Vasque Breeze III Mid GTX
$180, 2 lbs. 8 oz. (US men’s 9)
Sizes: men’s 7-15 plus wide sizes, women’s 6-12 plus narrow and wide sizes
There’s an almost mind-boggling array of choices out there in shoes and boots for the trail. But many dayhikers and backpackers really only need one solidly built, mid-cut pair of boots that strike a balance between support and out-of-the-box comfort—and basically aren’t too heavy or too light. On a nine-day, mid-July trek on the 105-mile Tour du Mont Blanc in the Alps of France, Italy, and Switzerland, I hiked these boots through wind-driven rain, slick mud, and warm, sunny days, over talus boulders and loose scree, and on trails, dirt roads, and town streets—and they performed well, although I do have one caution about them. Read on.
For starters, at two-and-a-half pounds per pair (for men’s size 9), they’re neither super light nor heavy and clunky, hitting a sweet spot in over-the-ankle support, moderate torsional rigidity, good cushioning and protection underfoot with EVA foam cushioning pods and a TPU shank in the dual-density midsole, and nice forefoot flex. For my medium-volume feet, the fit was good all around: comfortably snug in the heel and midfoot and adequately roomy in the toes. The heel provides a firm, cushioned platform that prevented any foot soreness when carrying over 30 pounds on days hiking up to 12 miles with 3,000 to 4,000 feet of elevation gain and loss. The lacing system is more boot-like than shoe-like, with locking hooks at the midfoot to let you adjust the lacing of the forefoot and ankle independently of one another. I wore the boots on the Tour du Mont Blanc without any break-in needed.
The Gore-Tex membrane, with Gore’s Extended Comfort Technology, kept my feet and socks dry in most of the conditions we encountered, including steady rain and wet trail. But on the afternoon that we slogged for miles through relentless, wind-driven rain over 8,323-foot (2537m) Grand Col Ferret, passing from Italy into Switzerland, the constant soaking from rain, puddles, and mud—plus me testing the waterproofness of the boots by standing in shallow streams—eventually penetrated the membrane, making my socks damp even though my feet weren’t perspiring in those cool temps.
Some water getting through in somewhat extreme conditions isn’t unheard of in boots with partial mesh uppers and numerous seams; some boots at this price are what you might call “waterproof enough” for hikers and backpackers who tend to avoid soaking weather or destinations. The boots I’ve tested over the years that remain waterproof in very wet conditions are almost exclusively well over $200. I’m not offering a judgment about that, just sharing my experience.
Breathability is enhanced by abundant air mesh in the uppers—I carried a pack weighing over 30 pounds (my stuff and another person’s) up long climbs to passes approaching 9,000 feet on sunny days in the 70s Fahrenheit without my feet ever getting uncomfortably sweaty. But these uppers are also armored for hard use by an overlay of 2mm nubuck leather in key areas of wear, like the side walls and the toe, which also has a rubber bumper.
The Vibram Megagrip outsole has multi-directional, variously shaped lugs more similar in design and depth to a lightweight, low-cut shoe than a heavy-duty boot. I found they gripped well in most conditions, although they slipped a bit on wet rock slabs and slick mud.
Overall, the Vasque Breeze III Mid GTX is a competitively priced, good choice for dayhikers or backpackers carrying a pack weighing under 40 pounds, in circumstances where you want waterproof footwear for the possibility of rain or occasional shallow streams and mud. But I would not recommend them for trips in sustained wet conditions.
BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog by clicking any of these links to purchase the men’s Vasque Breeze III Mid GTX boots at moosejaw.com, or rei.com, or the women’s version at moosejaw.com, or rei.com. If you prefer better breathability over waterproofing, the non-Gore-Tex Vasque Breeze III Mid boots ($150) are available in the men’s model at moosejaw.com and rei.com, and the women’s model at moosejaw.com and rei.com.
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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.
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