PATAGONIA BLY HIKING SHOE
TEST SERIES BY NANCY GRIFFITH
INITIAL REPORT - April 13, 2009
FIELD REPORT - June 25, 2009
LONG TERM REPORT - August 14, 2009
Northern California, USA
5' 6" (1.68 m)
130 lb (59.00 kg)
My outdoor experience began in high school with involvement in a local canoeing/camping group called Canoe Trails. The culmination was a 10-day canoe voyage through the Quebec wilds. I've been backpacking since my college days in Pennsylvania. I have completed all of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina. My typical trip now is in the Sierra Nevada in California and is from a few days to a week-long. I carry a light to mid-weight load, use a tent, stove and hiking poles.
April 13, 2009
|Photos courtesy of Patagonia website|
Year of Manufacture: 2009
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.patagonia.com
MSRP: $110.00 US
Listed Weight: 21 oz (595 g) The website does not state for what size this weight applies.
Measured Weight: 22 oz (624 g)
Size Tested: Women's 8.5 Medium
Available in Women's Sizes Only
Color Tested: Burlap (gray)
Other Colors Available: Wildwood (green) and Deep Ocean (blue)
Made in China
The Patagonia Bly Hiking Boot is a low-cut hiking shoe with suede leather uppers. There is a mesh lining to provide good breathability. The liner is made of 60% polyester and 40% recycled PET material. The outside of the shoe has the Patagonia name and a decorative swirl pattern stitched in with brown thread. Around the outer edge of the shoe just above the sole is a protective rubber strip that goes up onto the suede. It extends up onto the toe covering the entire toe portion. I like this because I tend to wear out boots in the toe region if they don't have extra protection.
These boots use a slip lasted construction which means that they are made by sewing the upper into a sock which is then glued directly to the mid- and outsole without any board in between. This is typically used to make a lighter shoe.
The midsole is made of 15% recycled compression-molded EVA (ethylene-vinyl acetate) to provide good cushioning and support and claims to be specifically for women. While I only wear women's boots and shoes, I don't recall owning a pair that made a point of saying they were designed for women. It will be interesting to see if I can tell the difference.
The insole is a 15% recycled EVA of 2mm (0.08 in) thickness. There is a 1mm (0.04 in) thick polyester plate under the foot bed to allow for shock distribution. A 3mm (0.12 in) nylon injection molded arch shank provides arch support and claims to allow for a natural flex at the ball of the foot. The foot bed is 70% recycled open cell foam with carbon to reduce odor and cork to move moisture.
The back of the heel has a loop of nylon webbing for pulling the boot on and off.
|Photos courtesy of Patagonia website|
The laces are 100% recycled polyester. The top and bottom sets of eyelets are round metal while the middle five sets are loops of webbing. There is webbing up the middle of the tongue with one section being left unattached on the top of the tongue. This allows the laces to route through it to hold the tongue in place. There is a loop of webbing at the top of the tongue for grabbing and pulling up on the tongue.
The Vibram outsole has a multiple shapes, sizes and depth of lugs making for a multi-pattern and uses 30% recycled rubber. I can see different colored flecks of the recycled material throughout the sole. So, the sole is not a solid black. The sole wraps up onto the heel of the shoe and wraps just slightly up on the toe.
Neither the website nor the packaging information makes any statement about water resistance.
INITIAL IMPRESSIONS & TRYING THEM OUT
The first thing that I noticed upon opening the box is that the burlap color looked more gray than I had expected. I still like the color, but I would describe them as gray. On the website they look tan and burlap sounds like a tan color to me. The next thing that I noticed was the way that the laces start all of the way down on the toe. They kind of remind me of a climbing shoe in this regard.
The only tag on the shoes is one for the Vibram EcoStep sole. In multiple languages it essentially says that the sole is 30% recycled.
I haven't owned a pair of Patagonia footwear before and wasn't able to find these to try on, but I had gotten advice that they run true to size to slightly small. I typically wear a size 8 and own Merrell light hikers in this size. I wear a size 9 in Keen boots and a size 8 or 8.5 in Nike shoes. So, I ordered a half size large for me which was an 8.5. They fit perfectly. I like to have enough room in my hiking shoes for when my feet swell and these seem just right.
The insole seems pretty nice for a factory insole. It has a good amount of cushion and heel support. When I remove the insole, I can push my fingers into another cushion below. It almost feels gel-like.
The shoes feel light weight and are flexible. I can nearly fold the shoe in half by flexing the toe toward the heel. I can also twist the shoe somewhat. In comparison to my other shoes, they are more similar in flexibility to running shoes than light hiking boots. They seem to be well-made. However, where the mesh collar is attached to the inside of the shoe, I can feel that the edge is not attached. It is slightly sticky as if it was once glued down. I will monitor this throughout the test.
I walked around the house in them just to verify that the fit is good. They feel really comfortable and have good support. I typically wear light hiking boots for backpacking and have also worn running shoes. I will see how these compare.
PROS & CONS
Insole and midsole cushion
Use of recycled materials
Mesh collar not well-attached to inside of shoe
The Patagonia Bly Hiking Boot seems to be a rugged, stylish, and light weight hiking shoe. They are as advertised on the website with the exception of the color being gray.
June 25, 2009
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
During the Field Testing period, I wore the shoes for two backpacking trips (3 days each) and 10 day hikes. I also wore them for a couple of short runs, walks in the park and around town. In total I wore them approximately 20 days.
|La Verkin Creek|
La Verkin Creek Trail, Zion National Park (Utah): 3 days; 20 mi (32 km); 5,413 to 6,070 ft (1,650 to 1,850 m); 40 to 75 F (4 to 24 C); red sandy soil, multiple stream crossings; 25 lb (11 kg) pack
Hunters Trail, Sierra Nevada (California): 3 days; 21 mi (34 km); 3,500 to 5,000 ft (1,067 to 1,524 m); 48 to 70 F ( 9 to 21 C); light rain to sunny conditions; 22 lb (10 kg) pack
Cronan Ranch, Sierra Nevada Foothills (California); 3 mi (5 km); 743 to 1,262 ft (226 to 385 m); 60 F (15 C); muddy to soft dirt; dry conditions
Taylor Creek Canyon, Zion National Park (Utah): 5.4 mi (8.7 km); 5,500 to 5,950 ft (1,676 to 1,814 m); 65 F (18 C); red sand/dirt; dry conditions
Sentinel Loop/Grand Parade, Kodachrome State Park (Utah): 3.2 mi (5 km); 5,800 ft (1,768 m); 70 F (21 C); red soil; dry conditions
Bassi Creek: Northern Sierra Nevada (California): 5 mi (8 km); 6,200 ft (1,900 m) elevation; 80 F (27 C); sand to dirt trail conditions
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
Although I recognize that these are not running shoes and I do not plan to test or use them as such, I tried them for running just to get a better sense of their construction. I have used running shoes for backpacking in the past, so I thought the experiment might be useful. The first time I ran 2 mi (3 km) and found that the heel area felt somewhat stiff. In order to better analyze that feeling, I ran again for 2 mi (3 km) with one Bly shoe and one trail running shoe. It was 5:00 am and dark, so I didn't get any odd looks at my mismatched pair of shoes. I confirmed that the heel area feels stiff in a supportive way and doesn't have as much shock absorption. The heel area in particular and the entire shoe in general feel narrower and a better fit to my foot. I suspect that this may be a result of being specifically designed for women. Overall, I was impressed at how well these shoes functioned for running.
La Verkin Creek provided an opportunity to test the shoes in wet conditions. We followed the trail upstream for 3 miles (5 km) and had dozens of creek crossings. The creek was a silt-filled spring run-off and was running swiftly. For the first several crossings, we picked our way across by vaulting from one rock to another. It was virtually impossible to not get wet feet and after awhile, my feet were completely wet. My socks felt wet almost immediately after touching the water, so I have to say that these shoes have no water resistance at all. To be fair, they don't claim to be water resistant either.
On this trip, the traction on wet rocks was pretty good. Red rocks are typically called slickrock due to their characteristic while wet. However, I only slipped once while creek crossing. I stepped on a green rock that was really slippery. I suspect it had some algae growing on it which made it so slippery.
We also did some hiking off trail. I didn't have any problems with debris getting inside my shoes at all. I was concerned about this because of their low height. It seems that the padded collar really helps to keep debris out. I noticed that while scrambling up steep slopes the top of the collar dug into my ankle. This only happened when my foot was flexed to the maximum but it was uncomfortable. I wouldn't want to wear these shoes if my hike was going to include a lot of off-trail scrambling.
On the Hunters Trail it rained most of one day while we hiked 12 miles. During the hike we scrambled down a steep slope to a river for some fishing. The wet granite was extremely slippery and these shoes slipped quite a bit. In this case, the rock surface was at a steep angle.
Again I found that these shoes do not have any water resistance properties. Just hiking through wet brush immediately soaked the outside of the shoes. Even though it was a light rain, my socks were squishing wet after about an hour. The trail was wet in places and I had to carefully work my way around the water. Normally I like to walk down the middle of the trail despite any water so that I do not cause undo trail maintenance and so that I don't have to slow my pace. I normally do not carry extra shoes on the trail. I simply loosen the laces on my shoes/boots for relaxing in camp. With these shoes, I had to wear wet shoes all evening. They were still wet in the morning although they were dry enough that they didn't cause my socks to get wet.
During part of the trip the trail was large loose rocks and again the footing caused the collar of the shoe to dig in below my ankle bone.
I had no further issue with the mesh collar attachment inside the shoe. It is still the same but has not caused any problems and has not gotten worse. I have had no problems with durability. The shoes are completely intact and don't show signs of wear.
The Patagonia Bly hiking shoes are a well-constructed, comfortable shoe. They perform well and have good durability. Due to their lack of water resistance, I found them to be best suited for fair weather day hikes on established trails.
Collar jams into ankle on steep scrambles and uneven footing
No water resistance
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
During the Long Term Testing period, I wore the shoes for two backpacking trips of 7 days total. I also wore them in camp on a 3-day boat camping trip. So during the LTR period, I wore them for an additional 10 days and 46 mi (74 km). Over the entire test I wore them for approximately 30 days and 132 mi (213 km).
Pacific Crest Trail, Sierra Nevada (California): 4 days; 29 mi (47 km); 7,820 to 9,000 ft (2,384 to 2,743 m); 45 to 75 F (7 to 24 C); multiple stream crossings; 25 lb (11 kg) pack. The terrain was extremely varied and included snow fields, volcanic rock, loose gravel and sand, granite boulder fields, marshy areas and dirt trail.
Pacific Crest/Tahoe Rim Trail, Sierra Nevada (California): 3 days; 17 mi (27 km); 7,390 to 9,010 ft (2,252 to 2,746 m); 22 lb (10 kg) pack. The terrain included boulder fields, dirt trail and a few creek crossings.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
On our Pacific Crest Trail hike, I managed to get my feet completely soaked. That peat pile on the lake edge sure looked like a rock to me! My socks were sopping wet and although we hiked for several hours in clear sunny dry weather afterward, they were still soaking wet when we got to camp. I changed socks and tried to dry my shoes in the sun, but they didn't dry fully until the next morning. As mentioned in my Field Report, I typically do not carry extra shoes with me, so again I had wet feet all evening. Fortunately it was nice weather, so it wasn't a huge bother.
The traction continued to be good during this test period. We crossed several snow fields with no problems. One was quite precarious with it being about 150 ft (45 m) long above a VERY steep slope with a drop of several hundred yards (meters). The trail is near the top of the snow field in the photo. I had to dig in with every step and brace myself with my trekking poles.
I have not had any problems with blisters or discomfort of any kind. I have to admit that my feet are pretty resilient and I rarely have any problems. I can definitely feel sharp rocks through the soles more than in my other light hiking boots, but I haven't had any bruising or problems due to this.
The padded collar continues to keep out small debris. I occasionally have to stop to dump out a pebble or stick, but it is fairly infrequent.
On the Tahoe Rim Trail hike, I tried to evaluate just how much I could feel through the sole of the shoes. I found that any twig or rock of 1/2 in (13 mm) or larger was easy for me to feel. I also noticed on this hike that after about 8 mi (13 km) my feet were feeling fatigued. I hadn't noticed this before, so I'm not sure if the shoes are simply getting worn out or if my feet were just more tired than usual.
The only wear area that I see is that the laces closest to my toes are slightly frayed. I suspect that it is from scraping the tops of the shoes on rocks. The laces are completely intact however and show no signs of breaking.
I found the Patagonia Bly hiking shoes to be a stylish and comfortable shoe that are best suited for fair weather day hikes on established trails.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Collar jams into ankle on steep scrambles and uneven footing
No water resistance
Can feel small twigs and stones through sole
Feet got fatigued
This concludes my Long-Term Report and test series for the Patagonia Bly Hiking Shoe.
Thanks to Patagonia and BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to participate in this test.
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Read more gear reviews by Nancy Griffith