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Review by Tony Lourens
I am always on the lookout for a well priced “entry level” approach shoe. What I mean by entry level, is a shoe that may not be specifically designed as an approach shoe – so hasn’t got the last shape, wrap-around rand, or climbing specific sticky soles, etc, but does perform well on mountain paths and semi technical ground and has suitable friction on the sole, which means it can be used as an approach shoe in all but technical scrambling and easy rock climbing. This is the kind of shoe I like to use for general crag and mountain use, thereby saving my technical (and oh-so-pricey) pucker approach shoes for the serious stuff.
So I was quite keen to see how Hi-Tec’s new Speed-Life shoes worked in this category.
Two important factors were immediately apparent as soon as I held them and fitted them on – they were comfortable and light. Comfort in a shoe is an obvious commodity that everybody wants. But being light is very important when it comes to climbing, as often you may want to climb with your approach shoes hanging from your harness, and of course if you are climbing a vertical wall, then every bit of weight-saving helps a great deal.
Since then, I spent many weeks using the shoe in a number of disciplines. Walking to the crag they felt stable, comfortable and supportive over rough ground, and I was quite impressed with the stickiness of the soles, boulder-hopping to some of the climbing areas.
I also used them as my back-up hiking shoes on a 5-day trail through the Baviaanskloof recently. They felt so good and soft on my feet, as I used them around camp at the end of each hard days walking, that I decided to carry my hiking boots on the final day and walk in my Speed-Life shoes. To my delight, they were awesome, even while carrying a relatively heavy pack. No soreness anywhere, particularly on the soles of my feet, which were getting achy near the end of each other day.
Then came a test which I hadn’t initially planned for – The final day of the trail entails a bit of kloofing (canyoning), where we had to swim through two very cold pools to access the deep canyon and waterfalls on the other side. I stripped down to my cotton undies, chucked my pack and clothes, etc in a dry bag, but kept my shoes on, as we had to walk on stony ground part of the way through the pools, before it became deep enough to swim.
On the other side of our swims there was some fairly technical rock scrambling and boulder-hopping to be done and I was a little concerned how the soles would perform on wet rock. My worries soon dissipated as I padded across smooth slabs and boulders with nary a slip nor slide. And once removed and placed in the sun, they dried up fairly quickly.
So all in all, a very nice find for a not-so-entry level approach so, that can also be used for trail running, walking the dog, and nipping down to the shop, or just jollying around town.
Available at: www.hi-tec.co.za