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La Sportiva - Xplorer

posted Oct 3, 2013, 8:56 AM by GoOut Project   [ updated Jan 23, 2014, 4:14 AM ]

The Xplorer represent a nice effort by La Sportiva in trying to reach the best compromise between durability and lightweight in hiking/approach shoes: the Xplorer are lighter than most hiking shoes and tougher than most approach shoes. Of course Go Out Project couldn't miss the chance to test the true performances of the Xplorer on the trails. A Gore-tex version also exists: the Hyper Gore-tex.

Technical Description

The Xplorer combine a comfortable, light, and flexible mesh, which covers most of the upper, with a solid Vibram sole and a toe protection which extends also around the sides of the shoe. 
The shoes feature:
  • Toe box Overwrap™ technology rand construction
  • Dual density EVA midsole
  • Vibram® X-Traction® outsole with Idro-Grip compound
  • Highly compressed EVA RockGuard in the forefoot
Weight: 375 g per shoe (750 g per pair)

Our Test

We tested the Xplorer for 4 months mostly for hiking. We tested them on many different terrains: rock, sand, grass, mud, snow, etc. In most cases we used them in dry weather conditions, although we had the chance to try them also during rain and on snow.

First Impressions
From the first instant you put the Xplorer on your feet, the feeling you have is that of great comfort, very good lateral stability, and a really impressive grip on every surface. While walking the feeling is pretty much that of a traditional hiking boot, with a stiff sole, a high heel, and elevated protection, but with the advantage of having a 
more flexible and lighter upper. The first impression is that of good 
precision and stability on every terrain.

Definitely not the lightest shoes on earth, but certainly among the lightest hiking shoes, with 750 g per pair.  

Overall very comfortable, thanks to the quite flexible upper. However, during longer or very fast hikes the more rigid parts around the protection which wraps around the upper, may start to bother you or even cause blisters (a typical problem of classical, stiff hiking boots).

The grip is amazing! Both uphill and downhill you'll be sticking on almost any kind of terrain perfectly. The design of the sole is very clever: the area under the tip of the toes has a slick “climbing zone” rubber, which helps in getting up on very steep rocky terrains and even climbing on small edges, while the heels have a kind of
hooky/spiky design that grip and hang really well in steep descents on all kinds of terrains.

The lacing system is very good. The two raws of eyelets are well spaced and this helps quite a lot in finding the optimal tightening and positioning of the foot in the shoe, which in turns helps the stability.
The heel is a bit too high and this causes easier twisting of the ankle, also because of the low profile of the shoes.

Flexibility & Responsiveness
The flex of the sole is certainly not that of a running shoe. It is quite rigid and reminiscent of that of a traditional hiking boot. The upper is quite flexible, but the stiffness of the sole allows only a limited flexibility around the joints of the toes. Sensitivity and responsiveness are very low.

There is no doubt that the Xplorer will last for a long, long time. The
sole is very tough and it doesn't wear out very quickly. The upper is well protected in all the most critical parts. The only sings of use that we noticed after months of testing have been some wrinkles on the rubber protection on the sides around the joints of the toes, where the shoe flexes more.

Thanks to the good balance between warmth and ventilation they can be considered almost 4-season shoes. Their limit, in the non-waterproof version, is that they can only be used in dry conditions. Light rain is not a problem, but you don't wanna use these shoes under heavy showers, on mud, or snow! If you are looking for a more versatile shoe, the Gore-tex version (called Hyper Gore-tex) might be a better option, although this is less breathable and warmer.

The mesh composing the upper helps a lot in keep the feet ventilated, especially in warmer summer days. However, if you choose the Gore-tex version (the Hyper), keep in mind that, inevitably, 
breathability will be reduced.

Our Verdict

The Xplorer are comfortable and relatively light hiking shoes that have really impressed us for their extraordinary grip on every surface. They are well suited for hikes on dry terrains of any kind, but offering the best performances on rock. For more frequent use on wet terrains we definitely suggest the Hyper Gore-tex (a Gore-tex, warmer version of the Xplorer).

 Lightness  7/10
 Comfort  8/10 
 Grip 10/10 
 Stability  8/10
 Responsiveness  5/10 
 Durability  9/10 
 Versatility  7/10
 Breathability  9/10 
 Total Score 7.8/10

+ Impressive grip both uphill and downhill
+ Clever design of the sole ("climbing zone" + "hooking heel")
+ Solid, light, comfortable, and breathable upper
+ Good lacing system

- They don't like water!
- Heel loops are too small