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Product Review:
Brooks Gila, The Ultimate Camp Shoe?

By Dave Glenn
Reprinted from The Leader, Winter 2000, Vol. #16, No. #2

What do words like breast silicone, terra pod, California last and Hydroflow have in common? They're all components of the Brooks Gila trail running shoe . . . the shoe I've found to be the ultimate camp shoe.

Before we get into these shoes I need to let you know I'm not a trail runner. . . maybe a trail walker, a trail stumbler, but not a trail runner. So why am I reviewing a pair of trail running shoes?

Because these shoes are some of the most comfortable all-around shoes I've worn. They're the best things I've found to slip into after a long day of backpacking in heavy boots. Let's get into the details.

Breast silicone-yes, breast silicone. Brooks utilizes this same type of silicone oil in the heel and forefoot. This helps slow down the heel impact and disperses the shock up the leg. Brooks calls this Hydroflow technology.

California last-What this means is the shoe fits more like a slipper vs. a board. This helps the shoe contour to your foot and flex as your foot flexes.

Terra pod-This is what Brooks calls the pad system and sole design that gets the foot to function as naturally as possible.

OK, enough of this fancy talk. Here's what I liked and here's what I didn't like.

Liked:

  • I was extremely impressed with the tertional rigidity (side to side rigidity). This makes it less likely to sprain the ankle while running or hiking up a trail. Obviously it's a trail running shoe and it's not going to be as rigid as a hiking boot, but I found they were a little stiffer than the average running shoe.
  • Toe Protection. It's not the hard, heavy, uncomfortable rubber. It's flexible and light, yet very protective.
  • The sole has soul. Good traction, yet not the knobby soles you see on other shoes. Hence it leaves less of an impact around a heavily-used area such as your camp kitchen.
  • Comfort. That's the bottom line right?
  • Breathability. On a hot day of hiking with wool socks my feet still felt relatively cool. Having said this they stayed relatively dry when splashing through three inches of water.
  • Lasting effect. They last longer than most running shoes I've had. They sell for $85 which I've found to be the going rate for this type of shoe. Not overpriced, not inexpensive, but the going rate.

Didn't like:

  • Dash of fluorescent. The color I had showed just a dash of fluorescent orange on the heel. While this may improve safety and visibility I'm just not a fluorescent guy.
  • A little slippery on the ice. All shoes are slippery in icy conditions. These seemed to be a little more so.

Overall: I can see why Brooks is one of the fastest growing athletic shoe companies in the world. The Gila is incredibly comfortable, tough, light, and long lasting. It's the shoe I'm now using for day hikes, running, wearing to work and I've found it's a great shoe to plop into in camp after a long hard day of backpacking with heavy stiff boots. They're so good I'd almost consider taking up trail running. Naw.


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