Gear Review: Salewa Firetail EVO Gore-Tex Shoes
Salewa Firetail EVO Gore-Tex
$149, 1 lb. 11 oz. (men’s 9)
Sizes: men’s 6-13, women’s 3-9
You can find really tough, durable shoes, or really lightweight shoes, but rarely will you find a shoe that can legitimately make both claims. The Firetail breaks that rule. From hiking and scrambling around Utah’s Arches National Park and Idaho’s Castle Rocks State Park to a 22-mile, 5,000-vertical-foot dayhike in the Columbia Gorge, I subjected these shoes to the kind of abuse that would begin shredding other lightweights. Yet other than being dirty and a bit scuffed on the rubber toe bumper, my Firetails still look and perform like new. And although sporting the pedigree of an “approach,” or scrambling shoe for climbers, this is actually the kind of versatile, comfortable, all-around low-cut that all dayhikers should give a serious look.
From hiking on or off-trail—including going straight up the use trail called the Rock of Ages in the Columbia Gorge, a stretch of which gains 2,000 feet in less than two miles—to sticking confidently on steep, granite and sandstone slabs, the shoes proved comfortable and sturdy. A plastic and wire support cage linking the heel and top lace rings to the midsole wrap the foot securely, to prevent the slipping that causes blisters, while leaving decent wiggle room for toes so they don’t get hammered on long, steep descents. Lacing extends to the toes, similar to rock-climbing shoes, helping dial in a close fit in the toe box when you want a little more sensitivity for scrambling steep rock. The Firetail rises a step above many low-cuts with a nylon-and-fiberglass plate in the EVA midsole, giving me support for carrying a 35-pound pack stuffed with climbing gear, and preventing my feet from feeling beat up even after that 22-mile day in the Gorge.
The abrasion-resistant, synthetic uppers, with a rubber toe bumper and wrap-around, Kevlar rand and PU framework grid, are armored for hard abuse—I bashed my toes repeatedly on rocks and roots in the Columbia Gorge without even feeling the impact. The Vibram outsole combines wide, shallow lugs for traction in dirt with smoother rubber under the toes and heel to stick on rock. Plus, a slightly in-cut heel aids in downhill braking. The forefoot sensitivity is good enough for easy fifth-class climbing—I climbed up to 5.6 in them—but the toe box is a little too bulky for sticking to small edges when rock climbing.
The Gore-Tex membrane kept my feet dry splashing through creeks and mud, but makes the shoes a little sweaty on warm days. The shoe comes with two sets of thinly padded insoles that nest together, allowing some customizing of the medium-volume fit. If you’re looking for a lightweight but exceptionally tough hiking shoe that can handle anything, you can hardly do better than the Firetail EVO.
NOTE: I’ve been testing gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See all of my reviews by clicking on the Gear Reviews category at left or in the main menu.