Hiking shoes have been for many years one of my most unsatisfactory possessions. As long-term travel forces me to fit all my stuff in a backpack, I limit myself to one single pair for all activities.
The shoes have to cope with dirty cities, trekking, climbing approaches, scrambles and many miles of abuse. Having a 200$ shoe falling apart after only a few months is an extremely frustrating experience. For over two years now I’ve been using the Quechua NH500 hiking shoes from French outdoor retailer Decathlon. At 40$, could they hit the sweet spot between quality and price?
I’m currently on my second pair. I should mention that I wear my shoes until the bitter end. So your mileage may vary if you are bothered about appearances. Also, I wear flip flops whenever the weather and terrain permit it. Which is roughly half the time.
My first pair lasted 17 months. Besides lots of low-wear city use, I put them through over 100 days of hiking in Nepal, India and Pakistan. The bulk of the action consisted of hike and fly paragliding up rocky trails, as well as some trekking in the Himalayas and Karakorum. Add to that a month of moderate use on sharp limestone in Oman, lots of abrasive sandy walks and scrambles during a month in the Jordanian desert, and short daily walks on limestone in Turkey for another month and a half.
The second pair is currently still in use. They are pictured at the top of the post, after 10 months of active duty. So far they have logged 80+ days of mostly moderate hiking in Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Canada, Turkey, Egypt, Sudan and Saudi Arabia. Plus of course many days on concrete and asphalt. Judging by the current level of wear I expect to squeeze another 3-4 months of action out of them.
What Decathlon Says About The Quechua NH500 Hiking Shoes
***May 2020 Update*** Decathlon seems to be gradually replacing the NH500 by a lower quality model and a slippery sole under the cover of “sustainability”.
Decathlon sometimes sells slightly different shoes under the name Men’s Nature Hiking Shoes NH500, depending on the country. I’ve also seen them labeled as Arpenaz NH500. To add to the confusion, Decathlon also sells backpacks and clothes called NH500. Clearly, not much money went into marketing.
I bought my first pair in France, and the second one in Turkey. So just to make it 100% clear, this post is referring to the Quechua NH500 as depicted below.
Decathlon sells them “for occasional use”. They are “designed for half-day lowland hiking, in dry weather, along easy trails.” That sounds like a rather conservative claim, but it’s a nice change from the outdoor industry’s empty promises we have grown accustomed to.
A cursory glance in the shop reveals that the build is not much worse than fancy 100$+ approach shoes. At just over 700 g / 1.5 lbs a pair they are also pleasantly light. Could they be better than advertised?
The shoes are simple but comfortable. They never gave me blisters, even after 10 hour days of trekking. The mid sole does a good job at shock absorption, while retaining some rigidity. I’d give it 5/5 if it wasn’t for the inner disintegrating over time (see below), eventually creating friction spots.
Sole & Grip 4/5
On both pairs the rubber held up admirably over time. Even if you are a heavy heel striker this won’t be an issue.
A friend of mine who lives in Oman did complain about the durability of the sole on the extremely sharp limestone of the Hajar mountains. Then again, Vibram soles barely fared better. Thus, in terms of durability the sole of the Quechua NH500 should be adequate for most.
The grip is excellent too. I have used them to climb a 280m UIAA grade IV rock climb on Sinai desert granite. The lug pattern also works well on wet grass and muddy trails. The shoes are rigid enough to kick the occasional side steps in snow, although of course it will never replace a pair of hiking or mountaineering boots.
Bottom line, the performance is almost as solid as what you’d expect from a Vibram sole.
Outer & Abrasion Resistance 4/5
The top of the Quechua NH500 hiking shoes is made of leather. A high rubber rand in the front and back makes it suitable for rock climbing approaches and moderate scrambles. I can confirm that it jams securely in cracks. The lacing system provides a snug fit when needed. They are not waterproof, but dry relatively fast, at least for leather shoes.
On the durability front, the outer proved sufficiently abrasion resistant. However, if you end up regularly in scree slopes and talus, the stitching is not reinforced and will break easily. This is a straight-forward fix if you have heavy duty needles. Or if you are feeling lazy a few drops of glue will do in a pinch.
Again, this is by far not the most durable outer on the market. But walk with a little care, avoid scree as much as possible and they will last a long time.
The inner soles are adequate. They can easily be removed and washed. They also dry in less than an hour in the sun. Around the one year mark I usually have to start thinking about replacing them, especially if I have been walking around beaches and deserts a lot.
However, the lining of the Quechua NH500 is another story. If you don’t take extra care it will disintegrate in a matter of months. I do targeted prevention by adding patches of duct tape on high abrasion areas.
For me that’s mainly the heel as I have small spurs. The lining does eventually give in around other areas such as the big toe, but in my experience this is less crucial and barely affects comfort.
In other words, the lining sucks. It requires careful preemptive reinforcement if you want your Decathlon hiking shoes to last. And best to put that tape in as soon as possible.
The retail price is usually around 40$, depending on the country you purchase your Quechua NH500 in. This nicely fills the gap between the super cheap Asian 10$ hiking shoes that last for a couple of weeks, and the 150$+ models of established brands. And the fact that Decathlon has shops all over the world also makes finding a replacement much easier when you are on the road.
NH500 Hiking Shoes:
The Quechua NH500 from Decathlon are durable all-in-one city, hiking and approach shoes, *if* you take good care of the inner lining and don’t run down scree slopes like an idiot. By adding a few strategic patches of duct tape they can withstand more than a year of regular use.
I had several pairs of high-end hiking shoes falling apart after less than 6 months. I’d rather not spend 300 bucks on shoes every year. So this is, in my opinion, a small compromise for finally having a decent shoe that doesn’t break the bank. And another fine example that functional outdoor gear doesn’t need to be expensive.
But hey Decathlon, if you read this, add a better lining material for an extra 10$ and you might have quite possibly created the ultimate bargain outdoor shoe.