We’ll go through the shoes in focus in this review in a bit, but first of all it’s probably important to introduce the original design that they’re spawned from, the Salewa Mountain Trainer. This is a classic – almost iconic – approach shoe. Inspired by climbing shoes, it offers the stiffness, grip and technical capabilities to cope with gnarly, rocky territory; whether you’re on the approach walk to a trad climb, scrambling a rocky ridge, or hillwalking over rough ground.
Yet it’s also known for being comfy straight out of the box (unlike blister-inducing, progress-hindering traditional walking boots), allowing you to move quickly and freely through the mountains. For many outdoor enthusiasts, Salewa’s Mountain Trainer shoes (now in their second generation, known as the Mountain Trainer 2 – £165) strike a fine balance between comfort, support, cushioning, weight and grip.
One potential criticism of the classic Mountain Trainer shoes, however, is that they are a tad heavy and stiff, with a close-fit – meaning they aren’t ideal for gentler terrain or long-distance walking, where a lighter, bendier shoe with a broader fit would work better. Enter the Mountain Trainer Lite to solve this problem. Designed as a lighter, nimbler, more streamlined version of the classic shoe, the Lite version aims to hit a halfway sweet spot: all of the rugged, tough-as-nails scrambling capabilities of its predecessor, but with that slightly lighter (28g lighter per shoe) and more flexible build for better all-round comfort for general hiking. Can it achieve this tricky balancing act?
I found the Salewa Mountain Trainer Lite shoes pretty comfy straight out of the box. The extra rigidity they have for rocky terrain means they are stiffer than ultralight, trail running shoes, so they take a little longer to bed in and get used to. But they are still very comfy and I didn’t encounter any rubbing or blister-inducing pinch–points, even on my first outing. The fit is wider than the classic Mountain Trainer, giving you an extra bit of toe-wriggling room for added comfort, while the overall low-ankled, approach shoe shape works well. The climbing-style lacing, which runs all the way to the toe box, means you can fine-tune the tightness of the shoe really well, while the flexible ankle cuff and spongy insole felt cosy and supportive. For all round comfort, I had no complaints whatsoever, and I felt the shoes struck an excellent balance between weight, flex and support: they didn’t feel bulky or cumbersome (like some heavy technical shoes), yet they didn’t feel too flimsy and lacking in protection (like some ultralight trail running shoes).
The Salewa Mountain Trainer Lite is “built for stability on rocky trails and mountain use in warmer conditions”, according to Salewa, while the added comfort of the Lite version means it’s “destined to become your favourite pair of hiking shoes” with “sure-footed, all-day comfort”. That’s a bold claim – but Salewa have the design features to back it up.