The Vasque Sundowner hiking boot has been around since the dawn of time. Okay, maybe not quite that long, but the Vasque Sundowner has been one of the most popular hiking boots for decades. Just ask one of the thousands of avid hikers who still hike in their 20+ year old Vasque Sundowners!
Vasque Men's Sundowner Gore-Tex Backpacking Boot, Red Oak,13 M US has a long history of trekking the great mountain ranges from the Rockies, to the Tetons, to the Whites dating all the way back to 1965. Shortly after the company began importing premium-hiking footwear from Italy, the iconic boot – the Sundowner – was born in 1984.
The Sundowner was considered to be state-of-the-art for its day, utilizing softer Italian leathers, an innovative, foot-securing lace system, and a supportive yet flexible shank design. Not only did the boot become one of the premier hiking boots of its time, but it became a fashion statement for the youth of the time who called it the “Waffle Stomper.”
First Things First – The Construction of the Boot
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It’s not hard to identify the Sundowner hiking boot on a store shelf today as it has kept much of its original design from 1984. The boot is still popular with park rangers, weekend warriors, and the long-distance backpacker. The Vasque Men's Sundowner Gore-Tex Backpacking Boot, Red Oak,13 M USis one of the original hiking boots to feature a seamless upper.
The current model is constructed with one piece of 2.4 mm waterproof full grain leather, which minimizes failure points and creates a solid barrier against whatever Mother Nature might throw at you on the trails.
Additionally, the upper is protected by Vasque’s GORE-TEX® waterproof membrane that keeps your foot dry and comfortable. The sole of the Sundowner is designed as a one-piece rubber cup sole with the classic lug pattern that will give you a stable footing on your next big climb.
The Tech Specs
|Weight:||3 lbs. 6 oz.|
|Upper:||2.4 mm Waterproof Full Grain Leather|
|Footbed:||Dual Density EVA|
|Sizing:||Female & Male|
|Shoe Width Sizing:||Medium & Wide|
|Recommended Use:||Mid-weight hiking|
|Manufacturer Warranty:||1 Year|
While the Vasque Sundowner hiking boot has a solid reputation throughout the hiking community for years, it has garnered mixed reviews in the recent years since Vasque decided to manufacture its hiking boots in China instead of Italy. The Sundowner was always known for its soft and durable Italian leather that hikers raved about for decades.
It’s not uncommon for hikers to still be wearing their Sundowners that they purchased in the 1980s! The Italians know how to make a quality and long-lasting leather boot. In the early 2000s Vasque moved their boot manufacturing plants to China where quality has seemed to gone downhill for the historic Sundowner.
If you spend time reading product reviews and online hiking boards you’ll see that the Sundowner has mixed reviews.
The Pros of the Vasque Sundowner Hiking Boots
- Vasque is a reputable performance footwear company since 1965 backed by the Red Wing Shoe Company
- The Sundowner hiking boot has been an iconic hiking boot since it was first manufactured in 1984
- The Sundowner was one of the first hiking boots to feature a seamless upper that is still featured in today’s boot designs
- The uppers of the boot are protected by Vasque’s unique GORE-TEX® waterproof membrane helping to protect your feet from nature’s elements
- The Sundowner’s sole utilizes the classic lug pattern to help you grip the trail surface better
- The hiking boot is fairly light-weight compared to similar brand boots
- The Sundowner is available in both female and male sizes and medium and wide widths
- The Vasque Sundowner comes with a 1 year manufacturer warranty
The Cons of the Vasque Sundowner Hiking Boots
- In the early 2000s Vasque moved its manufacturing from Italy to China leading to a decline in quality of the leather and production
- The Sundowner tends to run on the bigger size so sizing down is advisable
- The newer boots wear out faster on average than the older Italian made Sundowner models
- The only color available at the moment is burgundy (brown)
- The seam and stitching in the back of the heel may cause irritation for some people
- The boot does not have great arch support for those who need extra support for their feet
The Hiker Feedback
The Vasque Sundowner hiking boot is hit or miss. Some people love their boots while others have developed blisters and lost toenails vowing never to buy another pair again. It’s safe to say that the classic Sundowner pre-China was one of the best hiking boots of all time.
However, since manufacturing moved to China many hikers have found the quality of the newer Sundowner models to be average at best. The biggest change the Sundowner saw was the quality of leather used for the uppers. Soft Italian leather is just hard to find in China.
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Numerous hikers have also complained about the quality of the stitching and the lacing rivets. A few hikers have gone so far to say that the stitching in the boot of the heel caused rubbing and discomfort on their Achilles tendon and heel. Any potential rubbing can mostly likely be prevented by wearing the correct socks.
Many hikers recommend pairing the Sundowners with a good pair of SmartWool socks for comfort and blister protection. Secondly, having the right hiking socks can also help with the rather roomy fit of the boot. The Sundowner runs big so you may have to size down.
Like any clothing or footwear item, it’s best to try a pair on for fit and size. Additionally, if you’re someone who needs any arch support you’ll probably want to invest in a good pair of insoles like Superfeet unisex-adult GREEN Professional-Grade High Arch Orthotic Shoe Inserts for Maximum Support Insole, 13.5-15 Men or Ed Viesturs, to add more support to the boot.
While some hardcore Vasque Sundowner hiking boot lovers may be disappointed with the newer models, some people find great success in the new Sundowner. The boot still retains its classic and simplistic look. The Sundowner just might not be for everyone.
If you’re planning to hike the Pacific Crest Trail in its entirety with a heavy pack, the Sundowner might not make all 2,650 miles from Mexico to Washington. If you’re a weekend warrior hitting the trails for a few miles at a time, you might find true love with the Sundowner.
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The Vasque Sundowner Hiking Boot is a mid-range priced hiking boot. It generally retails for $199.99 USD. However, it often goes on sale through various online retailers throughout the year, You can find it here for less than that here. Vasque is releasing the newest models of the Sundowner in August 2015.
While Vasque has been pretty hush-hush about the launch, rumors have it that the leather is tanned in the United States and you’ll have more color options than Burgundy.
Vasque Sundowner Alternatives
So, after reading our somewhat mixed review of the new Sundowners, you might be wondering
“what’s the best alternative, then?”
For men, check out our list of the top hiking boot options here.
For women, see a similar list (with different contenders) at this page.
For a specific replacement, check out Merrell Men's Wilderness USA Hiking Boot, Mogano, 10.5 M US. They have the same classic leather appeal, but are made in the USA.
The Final Verdict – Does it Make the Cut?
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If you’ve had the same pair of Vasque Sundowner hiking boots for 20 years now, you better break out the shoe shine and send those babies to get re-soled when its time. You’re probably not going to like the quality of the newer China-made Sundowners.
The feedback on the Sundowners is mixed across hikers. Some love them, some hate them. If you’re trekking the great mountain ranges of America on a regular basis, these boots might not last as long as you’d like.
If you’re a weekend warrior or light hiker, these boots might be perfect for you. Especially if this is your first pair, they are a decent option. The best way to find out if the Vasque Men's Sundowner Gore-Tex Backpacking Boot, Red Oak,10 M US is for you is by taking them out for a hike.
Sam Hardy is an outdoor enthusiast with a penchant for survival skills. He writes about the great outdoors and his favorite equipment here.