First Look: Hi-Tec V Lite Flash Force Low I Trail Shoe

posted in: Gear Reviews, Hiking Gear | 0

Why Buy?

In early March I was contacted by Hi-Tec to see if I was interested in testing anything from their hiking line. Coincidentally, I was looking for a pair of low top hiker/trail runners to use in conjunction with a set of sole-stiffening insoles. Over the last several years, I’ve tried to transition from my heavy backpacking boots to trail runners or a lighter boot. An adage you’ll hear from hikers is “1 pound on your feet equals 5 pounds on your back.” While this may seem ridiculous, it is backed up by research conducted by the British Army (my thoughts on the subject and a link to the study are posted here: Transitioning From Heavy Backpacking Boots to Trail Runners, Part I).  Looking at the products that Hi-Tec offered, the V Lite Flash Force Low I Trail Shoes stood out to me for several reasons:

  • Vibram soles – to date, I have not found footwear that grabs like the Vibram soles footwear I’ve used.
  • Aggressive traction – most of the trail runners I’ve looked at don’t have aggressive traction and the “lugs” are very shallow. I’m an over-pronator that really scuffs the inside edge of my shoes. On most trail runners and lightweight shoes,  I believe it would not be long before the soft, shallow traction was worn down to a smooth surface. The Hi-Tecs have an aggressively styled traction, while having lugs with a depth similar to those I find on the boots I like.
  • Price – looking online I was able to find my size for less than $70. That’s about 50% of what I usually spend on a pair of boots.

My Observations

I have a history of ankle and foot problems. To help with my transition to using hiking footwear that doesn’t have a full shank and ankle support, I used ankle braces and sole stiffening insoles with these shoes. I’m hoping to build up enough foot and ankle strength to ditch the braces and insoles eventually.

  • The Good
    • I wore them to work a couple of days (I walk 3-5 miles per day while on the clock), then took them on a 3 day, 30+ mile backpacking trip. No blisters or ankle sprains. Some foot pain, but not any more than I’d expect if I had worn my heavy backpacking boots. Hip discomfort, which I tend to get with heavy backpacking boots, was non-existent.
    • As expected, the Vibram soles have amazing grip.
    • Weight savings – even when adding the ankle braces and insole weight to the Hi-Tec Flash Lows, they weigh much less than my normal hiking boots.
      Oboz Beartooth BDry  Hi-Tec Flash Force Low
      Shoe Weight (per pair) 58 oz 30 oz
      Spring Plate Weight Not used1  2 oz
      Ankle Brace Weight Not used2 7 oz
      Total Weight 58 oz / 3.63 lbs 39 oz / 2.44 lbs
       Equivalent Pack Weight 3  371.2 oz / 23.2 lbs  249.6 oz / 15.6 lbs
       Equivalent Weight Saved  N/A  121.6 oz / 7.6 lbs
      Notes My preferred backpacking boots, featuring ankle support and full shank Low top trail runners that feature a nylon fork shank to add some rigidity. Vibram soles are a huge selling point for these shoes.
      1 Spring Plates not needed; full shank provides adequate protection.
       Ankle braces not needed; boot height provides adequate ankle support.
      3 Using the British Army’s 6.4 multiplication factor
  • The Bad
    • This is not necessarily about the shoe, but some of the online stores selling it. It is advertised in some places as waterproof. It is not waterproof.
  • The Bottom Line 
    •  Hi-Tec isn’t a brand I’ve heard other hikers talk about, in person or even online. I had only ever seen Hi-Tec in a handful of stores and with my lack of exposure to the name, I had never really looked at Hi-Tec as a quality brand.  With my experience to date with these shoes though, my perception is quickly changing. I think they’re a great shoe at this price point.

Future Testing

My friends, who are well aware of my previous foot and ankle issues, were very surprised that I used these on the Coyote Gulch trip. After further testing, I am hoping that I’ll be able to determine if the shoes by themselves will give me the level of protection and support I need or if the ankle braces and insoles are also needed. I’ll update this review after I’ve used them on a few more hikes.

Disclaimer: Some of the products mentioned in this entry were provided to by Hi-Tec.