Anyone who follows this blog knows how much of a fan I am of footwear. To me, there is no piece of gear more important for day-to-day hiking purposes. When my feet are comfortable I can walk forever, regardless of other conditions. This was a great year for me, as the Salomon XA Pro 3D saw me cover countless miles in multiple countries, the Inov-8 Trailroc 255 helped me fly around the San Gabriels, and although the tread fell apart, the La Sportiva Ultra Raptor dug in to every terrain I threw at it. 2015 looks to be an exciting year for new offerings. I plan to stick with the Salomon XA Pro 3D for the foreseeable future, but there are a few new models coming in 2015 that have caught my eye. Here is a list of my top 5!
Also, check out my updated list for 5 More Exciting Lightweight Hiking Shoes here!
1.) Salomon X Alp Carbon GTX
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the name, Kilian Jornet, he has set multiple speed records in ultramarathons and summit attempts. He is the king of the FKT. For his ascent record of Alaska’s Denali, he needed a lightweight boot that could handle everything…and Salomon delivered. The Salomon X Alp Carbon is a crampon compatible GTX hiking/backpacking shoe that is lightweight, yet fully rigid, thanks in part to Salomons ingenious shank. The zip-up booty design is similar to that employed on the Salomon Snowcross, but looks a little beefier. I’m looking forward to using these on terrain far less challenging than Killian, but I think they’ll still fill an important roll in my shoe rotation. I hate wearing boots, their weight and size have always been a annoyance for me. Yet, there is terrain where they are mandatory. I’m hoping the X Alp Carbon will fill the void left where trail runners are too light, and mountaineering boots are too extreme.
2.) Salewa Speed Ascent
Salewa is a company that makes a lot of great gear. The problem is, it’s not readily accessible in the United States. That’s been starting to change in the last few years, as their approach shoes (Wildfire and Firetail) have grown in popularity. They also have a few pairs of boots available on REI’s online store. This year, the Salewa Speed Ascent won an Outdoor Industry award for it’s innovation. I’m most excited to try this shoe for very fast days, with a minimal pack, on dry flat trails. The shoes looks light and sturdy, with a rockered profile, something I’ve come to enjoy with trail running shoes. I’m also very interested in customizing the speed lacing that seems to have an infinite number of possible configurations. Depending on it’s durability, this could be a really solid thru hiking shoe, and one I may consider for John Muir Trail.
3.) Dynafit MS Pantera X7
From what I understand, Dynafit and Salewa are the same company, or Salewa is a wholly owned subsidiary of Dynafit. Well, much like Salewa, shoes from Dynafit have been pretty hard to come by in the US, but luckily that’s starting to change. The Pantera looks like a solid fastpacking shoe that is made to go the distance. The overlays may be a little worrisome in warmer weather, but these shoes look like they can handle the toughest of mountain conditions. Another feature that really sticks out to me is the BOA lacing closure system. I love the Salomon quicklace system, and have come to really dislike traditional laces. BOA lacing kicks it up a notch, and everything I’ve seen about them leads me to believe more and more manufactures will be adopting them soon.
4.) Brooks Cascadia 10
Okay, so the Cascadia is the most popular trail shoe on the PCT, and probably won’t jump out as “exciting”. The fact that the shoe hasn’t changed radically over the years is a welcome comfort to all those who love it. This year, Brooks has added a new overlay material for the toe box and a slightly redesigned lug pattern for the outsole. There isn’t much else to say about the Cascadia that hasn’t already been said. I expect to see this shoe on the majority of fastpackers on the PCT again this year.
5.) New Balance MT1210 v2
Last year I tried on a pair of the NB Leadville MT1210s, the shoe felt great under foot, and was one I was seeing increasingly on the trails. The problem for me was that the shoe felt really hot with too thick of an upper. This was especially noticeable in the heel collar which felt like a skate shoe. I just couldn’t get my foot to sit comfortably, and walking around the store, my heel bobbed up and out. It looks like New Balance has made a lot of small corrections for the MT1210 V2, starting with the upper. The upper looks noticeable thinner, with less overlays and a more breathable looking material used. The tongue looks a little longer, which is nice as I found the tongue on V1 too short. The heel collar looks to be less padded. The outsole design, which I’ve read great things about, looks to be unchanged. In all, this looks to be a step in the right direction, and I’m sure I’ll be seeing a lot more of these out on the trails this year.
Updated Honorable Mention:
6.) La Sportiva Mutant
I’ve been doing most of my recent snow hikes in a pair of the La Sportiva Crossover GTX 2.0, and have nothing but great things to say about them. La Sportiva has a new shoe coming out called the Mutant that is built on the same last, midsole, and outsole. It looks like the only difference will be with the upper. The thing I like most about the Crossover is the super sticky outsole. The lugs work great in all conditions, and I’ve been able to fly over any combination of trail surfaces I’ve come across. The midsole is responsive and very stable, which is a combination I love. For the Mutant, it looks like La Sportiva developed a new spiral tongue technology, which is probably a response to the popularity of Endo-fit by Salomon. I really like the look of the lacing system, as it looks very customizable and comfortable for long days on the trail. The Mutant looks very promising!