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Reviews > Footwear > Trail Shoes > GoLite Sun Dragon Shoes > Test Report by Carol Crooker

SUN DRAGON
TEST SERIES BY CAROL CROOKER
LONG-TERM REPORT
September 28, 2007

CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG-TERM REPORT

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Carol Crooker
EMAIL: cmcrooker AT att DOT net
AGE: 48
LOCATION: Phoenix, AZ
GENDER: F
HEIGHT: 5' 10" (1.78 m)
WEIGHT: 165 lb (74.80 kg)
TORSO LENGTH: 19 in (48 cm)

For the past 8 years, I've backpacked about 30 days each year. My trips were from 2 to 28 days, with my usual trip being 3 to 6 days long. Most of my trips have been in Arizona with the High Sierras, Oregon, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Pennsylvania, and New York thrown in for variety. Weather has varied from 107 F to a low of 0 F (42 to -18 C). Most of my backpacking trips are solo. My three-season base pack weight varies from 10 to 5 pounds (5 - 2 kg), depending on the weather and trip length. My winter base pack weight is about 16 pounds (7 kg). I use a tarp for shelter all year round.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: GoLite
Year of Manufacture: 2007
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.golite.com/footwear
MSRP: Not listed on manufacturer website
Listed Weight: 10.9 oz (309 g) per shoe
Measured Weight per shoe: 13.4 oz (380 g) size M-10/10.5 without added Precise Fit insole
Measured Weight "N" and "M" forefoot insoles: 0.3 oz (8.5 g) each

IMAGE 1

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

The Sun Dragon shoes appear to be well made and are a pleasing blue color. The most eye catching feature is the Trail Claw soles. Each shoe has thirteen large, and two small Claws. The Claws look a little like cleats on a soccer shoe except they are constructed of four parts. There is a soft base, a hard layer covering the top and forward side of the Claw, then a medium-hard layer on top of that. An orange triangle of material is inset into the top center of the Claw and feels a little harder than the medium-hard layer it is inset into. The website suggests that these claws will retract individually to conform to a rough trail and help keep the user's body more stable.

The other feature that most stood out is the Neoform Seamless Upper. This is an easily-squished-with-a-finger foam construction that appears to be glued onto the fine mesh upper. It is prominent on both sides of the shoe and has two cutouts and some ventilation holes. The GoLite Footwear website states that the Upper helps protect the foot and prevent chaffing that can be caused by stitching on the interior of a shoe.

The final feature I want to highlight is the toe box which is more round and wide than on a typical running shoe.

Fit: I normally wear men's size 11 shoes for backpacking. Size 10.5 is about the right length in the brands I've worn (inov-8, Merrell, Salomon, and New Balance), but I go up half a size to ensure plenty of wiggle room for my toes and enough length to accommodate swelling feet and toe creep on long downhills. The Sun Dragons I am testing are size M-10/10.5 and have plenty of toe space and length on my initial walks.

Precise Fit System: The Sun Dragons come with two extra sets of forefoot insoles labeled "M" and "N" for medium and narrow I presume, with wide feet accommodated by the provided full insole without adding a separate forefoot insole. Both sets of insoles are shaped the same with the narrow insoles thicker than the medium.

IMAGE 2
Trail Claws

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

The Sun Dragons came with insoles to fine tune fit. The box containing the extra insoles includes five clearly illustrated steps on how to attach the insoles.

TRYING IT OUT

My feet felt like they were sliding forward in the shoes when I walked around the block without added insoles. I added the medium insoles and the fit feels about right, while my feet feel a little crowded with the narrow insoles.

TESTING STRATEGY

I've been wearing very lightweight trail shoes from inov-8 for backpacking and hiking the last few years. (Before that I wore Salomon Tech Amphibian water shoes and prior to that I wore a variety of running and cross training shoes from New Balance, Teva, Merrell and others.) The Sun Dragon shoes are also very light but completely different in concept from other lightweight trail shoes. The GoLite concept is to isolate the foot from the trail and to keep the foot in a more neutral position. I am eager to get the Sun Dragon shoes on the trail to see how well the Timberland Invention Factory's radical ideas work. I'll be wearing the shoes for walking on sidewalks and pavement near my house, for day hikes on desert trails and for backpacking trips walking on forest, mountain, and desert trails and for extended periods in water during some wet trips.

Please check back in about two months for my Field Report on the shoes' performance under these varied conditions.

SUMMARY

The shoes appear well constructed and fit my feet. They feel comfortable right out of the box and I'm eager to get them out on a backpacking trip.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

During this Field Test phase I've done numerous day hikes in a desert park with sandy and rocky trails as well as lots of walks around the neighborhood on asphalt and concrete. I've also worn the Sun Dragons around the house on tiled floor and into a few stores.

BACKPACKING AND PACKRAFTING TRIPS
May 31 Gila River between Christmas and Winkleman, AZ
Highway hitching followed by a four hour float trip.
Hot and sunny with highs just over 100 F (38 C).
Starting pack weight: 21 lb (9.5 kg)

May 31 - June 2 Pinal Mountains near Globe, AZ
Steep forest trail descending from 7560 to 4520 ft (2300 - 1380 m) and mostly rocky trail regaining that elevation.
Clear and hot with temperatures into the upper 90s F (upper 30s C) and down to the upper 50s F (14 C) overnight.
Starting pack weight including 7 lb (3 kg) of water: about 17 lb (8 kg)

June 14, 15 Blue Ridge Reservoir near Payson, AZ
A short, rocky trail descending to a reservoir. Sunny and hot with a high in the low 80s F (28 C) and a low of 47 F (8 C).
Starting pack weight: about 14 lb (6 kg)

June 24 - 28 Weminuche Wilderness in southwest Colorado
Trails ascending from 8500 ft (2600 m) through forests to above treeline with intermittent snow cover at 12,700 ft (3900 m). Numerous creek crossings. Temperatures up to the 80s F (29 C) some days, dropping to freezing on one night.
Starting pack weight: just under 19 lb (9 kg)

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

The Sun Dragons are a soft shoe with moderate arch support. They were very comfortable on my feet the first time I put them on. My feet feel close to the ground and stable even though they are riding on the elevated "Claws." My heels felt a tiny bit more tender wearing the Sun Dragons at first. It felt as if my heel were lower than on other lightweight trail shoes I've been wearing. As my musculature adapted to the shoes, the feeling of my heel being low went away.

The laces are thin and round. They hold well if double knotted (single knots come undone) and are easy to untie.

I occasionally felt a sharp rock through the bottom sole, but no more so than on other lightweight shoes I've worn.

The Claws squeak sometimes - especially noticeable walking through a library. The squeaking became louder and more annoying as my testing progressed.

The Claws are widely enough spaced that I haven't had many rocks get stuck in the tread, although tiny pine cones fit nicely.

My shoes and feet got soaked on my first packraft trip since I stepped into the water to enter or exit the raft. I left the Sun Dragons out overnight on a typical warm, dry, high desert night and they were dry in the morning. Although I trekked through some mud, the shoes didn't look any dirtier after they dried than before (once out of the box they quickly acquired a dusty appearance from the fine sand blowing around my local desert terrain).

I've soaked the Sun Dragons a lot during this two-month field testing phase. I used them on a second packrafting trip and spent three days of my five-day Weminuche trip crossing lots of streams and post holing in soft snow. Each time I walked the shoes dry or left them to dry in the night air with one exception. After my trip to the Blue Ridge Reservoir I left the damp shoes in a plastic bag overnight and they were still damp the next day. I ran them through the washing machine to get the musty smell out.

IMAGE 1
Rips in fabric.


Walking following a stream crossing pumps water out of small holes in the foam exoskeleton quickly and dumps a lot of excess water.

The Sun Dragons gripped very well on dry granite on warm days. The provided good enough traction on old hard snow that I could carefully walk across a shallow side slope without much slippage. They kept me from a long downward slide while crossing a 30 degree slope on semi-soft snow in the Weminuche.

During my five-day Weminuche trip the fabric at the forefoot crease on both shoes began to rip. As I mentioned above I have soaked these shoes a lot and even left them damp overnight once. Whether this contributed to the ripping I don't know.

The tread is wearing more quickly than is normal for my relatively low mileages. This may be a trade off between soft grippy rubber and harder, more durable rubber.

The foam exoskeleton is separating slightly from the shoe in a couple of spots including the forefoot crease on the left shoe.

The small hook and loop dot that helps hold the sole insert in place came unglued in one shoe after the prolonged soaking of my first packrafting trip. This has not affected the functionality of the insole.

I discovered the beauty of the Sun Dragons early on after a 12-mile loop hike that descended 3000 ft (900 m) on a forest trail, then ascended the same vertical distance mostly on a rocky abandoned road. I didn't notice increased stability on the downhill stretch or that I needed to push off more to overcome the Claw compression on the ascent. But back at the top, although my heels were slightly tender, my feet felt much better than they usually feel after hiking that distance. From past experience, I'd expect the bottoms of my feet to feel like hamburger and my whole feet to feel engorged with toxic waste. That was not the case with the Sun Dragons. My feet felt good!

The Claws collect and hold mud adding quit a bit of weight to the shoes.

The Sun Dragons feel slightly warmer than full mesh shoes I've worn but not enough to keep me from hiking in them in temperatures over 100 F (38 C).


SUMMARY

The Sun Dragons are looking pretty beat up after only two months of wear and they squeak annoyingly. However, I love hiking in them! They are very light and keep my feet feeling good during long hikes.

TESTING STRATEGY

I will continue to wear the Sun Dragons for hiking, backpacking and casual use.

Check back in two months for the Long Term Report.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

August 25 - 30, Idaho Panhandle along the St Joe River
This six-day packraft trip turned into a two-parter due to very low water levels. It began with three days of backpacking near the upper St Joe River on rocky and forested trails with numerous creek crossings. Elevations ranged from about 4000 ft (1200 m) along the river to 6300 ft (1920 m) along a loop trail.
Starting pack weight was 20 lb (9 kg) including six days of food since I didn't want to leave any in the car.
The next three days consisted of scouting the Skookum Canyon rapids by walking along the asphalt road that parallels the river, running the rapids, driving to a point down river, leaving my car, walking/hitch hiking up the river, then spending two days floating back to my car.
Starting pack weight with the packraft, PFD and paddle was about 26 lb (12 kg).
The weather was clear the whole trip with an overnight low of 37 F (3 C) and highs into the 80s F (29 C).

September 27 and 28, Blue Ridge Reservoir in north-central Arizona
This trip introduced a friend and my two-year-old niece to backpacking.
Steep, rocky forest trail descending about a mile (2 km) to the reservoir with a 100 yd (90 m) paddle across to the camp site.
Elevation about 6700 ft (2040 m).
Clear and hot with temperatures into the low 80s F (27 C) and down to 45 F (7 C) overnight.
Starting pack weight including packraft/paddle/PFD but not a ginormous tent (which I carried in my hand) or toddler (whom I only had to carry a little bit): 33 lb (15 kg).

More day hikes, neighborhood strolls and casual wear - including two solid days walking on carpeted concrete at a convention.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

IMAGE 1
The rips after three-and-a-half months.

The Sun Dragons were still comfortable after three months of wear. I chose them to wear for two solid days walking on a carpeted convention floor in mid August.

Unlike my experience in Arizona, the Sun Dragons did not dry overnight in the more humid conditions in Idaho. They were still comfortable to walk dry (or at least dryer) during numerous stream crossings there.

The Trail Claws are all intact, but the surfaces are more worn down than I expected after three and a half months of moderate use.

The shoes looked really trashed after my late August Idaho trip. The rips in the upper fabric had spread, making the shoes look quite unsightly.

A GoLite/Timberland representative is quoted in an online forum saying:

"We at GoLite Footwear are aware of the problems some are having with the durability of the textile in the uppers of our trail running shoes and now understand the cause. During the initial production, the process used to mold the uppers was not the process agreed to by our quality department. The final process has surpassed all tests for durability in athletic shoes. This final process utilizes a thin film of PU as a bonding agent between the EVA protective upper and the Powervent Mesh. This film is applied directly under the EVA portion of the upper and results in a very strong bond. However, the initial shoes were mistakenly produced using a process where the factory dipped the entire Powervent mesh piece in a different type of bonding agent. The end result of this process is that the mesh becomes brittle and breaks down more quickly as some have witnessed. Our quality department has run tests on subsequent production runs and are satisfied that the proper process is now being utilized.

IMAGE 2
Uppers - new on the right.


Having said this, it is important to note that these shoes are meant to be utilized for trail running. Due to the nature of the lighter weight construction they will wear more quickly in extreme conditions (as a running shoe might in the same). We have had testers and consumers say they are very satisfied with performance over months of normal use. But we have also seen shoes completely destroyed in as little as two weeks during extreme use. There are always trade-offs for such light weight equipment, although we are passionately committed to minimize those trade-offs and will continue to search for new materials and processes that offer the best of all worlds. A successful example of this search is the technology built into our midsoles. The midsoles designed into all of our performance models are made from a special formulation of polyurethane. This material will provide an extremely consistent level of underfoot support for the life of the shoe unlike most trail running shoes that are built with EVA midsoles which begin to break down the first day of use and the quality of support will degrade continually throughout the life of the shoe.

GoLite stands behind our products. If anyone is experiencing premature wear of the upper textile material, the shoes will be replaced under warranty. Please contact our customer service department directly for immediate service."

IMAGE 3
Soles - new on the right.


I called GoLite Footwear customer service on Thursday, September 13th and told the customer service representative that the uppers were ripping. She gave me a return authorization number and asked me to ship back the shoes with a short note explaining how I had used them. She said she would immediately ship me a new pair of shoes.

The new shoes arrived six days later on Wednesday the 19th. I held off mailing the old shoes until I had the new ones in hand. I took a walk around the neighborhood with a new shoe on my left foot and old one on my right. My right foot felt lower to the ground and less cushioned. The Trail Claws on the old shoe show some compression compared to the new shoe, less than a millimeter (0.04 in) difference on the Trail Claw that looked to be the most compressed. The old insole is a bit flatter, but holding up pretty well. The old footbed liner is thinner than the new one. I couldn't determine if there was any difference between the two lasts.

The new shoes cause a hot spot at the base of my left little toe where the shoe flexes at the forefoot. After wearing the shoes for a week the hot spot is not as bad. Hopefully this crease will soften and stop pressing on my toe.

SUMMARY

The Sun Dragons are wonderful for backpacking and hiking. They give a lot of support and good traction for such a light shoe. The sole gripped very well on rock when new and wore down fairly quickly as I'd expect of a "sticky" sole. The lugs have all remained intact but developed a loud squeak during the first two-months of wear.

The fabric upper wore much more quickly than what I've experienced on other lightweight mesh shoes. GoLite Footwear acknowledged that they are aware of a quality problem and have corrected it.

GoLite Footwear Customer Service was very pleasant and responded quickly to send me a new pair of shoes when I called about the rips in the uppers.

What I like:
Light weight.
Good support for the weight.
Reduces foot fatigue.
Roomy toe box.
Quick, courteous response from customer service.

What I don't like:
Quick wear on upper (claimed to be fixed in later models).
Quick wear on soles.
Neoform upper provides support but makes the shoes slightly warmer than other mesh shoes.

CONTINUED USE

I expect to continue to wear the replacement Sun Dragons for backpacking and day hiking as long as whatever is causing the hot spot on my left foot stops soon.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.

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