A geographical region of Texas characterized by hills and rock bluffs covered with mesquite groves, cedar thickets, a peppering of “scrub” oaks, and a grassy understory of cactus patches became my new stomping grounds for hunting in 2016. It gets pretty toasty in the summer (average July high of 94) and frigidly cold in the winter. Mind you, frigid for a Southern boy is below 85. Seriously, the January average low is about 34 degrees. I expect the first freeze about early November. Until then, it may feel more like Summer as the archery season commences. It’s this period that inspired me to seek a more comfortable hunt. Let’s face it, the more comfortable you are, the longer you can hunt regardless of the weather conditions. I also hunt in southeastern Oklahoma which seems to have an extension of Texas weather, although the geography has more hardwood, oak and pecan flats, and creek bottoms.
Salewa Ultra Flex Mid GORE-TEX Shoes Review
Men’s waterproof, breathable mid-cut shoe with GORE-TEX® protection and a MICHELIN® technical sole, designed for speed hiking and high-intensity mountain training.
- Weight: 357 g
- Lining: GORE-TEX® Extended Comfort
- Upper: Breathable mesh / Coated fabric
- Outsole: Michelin® Ultra Train
Why I Chose Speed Hiking Shoes for Hunting
The 2017 opening day of archery season reached a high of 83 degrees in Texas. I endured several days like this while hunting with an uninsulated rubber boot, primarily because I was intent on minimizing may scent intrusion into my hunting location. I must admit that I’m a bit neurotic when it comes to my “scent footprint” (pun intended). Although I successfully encounter whitetails in the early season, I was always conscious of the fact that my feet were almost profusely sweating after a few hours in the blind or tree. I was determined to find a more comfortable solution and challenge my other scent control measures to take up the slack as I planned to migrate away from those hot, calf-high rubber boots.
Not only is the early season hot, but there’s always a chance for cooler mornings and warm afternoons, accompanied by rain showers. This upped the ante of the shoe criteria to include, waterproofness and enough thickness to provide some “insulating” quality while maintaining a lightweight and breathability.
I had come to know Salewa, an Italian-German based mountaineering company, as I prepared for a backpacking trek in New Mexico about 2014. I was thrilled with the performance of the boot I chose for that adventure, so I returned to Salewa as one of the top contenders for my foot affection. In fact, I still wear my stiff hiking boots on cold weather hunts. They’ve held up well over several seasons.
Salewa Ultra Flex Mid GORE-TEX Shoes Features
Ultra Flex Fit & Comfort
This speed hiker essentially appears and fits like a high-top basketball shoe, but with a mildly aggressive tread like a hiking boot. Because of the lightweight structure, there was no break-in period or subsequent hot spots on my feet. On a side note, Salewa carries a “no blister” warranty on their hiking boots which is why I initially turned to them four years ago. At any rate, the shoes were extremely comfortable right out of the box. The stylishness was comparable which I’m sure my quarry appreciated.
Quick Lace System
One of the first things I noticed was that the Salewa quick lace system allowed me to slip in and out of the shoe with exactly the intended speed and ease. The drawback of the lacing system is that it tends to loosen over extended periods of walking or activity. I find myself adjusting the tightness more than I would prefer, however, the quick cinch helps make the process a snap. You can effectively loosen and remove the boot with one hand. Even though the shoe is very light, Salewa provides a considerable amount of protection around the heel and toe with the rubber coating.
The top eyelet has an open hook which allows for quick foot entry and exit. It also allows you to forego the top eyelets altogether and still cinch the laces tight against the top of your foot, allowing more breathability and flexibility around the ankle. The second to the last eyelet pulls the shoe’s heel snug to keep the foot and ankle very secure. The fit was overall very incredible for me, at least until the laces loosen. This could be rectified with more substantial laces or a tighter cinch lock. The last noteworthy upper feature is the light mesh fabric down the instep of the shoe. This allows you to tuck the excess laces into it for safe keeping. This is just too slick! You can see in the accompanying top view photo that the lace on the left is untucked, while the one on the right is neatly stowed away.
The Gore-Tex lining rises to a sufficient height to prevent water intrusion. I wouldn’t plan to cross any creeks, but you should be fine if the puddles are less than 4.5” deep.
The OrthoLite insole is a well-accepted and broadly used comfort system used in over 350 footwear brands (according to their website). All I know is that it works in this Salewa. I may need to explore the idea of retrofitting my other footwear with OrthoLite insoles.
Michelin Soles Silent Grip
The Michelin soles provide excellent traction and a flexible structural base. The most significant benefit of the comfort and flexibility of the sole is that I feel as though I maintain a level of orthopedic dexterity. What I mean is, I can feel the ground as I walk in a way that allows me to understand the surface beneath my feet – gravel, loose rocks, limbs, or uneven surfaces. I even made a stalk on a sounder of feral hogs in these shoes this year. They never heard me coming. I am eager to try these in a real Western spot-and-stalk scenario.
Salewa Sizing & Comfort
The Salewa Ultra Flex Shoes felt true to size to me. I usually wear about a size 10, but ordered a half size larger to allow me enough room to layer some thicker socks if I so choose. I have not tried that yet, but if I do not find a promising insulated version, I think I will test these with some quality wool sock layers in colder temperatures. To date, I have not worn these below about 48-50 degrees, and that was on a day when temperatures were expected to climb into the low 70s.
The Ultra Flex Mid GORE-TEX Shoes have been used for one season, including quite a bit of off-season work in the deer woods. I wore them then to work most of the manufacturing odors out and to get a feel for them before the bowhunting premier. That being said, it took a significant period to deodorize the shoes. I accelerated this process by using ozone, storing them with baking soda inside, and using an oxidizing field spray on the exterior, which is my scent elimination spray of choice during the hunting season. I saw no ill effects from wearing these into my blind/stands, regarding deer behavior or objection to any scent trails I may have left while wearing the Salewa. Of course, I only wore them in conjunction with using my other scent profile reduction methods.
True to the Salewa claims for their boots, I experienced no blisters while wearing the speed hikers, not to mention any hot spots on my feet.
The Salewa Ultra Flex Mid GORE-TEX Men’s Speed Hiking Shoes are “a step above” my traditional rubber boots and seem to be exactly what I was looking for. My next venture may be to get an insulated pair of Salewa boots. The Ultra Flex is exceptionally comfortable, cool, and quiet while walking. The only potential problem I have is that thorns and cacti may get the better of me. I commonly pick out quills from my socks when I’ve worn sneakers around camp. So I’m almost waiting for the day that I have a prickly pear compromise my waterproofness. Until such time, I will speed hike my way through the October Lull.
Thanks to Dan Course Jr. for writing this unpaid gear review. Hunting Gear Deals is funded by affiliate commissions. We may receive a small commission when you buy from our partners using the links provided. There is no additional cost to you. Thanks for supporting us by using our links when making your purchases.
Dan Course Jr. grew up hunting and fishing in Mississippi but really took to bowhunting in the mid-90s. He has hunted deer in Pennsylvania, Texas, and Oklahoma. During that time, he has also been camping and backpacking with his sons and their scouting organizations. Dan is an “admitted” gear junkie, which is the first step, right?