Garmont is a legendary name in the outdoor footwear business. They’re known as a no-nonsense mountain brand, lacking any fluff or distraction from the technical footwear at the core of their brand. For hiking and scrambling, the Garmont 9.81 Trail Pro II GTXs are something of a one shoe quiver: lightweight, durable, comfortable and supportive – not to mention waterproof.

Garmont 9.81 Trail Pro II Features:

  • Engineered 3D mesh and microfiber
  • Eyelet and webbing
  • Lace to toe closure
  • Breathable PU footbed
  • Gore-Tex┬« Extended Comfort
  • TPU heel support for stability
  • Dual-layer UVA midsole
  • Vibram Fast outsole
  • 380 gr. (1/2 pair size 8 UK)
  • MSRP: $160
Garmont 9.81 Trail Pro II GTX Shoe Review

Two layers of EVA foam, baby

Your new one shoe quiver

In reality, no shoe can be a true do-all product. But the Trail Pros have quite a few strengths: they’re relatively light at 380g/shoe, totally waterproof, have a comfortable fit that’s still very secure and excellent traction in all conditions (except maybe sheer ice, though ‘Ice Lock’ is printed into the rubber). So, depending on your style of adventure, that means they can be taken all over the place. For me, it means a shoe that can come with me all the way up from the Cascade River into the subalpine scenery of Boston Basin. Dewdrops from the brush or rushing stream crossings are no match for the Gore-Tex.

The foundation of the Trail Pro II is a Vibram Hypergrip outsole. I was really pleased with this outsole in all conditions — wet rocks, muddy trails and slick logs are all handled with aplomb. The pattern relies on fairly small grip contours and a very soft rubber, so I don’t expect that longevity will be one of this sole’s best traits. The midsole includes two layers of EPA foam, which does an excellent job at cushioning impact.

One of Garmont’s major contributions to the footwear world is what they call ‘anatomically directed design’ or a.d.d. This results in some practical modifications to the shape of the boot. For example, the cuff of the boot is lower on the outside and taller on the inside; this helps when you’re traveling across a slope and having to put a lot of force through your ankles. The toebox is designed to be quite roomy, which besides being comfortable also helps to engage your toes more in balance and propulsion. There are a number of other features, but these were the ones that I noticed and appreciated the most.

Garmont 9.81 Trail Pro II GTX Shoe Review

Hypergrip outsole, with somewhat fine structures. Grippy, but will it last?

The lacing design is particularly good. It really provides a solid, secure fit. The laces descend low on the toebox, helping to ensure a precise fit in that critical area. The laces proceed up through webbing loops which strike a good balance between being easy to pull through yet providing enough friction to hold well. There’s no discomfort over the forefont thanks to the anatomically padded tongue and I’ve had no problems with heel lift. It’s a simple but very well designed lacing system.

Other features include a modest rubber rand at the front of the shoe for more protection and perhaps a bit of extra traction if things get scrambly and weird. The Gore-Tex lining hasn’t given me any reason to question its performance – my feet have stayed perfectly dry, as long as I don’t step in water above the top of my boot. Garmont included loops to attach micro gaiters, so that’s an additional way to keep your shoes try.

As with any footwear, your mileage out-of-the box will vary. The highly structured ankle cuff irritated my tendons during the initial break-in period, but now they’re quite comfortable. Otherwise, the rest of my foot took to the shoes like a duck to water.

NOTE: For reference, I usually wear a 10.5 width E; I tested the size 11 Trail Pro II’s and they fit just fine!

The Good

  • a.d.d. is truly an excellent way to design footwear
  • Great construction quality throughout; shoes looks fairly new after 3 months of use
  • Gore-Tex lining does its job reliably
  • Lacing design is particularly secure and adaptable
  • Midsole cushions and supports effectively
  • Generous toebox is a godsend for wide feet like mine

The Bad

  • Particularly soft outsole rubber will wear out quickly
  • Some ankles may be irritated initially by the tall-ish, highly structured ankle cuffs

The Bottom Line: Garmont 9.81 Trail Pro II

Garmont knows feet; therefore, they know footwear. The 9.81 Trail Pro II GTX’s are really excellent shoes that can cover a huge variety of disciplines. I enjoyed them hiking in springtime conditions on Washington’s diverse trails, and if they can cut it here they can cut it anywhere. I highly recommend them to anyone looking for a lightweight, supportive waterproof hiker.

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About Author

Kevin Glover is an outdoorsman living, climbing and biking in Spokane, WA. Originally from the Nevada high desert, he moved to the PNW for its mild winters and allergen-free summers. He has guided throughout the Cascades and Enchantments for Peak 7 Adventures.

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