The LOWA Innox GTX Lo ($190) has the look of a trail running shoe but the intention and purpose of an ultra-lightweight hiking shoe. Looks are deceiving. When I began testing these a couple months ago as day hikers, I noticed how sleek and nimble they were. I fantasized about using them as trail runners. Could I? A month ago, when the snowpack melted from the trails, I gave them a go.

Note: the topic of this review is the LOWA Innox GTX Lo but you’ll see the occasional (okay, continuous) mentioning of the Vasque Pendulums and the Patagonia Everlongs, my other trail running shoes. Why? Part of a thorough gear review involves comparisons with similar products. There are winners and losers in every review.

Onward!

What I liked

  • Traction: Amazing. The Innox’s were sure-footed over dry rock, hard dirt, soft dirt, mud, ascents and descents thanks to their aggressive lugs. Over wet rocks and logs, they’re not as grippy. But I’ve never worn a trail runner that gave me 100 percent confidence on the wet stuff. The Innox’s traction is better than the Vasque’s. The Patagonia’s always do best on non-technical trails with nice hard-packed dirt. Winner of this round: LOWA
  • Fit & Comfort: Outstanding. My feet are medium-narrow with a slight lean towards narrow. The best fit came with the Innox, followed by Patagonia then Vasque. Arch support in the Innox is very good, followed by the Vasque’s then the Patagonia’s. Sole thickness of the LOWA remarkable, followed by Vasque then Patagonia. Winner of this round: LOWA
  • Foot Protection: Epic. The Innox’s with their beefy outsoles fully protected my feet. The Vasques do pretty well and I always feel the most trail debris in the Patagonia’s. The Vasques have a very rugged outsole but…Winner of this round: LOWA
  • Breathability: Very good. GTX means “Gortex” so really, anything made with Gortex is going to be breathable. However LOWA added AirMesh uppers to the Innox’s to increase circulation between air and trapped moisture. Trapped moisture leads to the dreaded blister. I wore a good Merino wool running sock (Darn Tough Vermont) which always helps. The Innox are comparable with the Vasque but a lot more breathable then the Patagonia. Winner of this round: Tie between LOWA and Vasque
  • Rebound: Worthy. LOWA did not design, nor do they market, the Innox GTX to be a trail runner. It’s a “speed hiker”, meaning you can hike fast and outrun the occasional bear or a rainstorm. Knowing that, I had low expectations going into this category but was weirdly surprised. The DynaPU midsole that LOWA added provides enough cushioning and rebound to make the Innox competitive as a trail runner. I never once felt like I was running in clunky day hikers. Compared to Patagonia and Vasque (intentionally designed and marketed as trail runners) the Innox came in at a shocking-in-a-good-way second place. Winner of this round: Vasque
  • Sizing: Superb. My size 7.5 foot likes the size eight Innox. No surprise there as I always go for the extra half-size up in all trail running shoes. Hot, swollen feet need room to expand. The toe box is not overly wide, like that of a true trail runner, however I didn’t feel that my toes were being mercilessly scrunched on my ten-mile runs. As I continue working up to fifteen miles and longer, I may be hating on the not-so-wide toe box. Winner of this round: Vasque (for now).
  • Quality: Exceptional. LOWA’s are made in Europe(not China). Meticulous stitching, gusseted tongues to keep out trail debris, thick soles, these standards are evident in the construction. The Innox is also made with a Polyurethane (PU) foam which is more durable and longer-lasting than the Ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) midsoles of the Vasques and Patagonias. It’s also environmentally-friendly because it is a much cleaner product to work with than EVA and produces very little manufacturing waste. I suspect I will get a few trail running seasons out of the Innox before they retire to gardening shoes. Winner of this round: LOWA

What I didn’t like

  • The wide tongue is very comfortable—but you have to fiddle and f*ck with it to get it to lay flat so that it doesn’t bite into the top of your foot. This is hardly a deal breaker.
  • A bit on the heavier side when I (unfairly) compare them to Patagonia and Vasque. Patagonia is the lightest (but offers the least amount of protection) followed by Vasque.
  • Nothing that says LOWA on the label is ever going to be cheap. However, of all the people I know who have LOWA boots or shoes, they all say the higher price was worth the quality and durability. Just ask any hiker wearing a pair.

Final thoughts

While the Vasque Pendulums and the Patagonia Everlongs are lovely trail running shoes, the LOWA Innox GTX Lo is an all-purpose, can do it all, run it all, all-around outdoor athletic shoe. They’re quick, agile, lightweight (as a day hiker) and well-made (in Slovakia). They also performed exceptionally well on long day hikes and as an urban shoe.

Winner of this round: LOWA