Charge of the Light Brigade

Merrell Chameleon Velocity, Salomon Super Raid, and La Sportiva Energy

Aug 1, 2001
Outside Magazine

Merrell Chameleon Velocity (Top)
$100; 888-637-7001;
Although they're named after a reptile, the Chameleons actually sport leather uppers (from cattle) and soles covered with suckerlike rubber disks called Octogrip. (We're assuming Merrell's marketers preferred "Chameleon" to "OctoCow.") Do the suckers suck? Well, no, but they do grip well on a variety of surfaces. Adept at combining urban and rural duties, the 2-pound, 2-ounce Chameleons are handsome and comfortable on sidewalks (which you can't say about all hikers), yet capable under a light pack on any trail. Try as we might, though, we couldn't get them to change color with their surroundings.

Salomon Super Raid (Middle)
$120; 800-654-2668;
Salomon put the 1-pound, 15-ounce Super Raids on the Oprah diet, from ultrathin Kevlar laces to synthetic uppers to a bonded midsole sandwich of EVA, polyurethane, and plastic. Slip them on, yank the laces tight with one finger on the rip-cord loop, crank the Velcro ankle wrap, and you'll feel like running with the wolves. The high uppers and snug fit add up to supernatural control on off-camber slabs and other dicey routes. There's also enough support for a Raid load: water bladder, GPS, goat cheese, and a few packs of Gauloises--ah, the French.
La Sportiva Energy (Bottom)
$75; 303-443-8710;
Boasting a friction coefficient that would embarrass ten-year-old rock shoes, the 2-pound, 4-ounce Energies are flawless on steep trails under trekking loads, and make for enthusiastic bouldering partners on tempting detours. A fat rubber rand around the sole adds grip for toe and heel jams while protecting the uppers from abrasion. Polyurethane midsoles and wood-fiber insoles provide both support for loaded hiking and enough cushioning for head-height peel-offs. Better yet, at only 75 bucks, the investment is low enough to suggest intriguing bartering possibilities at the end of the trek.

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