I first heard about the LOWA Arco GTX Lo while perusing SHOT Business, a publication published by the NSSF, the firearms industry trade association. Much of the magazine features new product releases and there it was– a high end shoe targeted (no pun intended) towards the competitive shooter.
I’m a big fan of high quality athletic shoes and was not familiar with LOWA, the manufacturer, which is based in Germany. I was intrigued for a couple of reasons. I’m a proponent of “crossover” wear, shoes and clothing that can be worn on the range, in the wilderness, at work and on social occasions. I also have dual German/American citizenship so the made-in-Germany aspect was caught my attention.
Founded by a Bavarian cobbler named Lorenz Wagner, the company has been around since 1923. His early products were work and outdoor boots.
Herr Wagner must have been doing something right because nearly 100 years later, LOWA is a worldwide brand. According to their website, they sell over 2 million pairs of boots and shoes in over 40 countries and are still based in Wagner’s home village of Jetzendorf, in Bavaria.
LOWA has street cred that should make it appealing to shooters. It has manufactured military boots for over 20 years and they are used by U.S. Special Forces units throughout the Middle East.
LOWA boots are produced 100% in Europe, and according to their website, “under the world’s most stringent manufacturing, environmental and labor regulations.” The quality of the shoe I reviewed was first class, as you would expect from a German company. (Yeah, that sounds kind of conceited but generally it’s true).
Given its European manufacture, you are not going to read about LOWA exploiting some poor Indonesian worker for a few dollars a day.
Commensurate with their quality, the shoes are expensive–figure on dropping over $200 for this particular model. But as the old saw goes, you get what you pay for.
LOWA says that they are one of the few outdoor footwear companies that manufacture 90% of their line using polyurethane (PU) midsoles. PU absorbs shock, supports and rebounds well and, is durable. LOWA claims a PU midsole also offers excellent support, lasts 2-5 times longer than a comparable EVA midsole and, is much less toxic to manufacture.
Using the Shoe
The shoe serves several purposes.
That’s because the Arco GTX Lo is a hybrid–a cross between a boot and an athletic shoe. It’s called “Lo” because of the low cut–as opposed to the full size Arco GTX full sized boot. Truth be told the Arco GTX Lo is a climbing/hiking boot in disguise and I used it extensively on the mostly lava rock trails near my Honolulu home.
They are light, as you would expect athletic shoes to be, but have a firm, boot-like feeling, especially when you first put them on. Unlike athletic shoes, these require a week or so of breaking in before you feel comfortable.
I think they are ideal for a competitive shooting environment where you have to be nimble. Their light weight makes it easy to move quickly and confidently. You certainly can’t do that in a combat boot.
Of course, I also used the shoe a number of times at the range shooting pistols, wheel guns and rifles. I loved it.
The first thing I noticed when taking it on the trail was the incredible purchase that the soles afford.
These are Vibram soles with an unusual looking tread configuration called the “Elika”. The LOWA “Elika” sole is the “grippiest” I’ve ever encountered. It’s akin to having a racing tire on your car or motorcycle. My only trepidation was that because the sole is soft, it may not last as long as other shoes (before having to be replaced). However, I was assured by the LOWA PR person I spoke to here in the US, that their soles will last for a long time. I will give them the benefit of the doubt.
The soft sole rubber not only grips well but helps cushion your feet. It does so without feeling mushy, which is more typically the case with a traditional athletic shoe. It is designed to control and prevent over-pronation and supination. It has great arch support, which keeps your body aligned and prevents bad stuff like sciatica from rearing its head.
Lava rock can be treacherous and unforgiving but this shoe helped give me a kind of confidence that my traditional hiking boot did not. What’s more its light weight allowed me to literally leap from boulder to boulder like a mountain goat.
At the range, the boot-like solidity offered a great shooting platform. At the same time, it provides mobility for IDPA and other types of competitive shooters who need to be agile.
What’s great about this shoe is its utility. They are designed to be worn in the heat of competition or on your next trip to Costco.
I feel as if I can go anywhere, on any terrain with this shoe.
It’s superbly put together just keep in mind you’ll have to treat the leather portion with conditioner as you would any other leather product. That’s not a big deal.
You don’t just toss these $200 shoes in the bin after a year. They can be re-soled like any other boot and they should last you a long, long time.
Split Grain Leather
Fabric Loops & Open Hooks
Climate Control Footbed
Dual Density DuraPU™