The Epic Lite OD are a new lightweight approach shoe from Scarpa. They feature OutDry technology which keeps your feet dry whilst also saving weight compared traditional waterproofing methods. Over the past six months I've worn them in the UK, Spain and Italy, through wet, dry, hot and cold. Here's what I think of them:
When looking for a UK approach shoe I look for four things: performance on wet grass and mud (the primary terrain for the UK climber); waterproofing (because it's always bloody wet); performance on rock (we do get there occasionally); and suitability for general use. Whilst I don't expect my approach shoes to look as snazzy as a pair of trainers, I do prefer an approach shoe that I can wear to the shops, on my bike, in the pub etc. as I like to just have one pair of shoes that I can use for pretty much everything. So, how do the Epic Lite OD match up to my needs?
Wet Grass and Mud
The Epic Lite OD are a solid performer on wet grass and mud - that's to say they keep you solidly upright on the slog up to High Neb or at the top of Swanage. The majority of the Vibram 'Etilas' outsole features small circular lugs, c.1cm deep, whilst the areas underneath the toes and back of the heel feature flatter rubber designed for increased friction on rock. This seems to work well for UK terrain - I've rarely found myself slipping around or avoiding certain foot placements. They are particularly good in this category compared to some of the dotty-rubber soled approach shoes which can send you flying at the merest hint of wet grass. OK, they are not quite as stable on wet ground as a hiking boot with a really deep tread, but that is to be expected. Overall, the Epic Lite ODs are the best approach shoe I've used on wet grass and mud.
I have never used a shoe with OutDry on it before but it works very well. A dip in a puddle or walking through sustained rain is no problem for the Epic Lite OD, as they keep your feet warm and dry. In fact, the beading of water off the top of the shoe is impressive to watch and I've found myself dipping my shoe in and out of puddles just for the spectacle. The other advantage of the OutDry waterproofing is that it saves weight compared to other waterproofing technologies, because the system heat-bonds the waterproofing into the upper rather than creating a separate sock-like layer inside. I have another pair of approach shoes with similar waterproof ability, but as they are lined with Gore-Tex they are significantly heavier.
Performance on Rock
Although I want a shoe that can handle the odd scrambly approach or Cromlech-style sloping ledge, performance on rock is subsidiary to performance on wet grass and mud for me, as I find that UK approaches are generally muddy rather than rocky. The ability to climb lower grade routes may well be a factor for many, but to be honest I rarely find myself doing this in approach shoes. In light of the above, the Epic Lite have been entirely satisfactory on rock. Hopping between boulders at the bottom of a sea cliff, wading up scree in the Pass, or scrambling up to the mid-height ledge on Gimmer, the Epic Lite have always kept me upright. The rubber on the front of the toe is satisfactorily sticky, although a more climbing-specific approach shoe would best it in this regard. The fit of the shoe is snug enough for it not to feel baggy whilst climbing, and to ensure an accurate foot placement, and the shoe itself is stiff enough to support a rucksack-clad climber. No complaints here!
Perhaps it's a bit much to ask of an approach shoe to do everything you want with regards to walking and climbing, and still be suitable for wearing around town, going to the shops, riding your bike etc. However, that's what I want, and luckily the Epic Lite OD provide. They aren't as fashionable as a pair of trainers, and they're a bit bulkier, but I'm perfectly happy wearing them with a pair of jeans in town and they are perfectly comfortable enough for everyday use. It's also a plus that they keep your feet dry and for cycling they stick to the pedals really well (although this is true of every pair of approach shoes I've worn). For someone that looks for function over fashion, the Epic Lite OD are excellent for everyday use and consequently I've worn them almost every day since I got them.
Overall, the Epic Lite perform very well: they're good on wet grass, mud and rock, they keep your feet dry and they're suitable for everyday wear.
Approach shoe sizing can be a bit of a gamble and so I went for a 10.5 whilst my regular size is a 10. The fit is on the roomy side of regular. They are fairly high volume with plenty of room above the toes, and they could easily accommodate a wide foot. As someone with fairly slim feet I find that the Epic Lite OD it better with a thick walking sock than with a regular skinny sock. I've also found a walking sock to be preferable for longer walks (long walks being anything over 15 minutes in my book) as the insole is not very cushioned which can lead to the front of the sole being a tad uncomfortable without a thick sock. If I were to buy another pair I would go with my regular shoe size simply because there is a lot of room in my shoe; however, with a suitable sock I have not had any slippage or discomfort.
Over the six months that I've had the Epic Lite ODs I have worn them almost every day, walking in to crags, hanging out at the wall or just popping down the shops. Over that time I have been impressed with the durability: the sole, toes and rand are all still well intact and stuck together; the lugs on the sole are still prominent and have not worn down, and the uppers are still in good condition albeit a little duller. The shoe has also consistently retained its waterproofing and the support it provides and overall it looks remarkably unscathed. However, whilst walking up to Gimmer recently I noticed my foot got wet for the first time: a tear has newly appeared on the stitching of the upper. How did it happen? It's possible that it tore on something sharp, but I do think I might have noticed that. Perhaps it's more likely the result of simple wear (and, sadly, tear) at a prominent flex point? Even so, that's not too drastic considering that this is such a lightweight shoe, and given that I've worn them practically every day for six months.
Whilst the Epic Lite OD won't be setting any trends on the catwalk (unless that's the one in Malham) they look good for a pair of approach shoes. The muted dark colours with the light blue detail don't shout "I'M A CLIMBER" at every passerby which is always nice for everyday use. They go well with my other climbing kit, and I find that it's nice to have shoes with dark colours so that they don't clash with your latest sunburst orange top or red trousers with black knee patches.
On the whole the Epic Lite OD are perfectly comfortable. Straight out of the box they were ready to wear and I haven't felt any hotspots or had any blisters. As mentioned above, the front of the sole of my foot can feel a bit bashed after long walks on hard ground, but this is remedied with a thick sock and could be solved with the addition of a thicker insole. At 960g for the pair (size 10.5) they are pretty light too, for a full-spec waterproof approach shoe, and that certainly adds to their all-day comfort.
I really like the Epic Lite OD, and I would highly recommend them to anyone in the UK looking for an approach shoe. Their ability to perform well on wet grass and mud, keep your feet dry, and deal satisfactorily with rocky approaches, is an ideal combination for UK terrain. Compared to other similar shoes I have been very impressed with the durability, apart of course from the recent rip on the upper which I hope is a one-off. The shoes look relatively stylish and are comfortable and light, and I would certainly buy another pair.
Extremely light and high-performance, Epic Lite OD is the ideal shoe for "fast and lite" approach use. The upper is made with the Sock-Fit DVL by SCARPA® construction system, and is laminated with the Outdry® membrane that guarantees to keep the water out while ensuring breathability, for a great foot comfort under all conditions of use. Heel Tension system on the heel area and a lateral exoskeleton made in thermo-welted TPU, guaranteeing maximum protection and side support for the foot, necessary elements in technical approach stages. The rubber toe-cap is shaped for maximum comfort and provides good protection against accidental impact with the rock. The Etilas outsole by Vibram®, in Megagrip compound, ensures maximum performance on all types of terrain, from rock to forest trails.
- Price: £135
- Sizes: 41 - 48 (men) 37 - 42 (women)
- Weight: 960g (pair, size 10.5)
- Sole: Vibram Etilas
- Last: SWB
- Upper: Mesh + Sintec Nabuk + TPU
- Lining: OutDry
For more info see scarpa.co.uk