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I've always associated the Paris-based brand VEJA with sustainable lifestyle shoes worn mainly by international friends around my college campus. At the time, the VEJA Campo seemed elusive to me, but maintained the same sort of clean aesthetic and everyday performance of a universal classics like the Adidas Samba, or even a Feiyue.
Now, five years later, VEJA has been making major waves in the US, helped along no doubt by LA native Meghan Markle, who dared to don a pair on a British royal outing, and other celebrities like Eddie Redmayne and the Kardashians who've helped cement their globalized popularity. Collabs with Rick Owens and Marni didn't hurt either.
VEJA doesn't appear content to stop with such widespread success, either—the brand is continuing a dive into active performance territory with hopes to permeate among outdoor lovers with the newly released Fitz Roy, the brand's first technical hiking shoe. Recently, I had the opportunity to test a pair over a a weekend of hiking and glamping at Eastwind Oliverea Valley in the Catskill Mountains outside of New York City.
The Fitz Roy is VEJA's first official hiking shoe, following a successful collaboration with Vibram on a more technical walking sneaker called the Dekkan. Named after the famous Patagonian peak, the Fitz Roy ramps up performance with grippy multidirectional (and V-shaped) lugs, a built-in rock plate, and an upper made of water-resistant polyester for a shoe that feels prepared to hit serious mountain terrain.
Maintaining VEJA's ethos of sustainability, which has included an impressive commitment to ethical sourcing, transparency, and social responsibility since its founding in 2004, the Fitz Roy is also made with all-natural or sustainable materials, including 100% recycled polyester, Amazonian rubber, and sugar cane. Like all of VEJA's shoes, they're produced in Brazil, where, according to the brand, the country "couples robust industries with high added social value."
The lugs and the flexible construction worked their magic on Upstate New York's talus and boulders.
Here in Upstate New York, the Catskills are vast, and Eastwind Oliverea Valley, sandwiched between Slide Mountain and Big Indian Wilderness, is optimally located for exploring them. Nearby the hillside property dotted with luxe A-frames and a mid-century modern-inspired hotel, there's ample testing ground among the area's hiking trails. Just a ten-minute drive from Eastwind, the nearby Giant Ledge Trail did the trick for a moderate hike led by the guides at Upstate Hiking.
During the three-mile, three-hour maiden voyage out and back up Panther Mountain, I suffered not a single blister (miraculously) while breaking in the Fitz Roy. The lugs and the flexible construction worked their magic on Upstate New York's talus and boulders, too, although the way down proved a little more unsteady, with slips here and there. As for the fit, my size nine pair fit well when paired with a thicker hiking sock on trail, although I was sized-up from my typical 8.5 (per the brand's advice). The Fitz Roy toebox is designed to be roomy, and as an owner of wider-feet, I was happy.
Overall, I'm impressed with the Fitz Roy's performance and I'd suggest it for buyers looking for a reliable, multi-purpose hiker that they might occasionally wear around town or for traveling, too. It does lack the support of a more technical hiking shoe, and even our guides were wondering how it would hold up over time. I wouldn't take them thru-hiking, for instance.
But for off-the-trail wear, the Fitz Roy also works as a walking shoe, and the attractive colorway and design means they easily pair with a variety of everyday looks. And this is where the shoe really shines—as a bridge between running errands and taking on a quick day hike or doing some other outdoor activity. In other words: the perfect shoe for a trip Upstate.