My family aims for a big, international, multi-generational trip every couple of years. Leveraging frequent flier miles and squeezing into Airbnbs, we’ve been able pull off trips-of-a-lifetime for nearly the cost of driving-to-see-the-relatives. Last summer, it was Iceland, and as I was planning my kit, I applied the usual criteria: Take the least amount of stuff possible, travel light, make everything pull double, triple, or quadruple duty. When it came to footwear, this was a difficult choice, because there are so many great shoes and boots, but in the end it came down to the Lowa Aerox GTX Lo Surround.
Iceland, as you may know, is set on an emotional landscape. One minute it’s smiling, the next it’s sniffling, the next it’s waterworks. Fresh running H2O is everywhere, and you’re probably stomping around creeks and streams and waterfalls. A waterproof and breathable shoe is a must, and few technologies strike a better balance between letting sweat out and not letting water in than Gore’s Surround, which has mesh under foot and vents in the outsole to push sweat vapor out.
“While normally, hiking shoes are completely enclosed beneath the foot, GORE-TEX SURROUND quickly channels sweat away from the feet in addition now through an open, patented construction below the foot,” said Gore’s Marc Peikert a couple years ago, when Surround launched. “Excess moisture and heat can escape not only through the upper construction, but also downwards below the foot, and then laterally, resulting in dry feet. And dry feet make you feel better and reduce the risk of blisters and chaffing.”
For me, it worked. I lived in the Aerox GTX from the moment we landed until the moment we left. I used it on the streets of Reykjavik, on the black sand of Vik, on the rugged sub-arctic trails of the Westfjords, and in scrambles up Mount Esja. In 10 days, we didn’t have a lick of rain—could that be a record?—and the temperatures were well above average, but my feet stayed dry and comfortable even after up to two hours of trail running. Can’t make that claim about too many waterproof shoes.
With one pull of its speed lace, the Lowa Aerox wrapped my foot as securely and smoothly as a large whole wheat tortilla around a heaping helping of rice, beans, cilantro, and roasted habanero salsa. Right out of the box, its slimmer last felt as if it was designed for my narrow, low-volume foot—the Aerox has a running shoe fit that allows far more demanding and dynamic moves that a typical all-conditions hiker, and it tucked all the way around my foot, no blisters or hot spots on the first day in Iceland or the last.
The cushioning is significant, but more durably oriented than a trail runner—less overtly squishy, more robust, ideal for long days with a mid-weight pack. I ran three loops in that first week I used the Aerox, none longer than eight miles but with lots of vertical, and while I didn’t suffer sore feet, between the weight and more hiking-oriented absorption, I was definitely aware of the shoe’s mid-range goals—running cushioning is serviceable, but not cloud-like.
For someone with hard-to-fit feet, a great fit goes a long way toward great performance, so the Aerox was already halfway there. But it’s also an exceptional trail machine, consistent under foot whether the terrain is smooth or rough, predictable when sudden off-camber angles jolt it, and reliably secure on steep downhills. The outsole grips tenaciously and is only overwhelmed by loose ball bearings or wet clay. The 1.7-pound weight is certainly more than you’d want from a pure trail runner, but for an all-day hiker with this kind of weather protection, it’s an acceptable balance (and once under way, I never noticed the weight, not even when running).
My benchmark for all-around trail perfection is the Five Ten Access Leather. As a comparison, the Aerox is more dynamic, narrower fitting, a better runner, and less-capable scrambler—and since the Access isn’t waterproof, the Aerox is orders of magnitude between in the wet.
If you’re looking for one shoe that can do it all, in wet conditions or dry, and spend most of the time hiking and backpacking with the occasional trail run thrown in, this could be the Goldilocks model for you. But at $220, you’re also going to want to be the person who overwhelms traditional waterproof shoes, who can’t stand swampy feet, and who wants top-shelf Gore-Tex. I’d call the Aerox the one-shoe quiver for dynamic mountain performance for people who demand the best.
$220 • BUY
we also love these waterproof do-it-all trail shoes
Look for a full review here in the coming weeks, but the Merrell MQM Flex Gore-tex can literally do it all—run, hike, scramble, beneath Gore-tex’s new Invisible Fit tech that bonds waterproofing to the uppers. $140
A bit heavy for most trail running at 1 pound, 14.8 ounces, the Oboz Crest Low BDry are for all other uses a near-perfect blend of comfortable and robust, capable of long days on the trail and walking into town for dinner. Plus, Oboz plants a tree for every shoe they sell, a nice little bonus. $150
The Salomon XA Pro 3D GTX shoes have a design as busy as their name, but they’re light (13 ounces) waterproof, grippy, and fast. $160