TNF Hedgehog GTX XCR shoes - initial review.

I got the opportunity to give a review of these TNF Hedgehog GTX XCR shoes via my young blogging chum BG!  He had been contacted by Adam at Fitness Footwear  of Stevenage in Hertfordshire with a request to review some TNF outdoor footwear.  The offer was a simple one, simply choose a pair from the Fitness Footwear online catalogue of the right size that were in stock, try them and then post an impartial review on my blog.
The pair I chose were The North Face Hedgehog GTX XCR lightweight Goretex-lined shoes.  This is the first time I've ever ordered footwear without trying them for fit and comfort first.  I am a UK size 9. In line with UK national podiatric characteristcs, I have wide, bony feet.  Footwear for me has always been a bit of a lottery.  Get it wrong and I can suffer blisters on the back of my heels due to having heel 'spurs'. I also have an enlarged big toe joint on my right foot, caused by an old rugby injury.  Long walks with heavy packs can cause me considerable discomfort (aching) here if the shoes or boots are narrow fitting.

I placed my order and the parcel arrived the following day.  The quality packaging and delivery advice information was impressively professional and indicates to me that Fitness Footwear are one company who take their mail order business very seriously, unlike some well-known retailers I could name.  The North Face box and packaging was securely wrapped inside a heavy-gauge polythene bag.  This was good!





It was with some anticipation that I opened the box.  Ok, TNF don't have the best image in the UK.  This is mainly due to certain TNF products having been adopted as a kind of fashion accessory by some urban sub-cultures.  That's an undeserved association, TNF produce some seriously good gear and the company have equipped major expeditions over many years.

Anyway, back to the contents of that expensive-looking box:


For Goretex-lined footwear, these Hedgehogs seemed to be quite lightweight.  This was looking good!  I weighed them and the pair came in at 840 grammes.  That is noticeably lighter than my old 'lightweight' eVent-lined Karrimor KSB's and the Meindle Goretex-lined approach shoes which have long been relegated to lawn mowing duties  They are heavier than other genuinely lightweight shoes such as my Innov8 Terrocs, but my first impression was that they would be considerably more durable.

There has been much debate over the point of 'waterproof' linings in footwear for UK use.  The overwhelming consensus is that there is no point in 'waterproof' linings at all.  I agree with that opinion.  I have tried footwear variously lined with Goretex, eVent and Sympatex.  In every case, the lining soon looses it's ability to keep water out and once that water gets inside, it takes forever to dry out again.  So what is the point?  Absolutely none at all, in my opinion.  Unless you are turned on by little logos attached to the shoes and a few extra swing-tickets on the infuriating plastic thingy that you can't break with brute strength or ever find the scissors with which to cut it.
Actually, the urban TNF gorillas mentioned earlier might like the idea of a 'waterproof' membrane (note the sarcasm in the quotes).  It could keep feet dry when peeing in a 'phone box.  It does keep your feet dryish when walking round Newcastle town centre on a shopping spree in a downpour.  To that I can attest (the wet shopping trip, not the wet 'phone box).


Logos apart, the work that goes into off-road shoes these days is remarkable.  All those bits of exotic materials and fabrics!  The stitching is neat and accurate, just the way I would do it myself....  if I could.  The styling is understated but contemporary, there are sound marketing strategies here:  they look good on the street and they look good on the hill.  Look good (or think you do) and you will perform better.  Which is why we all wear Ron Hill Tracksters, you see.

Yes, these are good-looking Hedgehogs.

Back to logos.  The soles are made by Vibram.  That's good enough for me.  I like Vibram.  It sticks to things it's meant to stick to, within reason.  This a quite a sticky compound, the soles have a good cleat design which seems to self-unclog when the mud clings.  You can ask the Polish lady who cleans the apartment I was staying in in Ireland last week.  The soles unclogged themselves all over the laminate floor.   The front of the toe box is adequately protected.

There is a fairly deep heel-breast and this is good when descending steep wet grassy slopes. The toe-box is reasonably firm and protected by some protective material which extends around the sides of the shoes.  That's good, I have a habit of scraping the toes and sides of my footwear on rocks.



Look at that needlework. Anyone's Granny would be impressed with that level of seamstresship!  Sweatshop artistry at it's best.
The loop is shockcord and the sole layup has a slight bouncy feel.  Plenty of protection for the lightweight mesh around the shoe in the form of some kind of 'nubuck' material.  It looks to be durable.



The cleats are quite open, which may aid anti-clogging.  The heel breast is reasonably substantial.


Straight out of the box, these shoes are very comfortable.  The fit is just about perfect for my foot type and there has been no sign of rubbing or hot-spots in the areas where I might have problems.  The insole is quite substantial for a change.  No skimping on materials or quality here.
 I normally over-pronate and this one feels very supportive and stable.  The lacing system is conventional and the laces remain tied, which is useful.  I have a pair of Meindle's which have a habit of untying themsleves as soon as I take my eyes off the laces.  That is just infuriating.  The laces on the Hedgehogs  are quite narrow.  This may save a few grammes when they become waterlogged, but I doubt anyone would notice.


What's that Vibram compound like on rock, then?  Well, it's pretty good on wet and dry rock within reason.  The cleats are a bit 'squishy' and I was a bit concerned that they might shear off under the weight of my not inconsiderable body mass.  They didn't.  They felt secure.




The last is quite firm.  I weigh around 14.5 stones and the shoes are plenty supportive for me for graded scrambling.  Importantly, those soles seemed to grip quite well on this dry pre-cambrian stuff.  Polished limestone might prove different.  But then it would, wouldn't it.  Try it out at your own risk.



I like these TNF Hedgehog GTX XCR shoes.  There's not much to dislike about them, apart from the validity of that Goretex liner, which we all know won't keep real water out.  But then I wouldn't use a public 'phone box or go shopping in the rain in my Terrocs, either.

Would I buy a pair?  Yes, I would.  I've bought far worse.  Would I use them for a multi-day backpacking trip? No, I'll stick with my sieve-like Terrocs.  Would I use them for day walks?  Yes, especially low-level mixed terrain.  They're very good.  Just be sure to order your footwear from Fitness Footwear!


I'll post a long-term review at a later date to see how these shoes hold up with extended use.



Footnote:
Please note I have absolutely no association with Fitness Footwear.  The TNF Hedgehog GTX XCR shoes were offered to me purely in exchange for an impartial review on this blog.  All opinions stated in this review are my own as a lay-person and are not implied or represented by scientific testing or measurement.

In other words, you'd be daft to buy footwear without trying it on first.
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