By National Geographic Adventure Contributing Editor Steve Casimiro, editor of The Adventure Life
Spend enough time studying hiking shoe specifications and you’ll notice that on paper they’re all pretty much alike. Rubber tread, squishy EVA midsole, no-slip laces, some kind of frame, exo-skeleton, or wrap-around that pulls everything nice and snug. But from those similar raw materials, great differences arise--a lesson I relearned when I slipped on Tecnica’s Tarantula ($115).
The minute I put my foot in the fastacker/trail runner, I knew it was different. The tongue doesn’t really exist--the upper is all one piece, with a mesh vented panel where the tongue normally sits. This makes it a little more difficult to put on, but once it’s on it feels like it’s molded to your foot, a perfect firm-yet-gentle wrap of the arch and top of the foot, with enough room in the toebox for your piggies to get wiggy. Saying it fits like a glove doesn’t do justice because most gloves I’ve worn don’t fit that well, but you get the idea.
The second thing you notice is a remarkable smoothness when you walk or run. From heel strike to toe off, you feel a sweet, natural curve. This is no accident: The Tarantula is built with rocker similar to that of a surfboard. The toes and heel are curved slightly to enable a smooth transition from beginning to middle to end. There’s a flat spot right under foot--this isn’t one of those kooky wobble shoes you see in informercials--but it’s flexible and bends with your foot in stride.
Tecnica has all sorts of fancy, marketable names for what’s in this shoe. The rocker is called “Tecnica Rolling System (TRS)...No more 'tic tock effect' when you walk — TRS delivers dynamic motion and stability with a total remake and engineering of midsole/outsole. Eleven components make up TRS. Studies available from CeBiSM, a leading bio-mechanics facility in Europe.” To which I say “blahblahblah”. It’s all just talk until you put it on. And when you put this one on, the talk ends and the smiles begin.