Built on the same popular chassis as the popular Exum Ridge, the La Sportiva Monarch Crests offer a climbing- shoe-company-inspired twist to a trail running product. Starting with sticky rubber Frixion outsoles combined with nearly-to-the-toe lacing, the shoes scream performance. Indeed, our test runs with the shoes left our field staff (all men in this test's case) feeling as if they'd donned suction cups on their feet as they leapt among rocks and scree. The rand that extends from the end of the toe box and around both sides of the shoes provides adequate protection when scrambling. A ventilated synthetic leather upper breathes very well and the mesh lining kept our testers' feet relatively cool and dry.
Although initial impressions as we analyzed the beefy sole led us to believe the shoes would be too hard underfoot, we came away pleasantly surprised by the relatively cushy ride. Torsional rigidity was good; however, lateral stability left our users feeling the shoe needed a bit more oompf when the going got too rugged. Of course, more oompf (a technical term for more overall stability) would mean the shoe gains weight, which is not necessarily a good thing because it then becomes less nimble as a trail running shoe.
Weighing in at 1 pound 13 ounces for a men's 9.5, the shoe offers a super lightweight alternative for those trail adventurers who seek a shoe that will handle rock, trail, and the occasional venture off-trail and onto the wild side. We found the fit to be medium-wide in the forefoot, which means the shoe might not fit as well for those with narrower or lower-volume feet.
SNEWS Rating: 4 hands clapping. (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)
Suggested retail: $95
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