Boreal Bamba

Boreal markets the Bamba as a “street shoe” that also performs off road. That’s exactly right. But they might have undersold it.

Boreal markets the Bamba as a “street shoe” that also performs off road. That’s exactly right. But they might have undersold it. Yes, the generous amount of largely monochrome leather on the Bamba ensures it pairs well with jeans and a steak at your local haunt, and yes, it’s comfortable enough that you might not think of it as technical footwear, but I’ve been taking this rig to the crags for months, and it has performed without fail.

Indeed, the following says a lot—as if Boreal couldn’t help themselves—the Bamba sports a rubber toe cap, same as on a climbing shoe (that’s like bringing a lighter and space blanket on a day hike, just in case.)

On steep and loose gravel approaches, the tread might not bite as much as you want, since the lugs are high-density, but on anything less the shoe does great. The leather sides will not repel water after a downpour like other tech fabrics, however, Boreal has wedded their PU AirNet lining to the leather, which is the same material they use in their off-road running shoes.

After over 50 days of wear to dry-country crags and light-approach alpine walls, the shoes have no signs of delamination or uneven wear. They weigh around 2 pounds for the pair.

The Bamba excels at exactly what it was designed for—light hiking, cruising town, and looking the part. Comparing it to a technical approach shoe isn’t fair, yet this shoe can do more than Boreal gives it credit for. It is obscenely comfortable, wears well, and has enough mountain features—thanks to what Boreal terms its “mountain genetics”—to make it an excellent all-arounder.

The roomy fit makes the shoe easy to slip on and off between burns or boulders, and the wide sole gives the shoe an unexpected stability when off pavement. The sole has plenty of cushion to take it for a ride for hours on any hike or mild mountain outing, and the sole’s stiffness is somewhere between soft and medium-soft.

——Francis Sanzaro

PROS: Comfortable, classy, stable on trails. Women’s version available.

CONS: Could be more nimble, even for light hiking.

BEST FOR: Urban adventures and light hiking.