The best hiking shoe design, in my opinion, has to have rubber cleats in the soles.
I like hiking in the hills and mountains. Until a couple of months ago my chosen footwear was a pair of normal trainers. Great up to a point but there were some circumstances when I just couldn’t scale the slopes I wanted to because I simply didn’t have the traction I needed.
Not only couldn’t I scale some of these slopes, the bigger and steeper ones I did were necessarily risky ie I would be at the razors edge of traction with a slip meaning falling tens of meters, maybe not to my death but surely unpleasant.
The rain over the winter was amplifying traction problem.
To try and give myself a bit more ability I tried buying rubber snow/ice spikes that pull over the trainers. While they did give much better traction the result was only temporary as they would inevitably slip off the shoes after a while and usually without me noticing.
These rubber slip on spikes were designed more for flat surfaces which are slippy, whereas I need something that will work on slopes up to 45 degrees.
In short, I was asking too much of these products.
Finally I ponied up for set of hill walking/trail hiking shoes. I had be doing research for a few months and decided I needed a sole with big cleats, something that would really dig into loose and wet surfaces.
I found some shoes with the type of sole I wanted from Salomon, their Ultra 3 GTX range (NOT Ultra 3 Prime GTX) but the price was a bit high for what I would be using them for. I don’t want a pair of shoes where I will be worrying about tearing them on a thorn bush or brambles.
So I took a look at my favourite discount sport retailer Sports Direct to see if they had something available. My absolute number priority was the sole. I just wanted to find the lowest cost, best hiking shoe sole design and everything else came second including the colour.
These are the shoes I bought, Karrimor Aqua Fusion
The price on Sports Direct is considerably less than on ebay
So how do they perform?
Exactly as I expected. Wet grass and dry grass, I now have about the same traction on both. Loose dirt is no longer and issue, mud is much less of a hit and miss exercise, mud is mud but traction is greatly improved. On loose stones and gravel its the same story, massively improved grip
How do the Karrimor’s compare to those rubber slip on spikes?
I’d say the grip, when the rubber slip-ons were working, is superior with the Karrimor, which is saying something. Whereas with the spikes the traction was limited to a small area directly under the ball of the foot, now the entire sole is offering grip.
Short of getting crampons, these Karrimor’s have phenomenal grip and that is why I believe they are the best hiking shoes design, at least that I have seen.
It would be nice if they were a different colour, basically anything other than black.
At first, the soles of my feet ached with the Karrimors, I think this would be down to the slightly stiffer sole over normal trainers. The Karrimor sole is not stiff by any means, just slightly stiffer than your average trainer.
I think they have to be like this in order for the cleats on the soles to work. If the soles were flexible they would get pushed up by the ground instead of biting into the surface. Anyway, it was a small issue which disappeared after a few hikes.
Generally they were not the most comfortable hiking shoes out of the box. They were rubbing on top of the toes and at the end of the toes slightly but this also went away after three or four hikes.
Now the shoes are completely comfortable
Obviously the traction on wet and loose surfaces!
There is excellent support around the heel and around the lower edge of the foot. With trainers I might feel as if my feet are sliding over the edge of the sole on very steep inclines, especially if I am standing with my feet parallel to the slope, I have felt nothing like this with the Karrimo’s. My feet feel completely secure and tied into the shoe and I don’t even tie the laces up very tight. I mean, I slip these shoes on and off without touching the laces, that type of loose.
The materials of the shoe seem to be excellent. The top of the toes are just covered in a mesh, you can see your feet from the top. I thought this would be a problem, that the mesh would easily be ripped by brambles or thorn bushes.
Having now been wearing the shoes through some big bush wacks, there is no sign of tearing at all and generally the mesh seems extremely well made, I don’t foresee it ever being a problem. Having the mesh there also helps keep the feet nice and ventilated!
All in all these are the best hiking shoes design I have seen. They offer excellent grip from the sole, they give excellent support to the foot, they give plenty of ventilation to the feet, the materials seem to be top notch, the price was low and to top it all off, they are almost as light and flexible as a normal pair of trainers. I could not be happier, except for the colour!