Review: Salewa Ramble

When it comes to traveling, footwear is my Achilles heel. I’m usually heading off to a place where winter boots or lug-toed hiking shoes are a necessity. And since these heavy-duty shoes take up most of the space in my suitcase, I almost always wear them through airports, which feels like overkill, sort of like driving a Hummer on an LA Freeway. It’s always a little embarrassing that the airport waifs surrounding me at the x-ray machine are slipping off their strappy high-heeled sandals while I’m unlacing 10 pounds of Vibram soles.

The need to inhabit a variety of worlds when I travel is why I’m excited every time I find products where sophisticated design matches the sophistication of the technology. I love stuff that looks good and works well in the wild. Salewa’s new Ramble urban outdoor travel shoe, which comes in both men’s and women’s sizes, checks both those boxes.

The suede upper is all-Italian, with a low profile, an elegant lacing system, and, on the women’s shoe, pretty details like yellow leather on the heel, a floral pattern on the toe, and a zigzag cut at the end of the tongue. But what’s under the foot is what makes this shoe so impressive. Italy-based Salewa is the first company to introduce Gore-Tex Surround technology in North America. The crux feature of the Surround technology looks like a design based on a gecko’s foot: The underside is an open mesh grid covered by a rubberized sole connected by 34 dime-sized rubber dots for traction.

Mark Peikart, Gore’s product specialist for Outdoor, notes that about one third of our sweat glands are located in our feet. While most hiking shoes are completely enclosed beneath the foot, Salewa’s Gore-Tex Surround Technology channels sweat away from the feet through an open construction below the foot. This lets excess moisture and heat escape not only through the upper construction, but also downward below the foot, and then laterally, resulting in dry feet, he says.

I happen to be in “The Land of 10,000 Lakes,” the perfect place to test a pair of waterproof shoes. To try the Ramble’s waterproof breathability, I took them for a spin on a paddling trip in northern Minnesota. Normally I have one pair of shoes I wear all day and can get wet, and save another shoe for the evening. But this time I wore the Ramble as both my wet and dry shoe. I found that if I just dipped my toe in the water with the shoe on, the drops beaded off the suede in a matter of seconds. If I dunked my foot in over the shoe’s cuff, of course, my foot filled with water and my socks got wet. But the beauty with the Ramble is that my foot didn’t stay wet. With air circulating from the tiny holes in the suede upper, as well as through the ventilated bottom, the shoes—and my feet—dried within an hour.

As for hiking, the Ramble fits me like a glove after wearing them in for a week. On steep descents down rocky trails, I could feel stones protruding through the bottom, but my feet were still protected by the wire mesh. Besides, there aren’t many stones on an airport tarmac or a city street, which is what this shoe is primarily designed to take on.

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