Salewa Firetail GTX
$149, 1 lb. 15 oz. (men’s US size 9)
Sizes: men’s 7-12, 13, women’s 6-10, 11
I’ve long observed that expecting “approach” shoes, made for technical scrambling, to be comfortable for hiking more than a few miles is a bit like expecting your road bike to handle riding on rugged trails. But the Firetail nails the hard-to-find balance between performing as an excellent scrambling shoe while remaining surprisingly comfortable on long hikes.
I wore these low-cuts on a variety of adventures this summer: hiking and off-trail scrambling with a climbing pack in Idaho’s City of Rocks, on dayhikes from Oregon’s Columbia Gorge to New Hampshire’s White Mountains, and on low fifth-class rock climbs. And I honestly did not find a bad thing to say about the shoes. The sticky outsoles felt secure on easy, steep rock routes, smearing on dry granite slabs, or hiking over wet rock. And the shoes were comfortable even on a 17-mile, 4,000-foot dayhike of Franconia Ridge in the Whites (where I appreciated the grippy soles on some very steep, edgy scrambling up the Flume Slide). The shoe has excellent forward flex for striding comfort, yet impressive side-to-side rigidity, and cradles the heel nicely. Plus, unlike some approach shoes, these don’t smash your toes together. The laces extend to the toes and tug a wire that helps snug the shoe’s collar around the ankle for a closer fit. The Gore-Tex membrane kept my socks dry through puddles and never felt hot even on a very humid New England day. I wouldn’t recommend them as a first choice strictly for hiking, but if you’re hiking to some third-class scramble or easy alpine rock climb, these shoes do it all well.
See all of my reviews of hiking shoes I like.
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.