Current Retail: $142.73-$199.95
Historic Range: $124.36-$199.95
Reviewers Paid: $140.00
A super comfortable hiking shoe, which blurs the lines between a trail runner and a hiking boot.
- Exceedingly comfortable
- Spacious toe-box
- Exceptional traction
- A little "bounce" from the midsole
- Fairly breathable
- Easy to get on
- Not sure how the knit upper will fare over time.
As the summer hiking season approached, it became clear that it was time to buy a new pair of hiking shoes. This process is always made more difficult by the multitude of foot problems I have: long toes, wide forefoot (bunions), severe over-pronater, and size 14. So I started researching what was new on the market, to get started in the process.
I read a review in Backpacker magazine for the Adidas Terrex "Free Hiker" boots. Now, I have to confess that I went into this with a poor attitude. Adidas... yeah, they make soccer cleats and jerseys, and basketball shoes, and running shoes, and gym shorts. What do they know about hiking and backpacking??
So even though the Terrex sub-brand has been making inroads into the outdoor community recently, I still had a prejudice against the brand. But the review I read had phrases like "the wide toebox was so comfortable," which really piqued my interest, tempered somewhat by the shoes' $200 price tag. But when Adidas was having a 30% off sale, I decided to take a chance and order them up.
Fit: Fit is probably slightly more generous than what I am used to, but I like a roomy shoe so that's not a big deal. Because of the unique sock-like liner though, they have a comfortable glove-like fit. They are super easy to get on. Almost every hiking shoe/boot I've ever owned has been a pain to get into, but these stretch right back, and the foot slides right in. I always use an aftermarket insole in my shoes, and my custom molded Sole footbeds fit right perfectly.
Comfort: The construction of this boot is a little unusual. There is no traditional "tongue" under the lacing, but a stretchy sock-like knit upper. You still need to wear socks! But it creates a nice cozy, stable feeling when they are on. The toe-box is indeed, very big and comfortable, and even on steep downhills, my toes don't feel like they're getting jammed into the front of the shoe. They feel more like a trail runner than a hiking shoe, and I find that I can wear them all day with less foot pain than I have experience in other shoes. This is probably the most comfortable hiking boot I've ever tried.
Water resistance: These shoes are not waterproof, which is just fine with me. For summer hiking, I prefer ventilation over water resistance, as my feet tend to get pretty hot during the warm Sierra summers. I do wear a lightweight gaiter over the shoe (Dirty Girls!), which gives another layer of protection. But even tromping through flooded and muddy trails in late spring/early summer conditions, I have yet to have any water get into the boots. I wasn't sure how breathable the knit upper would be, but my feet haven't yet overheated on long days.
Support: The sole has enough torsional support to protect the bottom of my feet and keep me stable. But they are nicely responsive, and the springy TPA midsole gives a little bounce when you get into a good trail rhythm (they advertise this as "Boost").
Traction: I have to confess... I am a died-in-the-wool Vibram man. One of the first things I look for when buying new hiking shoes, is that Vibram logo. The Free Hikers come with a Continental rubber outsole, which I'd not seen on a hiker before. But, I've owned bicycle tires and automobile tires from Continental, and been happy with them, so hoped to get over my non-Vibram prejudice.
Holy crap! These soles are the stickiest and most stable I have ever hiked in. I have yet to stumble or slide on scree, sand, sloppy mud, wet granite, or anything else the Sierra throws at me. I have even tried a few times to push the envelope, and these soles stick like crazy glue.
Durability: The shoes appear to be very well made. I will be interested to see how the stretchy knit upper fares over time. I haven't really seen anything else like it, and it seems like it might snag in certain conditions (bushwhacking, desert walking). It has a nice solid toe-cap in front, which I think will help.
I have had these for about a month now, and have hiked in them multiple times. I have tramped through the foothills, and done a few Tahoe Sierra area hikes in late spring/early summer conditions, and so far, am loving these boots!
REVIEW UPDATE 8/11/2019:
Just back from a five-day, 28-mile backpack trip at Mount Rainier, the circumnavigation of the Mother Mountain complex. This hike has major up and down every day, and was a great test for the Free Hikers. Happy to report that they fulfilled all of my expectations over the five days. And for the first time ever on a multi-day backpack trip, I finished with NO foot blisters (those who have backpacked with me before, know what a big deal this is). Traction was stellar on scree, boulders, mud, steep snowfields, sand, etc. So glad I picked these up!
Hot foothill hikes. Late spring/early summer conditions in the Sierra, on dirt, mud, granite, sloppy stream crossings. Multi-day backpack trip on Mount Rainier.
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $140