I go through trail running phases. It all depends on the snowpack and the time of the year. For the most part, it seems like spring and fall are my personal trail running seasons. The weather is still cool and the lower trails are free of snow.

For the most part, I like to trail run to scout out new mountain bike trails or do trail maintenance. It’s much easier to remove deadfall and stray branches when you’re not on your bike. So, this spring, I’ve been doing just that–trail running on new trails and doing maintenance along the way. My shoe of choice has been the all-new Vasque Aether Tech SS trail shoes.

Vasque Aether Tech Softshell Trail Running Shoes - New for 2008

About the Vasque Aether Tech SS Trail Runners

A cousin to the standard Aether Tech mesh shoes, the softshell version is slated to hit store shelves later this summer, so I’ve been lucky enough to get an early pair of these to flog. I first saw them at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market in January and was impressed with the overall design and light weight. On top of that, the Boa lacing system was just icing on the cake.

The Aether Tech Softshell shoes are void of any external mesh material. Instead, they use a lightweight softshell material that’s reinforced with welded rubber support bands running from the heel towards either side of the foot to provide extra support. The softshell fabric effectively blocks wind and sand from your tootsies–a nice feature on cool morning runs. I was told that this softshell material would still breathe well under most conditions (except for Sahara-hot summers) and actually do a great job at preventing sand and fine dirt from penetrating the shoe–something that beach trail runners might appreciate.

Just like the mesh shoe, the softshell version is aimed at blurring the line between training and competition shoes.

Vasque Aether Tech SS Trail Running Shoe Review

Vasque Aether Tech SS Shoe Review

Slipping the Aether Tech Softshell shoes onto my feet, I immediately loved the Boa lacing system. Being the first shoe to effectively place the dial on the tongue of the shoe, it sure makes it much easier to dial them in properly or release them when needed.

The fit is a little roomier than other Vasque trail runners I’ve used in the past–both in length and overall volume. Once I placed my SOLE Dean Karnazes insoles inside these, it took up much of the excess volume, but I still had to wear my thicker Lorpen socks to take up a bit more volume and provide the proper fit. These are pre-production models and the sizing may change slightly once these babies hit the store shelves.

Hitting the trails, these shoes shine. As I mentioned before, dialing in the fit is quick and easy–the only gripe is if you ratchet it down too tight because you have to loosen and start over. But, you’d have to do the same with laces, which would actually take more time. A quick pop and twist to tighten is all it takes. The cables allow for just enough flex through the running motion because they slide ever-so-slightly in the eyelets. This added to the stellar feel of these shoes.

Traction is as it should be for this type of shoe. I felt like they gripped the trail both up and down in both firm and loose conditions. Stability is great as well, but they still won’t protect against the occasional misstep (as I found out yesterday). Cushioning is excellent overall with enough squish to hit the occasional pavement run.

Breathability seems to be good overall. I have yet to run in temperatures over 75-degrees, so I haven’t put them to much of a test. However, I think they will be great in all but the hottest days. Durability seems solid thus far.

Here are a few more specs:

  1. Heel and forefoot EVA cushoning
  2. BOA® lacing system
  3. Low-stretch softshell upper
  4. Welded reinforcement areas
  5. Partially-recycled PU nubuck trim
  6. Weight: 1 lbs. 8 oz. (Men’s 9)
  7. Price: $120 MSRP

The Bottom Line on the Vasque Aether Tech SS Shoes

These shoes provide a great mix of comfort, grip and support. I’m really liking the Boa lacing system–it provides for the best fit of any shoes I’ve worn. I would warn that these aren’t so great for people with flat feet (like me) unless you put in proper footbeds (I use SOLE footbeds). If you’re looking for a cool-weather trail runner, or if you run in the rain, the new Vasque Aether Tech Softshell shoes should provide you with miles of comfort and support. These are great shoes.

Buy Now: Find the Latest Trail Running Shoes at REI

About Author

A native of the Pacific Northwest, Jason quickly developed a love for the outdoors and a thing for mountains. That infatuation continues as he founded this site in 1999 -- sharing his love of road biking, mountain biking, trail running and skiing. That passion is channeled into every article or gear review he writes. Utah's Wasatch Mountains are his playground.


  1. I have been using my Vasque Aether Tech SS running shoes with the BOA lacing system for about 7 months now. I love them. They are great for hiking and trail running. I ran an ultra-marathon trail race in them about 4 months ago and have had no problem with them… until last week while on a hike, the left lace broke. To finish the hike I had to tie the lace back together using a fisherman’s knot. That held quite well once I was able to get the knot completed (which was pretty tricky to do with the thin slippery wire). Then today the same lace broke in a different spot. I made another fisherman’s knot and am crossing my fingers that no more breaks will happen in the laces.

    The shoe is great, but I wish the laces would last longer.

    • BOA guarantees their laces. They should fix them for no cost. I’ve had mine for 5 months with no problem but I doubt that I’m wearing them as often as you. I don’t know many other people that have boa lacing. But a salesman told me that no one had brought any back.

  2. Bummer about the laces. Have you reached out to Vasque for replacement? I’m sure BOA has a way to replace their laces. I’ve heard of people breaking the Salomon Speedcross laces, but haven’t heard that yet with the BOA’s. I thought they were beefier than that.

    Glad you like the shoes, but bummer about the laces.

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