I recently received a pair of Salomon Vega GTX trail shoes from the nice mannie, Adam, at GO Outdoors.
As some of you may have noticed from my photos I’ve always worn traditional heavy, leather boots year round. But this summer I thought wait… maybe it’s time try something different. Having read about the advantages of lightweight hiking/trail shoes from many of you fellow bloggers, I thought it was about time to move out of my traditional way of thinking and try a hiking shoe.
So I browsed the walking shoes at GO Outdoors and selected a pair of Salomon Vega GTX Women’s Walking Shoes.
According to the product specification, these are:
Waterproof, comfortable shoes for tackling the trail.
The Salomon Vega GTX are lightweight, tough. fully waterproof walking shoes designed to deal with tricky terrains in wet or dry conditions.
They boast a fully waterproof, highly breathable GORE-TEX lining, which will keep water out while allowing any sweat vapour to escape, keeping your feet fresher for longer.
The Vega GTX use a shock-absorbing Phylon midsole and a robust Contagrip outsole to give an excellent combination of cushioning, traction and support while you’re tackling changing terrains.
GORETEX I know, and know it works for me ie it’s breath-ability is sufficient for my perspiration levels in UK walking temperatures. What is Phylon? Phylon is made of EVA foam pellets that are compressed, heat expanded and then cooled in a mould. As it says, it provides good shock absorption and is lightweight. Contagrip is the Salomon brand name for their sole. It is new to me, but I’ve read that it is supposed to be very good on wet rock. I’m happy to try to see if the sole is sufficiently grippy for me in my walking situations.
Part One: Out of the box
My initial reaction was these hiking shoes looked rugged, that is the looked like a ‘proper’ hiking shoe, (whatever that is) and not a fancy trainer.
I was very relieved to see the colour. On the catalogue they look pink, or at least pink-ish and pink is so not my colour! But they are brown and what is probably described in fashion circles as mauve. *I see they look pink-ish in my photos too, but they’re not!
As I said, they are chunky. Good; I like chunky. (I don’t want no sissy, girly-looking hiking gear! :-))
The sole extends about 2cm up the front and the toe section is further protected by a toughened leather piece on top of the soft suede. As well as protecting my toes, this will prolong the life of the fabric of the shoe. I’ve often wondered why leather boots don’t feature a toe guard – or as I like to call it – a kick guard.
The heel is similarly protected with the sole extending up the back of the shoe about 4cm with stiffened leather beyond the Contragrip sole itself.
This adds to the overall stiffness of the heel area, which will probably help to support the foot. I think the lower cut of a shoe has the potential for the heel to be sloppy, but this rigid ‘framework’ prevents that.
I like the bellows tongue as I feel that gives a little more protection against grit and bits of vegetation getting inside shoes or boots.
Looking at the sole they appear, to my untrained eye, to have plenty of grip, They have deep cleats so should grip in mud, but I wait to see how they perform on testing in wet and dry conditions, especially on rock.
The padding around the ankle felt a little stiff, but in fact is just enough to feel supportive.
The sizing is good and the UK size 6’s I ordered felt correct in both length and width. I admit I was very relieved to find these fit without trying them on as the last time it took me three pairs of boots before getting a good fit! Most women’s shoes/boots are cut to accommodate women’s higher arches which need additional support. I’m not like most women and have a low arch. However I know it’s best to support low arches and the footbed of these feels supportive without feeling too high.
I know weight is important to many, so I weighed these. They are about 720g for a pair of size 6. I know that is not as light as some, but I wanted lined shoes as I like having dry feet for as much as possible. (I know, I’m maybe being too optimistic in hoping to keep dry inside low cut shoes as opposed to boots, but I’ll try them).
I wore them around the house for a couple of days and they felt comfortable right from the start. For a low cut shoe, they certainly feel snug and supportive.
Part Two: In the Woods
I’ve now worn these on short walks (5 – 9 km) in the local forest. Compared to say standard trainers the soles of these are well cushioned – indeed they felt a little stiff initially on the single-track road to the woods until I got used to them. The Forestry Commission have recently improved the forest road for their vehicles by chucking down large (~5cm diameter) chunks of stone and the Vegas breezed over these without feeling any sharp points through the sole.
I’ve not yet used them in very wet ground as the really wet stuff in the woods is also very muddy and I avoided that. Not because I’m frighted of a bit of mud, but because I know the mud will block the pores of any breathe-able fabric and I try to avoid doing more cleaning than necessary. They certainly kept my feet dry when wandering through the wet vegetation when going off the path chasing moths.
I’m still to find the best socks to wear with these. I’ve been using my usual Brigdedale socks that I wear in my boots, but they are a bit thick. The shoes felt too warm and a bit tight, even with the thinnest of the 3 weights of Bridgedales I have. I also tried bog-standard un-cushioned socks from the high street, but didn’t feel right in these. I am going to try a trail-running sock as recommended by my hill-runner son.
Part Three: On the Hill will follow shortly
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Update – December 2011
Part Three: On the Hill
I’ve used the Salomon Vega GTX hiking shoes practically every day during the summer (I used them for work as a Forest Ranger, rather than my work-issued boots) and they have performed well.
I’ve used them when walking up several hills here in Scotland, including in the Cairngorms, carrying a fairly heavy day rucksack. (The poor summer has meant I’ve never been out in the hills without carrying full waterproofs, hats, gloves, etc). The terrain has involved rock, wet grass, heather and mud – plenty of wet, squelchy, peaty mud.
The grip is good on all of the above, except I noticed them slippery on mud-covered rocks, but that may have been the case with my usual boots. They are lightweight, and I really noticed the difference on one walk in the Cairngorms on the day after the multi-day backpack when I’d worn my boots. I almost felt as though I was flying in these. In fact I felt so light and springy that I broke into a run on the way down the well made path. Now I do NOT run, so this says a lot about the shoes!
I’m still undecided about whether a waterproof lining is a good thing for a hiking shoe. The liner kept my feet dry when walking in damp grass or heather, but even more so than with boots, I know I’m wasting time and energy hopping about trying to avoid the deeper puddles. The couple of times when I misjudged my leaps across burns and ended up with the water going in the top, I found I didn’t mind the wet feet. It certainly was easier going after that and my feet were warm in these shoes. On one occasion after one foot had splashed in the burn and come out soaking wet, I sat down took off my shoe, wrung out the sock and a few hours later is was dry.
That leads me on to the one issue I have with them – they get rather hot because of the Goretex lining. Not sweaty at all, but hot. I wore the thinnest Bridgedale socks I could find (with ventilated uppers), but my feet overheated. This lead to my feet swelling and I found my toes were touching the ends on long descents at the end of the day. If I was buying more, I’d probably try one size larger.
The shoes have lasted well. I’ve washed them several times over the summer and apart from a little scuffing on the rubbery toe and heel guards they still look good. Overall, I really like them and I’d reccommed them if you’re looking for a Goretex-lined walking shoe. I’d especially reccomend them for females as the choice of Goretex-lined hiking shoes for women is very limited. Guys seem to have more brands and models to choose from.