Gear Review: Trail Shoes

Outside of the snowy season, more and more walkers are opting for trailshoes over boots these days. With lower weight and increased flexibility comes more comfort… though the low rise compromises waterproofing. As usual, we’d recommend trying on in a shop rather than buying online, as fit is the most important factor with footwear. Many people find they are wearing a size too small, which can’t be fixed; if the shoes are big enough you can easily adjust with footbeds/socks/lacing.

All weights are per pair; the women’s shoes were tested by Helen and the men’s by Paul, so be careful when comparing the weights!

inov-8 Rocfly G350

RRP: £165
Weight: 800g (men’s UK 11)
Upper: Mesh (no waterproof liner)

Sole: Graphene Grip rubber with 4mm lugs

I was a great fan of inov-8’s terroc shoes for many years, until they were discontinued. They were exceptionally light and comfortable, even if the soles on them wore out very quickly. So I was very interested to try out the sturdier Rocflys. Although a little heavier than the old Terrocs, these seem like they will be much more durable, with a robust sole unit which grips well but is also comfy on harder surfaces. The uppers have a mesh-like fabric on the outside and are the only boots in this test that are not waterproof lined. In most circumstances I find this an advantage, as the shoes are cooler in hot weather, and if they do get wet (wet feet are inevitable over multiple day trips or in poor weather), they also dry far more quickly than lined boots.

Available in mens sizes UK 6 – 14 in olive/orange and women’s UK 3 – 9.5 in blue-green/orange – half sizes for both men and women.

Columbia Escape Thrive Endure waterproof walking shoe

RRP: £145 (£125 womens)
Weight: 960g (men’s UK 11)
Upper: Seamless with OutDry waterproof/breathable fabric mesh, ortholite insole.

Sole: Rubber with 5mm lugs.

I was a bit shocked and sceptical when I first saw these Escape Thrive Endure shoes – the very deep midsoles made me think of platform shoes from the 1960s. However, all that changed since I began wearing them – they’ve performed well on some of Scotland’s toughest terrain, and those huge midsoles do seem to mean excellent comfort, especially combined with the seamless uppers. I’ve often driven home in these after a long walk in them – with no urge to change footwear. The OutDry linings have kept my feet dry, no doubt aided by your foot being so much further from the ground! My only concern would be possibly the durability of the air-pocket filled midsoles – they feel like they would be susceptible to abrasion from scraping against rocks, but I have to say there is no sign of any such damage to date.

Available in mens sizes UK 6 – 14 with some half sizes, in dark grey/red and khaki/blue/orange and women’s UK 3 -10 with some half sizes, in grey/blue.

Merrell Moab Speed GTX

RRP: £125
Weight: 760g (men’s UK 11)
Upper: Seamless mesh fabric with recycled plastic reinforcement at scuff areas, Gore-Tex waterproof/breathable lining.

Sole: Vibram rubber

These are the lightest of the men’s shoes in this test, and have the lowest cut. They seem very well constructed, however, with comfy seamless uppers and reinforcement where most needed, and a good, grippy Vibram sole unit. Although the ones I’ve been wearing have Gore-Tex linings, given the choice I’d save a few quid by opting for the non-waterproof version. In such low shoes you are bound to get wet eventually if it’s wet – so an unlined pair would dry faster and make more sense during the warmer summer months. Note I found the sizing to be slightly smaller than the others in this test.

Available in mens sizes UK 6.5 -14 with some half sizes and 6 colours, women’s UK 2.5 – 8.5 including half sizes and 2 colours. Non waterproof version available, RRP: £105

Hoka Anacapa Low GTX

RRP: £140
Weight: 840g (men’s UK 11)
Upper: Mesh fabric and nubuck leather with Gore-Tex waterproof/breathable membrane.

Sole: Vibram rubber

Hoka are perhaps best known for their running shoes, but the Anacapa Low GTX – with its sturdy Vibram sole unit with a beefy midsole – seem placed firmly in the walking market, though if somewhat fitter than me you could probably be happy putting in a few jogging up a few hills in these. I found the rocking action felt slightly odd when I first wore them, but any concerns on this front quickly evaporated as I got used to wearing them on the hill – comfort levels were excellent. I tend to pronate quite strongly – especially in my right foot – and found that my foot went further over onto the inside in the Hoka’s, leading to increased wear on the inside of the shoe. This is no doubt only a concern for walkers who also tend to pronate; otherwise they would get a strong recommendation.

Available in mens sizes UK 7 – 13.5 and 3 colours and womens sizes UK 5 – 10.5 and 3 colours, half sizes for both.

Berghaus VC22 GTX Walking Shoe

RRP: £140
Weight: 600g (women’s UK 5.5)

Upper: Seamless ripstop fabric with PFC-free water repellent coating, plastic reinforced areas and toe rand, Gore-Tex membrane lining.
Sole: Opti-Stud Vibram rubber.

This lightweight trail shoe is comfortable with added cushioning provided by an ortholite insole and has proved very waterproof in heavy rain but fairly hot in warm weather. The upper fabric is slightly stiff, but concerns that it would rub where the shoe bends have not been realised. The fit is snug and the lacing and sewn-in tongue don’t allow a great deal of width expansion but the laces do hold in place well and combined with added stiffening to the heel upper and the tongue and cuff cushioning these are comfortable to wear.

The Vibram sole is good with deep tread providing good grip in a variety of conditions, no wear on the sole from repeated tarmac walking so far.

Available in women’s sizes UK 4 – 8 and UK 7 – 12 in mens including half sizes for both. Women’s in light grey or navy, men’s in brown/green or black/grey options. Also available as a mid-height boot.

Keen NXIS EVO Waterproof Shoe

RRP: £129.99
Weight: 680g (women’s UK 6)

Upper: Seamless mesh upper with plastic overlay on areas likely to be scruffed and high rubber rand at the heel. Lined with Keen’s own breathable waterproof membrane.
Sole: Rubber with 4mm horseshoe-shaped lugs.

Usual Keen snug fit at the heel and plenty of room in the toe box, slightly wider last than many makes. An injected EVA mid sole adds cushioning and there is a pronounced 7mm drop from heel to toe – add in the low weight and these really do feel like you’re wearing trainers.

The speed-lacing system works well, allowing plenty of adjustment and the tongue and achilles area are well padded for comfort. So far the upper has withstood some harsh wet conditions but is showing slight signs of wear on the mesh where it creases as the foot bends. Sole grip has proved adequate on slippery boggy conditions and steep rock but are showing signs of wear from tarmac walking so best to keep these for the trails. The most comfortable of the women’s shoes in this test.

Available in women’s sizes UK 2.5 – 9 and men’s UK 6 – 14 including some half sizes and in 3 colour options each.

Hanwag Banks Low Lady LL

RRP: £170
Weight: 840g (women’s UK 6)

Upper: Nubuck leather, suede, Gore-Tex lining.
Sole: Rubber (10% recycled)

As the high weight suggests, these are robust walking shoes suitable for rugged terrain – very much boots with a low-cut.

Lacking the Vibram sole of their boot equivalent, they have Hanwag’s own Endurance Hike rubber sole, with decent lugs and good grip. There is plentiful cushioning in the mid sole and the insoles are excellent providing extra support and comfort. The tongue is fixed to one side of the shoe which makes them very easy to get on and off and the lacing works well. The uppers are very tough with reinforcement where needed and they have proved extremely waterproof. However on very wet day walks I might still opt for boots as the height will keep more water out, whilst in better weather I’d prefer a lighter option. These do however feel very reliable, are comfortable, waterproof and reasonably breathable and I’d expect them to be more hard wearing than most.

Available in women’s sizes UK 3.5 – 9, mens UK 6 – 14 and navy/grey and mint/grey colours for women and black/grey, yellow/grey and brown/black for men.

Columbia Escape Pursuit Waterproof Walking Shoe

RRP: £110
Weight: 580g (women’s UK 6)
Upper: Seamless OutDry waterproof/breathable mesh reinforced at toe, sides and heel.

Sole: Rubber with 4mm lugs.

Similar in design and performance to the Berghaus VC22 GTX these are comfortable shoe which holds the foot well and are reasonably waterproof although fairly warm in very hot conditions. The cushioning, from the midsole and ortholite sole is good for prolonged wear and the lacing allows good width adjustment. The sole grips well on rock, not quite so well on steep, wet, ground and is showing signs of wear from prolonged road walking. A decent all round option for trails and lightweight, often on offer at lower price.

Available in women’s sizes UK 3 – 10 including most half sizes, black/turquoise and blue/red and men’s UK 6 – 14 plus some half sizes and in blue/orange or black/gold.

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