When I first heard that I’d be testing a Timberland boot, I couldn’t help it: First image that came to mind, the leather boat shoes I used to wear. Second thought, rap. Third thought, the bright custard-y work boots. “Timberland” did not equal “ultralight backpacking” at any part of my mind. But I enjoy experimentation and surprises, and waited, somewhat bemused, for the arrival of my sample Cadions.
The Timberland Cadion, as I soon discovered, could do the trick for ultralighters. This isn’t a boot to dismiss based on brand familiarity.
This view seems to insinuate the soul of a trail runner into a light boot.
When I pulled the Cadions out of the box I immediately noticed the aesthetic and the light weight of the mid-top. The aesthetic brings to mind the swoopiness and busy-ness, with consideration for stream-lining, of a trail runner. Its upper fabric is reminiscent of a stout laminated fabric that you might find on a heavier rain jacket; for some reason it reminds me of a mid-weight dry bag. The boot appears to be well-constructed. There is a significant rand surrounding the boot, with a rubbery diamond matrix wrapping from the heel to over the instep. The hardware is all stout metal, and the upper hooks have a lot of depth… a lotta hookage, as it were. The Cadion’s tongue is gusseted up to the second hook, some extra height helping the Goretex liner keep your foot dry.
Next thing even a casual eye would probably notice: the relative narrowness and low volume of the boot. It is not a bulky or cavernous boot. Rotating the boot in hand reveals a relatively deeply-lugged Vibram sole.
Notice the diamond pattern-not just a cosmetic detail, but somewhat structural-in both the sole and side of the Cadion.
In my work as a buyer, pack-fitter, and boot-fitter, I found that people (primarily men) frequently think they need a huge, super-wide boot… but, in reality, they do not need such a boot. On one hand, you want some room to prevent blisters. On the other hand, too much room makes a boot sloppy (and blistery, and less sure-footed). I throw these thoughts into the ring here because I’ve found that so many people think they have monster feet when, in reality, they measure a very average “D” width. That said, my feet are a very average “D” width. And, although my biggest problem fitting shoes is excessive width and volume, I found the Cadion to be a relatively low-volume, narrow fit.
The Cadions let me know if I mistakenly wear a pair of my thicker socks. If you use aftermarket inserts, you’ll have to use lower-volume ones. While these boots are probably ideal for those with distinctly narrower feet (the fit reminds me a bit of La Sportiva, perhaps a hair more snug?), I found them perfectly serviceable for my average feet.
Timberland did a nice job balancing the amount of support with some trail-feel. It’s been years since I’ve worn Salomon XA Pros, but I remember wearing that shoe on the trail and thinking that it had a great amount of support underfoot, and a slightly unusual amount of feel under my big toe. I get the same kind of feeling with the Cadion. (This is just an impression, folks… If you research the midsoles and combined support or flex of each piece of footwear, and find that, actually, the Cadion has 124 pounds of resistance at 60 degrees flex, compared to an old XA Pro of 119 pounds at 54 degrees flex-and yes, I’m completely making up bogus “testing” specs for things that aren’t really tested-if you find, somehow, that the two are not all that similar… that’s okay! I’m just trying to relay my initial impression of the feel.) I spent a stupid amount of trail miles contemplating whether the amount of feel under the ball of my foot was too much, or just right… and finally realized that I didn’t seem to be having any problems, so all was probably good.
I don’t know how I could have possibly been so… stupidly absent-minded, but there were several occasions when I grimly pulled on the Cadions for a day hiking in the rain, forgetting that the Cadion is a Goretex boot! After splashing through several deeper puddles in a row I remember being surprised at how perfectly dry my feet were. Ha! The flip side: some days my feet were warmer than I cared for, but, for whatever reason, I didn’t find the Cadion to be as hot as other Goretex footwear I’ve worn. Maybe there was just less foam and stuff in the boot, maybe it’s just mental, maybe Timberland worked some kinda magic, but they seemed a bit cooler than your average GTX boot.
Lookin’ down upon the Cadion gives you some idea of the hook/eyelet system, and lends some impression of the slenderness of fit.
The Cadion also feels noticeably light, for a mid-top. I’ve worn heavier shoes, to be sure. It’s not a boot that will weigh your feet down after a day on the trail. With its sleeker fit, it’s also not a boot that will be jutting out to grab roots, rocks, and trail debris as you pass through. This stream-lined profile, combined with a closer fit, vaguely remind me of a rock-climbing shoe, but without the discomfort.
If you tend to think “waffle-stomper” when you hear the word “boot,” even though that boot is arguably half-way to a shoe, these will change your mind. It doesn’t have the clunkiness. It doesn’t have the weight. And it doesn’t have the “I have a 2 x 4 strapped to my foot” kind of feel. Shock absorption and walking comfort are excellent, without those qualities jumping out and calling attention to themselves.
The upper hook eyelets have the best, grabbiest hold I’ve noticed. The eyelets themselves are quite deep, with a recessed pocket of sorts furthest in. I never had the boots come untied. Conversely, sometimes I found it a bit more difficult to unlace the Cadion than I expected. In the end, I felt that having a boot that didn’t come untied was worth having to futz a wee bit more when taking them off.
WOWZA! These hooks are GRABBY. Check out the slight detail difference between the upper hooks and the hook at the instep.
The sole durability issue I had was, er, the sole. Both the right and left boot experienced some delamination of the sole from the midsole under the ball of my foot. It was just that lug on both boots. It did give me the opportunity to see the integration of the webbed midsole integrated under the outsole. The outsole and midsole otherwise have shown no sign of premature degradation.
At the conclusion of testing, this little delam was the only issue I had with the Cadion.
When it gets right down to it, I would, indeed, consider this a mid-high (or mid-low, if you prefer) boot for ultralight or lightweight backpacking. It is not a boot that I would recommend buying online. Instead, I would recommend trying on the Cadion at a brick-and-mortar store. Although the fit could be considered roughly parallel to a broadly generalized “La Sportiva” kind of fit, it would be in your best interest to try this one on. Although relatively low volume and relatively narrow, as compared to a vast market of wide and voluminous footwear, I think this will do well for a number of backpackers.
Annnnnd a side view, just for fun.
The Timberland Cadion feels good after a day of logging some miles, gives a decent amount of support without announcing itself, and keeps me plenty dry splashing through early-season puddles. I was pleasantly surprised by how well Timberland approached this segment of the market, and they’ve reminded me to keep an open mind to purveyors I wouldn’t normally consider as “ultralight.” I wouldn’t describe the Cadion as my “end-all” boot, but I’ll gladly wear it on the trail.
|Size Tested||US Mens 9 (EU 42)|
|Measured Weight||17.5 oz per boot, 35 oz per pair|
The manufacturer provided this product to the author and/or Backpacking Light at no charge and is owned by the author/BPL. The author/Backpacking Light has no obligation to the manufacturer to review this product under the terms of this agreement.