Vasque has a long history of making high-quality hiking boots that range from super-light-ability-to-run-from-bears-and-bad-weather dayhikers to full-on-hiking-to-Everest-Base-Camp-weight. I recently sampled the Vasque Monolith Ultra Dry ($129.99) boots that fall half-way between outrunning bears and a nosebleed at 14,000 feet.
What I liked
- Outstanding fit. The Vasque Monolith is true to size and cradles the foot a bit like a comfortable compression sock. The size 8 that I tested, and always wear in hiking boots, was the right size for my size 7.5 feet. Not for the wide of foot, though. If you have wide feet, these are not the boot for you. Fit, however, is dependent on a couple of things. First, always try your boots on at the end of the day when your feet are naturally swollen. Be sure to take your own hiking socks along, too. Second, and most important, did you lace them with the special lacing technique used to cinch your heel into the boot?
- Good stability. The Vasque Monoliths are built on a womens-specific Perpetuum last with a nice narrow heel cup. My gear-testing trip first brought me to Hood Mountain, the highest peak in Sonoma. Not exactly an epic feat that pushed the limits of my endurance and pluck but it wasn’t a walk in the woods, either. It was a 12-mile strenuous out and back with a 2,000-foot vertical gain. The lace positions, which add to stability, are nicely placed with four sets of durable webbing loops and one set of metal eyelets. However they fall between a dayhiker with no eyelets from the ankle up and a full-on hiking boot that requires lacing from the ankle up. Lacing required a few adjustment stops but I finally got it to a point where the Monoliths felt firm and solid over rocks both wet, dry, loose and crumbly, to the 2,730-foot summit.
- Comfortable. Unsurprisingly, I found the Vasque Monolith to be plenty flexible for a medium-duty day hiker. On my longest day hike, which was about eight hours, they provided plenty of ankle support to prevent the foot and ankle fatigue that you can get from hiking unstable, steep, and rocky trails. What I did find surprising, though, was that the Ultra-Dry waterproofing membrane did not make my feet feel excessively sweaty or clammy. I attribute this to the strategic and generous placement of abrasion-resistant mesh that allowed my feet enough breathability. Keep in mind I was hiking in a state with a dry climate. I’ll update this review if I get the chance to do a long dayhike in Minnesota where the climate is humid.
- Good arch support. I left the factory insoles in for this test. Usually I replace all factory-installed insoles with Superfeet or Footbalance. On their own, the arch support from the Vasque insoles are fine. They are your typical dual density EVA footbeds and provide just enough cushion and molding to keep joint cartilage from inflaming and that pain I get in my back when I’m wearing shoes with no or pitiful arch support. You definitely do not need to go out and throw down $40+ on new insoles.
- Durable. I have been wearing Vasque boots for at least twenty-five years. The Monoliths’s Stitching and construction are where I would expect it to be with Vasque. The rubber and leather is solid of good quality. Unlike my Vasque Scree boots circa 2010, the Monoliths have about equal proportions of mesh and leather. Mesh is always the first to succumb to wear and tear but so far, no amount of scrapes with rocks left dents in their carefully-constructed mesh armor. Random note: These are boots I would not use to climb 14’ers in Colorado. From the Vasque line, I think the Vasque Breeze 2.0 are a safer choice both in terms of construction, protection and longevity for higher, more challenging endeavors.
- Ultra-Dry™ for waterproof’ness. No matter how great your balance or the accuracy of your smartphone’s weather app, there will come a time where your rock-hopping lands you in the drink or the clouds unleash their fury. The creek crossings on the Hood Mountain trail were narrow enough for jumping or rock-hopping (testament to the agility of the lightweight design and construction). Not so much down in Big Sur where the creek crossing right off the trailhead was unjumpable. At end of the hike I tested the waterproof’ness by submerging the Monoliths up to about five inches of standing water. My feet remained dry for approximately one minute, twenty-one seconds before I felt water seeping in. Allow me to clarify what waterproof really means in a hiking boot. Can you walk into a knee-deep lake or river and stand there for an hour with completely dry feet? No. But if you’re hiking in rain and wading through puddles and shallow rivers your feet will stay dry.
Impressive traction. Many hiking boot manufacturers search the ends of the earth to come up with a feature name that conjures images of a technology so advanced that it inspires confidence based on name alone. Vasque named the outsole for the Monolith the “Monolith”. LOL. Kudos to them! They’ve been in the biz long enough to know that it’s the lug pattern and spacing that make or break traction. The wider the spacing between the lugs, the better for shedding mud and debris, which ultimately improves your traction. The Vasque Monolith has a moderately-spaced lug pattern. Not earth-shattering but for the price point, purpose and the terrain on which I tested, traction was impressive.
What I didn’t like
Break-in period: The Monoliths are the first Vasque boots I’ve met that responded best after a break-in period of one solid ten-mile hike. Maybe it was because they named the outsole “Monolith” instead of “Vasque’s proprietary HA-897 Anti-frost-and-Lichen Outsole!” Not to dwell on the inevitable—you likely know where this is going—but yes, a blister on my heel I did receive. It didn’t ruin my day. I had my Outdoor Retailer media samples of Blister Medic and Glacier Gel. Before you scratch the Monoliths off your boot list, know that I did another hike a month later on the Superior Hiking Trail that was blister-free.
Outstanding value is what comes to mind first. For $129.99, you get a waterproof light-weight hiking boot with a lot of comfort, durability and traction to accommodate a nice variety of hiking and trails. The next thought is that they provide enough support for carrying a loaded daypack and they provide the same level of waterproof that you would get with a more expensive Gore-Tex-infused boot.
They’re sleek, trim, agile and athletic with a muscular edge to them. Teeth, even. Very photogenic, too.
The Vasque Monoliths are a Gear Gals piece of Recommended Gear.