Save your feet with these lightweight running gaiters: Montbell Stretch Short Spats gear review

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 12.19.39 PMI bought a pair of these spats (lightweight gaiters) a few years ago and I loved them. Snug fit, perfect for trail running. So I’m really excited about the recent improvements Montbell has made both to their design and their materials, making them even better.

I used my old Montbell spats on mountain runs in British Columbia and Washington state. They are so light that you don’t even notice you’re wearing them. And they are well contoured and tight, so they do a great job of keeping out the mud and grit and seeds and all those other things that wreak havoc on your feet on a long run.

I decided I’d put these new ones through the ultimate test of carrying me through my 70k race at Ultrafiord, Patagonia, last month. None of us knew beforehand that 29 km of the route would be slogging through mud that ranged from merely ankle-deep to thigh-soaking… but as soon as we hit that stuff, I was pretty pleased that I had these gaiters on, and not any other. I’d made a great decision.

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See? Lift the one gaiter up, and check out how clean my socks are!

No, they did not keep every single molecule of mud out, but they did an amazing job in these toughest of conditions, and my feet came out of the 19 hour race – more than half of that in mud, and several km over ice and snow, too – in great shape. After that 29k mud section, I was hiking up the mountain behind another woman who was wearing OR gaiters. They couldn’t handle the terrain – they were drooped low, below her ankles, below the tops of her shoes, even! She might as well have been wearing Buffs around the ankles for anything they were doing – providing no protection at all, basically just adding needless weight and wetness. Meanwhile, my Montbells were still high up my ankles, doing what they were supposed to do.LDSCN1941

These gaiters are really easy to put on. Probably their only minor drawback is that you have to remove your shoes to get them on and off – but I don’t think there is any way around that in a gaiter that is so conforming and tight. There is a sturdy metal hook up front, to attach to your laces, and a rubber strap with elastic that comes down the inside of the ankle, under the shoe, and hooks on to the outside. You do have to make sure you pull the gaiter down snugly, as far as it will reasonably go over the heel, when you first put it on, or that elastic may unhook and snap off. But if the gaiter is put on properly, it stays on great.

Since I still have my old Montbells, let’s take a look at what the company has done to improve these new ones:

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The front metal hook is now attached with two eyelets, making it stronger and more durable (photo above, old one on left).

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The rubber strap that goes underfoot is less than half as thick as in the older version, so you are very unlikely to feel that strap in most running shoes (old one on left).

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The inner ankle section of the gaiter, where feet may occasionally brush against or splash one another, is now coated in rubber, to better shed any mud (old one on left).

LIMG_0285The loop where you pull and attach the strap to the outside of your shoe is bigger – much easier to manipulate with cold hands (old one on left).

 

 

 

 

 

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Stitching on top and bottom trim is coarser and appears much more durable (old one on left).

About the only caution I would give about these gaiters is sizing. I am a fairly average-sized female and I wear women’s size 8.5 shoes. The Mediums work perfectly for me, and I could hardly get the Smalls on. We assumed that my husband, who is six feet tall and who wears mens size 10.5 shoes, would take the Large size. However, he has really skinny calves, and the Larges were way too loose for him – he also was good in the Mediums. So, if you have a chance to try them before buying, you should do so. If you can’t, if you have skinny calves, you should probably size down from what you think you need.

These Montbell gaiters are my new favourite piece of trail running gear. They saved my butt in Patagonia, and I’ll be counting on them in Africa for my Kalahari Desert ultramarathon at the end of this year too. Find them at Montbell’s stores in Boulder and Portland, or buy them online.