Most of what I write about relates to products that I use to move as fast as possible either by foot or by bike. Of course, I spend the vast majority of my time moving much slower, but still prefer to be using the best gear regardless of the speed. With that, I had the chance to test out The North Face Havoc GTX XCR shoes. The GTX stands for Gore-Tex which is a great feature in this shoe.
This shoe is designed for light, fast hiking but I wouldn’t use it as a running shoe. I actually tried a short run in it to see if it would be serviceable as a fastpacking or adventure type running shoe. I wouldn’t recommend it for this purpose because it is stiff and a bit heavier than a trail running shoe. It is the stiffness of the sole that makes it great for hiking (at any speed) but not flexible enough to run much in it.
The Gore-Tex liner in the shoe basically wraps your foot in a water resistant sock inside the shoe. This allows the outer to include some fabric that allows ventilation rather than being totally sealed to prevent infiltration of water. I found that for a water resistant shoe, it breathes adequately and my feet didn’t overheat. This was even true while wearing the Havocs during long periods indoors. The liner is gusseted to almost the top of the tongue, so water would have a tough time getting in until it was coming in the top of your shoe.
The soles were great – with VIbram it’s what I would expect. So far they are wearing very well and I wouldn’t expect any with them wearing out quickly. They have a durable, aggressive tread that is ideal for the rugged terrain they could be used on.
The upper on this shoe is based on a well designed combination of durability and ventilation. The thin rubber toe cap was enough to keep my toes protected and to keep the front of the shoe from wearing out. The vented mid section of the upper did a good job of letting my foot breathe through the Gore-Tex liner. The upper is also nice and conservative looking. I didn’t feel like I was wearing a strange looking hardcore outdoors shoe when I had these on. I found this made them a bit more versatile – on snowy days I could even wear them to the office and not feel like I was walking around in mountaineering boots!
The only thing I would improve on these shoes is that I would like to see a gaiter attachment loop at the toe of the Havoc shoe. With gaiters, these would be even more versatile in the snow (or protect from gravel, mud, brush, etc).
All in all this is a great choice for wet, and cold hiking or light backpacking. Its also a great shoe just for wearing around town in the winter. It will keep your feet dry through slush and puddles, and the sole will keep you in good contact with the ground.