Best Natural Trainer (my opinion, of course)

Now here is a shoe that I’ve been waiting for for a long time: a truly great trainer that combines a good amount of cushion with a lot of flexibility and a minimal, but well fitting upper in a natural running shoe package. Even if you run in “minimal” shoes, some days your legs just feel beat up from the miles, and a little cushion is what you really need for a recovery run. Keep the flexibility and feel of the more minimal but add in some cushion to absorb a little impact. That’s the idea behind the Montrail Fluid Flex.

Fluid Flex in action (sort of, not really action I guess)

Yes, I run in pretty, what you would call, minimal shoes for the most part, but over the past couple years I’ve been looking for something like the Fluid Flex. In Dec I got an advance pair and have been running in them since.

First off, any shoe has to have a great fit. That automatically rules out many other attempts in this category. The Fluid Flex has an upper that hugs my foot from heel to metatarsals then begins to open up with a more forgiving toe box. That’s a good thing. I’ll also tell you that I have a pretty normal foot, aside from being short of course.

Second, it’s got to have a low heel-to-toe drop (4mm or less) by the very nature of having a natural running shoe. As I’ve tested more shoes out, I’m now more sensitive to how high the drop of a shoe is. The lower drops have now become my preferred choice because of my running gait. I’m a forefoot striker so it’s obviously a personal thing. If you don’t land on your heel, why would it need to be built up. Pretty obvious. If you’re trying to work on your foot strike, having some cushion with a lower drop can be beneficial too. The Fluid Flex comes in at 4mm.

Fluid Flex Men's

Fluid Flex Women's

Third, for it to really be in that natural category it has to have that low drop but my second requirement is a flat foot bed. There is another shoe out there, and it’s “pure” coincidence, but it has a very similar feel to the Fluid Flex but the foot bed has a very contoured feel. For that natural feel, I believe that contour can feel good at first but can really have some negative affects later. For me, I can’t do the contour, just feels too weird. The Fluid Flex is flat, and flat is good.

Fluid Foam Midsole

The rest of the package combines the Fluid Foam midsole, an EVA foam that is more durable than traditional EVA and light weight (Mens 9 is at 7.6oz, Womens 8 is 6.1oz), with great flex grooves that let the shoe flex with the foot rather than your foot having to work with the shoe. The outsole is designed to save weight by minimizing rubber to high abrasion areas, but to still give traction in semi-off road terrain. It’s a great hybrid outsole that is at home on both road and easier trail. Is it great for really technical stuff, no, not really but it’s not meant to be.

Fluid Flex Out Sole

For me, the Fluid Flex is one of the best all around training shoes on the market, and trust me I’ve been through a lot of shoes to find the ones that work. Check your local specialty running store Feb 1st for the Fluid Flex hitting the shelves.

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7 Responses to Best Natural Trainer (my opinion, of course)

  1. John Knotts says:

    Thanks for the scoop Max. I’m really looking forward to trying these out.

  2. Chris R says:

    Hey Max-
    I am a trail (hilly 10-20 milers) and road racer and I have a lot of trouble fitting shoes. My favorite shoe is the Rogue Fly although the midsole goes dead after 250 miles of so for me, and I have to put a flatter (less contoured) foot bed in there to get my preferred feel. Rogue Fly upper, in my book, is pretty perfect, although my perfect Rogue Fly would have a flatter foot bed and a 4-6 mm drop. So…I’m interested in this shoe (Fluid Flex) and have a couple questions since I’ll never be able to try a pair on out here in Boston. Is the fit close to the Rogue Fly in terms of length? How tight/narrow is the heel compared to the RF? If I put road miles on this will it lose responsiveness prematurely?

    Thank you my brother. Keep up the good work. If yo u can get Montrail to make a mud-capable racing shoe I’ll get that, too.


  3. Max says:

    Hey Guys, sorry for the delay on a reply. I find the fit just a bit longer than the Rogue Fly but I wear the same size in it. Another blog post said they might recommend a size down in the Fluid Flex but I would be careful. It’s a great second opinion read. Read the review here:
    I find the toe box nice and roomy but not too wide. it is wider than the Rogue Fly, I think. The upper is still super minimal so if you like the Rogue Fly, there’s a good chance you’ll like this one as well. In the heel there’s a bit less foam cushion so fit may not feel as snug on some feet but I find it a very good fit still.


  4. Pingback: The Montrail Fluid Flex: A Review

  5. astroyam says:

    Are there actually other Montrail minimal type shoes? I thought they were all relatively high drop like 8,10+?

    • Max says:

      Astroyam, I’ve always felt that minimal doesn’t refer as much to the drop or offset of the shoe as it does to the amount of cushioning in the shoe. We’ve taken to calling lower offset shoes like the Fluid Flex (and even Hoka shoes), natural running shoes. I really wouldn’t consider the Fluid Flex a minimal shoe due to the copious amount of EVA foam underfoot. The most minimal shoe that Montrail has in their line is the Rogue Racer and Rogue Fly, which are both 9mm offsets but are more more minimal underfoot. Hope that help.


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