A 2 day, 32 mile trail hike through an arid Californian wilderness was the task set to my first pair of trail running shoes. There would be creek hopping, bush whacking, running away from imagined mountain lions and some stinky, sweaty feet to contend with. The challenge was set to a pair of Vasque Mindbenders (US size 13…) and this is how they fared.
From the moment these shoes were laced up, they felt comfortable and snug on my narrow (but still manly) feet. With this comes the support and cushioning of not having my foot slop around inside, hitting me with hotspots and ultimately ruining a good hike. To me, this is factor number uno when finding a decent shoe for the thru hike.
Even with the snugness and comfort, I could still feel the ground at my feet, which came in handy when jumping from rock to rock across the creek and finding a safe way through the rogue parts of the trail. Through the thick soles, I could tell what I was walking on and if it was safe to do so.
The stability of the shoe was also something to be admired on the more awkward sections of trail. These wouldn’t be overly necessary for the clean sections, but as the shoe is designed for varied terrains, if it offers you some flexibility in where you go and how hard you hit it.
If vanity is your thing, they also look pretty cool and come in a range of colours. Whatever your hiking or trail running outfit, these shoes won’t stop you from looking the bees knees.
I enjoyed these shoes immensely, but as with every bit of gear, there are things they don’t do so well at. I’m used to hiking in sturdier shoes and there’s a drop in burliness with wearing a running shoe such as this. After less than 50 miles on my feet, I can see where (eventually) the Mindbender will split and shred, but these are just signs of wear, you could just call it shaping.
I’ll be keeping an eye on the puckering at the end of the toe box and a few sections of loose stitching, although the feel of the shoe hasn’t changed since this happened. The upper section of the shoe will need to be protected when going through the scrub to stop this happening too often, a decent pair of gaiters should do the trick and be the enforcer for the soft overbelly (?) of the Mindbender.
I think I like this shoe because it fits me well, which is a bit of a rarity to have something narrow enough but also with space in the right places for where I need the spread on a longer hike/run. This may not be for everyone. Without wanting to teach you how to suck eggs, go in and try these things on, they may or may not be right for you, but you don’t know until you try.
I think I’ll also eventually change the laces for something a bit more rugged and less absorbent, but that’s just a personal preference for life on a thru hike.
We didn’t encounter any particularly steep or technical sections of trail, which can distort the angle of wear and place strain on different parts of the shoe. But having now tried the shoes in the foothills of the Rockies, they hold together well and offer the same support up the steeper, icier slopes.
In conclusion, this is a shoe that fits my foot and style of walking, and therefore I like it. It’s comfortable and snug enough to give me feedback on the trail without causing any pain. It may need a bit of reinforcement over time to keep it together, but that’s the nature of lighter shoes for long hikes. I can only say try it on, if it feels good to you, it will serve you well out on the trails. If I had to make up a score for them, they get 7.8 larabars out of 10.
With love x