Posts Tagged Gore-tex
Take it from someone who has been traveling for two decades now: If you want a no-brainer choice for a good multi-purpose travel shoe, it’s hard to go wrong with trail runners.
In some ways shoes like this Velocity 2.0 from Vasque were travel shoes before there was anything marketed as such a thing. Like an “off label” prescription when a drug is used for something else entirely, shoes meant for cross country runners have always shown up in a lot of suitcases and dangling from backpacks.
It’s easy to see why, especially with a 2.0 version like this using the latest materials. These are light and compressible like sneakers/trainers, have the comfort of a good long-distance running shoe, and have the tread to enable plenty of light hiking. You can pound the pavement or navigate cobblestones, then hit the mountains for a trek. If you’re staying at a hotel with a fitness center, these won’t look out of place if you wear them down to the gym to work out on the treadmill or elliptical.
If done some long walks on dirt trails, sidewalk pounding, and a few trips to the local gym with these and have been quite happy with the comfort level and stability. They feel as good as running shoes, but have serious tread and a “bumper guard” on the front to offer protection. They breathe well when my feet get hot and though I went for the regular version, there’s a waterproof one with Gore-Tex if you’ll be in wet conditions a lot. Expect to pay $15-$20 more for that upgrade. Be advised those only come in bright yellow though—not so good if you’re trying to avoid standing out more than usual when traveling.
The construction is all man-made materials, including a thermoplastic urethane shank and reflective bits to help you be seen at night. A little real leather might help the looks, but you can be sure these are going to hold up for the long haul.
This is the third pair of Vasque shoes I’ve tried now and my only gripe has involved the width. In general, Vasques are sized for people with normal or narrow feet. These trail runners have more give built into them though and this Velocity pair I tried wasn’t constricting at all.
I’ve probably tried out 20 pairs of hiking boots and shoes in the last decade and these Wolverine Pulsar ones may finally be my Goldilocks pair—just right. They’re comfortable but supportive, waterproof yet breathable, and are not so narrow that they compress your toes in front.
The cool thing is, you could have very different feet and still find these just right for you, thanks to Wolverine’s unique offering of a disc inside the shoe—under the removable insole—allowing you to adjust the heel for your gait and activities. It rotates to four settings, two of them to compensate for problems the way custom orthodics do: low arches/inward wear or high arches/outward wear. (Take a look at your oldest shoes and you’ll probably see one side of your heel worn more than the other.) The two other settings are firm or cushion, to adjust for how soft you want the shoes based on your energy and the terrain. I wasn’t so sure this feature was for real, but I tried it on different settings and could feel the difference. Since I have flat feet, this disc adjustment has allowed me to wear these for weeks without feeling the need for orthodics.
But wait, there’s more! The Vibram rubber outsole is as good as you’re going to find on any hiking boots and I got excellent traction from them on dry rocks and in slippery streams while hiking in the mountains of Bulgaria. Since Wolverine’s heritage is making heavy-duty work boots, you know they’re designed to hold up in trying conditions.
Despite the mesh-looking upper, these are totally waterproof too, thanks to the Gore-tex membrane built into them. Again, I went stomping through streams with these things and when my companion’s socks got soaked, mine stayed toasty dry.
They come in two colors: the black with yellow trim ones I’m modeling there at the top and the light blue ones in the photo to the right.
If you’re still not sure this adjustment wheel thing is for real, Wolverine gives you a 30-day comfort guarantee. Wear the shoes for 30 days and “If you’re not completely satisfied that they’re the most comfortable shoes or boots you’ve ever worn, send them back for a refund.”
You can get the Pulsar hiking shoes in regular and wide sizes, on the half size, at outdoor gear stores or direct from Wolverine at a list price of $175. They’re just starting to show up at the online retailers, but Amazon has them at a discounted price.
We’re always interested in good double-duty travel shoes that can take you from the streets to the trail to the restaurant. These nice-looking leather shoes from Clarks appear to the naked eye like some regular street shoes you’d wear to the office or the mall, but there’s more to them than that.
The GTX in the name is a clue: these Clarks Street Lo shoes have a Gore-tex membrane inside, so they’ll work fine with khakis at a restaurant, but they’ll also keep your feet dry when you get caught in the rain. That makes them a great pair of shoes to wear in the airport on the way and then use as your main pair when you’re heading to, say, anywhere between Portland and Vancouver.
I wasn’t sold on the idea of Gore-tex with solid leather—no venting—so I talked to someone at Gore to get more details. Leather is naturally permeable since it’s skin like ours. The problem comes when it’s subjected to lots of processing in the tanning and coating process. Those patent leather shoes or ones treated with wax waterproofing are going to trap all the moisture inside. So Gore works with the shoe companies in recommending certain types of leather that still let moisture escape after it passes through the Gore-tex membrane. Then each type of shoe is tested extensively in their lab to make sure your feet won’t get sweaty. (See 8 things you should know about Gore-tex.)
Granted, leather is not going to breathe as well as synthetic fabric in a trail runner or ski jacket, but hopefully you’re not using these Clarks shoes for that kind of strenuous activity. For normal walking and hanging out, these should keep your feet dry from the outside and inside.
The thick rubber sole is great for pavement pounding and should hold up to years of heavy use. I often pull out the cheap insoles supplied with many shoes and put in my own orthodics, but the “Active Air” ones included with these Clarks are keepers. They’re thicker than most, with several layers of construction, and have a little airpod system that pushes air up and onto your foot as you walk. I couldn’t feel it, but the idea is that this helps the air circulate.
These shoes list for around $150, despite being made in China, but part of that premium is the Gore-tex and part of it is the quality materials and real stitching—-not glue. The padding around the ankle and tongue are good and there’s one big bonus factor for those with larger feet who normally have problems with Gore-tex booties making the fit too narrow: these come in a wide version too. They’re on the heavy side and feel very substantial, so wear these as you travel and pack the wispier shoes in your bag.
When the walking shoe company Rockport sent me a pair of their bold-looking Zenacity shoes and told me they were Gore-tex waterproof, I don’t think they expected me to drag them through the mud and muck for four hours. But hey, that’s how we roll here at Practical Travel Gear.
So the photo above is how they looked through most of the hike through the jungle in Chiapas, where days of solid rain had turned the trail into a big mess and the streams were lapping over the footbridges. (Below you can see a picture of what these fine shoes look like when not subjected so heavily to the elements.)
Until the water got too high at one point and sloshed inside, these lightweight Zenacity shoes were performing great. My socks stayed dry the whole time and my feet stayed cool. These being Rockports, they were quite comfortable for all-day wear. We review a lot of travel shoes here, but I haven’t seen any that look quite like these and I enjoyed wearing something around that stood out in a sea of sneakers and hiking boots from the others in my group.
The usual Gore-tex properties apply here: waterproof on the outside, but sweat molecules can escape from the inside. Adidas is also in the mix on these, with their technology built into the cushioning. They were using an old typewriter with a sticky caps lock button apparently to come up with adiPRENE, geoFIT, and truWALK names to brand the various contributions. It’s basically shock absorption, cushioning around the edge, and full-range motion enabling in your stride. Silly names aside, these are very comfortable shoes straight out of the box. No wide size though—only regular—but they’re not very narrow.
Like Superman faced with kryptonite though, these shoes lost their powers when they got wet inside. The inserts fell apart and both they and the shoes themselves literally took days to dry in humid San Cristobal de las Casas. They were fine after drying and I was going to stick my own orthodics in to replace the inserts anyway eventually, so no biggie. But just be advised: these are meant more for a stroll down sidewalks in the rain than they are for rough conditions. I should have known that: they’re too pretty for the jungle.
If you use them in normal travel conditions instead of extreme ones, these should be great shoes for the long haul. If they hadn’t gotten wet inside, all would have been fine and I plan to keep using them on trips where the walks will be more sedate. They come in three colors and all of them look good. There are also two modifications of this Zenacity design, but I like this “molded” one the best.
The Rockport Zenacity molded shoes with Gore-tex don’t come cheap. They list for $160 and for now anyway, they’re not discounted anywhere that I can see. You can find them in department stores like Dillard’s and on the Rockport site, but follow this link to search Rockport Zenacity prices online
See more travel shoes reviews from this gear blog.
I had the good fortune, a few years back, to visit the Outdoor Research (OR) test lab here in Seattle. They had a machine for repeatedly poking holes in fabric, and a washer full of golf balls, and a number of other things to test the durability of the clothing they make and the materials they make it out of. I was impressed and inspired to do my own testing. That’s why when I got my Enigma Gore-Tex pants from OR, I put on my wellies and stomped around in the choppy, knee deep waters of Puget Sound. The result? I was a little damp around the edges, but that’s all. The rest of me stayed warm and dry.
OR doesn’t skimp on the detailing — this shows in the Enigma pants from the ankles to the waist. There are zip out gaiters (though I’d probably lose them if I took them out) that keep snow and water out of your boots. They’ve got rubber grippy stuff to keep them in place, too, and double velcro closures that make room for bulk if you need it. There ankles cinch up, nice if you’re short, like me, so your pants don’t drag or get caught under your heels. The inner ankle area has tough reinforced fabric to minimize wear from friction. And oddly, there’s a little zippered pocket at the ankle on one side, a good place for that emergency cash for milkshakes after your hike.
The pants have extra fabric where you need it for movement — gussets in the crotch and articulated knees. The waist is super adjustable, there are tabs at each side and a built in belt in the front for more — or less — room as you need it. The zips are all taped for waterproofing — on the legs they run from waist to ankle so you can get in and out of them without taking your boots off. OR throws the ladies a bone by putting flowers on the buttons and detailing the hip and ankle, but they don’t skimp on any of the toughness.
This is a great pair of outerwear pants to add to your travel kit if you’re going to be outdoors in windy or wet conditions. If you add an insulating base layer, you’re good for just about anything — hiking, camping, a walking tour of Seattle in March… They don’t take up a lot of space in your bag and bonus, they’re light weight, so if you need to be prepared for less than ideal conditions, OR’s Enigma pants are a fine addition to your kit.