For as far-reaching as Nike is in the wide world of sports, the brand’s most exciting work today routinely comes out of its ACG outdoor division. Perhaps this is because its mission of creating gear for all conditions allows (and must account) for more possibilities than the relatively controlled settings of organized sports, or perhaps the innate aggression needed for technical apparel and footwear is more naturally invigorating.
Nike ACG may even benefit from a certain level of obscurity. Although calling it a cult label may be underselling its popularity, it does operate at a distance from Nike’s primetime broadcasting and broad consumer stockists. You almost have to seek out ACG, and if you do you’re likely more open to its more daring experiments in form and function.
Of all of Nike ACG’s recent output — including dazzling, nature-inspired prints and shoes that dispense water on their own —the Mountain Fly sneaker-boot hybrid is without a doubt its most impressive. A waterproof Gore-Tex membrane is shrouded beneath a sleek, laceless upper that hugs the foot and ankle like a sock. An unyielding tread reminiscent of a tank’s continuous track appears not only underfoot, but climbs up the side of the midsoles to help keep you upright through awkward steps or protect you from kicking an errant rock. But where the shoe really gets you, or at least where it got me, is with what’s packed inside that midsole that you can’t even see.
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Nike ACG debuted the Mountain Fly in fall 2020 and followed up the ankle-enveloping hiker with a lower-cut version sans Gore-Tex the following season. Both models have routinely sold out since, wherever they’re sold, and I’d been dying to get my feet in them. I was fully expecting how well it would handle wet and slippery conditions, but what really caught me by surprise is just how comfortable they are.
The Mountain Fly’s midsole packs Nike’s React cushioning, the lightweight and pillowy foam that’s become a mainstay throughout the company’s footwear offerings. I’ve worn it in shoes for basketball, running, and everyday wear — but it’s within the Mountain Fly that I’ve found the material most dreamy.
The feeling beneath my feet is remarkably plush, and the carbon fiber plate pulled over from Nike’s record-breaking marathon sneaker helps to encourage a healthy, propulsive stride. Unlike harder and heavier hiking shoes, the Mountain Fly moves you forward so efficiently it feels like an RPG upgrade. Helping with the fluidity of each step is the almost seamless upper, which tightens by simply pulling on a cinch cord.
I’ve yet to take the Mountain Fly on anything resembling a trail, but Nike ACG designed the shoe in equal parts for urban life, and it’s held me down well through sheets of ice, the mammoth slush piles that build up in NYC gutters, and all the salt residue that’s preceded and succeeded snowstorms. But because the shoes aren’t overly warm (that’s what wool or fleece socks are for), I’ll absolutely be wearing them on a proper hike when summer arrives.
Of course, I’m also a vain person concerned with form at least as much as function, and it doesn’t hurt that the Mountain Fly looks so utterly cool. The jagged sole and webbed outer layer can easily inspire delusions of you falling into your own action scene, and my pairing the all-black versions of the kicks with matching black cargo pants make me believe I could at least be a casualty without dialogue in The Expendables.
No basketball or running shoe from Nike has hit quite like this in at least a decade.
Even amongst gorpcore’s current reign in fashion, it just doesn’t feel like a shoe that’s waterproof and/or for hiking should be this cool. No basketball or running shoe from Nike has hit quite like this in at least a decade, and it’s noteworthy when the brand can match the excitement of its high-profile collabs while focusing on function and keeping things in-house. The Mountain Fly is a unicorn amongst the countless releases that come out each year from the biggest giant in sneakers, and it’s hard to imagine anything like it coming from anywhere but ACG.