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Reviews > Footwear > Trail Shoes > ECCO Tahoe Trail Shoe > Test Report by Kurt Papke

ECCO Tahoe Shoes

Test Series by Kurt Papke

Initial Report - May 16, 2011

Field Report - August 9, 2011

Long-Term Report - October 4, 2011

Tester Information

Name: Kurt Papke
Age: 57
Gender: Male
Height: 6' 4" (193 cm)
Weight: 230 lbs (104 kg)
Email address: kwpapke (at) gmail (dot) com
City, State, Country: Tucson, Arizona USA

My backpacking background is a combination of the Minnesota area, where I have lived most of my adult life, and Southern Arizona where I moved about two years ago to Tucson for a new job.  The trails I hike are rocky -- I need shoes that protect my feet and provide good traction on sand, gravel and stones.

Initial Report

Product Facts

Product Information
Manufacturer
ECCO

Photo courtesy ECCO USA
Manufacturer website
http://www.eccousa.com
Year manufactured
2011
Model
Tahoe (formerly Xpedition Lite)
Color tested
Moon Rock - Ice White
(Expresso - Coffee also available)
Size tested
EUR 46
Availability of other sizes depends on color and availability.  At the time of writing, sizes EUR 41, 42 and 45 were also available.
MSRP
$150 USD
Weight (measured)
1 lb 3.9 oz (560 g) Right
1 lb 4.4 oz (580 g) Left
Total: 2 lb 8.3 oz
(1140 g)
Material - upper
Yak leather and "textiles"
Material - soles
ECCO performance rubber

The Tahoe shoes are a member of ECCO's Performance line of products.  They are unlined and hence not waterproof, a feature I neither need nor want for hiking in the Sonoran desert.

Initial Inspection

Tops & bottomsOn removal from the packing box I inspected the shoes for any obvious defects or workmanship problems.  I could find nothing - they were absolutely immaculate.  As soon as I picked the shoes up I noticed a real heft to them - this is footwear of substance.

I like shoes to have good flexibility at the ball of the foot, but with rigidity over the soles.  These shoes did not disappoint: I can flex them at the right spot, yet in the insteps they are extremely rigid.

As can be seen by the photos these are visually striking shoes.  They look stunning.  The Yak leather on the uppers has an almost buttery feel to it.

Visible in the photo at left is the aggressive lugging on the bottoms of the soles.  Looks like it should have good traction on my trails.  Also visible on the tops of the shoes is the substantial toe plate; it is very rigid and should give good protection when I stub my toes on a rock.

In the photo above the rigid heel plate can be seen at the back of the shoe.  This has some flex to it, but should hold my heels firmly in place.

The laces are looped through webbing straps, a middle leather loop, and finally a through-hole at the top.  These look like they should transfer the lace tension nicely to the various structural elements.

Ventilation looks like it will be primarily provided by the horizontal strip of grid textile between the two pieces of leather as shown in the top picture.  When I feel that strip on the inside of the shoe there is no padding along that strip, so I expect moisture will readily escape.

First Impressions

Size: according to the ECCO sizing chart the EUR 46 shoe is equivalent to a US 12-12.5.  My foot is more in the size 12.5 category, so I'll have to be careful to not wear thick socks.  When I put them on and laced them up they felt snug, but enough space in the toes that I should not have problems.  My little toes hit the sides of the shoe just past where the toe plate ends, so there should be good "give" to allow my toes to roam a bit.

Lacing: the leather "plates" on the shoe tongue has an interesting stickiness to it that holds the laces in place while tightening.  It does require that the lower laces be tightened, then the upper laces.

Trying them out: after lacing them up I walked around the house on our concrete floors.  These shoes feel very substantial: they are a low-hiker boot, not what I would use for trail running.  Lateral stability seems excellent - my feet do not want to rock from side to side with these shoes on.  This should prevent some turned ankles.  There is some nice "give" in the heels -- when I stomp down on the concrete with the heels I can feel the shoes absorb a lot of the impact.

Summary

I am excited to get these shoes out onto the trail.  I am particularly interested to see how well they cope with the sharp rocks I often have to hike on.

Kudos:

  • Excellent out-of-the-box quality.
  • Very attractive.  I won't be ashamed to wear these shoes for casual use in-town.
  • Very substantial soles and stiff foot plate, yet flexible at the balls of the foot.
  • Great foot protection at toes, heels and soles.

Concerns:

  • Not lightweight.  It'll be interesting to see if I experience any fatigue from hoofing it up the local mountains with this much weight on my feet.

Field Report

Field Use

Date
Location
Trail
Distance
Terrain/ trail type
Weather
Altitude range
Insoles Used
May 28
Coronado National Forest, Santa Rita Mountains, near Green Valley, Arizona Old Baldy 10.8 miles (17.4 km) High desert mountain,dirt trail with rocks 78-88 F (26-31 C), 7-16% RH, winds 10-30 mph (16-48 kph) 5400-9453 ft (1646-2881 m) Stock insoles
June 12
Tortolita Mountains, Northwest of Tucson, Arizona Wild Mustang
7.4 miles
(11.9 km)
High desert + desert wash (sand) 75-91 F (24-33C), 5-15% RH, winds 6-16 mph (10-26 kph) 2770-4100 ft (845-1250 m) Stock insoles
July 10
Coronado National Forest, Santa Catalina Mountains just North of Tucson, Arizona Finger Rock
7.2 miles
(11.6 km)
High desert mountain canyon,lots of granite slabs and boulders 82-92 F (28-33 C)
29-51% RH, winds were calm
3000-6300 ft
(915-1920 m)
Stock insoles
July 16 Willow Creek Reservoir area near Prescott, Arizona Willow Lake
about 2 miles (3 km) Granite boulders 80-90 F (27-32 C) 5200 ft
(1585 m)
Stock insoles
July 24
Coronado National Forest, Santa Catalina Mountains just North of Tucson, Arizona Sutherland Trail
9.3 miles
(15 km)
Mix of sand and fist-sized rocks
78-85 F (26-30 C), 60-80% RH, winds were calm
2650-4600 ft
(810-1400 m)
orthotics

Field Usage Observations

Old Baldy

I wore the Tahoes all day to work the day before this hike to see if they needed much breaking in, and they seemed not to need it.

The next day I set out on one of the more physically taxing hikes in Southern Arizona - summit of Mount Wrightson, also called Old Baldy.  This trail climbs 4000 ft (1240 m) in just over 5 miles (8 km).  The local wisdom is if you can't do Baldy, you are not ready for the Grand Canyon.

At Josephine Saddle, about 2.5 miles (4 km) into the hike, I started feeling hot spots on the back of my heels.  I applied more sports lubricant to the hot areas and changed into silk liner socks to give my feet more room and a more slippery surface.  I repeated the lubricant application at the summit, and put my wool hiking socks back on over the liners for the descent to provide as much padding as possible, since there would be little pressure on my heels on the way down the mountain.  Here's what the shoes looked like at the top:
Tahoes on Baldy
The trail is very dusty, and the shoes don't look nearly as beautiful as when I took them out of the box!

When I got home I inspected the damage.  The good news is my typical problem area is the outside of my small toes where they rub against the outside of my shoes, no problems there.  The bad news is the back of my heels looked pretty bad:
Blister
At least the blisters were not filled with blood -- I hate it when that happens.  Hard to tell from the photo, but this blister on my left foot was about 1.5 in (3.8 cm) in diameter.  The one on my right Achilles area was slightly smaller.  Looking at the construction of the shoe, there is a fairly rigid plastic heel cup support on the outside of the shoe.  The curvature must be slightly more aggressive than the contour of my feet.

On the positive side the bottoms of my feet did not feel beat-up as they often do when I wear trail runners.  The Tahoes did a great job of protecting me from the rocky areas of the trail.

They are also incredibly stable.  I feel like I am walking with miniature snowshoes when I wear them.  The soles are broad and flat, and really raise my confidence that I am not going to turn my ankle accidentally.  I like that.

The next morning I did wake up with some stiffness in my arches.  I have suffered from Plantar Fasciitis for a number of years, and have to be careful that I get enough support.  I wear Ecco shoes on an everyday basis to work and do not use special insoles in them, but I don't walk up a mountain every day either.  I will experiment with several other insoles that I use to see how they work with the Tahoe shoes.

Wild Mustang

All the wildfires raging in Arizona have closed most of the close high-altitude mountain ranges for hiking.  I had done parts of the Wild Mustang trail in the Tortolitas, but never completed the trail, so even though this is more of a cooler-weather locale for me I set out early on a Sunday morning.  My socks on this hike were a light athletic model made from a cotton/polyester blend, and they feel quite soft.

The good news: no blister problems on this hike!  I don't know if it was the change in socks, or the shoes are getting broken-in, or perhaps there was just less vertical climb on this hike so my heels were not pressed for so long against the back of the shoes.

The last third of this hike is down the Wild Burro wash, which is almost like walking on the beach as it is loose sand.  The Tahoes did very well in these conditions.

Finger Rock

The Finger Rock trail is, by reputation, the toughest hike in the Tucson area.  It is not the steepest, rockiest, brushiest, nor most dangerous trail, but it ranks near the top on all of these attributes. It is the combination of these challenges that require that a hiker bring their "A game" when they do Finger Rock.  I hadn't been on it in well over a year, and I'm in much better shape this year and wanted to test my mettle after the Coronado National Forest was re-opened following the diminishing fire danger that came with the inception of our monsoon season.

The challenge for hiking shoes on this trail is the large granite slabs that seem to always occur right at the edge of a precipice, and the slabs tilt towards disaster.  Trekking poles do not bite into granite very well, so especially on the descent I was extremely conscious of how well the Tahoes were gripping the rocks.  They did very well actually -- no slips occurred.

I had only a very slight blister on the back of my right heel after the hike, so I think I am getting these shoes broken in.  After the hike I felt some heel pain, as if my Plantar Fasciitis was kicking in.  I think I'll use my orthotics in some of my future hikes to make sure I am getting enough arch support.

Willow Lake

PrescottMy wife and I took a weekend jaunt to the Prescott, Arizona area to cool off at some altitude, as things were getting pretty steamy in Tucson.  We took a short day hike in the Granite Dells area around Willow Creek Reservoir.

As can be seen in the photo at right the Dells are composed of huge granite boulders.  They almost can't even be called boulders, as they stretch on for huge distances.  The granite is not slippery, at least not when its dry such as on the day we hiked on it.  The surface is quite rough.


There were a lot of short and steep ascents and descents of these big boulders, the kind of hiking that cause one to lose their footing.  I know my wife was concerned that she did not have her good hiking shoes on, and was worried about slipping.

The Tahoes handled these conditions with no issues.  The soles have a soft feel when hiking on rock, and they hugged the granite exceptionally well.  I worried a bit about becoming overconfident with them, they had such good traction.

Sutherland Trail

When I really want to put hiking shoes through their paces I take them out to the Sutherland Trail.  The early part of the trail coming out of Catalina State Park is quite tame, soft sand and some granite rocks, but in general easy going.  Then it turns onto a very old Jeep road.  Erosion has washed away all the sand and dirt, leaving only rocks.  The rocks are just the perfect size to make for miserable footing: they are too large to ignore, and too small to make a flat, stable surface for my foot:
Tahoes on the Sutherland Trail
ECCO Tahoe shoes on the Sutherland Trail in the Santa Catalina Mountains of Arizona

I managed to complete my hike without twisting my ankle, a major accomplishment for me on this trail.  The Tahoes did a great job of protecting my feet, though as noted in the table above I did use orthotics on this hike which gave me a bit more protection than the stock insoles would have.  I've been attempting to make the transition to running in minimalist shoes for the last three months, and my arch was quite sore and needed as much support as I could provide it.

It was an overcast morning, so the temperatures weren't too bad for Tucson in July, but the humidity was really oppressive from the monsoon rains we had the night before.  The Tahoes breathed very well in these conditions, and my feet never felt hot during the hike.

The picture does not do credit to how dirty the shoes are starting to get, particularly the mesh on the top of the shoe.  I need to figure out how to clean them.  I'm concerned with just throwing them in the washing machine, as I don't want to destroy the Yak leather.  I sent an e-mail to Ecco Customer Service after looking in vain on their website for cleaning instructions.  The response came back quickly the next day: "We recommend using the ECCO Golf/Outdoor Footwear Cleaner.  This product is especially developed for the ECCO Golf/Performance collection and is suitable for cleaning all materials."  Hmmm, where am I going to get the Cleaner?  I guess I will wear them dirty for a while.

Summary

It has been a pleasure to wear these shoes for the last two months.  I am already looking forward to wearing them for two more!

Kudos:

  • Excellent traction on all types of terrain I used them on
  • Very good breathability
  • Excellent foot protection
  • Extremely attractive shoe in my opinion
  • Good "foot feel": my feet just feel good when I put them on

Areas for improvement:

  • Blister on the back of the heel.  Maybe I just needed to break them in a little bit more before pushing them that hard, but the design with the rigid heel cup seems like it could be problematic
  • A puzzle on cleaning: how to wash the mesh without ruining the Yak leather without buying a special cleaning product

Long-Term Report

Field Use

Date
Location
Trail
Distance
Terrain/ trail type
Weather
Altitude range
Insoles Used
August 13
Coronado National Forest, Santa Catalina Mountains just North of Tucson, Arizona Ventana Canyon Trail 7.6 miles
(12.2 km)
Mix of sand and granite boulders 82-88 F (28-31 C), winds were extremely calm, 40-74% RH 3000-4800 ft
(915-1465 m)
Orthotics
August 14 Coronado National Forest, Santa Rita Mountains Southwest of Tucson, Arizona Arizona Trail, Kentucky Camp trailhead 7.2 miles
(11.6 km)
Dirt, gravel and rocks 75-85 F (24-29 C), breeze from the South, very high humidity from rains the night before 5100-5400 ft
(1550-1650 m)
Orthotics
August 20-21
Coronado National Forest, Santa Rita Mountains Southwest of Tucson, Arizona Cave Creek Trail
8 miles
(13 km)
Dirt, gravel and rocks, some areas thick with weeds 60-80 F (16-27 C), thunderstorms shortened my hiking plans due to lightning
5700-8100 ft
(1740-2470 m)
Orthotics
August 27
Coronado National Forest, Santa Catalina Mountains just North of Tucson, Arizona Romero Canyon Trail
3.6 miles
Sand, rough granite boulders
75-85 F (24-29 C), still 2700-3600 ft
(820-1100 m)
Orthotics
September 18 Tortolita Mountains Northwest of Tucson, Arizona Alamo Springs Trail
6.6 miles (10.6 km) Mix of sand and granite boulders 75-85 F (24-29 C), light breeze 2700-3900 ft
(820-1190 m)
Orthotics
September 25
Coronado National Forest, Santa Catalina Mountains just North of Tucson, Arizona Bear Canyon Trail
7.0 miles
(11.3 km)
Mix of sand and granite boulders 76-95 F (24-35 C)
2700-3100 ft
(820-945 m)
Orthotics
October 2
Coronado National Forest, Santa Catalina Mountains just North of Tucson, Arizona Romero Canyon Trail reprise
6 miles
(9.7 km)
Sand, rough granite boulders 75-85 F (24-29 C), still 2700-3800 ft
(820-1160 m)
Orthotics

Field Usage Observations

Ventana Canyon

Ventana is one of the Santa Catalina Mountain canyons on the South side of the range, close to Tucson.  It follows somewhat along the bottom of the canyon, traversing the dry creek bed periodically.  This makes the treadway quite a mix of sand, gravel, and boulders.

The Tahoes did great on this hike, no problems whatsoever.

Arizona Trail - Kentucky Camp

This section of the Arizona National Scenic Trail is high desert, so it doesn't look like one would expect of Southern Arizona:

AZT
Arizona National Scenic Trail near Kentucky Camp

Its quite "green" in this area during the monsoon rains, and the wildflowers are reblooming.  Not all the trail looked like this.  There was another section, about 25% of the hike, on an OHV trail that was as rocky as the Sutherland Trail.  This hike didn't have nearly the elevation change typical of what I have been hiking lately, so it did not stress the shoe's climbing prowess.  I did have to slop through some wet areas, and the Tahoes did a good job of shedding the sandy mud, at least on the rubbery portion of the shoes.

It was the second day in a row that I wore the Tahoes, and I was a bit surprised that the outer edges of both of my little toes were sore and calloused.  They are rubbing a bit on the shoes, enough that two consecutive hiking days in them caused some irritation.  I'll keep my eye on this in the future.

Cave Creek Trail

This was my first real backpacking trip with the Tahoes, and my pack weight was about 40 lbs (18 kg).  This seems a lot for an overnight trip, but I was packing a lot of water because I didn't know how much I'd find along the trail.

My socks were a combo of a liner plus a heavier wool hiking sock.  This seems to be the winner combination for me with these shoes, as I had no hot or sore spots whatsoever.  This was not a big mileage weekend -- my goal was just to get out and spend some relaxing time in the backcountry, but I really did not push the mileage on these shoes during this trip.

This trail does a lot of climbing in a very short distance with few switchbacks, so I was huffing and puffing pretty good.  I had no heel issues regardless of the pressure put on them by the climbing.  I did notice some bits of gravel getting into the shoes.  I brought gaiters with me, but neglected to put them on.  Next time!

Romero Canyon

I get low back spasms every once in a while, and was recovering from an incident the day I did this hike so this was just a little leg-stretcher.  Romero Canyon is an old standby trail for me, just a few minutes from my house.  For the intrepid shoe tester, it throws just about everything a shoe needs to handle at it: altitude change, sand, sharp granite rocks, uneven surfaces, etc.  The Tahoes did their usual great job.  I was more careful than normal to not slip and fall, which I have done several times on this trail during descents, because my low back would not have liked that.  I was glad to be wearing shoes with exceptional grip on the way out of the canyon.

Alamo Springs Trail

The weather has cooled down a bit, so I returned to the Tortolita Mountains and the Alamo Springs trail to try one more time to find the petroglyphs that are supposedly in the area.  A great hike, but alas, no petroglyphs were found.  Right after I took this picture of the Tahoe shoes next to some wild Morning Glories growing along the trail I managed to turn my ankle on a rock:

Morning Glories

No injuries, but it does point out that these are *not* boots with ankle support, they are shoes.

Bear Canyon Trail

Though I've been to Sabino Canyon many times, I have never taken the Bear Canyon Trail that begins at the same trailhead.  We'd had some nice September rains, and I figured there would be some water running through Seven Falls, and I was not disappointed.  The trail crosses the stream many times, and though I was able to rock-skip in most crossings, the Tahoes saw their first slosh through very shallow water on this hike.  By tiptoeing I was able to keep my socks dry.  This trail requires a bit of a road walk at the beginning and end, and I found the Tahoes to be very comfortable in this situation.

I felt tired during this hike, and the Tahoes felt heavy on my feet.  It seems when I'm at a high energy level the weight of the shoes aren't a bother, but when fatigue is a factor I notice their heft.

Romero Canyon Reprise

Since this was to be my last test hike with these shoes, I thought I'd close it out with one of my favorite trails.  I have slipped more frequently descending this trail than any other, I think because it gets such heavy traffic that the dust and sand is often kicked onto the granite making for a slippery surface, but the Ecco Tahoes held on all the way down.  My Plantar Fasciitis has been flaring up again, but with the orthotics in-place I was able to make the hike with no issues.  Here's what the shoes looked like at the end of the test, standing in the stream flowing down Romero Canyon:
Tahoes at the end of the trail

Summary

I am likely to use the Tahoes on future hikes mostly where I expect rocky conditions and I need a substantial shoe to protect my feet.  I am not a big fan of over-the-ankle boots, so these shoes are a nice match for my needs in those situations.  I did not have an opportunity to hike in wet conditions during the test period so I cannot comment on their performance in that dimension.  The shoes held up very well despite the distance I hiked in them and the rocky conditions they were worn in.

Additional kudos:

  • Great comfort in all conditions from sand to rocks.
  • Good durability and wear -- with the exception of some trail dust they look as good as the day they arrived.

Final improvement suggestions:

  • Not the lightest shoe on the trail, but with comfort and foot protection I expect a heavier shoe.
  • I never did clean them, as I was concerned with ruining the leather.  They stayed pretty clean, just got a little dusty, but I did not have to walk in deep mud during the test period.  I found it to be a bit of a hassle to have to buy a specialty product to clean them.



Many thanks to ECCO and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this product.



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