for foot expansion on the trail.  Whereas I had expected a tight fitting shoe/boot mixture, this was a pleasant surprise. I also discovered that the Hardrock Boots seem to be cut a bit larger over all.  I have never found a boot that I can comfortably fit my foot and hiking socks into that was smaller than a size 11.5, but I have absolutely no difficulty in the size 11 Hardrock Boots.

So far I have worn the Hardrock Boots for three full days (8 hours +) to see how they feel and if they need to be broken in. I always wear after market insoles in my hiking boots and shoes, but so far, after 24+ hours in the Hardrocks, the Montrail insoles feel good and my feet and legs feel even better. I don't know if this will hold out after some serious trail use, but it is a good sign that I can stay on my feet all day in these boots at this point without foot or leg pain. If these boots use the same Integrafit system that the shoe version does, then this may explain why they feel so darned good on my feet.   According to Montrail the "IntegraFit is the result of the analysis of over 800,000 foot scans combined with extensive research around the biomechanics of the foot. We've applied this learning in the design and development of every piece of footwear we bring to market. Our customers have come to expect exceptional fit that includes a secure heel and mid-foot fit, anatomically correct arch support, and even contact pressure for the majority of feet." From where my feet are sitting/standing, this system works great, especially considering that I very seldom feel great with straight off the shelf shoes/boots of any sort.

Another thing that I have enjoyed so far is the way that the boots/soles feel. The Hardrocks seem very stiff in the soles/bottom of the boots and I like this. Once again, if the boots are similar to the shoe version, then they utilize a special TPU plate. Montrail says that the "Full length TPU plate protects the foot from rough terrain and provides support during long periods of running, hiking and walking." Once again in my view, it appears that Montrail has done their best to make a very comfortable and supportive boot.

Here are some questions that I plan on using as a guide for my testing of the Montrail Hardrock Boots:
1. Can I put my own insoles into these boots?

2. How comfortable are these boots with and without my own insoles?

3. How water/element resistant is the boot?

4. How well do the Montrail Hardrock boots breathe?

5. How quickly can I get into/out of these boots? Is there any kind of speed lace system?

6. What type of laces to these boots use? (flat, round, other?)

7. Do the laces stay tied?

8. How long does it take to break these boots in? Will they feel comfortable and flexible after a week? Two weeks? Months? Never?

9. Do these boots provide adequate support for my ankles? I wear boots over trail runners due to my fear of hurting my ankles. The Hardrocks
claim to combine the best of both these worlds.

10. How easy is it for debris to get into the boot when it is tightly laced?

11. After prolonged trail wear (3+ days) do these boots start to smell?

12. Will they have a permanently poor odor after 6 months of testing?

13. Are there any strange friction points on these boots that might cause blisters for my feet?

14. Is the fit roomy or tight? Does the size match what I need for hiking boots or are their sizing differences/irregularities for this
brand?

15. Do these boots shrink when exposed to repeated soaking (wet) and drying cycles? Not from washing, but from normal wear and water
exposure on the trail?

16. How long does it take the boots to dry when they get wet?

17. Can I really run in these boots?

18. How durable is the "Gryptonite™ GT sticky traction" sole?

Final thoughts:
The Montrail Hardrock Boots are very interesting at this point in the test. They seem to combine all of the attributes of running shoes with a smaller, yet well chosen set of hiking boot attributes in an attractive package. Best of all, at this point, they appear really comfortable and supportive of my feet.


Field Test Report
May 27, 2008


Testing locations:
Sam Houston National Forest
W.G. Jones State Forest
Other locations in Southeast Texas

Conditions:
Temperature: 60 - 85 F (16 - 30 C)
Precipitation: none
Altitude: 0 - 250 ft (0 - 76 m)
Terrain: Flat and level, packed dirt trail, loose sand, forest floor, and grass

Activities:
Dayhiking: 8 days (24 miles/39 km)
Trail running: 10 days (20 miles/32 km)
Overnight hiking: 4 days (22 miles/35 km)
Belaying/Rappelling: 5 days

Putting on the boots:
The laces are good on these boots. The regular lace loops and speed lace loops are easy to adjust. The boot strings are a little long, but the narrow rounded shape is great for getting under the speed loops and staying put.  After the first two months though, I am going to have to burn the tips of two of lace ends because they are coming unraveled. I don't think this is a lace durability issue, but more of a length issue. I have spent a lot time stepping on the extra long laces so it is no surprise that the tips are wearing a bit.

My aching feet:

For the past twenty years I have had to use after market insoles in every pair of shoes I wear. This is everything I own from dress shoes all the way down to my hiking boots. If I don't use after market insoles I get sore feet, sore knees, and a lower back that makes me want to burn the shoes in question. The first thing I always do is try shoes/boots with the stock insoles and then after a day or two of suffering, I drop in my real insoles.   At this point I have worn the Hardrock Boots for at least 30 days (some was casual street wear) and I have yet to put in after market insoles. I did pull the Montrail insoles out and found that they were normal, thin, stock insoles; in other words, nothing special.   With that in mind I have to rave about these boots. They are made in such a way that my body loves them. There are no abnormal aches or pains to report and I am really amazed after all the wear I have been putting on them.

The Montrail website lists these features for the Hardrock shoes (lows vs. the mids that I have) "Dual density midsole for midfoot support and pronation control and full length TPU plate protects the foot from rough terrain and provides support during long periods of running, hiking and walking."

I have more to say about the TPU plate later, but right now the only thing I can figure is that the combination of these two things are what make my feet love these boots. Apparently Montrail has designed footwear that I can use without suffering or using after market insoles. I am stunned, but appreciative.

Rocking in the Hardrocks:
One thing that became very apparent with these boots was the stiffness of the sole/boot interface. I attribute this stiffness and lack of flex (mainly of the sole) to the full length TPU plate.  My first few days in these boots were either street wear or at the ropes course where I work. At the ropes course I do a lot of climbing, belaying of climbers and rappelling. The steps and staples are narrow metal that I normally feel really well through soles of boots. The Hardrock soles were stiff and I didn't feel a thing as I climbed or stepped steps, staples, or cables, which I really liked. 

The TPU plate (and related sole stiffness) really impressed when when I was belaying climbers. In regular hiking boots my feet have a tendency to roll side to side as I work with lowering climbers. This is uncomfortable and rather dangerous because I constantly have to watch my footing.  The Hardrocks don't have the roll issues for me. The soles are so stiff that the boot tends to rock front to back more (not bad, I really like this) without any tendency to roll from side to side. That means less foot and ankle strain for me.

I have done a few days of trail running (more to come) along a stretch of trail in the local state forest. The trail varies from hard packed dirt to sand, with rocks, roots, and sticks thrown in for fun.  The heel to toe rock is noticeable to me when I am moving quickly on varied terrain and once again I really like the feeling. The Hardrocks haven't show a tendency to roll side to side in these situations either, which really makes me feel better about my ankles, which always suffer when a boot or shoe lets my feet roll and do bad things to my ankles. This heel to toe roll makes me feel almost as if I am gliding along when I run in the Hardrocks.  I have noticed that I spend a lot less effort worrying about terrain and foot placement because the boots provide good and predictable stability when I moving at a rather quick pace.

If I had to say one thing and only one thing about the Hardrocks at this point it would probably be "The TPU plate rules." I just don't feel that I am doing justice to how well these boots feel on my feet and how well they handle on the trail. 

Fit and heat:
The temperatures have been rising here in Texas and as the mercury has risen the Hardrocks have still been cool and comfortable.  I requested a size 11.5 to accommodate my hiking socks, but so far, the 11's have done just well with my normal hiking socks. The toe box has plenty of room and the boot seems to breath really well. My feet don't get squished or overheated.  One thing that I am paying close attention to is that after a few weeks of not washing hiking socks (don't ask) there was a nasty funk coming from the Hardrocks.  I washed socks and aired the boots for a couple of days and the stink has gone, so hopefully that was just a sock/tester issue and not a Hardrock problem.

The sole of the matter:
One thing I have noticed about these boots is the fact that the soles haven't started to wear too much. As a professed heel dragger and a general abuser of boot soles, I can honestly say that the Hardrock soles have held up pretty darned well for as much as I have worn them.  I have also been impressed by the traction that the soles have provided.   With the stiffness that the TPU plate provides a sole that was too slick would have cause me some serious traction issues, but as it stands, the soles are just the right consistency for these boots.

Final thoughts:
I am impressed by these boots. They fit well, they wear well, and best of all they make my feet feel really comfortable.  The toe box has plenty of room for when my feet expand, the arches hit my feet in just the right place, and the list goes on. I am planning on putting many more miles on these boots and I am hoping that my initial results are upheld by further use. 

Likes:
1. Fit
2. Stiffness of boot/sole
3. Comfort

Dislikes:
1. Laces are a bit long


Long Term Report
July 22, 2008


Testing locations
:
Sam Houston National Forest
W.G. Jones State Forest
Other locations in Southeast Texas

Conditions:
Temperature: 60 - 95 F (16 - 35 C)
Precipitation: none
Altitude: 0 - 250 ft (0 - 76 m)
Terrain: Flat and level, packed dirt trail, loose sand, forest floor, and grass

Activities:
Dayhiking: 5 days (13 miles/21 km) - 12 lb (5 kg)  pack weight
Trail running: 5 days (7 miles/11 km)
Overnight hiking: 6 days (23 miles/37 km) - 18 lb (8 kg) pack weight
Belaying/Rappelling: 3 days

Relaxing on the tower with the Hardrocks



Socks or not:
Over the last portion of this test I have spent at least 19 days in these boots doing a wide variety of activities. One thing that I have varied as much as my outdoor activities are the socks that I have used.  I have used wool socks, synthetic socks, and cotton socks. I have used liner socks and gone without.  My goal was to make sure that I hadn't lucked into a 'magic combo' with the Hardrocks and my favorite hiking socks that resulted in the perfect comfort that these boots present to my feet when worn.  No matter what type of sock I wore with the Hardrocks, the boots were still comfortable.

The heat is on:
The temperatures have been horrible this summer. Almost every day has topped 90 F (32 C) and I am happy with how well the Hardrocks vent no matter what type of socks I am wearing. My feet do sweat, but they don't overheat in these boots and this is important.  On a side note, despite all the hot sweaty days, the boots have not picked up any  nasty odors. They do need aired out after a hot day on the feet, but other than that there is no stink that has become permanent.

Comfort:
What I have really enjoyed about the Montrail Hardrocks is the fact that they are comfortable. I realized that the lacing point that tightens the boots is directly over the arch of my feet. The speed lacing points that are high up on the foot seem to be for securing the laces and keeping debris out, but the real work takes place directly over the arch.  Being able to make the boots fit at that point on my foot lets me get the laces tightened just right so that the boots don't slide around on my feet.

They are also the first boots or shoes in the last 15 years that have not required me to use after market insoles because of my feet. I find this really amazing and as the test progressed I just knew that I was going to eventually have to pop my after market insoles into the Hardrocks, but that day never came.  In fact, when my knee started bothering me (hiking injury), it did curtail some of my planned usage of the Hardrocks, but they were the only pair of shoes, boots, or sandals that I had that actually felt good to wear when my knee was hurting. They were not a miracle cure by any means, but my feet liked them and the beating that my knee seems to take when the injury flares up seemed to be a  lot less with the Hardrocks on my feet.

Final thoughts:
I put a lot of miles on the Hardrocks and if my knee hadn't given me problems I probably would have put a lot more on them. I loved running on the trails in the local state park in them and they provided a stable and reliable foundation for my feet on the trails.   As backpacking boots they were equally durable and comfortable. I usually carried about 18 pounds (8 kg) in my pack when I wore the Hardrocks on extended hiking trips and they were always comfortable and a pleasure to wear.

They have also turned out to be very durable. After four months of serious wear, they look almost as good as the day they arrived.  They are dusty, but other than that, they do not appear to have been worn as much as they have.  If I could just find a way to get all the dust off, they would look brand new.

The stiff sole of the boot is one thing that I have really come to love. It makes running and moving quickly in the Hardrocks very easy and I have not suffered through my feet rolling side to side because the stiffness of the sole keeps this from happening.   The outer sole has also shown a great deal of durability. I am hard on soles because I tend to drag my heels, but the Hardrocks actually seem to show what I consider to be less than average wear on the heel area of the soles.  I also like the way that the soles shed mud/dirt. I encountered some mud and wet dirt during this test and the Hardrock soles had no problem shedding excess material without gunking up. I never had to clean the soles in order to improve traction or to get excess gunk off.

The laces also work great.  The main pressure point for the lacing system falls directly over the arch of my foot and the speed laces on the neck of the Hardrocks tighten things up and keep debris out very well.  I still think the stock laces are a bit long, but that is nothing that be cured with scissors and a quick snip.

Overall, these are boots that I will keep on wearing. They are comfortable no matter what socks I wear, how hot it is, how fast I am moving, or how much of a load I am packing.   The toe box is just roomy enough without being too big and I think that a half size larger than my normal shoe size is a better choice than the normal full size larger that I normally wear in hiking boots.

The only thing I didn't get a chance to find out about is how well they handle water.   I am sure that at some point I am going to get them wet, but I wish that I had more a chance to do that before this test series was over.

Things I like:
1. Stiffness of the sole
2. Comfort of the boot
3. Lacing system

Things I don't like.
1. Laces are too long
2.  I only have one pair



Read more reviews of Montrail gear
Read more gear reviews by Thomas Vickers

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