For all of us, who spent time cloistered during the last several years, the silver lining was having the time to get into a regular fitness habit.
For me that meant walks around Kapiolani Park or a hike with the doggy up the Mau’umae trail.
And what could be better than walking? It’s not only wonderful exercise but as the immortal Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung said, just putting one foot in front of the other is great therapy.
Of course, in doing so, it helps to have good quality shoes on your feet.
That’s where LOWA comes in. I’ve become a big fan of this German manufacturer of high-end hiking boots and athletic shoes for quite a while.
There are several reasons for this.
Everyone knows that the quality of German design and manufacturing is second to none.
In addition to finely engineered cars, optics, etc., they also make some of the best hiking shoes in the world.
I’m partial to “crossover” or in LOWA’s terms “All Terrain Sport” shoes. They can serve both as serious “trail wear” or for everyday use.
The second reason why I like LOWA products stems from pure bias.
Full disclosure: I have dual German/American citizenship, so the made-in-Germany aspect is a no-brainer.
Founded by a Bavarian cobbler named Lorenz Wagner, the firm has been around since 1923. Herr Wagner was onto something because nearly 100 years later, LOWA is a worldwide brand that annually sells over 2 million pairs of boots and shoes in over 40 countries.
The company is still based in Wagner’s home village of Jetzendorf, in Bavaria which is about an hour north of Munich (and a little over an hour from where my grandmother was born, in Ulm).
The manufacturing for the shoe which is the subject of this review happens to be in a town called Továrenská in Slovakia. No, this particular model is not made in Germany but you can be sure some guy named Fritz or Rolf is overseeing quality control. (LOWA also manufactures products Italy, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Czech Republic).
Why not manufacture in a low-cost Asian factory? Despite bottom line considerations, there are good reasons why LOWA keeps its manufacturing in Europe.
Keeping the technology close to home:
Manufacturing and designing high-quality footwear is, as LOWA states on their website, “a complex process that requires a high degree of handicraft.” By having factories close by, they can maintain a tight relationship between the production facilities and the R&D at the mother ship in Jetzendorf.
Case in point: If the company needs to produce a brand-new prototype, management is only a few hours away. Much easier, especially in this day and age, than jumping on an airplane to China.
Keeping things green:
LOWA’s biggest market is Europe. Thus proximity to the manufacturing plants reduces both shipping costs and reduces emissions.
Value chain proposition:
LOWA is a highly integrated company. According to their website, nearly 95 percent of production capacities are covered by wholly owned LOWA subsidiaries. In this current era of broken supply chains, precise control of materials and production is a huge asset.
A True Hybrid
The Innox Pro GTX Lo, like its predecessor the Innox Pro Lo, is a cross between a running shoe, a trail running shoe and a hiking boot. Thus, in theory, you get the best of all possible worlds with this product.
For starters, the shoe is both stable and flexible on all types of terrain. It’s also really light (360 grams or .78 lb).
The shoes are constructed with a synthetic, mesh fabric upper that entails a “PU” or polyurethane frame for durability, shock-absorption and stability. LOWA says that they are one of the few outdoor footwear companies that manufacture 90% of their line using polyurethane (PU) midsoles vs. EVA midsoles—an older, less sophisticated technology.
PU absorbs shock, supports and rebounds well and is more durable. LOWA claims a PU midsole also offers excellent support, lasts 2-5 times longer than a comparable EVA midsole and, is less toxic to manufacture.
The Pro GTX Lo also uses waterproof/breathable GORE-TEX lining to protect feet from the elements. The earlier model I tested did not have a Gore-Tex lining. This was not a big issue on Oahu, where I live, because it’s dry most of the year and I don’t encounter much off the road muck. However, in Fiji where I spend a great deal of time, there’s more precipitation and waterproof shoes with GORE-TEX are very desirable.
Some argue that a GORE-TEX lining, while in theory is “breathable”, it’s going to make your feet feel sweatier than a non GORE-TEX lining. I’ve used both the non-GORE-TEX lined Innox Pro Lo and LOWA’s Gorgon GTX, which is GORE-TEX lined, extensively. To be frank, I don’t see that much of a difference in every day use.
One other point: LOWA proclaims that the shoes are “vegan friendly”—zero animal products on your feet. (No one can accuse LOWA of not being attuned to the zeitgeist).
Another excellent quality is the sole, which seems to be “grippy” in a variety of terrain. Whether you’re in the Costco parking lot or romping up the 1,048 steps of Koko Head Crater Stairs, this shoe can handle it.
The sole has really deep lugs which serve two purposes. The lugs give you great purchase yet are spaced out enough that they kick out small stones and mud so you don’t end up taking it with you. The sole has wonderful arch support while at the same time is flexible like a running shoe. It also has stability in the mid sole, akin to a hiking shoe. The toe is reinforced to protect you, which is a good thing.
When you first try it on, the one thing you can’t help but note is how comfortable it is. The first time you slip into a pair you’ll feel right at home. You don’t generally find it in an inexpensive shoe. Come to think of it, I’ve never found it in a cheap shoe.
It’s so comfortable that in fact you can make it an everyday shoe. They are ideal for long hikes on relatively easy treks. (For a serious trail you’re going to need boots. Lowa makes a variety of boots as well).
Aesthetics are great too. Mine was Graphite/Blue but you can also get Olive, Navy Lime or Black/Grey.
Other reviewers seem to like it as well. Its design got kudos from BACKPACKER’s gear tester (April 2020), which stated “….impressive rebound…” adding, “I didn’t have that achy-tired feeling at the end of the day.”
Price is $200 on the LOWA and REI sites but Zappo’s has them for $175. The bottom line–a less expensive shoe is not going to have the capabilities, much less durability or comfort of this Teutonic hybrid.