Whenever Hi-Tec is sending me a pair of their latest trail running shoes, I am always excited to see what they have put together. Back in 2015, the Hi-Tec Flash Force arrived, and probably got the best review I have ever given gear. So when I was told a pair of Hi-Tec Speed-life Breathe Ultra’s were coming my way – my feet where itching to try them out!
A sizeable chunk of my Drakensberg hiking has been completed in a pair of Hi-Tec Flash Force shoes – a shoe I have really enjoyed using over the last two years. I have used this shoe as a comparison to the Speed Lifes as it is a shoe I recommend to people on a regular basis.
My first question with anything I will take up a mountain is very simple – what does it weigh? At 362g per shoe, it is roughly 50g per shoe lighter than the Flash Force trail shoes – a good start. It may sound pedantic, but dropping 100g off your feet is more valuable than dropping 250g off your pack – simply because of how much your feet move while hiking/running.
My next question with shoes is comfort – anyone who has walked an 18 hour day will know that a shoe that was slightly uncomfortable at 5 hours is incredibly painful by the end of the day. Unfortunately due to an ITB strain, I am yet to get a massive day in, but I have done a 12 hour hike in them and they held up perfectly.
The biggest issue I had with the Flash Forces was that the shoe laces kept coming undone, a problem I am yet to experience with the Speed-Life. Once again, it may sound pedantic – but having to stop and tie your laces every hour gets rather frustrating when it is 10PM, your destination is 8km away and your eyelids feel like lead!
Anyone that has ascended any of the monster passes the Drakensberg has to offer will know how vital it is to have shoes that stick to the surface. The same is true on all trails, and off-trail routes alike. While ice, mud and certain types of wet rock will never provide much grip – it is vital that a shoe will hold you properly on any other type of terrain. The grip on these shoes is phenomenal. I always test a new pair of shoes by standing on a dry rock at about a 45° slope and seeing how well the shoes hold. I was very happy with how well these shoes held.
Drying and ventilation
Another key factor on shoes is how quickly they dry. I have been relatively fortunate with dry weather over the last few months, but on the occasions of these shoes getting wet, they did dry quickly.
Ventilation on the shoes is also very good. In icy conditions, maybe a bit too good! But you can’t have your cake and eat it, and a pair of light weight trail shoes isn’t generally designed to be used in sub-zero conditions.
At first I was undecided as to which I prefer between the Flash Force and Speed Life shoes – both are light weight, comfortable and quick drying. But the reality is that, overall, the Speed Life beats or matches the Flash Force in every key area. It is a shoe I have really enjoyed using – and definitely a shoe I would recommend to others.