An impressive trail running debut from the mountain equipment experts in the form of a lightweight, comfortable shoe suitable for rugged racing and training.
Mammut know a thing or two about mountains having been climbing the hills around their Swiss home since 1862 and from this experience developed high quality trekking and mountaineering equipment. Although taking the direct route up a climb using ropes and harnesses is fun they have recognised that some people prefer to travel light and move fast to get to the top and that trail running is another great way to enjoy the mountains.
As part of their Absolute Alpine concept that embraces all kinds of mountain and rock based activities in 2013 they have launched a product range called MTR – Mountain Trail Running. Encompassing clothing, packs and 4 different shoe models with men’s and women’s specific designs for each Mammut have invested heavily in this new venture.
The MTR 201 shoes sit second from top in the range with just the MTR 201 Dyneema above them. The design of the Dyneema shoes is very similar to the standard 201 but uses a fabric that is tougher than steel and more commonly used for harnesses, webbing and body armour. Great if you tend to tear up your shoes on sharp rocks or want something more durable but at £160 it’s an expensive upgrade.
It’s clear from first pulling them out the box that Mammut haven’t just created a copy of existing trail shoes and instead have developed some innovative ideas. First off, the upper is a very soft and flexible mesh that offers great breathability and a comfortable fit when you pull the laces tight. There is also a soft cushioned area around the ankle made from memory foam that will return to shape time after time even after vigorous use. However to maintain support they have used two thick bands that anchor key points from the laces directly down onto the sole. This is their Base Fit system and gives a very good snug fit without excessive bulk. At the rear is a rigid plastic shell that wraps around the heel which is also designed to provide support where it’s needed. It makes the shoes harder to put on in a hurry as there is not much flexibility in this shell but once up and running you feel very confident in planting your foot down on uneven terrain without much movement within the shoes.
Unlike many trail shoes that join the tongue to the upper to prevent trail debris from getting in, the Mammut’s have a traditional, loose tongue but use an elasticated panel over the top of it that is sealed to both sides of the upper. This gives the best of both worlds by allowing a closer fit, particularly if you have narrow feet, but with the protection of the elasticated panel to stop the stones. Over the top of this are standard laces (not elasticated) but they are secured using a spring loaded toggle. Tugging the two loose ends tightens the whole thing up without having to tie a knot, the excess can then be tucked into a pocket on the end of the tongue. This works really well and didn’t seem to come loose over the course of the run but although it’s quick to tighten, tucking the laces in is a bit fiddly so overall there won’t be a huge gain during a multi-sport race. Getting out of the shoes is fast enough, requiring a squeeze of the toggle to loosen the laces then kick them off.
At the front of the shoes are ‘liquid rubber’ toe caps to offer some protection from stones and rocks. These sections are still quite soft so don’t expect safety boot type sturdiness but they should be better at preventing stubbed toes than the mesh material that makes up the rest of the upper. The safety theme continues with highly reflecting details all around the shoe that light up well in oncoming traffic or from the head torches of your competitors as you disappear up the mountain on an ultra.
Moving to the sole, the most striking feature is how much wider it is than the upper part of the shoes. The mid and outsole flare out to give a wider contact area which Mammut claim gives better traction and control. The sole itself is reasonably minimal with a limited amount of built up cushioning and a 9mm heel drop. Using the same design philosophy as a touring ski binder, Mammut wanted the shoes to keep you low to the ground as this helps excess movement of the ankle limiting the risk of injury while also providing better feedback from the trail. And you certainly get a lot of feedback! The flexible soles allow the shoes to bend over stones and rocks very well so you can feel almost everything under your feet. This might not suit runners who prefer a more cushioned ride but on very uneven terrain it allows you to feel the rocks and roots and gives a better idea of how much traction you have with each step. Mammut use different rubber mixes throughout the sole in what they call their “Rolling Concept” which is designed to encourage the natural movement of the foot. There is still some stability control so these are not ‘bare foot’ shoes but they are probably better suited to runners with a more natural, fore foot striking style.
Grip on the outsole takes the form of a number of wedge shaped studs made from mid to hard rubber for good wear resistance. Mammut call the layout of the studs Sonar as they are inspired by a concentric, sonar wave pattern. What this means is that the wedges face forward on the forefoot to help lock on when climbing, and face backwards on the heel to give better grip for decelerating and descending. Both up and down steep, loose hills the shoes performed well giving plenty of grip and coped reasonably well in mud too but the mid height studs won’t dig in if it gets really sloppy. The studs are well spaced to prevent stones getting stuck which can cause pressure points.
- Innovative features make for a very comfortable shoe but with good stability
- Simple but effective lacing system
- Good traction over a variety of surfaces
- Not quick to put on.
- Minimal soles could seem harsh to some runners.
Many outdoor clothing brands seem to be trying their hand at the trail running market but not all of them with success. Mammut however seem to have got just about everything right with this pair of running shoes. The MTR 201’s are enjoyable to run in, encouraging you to move fast whatever is happening under your feet and have some great features that set them apart from other contenders in this price bracket. They were born in the mountains and seem to fair best on rocky loose terrain but remain comfortable when transitioning back to tarmac so could be used on multi terrain races. A great choice if you’re on the lookout for a high end trail shoe but with limited availability in the UK at the moment.
Model: MTR 201