(The Gear Loop) - Columbia might be better known for its outdoor gear, offering solid options that cover everything from waterproof jackets to backpacks, but it has only recently overhauled its trail running shoe range to include some properly pro performing footwear.
Sitting at the top of this tree is the Montrail Trinity AG model, which comes in both men’s and women’s versions and a couple of very bold, very bright colour schemes.
Montrail was once a company in its own right, specialising in off-road running footwear that previously lacked a little finesse but certainly offered the rugged build and grippy soles required to tackle treacherous, loose surfaces at speed.
Columbia has taken this recipe and tweaked it, so it can now keep up with some of the lightest and highest performing trail shoes from the likes of Hoka and Saucony, without having a negative effect on the build quality and toughness associated with Montrail shoes of yore.
With 4mm lugs on the Adapt Trax outsole, comfortable OrthoLite Eco insole and seamless mesh, this is one high-tech trail shoe. But can it perform when the going gets tough? We laced up to find out.
We enjoyed the way Columbia’s Montrail Trinity AG felt built like a tank, yet somehow managed to disappear around the feet when slipped on. Speed and robustness is often hard to find in a trail shoe, but it really works here.
The seamless mesh upper is comfortable and the materials used offer it solid weather-proofing out of the box, even if it isn’t sold as a 100 per cent waterproof product.
Minor gripes include the asymmetrical lacing system, which does feel a bit odd at first, and the lugs could come unstuck when the really poor weather returns. But overall, it’s a tough offering and certainly has the technical nouse to compete at this price bracket.
Columbia Montrail Trinity AG
- Great grip
- Beautifully stable running surface
- Robust reinforced outer
- Not as nimble as rivals
- More aggressive treads available
- Asymmetrical lacing system is a bit odd
In the Loop
Everything you need to know about the Columbia Montrail Trinity AG in bite-sized chunks:
- Seamless mesh outer with Navic Fit asymmetrical lace system
- Techlite+ Dual-density midsole
- Total Ride heights: 32mm heel/24mm Forefoot
- OrthoLite Eco insole
- Weight: 10.25 oz / 290 g (Size 8 UK or 42 EU, ½ pair)
- Colours: Red Quartz/Black or Collegiate Navy/Fission
Design and fit
The Columbia Montrail Trinity AG doesn’t really look like anything else we’ve tested recently, as it shuns typical mesh trainer uppers for a "seamless" mesh with asymmetrical lacing.
This sees the lacing placed slightly towards the outer flanks of the forefoot, allowing more of the upper to wrap around the big toe and sensitive ankle area. Columbia claims this has been done for comfort, as the shoe offers a more cosseting fit.
The remainder of the outer is covered in reinforced polyester strips, which give the shoe a sort of plastic shine when caught in some lights, but also makes it feel like it is shrouded in a protective layer.
Available in the very bold Red Quartz/Black or Collegiate Navy/Fission (tested here), the shoe isn’t going to go unnoticed, so if you prefer a slightly stealthier approach to trail running, it might be best to look elsewhere. That said, the women’s Deep Water/Bright Plum is an altogether more coherent collection of colours.
The fit is pretty spot on and we opted for our usual UK8 to play it safe. The shoe came up just right, allowing a little more room around the toe box than something like the Hoka Zinal, for example.
Sizes 6 to 11 are available in half sizes, which might help to really dial in that comfortable fit, although anyone with larger feet will have to make do.
Comfort and features
As previously mentioned, the asymmetrical lacing is probably the biggest talking point here, as we feel some will love it and others will hate it. Dubbed the NavicFit system, it sees the laces cinch up over the mid-foot navicular bone, which is supposed to be more comfortable and help keep the heel in place better.
We’re not sure about that but it is possible to get a good locked-down fit with the slightly elasticated laces. Although, we found there was a fair amount of excess that could do with a loop to tuck it into and there's a temptation to tighten the laces due to their elasticity.
There’s a small plastic D-ring at the front that makes it possible to attach gaiters for really wet weather and the velcro strap at the rear of the shoe helps with securing them down. Although we also found it equally handy for hanging onto a backpack, for example.
Inside, there’s an OrthoLite Eco insole that has been made from around 17 per cent recycled materials, but offers a plush platform to run on. The midsole features a Techlite+ dual-density foam and the Adaptive Guidance Pebax Plate adds in a bit of rocker for improved propulsion.
Flip the shoe over and you’ll find an Adapt Trax sole with 4mm lugs that deform slightly under pressure to give fantastic grip on a variety of surfaces.
Performance in the wild
The first thing to notice about the Montrail Trinity AG is the generous platform offered at the heel, which promotes a good deal of stability when first venturing off the beaten path.
We’ve recently tested some very light, very fast trail shoes, but did notice that the skinny heels sometimes led to some ankle rolling when tackling uneven terrain. Not so here, as they feel planted and sure-footed from the outset.
There’s an 8mm drop from heel to toe, which isn’t the largest out there but it is still noticeable when out on runs. We enjoyed the way it promoted a forefoot running style, but some may find that stack height too much for off-road scenarios.
The foam used in the midsole exceptionally springy and actually feels a little too much in some circumstances. It’s great for giving you that bouncy feel that helps propel runners forward, but we found it compresses a lot and some sharp terrain can be felt underfoot. It puts a little pressure on the foot arch during really long runs, too.
Underneath, the Adapt Trax outsole does a fantastic job of offering grip on loose surfaces, especially dusty fire tracks, shingle and dense woodland, where the surface tends to be carpeted in pine needles and the like.
That said, the 4mm lugs aren’t the chunkiest on the market and those wanted unrivalled grip on muddy, wet or boggy terrain could probably do with a lug depth and pattern that bites a bit harder.
Above all, the shoe feels exceptionally robust without ever feeling too bulky or heavy. As previously mentioned, we’ve been testing a fair few trail running shoes of late and very few blend this nimbleness and speed with built-in toughness.
Montrail was once a trail running behemoth in its own right, but the shoes often scarified lightweight nimbleness for all-out toughness, leading to big, bulky shoes. Columbia’s subsequent purchase has resulted in good things, as this neatly blends light-footed speed with sure-footed hardiness.