The North Face Women’s Hedgehog Fastpack GTX Hiking Shoe was the first piece of hiking gear that I bought. At the time, I was brand new to hiking and my three main requirements were a shoe that provides great grip (I am clumsy), waterproof, and more of a trail runner. Back then I wasn’t planning on hiking anything more difficult than an easy trail so I didn’t want a boot. I also didn’t want anything pink but I figured I could deal with it if it was a great fitting shoe. (Comfort over style, right?)
I never had a waterproof shoe before, so I was excited about the Gor-Tex. I wanted to test this out before I accidentally stepped in water on a trail and found out the hard way that they weren’t as waterproof as I thought. So I stood in my bathtub of water up to my ankles for a few minutes and was pleased that they kept my feet dry. I knew that I could trust these shoes to keep the water out if I came across some (shallow) wet terrain. The lowest point of the opening of the boot sits low, so there is still a high probability you could get wet if the water got that high or splashing was involved.
Another thing I was excited about was the Vibram sole. I am not great at climbing up semi-steep hills or rocks, but these shoes give me the power of a (clumsy) baby mountain goat, and the ability to be able to climb things I wouldn’t have been able to in sneakers. They are flexible and grip well to various terrain making me feel more comfortable and confident in covering challenging landscape, which is very important to me as I usually have my camera gear and do not want to fall and drop thousands of dollars worth of equipment.
Personally, breaking these shoes in was BRUTAL! They are quite stiff in the toebox and heel (the sole is flexible straight out of the box) and even after having them for a year and wearing them on a number of hikes, and frequently for running errands, they are still relatively stiff and I still cannot wear them for longer than a couple hours of hiking on easy to moderate trails. I want to rip them off my feet the second I see the trail head in the distance due to the painful hot spots I get even after adjusting the laces to relieve some pressure before it gets unbearable. Note that I do have a slightly wider left foot due to a bunion. (Thanks weird hereditary traits!) Speaking of hot spots, my main concern with footwear is always blisters. My feet blister just thinking about blisters. The shoe cradles the foot nice to prevent slipping around and gives great overall support. I only got a blister once while wearing these shoes, but I don’t think this was a shoe issue. Even though they have Gor-Tex, they are still breathable. It happened during our longest hike up a mountain, it was scorching hot and my feet were sweaty and slipping in my socks as we made our way back down. I should have known better and stopped to dry and put body glide on my feet and then put fresh socks on to stop slipping.
Cleaning the shoes is easy. While I haven’t got my pair muddy yet, I did get them dusty. (As shown in the photo above.) I rinsed them under water, scrubbed them with a brush and let them dry in the sun for a few hours. They dried quickly and looked just about new after the wash.
In conclusion, the Fastpack’s are a great lightweight hiking shoe that I would recommend for hiking trails with easy terrain to traverse over as they lack the ankle support a boot would provide on trails with loose or technical terrain. They are also great for rainy days out and about off the trail as they do have the Gor-Tex that your everyday shoes do not have, keeping you dry and warm. Overall, they are a great hiking shoe and my only issue with them is no fault of the shoe, but rather the structure of my foot.
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