A standard rule among hiking footwear seems to be that if it bears the name “LOWA” visions of quality German craftsmanship dance before your eyes. Like the Phoenix Mesh Lo, the LOWA Palma’s ($190) are an excellent day hiking shoe for hikes in hot and humid weather. But with two additional advantages: They will thrive in the cool-weather of fall and they have slightly more support in the upper for tougher terrain.
Ventilation: I was able to test the Palma’s on the same hiking trips in New Mexico and Minnesota that I did with the Phoenix Mesh Lo. The Palmas felt a tad warmer on the feet because of the split leather upper but it was negligible and it wasn’t uncomfortable at all.
The socks that you wear between your foot and hiking shoe makes or breaks the experience. I used the Darn Tough Vermont Daphne ¼ sock because it has an exceptional fit and cushioning and is a naturally anti-microbial all-weather sock. Between the snug-fitting, well-made merino wool blend sock and the Palma’s, ventilation was pretty excellent.
Comfort: Like the Phoenix Mesh Lo, the Palma’s are made with LOWA’s Balance Comfort footbed. It is designed with a breathable top layer and a lightweight foam cushion that transports moisture from your foot while molding itself to your feet. Kind of like how a Tempurpedic mattress works only much lighter.
It’s certainly supportive enough for my arches on day hikes with a light pack. Obviously if your plan involves a multi-day hike with a heavier pack, you’ll need something with more support like the Mauria GTX Flex.
The tongue is very comfortable because it is connected to the upper via extended side wings. This wider tongue design, along with sturdy laces, prevents any pinching or chafing on the top of your foot by providing a snug, comfortable fit. It also keeps out trail debris.
Sizing: They are true to size. However, I always recommend that you order a half-size up in any hiking shoe or boot. For my 7.5 size foot, the sizes 8’s work perfect. If I go with a 7.5 I typically loose toenails to toe jamb on descents.
If you have wide feet, or have had difficulty finding comfortable hiking boots in the past, perhaps a short story will give you an idea of how LOWAs fit.
Five days before my husband and I were to leave for our hiking trip in Austria, he noticed that the outsole on his old hiking boots was splitting from the upper. We scheduled an emergency trip to REI to find a boot that would fit his wide, flat, hard-to-fit feet.
I held a pair of Renegade GTX’s, a shining example of fine European craftsmanship. I had been testing a pair of Mauria GTX Flex’s which had already been packed for the trip.
He looked at the price tag and selected a Keen. It didn’t fit.
“Here. Try the LOWA,” I said.
He tried the Vasques and Merrells next. The Vasques were wide enough but they were uncomfortable on top of his foot. The Merrells were too wiggly in the heel.
“Would you just try on the LOWAs? They’re made in Germany!”
Asolo went into the discard pile next because the toe box was too small. The Oboz had potential if he tried the next half size up but REI didn’t have it in stock.
It was Sunday, getting dangerously close to REI closing time, everyone in the seven county metro area was also shopping for hiking boots that day, we were leaving for Austria on Wednesday, the pile of discarded boots was growing, the sales lady was getting exhausted from all the trips back and forth to the stock room and anxiety filled the air.
“Do I have to beg you to try the LOWAs?”
Ahnu was the next pair added to the discard pile. “I’ll just have to try to glue my old ones back together and see if they hold up.”
“Please? For me?”
“Fine! I’ll try the stupid LOWAs.”
He laced up the LOWAs and walked around the shoe department. The only other time I saw that kind of smile on his face was when Surly Brewing Co. opened their new tap room.
Traction: Tough and flexible, though not quite as flexible as the Phoenix. I can still bend the Palma’s in half but I have to put a little more effort into it. But, keep in mind, the Palma’s are designed to be a little more supportive in the upper. The tread has fantastic grip over rocks, boulders, felled logs and just about anything else on the trail.
Quality: Only one word can accurately describe a LOWA: Outstanding. They are made in Germany and the Germans take the art of boot making very seriously. LOWA even sources its materials locally.
They also use a PU (polyurethane) midsole as opposed to an EVA midsole. PU is higher quality, it lasts longer, and it provides better cushion, stability and shock absorption.
I’ve seen and tested a lot of hiking boots over the years and LOWA has impressed me the most. Quality craftmanship, quality materials, attention to detail, constructed to last longer than any boot on the market. LOWA does not cut corners. Anywhere.
You might find yourself in shock over the sticker price of $190 but only if you focus on the price and not the materials and care that went into its construction. The craft that makes up a LOWA is purposeful and intentional. These aren’t shoes you’ll need to replace in five years.
You get what you pay for. LOWA lives and breathes that ethos.