The Free Hiker
What is it? Is it a boot, a running shoe on steroids, fashion, looks and no substance…. Pointless?
We’re all used to seeing trail and fell runners in the mountains and on trails in lightweight footwear, walkers in boots and an ever-growing subsection using trail running shoes for walks. But what if you blended the boot and shoe, what if you created a new category, or at the very least, bolstered a very specific niche in the market.
Is that what the Free Hiker caters for? A niche?
Let’s examine what Adidas Terrex’s Free Hiker has going for it. From Adidas’ outdoor/off-road division, the Free Hiker is best summed up as having a trail running upper, blended with a stiffer sole, moderate outsole and boot like features, giving it an identity of its own.
For many of us, we are used to the notion of a stiff boot, leather or synthetic, that requires breaking in, can protect your foot against nature and suits a conservative pace on the trail. They don’t want to give you a pat on the back if you fancy a quick dash or run. The first time I ran Helvellyn back in 2007, I was wearing a pair of leather boots and thought nothing of it, I knew no better. Naivety at times can be a wonderous mindset.
This for me is the first area where the Free Hiker set itself away from the traditional walking boot. If you want to flex your lungs, the trainer like feel and flexibility of the upper and midsole, keeps you secure and encourages you to open your stride and enjoy the experience. No more sitting in the slow lane.The midsole is a fair wedge of Boost, which gives a plush experience when taking things slow, yet, stiffens up and provides a supportive cushion if you up the tempo. One thing to note, being white, I expect over time this may discolour, I have a pair of Adizero 3 Adios and Boston 7’s and the boost has turned yellow where it has contacted with the ground. Now, different coloured boost may be a higher cost and it is less iconic (I call it classic in the video review below), but I do think a black version would be great for the trail. I know from reviewing the Terrex Boost, the Boost foam is very resilient against rocks, so I know it will last the test of time.
The midsole has a 10mm drop from 33mm at the rear to 23 up front. It supports your foot for longer trips in the wilderness or long sessions in the pub. Pub I hear you say (yes, technically there is a bar at the top of Mount Snowdon), well, stick a pair of jeans or chinos over the top and you are wearing a casual trainer. The styling really does blend into every day life. And trust me, I’ve tested their bar appeal.Underneath, you have a complete Continental Rubber outsole. The German rubber kings have provided a compound that is grippy and durable. It’s not as soft as the road or trail shoes I have previously used, however, this will aid durability. With contact times being greater, bearing in mind the pace on the trail will be significantly slower, I feel this is a good move. Something super tacky will not last long…..The lugs aren’t overly aggressive, if you look at the bottom of a walking boot the outsole tends to be chunky, rather than aggressive. You have enough feel on rock to inspire confidence.Over the toe there is a substantial moulded TPU toe cap and an accompanying lower heel cup, that will protect you from rocks, whilst holding your heel foot secure. But, be reassured, due to the Primeknit upper, you won’t notice this until you drop kick a boulder.There is support, cushioning and grip. So far, the biggest difference between the Free Hiker and generic leather walker, is the boost layer, it has far more cushioning than a regular boot. But for me, it’s the upper that unlocks the potential.
First up, its Primeknit, it’s highly breathable, lets your feet move freely when required and moulds to every irregularity your mind can conjure up. It is this that allows you to move faster on the trail and feel overall less restricted. Now, they say it has water repellent properties. I stood in a summer shower digging trails for a few hours and my feet were definitely wet come the end, but repellent and waterproof are two very different things. Light rain or a surprise shower – repellent. A storm, stream crossing, submersion – waterproof.
The welds have held well up to abrasion, I’ve rubbed against rocks and logs (take that as you will) and there are no huge lumps stripped out of weld or upper.
The best way to describe the feel is like a sock, it hugs you. The collar has an internal strip of cushioning which bolsters both support and comfort, but it’s that elastic band that really is the secret.
You are able to see it in action in the video. It holds your ankle, without being restrictive and moves as you do over terrain. It avoids bulky internal reinforcement and is one of those design features that actually has a real world application – other brands take notice.At 400 grams they are substantially lighter than their walking boot equivalent and have properties that make them a great alternative, unless you need to strap a pair of crampons on and scale an alpine peak.
If you’ve made it this far….. what are the Adidas Terrex Free Hiker?
To me, they represent a boot that anyone can wear, for casual round town, walking the dog, exploring the park or a mountain range on established trails. If you’re the kind of person who rarely enters extreme environments and wants comfort, support but something that will help you escape the noise and won’t sit in a cupboard for all bar 20 days a year, the Free Hiker could be for you.
Don’t be fooled, it can go where a trail shoe can go and beyond.
Yes I’d like a black boost midsole, but I really am struggling to fault their build quality, features or design.
P.S – if you want something for wetter climates or winter, keep an eye out on Adidas Terrex’s website…..
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