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Hands-on Gear Review
Vasque Inhaler II GTX Review
Cons: Lacks comfort and stability, low water resistance
Bottom line: If you want to cover lots of ground lightly without needing much stability or water resistance, this rockered lightweight hiker is right up your...trail.
Trying to keep up with someone laced up in the Vasque Inhaler II GTX could present a formidable challenge. Vasque has designed a hiking boot that is like a trail running shoe on steroids. Combining synthetic mesh from trail runners with leather commonly found in hikers, it's lightweight and super breathable, but also waterproof and reaches over the ankles. It gains purchase all kinds of surfaces too, from mud to scree to wet rocks. If moving quickly on trails through warm to hot weather appeals to you, this well-ventilated pair could be right up your alley.
The Merrell Capra Venture Mid GTX is the most similar boot to the Inhaler II in this review, also looking like a trail runner with an even higher ankle collar. For the highest performing lightweight boot, look no further than the HOKA ONE ONE Tor Summit Mid WP, which almost matches this Vasque in weight, but provides superior comfort.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
Costing $160, the Vasque Inhaler II GTX is like a trail running shoe with additional hiking boot features. It's very light (2.18 lbs) and breathable, with an upper of mostly mesh panels. However, it also features a waterproof Gore-Tex liner, a mid-cut ankle collar, and a stiffening TPU shank between the midsole and outsole, reminding you that it is indeed a hiking boot.
The Inhaler II is a moderately comfortable hiking boot. We liked the wide and roomy toe box, and the molded EVA midsole coupled with a TPU shank insert made pointy rocks underfoot only a minor annoyance. After hiking for several hours throughout the morning and afternoon in these boots with a heavy pack, our tired feet informed us that this model was better off with a lighter pack. However, our feet did stay dry inside what we consider the most breathable boot in this review. Many light-packing hikers might be willing to put up with the trade-off of light boots with built-in a/c for less comfort.
The lacing system is made up of four lower webbing eyelets, one middle, and one upper plastic hook eyelet. When snugging up this pair of boots, we found it difficult to get the desired tightness without creating pressure points on the bridge of our feet. We also found the heel to be wider than most, and we did experience minimal slippage.
If your heel experiences slippage in your hiking boots, we recommend incorporating a heel lock technique into your lacing routine. Here is a video from Backcountry Edge showing that knot with pretty easy-to-follow instructions.
This Vasque boot is one of the taller lightweight models featured in this review, and features the widest forefoot of all twelve boots. The TPU instep shank also brings some load-bearing stiffness. This all provides a solid basis of support and sufficient ankle stability for terrain that doesn't get too aggressive.
In every traction test we threw at the Inhaler II, it performed above-average of the standard set by the other twelve boots. Through wet and dry rock slopes, scree fields, mud slops, and class 4 climbing, this boot was up to the task across the board.
This boot is technically the second-lightest model in our review. It measured 2.18 lbs on our scale, beating out the Tor Summit Mid WP by a mere 0.16 ounces. To cut weight, Vasque substituted synthetic mesh material for the burly leather upper of classic hiking boots. Some leather strips remain, however, to hold the mesh panels together. A thin ankle collar and eyelets of webbing and plastic, instead of metal, also help shed ounces.
With a five inch water clearance, this product falls in the middle of the pack for this category. While it held up well when crossing very shallow canyon creeks in southern Peru, we would rather grab the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid or Salomon Quest 4D II GTX for any hikes with anticipated water crossings. The mesh upper is quick to absorb water, which weighs it down and diminishes its otherwise great breathability. It survived our lake edge water test without blinking, though, and dried faster than most after being completely drenched.
The Inhaler II scored toward the bottom of the list in terms of durability. Its reliance on synthetic mesh and a large number of seams doesn't bode well for longevity. To increase the life of these seams, we recommend applying a seam sealer. Furthermore, the midsole is completely exposed on the bottom of the outsole on the foot arch. Vasque probably did this to save weight, but it already began to show signs of wear and tear toward the end of our testing period.
For moderate terrain in warm to hot weather, this highly breathable product from Vasque will serve you very well, especially if you are hiking light. If you prefer a more supportive version of hiking shoes without going overboard on weight, these fit the bill.
These boots offer a pretty solid value. Its most similar competitor in this review from Merrell costs $70 more, and doesn't provide equal performance. While they aren't the model of choice for all hiking situations, they do offer excellent breathability and reliable traction in a lightweight hiker that rises above its trail running and hiking shoe cousins in a more rugged fashion.
We liked lacing up the Vasque Inhaler II GTX on our feet for day hikes, and constantly reached for them over the others when the temperatures rose into the mid-seventies. We think you'll be tempted to break into a run as you cruise mile after mile with these incredibly lightweight hiking boots, not needing to worry if the trails are wet, dry, or even involve a bit of scrambling. They are also one of the least expensive boots we reviewed. This boot will bring you places quickly, without the sweaty socks.
— Ross Robinson
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