The North Face Havoc Mid-GTX XCR, $160, www.thenorthface.com
The Good: GoreTex barrier keeps water out while cruising through alpine streams; solid foot cradle offers support over any terrain.
The Bad: I’ll inevitably spear one of the air cushions on a sharp rock and hear a little “squeak” every step after that; the GoreTex heats up a bit in hot weather.
The Ugly: Don’t get too cocky – water over the top still gets you wet.
My first impression of these TNF’s red and black hikers was that they’d be more at home on a basketball court than on the 7 mile trek we were heading out to conquer. However, slipping them on really changed my tune. I’ve worn my fair share of old hiking boots – mesh, leather, rubber and padding mashed into all kinds of combinations. Most of those boots performed well enough after the obligatory break-in period and I could count on an occasional blister or sore joint. The 2.1 pound pair of Havoc mid-rise shoes fit out of the box like a glove, lightweight and supportive with plenty of cushion.
On top, the Havocs are made of a smooth looking full-grain leather toe & mudguard, coupled with a durable combination of synthetic mesh, EVA foam, GoreTex waterproof breathable liner. Down under are the always dependable Vibram soles and a protected forefoot to protect against sole bruising and a solid heelcup when hiking over uneven terrain to stabilize the ankle and protect the sole against bruising. Air chambers provide a stable cushion for the heels.
With the Havocs laced up, Trek Tech editor Billy Brown and I took a fast paced 7 mile journey through the Trinity Alps. We hiked fast and light, over uneven terrain and through plenty of mountain streams. The shoes held tight over the rocks and gravel, and kept perfectly dry through the streams. The durable leather toe-guard made the few kicked boulders a non-event, but the mesh uppers still heated up a bit due to the GoreTex inner material. About a week later, I hiked with 72 youth group kids up to the top of Castle Crags for a midnight adventure. Oddly enough, they considered me one of the adults of the group. In the interest of not losing a kid to the wilderness, I took about two round trips to the top over the course of the night; 2.7 miles with 2100 ft of elevation gain each time. This hike really put the shoes through the paces with steep granite faces, loose gravel areas, and plenty of stubbed toes. The vibram soles locked securely onto every surface I could find, however the solid forefoot caused some arch pain on the uneven downhill sections.
Most of my hiking is a quick day trip or overnight adventure, and overall these are a solid shoes for this type of light duty hiking trip. But the lightweight material may not be able to provide enough support or cushion for a heavily loaded multi-day long distance trip. So if you’re looking for a light shoe to get your tail to the top of that mountain, take a good long look at the North Face Havoc Mid GTX XCR.
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Author: David Skinner