Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Mountain Bear Fell shoes - review

I managed to get a pair of these fell shoes from a clubmate who won them, and subsequently didn't get on with them because of the shape of their feet. We happen to be the same size shoe, so I gladly took them away to try out and see what they were made of (as it were).

At first look, the Mountain bears appear to have some really quite substantial uppers, made to withstand some serious heather bashing and rock scrapes, and the lugs are a decent depth, with good mud-clearance spacing.
I'm a size 7 in inov8s, these are also a 7, and they fit well. I had no issues with the way they feel, and I suspect my clubmate just has feet that fit only quite specific lasts.

They look pretty good for general fell running, and that was pretty much borne out over the first few runs across Bleaklow, and on some more specific hill reps. I've worn them for about 120km, and they were worn for about 50km before I got them, so although they have been worn a bit, it isn't like they've been completely battered.

Grip issues

In dry conditions and on semi-dry peat, these shoes do excel. They feel solid, the grip is grippy, and I felt pretty confident in them.
So far so good.
The lugs look pretty good, eh?

Once the rain starts falling, or if there is a little dampness on the ground things change quite radically.
First things first - wet rock. I know that there really isn't any shoe around (to my knowledge at least), which grips to wet rock. Some shoes inspire a modicum more confidence than others, but generally speaking, wet rock is something to be got over either as fast as possible, or as carefully as possible.
The Mountain Bears are like ice skates on this kind of terrain.
After only a couple of hundred kms, the uppers are beginning
to split. Same issue as the old inov8s. 

I'm not known for pussy footing around on descents, or for being particularly concerned about rocks or downhill sections of runs and races. However, with slight dampness in the air and on the ground, every footstep in a vaguely downhill direction was a bit of a gamble in terms of "will it or won't it hold". Most of the time on wet grass, the shoes performed ok at best, but are prone to occasional and severe lapses in grip.
Uphill, they are fine (unless on any kind of stoney surface), but at speed, I really didn't feel like I had any confidence in them at all.
Sorry to Trailrunning mag, but I'm going to have to call you out on this one. No matter what you say about these shoes having good grip on wet rock, that is complete nonsense. If you aren't prepared for the lack of grip confidence it'd be pretty dangerous. Bambi on ice springs to mind.

I also spied a small, but potentially significant crack on the
outer toe of the right shoe as well. 
Which is a shame. I badly wanted these shoes to perform well. As good as Inov8 are, I feel that they are
slightly going off the boil in terms of build quality. What I have to say about them, is that they seem to have got a bit of a grail thing going on with their rubber - by luck or judgement, I'm not sure.

These Mountain Bears are good in the dry, and are great training shoes in the summer. (They're also pretty good in the wet as well, as long as you want to practice your reaction time to slipping). However, I wouldn't race in them, and I certainly wouldn't race in them in the wet.

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