Like most outdoor bloggers, I sometimes get offered products to review. Often I turn the offers down, usually when the product in question is not something I would use (like the one season sleeping bag with arms and legs!) or I do not think that much of the brand. Just occasionally however the offer really resonates and it seems like destiny! This was the case back in July when a representative for Grisport got in touch on Twitter asking if I wanted to review something from their range. It did not take long to spot ‘Dartmoor’ on their website…. a pair of ‘Dartmoor’ shoes just before I move to Dartmoor?!! It was surely meant to be!
[Disclosure – these shoes were provided by Grisport for me to give my own personal opinions on them and they have no influence on these personal views and no editorial control.]
Never heard of Grisport? Nope me neither. They are an Italian company, based at the foot of the Dolomite mountains, which have been manufacturing footwear since 1977. Their product range is distributed in the UK by GRS Footwear, based in the North East. What jumped out at me from their brochure is that the product range is entirely developed and manufactured in Italy from a factory covered in solar panels which supplies 70% of the required electricity, and the company is committed to the rights and dignity of their staff. Excellent ethical and environmental credentials- a good start!
In the box the Grisport Dartmoor walking shoes (I went for brown) looked, felt and smelt premium, wrapped in thick dark brown tissue paper, and on initial inspection looked to be well constructed. With a waxed leather upper shoe and Vibram rubber sole, they certainly looked the part!
Grisport call the Dartmoor a walking shoe, although arguably you could just about call it a low-cut hiking boot. They say it is designed and built to cater for walks of all levels of difficulty from leisurely strolls to strenuous ventures. After a handful of initial walks in the countryside of Buckinghamshire and the parks of Bristol, I have been testing them out for the last two months on Dartmoor.
In past reviews of shoes, I have been fairly critical of lacing mechanisms – whether that includes odd fabric loops around the back or poor ‘undo-y-ness’ coefficients (where a lace unties after a few steps). In comparison the Grisport Dartmoor shoes were near perfect – a single tie of the laces kept the shoes snugly tied and in place with rarely any hint of coming undone despite hours of bog and moor. Yes I know that is what shoes are supposed to do, but obviously no one has told Keen or Merrell!!
Grisport get another ‘well done’ sticker for comfort. In the brochure, they talk about ergonomic shaping designed to adapt to any foot – I cannot speak for all feet, but my two certainly feel snug and well supported in their respective shoe. I have also not had any hot spots or sore bits, and there has been no signs of rubbing at all from day one.
The one thing I noticed straight away with the Vibram soles was a slight roll under the heel. Rather than being flat, it is an oval and it rolls with you as you walk. It is presumably some clever feature of the Vibrams, but it certainly felt very odd especially when walking on a flat surface, and it took a while to get used to. Otherwise I found the grip to be excellent across a variety of terrains including mud and dry granite. What did catch me out a few times however was the lack of middle ground between having full grip and no grip, especially whilst clambering over damp granite to bag a Tor. One minute you feel like you are stuck to the rock with glue… the next you are sitting on your bottom looking a little embarrassed!
The shoes are waterproof, thanks to the breathable Spotex lining, and despite numerous mires, bogs and river crossings on Dartmoor, my feet remained dry. That presumably means that the lining is also sufficiently breathable to get rid of my perspiration and, whilst I have not used the shoes on a very hot day yet, my feet have not felt overly hot during a hike. Obviously being shoes rather than boots means you are more liable to have water (or bog) come in over the top (although you also tend to be more careful!). There were a few times when this happened, but the snugness of the inner lining against my socks meant not much of the shoe actually got wet and it seemed to dry fairly quickly.
To be honest I absolutely love these shoes, and since taking them out of the box they have completely usurped my other outdoor footwear choices as my primary walking shoes. They are well made and comfortable, waterproof and with good grip, and for me are the perfect balance between full hiking books and lighter hiking shoes (their weight is 1040g). All in all I find them perfect for 3-season use on Dartmoor. In fact I am really struggling to find much to be critical of, and, at around £70-£80, it is no wonder that they won ‘Best Value for Money’ for a walking shoe by ‘Which?’
Before you head to the website to buy a pair however, I should mention that the Grisport Dartmoor shoes are for men only*. In fact it is rather disappointing to see that, whilst there is a good selection of ‘outdoor coloured’ shoes and boots in Grisport’s range for men and children, the ladies range seems fairly limited unless you want pink (like the ‘Lady Wolf’ or ‘Typhoon Rose’), lime green (like the ‘Magma Hi / Lo’) or other pastel or tan colours….
[* UPDATE – I have seen them advertised on some websites as unisex, although the description still describes them as ‘mens’. To be honest I am not really sure, beyond marketing, whether there is a difference in requirements between men and women when it comes to footwear!]
Also, and perhaps I am asking too much here, but I also wonder whether, considering Grisport prides itself on it’s ethic and environmental credentials, it would be a suitable gesture for them to donate to Dartmoor National Park a small amount of the proceeds from the sale of its namesake and Grisport ‘s most popular product…. after-all, no one will be buying outdoor shoes if we have nowhere to walk with them on!!
UPDATE – as pointed out by JuLu (@) on Twitter, I failed to mention anything about sizes. In an ideal world, I usually go for shoes sized 10.5 UK. Grisport use EU sizing, so I went for 45 which equates to size 11 UK and they fit perfectly (albeit snugly). Based on that single example, it suggests their sizes could be fractionally on the small side by perhaps up to half a size. Compared to my Keens with the massive wide heels, these shoes are a regular fit.
You can buy the Grisport Dartmoor Walking Shoes direct for £79 (they are currently giving away free snow grips with each order), or it is available from various outdoor outlets for around £70.