Check a trail near you and you’ll see that hikers are choosing a different type of shoe than they used to years ago. Instead of the big, bulky boots of the past, short- and long-distance trekkers are opting for lighter-weight, simpler shoes that look and behave more like trail-running shoes.
It’s part of a general movement in the outdoor footwear industry these days—more brands are creating shoes that blur the lines between trail runners and midweight hikers. So, now, you can get the best of both, with shoes that have the cushion and nimbleness of a running shoe but the stability and protection of a hiking boot.
There was one shoe in particular in this category that I wanted to test out for myself: the Salomon OUTline Low Hiking Shoes. It comes in women’s and men’s specific models and it’s available in a non-waterproof low, GORE-TEXⓇ low and GORE-TEXⓇ mid to meet a wide variety of needs.
The Story Behind the Shoe
To arrive at the concept for the OUTline, Salomon first organized focus groups of hikers and observed shoppers at specialty retailers on dozens of separate visits to hone in on exactly what consumers wanted and what the footwear category was lacking.
According to Jenny Taylor, brand director for Salomon North America, what researchers found was that consumers, not seeing what they wanted on the traditional hiking wall, were gravitating toward the trail-running section of the store instead, due to the look, weight and cushioning feel of the midsoles of those shoes.
The brand took those cues and between spring 2016 and the OUTline’s industry debut at the 2018 Summer Outdoor Retailer show, developed a shoe with the comfort of a running shoe but with a sturdy midfoot shank to offer hiking-boot-style protection from roots and rocks. Minimalism was key—they didn’t want to add more to the shoe than was necessary.
“There’s something to be said for building the least amount of shoe that you need to be comfortable and have a great time outside,” Taylor said. “Sometimes footwear has a tendency to be overly segmented. Someone who doesn’t necessarily identify as just a hiker but loves to hike, bike and camp may want a shoe that works with their style.”
Taylor said the OUTline is proving to be one of the brand’s top-performing shoes among female consumers. At REI stores, the women’s OUTline GORE-TEXⓇ low is Salomon’s leading product in this category, with all Salomon women’s hike footwear selling 48 percent above last year.
Putting it to the Test
I recently traveled to Europe for a testing trip that Salomon organized for women who are professional writers and editors. Over the course of four days, we toured Salomon’s Annecy Design Center in France, learned about the brand’s latest women’s campaign and put the company’s newest shoes and other gear to the test while hiking into the mountains above Courmayeur, Italy.
Overall, I spent a month—both abroad and back home in the U.S.—putting Salomon’s OUTline non-waterproof low to the test. I traveled around the Eastern Seaboard for work and play in these shoes. During photo and video shoots in western North Carolina, the shoe’s solid construction provided ample support for getting the shot on rooty trails. I even wore the shoes tromping around downtown Asheville afterward and didn’t feel like I needed a change of footwear.
During a berry-foraging excursion near Canaan Valley, West Virginia, the OUTline’s sticky Contragrip sole held onto slippery rocks. When a swimming hole beckoned along Canaan’s Blackwater River, I jumped right in, shoes and all, surprised to find that the OUTline’s lightweight material dried in a few minutes, even in the Southeast’s humid climate.
Although it’s not built or intended for long-distance backpacking, I found that the OUTline can contend with most day hikes and multisport adventures.
Pros: Lighter (1 pound, 5 ounces per pair) than Salomon’s comparable X ULTRA 3 GTX Mid Hiking Boots (1 pound, 13.4 ounces per pair); lightly breathable mesh even in the GORE-TEXⓇ models helps keep feet from getting damp; serious traction with ContragripⓇ outsole and 5mm lugs; sleek and subtle design.
Cons: The narrow fit in the toe box, standard to many Salomon shoes, makes this one not ideal for those with wider feet or those who like room for toe splay, and the shoe is not currently available in wide sizes.
Best for: People who want a hiking shoe that’s light and nimble for everyday use but also durable enough for slightly longer mileage days or overnights backpacking trips where you’re carrying a heavy load. Got sweaty feet and want waterproof shoes that’ll breathe? These do the trick. The shoe also comes in a men’s version, but we didn’t test it.