Hiking across the sun-baked, sagebrush flats on the interior of the City of Rocks National Reserve, in the high desert of southern Idaho, the heat of the midday sun feels heavier than my pack stuffed with climbing gear. Coming here in late spring is a crapshoot with the weather, but it generally swings between extremes. Between the time you hit the trail and return to your vehicle or campsite, you might see everything from hot sunshine to a cold downpour to hail or snow. It’s an unforgiving place to get caught without the right clothing—or footwear. And given the meteorological craziness, footwear is tough to get right, because you need shoes that can fend off wet conditions without frying your feet, objectives often at odds with one another. That’s what drew me to try out La Sportiva’s Primer GORE-TEX SURROUND® Shoes. These low-cuts employ GORE-TEX SURROUND® product technology, which features side vents in the shoe’s midsole to release moisture and heat, and a spacer layer between the outsole and the shoe’s inner lining, allowing airflow under the foot. Nano-Cell AirMesh uppers allow a high degree of air movement, further helping to cool hot feet. GORE-TEX SURROUND® product technology increases breathability by 30 percent over the brand’s standard membrane. I can report that my feet remained dry and comfortable despite sweat soaking my T-shirt while carrying a 50-pound pack across the City of Rocks. The GORE-TEX footwear also kept moisture from penetrating during a light rain and when I stood in a shallow creek to test them. But how does it perform as a hiking shoe? These lightweight low-cuts have a soft, compression-molded EVA midsole for cushioning, with TPU inserts to enhance stability, making them best for day hikes with a fairly light pack (15 to 20 pounds max; my 50-pound climbing pack might be more than these shoes are intended for). The STB Control System, consisting of synthetic leather overlays on the uppers, help protect them while dialing in a better fit through integrating the midsole with the upper. When you lace up the shoes, the uppers conform to your foot’s shape, and the gusseted tongue stays in place and keeps out trail debris. (Side benefit: Dry feet and a good fit helps prevent blisters.) True to the La Sportiva pedigree, the shoe’s Vibram Nano outsole delivers confidence-inspiring traction in a variety of terrain, thanks to an Impact Brake System that blends multi-directional, widely spaced lugs in the outsole’s interior with smoother, closer lugs around its perimeter, and a heel edge for braking. These shoes stick well to granite slabs, packed dirt, loose scree, and mud. When your day hikes take you to places where you need superior breathability as much as (or more than) protection from wet conditions, the La Sportiva Primer GORE-TEX SURROUND® Shoes are an all-around top performer.
Michael Lanza has written feature stories and tested and reviewed gear for Backpacker Magazine for more than 20 years; for 11 years, he was the magazine’s Northwest Editor. He runs the blog and website The Big Outside. His book Before They’re Gone—A Family’s Year-Long Quest to Explore America’s Most Endangered National Parks was a winner of a National Outdoor Book Award honorable mention. He has hiked and climbed extensively in the U.S. West and Northeast and published stories in magazines and online about his adventures on four continents.