Vasque Coldspark UltraDry Boots are waterproof winter hiking boots with the nimble spirit of trail running shoes. Lightweight, with a flared heel and good rocker, you can hike fast in these boots when you want to make time.
Insulated with 200 grams of Thinsulate, the Coldsparks are designed for hiking and snowshoeing in late autumn and moderate winter temperatures, through wet leaves, snow, slush, or cold rain, when combined with warm socks. If you wear gaiters, there is also metal ring on top of the tongue to secure them to.
While the Coldsparks are soft enough to hike with out of the box, the softshell uppers soften up considerably after 30 miles of hiking and become buttery soft. This combined with a low riding heel and very flat and stable sole, make them feel more like a running shoe than a rigid boot.
The boots dual sport a compound sole, with hard outer lugs around the periphery of the sole and softer ones in the middle. The idea behind this is to create a differential grip on snow and ice, although I haven’t been able to detect much of a difference when walking on wet ledge, tree-roots, snow-covered bog bridges, or ice-covered rocks in stream crossings. While the colors are pretty, these soles won’t replace good footwork and microspikes.
The Coldsparks run slightly large, with enough interior space to wear a bulky winter sock or a medium sock and liner combination. Speed lacing loops over the instep and quick release hooks at the top of the collar provide fast fit adjustments and secure lacing, while a terry-lined cuff provides comfort.
Despite their comfort, the performance of the ColdSparks is lackluster when it comes to mixed rain and snow conditions. The exterior softshell absorbs water easily and takes quite a long time to dry. When it gets soaked in cold rain, snow or mixed conditions, the inner waterproof breathable boot ceases to vent foot perspiration, your socks get wet with sweat, and your feet become chilled in a cascading failure. While you can easily fix this with a can of Scotchguard, this is the kind of thing I expect to work right out of the box on a new pair of waterproof winter boots.
The toe box also lacks top rigidity and collapses down onto your toes when worn with Microspikes. The downward pressure makes your toes rub against the inside of the toe box, which is uncomfortable and can quickly lead to friction blisters; the last thing you want on an all day winter hike in the mountains. If you’ve ever tried wearing Microspikes with trail runners, it’s the exact same feeling.
I had high hopes for the Vasque Coldsparks when I started the break-in process, but after 50 miles of early winter hiking through snow, ice, wet leaves, slush, and rain, they’re going to be relegated to use in town, not forest and crag.
Disclosure: Vasque provided Philip Werner with a sample pair of Coldspark boots for this review.
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