“Inspires frequent compliments from strangers” is not a feature I am used to in hiking footwear. Yet the Vasque Clarion ’88 is a retro-stylish hiking boot that manages just that – all without compromising on the core features that categorize it as serious trail kit.
With an upper of waterproof suede and a playful orange, abrasion-resistant mesh, the Clarion ’88 says “fun” right out of the box. The trail-worthy features of this boot reveal themselves on a closer look, but that first impression is unmistakable. Vasque based the new Clarion ‘88 from a style launched 30 years ago, and it’s a refreshingly lighthearted look amid more serious footwear silhouettes.
On to those features –beefy eyelets guide the laces on this boot, and Vasque includes two color options for laces in the box. A dual-density EVA midsole cushions the ride, with a Vibram “Winkler” outsole providing effective and long-wearing traction. An additional plastic heel cup helps stabilize the foot, a welcome feature for backpacking uneven terrain. The shoe features a foam insole and wicking lining that Vasque says is well-suited for warmer and drier climates, and clocks in at an advertised two pounds, 12 ounces.
Slapping on these boots for an inaugural stroll around town, I was struck with how naturally they went with a pair of jeans. Portland, Oregon is no stranger to hiking boots as daily wear, but the styling of the Clarion was more akin to my preferred old-school sneaker aesthetic. There’s something about the look that feels very approachable, even a tad goofy, in the way of classic and coveted backpacking gear.
Yet this is a not a vintage shoe, and Vasque brings decades of bootmaking experience to the table for the Clarion. They just…fit…exactly right, with no hot spots or high-friction areas. This is really important out on the trail, where my feet felt well cared-for after several day hikes and one overnight backpacking trip. On some unseasonably hot days, the wicking fabric kept the inside nice and dry. Everything about these boots feels long-wearing, and I expect they would survive many years of service.
There’s something refreshing about this boot that is hard to exactly define. The styling is bold, yet very familiar. The features are solid, yet not headline-grabbing. It’s a basic design, yet it feels impossible to improve on.
It’s easy to fall in love with these boots, and I think Vasque has done an excellent job bringing back a classic for more than its looks. Prepare to start reaching for these shoes before your next hike…day at the office…a fancy dinner…your wedding…