Vasque Inhaler II Low
$120, 1 lb. 12 oz. (men’s US 9)
Sizes: men’s 7-14, women’s 6-11
For much of the trail mileage that most dayhikers, backpackers, and runners pound out, breathability is more important than waterproofing—our feet are hot more often than they face any prospect of getting wet. Since moisture and heat are two of the three elements that create blisters (the third is friction), unless you typically hike or run in a wet, cool environment, keeping your feet cool should really be your top concern when choosing footwear—and even more so the farther you hike in a day. On local trail runs of up to about 13 miles in the Boise Foothills, and southern Utah desert dayhikes in the San Rafael Swell and the Horseshoe Canyon District of Canyonlands National Park, the smart design of the Inhaler II Lows kept my feet dry and happy.
Lighter and more breathable than many low-cuts built for hiking, the Inhaler II Lows have airy, abrasion-resistant mesh uppers and ventilation ports at the toe and heel for excellent air flow throughout; I finished trail runs of more than two hours, with 2,500 feet of elevation gain and loss, in warm sunshine, with my socks only slightly damp. With such good breathability, the shoes dry out quickly, too: When I inadvertently got the toes of both shoes wet while crossing a creek on one trail run, they were almost dry by the time I reached my car 45 minutes later. The low- to medium-volume fit allows some wiggle room for toes (but may not fit people with wide feet well). The basic lacing system is quick to loosen and tighten, which is more convenient for hiking and trail-running shoes than the to-the-toes lacing found in technical/approach shoes.
But these aren’t flimsy trail runners. PU-coated leather overlays lend the uppers more structure and protect the sides, toe, and heel without compromising breathability. Vasque’s exclusive Vibram Pneumatic outsole with Megagrip rubber, and well-spaced, multi-directional lugs, provided good traction whether on slickrock or in loose dirt and scree. A molded EVA midsole with a TPU instep shank, plus dual-density EVA footbeds, protect your underfoot from rocks and deliver a nice balance of support, cushion, and flexibility: These shoes fit and feel like trail runners but have enough support for all-day hikes in the mountains, ultra-hiking, and even ultralight backpacking.
For hikers who need waterproofing, there’s also the Vasque Inhaler Low GTX ($160, 1 lb. 10 oz. for men’s US 7), which my teenage son wore on an overnight, lightweight, partly off-trail backpacking trip in Idaho’s White Cloud Mountains (when he realized he had forgotten his backpacking boots at home), and on an eight-mile, 2,300-foot dayhike on the Iceline Trail in Canada’s Yoho National Park. They kept his feet dry through rain showers, thunderstorms, and muddy trail, and delivered confident traction for scrambling up and down steep talus and scree. They are moderately breathable—not nearly as breathable as the non-Gore-Tex Inhaler II Lows, of course.
BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog by clicking either of these links to purchase a pair of men’s Vasque Inhaler II Low shoes at backcountry.com or the women”s Inhaler II Low at moosejaw.com.
See all of my reviews of low-cut shoes and trail-running shoes, and my stories:
“Pro Tips For Buying the Right Boots”
“7 Pro Tips For Avoiding Blisters”
“The Simple Equation of Ultralight Backpacking: Less Weight = More Fun”
“Buying Gear? Read This First”
“5 Tips For Spending Less on Hiking and Backpacking Gear”
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 all of my Gear Reviews at The Big Outside.
Do you like The Big Outside? I’m Michael Lanza, the creator of The Big Outside, recognized as a top outdoors blog by USA Today, a Trip Advisor site, and others. Subscribe for updates about new stories and free gear giveaways by entering your email address in the box at the bottom of this story, at the top of the left sidebar, or on my About page, and follow my adventures on Facebook and Twitter.
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