OK, first thing’s first — Vasque boots and I have a bit of a history. Back when I was first getting started hiking with my cotton shirts and jean shorts and ill-fitting budget hiking shoes, a helpful clerk at the Santa Monica REI convinced me that if I was going to spend money on one item in my hiking arsenal, solid boots were the first place to invest.
So it was that back in 2006 I picked up a pair of Vasque Breezes. I chose the non-Gore Tex versions because here in SoCal we pretty much always have perfect hiking weather — and when we don’t, we usually have very good notice. That particular pair became my go-to hiking boot for dry, hot conditions — the ventilation was phenomenal and the boots stayed comfortable and solid for probably 8 years worth of trails (with some repairs and insole replacements here and there). As other boots continued to shave weight and add features, my feet only seemed to want to be inside the Breezes.
But time takes its toll and when the soles wore out and almost totally lost their stickiness, I knew it was time to give my old friends a Viking funeral and find a replacement. By that point, Vasque had a Version 2.0 of the Breeze, but when I talked with them about where I’d be using them, they recommended the Inhaler II GTX instead.
Weighing in at just 1 lb., 14 ounces, the Inhalers literally felt like half the boots my old Breezes did. They also felt thinner, yet more solidly constructed … but I guess a decade of shoe development will do that, won’t it?
The Inhaler IIs also have more of a high-tech look to them than the more “classic” look of the Breeze. Mens boots come in two trims – burnt orange and lime green. The green, aesthetically, is a bit too neon for me, but the burnt orange has a nice subdued look to it … that’s even more subtle once these things are covered in dirt.
Vasque totes the Inhaler II as best for hot weather hiking, so I tested this pair out on an early summer trip in Joshua Tree when temperatures were hovering in the mid 90s (but it’s a dry heat!).
The first thing I noticed: just as when I picked them up, wow these things felt light on my feet. The thin, light construction felt more along the lines of what I’ve experienced wearing low tops, but this was a full on high-top boot with great support. There was definitely a bit of stiffness to the boots before they were broken in — but nothing that caused any hot spots or felt uncomfortable. After a few short follow-up day hikes, the boots fitted themselves to my feet and that stiffness became mostly unnoticeable.
Scrambling along rocks was an absolute joy. Vasque uses an exclusive Vibram outsole on their boots and the Inhalers gave me some serious grip, both on the park’s iconic monzogranite and on the smoother formations near the Little San Bernardinos. I also took these boots into the Eastern Sierra and had great traction on those sometimes slick slabs polished by glaciers, ice, and water.
And the hot hot heat? No sweat — literally.
I’m used to carrying at least two pairs of socks to swap out when sweat starts causing some hot spots on otherwise perfectly fine footwear … but on the Inhaler? no need. This thing has what Vasque calls “extensive” airports all over the upper and side mesh, and what I call “extremely welcome.” Along with the usual side vents you’d expect, the Inhaler also has ports at both the toe and the heel, creating a fantastic airflow for those of us with hot feet. Additionally, the Inhaler utilizes Gore-Tex’s Enhanced Comfort fabric, which is specially designed for activities in high heat. Sometimes those breathable waterproof boots can eventually feel like you’re hiking in garbage bags, but I had no problems in the desert or in the Sierras.
And just in case you do run into some water hazards along the way, the Inhalers know to stop breathing when they’re underwater. Up at Big Pine Lakes, I stomped my way through several glacier-fed streams and always emerged with bone-dry feet.
Overall, although I’m still sad to bid adieu to my Breezes (and anxiously awaiting the rumored version 3.0 models), the Inhaler II is a more than worthwhile successor to my favorite SoCal hiking boots. If you hike in hot, dry conditions and want high top support with low top weight, we definitely recommend the Inhaler II.