In July I went down to Pontresina in Switzerland as part of the Swiss Irontrail Mammut Test Event, a small gathering of runners from various parts of the world who were invited down by Mammut to check out their new trail running gear for 2013 and to run in the Swiss Irontrail. I love trail running, tried at one point to get an innovation management job at Mammut, and am a Doktor of Science who digs new technologies, so this was a fantastic opportunity to hangout with the Mammut crew and learn about their new Absolute Alpine concept for trail running. We had the opportunity to hang out with the product managers for trail shoes and clothing, and here is a preview of the 2013 trail shoes from Mammut. The trail running shoe portfolio is broken down in three types, the Dyneema 201, MTR 201, MRT 141, and MTR 71 shoes.
This is the top of the line shoe, one of the differentiators for Mammut as they break into the trail running sport. The uppers are composed of Dyneema, a super strong fiber with a tensile strength 15x that of steel and super light. If you climb chances are you have some slings made of the fiber, and if you wear body armor and raid terrorist camps, there’s also a good chance it’s protecting you from bullets and shrapnel. Being high in strength and difficult to cut, ballistic fibers can be difficult to work with in a high production setting so it’s very interesting to see that Mammut is bringing a Dyneema shoe to market. The shoe is the same as the MTR 201, but very sleek due to the minimal design and Dyneema material.
My background in ballistic fabrics started back in middle school when my mom took me down to Detroit to get some rolls of Kevlar for my science fair project, a bullet proof vest. I put together a very rough vest, mainly made of industrial weave Kevlar, and tested it with a .45 handgun and my .22 rifle. The .22 bullets almost bounced off but the .45 slugs were embedded, due to the weak weave of the fabric, anyways, let’s just say I was geeked out seeing ballistic fibers used in a trail running shoe.
More affordable and without Dyneema, the 201 has the same design sense, the long haul mountain shoe for ultra distance with the same multi-directional Sonar sole. The uppers are a breathable mesh with liquid rubber by the toe. The design of the sole curves inwards, very aggressive and I can imagine this design will perform very well for dancing over rocks on alpine trails. Unlike a shoe like the Salomon S-Lab 4 (which I run on) the MTR 201 design doesn’t have a lot of sharp edges around the sole and excess material. I think the 201 will be a fine top of the line shoe for my high alpine runs next year.
A little heavier than the 201 version, the 141 sports a flexible profile with a reinforced heal and breathable uppers. The pivot point of the shoe is near the ball of the foot, similar to the La Sportiva Vertical K, where you see a definite flexing of the shoe where it’s needed from your foot. The heel-toe drop also isn’t extreme, so I think this and the 201 will work well with my biomechanics, were a low heel-toe drop puts less stress on my frontal leg muscles and is more natural on the flat parts of trails.
Built for normal mountain ultras, the 71 is cheaper and stiffer than the 141 and 201. The sole is more reminiscent of a shoe like the Salomon Crossmax XR, and it has stabilization along the sides of the foot with stiff foam. In some ways I see the 71 as being more ideal than the 141 or 201 for difficult ridges where you would like more stability and stiffness in the shoe, as well as protection for when you get tired and randomly bash your foot on rocks. The 71 has a higher torsional stiffness, which for me means it will be more stable on steep ridges, and give me more of a feeling like a light mountaineering shoe. It’s a bit heavier than the 141 and 201 designs.
Overall the 2013 Mammut line of shoes is pretty kick-ass. They are light and well-made with attention to detail and should be excellent in the Alps and trail running in general. If they can survive the Swiss Alps, you can be sure they will do well on the broader mountains in the States. The 201 Dyneema will be overkill for most runners, but the uppers will last forever, and as you start to toe that line between trail and mountain running, shoe durability becomes more important. For example, my Salomon Crossmax shoes are coming apart in the toe region after one season due to the fabric tearing after I started taking them on real mountain runs. This is due to the material transition from the toe guard to breathable uppers. There’s no way this would happen with Dyneema. I see the Dyneema as interesting competition to the new Salomon S-Lab Sense (which retail for $200 in the US) and for those looking for light shoe that will last. By all reports the Sense is a very comfortable shoe, but with the Dyneema 201 the goal is comfort and exceptional durability. We weren’t able to try the shoes during the Mammut Irontrail test event as production is just ramping up in the factories, but hopefully I’ll be able to try them out next year.