I’ve been wearing for hiking and backpacking for the past 3 years. Made out of mesh, they drain and dry quickly, which is important in the densely forested and wet Northeast US environs where I do most of my hiking. I originally switched from leather hiking boots to trail runners in 2010 when I hiked coast-to-coast across Scotland, which is also incredibly wet, and haven’t looked back at boots for three season hiking ever since.
The Ultra Raptor excels in mountain environments because the soles have sticky rubber which adheres well to rock, including wet rock, while providing enough protection for my feet. A thick rubber toe cap and an armored heel cup protect my toes and the back of my feet without compromising agility. That’s really important in the mountains for scrambling across scree fields and the occasional smearing and stemming we need to do when climbing rugged, above-treeline trails. In fact, I’ve never come across a better trail runner than the Ultra Raptors that combines all of these traits, which is why I’ve stuck with them for so long. I even have boxes of mint Ultra Raptors stockpiled in my gear closet, in case the manufacturer ever decides change or discontinue them.
If you need extra wide shoes or lots of space for your toes, the Ultra Raptors are probably NOT a good choice for you. The fit is decidedly narrow and firm, with a deep heel cup that locks your foot in place and provides neutral, stable footing. The soles are surprisingly rigid with a stiff nylon shank that provides great torsional control. The heel is NOT flared out to distribute force, like a lot of road running shoes and some trail runners, so they don’t need extra clearance when hiking on rough trails with a lot of tree roots.
The Ultra Raptor soles also have an arch, something that you find less and less on trail runners. I like them because it means I can run a hiking gaiter strap through them, which I’ve found much more durable and repairable than flat-soled trail runners where you need to glue a velcro patch to the back of the shoe. The arch also forms enhances your ability to brake on decents using your heels, much like a pair of traditional hiking boots, another quality that makes the Ultra Raptors well suited for mountain walking.
New Hampshire hiking is pretty hard on shoes, but I get about 400 miles on a pair of Ultra Raptors before the heel lugs start to wear down and tears begin to appear in the mesh next to the toe caps. This is a common wear-point on mesh trail runners regardless of the manufacturer because of the constant flexing the toe box and forefoot. I’ve tried to retard the deterioration of the mesh by covering these areas with Shoegoo plastic adhesive, but the heel tread wears out long before the mesh gives way, so I don’t bother anymore.
The factor insoles that come with the Ultra Raptors are your standard run-of-the-mill thin foam. If you need more arch support or a firmer heel pad to counter pronation as the heels wear down (25% of hikers and backpackers do), I’ve found that the fit well and don’t take up much volume inside the shoe.
The Ultra Raptors run about a 1/2 size small. They’re also available in European sizing – for example I wear a size 43 – so you can dial in a much better fit, since European sizing is finer grained than US sizing.
That in a nutshell is my take on for hiking and backpacking. I’ve gone through about eight pairs of these shoes in the past three years and plan to wear them again this year for all of my non-winter hiking trips.
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