Ahnu Sugarpine Air Mesh - Women's Review
Cons: minimal lacing system (4 pair of eyelets vs. 6-10 on other shoes), least aggressive tread
Our Analysis and Test Results
Who would have thought that mesh and water resistance could coexist in the same shoe? The Ahnu Sugarpine Air Mesh is a breathable mesh hiking shoe that is capable of resisting water absorption while hiking across shallow streams and along the shore.
Check out the chart below to see where the rest of the hiking shoes in our review ranked in Overall Performance compared to the Top Pick winning Sugarpine Air Mesh.
At 1.3 pounds, the Ahnu Sugarpine Air Mesh are ounces lighter than any of the other hiking shoes in our review. They mimic a simple indoor fitness shoe design, but they are capable of managing dirt and water in the mountains. The light weight is achieved by an upper constructed of mesh and a simple lacing system of cotton laces and only four pairs of eyelets. The shoes feel as light in hand as they do on your feet. We found comfort in the ability to move light and fast in these shoes! No other shoe in our review felt as light and comfortable.
The lining of these shoes is moisture wicking synthetic. The inner padding and support were comfortable on short strenuous hikes as well as on long moderate hikes. With pack weight, the Sugarpines lost comfort, so we do not recommend them for backpacking. We found them most comfortable on day hikes and walking the dog. They are suitable for wearing around town, and although we didn't test them indoors, they are suitable for indoor fitness as well. Sizing runs slightly more narrow than other hiking shoes, so for a wide fit, try the Merrell Moab Ventilator - Women's or Merrell Siren Sport 2 - Women's, which are available in wide widths. Other than the narrow fit, the sizing runs true to size.
The Air Mesh is supportive under foot yet flexible in the forefoot and toe area. The shoes provide adequate arch support- more than the Merrell Siren Sport 2 but less than the Salomon Ellipse GTX. Fresh out of the box, the Sugarpines have firm soles and soft, stretchy uppers. They feel flexible and supportive. Over the course of hiking many trails, the soles soften and the uppers remains as soft as they began. We found the flexibility to compromise the support on rocky terrain. While hiking on well managed trails and moderate terrain, the Ahnu Sugarpine hiking shoes excelled in providing a comfortable, running shoe-like fit and stride. As soon as the terrain became uneven, rocky, and demanding, the shoes did not provide adequate support.
They are best in easy to moderate terrain and steep terrain that is well managed or clear of fist-sized rocks. Laterally, the Numentum Hike Technology coupled with the nylon shank and torsional control, keeps the shoes stiff from side-to-side. The flexibility is most noticeable under the forefoot and above the toes while in stride.
The lacing system of the Air Mesh hiking shoes is the simplest of all of the shoes in our review. With only 4 eyelet pairs for the flat cotton laces to weave through, the shoes are easily tightened or loosened, but we missed the ability to lace our hiking shoes lower along the foot. Most hiking shoes allow the shoes to be tightened on the forefoot, nearly reaching the base of the toes, but the Sugarpine's laces stopped an inch or so shy of the base of our toes. This contributed to the overly flexible bend at the toes while hiking, but lacks support when hiking steep trails.
The tread pattern of the Ahnu Sugarpines is shallow and somewhat uniform around the outer edges. Hiking throughout the Sierra Nevada mountains presented many opportunities to test these hiking shoes in varying terrain. While hiking on well managed trails that have some boulders and steps, but remain mostly dirt and duff, the Ahnu Sugarpines held traction. When the terrain steepened on looser dirt and through forest duff off trail, the shoes continued to excel and keep us well supported and upright. On steep downhill grades, the shoes lost some of their traction. On granite slabs and sandy gravel trails the Vibram soles provided adequate traction.
The tread lacks an aggressive design, therefore making these shoes most suitable for casual day hiking or shorter strenuous hikes. If agility is an important consideration in your hiking, the Salomon Ellipse GTXs or the Salomon X Ultra GT - Women's are better suited.
From trail to town, the Sugarpine Air Mesh are casual and stylish in both fit and design. The versatility in casual applications is best with these hiking shoes. Most hiking shoes have a technical design that lacks a feminine fit, but the Ahnu Sugarpines offer a fitness oriented design for wearing on the trail. They are less versatile across technical outdoor applications, and we recommend them for day hiking and walking the dog. For a hiking shoe that provides versatility from day hikes to backpacking, the award winning Salomon Ellipse GTX are highly recommended.
A highlight of the Sugarpine Air Mesh hiking shoes is the water resistance. Breathable mesh upper construction is not typically associated with water resistance, but rather airy feet in dry conditions. These hiking shoes completely evolved the water resistance of mesh, which we think is a result of using waterproof leather and suede in combination with the mesh and with extra waterproof treatments used on the exterior.
We found them to be more water resistant than all but one other pair of hiking shoes in our review- and those shoes were made with a waterproof Gore-Tex lining. We love hiking on trails that wandered along the shores of alpine lakes, along the beach for a morning walk, and across shallow streams and creeks in the High Sierra in these shoes.
Stiff Vibram soles and waterproof leather uppers grounding the synthetic mesh proved to be durable through heavy forest duff, across rocky stream beds, and on dusty trails. We appreciate the strength of the mesh upper. From scuffing our feet against one another to conforming the shoe into narrow granite cracks, the mesh never abraded, pilled, or tore. The Vibram soles soften over time but remain strong enough to support our hiking adventures. Like the Merrell Siren Sport 2, Merrell Moab Ventilator, and Vasque Grand Traverse, the Vibram soles are durable and long lasting after miles and miles of hiking on various trail types and terrain conditions.
The Ahnu Sugarpine Air Mesh hiking shoes are ideal for three season day hiking. Due to their lack of aggressive tread, they are best suited to trails that do not encounter snow or extremely loose dirt or gravel on steep slopes. The stylish color options and simple design make these hiking shoes versatile enough for wearing from the trail into town. They are great for walking the dog and strolling around town, but offer enough support and technical features, such as water resistance, for wearing on moderate day hikes.
The Sugarpine Air Mesh are sold at a mid-range price. At $110, theys are neither the most nor least expensive hiking shoe in our review. They provide a well-rounded range of applications. The shoes from Merrell are less expensive, offer more aggressive tread, and use more durable upper materials such as leather and synthetic leather, but do not offer the same versatility in style as the Sugarpines. Both pairs of Salomon hiking shoes are more expensive and again offer a more aggressive tread and technical design, but are less feminine and less comfortable for mellow walking and hiking. The Sugarpine Air Mesh are a great value for a casual hiking shoe that is stylish and comfortable as well as water resistant. Compared to the other versions of the Ahnu Sugarpine hiking footwear, the Air Mesh offers the best value!
These shoes rated high across all of our metrics. They are comfortable and supportive while providing decent traction and water resistance. Many miles proved no match for the durability of the synthetic, breathable mesh upper and Vibram soles. Whether hiking around town or planning a more strenuous outing up a mountain, the Sugarpines are versatile and lightweight. The playful color options and feminine fitness design are refreshing next to other technical hiking shoe options. To our surprise, the water resistance out-measured many of the other hiking shoes in our review. For a hiking shoe that is feminine and technically capable, the Ahnu Sugarpine Air Mesh hiking shoes are stronger than they look and superior on trail!
— Briana Valorosi