Salomon Vaya Low GTX Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Lightweight, generous toe box, flexible upper
Cons: Lacks support, not completely waterproof, medium traction
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Vaya Low GTX is one of the very few hiking shoes that we have ever reviewed that does not have a men's version. The marketing language says it "has been designed for active, outdoor women looking to re-energize and reconnect with nature." While this is a fine lightweight hiking shoe, the main difference between the Vaya and other women's hiking shoes is the distinct ombre color scheme that feels specifically feminine.
The Vaya is constructed of a proprietary material called "Sensiflex," that Salomon claims adapts to the foot. We found that the upper material is exceptionally comfortable out of the box with no breaking in required. The collar is padded and the material is quite flexible, meaning no pinch or pressure points.
This model has a noticeably wider forefoot than other Salomon hiking shoes, and that, in conjunction with the flexible fabric, feels a bit sloppy, especially if you have a narrow foot. If you prefer a wider toe box, however, you will appreciate the roominess and the flex of the upper.
The soles are rugged enough to protect from poking rocks, but there is not a lot of cushion under the foot in this model. After longer hikes, and especially with a moderate pack, there was some foot fatigue.
The heels are quite structured and reinforced with rubber laminate on the outside of the shoe, offering good support through the back of the shoe. Many women have narrow heels, causing shoes to slip, but the Vaya has no heel slipping! The wider last also makes for a stable base.
Interestingly, what makes the Vaya comfortable also makes it less supportive. The upper material is quite flexible and that, combined with the wide toe box, makes them feel a bit sloppy, which ultimately feels less supportive. This will especially be an issue for women with narrow feet, as they can't be cinched down snug around a narrow foot.
The shoe comes with a thin Ortholite insole that provides a minimal amount of support. There is also not a lot of built-in arch support, which becomes more important for longer hikes, or when you are carrying weight.
The sole on the Vaya is made of Contagrip, a grippy compound that works best in warm weather. We found the traction to be totally acceptable on trails of mixed surfaces, from sandy soil to rock to dirt. They also perform well on rock slabs. The shallow and regularly-sized lugs, however, do not grab as well on loose surfaces and are not as desirable for steep hiking. In our rubble traction test, they felt quite unstable.
While the Vaya has the look of a beefy shoe, it is actually quite light — one of the lightest we tested. The rubber toe bumpers and laminations on the heel offer additional protection without weighing down the shoe. We measured this shoe to weigh 1.22 lbs in size US Women's size 7, which is on the edge of the most lightweight shoes of all models we tested.
We wore these shoes in as many types of weather as possible to get real-world results. Additionally, we test for water resistance by wearing each pair of shoes in a water bath for 10 minutes, weighing them before and after soaking.
While the Vaya performed well in snow and wet trails conditions, with no leaks experienced, they failed in the water bath in less than 3 minutes. Water soaked in through multiple seams on the left shoe. Additionally, the shoes held 1.5 ounces of water when soaked, significantly more than other shoes absorbed. The Vaya will do a fine job hiking most days since most folks choose not to hike in inclement weather. But we would not recommend them in very wet weather or on trails with lots of puddles or stream crossings, or on multi-day trips when weather might vary.
As a comfortable, lightweight shoe, the Vaya is a favorite for short hikes and got in a lot of bonus tester miles. While the colors look less bright after many miles in the dirt, they otherwise show no indication of any abrasion, weak points, or de-lamination of the rubber. Synthetic materials, however, tend to be less durable over time. Additionally, there are some indications of compression of the EVA foam midsole. This is common with lighter weight shoes and may indicate a shorter lifespan.
The Vaya is a good looking and functional all-around day hiker that is also very lightweight. With a purchase price below average of the shoes we tested, these are a solid value.
The Vaya is a great, lightweight option for day hikes on less technical trails. The ombre color is fun and the materials are solid performers in mixed weather and on mixed trail surfaces. It does not offer enough support for multi-day hiking but excels at shorter jaunts in the outdoors.
— Laurel Hunter