I’m no shoe scientist, but I know a comfortable shoe when I wear it.
If you put a pair of trail running shoes and a screen door in opposite ends of a Hadron collider, then pushed the button, this is what would emerge from the smoke and debris cloud. It’s a shoe that is really comfortable, breathes well (to say the least) and is built to drain water like a sieve.
Previously, I had always hiked in waterproof boots. I really liked my pair of Keen Targhee II boots, because they kept my feet warm and ‘mostly dry’ and were comfortable to walk a long way in. However, it was hard to keep my feet from getting sweaty in them. I wore Smartwool socks, which helped to keep the blisters down, but still, I wanted to try trail running shoes instead of boots after reading so much about what a great choice they are for ultralight backpacking. I had previously owned a pair of Merrell MOAB ‘waterproof’ shoes, which after a testing trip, were exposed as being ‘not so waterproof’. I looked around at other footwear options were and found the Gecko. The ‘user reviews’ seemed mostly positive, so I got them.
They are relatively lightweight, and certainly not as heavy as my Keen boots were. Each shoe weighs in at 11.0 ounces. (That’s a Mens size 10).
The upper is a bit stretchy, with an elastic collar, making it easy to slip your foot into. The pull loop on the heel helps, too. The lining is made of Neoprene lycra, which aids in providing a form fitting design, but also assists in making it breathable. One thing I haven’t had a problem with, is sweaty feet.
The proprietary ‘Contagrip’ construction is another feature. In a nutshell, the outsole is built in such a way that it’s designed with tougher and more durable materials on areas of your foot that will likely get the hardest use, but uses more lightweight material in areas that are likely to get less impact and abuse. From what I understand, this allows the shoe to cut weight and even out tread use without sacrificing durability.
Also found in Salomon shoes, is the ‘OS Tendon’ technology. Salomon describes this as: “a band of stretchy Thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) that improves the shoe’s transition from heel strike to toe push. It connects the forefoot to the midsole and heel for a smooth and springy feeling foot strike.”
There’s sufficient grip on the tread for my tastes, as I haven’t had any problems with the shoe slipping or feeling terribly unstable while walking on slick surfaces like wet logs or mossy rocks. However, since these are low cut shoes, the ankle support I normally enjoy with my Keen boots is noticeably absent. I’ve almost turned my ankle over a few times when walking on uneven terrain, such as a trail plagued with roots and rocks. I hike with trekking poles, so they played a role in keeping me from having a swollen ankle.
There’s also a nice little protective toe cap, as you can see here. My feet don’t slide around in these shoes, since they are so form fitting. I tried these on when I got them, while wearing lightweight Smartwool socks and found them to be uncomfortably tight. I wear a size 10, and these are sized to fit. I ordered some Injinji toe socks and was really, really happy with not only how well the shoe fit with them, but also how well they protected my feet and toes from blisters. If you plan on wearing socks thicker than a wicking liner or toe sock, you may want to get a half size larger. I took big gamble by ordering these online without ever having tried them on, but fortunately, I didn’t regret it.
The primary reason I wanted the Gecko is its ability to drain water quickly and stay somewhat dry. Besides a few short walks, I have worn these on a very wet 13 mile hike through the Sipsey Wilderness (in Bankhead National Forest) and an even wetter 25 mile AT section hike, where I just crashed right on through bone-chilling streams as the water level rose above my ankles, which was a strange experience. I normally try to avoid water by hopping rock to rock across creeks, like a game of Frogger. I was genuinely surprised how fast the water drains out of these. I walked mountain trails in North Carolina with wet feet for three days and never had any problems at all.
Seriously. I stomped through streams with ice cubes floating in them and within a minute or two of being out of the water, my shoes were drained and my feet remained a comfortable temperature. The Injinji toe socks didn’t soak up much water at all, which really complimented the Gecko’s ability to dry my feet out.
The small screened ports along the sides help keep large debris out of my shoe, but I had a little bit come in over the top of the ankle. Small gaiters will help prevent this, and I had even planned on using my Dirty Girl gaiters with these. Unfortunately, the adhesive on the Velcro strips didn’t stay on very well, so I couldn’t attach the gaiters to my shoes. I think this may be because of the small grooves on the heel. Using super glue to affix the Velcro strip may solve this problem. Silty mud won’t stay out of the shoe, I have found, but I just moved my foot back and forth in the water and it washed out easily. Also, the Gecko has quick laces, which I like. No more worrying with my laced coming untied. Yay! There’s a little flap up on top of the shoe that you can stuff the laces under, to keep them from flapping around while running and getting on your nerves.
Overall, I’m pretty happy with these shoes. I have definitely changed my mindset on the benefits of ‘waterproof’ versus ‘quick draining’ shoes after taking these out on a few long hikes. I may keep the boots handy for situations like hiking in show or something, but I predict that these will be my go-to shoe for most hikes now.
(P.S., If my ‘Hadron Collider’ illustration was way off base from how one of those thingies is really supposed to work, please don’t tell me. I’d rather remain blissfully ignorant and think my joke was funny. Thanks.)