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Reviews > Footwear > Trail Shoes > Vasque Aether Tech SS Trail Shoes > Test Report by Chari Daignault

VASQUE AETHER TECH SS TRAIL SHOES
TEST SERIES BY CHARI DAIGNAULT
LONG-TERM REPORT

INITIAL REPORT - April 01, 2009
FIELD REPORT - June 05, 2009
LONG TERM REPORT - August 05, 2009

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Chari Daignault
EMAIL: chari.daignault@gmail.com
AGE: 46
LOCATION: Orlando, Florida U.S.A.
GENDER: F
HEIGHT: 5' 6" (1.70 m)
WEIGHT: 135 lb (61.20 kg)

I've been an ultra light hiker for 35 years -- I take the bare minimum with me and prefer a pack under or close to 25 pounds. I've hiked all the Florida State Forest trails in Central Florida and climbed Mt. Fuji in Japan when I was nine. I have hiked dry & sandy, rough & rocky and wet & boggy trails and as a result, have found what does and doesn't work for me in terms of equipment and clothing. Central Florida affords a lot of sun and rains, with high temperatures and massive humidity. It's a great testing area for clothing, footwear and headgear.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Vasque
Year of Manufacture: 2009
Manufacturer's Website:
www.vasque.com
MSRP: US$125.00
Listed Weight: 1 lb 4 oz (570 g)
Measured Weight: 22 oz (624 g) [weight as a pair]
Sizes available: Women's Sizes Medium 5-11
Colors available: Nutmeg/Fossil Laural Oak/Dusty Olive

Size tested: Women's 9 [40 EU]
Color tested: Laural Oak/Dusty Olive

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

One of the main things that popped out at me upon opening the shoe box is the strange-looking lacing system, known as the BOA System. Prior to receiving the Vasque Aether Tech SS shoes, I had never heard of this lacing system. It consists of a large, round knob at the top of the shoe (which, according to the BOA Technology website, is called a BOA Shoe Reel) and a black lace cable made of a material of which I couldn't discern. Per the BOA Technology website, the individual laces are: "... woven of 49 individual strands of aircraft grade stainless steel and then compressed to create a very smooth surface with exceptional strength. The lace cables are cut to length with proprietary Boa equipment and the ends are welded into a small ball to keep the strands from unraveling and to provide easy feeding through the lace guides."

BOA lacing system
BOA Lacing System


Information on the BOA System was included on a hang tag attached to one of the shoes. No information on the shoes themselves was included, so I will have to determine the best method for cleaning and care of the shoes as I go.

The shoes are sharp-looking. I like the black decoration on the sides that may also serve a purpose as some sort of support for the side of the shoe. The toe box is nice and roomy, even with a medium sock on. The footbed and OEM inserts felt cushiony and also offered some support to the arch area. I was very happy with the fit and comfort of the shoes.

Side
Side Detail

Toe
Toe Detail


The back of the heel is comfortable against my Achilles tendon. I'm curious to see how much I will feel the shoe reel (if at all) on the top of my foot after fully tightening the lacing system. I am also curious to see just how flexible the steel lace cables are when I'm running on the trails.

Heel
Heel Detail

Top and side
Top and Side

TRYING IT OUT

By pulling on the shoe reel, I was able to pop the reel out and loosen the lace cable. Pulling the tongue of the shoe out and away while the shoe reel was popped out opened the shoe up nice and wide. I was able to slip my foot in and out of the shoe easily (while wearing a medium running crew sock). To engage the lacing system, I pushed the shoe reel in until it snapped and then turned it clockwise. This caused the lace cable to tighten at certain points on the top of the shoe. I continued to turn the shoe reel until the shoe was tightened sufficiently to my taste. I then did the same with the other shoe.

The points on the shoe at which the lace cables tighten are called elongated lace guides. These appear to be placed at precise points on the shoes to ensure a tight and supportive fit when the lacing system is engaged. When lacing up the shoes to try them out on the trails for the first time, I made sure to stand up before engaging the BOA System so I knew my feet would be spread out and at their widest.

The tread held up very well on loose dirt, grass, embedded and loose gravel, and on hard, compacted dirt. I experienced no slippage and my ankles and knees felt good. The shoes are surprisingly lightweight and I found running in them on the trail to be very enjoyable.

Tread Detail
Tread Detail


The temperature during this initial trail run was 83 F [46 C] with little humidity, and it was partly cloudy. When the run was completed, I found that my feet ended up sweating quite a bit. In fact, the sweat actually came through the shoes on the sides, which is clearly visible in the following photo. My socks were wet, but no hot spots formed on my feet. The run was just over 2.5 m [4 km] in distance, so I will be testing further at longer distances to see if the wetness becomes an issue.

Sweat Marks
Sweat Marks

SUMMARY

Overall, I really like these shoes. I am hoping the issue with breatheability doesn" in problem big a become t results.

I love the weight of the shoes, the fit, the traction they afford, and the quirky lacing system.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

Field testing was done southeast of Orlando in the Hal Scott Regional Preserve and Park [also known simply as the Hal Scott Nature Preserve] and for five nights and six days on the Little-Big Econ forest portion of the Florida Trail. Elevation is between 12 ft [3.6 m] and 75 ft [22.8 m] above sea level. Terrain in the Hal Scott Nature Preserve is highly wooded with sandy trails which become extremely dry during times of drought. In Central Florida, we experienced drought conditions for several weeks and those conditions ended during what is normally our "dry" season, in the middle of May.

During testing, I experienced extremely dry weather with higher than normal temps which ranged from 70 F [21.2 C] to 90 F [32.2 C]. Near the end of the field testing period, I experienced normal temps ranging from 67 F [19.4 C] to 88 F [31 C] with several days of full-on rain, thunder storms and tornadoes. Luckily, during the week we were camping out in the Little-Big Econ forest, it was still dry.

I tested the Vasque Aether Tech SS Trail shoes during almost daily trail runs and day hikes and a few bike rides in the Hal Scott nature preserve.

Our overnight trip was planned for north Georgia, but life got in the way and we decided to stay locally. We opted for the Little-Big Econ portion of the Florida Trail which is about 45 minutes from home. The 7.3 mile [11.7 km] trail on this section of the Florida Trail follows along the Econlockhatchee River [the "Econ"] and the surrounding swamps. There are areas in forest and along the river where primitive camping is permitted. We camped along the river in an inlet, spending 6 days hiking and 5 nights fighting off the bugs -- who were very "thirsty" due to the drought. The terrain went from dense forest to sandy river banks. The sandy trails are known to be treacherous to those of us with weak ankles, due to the amount of exposed tree roots and eroded trail areas. The trail allows us to cross the river at several points, with the aid of wooden walking bridges. No bicycles are allowed on this portion of the Florida Trail, so we did not bring our bikes along on this trip.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

Hiking in the Little-Big Econ offers a variety of terrain. There are washed-out and eroded parts of the upper river bank over which the trail normally would go. So we could have ended up floating down river if we didn't look where we were going. Aside from the wash-outs, the exposed roots, fine dry sand and wobbly wooden trail bridges offer enough opportunity to sprain an ankle or twist a knee as a downhill sprint over loose gravel. And that's exactly what I did at least three times while wearing the Vasque Aether Techs.

Green Anole
Green Anole Watching Me Twist my Ankle


Although, for me, they performed perfectly well on grassy or soft dirt surfaces, I found they didn't offer much support or cushioning for hiking on hard packed surfaces, rock or wood [bridges or downed trees]. Just stepping off a bridge, I twisted an ankle. While crossing a downed tree, I twisted it again. Hopping over a wash-out, I sprained my other ankle. I know I have weak ankles, but this trip broke all records for ankle-wrangling on my part and I don't think it was an issue with my level of grace.

I also found that my feet were much more comfortable inside the Vasque Aether Techs when I wore cushioned socks. If I wore my usual thin crew sock, the balls of my feet would become very sensitive and I could feel hotspots trying to form along the sides of my big toes. We were hiking 7 to 10 miles [11.2 to 16.1 km] a day and it came close to becoming an issue with regard to my comfort level at those distances.

Cushioned Socks
With Cushioned Socks


The shoes do a great job of keeping out debris. I really thought that the low-cut tops of the shoes would allow sand and grit inside the shoe, but as of yet, I've not had any unwanted items inside my shoes.

Thanks to the BOA lacing system, putting on and removing the shoes is extremely easy. This made the Vasque Aether Techs an excellent choice as a camp shoe for me. I was able to easily loosen and tighten the lacing system with one hand. I loved this part about the shoe!

With the shoes being so light-weight, I've actually shaved almost three minutes off my 2.5 mile [4 km] trail runs. My trail runs are typically on grassy, softer trails with the occasional gravel patch, so comfort isn't an issue even with the thin soles of the Vasque Aether Techs. Again, even with trail running, my feet do feel better with a cushioned sock on versus a thin sock; but overall, on the softer surfaces, the shoes do fine.

I have found that my feet will sweat right through the outer surface of the shoes when trail running. It doesn't matter what thickness of sock, the shoes will display sweat. Surprisingly, the times when I've accidentally [or intentionally] run through puddles or a marshy area, the shoes don't become water-logged. The shoes are not waterproof [and are not intended to be], but I find it nice that moisture from inside the shoe can easily get out while moisture from the outside appears to not have as easy a time getting in.

Wet Shoes
Sweaty, wet shoes


The traction on the shoes is great. Even the time when I've twisted or sprained my ankles, I never lost my footing. They've held onto wet wood, fine dry sand, loose gravel, mud and marshy areas. I've not experienced any slippage at all.

Sole Detail
Detail of Sole


The shoes performed fine during off-rode bicycling. They stayed on the pedals well and are lightweight and form-fitting enough that they did not hit the frame while pedaling.

SUMMARY

Overall, I like these shoes very much for trail running. For hiking on rougher, more varied terrain, I don't know that I'd choose the Vasque Aether Techs -- especially if it's any distance over 3 miles [4.8 km]. I highly recommend wearing cushioned hiking socks when wearing the Vasque Aether Techs, as there is not much cushioning at all built-in.

Likes:
Lightweight
Wick moisture from within
Good traction
BOA Lacing System
Dry quickly

Dislikes:
Negligible Cushioning
Negligible Stability

TESTING STRATEGY

I will continue to use the Vasque Aether Techs for all my trail runs and day hikes. If I'm able to get the bike out again [transport issues], I'll wear them for bike rides as well.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

I've continued to test the Aether Tech trail shoes in and around Central Florida. The weather has been very sunny with extreme humidity and very severe thunderstorms in the late afternoons and early evenings. The average temperature during this testing phase has been 94 F [34.4 C]. Factoring in humidity levels, the temperature feels more like 105 F [40.6 C]. Due to the timing of the storms, I've found myself caught in them almost every day. I have put approximately 85 miles [137 km] on the shoes during this final phase of testing.

The terrain has been mostly mud with some embedded gravel and high, weedy grass.

During this phase, I've worn the shoes on daily trail runs, several day hikes and three bicycle rides. I also wore them while doing some electrical work up in my attic, where I had to navigate the beams and try to not fall into my living room via the ceiling.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

For trail running on dirt or grass, the Vasque Aether Techs are wonderful. They are comfortable, lightweight, are so easy to lace up [thanks to the BOA system] and have great traction on those terrains. However, I've found that hiking and backpacking with them is not the best use for these shoes.

I've continued to experience issues with comfort on hard surfaces due to the lack of cushioning in the shoes. I can feel rocks and sharp objects when I step on them, which causes me to step lightly, often losing my footing. The one area I've found this to be a plus was up in the attic. This is because I want to feel the hard surfaces when walking around up there. These shoes were great; they had fantastic traction on wood beams and since I could feel the beam through the shoe, I was able to keep my feet on the beams and not go crashing through my ceiling.

Going back to trail running, I've completely enjoyed these shoes. My feet feel so much lighter with them on and I've been able to increase my speed. Even running in thick mud was relatively easy, although I did have to stop and bang the shoes to get the mud to release from the bottom, otherwise it was like wearing elevator shoes. I run on dirt trails and when the mud or puddles are too big to navigate, I'll go around them through very tall, weedy grass and have experienced no traction issues. The weight of the shoes is such that I'm able to quickly jump or change course while running, depending on what the terrain has to offer.

Water goes directly through the shoe, so when running in rain and through mud puddles, my feet and socks become completely soaked. I have not experienced any blisters in spite of this. The shoes clean up very well just by hosing them off. Thus far, they do not stink, even after the approximately 250 miles [403 km] I've put on them. On the left shoe, the black TPU piece is coming loose on the end closest to my toes. That has not affected the shoe's performance yet.

SUMMARY

Overall, I love these shoes for dirt trail running. I am not in love with them for hiking or backpacking. For me, there is just not enough stability or cushioning in them for hard surfaces or long treks. The BOA lacing system is wonderful; it's great to just pop the reel with one finger to remove wet, muddy shoes.

Likes:
Lightweight
BOA Lacing system
Traction on all surfaces

Dislikes:
No cushioning
No stability on hard surfaces

I will continue to use these shoes for trail running until they fall apart.

REMARKS

Many thanks to Vasque and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test the Aether Tech SS Trail Shoes. This concludes my Long Term Report.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.



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