Posts Tagged hiking shoes
If you readers could be a fly on the wall when I’m complaining about what’s wrong with my shoes months after I’ve started wearing them, you’d hear me bitching a lot about shoelaces. If all my shoes had Boa Technology systems on them, that would stop.
My main pet peeve about footwear companies is they put all this thought and effort into design and materials for the shoe itself, then treat the laces as an afterthought. (Way too many treat the insole as an afterthought too, but we’ll table that one for later). Even shoes retailing for $150 and up too often come with slippery, cheapo shoelaces that don’t stay tied without double-knotting them like you would for a first-grader.
At the last two Outdoor Retailer shows I’ve attended, I got invited to a lunch sponsored by Boa and checked out a bunch of shoes and boots that are using their technology. The systems use a continuous coated wire and a winding, locking turn wheel to control the tightness. Instead of a haphazard lacing system that is too loose in some places and too tight in others, this Boa system gives you precise control. And whatever you set it at, it stays there. No friction, no loosening, nothing to get wet or freeze.
This lacing system is surprisingly simple to use, but very effective. To loosen the shoes or boots, you pop out the circular knob and…that’s it. To tighten them, you simply push the knob in and turn it. As you can imagine, this is far faster and simpler than fumbling with laces during a hike along a precipice or fumbling with buckles when you’re snowshoeing through the woods with gloves on. And can you imagine how much easier a parent’s life becomes when a kid has this system instead of shoelaces? No matter how young, they can fasten this themselves. You can see a video demo here.
Many sport-specific brands are using Boa systems. The company was doing something really cool at that gear trade show though: taking attendees laces out of their shoes and rigging them up again with their superior system for people to pick up later.
For writers like us, they did the same with some new shoes, in my case for these cool Adidas kicks pictured below that I’ve been wearing around and getting comments on. Sorry, you can’t buy these, but you can get Adidas golf shoes with Boa lacing. Also running/trail shoes from Treksta or biking shoes from Specialized.
In the winter sports world, you’re seeing this system in more snowboard and ski boots from Apex, Scarpa, and Black Diamond. But you can apply this fastening to other products as well: Smith Optics is using it in helmets.
A lot of the products I saw in demos earlier this year are for this current winter season or the coming spring one, so keep an eye out as you’re browsing the shoes and boots at your local outdoor gear store. Once people experience this superior technology, they start bitching even more about their shoelaces, so you should see an amplification from the network effect as word of mouth spreads.
Unlike shoelaces, these systems come with a lifetime guarantee. See more at BoaTechnology.com.
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For low-top hiking shoes that will hold up to tough terrain and water, these Lowa Renegade II ones set you up with Gore-Tex, a Vibram sole, and quality Nubuk leather. And hey, they’re not made in China.
I’ve had far too many pairs of shoes in my review queue much of this year, so I’ve had my hiking housemate trying out the women’s version of the Renegade, one of Lowa’s perennial popular models. It comes in a variety of styles and heights, but she liked the look and functionality of the low ones in maroon.
These shoes are advertised as being comfortable right out of the box and on that claim they passed well. They didn’t go on a five-mile hike out of the box, but they probably could have if needed. (With some good travel socks that is.) The leather is supple, the tongue is not stiff, and the lining is soft. There’s plenty of support where it counts though, with serious tread that’s ready for rock-hopping, a PU midsole that is lightweight but with plenty of cushion, and a nylon shank for stability.
Speaking of lightweight, these certainly are. They might look like they’ll weigh you down, but they come in at under a pound each—great for leather ones. They come in a version with or without Gore-tex. This GTX model has it and it’s been useful since we arrived in hilly central Mexico during the rainy season. If you’re in an always-dry climate though, you might not need to pay the premium.
There is a premium no matter what though when you buy these European hand-crafted shoes. They’re well-made and built to last, so you’re looking at a list price of $170 to $200. A real investment for many people.
In the months she has been using them, my female tester has been happy with all but one aspect: the toe box is too narrow. She has what are usually deemed normal-sized feet, so try these on first before buying them if your feet are not very narrow. Some online reviewers have complained about this as well, so hopefully it won’t be a permanent issue in the series.
For those trips where you’ll be combining lots of walking, some light hiking, and possibly carrying a backpack from town to town, these rugged but lightweight Chaco Hinterland shoes will keep your feet happy and protected.
What do you think of when you think of Chacos? Probably some comfy flip-flops or sandals, maybe even their customizable ones that you can order in your favorite colors. The brand has a fanatic following from those buy one pair and then keep going back for more.
But Chacos does make shoes too, including some darn good ones for travel. I’ve reviewed the leather Tedhino Low ones in the past and lately I’ve been digging their new Hinterland shoes.
On the outside these look like a lot of these light hiking shoes we review here, with serious tread, toe protection, and a cushioned EVA midsole with a support shank inside. The upper—depending on which of two models you get—is either all nubuck leather and suede or a mix of that and some mesh for more breatheability. The tread is ready for serious trails and is made with 25 percent recycled materials.
Chacos fans will tell you though that what they like best is what’s next to their feet. The company likes their footbeds so much they’ve given them their own brand name: “Luvseat.” This is not your typical insole that you feel like tossing and replacing after a couple months.
Otherwise, you get what you expect in an outdoor activity shoe like this: a pull tab on the back, a gusseted tongue with padding, cushioning around the ankle, and a mesh lining. If you’re a long-term backpacker or someone who will be hitting some trails on your vacation, this is a good all-around travel shoe that’s not too heavy or clunky. Don’t take these if you’re going somewhere really rainy though: neither version is waterproof.
The Chaco Hinterland lists for $125 in the all-leather version, $120 in the mesh version. Each comes in several earth tone colors.
Gearing up for autumn hiking? This is my favorite time of year to hit the trails in cooler weather and solitude, and I’ll be doing so in Adidas Terrex Fast X shoes. The Terrex line is great; last year, I reviewed the Adidas Terrex Formotion hiking boot, and as I wore them all summer, my only wish was for an ankle-height version. The Terrex Fast X answers this wish with a hiking shoe that’s solid enough for all terrain and many miles, with just a bit less heft.
While the Terrex Fast X is lighter than the Formotion due to the lower cut, it is not a lightweight hiker. It’s not meant to be. The Fast X is definitely substantial (this is not a trail runner). You get EVA midsoles that absorb shock and traction that does the job on gravel, rock, and mud. The arch support is good, and protection plates guard against bruising. The Fast X includes a Gore Tex liner that’s waterproof yet breathable; your feet will stay dry in rain and through shallow creeks.
Some people love quick-pull speed laces, and some hate them. I’m in the love ‘em camp, because I always feel I can get a closer fit. The Fast X quick-pull lacing system allows you to tighten as you see fit. (The Fast X isn’t very narrow, and the lacing system helps you get a narrower fit if desired.) After three 2-3 hour hikes in the Fast X, I didn’t notice any loosening of the laces. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case with this type of lacing.
All in all, if you’re looking for a strong, substantial hiker featuring an ankle-height cut, the Fast X is a solid choice. It’s easy to slip in and out of, and will take care of your feet on a variety of terrain. Pick up a pair in men’s or women’s models for $135 at Adidas or various prices at Amazon, Zappos, or Altrec. The men’s come in black/gray, and the women’s offer gray, pink, green, red, and magenta. Hardly seems fair.
GoLite has assembled a perfect team of shoes for women who love outdoor adventure. Start with their XT89 hiking boot, a full-duty boot with all the bells and whistles. You get premium, waterproof leather, a protective rubber toe guard, and a soft tongue and flexible lace system. The boot secures the ankle, a plus if you’re prone to tripping over roots like I am.
What really sets GoLite’s hiking boots apart is the sole. It’s extremely flexible and intuitive. You get great traction with the signature ‘gecko’ bumps (called Gecko 270), but also a midsole that works in tandem with the outsole, bending at will. What does this mean? The hiking boot performs like a running shoe. Even though the XT89 is as substantial as most mid weight hikers, it moves much more fluidly along the trail. Plus, it’s zero drop construction means that your heel doesn’t come up as you walk, eliminating blisters.
Because of the unique design of the XT89, there are some unique issues to watch for. For instance, perhaps due to the zero drop feature, my foot shifts further forward in the boot when I walk than usual. The emphasis of my gait seems to be on the ball of my foot, not my heel. (This is the correct way to walk, but still may be foreign to some of us who have been adjusting to other footwear for far too long.) Because of this, I opted for a half size bigger in the XT89.
The footbed of the XT89 includes a noticeable amount of arch support. I love this, personally, but if you don’t, this could become a factor. The arch is pronounced enough to possibly roll your foot inward. The boot does come with an optional (and removable and customizable) insole system that can adapt the footbed to your liking.
The After Hike Shoe
But wait, there’s more. You’ll want to pair your new hiking boots with GoLite’s new recovery shoes, the GoLite Elixir. These shoes are not just apres-sport cozy footwear: they actually help your feet recover from the day’s activity. How? With an incredible foot massage, as far as I can tell. It’s hard to describe; you just slide them on, and immediately say, “Ahhh.” Here’s how GoLite says it works: memory foam over the top of the shoe (forming to your foot) provides compression, promoting blood flow. At the same time, the footbed cushions your foot with maximum shock absorption, with a supportive arch that rests against the ball of your foot like a masseuse’s hand against a pressure point. Truly, it’s heavenly.
I wear my Elixirs not only after hiking, but also in the airport (so easy to slide on and off for security, and great for blood flow during long flights), at home, and after days at conferences, theme parks, or wherever I’ve walked a great deal. The design of the Elixir is a slip-on, so they’re not ideal for long walking periods (put them on afterward), but they are equally great with or without socks and in winter or summer. The soles have good traction, so they will work for short commutes around the campground, across the snow from the lodge, and for other short distances in all conditions.