The Women’s North Face Hedgehog Guide GTX Shoes, $110
thenorthface.com (in a few months)
The good: The North Face took one of their most popular shoe models and modernized it.
The bad: Want them now? Too bad. Eager beavers will have to wait until they’re officially released in Spring 2013.
The ugly: If you have narrow feet or high arches, the Hedgehog Guide GTX might be too bulky.
The North Face Hedgehog Guide GTX is a newer, lighter version of one of the company’s staple hiking and multi-sport Hedgehog, which was first released in 2006. This updated version of the Hedgehog, unveiled at the Outdoor Retailer 2012 Summer Market, utilizes new CRADLE Guide™ technology.
Essentially, CRADLE Guide™ is a way of addressing the way your feet move when you’re on uneven terrain. When we’re on the trail, our feet don’t always move in the same heel-toe pattern, or the same pattern at all. If we’re stepping on rocks and roots, our foot won’t always hit the ground in the same place. The full-length dual-density EVA midsole is designed to stabilize and guide your feet through the entire gait cycle regardless of the surface you’re on while providing adequate cushioning. Got all of that? Good.
I put the shoes through their paces on a few autumn day hikes complete with slippery wet leaves, winter hikes with dustings of snow, around town and out for a few rigorous games of frisbee. (The Hedgehog Guide GTX is designed to be a multisport shoe, right? If my feet aren’t stable during frisbee, there’s no hope.) The shoes were stiff and solid (read: uncomfortable) right out of the box. But the more I broke them in, the more comfortable they got. I did have to switch out the unsupportive stock inserts for Superfeet inserts to accommodate my high arches.
Despite the new welded construction and the fact that they’re designed to be lightweight, I found the Hedgehog Guide GTX bulkier than I’d like for a day hiking shoe (or a frisbee shoe). However, when I put a pack on with some weight in it, I prefer bulkier, heavier shoes, and could see Hedgehog Guide GTX working better for me on short backpacking trips. With the addition of the Snake Plate™, the shoes flexed while supporting the forefoot, but they’re not rigid enough for heavy loads typically carried on an extended trip.
The shoes are also designed to be waterproof, hence the “GTX” in the name. I’m always skeptical when a manufacturer claims that shoes not made from one solid piece of material are waterproof. To be sure, I employed a super scientific testing method I’ve only tried once with trail shoes before – the Bathtub Test. Stepping in a puddle on the trail is one thing, but a running faucet is a completely different story. The inside of the shoes got a bit wet after 20 seconds under running water, but the Bathtub Test is a bit extreme compared to what I’d expect to encounter on the trail. After all I’ve put them through the past few months, in general, they’re holding up well.
The bottom line? I don’t have one. I have mixed feelings about the shoes. Although they’re obviously well-engineered and perform the way they’re supposed to, they don’t fit me quite right. For ladies with wider, higher-volume feet, they might work out better. But for me, they’re not going to be my go-to trail shoes.