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 section 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.
BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog by clicking either of these links to buy the Salewa Firetail EVO GTX low-cut version at moosejaw.com or the men’s or women’s Salewa Firetail EVO GTX Mid at backcountry.com.
Tell me what you think.
I spent a lot of time writing this story, so if you enjoyed it, please consider giving it a share using one of the buttons below, and leave a comment or question. I’d really appreciate it.
See also my stories:
“Tent Flap With a View: 25 Favorite Backcountry Campsites”
“My Top 10 Favorite Backpacking Trips”
“10 Tips For Getting a Hard-to-Get National Park Backcountry Permit”
“10 Tricks For Making Hiking and Backpacking Easier”
“7 Pro Tips For Avoiding Blisters”
NOTE: I tested gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See categorized menus of all of my gear reviews at The Big Outside.
Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, the creator of The Big Outside, recognized as a top outdoors blog by USA Today and others. I invite you to get email updates about new stories and gear giveaways by entering your email address in the box in the left sidebar, at the bottom of this post, or on my About page, and follow my adventures on Facebook and Twitter.
This blog and website is my full-time job and I rely on the support of readers. If you like what you see here, please help me continue producing The Big Outside by making a donation using the Support button at the top of the left sidebar or below. Thank you for your support.
The Big Outside is proud to partner with sponsors Backcountry.com and Visit North Carolina, who support the stories you read at this blog. Find out more about them and how to sponsor my blog at my sponsors page at The Big Outside. Click on the backcountry.com ad below for the best prices on great gear.