Planning for my Laugavegur trek, probably the most difficult choice lay in which footwear I would bring. I had options at home, but none seemed to meet all the requirements I set: lightweight, comfortable, protective, and able to meet out any conditions the trail would bring.
At some point I made the decision that, if I could find them, I’d use sneakers instead of boots, mostly to lower the weight and also add to the utility with a daily wear option.
My favorite daily shoes are The North Face Ultra Kilowatt – I’ve been wearing them for several years and, when they were discontinued, I bought 3 pairs in my size so I’d have them around for a while. But, while comfortable, they seemed a bit minimalist for a weeklong trip.
One of the negatives of The North Face retail stores is that they don’t stock a lot of their shoes in larger sizes. They balance that negative with the positive of free returns when you buy their shoes online.
So, literally two weeks before we were set to head out, I ordered three pairs of The North Face sneakers and hoped that one of the options would work. The three I ordered were the One Trail, Endurus TR, and the Mountain Sneaker.
All three are designed for trails, either hiking or trail running, and all are good-looking shoes (what can I say, I’m shallow that way). All are relatively lightweight, have good cushioning, and offer protection both underfoot and for the toes.
Once I got the shoes it became immediately apparent that the Mountain Sneakers were the obvious choice. They feature the comfort of an XtraFoam midsole system, multi-directional lugs for traction, and a TPU toe cap for protection.
They also are made with a breathable mesh vamp (which came in really handy after river crossings), and a stretchy construction that made it easy to get them on and off. The North Face says their CRADLE technology maintains proper heel positioning and I did not have any slippage, so it appears they are right.
The Mountain Sneakers went on my feet on a Tuesday and then pretty much didn’t come off for a week, excepting at night for sleeping, at the last huts when I went to shower, and then on the last night in my Reykjavik hotel.
During that week they flew to and from Iceland, hiked around 55 kilometers, waded through several rivers, kept volcanic gravel out, traversed snow and ice, and did it all with unusual aplomb. I can’t imagine a better choice for this trip.
And here’s the rub: after all of this abuse, they remained new-looking and there was no odor at the end of the trip. This partly lies in my choice of merino wool socks, but it’s an awesome accomplishment nonetheless.
There is one flaw, however, easily corrected. The laces are just too long. They tie easily, retain the knot, but would probably drag if not double-knotted. A minor complaint.
The North Face Mountain Sneakers are an ideal travel and hiking shoe: lightweight, comfortable, protective, and able to meet out any conditions the trail brings.
Other new gear used on the Laugavegur: Big Agnes Farrington PrimaLoft Silver Sleeping Bag Liner, Eagle Creek National Geographic Utility Backpack 40L, Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Trekking Poles.