North Face Walking Shoes
We review the new North Face Hedgehog outdoors shoe and assess how good it is when it comes to comfort, fit, grip and waterproof protection.
Some time ago, we talked about walking trainers becoming the new walking shoe and North Face has clearly continued this trend by taking the technology and design from sports trainers and applying them to their outdoor footwear.
The North Face Hedgehog in particular is an excellent example of how trainer and walking shoe can be combined to create a high performance shoe at a relatively reasonable price point.
We can’t all afford to pay over £100 on a pair of outdoor shoes (I know I can’t!), so getting what you pay for is very important, especially if you haven’t bought from that brand before.
For your £70, you get a lightweight, hard wearing, outdoor shoe with Gore-Tex XCR for waterproofing and a Vibram outsole designed specifically for the shoe. There’s also plenty of breathable mesh, an orthotic footbed, TPU shank place and Heel X-2 air cushion.
So that’s plenty of underfoot support, breathability, waterproof protection, grip and good looks. For some reason North Face are insistent that the Hedgehog has been designed for speed hiking. Is that like trail running or just walking faster?
Primarily, the Hedgehog XCR is a lightweight walking shoe and performs admirably in this role, although you can comfortable do a spot of running if you’re that way inclined, but they’re no more suited to trail running than my Merrell Intercept trainers.
Let’s quickly run through the features and summarise, then compare the Hedgehog to other outdoor shoes at a similar price.
To start with, there’s the specialist running technology incorporated from sports trainers. This includes the injection moulded TP shank, air cushioned heel and EVA midsole. There’s a Northotic footbed included as well for further cushioning and arch support. All the features work towards providing stability and shock absorption while keeping the shoe relatively lightweight. So you know what’s going on underfoot, you just don’t feel the rocks and other hard surfaces as much as you normally would.
We found that there was a comfortable amount of lengthway bend when walking, but relatively little twist, which is exactly what you want to prevent twisted ankles and other unpleasant injuries when walking over rocks and other awkward surfaces. Quite impressive for such a low cut walking shoe in fact.
The shoe itself is very tough and made from synthetic, abrasion resistant nubuck, so it’s hard wearing and looks good. The styling will have a broad appeal with both younger and more experienced walkers and combines that rugged walking shoe feel with some sleeker lines of the trendy trainer.
Then, there’s the Gore-Tex XCR lining, from which the North Face Hedgehog XCR takes its name. Gore-Tex always has its pros and cons, especially the XCR, which, while letting you splash through puddles (watch out for the low cut ankle on these shoes), isn’t quite as breathable as we’d like for when the weather’s warmer. Because of the XCR lining, the breathable mash that makes up a good deal of the upper simply isn’t as breathable as it could be. So this is not a shoe for the height of summer.
Fantastic grip! But, how long will it realistically last? The tread pattern of the Vibram outsole looks very cool and really grips the ground. Rock, hard packed trail and medium terrain it has no problems with. Soft mud on the other hand, could become a problem. So dry, rocky conditions seem best for the North Face Hedgehog.
When it comes to comfort and fit, the Hedgehog XCR is very comfortable, although the tongue seems a little narrow at first, but soon widens out after a few wears. The laces do up tightly and hold together nicely as well.
In summary, The North Face Hedgehog XCR is a good looking, lightweight multi-sport shoe for all types of outdoor pursuits. Great grip, good fit, solid build, waterproof and relatively breathable. Not ideal for hot weather or wet, muddy paths though.
Like my favourite Merrell Intercept trainers, these could become an everyday multi-purpose shoe for me with their combination of cushioning, grip, good looks, waterproofing, breathability and lightweight comfort.
My Intercept trainers aren’t waterproof though, which gives the Hedgehogs a slight edge over its closely priced rival. On the other hand, the grip on the Hedgehogs is going to wear down faster than the big, chunky treads on the Intercept, although it will offer superior grip in the short term.
The real decision is between waterproofing and breathability. If you need the Gore-Tex XCR, then the North Face Hedgehog is the obvious choice. It’s very reasonable value for money, especially when compared to certain Salomon outdoor shoes which are more expensive for the same array of features.