Salewa Wander Hiker ReviewJanuary 12, 2018
- Best in class grip
- Option for wide version
- High quality leather lining
- GumFlate midsole for comfort, stability
- Susceptible to heel blisters
- Tongue is not bellowed
The Michelin rubber had arguably the best grip in its class, and the outsole was slightly wider than the rest of the shoe, providing added stability and ground contact. This made up for the abnormally low cut of the Wander Hiker. The lack of comfort in this shoe took away from the stability to a certain extent, as the hot spots and the heel rub from the Flex Collar, proved a mildly annoying distraction, even on shorter outings. The innovative GumFlate midsole Salewa recently introduced in the Wander Hiker was one of the most interesting aspects of any of the shoes in this test. The GumFlate advertises a reduction in high pressure peak, meaning it essentially adapts to the ground. Our testing confirmed this when we stepped on a rock, or uneven surface, the GumFlate sole absorbed the change without the entire sole pivoting, so the ankle didn’t have to adjust. This provided unmatched stability and comfort, resulting in fewer rolled ankles on long, rough trails. Lastly, the GumFlate’s adaptability to the terrain would result in an increased contact area, providing better grip. What this means in practice is the constant contouring GumFlate and the wider than average rubber sole provided for a larger contact area on any surface, increasing stability. The GumFlate was best utilized while hopping through boulder fields on Apache Peak in the Indian Peaks Wilderness or Mount Blaurock and Ervin in the Sawatch Range. It was also great for loose, steep descents on peaks like these when footing was unsure, as the midsole proved to better support our ankles where other shoes didn’t share the same adaptability to the terrain.
The protection around the foot on the Wander Hiker is pretty good. There is reinforced rubber around the heel, as well as a really effective toe guard, that gives a perfect mix of protection without sacrificing too much comfort. The leather is high quality Nubuck, much like the Lowa Renegade, but the tongue of the Wander Hiker isn’t gusseted, which allowed water to pour in when standing in foot-deep puddles or when running water flows over the laces. Thus the waterproofness of the shoe is limited to shallow puddles and dewy mornings at best.
Like the Lowa’s, the Wander Hiker required a bit of a break in period. Blisters formed around the heel due to the Flex Collar, and the low cut profile rubbed the bottom of the ankle bone while testing. They definitely work for wider feet and the GumFlate offers added stability and shock absorption on rocky terrain, which translates to added comfort. For example, when descending steep terrain in a few testing situations, less care and concentration was needed with foot placement since the GumFlate did such a good job adapting to uneven terrain. The Ortholite footbed added to the comfort and our testers didn’t require a replacement or custom insole.
It’s very apparent Salewa makes a high quality shoe. The technology that goes into the Wander Hiker with the Michelin rubber, nubuck leather, GumFlate and Flex Collar puts it a notch above the rest in the construction category. With all that comes a price tag, which seems a little high for an everyday hiking shoe. The durability could be the X-factor in this case, and if it were to prove its longevity, maybe the investment would be worth it. Similar to the Lowa Renegade, Salewa used nubuck leather in its construction, which is one of the highest quality leathers on the market and requires much less maintenance than traditional leather. This could partially explain the higher cost. The big question mark, though, was the lack of a gusseted tongue, which allowed water to pour in at any stream crossing as well as dirt and pebbles on the trail.
The Wander Hiker isn’t supposed to be a performance shoe, but it’s priced like one. With that being said, if the fit is precise to your foot, this could definitely function as a jack of all trades, excelling in an array of purposes. When the innovative technologies are taken into account, such as the dynamic GumFlate midsole, the Michelin outdoor compound rubber, (which feels like you have a winter tire under your feet) and the 3F system designed to promote heel retention without limiting mobility, the cost of the shoe begins to make more sense. All of these combine to make this a high performing piece of footwear.Continue Reading
Brian Miller- Hiking
Brian is an avid hiker, ski mountaineering guidebook author and former Division 1 lacrosse player. He lives with his wife in North Denver.