Rocky S2V Declination Athletic Trail Shoes
In a past article, we mentioned Rocky S2V (Smart. Strong. Versatile.) and Mountain Shepherd Wilderness Survival School working together. This pairing created an ideal opportunity for the best outdoor adventure experts to test some of the features of Rocky products in real world situations, and provide valuable feedback for future designs. Rocky is fully committed to developing apparel and footwear where safety and practicality is a big part of their function. While checking out their latest offerings during the Outdoor Retailer Winter Show this past January, I was a bit more than intrigued by the Rocky S2V Declination, which is a low cut hiker with a distinctive looking upper and an aggressive outsole. Described as an athletic trail shoe, the Declination is essentially a slip-on, but with laces for a custom fit. There’s also no tongue, and an uninterrupted “collar” wraps all the way around the ankle. That was enough for me to start asking a string of questions about them, a conversation which ended with me getting a pair to review. Although that might sound awesome, footwear reviews can be a bit intimidating, as I’ve had to send shoes and boots back on more than one occasion, with a polite note indicating that one issue or another would keep me from being able to test them. Of course, that didn’t happen here. Quite the opposite, actually.
(If you’re not interested in the technical specs, skip to the next paragraph) Starting at the bottom, Vibram has created a sole with plenty of traction, thanks to a combination of large, widely spaced lugs surrounding smaller, more flexible groupings of rubber knobs. I like to compare outsoles to mountain bike tires – good ones provide all-surface traction while shedding mud, and that’s exactly what these do. Inside, the level of finishing was much higher than expected, with nothing to cause hotspots, and a nice anatomical shape. While I was examining the lining after a short hike, I noticed it was a bit damp, but it wicks moisture so well that I couldn’t detect any on my socks. Although I don’t usually have any foot odor issues, between the wicking and the antimicrobial treatment, I suspect most other people won’t either. As an added bonus, the fuchsia insert can be used for emergency signalling. That, and the paracord laces remind you of Rocky’s commitment to surviving the outdoors. Outside, the upper is comprised of Ripstop nylon for proven durability as well as temperature regulation. It’s reinforced fore and aft with thick rubber on the toe and heel. This is complemented by a couple of different stylized thinner rubber treatments that add more strength, waterproofing, and a bit of surface texture for visual appeal. Speaking of visual appeal, these low hikers have gotten an unprecedented amount of compliments.
When I first put them on, the unusual sensation around my ankle caught me off guard, but only for a moment. It went away as soon as I started walking. At that point, it quickly became obvious that a lot of time was spent engineering a comfortable fit. I immediately felt that this was an “all day” hiker. From the footbed to the Vibram outsole, it’s both flexible and supportive, allowing for a natural stride over uneven terrain. The outsole provides enough flex that even though I prefer minimalist footwear, my feet didn’t complain after being in them for twelve hours or more. Well-placed reinforcement at the arch seems to be the key there, as it flexes around that bit of extra protection. So what does all that add up to? They’ve been through plenty of snow, as well as hiking on wet and sloppy dirt and grass. A couple of hours walking at varying speeds didn’t diminish my initial impression – the rest of me will give up before my feet. Due to the comfort, I’ve used them as everyday wear too. Towards the end of my review, I went for a motorcycle ride, which is a great way to destroy the left shoe, as my shifter is not very forgiving. I have two pairs of ruined running shoes to prove that point, but the Declinations held up fine. Best fit has come with a thin Merino or synthetic sock, but even a mid-weight sock works well, as long as they’re not no-show, due to the 360 degree “collar”. The only minor issue in two months of testing was the laces occasionally coming undone. Because of the collar, it’s not immediately noticeable, but can be a minor annoyance. Since they’re 550 cord, at least you don’t have to worry about them getting damaged. As an added bonus, the Declination came with a “Survival Grenade”. Laced inside ten feet of military grade 550 paracord, you’ll find a needle and small knife blade, some fishing hooks, swivels, and weights, foil, wire, tinder, and a fire starter. These are great emergency essentials should you be heading off the beaten path.
Given Rocky’s long history of providing footwear for armed forces, law enforcement, and postal workers, I guess some understated luxury could be expected, but they truly exceeded any preconceived notions I might have had, in both comfort and durability. Once they’ve completely worn out, I’ll certainly get myself another pair. Visit RockyS2V.com for more info, and to access their Facebook page for giveaways.