Monday, July 28

A Different Gear Review: North Face Hedgehog XCR

I wandered into home this evening to be met by a stunningly large package awaiting my attention. Rydal Rambler had kept their on-line promise in quickly delivering a new pair of North Face Hedgehog XCR trail shoes. A different colour to their now ragged replacements, but a cursory check on the model & size delivered threw up some interesting differences.
(New kids on the block)
As mentioned here in the past, I tend to steer clear of gear reviews. But for a change I thought I'd offer something different to what is usually found in a Gear Review. How about a direct comparison between an old and new product of what remains the same basic model (or as far as I'm aware unchanged).

We've all seen kit reviews where there is feedback on changes to an updated, revised or re-marketed range. But rarely is there any direct physical comparison, and certainly not of the same offering. And indeed why should there be? For there's no real reason for such articles where the basic kit line remains static.

What triggered my interest was immediately spotted production flaws, or so I thought until I looked closer. Further comparison reveals just how much a static product can alter in this case over the 12-18 months since I purchased my original pair.

Ok, I know this may sound a little sad (and perhaps it is) but having never seen this tried before lets have a go now.

(If you want to follow this it may be helpful to download the pictures and zoom in for better detail -the new model aka 'the clean pair' is on the right, or course)

Firstly, the Vibram sole design, from which the Hedgehog gets its name, rightly remains unchanged. But the shoe's "exoskeleton" has been substantially modified. In some areas it seems to try to protect the mesh "under shoe" which is especially noticeable on the top of the toe box & the heel areas. However in other areas the mesh is now exposed instead. No apparent benefit that I can see to be honest. The Gore-Tex liner prevents incursion of water etc, but perhaps this is meant to prevent those teeny tiny pores clogging with debris?

The most visible change is two new lace holes, punched into the shoe itself, offering tighter strapping around the ankle as seen in running shoe design. This is achieved by reducing the main eyelets from four to three and moving them closer together.

That means Lace Hole #1 is now roughly in the same place as Eyelet #4 on the original model.

As the eyelets were an integral part of the quick lacing system (pull and tie - and worked great as far as I was concerned) I'm not too sure how this will now turn out during regular day to day usage. Or whether the integrity of the GT liner is compromised due to the two holes now punched through the shoe.

I'd not spotted this initially, and had already un-threaded the laces from the "extra" holes as not something I tend to like. I suspect when I actually start wearing these shoes that lace hole may well become necessary.

What originally set me off on all this geekyness was the finish around the shoe tongue, an immediate reaction on checking that the shoes were the size I'd ordered. My first thought was that I'd been sent a pair of factory seconds, the finish looked that ragged.

The old model folded the inner lining over the top of the bellows tongue giving a nice neat finish. The new version runs a line of stitching along the top edge of this section to join the layers together. How will this affect the performance in harsh conditions?

To me it just looked tatty, but it is clearly a deliberate act, and is a neatly stitched finish, but with a ragged top edge.

I could go on, but you get the general idea here.

I didn't expect this model to have escaped mild cosmetic change. But is this revision the result of product improvement from customer feedback or complaint?

Or perhaps it merely saves factory production costs?

I can't answer that as yet. But these will be hammered and abused just as much as their predecessors have been. And if there is any reduction in what they deliver, like Anrnie - 'I'll be back' (with an update)

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OMG, has it just frozen over in a hot place?

Yawn more kit reviews ^_____^

John welcome to the dark side ;)

Kit review are good John as to be honest the Magazines don't test kit long term so your using them for a long time is helpful. Poor finishing worries me as North Face kit is notorious for being faked? You sure they are genuine North Face?
Hi John

Interesting reading about the hedgehogs.

I thought it may be useful to post this link regarding the heel lock lacing technique

By using those extra holes at the top of the shoe can lock in your heel for extra snugness.
It's a Hedgejog John, but not as we know it :)
Mmmhhh, you think your shoes look in a bad way? My original Inov 8,s (303,s) are literally ragged. Hedgehogs are ashoe i am considering. As usual,good write up John.
Martin: Fake? No I wouldn't have said so, its mainly jackets this happens with (

Anon: Thanks for the video - looks a fair bit of faffing about compared to what I do at present, but I'll bear it in mind

Dawn: I was tempted by Innov8, but the feedback is 500 mile wear which is not great

Baz: cheeky

Darren: Only another 16 pairs to catch up with your little collection.
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