This review of the just-released Hi-Tec Griffon was always going to be an interesting meeting between the familiar world of trail running shoes, and the less familiar world of hiking and multisport shoes.
True, I had trialled the Hi-Tec Sensor GT hiking shoe in 2016 and I am still enjoying its ankle support and supreme foot protection as a gardening boot. It makes walking over uneven terrain created by pruned tree branches and thick mulches a pleasure, rather than a concern.
But this is a review of the Griffon, and my first impression of it was its lightness compared to the Sensor. The latter weighs a chunky 490g per shoe, whereas the Griffon sheds a lot of the armour, to weigh in at around 414g (both were weighed on my digital scale, in size UK 11).
They may look similar, but Hi-Tec’s design team have shaved off excess weight to appeal to today’s generation of fast hiking, slackpacking, multisport, performance-savvy adventurers. Some of these users will also be trail runners, and the thought of pulling on a pair of above ankle hiking boots will be anathema. For them, light is right.
Does lightness matter? Not always, but it’s definitely more comfortable wearing light shoes, especially if you’re going to be lifting them countless thousands of times on your hikes. The more demanding the trail, and the more step-ups you encounter, the more that lightness will be felt and appreciated.
In my opinion, the right to lightness needs to be earned through experience. If you’re new to outdoor activity, and your ankles are still learning to negotiate uneven ground, it may be better to go for a heavier pair of shoes. They will usually give you better ankle support, and protection from stones (above and below the sole).
Value for money. Hi-Tec is renowned for offering good quality at affordable prices. I feel that it certainly achieves this with the Griffon. You get a pretty decent adventure shoe that is comfortable and light for R900. Compare that figure with many of today’s trail shoes, and it’s a half to a third of their price. Admittedly, that is with less sophisticated technology being used, since most trail shoes offer advanced midsole materials.
Hi-Tec is renowned for offering good quality at affordable prices.
Great grip. The lugs gave extremely good grip on the most mossy and steep sections during my hike in the 11Ha Pigeon Valley Nature Reserve in Glenwood, Durban. I think that’s because the surface area of each of the 34 lugs is comparatively large. In my experience, some trail running shoes do the opposite, with a larger number of lugs, more tightly arranged. I’ve found that this normally works well for muddy, soft ground conditions, and less well for smooth, mossy, damp, or wet surfaces. So top marks to the Griffon for instilling confidence.
Lightweight. A 400g trail shoe is not light, but a 400g hiking shoe is pretty decent. I found the Griffon’s sense of lightness noticeable when compared to the Sensor GT. That 90g difference does matter. Read the Go Multi review of the women’s Hi-Tec Griffon.
Comfort. This is a big one. You’ve got to fit any shoe correctly to be comfortable in it. The size of some shoes varies slightly, and you’ll often find that your usual size feels bigger or smaller in another model or brand. Luckily this isn’t the case with the Griffon, and I’m finding the test pair true to size. The result? A snug fit around the ankle, and enough toe room for my feet to splay and my toes to wiggle freely. I find this fit is the best for me to avoid hot spots, blisters, and the dreaded black toenail!
Protection. Although the shoe is light by traditional hiking shoe standards, the toebox is impressively sturdy. I kicked a rock really hard, and was relieved that there was no shot of pain immediately after. The reinforced toebox should protect most peeps’ toes against kicking rocks (if they’ve sized the shoes correctly).
Non-removable sockliner. This is also a con (see below). Sockliners are great in the dry, but they tend to become hyper-flexible in the wet, and can roll into a ball under your foot once you start hitting the descents and need to apply the proverbial brakes on steep downhills. A glued-in foot bed is a good antidote for these situations. You can use crumpled newspaper to speed up drying of wet shoes, but today’s modern materials don’t remain wet for long anyway. Just suck it up if your shoes are still damp for the next day’s activities. Getting your feet and shoes wet on a regular basis is a good way to prepare them for future adventures anyway. Add it all to your experience bank.
Lace garage. Good to see this useful feature (pic below) being incorporated in a shoe under R1,000.
Unfriendly laces 1. I had two issues with the laces supplied on the test shoes. The first was that the lace end binding is about the same size as the eyelet. This means that should you want to replace the laces, you’ll have to employ serious muscle power to pull the lace through, risking pulling off the end of the lace.
Unfriendly laces 2. The second issue is that the laces are thick and inflexible (you’ll see that in the pros section too, as some people will love this!). That makes them perfect for tying together to abseil down a cliff (if you can remove them, see Unfriendly laces 1), but less fun tying and untying. I’m guessing the experienced team at Hi-Tec prefer the thick old-style laces for their strength, rather than the flat, thin and more stretchy laces in shoes I am testing at the same time (the Brooks Caldera and the Hoka One One Clayton 2, both maximialist trail running shoes).
Non-removable sockliner. It is always pleasant being able to remove your sockliner to dry out that very important part of your shoes faster. Being able to expose the sockliner to sunlight also reduces shoe odour in the long-term.
I am impressed by the comfort of the Griffon. Remember first and foremost that it is a shoe built for hiking, and not running. If you need to run a kay or three to make camp before nightfall, you will be able to, but this is not its calling. I tried, and found that the sole is just too rigid for sustained running. You’ll feel how much more stiff it is if you put on your trail shoes before or after.
Truism: If you give a thousand shoes to a thousand people, you’ll get five thousand different comments. Your experience of the shoe may be very different to mine, so ensure you first fit it on in the store, walk around, and ensure you get the sizing completely right before committing.
For me, it gets top marks for comfort, fit, and price. Highly recommended.
Get the Hi-Tec Griffon
Buy the Griffon at Sportmans Warehouse for just R900.
Follow Hi-Tec South Africa