TECNICA PLASMA 5 W'S TRAIL SHOE
BY KATHLEEN WATERS
May 1, 2019
kathy at backpackgeartest dot com
Canon City, Colorado, USA
5' 4" (1.60 m)
118 lb (53.50 kg)
Living in Colorado and being self-employed, I have ample opportunities to backpack. There are over 700,000 acres/280,000 hectares of public land bordering my 71-acre/29-hectare "backyard" in addition to all the other gorgeous locations which abound in Colorado.
Over the past 15 years, my husband John and I have also had the good fortune to hike/snowshoe glaciers, rain forests, mountains and deserts in exotic locations, including New Zealand, Iceland, Costa Rica, Slovenia and Death Valley.
My hiking style is comfortable, aiming for lightweight. I use a tent (rainfly if needed). Current pack averages 25 lb (11 kg) excluding food and water.
|Manufacturer: Tecnica, Division of Tecnica Group S.P.A.|
Year of Manufacture: 2018
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.tecnicasports.com
Listed Weight: N/A
Measured Weight: 26 oz (737 g) per pair size 8 women's
Sizes Available: Women's 3.5 - 8.5 US (Women's 34-39 European)
Size Reviewed: Women's 8
Colors Available: Black-DP Fiori and Somber Laguna - Deep Laguan
Color Reviewed: Black-DP Fiori
Upper: Synthetic polyamide fabric with TPU laminated reinforcement
Lining: Breathable mesh lining
Outsole: Vibram Plasma with Megagrip compound
Midsole: Agile system; Dual Density EVA plus TPU shank
Footbed: C.A.S. Customizable - Hiking
|Picture Copyright Tecnica|
FIELD USE,CONDITIONS AND PERFORMANCE
First some words about the customization process!
Tecnica has long been known for custom ski boots and now is entering the custom hiking boot market! In 2017, I was lucky enough to be one of the first to try out the new Forge GTX Trekking boots. The boots are now available in select locations. And over this past winter (2018-2019), I tried out the new Plasma GTX trail shoes.
Since the Tecnica trail shoes are custom-fitted, they can only be purchased at select retail locations that have trained boot-fitters and the molding machines necessary for the custom-fit.
Locations of these retail outlets can be found on the Tecnica website. Filling in a city/state or zip code into Tecnica's Store Locator field brings up a list of retail locations and their relative distance.
There is a very elaborate process to being fitted for custom boots. Tecnica has a custom (I'll use that word a lot here!) heat-molding machine into which my feet were strapped. I was told to wear a medium-weight sock so I wore a pair of my favorite wool crew socks.
But first, my future custom insoles were heated to 180 F (82 C) and I stepped onto them to create my imprint. Despite the temperature, I didn't feel any discomfort. Why? I have no idea!
160 millibars of pressure was applied to inflatable pads which had been wrapped around my feet to create my insoles. These balloon-like pads were not too tight but rather like a blood-pressure cuff for the feet!
Once the insoles were to my boot-fitter's liking, it was on to the boots themselves.
Next, heating pads were wrapped around the outsides of the boots to make them pliable.
With my feet now in the warm boots, a brace between my knees and my legs strapped together, the inflatable pads were inflated tightly to mold the body of the boot to my feet.
Twenty minutes or so of sitting still - can't disturb the boots by wiggling around - and removal of all the molding paraphernalia, I was the proud owner of custom Tecnica GTX hiking boots!
LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
|Hiking on Trail Ridge Road in RMNP||Over the last several months, I have alternated wearing the Plasma shoes with another pair of trail shoes on a daily basis. I hike with my neighbor at least 4 miles (6.4 km) almost daily down our very hilly, rutted dirt road. |
For the most part, the major backpacking time spent in the Plasma trail shoes has been in the backcountry of Fremont County on the unmarked trails and primitive camping of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) acreage adjacent to my home and in southern Canon City territory.
This means lots of dirt, rocks, scrubby pines and juniper and not much else. It means not-so-flat campsites and absolutely no shelter from trees due to their rather stunted height.
Other than a couple of weeks in January when the temperatures were well below freezing, it's been mostly warmer than usual with daytime temperatures averaging in the low 40s F (4.4 C) to 60s F (16 C) during the daytime and just about freezing at night.
Though we probably have had more snow this winter and early spring than the last couple of (complete) winters, I did not encounter snow on any of my overnights. I did see a lot of snow, however, on a week-long trip to Winter Park, Colorado where we spent several days hiking trails in the adjacent area of Rocky Mountain National Park.
An example of local trails I hiked in Fremont County is the Temple Canyon Trail.
One Sunday in February, we scouted for a future base camp for fishing. It was in the high 40s F (4 C - ish) with beautiful blue skies and no breeze at all. The trailhead is 300 ft (91 m) above the creek floor and that depth is reached in less than a half-mile (0.8 km). It's a decent trail but steep, rocky (loose) and this weekend, we had mud and patches of ice as well.
WHAT I LEARNED ABOUT THE TECNICA PLASMA TRAIL SHOES
From the very first step at the Outdoor Retailer Show where I was fitted, I felt comfortable in the Plasmas. I felt great cushioning, good support and stability.
After pounding the showroom floor, I was tired and I'm blessed with natural clumsiness. The various showroom booths set-up had many un-natural hazards and I banged into more than one. The shoes protected my toes from the stumbles and the structure of the shoes kept me from undue strain and twisting of my foot joints. By the time I headed home, I knew I was already pleased with these shoes.
After over 6 months, I'm still pleased with them!
More importantly though, the Plasmas fit me well. As I stated above, from the very first moment, I liked the way the shoes hugged my feet without being too tight. The Tecnica size chart is perfectly true to size.
I almost always wear a women's size 8 boot. I'm lucky in that respect, I don't generally even try on boots/shoes. However, there are times, I'm not happy with the feel of the boots, even though they fit - for instance if the toe box is overly narrow or wide. Like Goldilocks, I like it "just right".
My heels are cupped nicely by the Plasmas and ankle cuff is supportive without being too stiff - again, that "just right" thing. I found the arch support perfect thanks to the custom molding and of course the insoles support my rather flat feet nicely.
I did find the lacing system to be a bit of a pain. The laces are very thin, stiff and rounded and pulling them tightly hurts my hand if I am not careful. They have held up great though - no fraying or breaking at all.
Most important in backpacking/hiking footwear is how they handle the trails I hike on. I want to pound the dirt (rocks, etc.) as many miles/kilometers I need to, get to my destination and think - "Dang! I totally forgot to think about how these new shoes performed!" If I am conscious of my feet, it is most likely not a good thing. And if my feet are hurting, I'm not happy and enjoying my outing. When my feet suffer, so does every other part of me.
There are three areas I look at: my ankles, my arches and my toes.
Since the Plasma shoes are low-cut shoes, there really isn't any ankle support. I generally relegate low-cut shoes to established trails, mainly dirt, where I'm not so concerned about twisting my ankles. However, I have worn the Plasmas on less than ideal trails and haven't had any problems. The ankle cuff on these shoes is well-padded and does offer a small measure of support to my mind.
I've hiked with up to 30 lb (14 kg) in the Plasmas, though I prefer and recommend a lighter pack weight for long treks. I prefer a mid-height boot with heavier packs.
Lastly, since most of my backpacking treks are in the mountains, I need to concern myself with how well the toe box fits my feet on the downhill portions of the trails. The toe box on the Plasmas is wide enough without being too wide. Thankfully, even on very steep slopes, my toes stayed where they were supposed to stay and the toe rands of the Plasmas protected them nicely.
I have had a great time wearing the Plasmas on many different surfaces - sandy soils, scree-type fields, dirt, granite and lots of cement (sidewalks). Most of the time these surfaces were dry, a few times, when I got caught unawares, the Plasmas suffered our famous expansive soil mud!
As for mud, I found the shoes (as with almost any shoe I've worn) almost unusable when our mud would pile up and cling to the soles of the shoes. Only boots with really, really deep lugs "squish" out mud semi-adequately. However, since the tread is not deep on the Plasmas, they were much easier to clean than my deeper-lugged boot.
Of course, I also wore the Plasmas often as casual wear while in town, walking the dog, biking, etc. I can't even begin to estimate the number of miles/kilometers these shoes have seen!
And speaking of wearing the Plasmas casually, these shoes look very sporty but not overly "technical", so when I wear them in town, they don't scream "HIKER"!
As of now, the Plasmas show little wear. There hasn't been any breakdown in the lining, even at the heel where I have experienced that in some other trail shoes. The ankle cuff continues to be firm and supportive.
There is no residual rank odor lingering and the soles of the Plasmas contradict the amount of time they've been on my feet.
I haven't given the Plasmas any special treatment or babied them in any way. I've taken a garden hose to them on a couple of occasions to get the mud off them, but that's about it. The shoes still look great, I think and I plan on getting plenty more miles/kilometers out of them before I relegate them to work-wear only!
1.) So comfortable!
2.) Understated good looks.
3.) Protects my arches better than any other shoe I have.
4.) Give me great stability on unstable terrain.
1.) I am not overly keen on the laces.
I love shoes and I am always up for trying out new styles and manufacturers. I generally don't have a problem with stock insoles or have picky feet that need coddling. BUT, after being fitted for Tecnica custom shoes and wearing them in all sorts of conditions for over 8 months now, I can't see how I will ever be as comfortable in in any other brand as I am in these. They are my go-to shoes and definitely, highly recommended!
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5
Copyright 2019. All rights reserved.
Thank you to BackpackGearTest.org and Tecnica Sports for the opportunity to try out these fantastic shoes!
Kathleen (Kathy) Waters
Co-Owner and Contributing Writer
Read more reviews of Tecnica gear
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