The Primer Low GTX combines the new Gore-Tex Surround technology and a full synthetic construction for a highly breathable, lightweight hiking shoe that doesn’t sacrifice comfort or protection.
The Primers as mentioned before are constructed entirely of synthetic material, with a Nano Cell upper with PU synthetic leather, Gore-Tex surround waterproof technology throughout, EVA injection molded insole, and a Vibram Nano sole with Impact Brake lugs on the heal. The pair of shoes weighs 14.5 ounces, come in two colors (a blue hue and a green that looks real nice) and retails for for $175. A high top version is also available (testing now and will report back).
The first thing most people will notice with the Primer Low GTX shoes is the impressive, alien like texture on the footwear. While this looks cool, it’s primary focus is aesthetics, but instead breathability. The open channels the pattern creates allows the new Gore-Tex Surround waterproof layer within the shoes to vent, releasing heat and water vapor through these openings. This allows for heat and moisture regulation of the internals of the shoes, while still preventing water from getting inside. This works incredibly well. When I first started wearing the shoes, I actually kept forgetting they were waterproof, as I normally associate waterproof shoes and hot, steamy feet. Thus, my mind often assumed stepping into a puddle would result in the shoes soaking up water like a sock. They absolutely do not. Instead, they’ve managed to fight off mud, rain, and puddles admirably, and do an incredible job of keeping my feet dry, cool and thus reduce blisters and chafing. They’re some of the coolest, best ventilated waterproof shoes I’ve come across.
When it comes to comfort, they’re also quite cozy. They fit my feet (wider at the ball of my foot) well, without slipping on the heals or shifting about on the climbs or descends. I can loosen them up for more casual wear, or tighten them down for hiking or even mountain biking, and they always seem to stay right where I want them, assuming I dial in the laces first. The materials are soft and flexible inside and out, and the break in time was fairly minimal (although I still recommend at least one week of wear off the trail before throwing on for any real hiking). The all synthetic build has no noticeable seams inside, and the insole lines up quite well with my natural arch and shape, only further adding to the comfort they provide.
Despite being so light and flexible, they’ve actually held up great. I’ve walked, hiked, biked and put them through my daily work paces with no actual signs of wear or tear. They also shed dirt and mud nicely, making them a great go to shoe for damp, muddy conditions as the clean up with them in minimal, if existent at all. Even the tread has held true, despite being put through the rigors of tearing over rocks, gravel, and the constant punishment of studded mountain bike pedals.
Speaking of the tread, traction here is fantastic. The Vibram sole is designed in such a way that climbing and descending really digs in, and even traction on wet slipper rocks is pretty good too. This is partly due to the flexible nature of the shoe, allowing the sole to bend and wrap around obstacles like a high performance tire, maximizing traction where stiffer boots might not be able to contort to fix the situation. The heal also has a series of angular lugs that have been specifically designed to provide “braking” performance on steep descents, and I can attest that they do work, if you’re one to use your heals. I’m usually more of the type to rely on the toe end of my footwear, and even this works out nicely.
The only complaint that I really have with these shoes is the lack of protection on the lower end of the shoe. Where the Gore-Tex surround allows open channels and venting, less material is provided here (blue hued area on my shoes), allowing for rocks and sticks to be felt through the lower portion of the sides. When stepping carelessly, I’ve found that jabbing a root or pointy slab of slate into the corner just above the arch of my foot can be surprisingly tactile, and not terribly enjoyable. This can be said for any of the textured part of the shoe, so a little care is warranted. Packing heavy backpacking loads also caused some minor arch pain, although I’m a tender foot so this is pretty typical for me, and these shoes are really geared towards packing light anyway, so that’s not terribly relevant. Keep the pack weight down and avoid sharp and pointies, and they’re great. Otherwise, you may feel it.
I like the Primer Low GTX shoes from La Sportiva. Having a shoe that’s so breathable, yet still waterproof, is certainly appreciable on the hot, muggy mornings of summer here on the East Coast. Instead of steamy socks and damp toes, they maintained a suspiciously dry interior even under a heavy workout in the worst conditions. Their ability to keep my feet well ventilated and dry on colder days also means my feet stay warmer, and blister free when the season turn over also. They’re comfortable, provide good enough protection assuming I dodge the pointy stuff, and so far they have held up exceptionally well. If fast, light and dry are your most important factors in choosing a shoe, these are an excellent option and will certainly do the trick.
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