One of our favorite past times is hiking, and we believe that the biggest impact on our hikes are the shoes on our feet. They can easily mean the difference between an enjoyable hike and one fraught with discomfort and pain.
When we started out we simply wore sneakers that we had laying around the house, and while we had done some running previously we quickly found that they weren’t exactly up to the task of some of the more off trail hiking. They weren’t snug enough to keep our feet from sliding, sometimes causing blisters. The low cut and pliable sole did very little for stability, and on top of that they weren’t great protection from rocks, sticks, and the like.
This got us thinking. If these shoes aren’t very good on simple pleasure hikes, how would they hold up during an emergency if we ended up having to walk a great distance? What if we ended up in a cross country situation? They may suffice, but we could do better.
When we started researching footwear we made a couple of decisions prior to going shopping. We wanted a mid-cut boot with a stiffer sole. While waterproofing wasn’t mandatory, it was one of those nice to have items we’d opt for if possible. We wanted something that looked good to us, and had a history of being durable. With these criteria and some quality backed brands in mind we endeavored to find a suitable replacement.
Enter the Vasque Breeze GTX XCR Boots:
After trying on a few different pair of boots and shoes I finally settled into these, and I couldn’t be happier with the choice. As I was trying on different makes and models I found myself coming back to the fit of these. Here I must admit I’ve had experience with the vibram soles, but they weren’t the thick / stiff soles like on these boots, and can only partially account for the comfort.
I’m getting a little ahead of myself, so let me go ahead and tell you some of the specifics on this shoe. It’s made by Vasque. The model is the Breeze XCR. The XCR was an early model replaced by the GTX. Functionally there is no change, however it should be noted that the GTX signifies “GORE-TEX®” where the XCR had GORE-TEX® printed in it’s entirety. The XCR was one of the first boots to meet Gore’s standards for breathability allowing the use of the GORE-TEX®.
As mentioned before, the sole of this boot is made by Vibram, and while still being stiff, is lighter than other similar boots. The designed with the arc tempo last, which is more athletic in design. The midsole is molded with a full foot plate. The full foot plate provides for the stiffer feel. All of this weighs in at a scant 2lbs 9oz.
On to the impressions.
At the onset, I found the break-in time to be longer than I had expected with the Vibram sole, but considering it has a full foot plate, I can understand why it took a bit longer. During the break-in period I found that while some discomfort could crop up when worn for longer periods, it wasn’t as prevalent as it had been with other shoes. The uppers and flex didn’t take much getting used to at all. The exception to this is that I did notice that I tended to over tighten the shoe across the bridge of my foot.
Once broken in, the boots have worn very well, and are at home in all terrain. The mid-cut adds a level of support that is almost required with the added traction the large lugs on the sole add. I find myself coming back to the sole over and over again. The material is extremely durable and has weathered many rock scrambles, day + hikes, streams, day to day use, and the rigors of working small acreage.
Along with the soles, the waterproofing is top notch. On a trip through the Appalachian mountains in Maryland it rained profusely and the trail was quickly turned into a creek. The shoes remained dry, despite my keeping them submerged most of the day. While they remained dry, they did pick up some weight, so keep that in mind before you go trudging through water on a long hike.
All in all, I think these are very well rounded boots, and can be used for a multitude of purposes while standing up to the test of time. When it comes time to replace them, I’ll likely end up with the newer GTX. For those of you out there who may not like the mid cut, Vasque does make ankle cut shoes with a similar construction.
“It’s always further than it looks.
It’s always taller than it looks.
And it’s always harder than it looks.”
~The 3 rules of mountaineering.