Updated: May 19, 2020
Are these the coolest hiking shoes on the market?
Columbia SH/FT Outdry Mid Review: If hipsters went hiking, this is what they’d wear. Columbia’s SH/FT Outdry Mid Shoe is an uber-cool, sneaker-inspired hiking boot for the 21st century, with eye-catching colours and a 90s retro style. They look a little like an experimental fusion of, say, a pair of Air Jordan basketball sneakers and a standard pair of hiking boots. But whatever the inspiration was, Columbia have created a contemporary hiking boot with enough added urban flare and street-ready style to – arguably – claim the Adidas Free Hiker’s title of ‘coolest hiking boot in the world’. Of course, this modern approach won’t be for everyone. The SH/FT Outdry Mid Shoe is Marmite-like: you either love it or you hate it. Younger, fashion-conscious outdoor enthusiasts might well adore them; the old-school fraternity of bearded ramblers will probably tut in disbelief and disgust if they ever see you walking up a mountain in a pair of purple and teal sneakers. But, whichever camp you fall into, the most important question to answer is: how do they perform out on the trail?
Despite all of the flash bravado of the colours and style, the SH/FT Outdry Mids are a well-built, premium boot designed to cope with changing weather and rugged terrain. Columbia’s in-house technology – a one-piece breathable and waterproof membrane known as Outdry – provides good quality waterproofing, particularly when combined with the full-grain leather overlays, and the OmniGrip rubber outsole provides decent traction. That’s a good start. The stretch-knit upper is very comfortable too, with a snug, sock-like fit achieved through the lightweight, sneaker-style build, while the cushioning in the PU foam midsole feels very bouncy underfoot, ensuring good energy return and giving you a sense of being light and fast. The knitted upper is abrasion resistant and stronger than it looks, which should in theory ensure longer-term durability, and the laces feature a hooked eyelet at ankle level for fine-tuning of the fit.
However, these relatively impressive features don’t mean the SH/FT Outdry Mid qualifies as ready for the gnarliest of mountain adventures or hiking expeditions. Hundreds of other hiking boots and shoes will provide greater ankle support, improved grip and greater stability over rough terrain. But that doesn’t really matter. The SH/FT Outdry Mid has been specifically designed as a hybrid, dual-purpose shoe, to ‘blur the line between pavement and path’, as Columbia put it, and to be equally at home in the city or out on the trail. And, for that purpose, they are perfect: stylish enough to head to the pub in, rugged enough for a hike in the countryside. Consequently, I think they are best-suited for travel, where you don’t want to pack multiple pairs of shoes, or for adventures closer to home like a walk after work or an evening foray into the hills.
Columbia SH/FT Outdry Mid Review - If I’m being fussy:
The grip on the outsole isn’t the best I’ve ever seen. The 3mm lugs are quite shallow and consequently traction is decent, but far from brilliant. Support around the ankle, which is provided via the ‘collar’ of the stretch-knit upper (a bit like the sock-like upper, known as the ‘dynamic fit collar’, used in modern Nike football boots), is not particularly robust either. The main issue with these trainers, however, is that they aim to be two things all in one – both a stylish city sneaker and a rugged hiking boot – and that’s an impossible balance to strike. Consequently they end up a little like a jack of all trades, master of none. I certainly wouldn’t wear them on a rugged mountain walk or on a longer hiking expedition, but for travelling and adventures closer to home they are great.
STYLE: Sneaker-inspired hiking boots WEIGHT: 425g per shoe
A seriously cool and hip, sneaker-inspired hiking boot that’s waterproof, grippy, well-cushioned and comfortable, making it perfect for travel and adventures closer to home – but it’s not really rugged enough for more extreme mountain adventures
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* This sample product was sent to James Forrest without charge, in return for an honest review *