Rating: 3 / 5
I first became aware of this shoe from a review in National Geographic Adventure magazine. They rated it as a canyoneering shoe, and it was designed with that in mind. I wanted it for hiking trails that follow rivers and creeks in the Southern Appalachians, where the trails repeatedly cross and re-cross the rivers/creeks, often dozens of times over the length of the trails. I have had an ongoing search for a shoe for this type of hiking for several years and in the past tried both the Merrell Watersport Pro and the Salomon Tech Amphibian, but both of those shoes are designed for boating rather than for hiking. The La Sportiva Exum River is designed for hiking in exactly the type of environnment that I described at the start of this review, and I am happy to report that the shoe is outstanding for its intended purpose. The shoe has a stiff heel cup, cushioning and adequate water drainage capability. It offers good support for hiking both in wet and in dry environments. I recently combined a polypro liner sock inside of Seal Skinz Water Blocker socks with the La Sportiva shoes and hiked a river trail with repeated river crossings with temperatures in the high 30s/low 40s and had dry, comfortable feet for the duration of the hike. I also hiked a trail with no water crossings (about a 10-mile hike) to see how the shoes did as a hiking shoe. The shoes met my expectations in every way. I have finally found the shoe I have been searching for so long: a true hiking shoe that handles wet environments as well as it handles dry environments. This shoe has La Sortiva's Frixion soles for superior traction on both wet and dry rocks and the soles perform just as well on dry and wet soil as they do on the rocks. These shoes will be superior for extended backpacking trips where water-walking is a large part of the trip, as well as for day trips that include much water-walking. For trips that don't include water-walking I will still use my tail-running shoes because they keep out fine grained sand, soil and debris, which the Exum Rivers don't because of the drainage slits in the sides of the shoes. It was a real joy having these shoes on my recent water-walking river hike. I was able to wade right into the river, wade across and emerge on the opposite bank and keep on trucking up the trail all day long, all the while keeping dry, happy feet. A note on sizing: I ordered the Euro size that was an exact correlation to my standard American size and got an excellent fit. I ordered the shoes from Mountain Gear. I recommend going to La Sportiva's web site and reading their sizing guide for hiking/walking/approach shoes (La Sportiva lists the Exum River as an approach shoe on their web site).
UPDATE: The one drawback I have found after several trips with these shoes is that the toe box is too narrow. This causes the little toes on my right foot to crunch into my bigger toes, creating discomfort and corn-producing pressure on my next-to smallest toe. This narrow toe box is standard on all European shoes and boots that I have tried. If the toe box was widened in the fashion of Montail's toe boxes, these shoes would be perfect. In light of the toe box problem, I am lowering my rating from the initial 5 to a 3. While one can use lambs wool or corn pads to help with the corn problem, the discomfort is still there when wearing the shoes.