by Katie Levy
Ahnu Women’s Sugarpine Air Mesh Shoes, $110, www.ahnu.com
The Good: Basically, everything, but especially the fact that these shoes didn’t require a long, drawn out break-in period fraught with blisters.
The Bad: Basically, nothing.
The Ugly: The amount of mud a tester can get into if she really tries, (which has absolutely nothing to do with the shoes).
Early on in my outdoor “career,” I made the mistake of thinking all hiking shoes and boots were the same. Sure, some are waterproof while others aren’t, some look good while others, not so much, but really, I could wear whatever shoes I wanted as long as they came in a women’s size ten. I learned my lesson the hard way; after a backpacking trip in new boots that resulted in half dollar sized blisters on both ankles, I realized that not every pair of kicks would work for my feet.
With a few more years of experience under my belt, I approached testing the Ahnu Women’s Sugarpine Air Mesh shoes the same way all of us at Trek Tech approach testing - I found the muddiest trail I possibly could. The shoes came with me to Delaware’s White Clay Creek State Park, among other Philadelphia-area spring hiking destinations, as well as around town for general wear.
The Sugarpine Air Mesh shoes fit well right out of the box and there was essentially no break-in period required. Win. The toe box is narrow enough to keep my narrower-than-average feet from slipping around inside, but wide enough that they’ll be a good option for a variety of foot widths. The back of the shoes cradle my Achilles tendons perfectly and I didn’t notice any hot spots throughout testing. The lacing system, while straightforward, works well; once the laces are tied in place, they didn’t slip or slide.
The toes are capped with hard rubber for extra protection and Ahnu included a shock dispersal plate in the forefoot. I always inevitably stub my toe or trip when I’m hiking, but didn’t feel a thing with the Sugarpine Air Mesh shoes on. I kicked a few curbs and rocks by mistake (and on purpose) for good measure. The breathable mesh upper kept my feet cool, but not too cool, and the waterproof leather overlays provided just enough support.
The use of Ahnu’s neutral positioning technology, Numentum®, provided the right amount of structure without making the shoes feel bulky. If there was a category between light (minimalist) and medium weight shoes, these shoes would be in it. I expected them to feel heavier, but was pleasantly surprised when I put them on. I’m used to minimalist kicks and these are the perfect shoe for folks who want more support and bulk, but not much.
The Sugarpine Air Mesh shoes felt super solid no matter what terrain I was on when they were wet or dry. The tread looks like the tread you’d find on a high-end tire for sports cars – purposeful and designed to allow water to pass underneath and around when you’re moving fast. The slip-resistant lugs and Vibram outsoles did their job, even when the shoes were caked in mud.
With respect to durability, the Sugarpine Air Mesh shoes performed well during testing. I didn’t have any issues with the laces, the eyelets, the seams, or the soles. As long as there aren’t any encounters between sharp objects and the upper of the shoe, which is lightweight, I’m hoping to get them through a few full seasons of wear. The soles hardly show any wear at all, despite my best efforts to rub the tread off on Pennsylvania and Delaware’s rocky trails.
Overall, I’d recommend Ahnu’s Sugarpine Air Mesh shoes to ladies who love to hike, or just love to play outside. They’re a great all-around pair of shoes for a variety of on-trail and off-trail activities. I’m also impressed with the color options; with “dark citron,” “dark gray” and a handful of others, there’s something for every lady hiker.