For 6 decades, the European-inspired, Minnesota-born brand Vasque has been hammering out hikers for a growing audience of outdoor enthusiasts. The Vasque Breeze line has spawned some of my favorite hiking boots I’ve ever worn, particularly the LT GTX version. Waterproof, lightweight, comfortable, and capable, they’re a go-to trail crusher (although some folks reported heel slippage with the low model).
But while the Breeze and its ilk might speak more to you, and the GearJunkie audience at large, it’s overkill for a large, previously overlooked segment of the brand’s potential market — which is who the brand’s latest line of sustainably built sneakers is aimed at reaching.
In short: Very lightweight, breathable, and made from sustainable materials from heel to toe, Vasque’s Re:Connect Here line of mid- and low-cut shoes is a divergence for the brand. It’s very different from the hiking boots and outdoor-oriented shoes they’ve become known for. I tested a pair of these sneakers in urban settings, going for strolls on neighborhood trails, and bike rides around local lakes. The more I wore these Vasque sneakers, the more they grew on me.
How We Got ‘Here’
According to a recent story on Footwear News, Vasque has been cutting SKUs and overhauling the brand as of late. It’s an attempt to reposition and speak to a broader audience. This mission is embodied by the release of the Re:Connect line, which falls in the “light hiker” category. This ain’t Coke — it’s Coke Zero, baby.
In that Footwear News story, Vasque President Bryce Wernsman gives us a glimpse into the thought process for this line.
“Our big idea,” said Wernsman, “was to answer the question, ‘How do we make a more approachable outdoor shoe for people who don’t need traditional, heavy-duty boots?'”
Enter the Re:Connect Line
Available in both mid and low versions, the Re:Connect Here looks purposefully futuristic and stylized. It’s distinguished by an oversized, exaggerated heel and a sleek polyester mesh upper.
When I first got my hands on the low version a couple of months ago, I immediately dug the funky style. They’re cool in a Marty-McFly-goes-hiking kinda way. I’ve gotten more compliments and “What are those?” questions on and off the trail than with my usual kicks.
But I was a little trepidatious. The recycled mesh upper seemed so light, and my immediate concerns centered around durability and support. Would these shoes last through a season of hiking? Would the lightweight upper offer any backbone on steep terrain?
As I began testing the Re:Connect Here, I realized that I was analyzing these shoes through the same lens I had the trail-crushing Breeze. And quite frankly, these shoes couldn’t be more different than those traditional Vasque boots. Instead, they’re aggressively hip, speaking to big-city and mountain-town consumers alike.
They seem like they belong at Foot Locker as much as they do REI. They’re not remotely heavy-duty, but rather remarkably lightweight (at least in the upper). The XL rockered outsole and high-rebound midsole are on the semi-substantial side.
When I reframed my perspective, I began to truly appreciate the direction that Vasque is going with the Re:Connect line. These aren’t going to replace the heavy-duty Vasque boots and burly trail runners I use on high-octane adventures. Instead, they’re a rad day-to-day shoe, an everyday footwear quiver-killer.
Vasque Re:Connect Here — The Materials
The Re:Connect Here’s 100% recycled polyester mesh upper is paired with 85% recycled polyester webbing and lacing. It also sports a 60% recycled heel counter, 20% sugarcane midsole, and insole crafted from algae-infused EVA. The shoe comes in men’s and women’s sizes 6-14 and has three muted color choices.
With a new mindset in tow, I took to wearing the Here every day around my home in Tahoe City, testing them in urban settings, strolls on neighborhood trails, and bike rides along the Truckee River. The more I wore them, the more I appreciated the performance.
Heel-to-Toe Performance for Walking and Running
It’s a bit ill-timed that the Re:Connect Here is launching in fall, as it’s a better summer shoe, at least for folks who live in cooler climates. The breathable mesh excels on warm days when you’re rocking a lightweight, sweat-wicking sock. If your feet tend to overheat, this is a serious benefit.
There are cons to the perforated mesh, of course. Namely, it makes the kicks unusable in any precip. Also, the aesthetic quickly turns from rad to wack if you’re wearing brightly colored socks. But other than that, I’m a big fan. I simply don’t have any shoes that are more breathable, unless we’re talking sandals.
Another aspect of the design that I dug on the trail was the HOKA-esque, rockered outsole, and, surprisingly, the functionality of the extended, flared heel. When hustling down stairs and switchbacks at a local trail network, the extended heel and curvature of the outsole encouraged a natural, comfortable gait that didn’t fire up my knees.
Granted, I wasn’t descending thousands of vertical feet at a time. These aren’t the shoes I’d pick for that based on the marginal ankle support. But for casual hikes, it was a welcome feature.
Speaking of ankle support, I’ve got to give credit where credit is due. The support was better than I assumed. While the upper is thin, there’s a semi-rigid reinforcement integrated into the heel, and about a centimeter of padding that wraps around the upper heel. The result provides a snug, comfortable fit and reasonable structure, to the point that I felt confident running a couple of miles on dusty Tahoe fire roads.
Where the Vasque Here Excels
These shoes proved their worth as an everyday outdoor shoe most of all on a wet, 48-hour weekend in Bend, Ore. I was traveling light, with just a carry-on, and I wore these shoes on the plane. They’re primo for traveling, as my feet often overheat on planes, and the mesh was comfortable.
After I landed, I booked it to the Deschutes River for an afternoon float trip and thought, “These are pretty breathable. Maybe they could double as water shoes?” So I tested ‘em out sockless while floating the river.
The Here might be a poor performer in a downpour, but they were fantastic underwater, offering welcome cushioning when scrambling along wet rocks or pushing off splinter-clad docks. The mesh drained instantaneously, and they didn’t get remotely waterlogged.
The next afternoon, the shoes were completely dry … just in time to get wet again. I went camping with friends on the Crooked River and spent the evening fly fishing. Equipped with nothing but a borrowed rod and the Heres on my feet, I hiked and wet-waded up and down the craggy banks of the Crooked. Up to my waist in the river, the Vasque Re:Connect Here’s outsole impressed me with its traction on the mossy, muddy rocks.
There was one moment in particular that stood out to me in testing.
As I scampered upstream from sketchy boulder to boulder on the bank, hoping to sneak up on an unsuspecting trout, I had to admit that they weren’t nearly as reliable or rugged as my beloved Vasque Breeze. But, the Heres were surprisingly capable.
And they were more supportive and stable than I’d initially given them credit for, too. Despite the free-flowing Fat Tires and my tipsy, enthusiastic trout hunting, I didn’t twist an ankle. And that’s saying something.
The next day, my Heres freshly dried under the Oregon sun, and I wore ‘em on the plane home again. It was a quick trip, sure, but it underlined just how versatile these shoes are: ready for the urban obstacle course that is TSA one day, and any land or water adventures the next.
Final Thoughts on Vasque’s Re:Connect Here
For me and my once-sweaty feet, the Re:Connect Here quickly became my go-to shoes this summer. That said, these shoes won’t ever replace my specialist sneakers. They won’t be my pick for trail runs or heavy hikes, and they’re not remotely functional in wet weather.
However, they excel at everyday life, particularly for those with both an outdoor inclination and an appreciation of futuristic style. I’m curious to see how they hold up months down the line.
While I’d say the Here is worth trying if you’re perspiration-prone, outdoorsy, travel often, and hope to be hip, it’s worth paying attention to the Re:Connect release regardless. No doubt, this new perspective from the old-school hiking heavyweight hints at Vasque’s next steps forward.