November 07, 2018

Like life, looking for the perfect balance in shoes is always tricky - Don’t worry, I’m not going to be all philosophical- nonetheless when you only have one pair and you’re backpacking around the globe, that one pair needs to continuously dish out miles with plenty of smiles. Comfort, support and versatility are what I was looking for when I first put on my pair of the New OX Trails.

Where they were tested:

Before I get into the nitty-gritty of my thoughts of the Ox Trails I would like to share where they were tested and for how long. Right out the box, I jetted off to a scorching hot rock-climbing and safari trip within Mpumalanga where I hiked and climbed around Waterval-Boven. The terrain was steep, taking single jungle-like tracks and gravel jeep-tracks. After that, they were taken into the 40-odd-degree Kruger where breathability and comfort were what I needed. Since then, for several months, I have been doing 10km trail-runs in them on Table-Mountain two times a week and they’ve become my go-to approach shoe when rock-climbing. They’ve been used in rain, mud, and sizzling heat as well as in various urban jungles.

First impressions and build:

They’re built like a trail-runner. Aggressive lugs, but not too sharp so they are able to endure pavements as well as perform in mud and on soft trails. The rubber is Hi-Tec’s own MDT, which I’ve come to appreciate, hitting the sweet spot between stickiness and firmness. Unlike other models, they’ve added a Ghillie and eyelet lacing system, creating a snug and non-slip tie. I’m particularly happy about this because one particular critique is generally Hi-Tec’s lacing system on their multi-sport range. This changes that and I haven’t needed to retie halfway through a hike, nor do I lose tension while lacing up. Other than that, it has a tightly woven synthetic upper. It’s breathable, drains quickly (if exploring and falling into wintery kloofs), but it seems to be doing particularly well at keeping sand and fynbos out. It has a moulded impact-absorbing EVA midsole, which is a shock-absorbing champ.

The Feel:

Personally, I avoid big clunky hiking boots at all costs, therefore the lighter the better. I thought that the light construction would mean, like a lot of other shoes I’ve had in the past, that they would blow out quickly- it's the compromise that all shoe companies make between light materials and durability. Not the case in the OX Trails! All these months later, other than them feeling nicely broken in, and some superficial damage, they’re looking and wearing well. The arch-support is present, but it wears more like a minimal trail-runner than a hiker- something I dig. Especially for scrambling where I want to be sure that my foot placements are in the right spot. Saying that, if you’re hiking with weight, make sure that you have strong ankles and feet (i.e. you walk around with bare feet regularly). If you’re less confident with nude feet, avoid too much weight or check out Hi-Tec’s Wild-fire I Mid or the Scorpios (they’re a little more sturdy).

The Look:

I went for the grey, white and black model. Conservative, maybe, but like I said I wanted to be happy and willing to wear them in the mountains just as much as wanting to wear them out for dinner in a pair of jeans. They’ve got a fiery red and a funky orange as well, so have a look.

The Verdict:

As I’ve pointed out. These edge towards being a light and fast model. They dry and wick quickly, while still being impermeable to gunk. They perform sensitively and respond well on single tracks, while the MDT and EVA mid and outer sole give you adequate protection and shock absorption. They’re not a long distance-type of hiker, but they’ll be good company on your travels where you’re juggling between hiking, running and seeing the nightlife. Saying that I’m happy that Hi-Tec has introduced their Ghillie and eyelet lacing system, something that I hope will get into more of their models. All in all, I’m happy with them and I think they’re a much-needed new addition to the traditionally chunky OX series. 

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