Hanwag Makra Low GTX Approach Shoes

3rd Oct 2017

Hanwag Makra Low Approach Shoes

I had been asked to try some of Hanwag’s new Makra Low shoes and, with my previous great experience of Hanwag’s Ferrata Combi GTX boots to consider (you can read my review here), I jumped at the chance.  I get through a lot of approach shoes and so having another pair to use is always welcome, but I must admit I didn't research the Makra Low’s before arrival.

So, I opened the box with an air of expectation and I'm delighted to say I thought they looked great.  The colour scheme is striking and they are a very substantial approach shoe, but they certainly looked like they would perform well with Hanwag’s usual attention to detail.  Time to test them out……..

Features

The Makra Low’s are a very feature rich shoe.  In simple terms we could say that a Vibram Pepe sole unit is bonded to a lace up suede and Cordura upper with a Goretex insert.  However, after some further research I found out that is a drastic over simplification.

For example, the Vibram Pepe sole in itself has several significant features.  The tread pattern is an aggressive design for grip on loose surfaces but the rubber used is also designed to offer great friction and also has a ‘climbing zone’ built into the toe for great performance on steep rock.  The sole also features a honeycomb design for weight reduction. 

The upper is indeed suede and Cordura, but Hanwag have thought carefully about how these materials interact.  The bulk of the upper is Cordura for lightness and performance with suede used for reinforcement around the heel and along the lacing.  Rubber reinforcements then protect the high wear areas of the toe box and heel plus outer and inner side edges.

The heel cuff has a soft but supportive honeycomb structure and the shoes features a cleverly thought out lacing pattern that incorporates ‘ghillie lacing’ to allow performance at the toe (I must admit I had to look the term Ghillie lacing up.  Apparently it refers to a system of webbing loops or rings used to secure shoe lacing and the term originated when it was used to describe a soft dance shoe with criss-cross lacing). Finally, a Goretex Vision liner ensures waterproofness.  Phew, I said they are feature rich!

The Test

The Makra Low’s have been used a lot this summer.  Much of this has been for approaches to crags but they've also been used for longer mountain approaches and I've deliberately used them to climb a number of lower grade rock routes.  They have been well tested on rock, steep loose ground and slippery grass.  They have also had plenty of use in wet weather.  

In Use

I noticed, when trying the shoes, that they utilised Hanwag’s Alpin Wide last.  This refers to their last which offers a wider forefoot to ‘reduce pressure points when walking and climbing.  I haven't been able to test their standard last and so it isn't possible to draw a comparison, but I certainly felt the Alpin Wide last is a great fit for my fairly standard width feet.  It certainly isn't loose or sloppy around my toes and yet is wide enough to be comfortable and snug enough for climbing.

The general fit of the shoes is also excellent.  The well cushioned heel cuff is supportive whilst allowing freedom of movement and the overall fit feels snug and supportive.  In the Makra Low’s you feel you are wearing a very solid and substantial pairs of shoes.  The aforementioned ghillie lacing ensures the shoes can be tightened very securely at the toe and the close holes of the rest of the lacing continue the length of the shoe to ensure a very precise fit.  

The Makra Low’s Vibram Pepe sole unit is superb.  The tread features a deeply lugged pattern that grips tenaciously on slippery grass and performs really well on loose ground.  On dry rock the sole offers great friction and even on wet gritstone, limestone and rhyolite it grips as well as any sole I've used (except, perhaps, Stealth rubber). 

The addition of a climbing toe section is genius.  This is becoming more common on approach shoes now and is basically a solid edged flat section allowing good edging capability and maximum rubber contact for friction.  It works really well and has allowed me to very confidently climb up to hard severe grade in the Makra Low’s.

Durability has been fine so far.  The tough Cordura, suede and rubber rand shrug off abrasive  surfaces and I'm confident these will be a very long lasting shoe.  This is also related to their meticulous construction.  Hanwag are a premium brand and know more than a thing or two about producing shoes built for tough conditions.

The final addition worthy of note is the Goretex Vision waterproof insert.  The breathability of Goretex has ensured the shoes have stayed comfortable in hot weather and I've not, despite having them out in some tough wet weather days, had any problem with them leaking.

Considering how substantial the shoes look and feel, I was surprised how light the Makra Low’s are.  Hanwag make special mention of the technology that has lowered the weight (not least the use of Cordura, and the honeycomb construction of the sole and heel cuff) and the Hanwag reported weight of 410 grams for a size 7.5 is excellent for a shoe of this construction.

Finally, the look of the Makra Low’s is worth a mention. Hanwag have used a striking blue and red colour scheme and I really like it.  I like the colours and I also like the detailing - stitching in contrasting colours run in strips up each side and a contrasting mid sole colour and fine details like the embroidered Hanwag logo round off a very stylish package.  I really do think these are a great looking shoe.

Summary

Bravo Hanwag.  I loved the Ferrata Combi’s I tested (which are still going strong) and I love the Makra Low’s just as much.  They look great and perform superbly - I would consider them a Rolls Royce of the approach shoe genre.  They are, at £145, certainly priced at the higher end of the market but I am confident they will last extremely well and so the value comes in longevity and performance.  Well done to Hanwag on another fine piece of German engineering.  Check out full details of the Makra Low’s on the Hanwag website here.

Posted by Paul

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