The Lowa Renegade GTX Lo is about as old school as it gets these days in the hiking shoe market. Put these on, and you'll be transported back to the 1980's — the days of stiff leather boots with even stiffer soles that took forever to break in but lasted a lifetime. While there's a lot of positives to be said about this approach, including great stability and durability, the lack of comfort tends to negate a lot of the benefits of wearing hiking shoes instead of boots. If you're looking for something lightweight and comfortable, these aren't it! However, they are solidly made and will last at least twice as long as the hiking shoes with soft EVA midsoles, which is good since they cost a whopping $210!
Lowa also makes the boot version of this shoe, which fared well in our women's hiking boots review. It's also a robust beast of a boot with more support and stabilization inherent in ankle-covering footwear.
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Lowa Renegade GTX Lo is made with a Nubuck leather upper, a polyurethane midsole, a waterproof Gore-Tex liner, and Vibram's Renovo sole. This shoe received an update for 2018, and a name change as well (it used to be called the Renegade II but Lowa dropped the II from the updated model). Note that there is also a Renegade III GTX version of this shoe, but that shoe is geared more towards the traveler and less towards the hiker.
This is one of the only shoes in our review that uses a polyurethane midsole (Lowa's "DuraPU"). Lowa states that a polyurethane sole is "a terrific shock absorber and longer lasting than the more common EVA midsole." While we agree that it is probably longer lasting, this shoe feels like it has little to no cushioning to it, and we noticed a distinct lack of shock absorption particularly compared to some of the dual-density EVA midsoles, like the one on the Oboz Sawtooth Low BDry.
They also state that polyurethane involves a cleaner manufacturing process than EVA. While we can neither confirm nor deny that, there is something to be said about buying one pair of shoes that lasts for five years as opposed to a new pair every year. The Renegades weren't nearly as comfortable as the Hoka One One Tor Summit WP, our Top Pick for Comfort, or The North Face Endurus Hike GTX. If you know that you prefer a cushy ride, check those shoes out instead.
This shoe almost made up for its lack of comfort in our support metric. It provided some of the best support in our review, thanks to the stiff sole which gave us great lateral support, as well as the internal and external arch support.
We did a hike in these shoes with a 30-pound pack on, and it gave us enough support even over rocky and unstable terrain. If you do prefer to wear hiking shoes even when backpacking long distances with a heavy pack, then you'll want to consider a pair like this one, as the stiffer midsole can support the extra weight and provide the stability that you want and need. We would have preferred a slightly better insole though, particularly considering the price of this shoe.
Hiking Shoe vs. Hiking Boot
A general rule of thumb (or big toe, in this case?) is if you are hiking with more than 30 pounds over long distances, you'll want to wear a boot for ankle stability and so that your feet don't bruise. But not everyone likes to wear a boot, as they are hotter, can take longer to break-in, and cost more. If you've switched to hiking shoes and never want to go back to boots, but need something for a big backpacking trip, consider something like the Renegades, which are more similar to a traditional hiking boot than most of the lightweight hiking shoes on the market today.
This shoe had surprisingly good traction for such a stiff sole, and we scored it on the high side for this category.
Sometimes a stiff sole does not bend enough to create the friction needed to stick on steep surfaces, but the rubber lugs on this sole are soft and flexible enough to help overcome that. Whether on a loose dirt trail or steep rock slap, we felt confident in the tread and traction the Vibram Renovo sole gave us.
This is one the heaviest shoes in the test pack, at 2 lbs in the women's size 10 that we tested.
That's about half a pound more than the Ahnu Sugarpine II WP, which may not seem like much but does add up after countless steps. While this shoe is much lighter than a full boot or the heavy hiking shoes of old, lighter is still better as long as it can provide the comfort and support we need. Leather shoes tend to be heavier than synthetic ones, so that is partly why this pair is heavier. If you're looking for a leather shoe that is also lighter, the Ahnu Montara III is about a quarter pound lighter than this pair.
The Gore-tex liner and Nubuck leather upper did a great job of keeping our feet dry during our bucket test.
There was little saturation of the leather, which is good from a weight perspective, but the shoe is cut lower around the ankle than the Oboz and Hoka One One models, which means that there is slightly less coverage available when crossing streams or walking through wet brush.
While no shoe will last forever, this pair could come close. The Renegades received the highest score for durability in our test group.
The rubber sole wraps all the way around the shoe, with no exposed midsole, which is one of the first places to deteriorate when hiking through rugged terrain. The rubber toe cap will also help protect the shoe from those with sloppy footwork. While researching online user reviews of this shoe we found little durability complaints as well, making this our Top Pick for Durability. If you hike a lot of miles and are tired of shredding through a pair of hiking shoes every season, then consider something like the Renegades instead.
If you are hiking in rugged terrain and want a shoe that can last for several seasons, the Renegades are a good choice as long as you don't mind a stiff footbed that takes a while to break in.
These shoes cost $210, which is significantly more than most other pairs in this review and twice the price of our Best Buy winner, the Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator. Are they worth it? It is better to buy a quality pair that can last a few seasons rather than a new pair every year, but considering the Lowa Renegade GTX Lo's lack of comfort, it seems a "stiff" price to pay.
The Lowa Renegade GTX Lo is a beast of a shoe, but not the most comfortable one. While you could put a cushier insole in there to provide some extra comfort since you're already paying significantly more for this model than any other one in this review it's hard to justify any additional expense.
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