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Reviews > Footwear > Trail Shoes > Vasque Kota Mid Shoes > Test Report by John Waters

VASQUE KOTA MID SHOES
TEST SERIES BY JOHN R. WATERS
LONG-TERM REPORT
August 20, 2007

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

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: John R. Waters
EMAIL: exec@bysky.com
AGE: 58
LOCATION: White Lake, Michigan USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 178 lb (80.70 kg)

My backpacking began in 1999. I have hiked rainforests in Hawaii, Costa Rica, and Puerto Rico, on glaciers in New Zealand and Iceland, 14ers in Colorado and Death Valley's deserts. I hike or snowshoe 6-8 miles (10 km-13 km) 2-3 times weekly in Pontiac Lake Recreation Area, with other day-long hikes on various SE Michigan trails. I also hike in Colorado and am relocating there, which will increase my hiking time and trail variety tremendously. My daypack is 18 lb (8 kg); overnights' weigh over 25 lb (11 kg). I'm aiming to reduce my weight load by 40% or more.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Vasque
Year of Manufacture: 2007
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.vasque.com
MSRP: US$ 130.00
Listed Weight: N/A
Measured Weight: 40 oz (1134 g)
Colors: Graphite/Green
Sizes Available: Medium 7-12, 13, 14 Men's
Size Tested: 10 Men's
Upper: 1.8mm Waterproof Nubuck and Pig Suede Leather
Midsole: Molded EVA
Plate: TPU Torsion Control
Outsole: Vasque Racer X
Lining: Nylon
Footbed: Dual Density EVA
Other: Strobel Construction

Description from Vasque: "Multisport shoe meet's day hiker! This versatile shoe's sturdy platform combines with Vasque's Keystone Control System for excellent stability; ample cushion and a flexible, tapered toe provide smooth, speedy toe-off."
Side View


INITIAL IMPRESSIONS - April, 2007

For some time now, I've been considering light-weight summer hiking boots. I really like the boots I have, however, where I've been hiking and scrambling the past several months, it gets up over 100 F (38 C). I am hoping that lighter weight boots will be more comfortable. Not that the mostly leather ones I have now are unbearable, just that something lighter might be even better. So I am excited to have a chance to test the Vasque boots.

The Vasque Kota Mids XCR model I am testing is not as high over the ankle as other boots I'm used to. The Vasque Kota Mids are 5.5 in (14 cm) from the center top of the ankle to the bottom of the heel, while my current favorites are 7.5 in (19 cm). Although the Vasque Kota Mids are not a low cut shoe like a sneaker and my favorites are not a high cut (I always thought them to be a "mid"), I'm not sure where the Vasque Kota Mids falls in definition. The top of the Vasque Kota Mids just barely touches the bottom of my ankle.

I am skittish about twisting my ankle. I broke my foot before and I was out of commission for a while, plus it hurt. So I am very particular about having good ankle protection. The collar of the Vasque Kota Mids is nicely padded so I don't expect undue rubbing. Ditto the gusseted padded tongue.

The boot is light smoky gray with darker gray accents, black toe and heel guards and a dark lime green interior with matching dark lime green stripes on what appear to be bungee-like straps attached to the shoelace ties. There are looped pulls on the back of each boot to aid in putting them on.

I'm a huge fan of quick tie hooks, the kind where you can quickly tie the last 3 or 4 shoelace wraps by looping the shoelace under the hooks. Unfortunately, the Vasque Kota Mids have shoelace holes all the way up which makes taking them on and off and getting them adjusted more time consuming.

The second shoelace holes from the top have a 3/8 in (.9 cm) striped bungee-like strap that runs from the sole through an eyelet at the shoelace hole and back down to the sole a little more forward. The bungee forms an inverted V that appears to act as a compression strap to tighten the side of the boot against my foot. This is appears to stop sway I'm guessing and may compensate for twisting to protect from ankle problems. I'll see. I am just finding myself to be a type "A", as it takes a whole lot of time to adjust the shoelaces each time I put them on.
Top View


Toes Now, about breaking these guys in. So far (only a couple of days), the Vasque Kota Mids have not been the easiest pair of shoes I've ever broken in. I've worn the boots with a pair of Darn Tough Vermont boot socks. The Kota Mids are a size 10, just like my current favorite boots, but I was hiking in my favorites for several miles (km) the day after I got them with no problems at all and have not had any issues with those in about 4 years. So it is possible to get boots that do not need fussing and extended break-in times.

It appears the Vasque Kota Mids will need a little more time. There is plenty of room forward in the toe box, but my toes seem to be wanting more room anyway. I think the top inside of the toe box might not be high enough for me. I think there is ample room forward, but my toes scrape on the top of the toe box. Whatever the reason, I feel like my feet are inside a hard box. There is no softness in there. So my feet are taking more of a beating than I am use to. I am probably going to have to get inserts before I do any extremely long hikes with the Vasque Kota Mids.


The bottom cushioning is also pretty harsh. I can feel every rock when climbing over crushed shale for example. I like the aggressive sole pattern, though I will say that mud really clings to it. Sticks like glue. As a comparison, my favorites allow me to take mud off with a nearby stick, while the Kota Mids just hang on to the mud and I can't get it all off.

I'm going to be wearing these almost constantly over the next 10 days as I travel and hike around the desert and rocky areas of Canon City, Colorado. I just may get a chance to see how they work against prickly pear cactus and snakes and scorpions. Then I'll be back in Michigan to test the Vasque Kota Mid XCR shoes some more.
Soles


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS & CONDITIONS - June 2007


I've been wearing this pair of Vasque boots for miles/kilometers of hiking in some very rough and rocky terrain. I would estimate that since I started tested these, I probably have over 20 mi (32 km) on them and this is in just the first two months of my testing.

I've taken several 3 to 4 mi (5-8 km) mountain terrain hikes with elevation increases of a couple hundred feet (61 m) to as much as 1500 ft (457 m), carrying pack loads of nothing to as much as 50 lb (23 kg) in a fully extended pack. I've forded streams (pretty cold, too) and scrambled over scree and climbed over smooth and jagged bedrock. I've brushed plenty of cacti and banged into a lot of rock and bushes.
Most of the hiking I've done in the past 3 weeks has been while maintaining my company tower sites and hiking around looking for new tower sites in very remote locations in south central Colorado. Our towers are located anywhere from 5500 ft to 6500 ft (1676 to 1981 m) above sea level and some of the proposed sites are at 7600 ft (2316 m) or more. The trails are over rugged bedrock and, when it rains, I have to deal with expansive soil mud. This type of mud is harsh. Each step taken adds more mud until the mud sticking to the boot gets to be 4 or 5 times the boot size.

The temperature in this desert area the past few weeks has been hot. It went up to 98 F (37 C) yesterday with 40% humidity. There is little shade because the trees are no higher then 20 ft (6 m) and their branches grow to the ground. So these boots saw some mighty hot stuff and were exposed to a lot of sun. They held up well. I always wear heavy socks. All of the time spent in these boots was spent using Vermont Darn Tough Socks. In my opinion, good socks make the boot more comfortable and protect my feet from being banged around; sort of like protecting a fragile item in a shipping container with bubble-wrap. So even in 98 F (37 C) conditions, I wear fairly thick socks.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

When I first put these boots on they felt okay. I figured that I would have to break them in because they were a little stiff. I later learned that I had the first 3 rows of laces too tight. After loosening up the laces and not making them as tight as my old faithfuls that have been with me for a few years, this pair felt much better. In fact, I've gotten use to wearing the laces quite loose at the bottom and then, tightening up the top two rows as tight as possible to allow for more ankle support.

The Vasque boots do run small though. In retrospect, I should have ordered a 10 1/2 size for this test instead of the 10 that I wear for all my other footwear. Unfortunately, I waited too long to realize the size issue. When there is no retailer in town to try a boot on, I can only assume that the boot would size the same as others. But this is why shopping for boots is so difficult via mail. I will now ALWAYS try a boot on before purchasing. That being said, I've done all my testing with my toes a little cramped in these. BUT with all the miles/kilometers I've put on these, aside from some toe scraping, there are no blisters or hot-spots or other ill effects to report.

IMAGE Newlin Trail in Florence, Colorad
On the Newlin Trail in Florence, Colorado
The Gor-Tex works as well as any other boot I've ever used. My feet were dry unless I got water over the top and got my socks wet. But when that did happen, the boots dried quite well and, in fact, after crossing a stream on the Newlin Trail south of Florence, Colorado, they dried well on the trail. The temperature at that time was approximately 78 F (26 C) and the humidity was approximately 22%. I didn't cross up higher on the trail that day where the water was waist deep and moving quickly. This is a beautiful hike if all of the 18 stream crossing can be made.

I was carrying a 50 lb (23 kg) full backpack at the time I hiked the Newlin Trail and these boots had no issues with the load. I did notice that the "feel" was more sensitive. I could feel more of the mid-sized rocks under foot. The soles on these boots are not as hefty as I am use to. The tread design is dispersed wide and the tread is not very deep. The wide expanse between the tread makes for no protection in spots for the lower sole of my foot. So anything hard that touches that expanse is felt. I can, for example, feel loose 1 in (3 cm) shale under foot.


Because of this tread pattern, I found myself slipping on loose pebbles and scree much more than I am use to. I hadn't slid down embankments as much as I have while wearing the Vasque boots. I had to rely on using my hiking poles more because I just did not feel comfortable that these boots would break my fall. I was constantly on the lookout for the next break.

The boots also had to deal with expansive wet soil on several occasions. It's gooey, sticky and VERY slippery. Even in a 4x4 SUV it's easy to slide sideways and go off the road. Fascinating stuff. But these boots held up not too badly when covered with 2 in (5 cm) of mud. They cleaned off well. Expansive mud is easier to remove if let to dry first. It's so slippery that removing it wet is quite frustrating. The boots need to get dry then they have to be banged together to remove the large dried mud and then brushed off. The Vasque boots took this beating well.

However, I did not get good traction in the mud. Note that I say "in" the mud, because this stuff will let a person sink inches/centimeters in. So walking was treacherous and I needed poles to avoid falling face down. I can not adequately describe what walking through a field of wet expansive soil is like, but I can say with certainty that these boots did not handle it any better then a pair of tennis shoes. I have other boots with thick, high treads that I feel comfortable with. I still slide in those other boots with each step, but they arrest the slide. The Vasque boots lacked the arresting and I had to walk as if I was skating.

However, the light weight of the boots was nice. Aside from the size issue and traction problems, I didn't know that I was wearing hiking boots. They were invisible until my toes banged the front of the toe box or I slid a few feet down an embankment.

I never had an issue with being uncomfortable from sweating or dampness in the Vasques. After several hours of hiking and work and climbing up and down 200 ft (61 m) cliffs, my feet were almost completely dry. Yes, my socks were slightly damp when I took my boots off at the end of each day, but the dampness was barely detectable and socks and boots never smelled.

I've brushed up against plenty of cactus and not once have I had to pick any spines out of my boots. I got a few of those thin almost invisible ones in my wrist when I caught myself sliding a few times, but none came into or through the boots.

These boots have taken a beating and they show little wear for what they have gone through.


SUMMARY

I am going to continue to put more miles/kilometers and lots of wear on these Vasque boots. I'll see how they hold out as the temps continue to be upward of 100 F (38 C) next month and as I scramble over more jagged rock and scree. So far, they are holding up well. Now if the traction was better by making the tread more aggressive, I would be very happy. I'm still concerned about not getting enough
grip on loose dirt, pebbles and scree.

This concludes my Field Report on the Vasque Kota Mid XCR shoes. This report will be amended after two more months of field testing in late August, 2007. Please check back then for those testing results.

Thank you to Vasque and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test the Vasque Kota Mid XCR shoes.

John R. Waters


LONG-TERM REPORT

LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS - August 2007

Since my Field Report two months ago, I've hiked over 20 miles (32 km) in these boots. Those 20 miles (32 km) included treks over bedrock, sharp shale, cactus strewn landscape, dry dusty soil and in thick, gooey, sticky mud. I've waded through streams and mud holes and fought sharp brush and dealt with pebbly steep hillsides on 45 degree inclines.

I've walked with pack weights from 15 to 30 lbs (7 to 14 kg), with and without hiking poles. Almost this entire section of testing time was spent in temperatures ranging from 83 to 103 F (28 to 39 C), from UV warning days to overcast rainy thunderstorm days.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

I've seen relatively little wear on this pair of boots. No major cuts and tears. For lightweight boots they have been quite durable. There is some slight wear on some of the stitching. There are small cuts on the sidewalls and there are what I call compression lines on the sidewall from frequent compression while walking. Of course, that means the sidewalls are absorbing the force in my stride, which probably is why these boots are pretty comfortable to wear. Other than brushing them off with a utility brush to remove mud and dust, I've not cleaned them or washed them since I started wearing them. I do not use a 3rd party sole insert.

Because of their light weight, I've not experienced really sweaty feet even in temperatures exceeding 100 F (38 C) in bright sunlight. In such an environment, I wear lightweight socks, and even with lightweight socks, I did not get any abrasions or any blisters anywhere. As I reported earlier, the toe box on these boots needs to be opened up to avoid toe abrasion, so I keep the box wide and tie the top of the laces tight to control motion within the boot and to support my ankles.

I still think the tread needs to be a little deeper for better traction on loose pebbles, especially when scrambling down steep hills. I've been in several situations where I was glad I had a hiking pole to stop me from sliding. However, I did find that having a flatter less deep tread is better for cleaning off mud. The mud around here is "expansive soil" that expands 20 to 30% of its volume when wet. When walking in this stuff, I feel like the Pillsbury Dough Boy. The mud just grows and grows around anything I wear on my feet. I have another pair of boots with much deeper tread, but I end up picking out mud for days from between the grooves. With the less deep tread on this pair of Vasque boots, I can scrape off the mud much more easily.
Vasque Kota compression marks
"Compression" marks


SUMMARY

Vasque Kota tread
Tread after 4 months
Overall, the Vasque shoes are very comfortable, quite adequate trail shoes. It took me more than a little time to figure out the best way to lace them up to avoid cramped toes, but once I did, I found the boots to be supportive. The shallow tread was very useful for the conditions I found myself in most often, shedding mud easily. However that same shallow tread wasn't very helpful in climbing situations where I needed more grab.

If I had it to do all over again, I think I would try one size up from my usual boot size. I will definitely continue to wear the Vasque Kotas until they wear out which considering the minimal wear up to now, will be a long time from now.

Thank you to Vasque and Backpackgeartest.org for the opportunity to test these boots.

John R. Waters


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

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