“The Vasque Coldspark because is a stylish hiking boot that also works for casual wear.”
- Comfortable right out of the box and only improves over time
- Durable sole will provide you with miles and miles of usage
- Attractive style that’ll turn heads on the trail
- Very warm for its weight
- Lacing system durability in question
- Microspikes can be felt across the toes
Established in 1964 by William D. Sweasy, Vasque found its inspiration from the European mountaineering community. Since its inception, the company has been committed to providing people with footwear rugged enough to tackle even the most difficult mountains. At the top of their winter boot lineup is the Vasque Coldspark Ultradry, which offers the best of both worlds for snow season. It’s a comfortable boot that’s light enough for casual winter wear, yet is sturdy enough for most winter outdoor adventures.
Comfort & Fit
It’s obvious Vasque was thinking about comfort when they designed the Coldspark. The boot features a soft leather and textile upper that is comfortable right out of the box and continues to soften as you wear the boots. This quality makes the Coldspark feel more like a sneaker and less like a hiking boot, which is great if comfort is a priority when selecting a boot.
The Coldspark also has a fleece lining that provides extra softness and gentle cushioning around your ankles — from your toes to your ankle, the Coldspark fits your feet like your best pair of leather gloves. And just like leather gloves, comfort and styling go hand in hand. Even if you are not in the market for a winter boot, you can’t help but notice the Coldspark — it’s a damn good-looking boot. Whether on the trail or in a grocery store, the Coldspark caught people’s eye and the comments about it were overall positive. A few people I know even purchased the boot after seeing me wear it.
The Vasque Coldspark is comfortable, but you do have to have the foot for it. The boot has a slightly narrow fit that is a godsend for those whose smaller feet slip inside wider boots. If your feet demand a wide boot, then the regular width Coldspark boot may be too constricting. In this case, you may want to make sure you purchase the wide version of the Coldspark. Overall, the boot may not be as roomy as a Keen, but a wide Coldspark with a thinner sock may be all you need to keep your feet happy in the winter.
Weight-wise, the Coldsparks are on the mid-range side of the spectrum weighing 2 pounds, 9 ounces, which is reasonable for a winter boot. They are not heavy as the Merrell Polarands that I wear in real cold weather, but are bulkier than the Merrell Moab FST Ice+ Thermo Hiking Boots I wear around town in the winter. Some of this weight comes from the padding in the ankle and the 200 grams of Thinsulate, which is a fair trade off for the extra warmth and comfort.
Traction & Stability
Once again, the ColdSpark hits the sweet middle spot when it comes to traction. The tread is rugged enough for hiking on solid packed trails and its multi-directional lugs provide ample traction both on the way up and on the way down the mountain.
Once you put on the Vasque Coldsparks, you don’t want to take them off because they feel so good on your feet.
The tread can handle the trail, but it isn’t overly rough for walking on pavement. You still feel comfortable strolling on the street and crossing parking lots. Unlike the Merrell Moab FST Ice+ Thermo Hiking Boot, which have the ice-sticking Artic Grip sole, the Vasque boot does not include any ice grip technology to protect you when walking on icy surfaces. This isn’t a deal breaker — just throw on a pair of ice cleats and the Vasque Coldspark boots will quickly take you from trailhead to curbside without losing a beat.
Not only does the Vasque Coldspark offer reasonable traction, it also provides reasonable stability. The boot has a dual-density EVA footbed and a molded EVA midsole that is flexible enough to be comfortable, but rigid enough to provide a stable base that prevents over-pronation while you walk or hike.
In the ankle area, the boot is softer, and more like a sneaker that a rigid boot. The upper bends as you move allowing for some movement in the ankle. Though you have some play in the ankle area, you don’t have to worry about rolling your ankle, as there is a rubber stabilizer on the outside of the upper that limits your sideways movement.
Some people prefer this flexible design because it provides both stability on rougher terrain and movement when you need it. The laces go up to the top of the boot and help to add some stability, but they do not replace the heavier leather and rigid construction used in more rugged outdoor winter boots.
Cold Weather Performance
The Vasque Coldspark protects your feet from the dangers of cold water and wet snow in the winter thanks to its proprietary UltraDry waterproof breathable membrane. Similar to Gore-Tex, the UltraDry layer promises to keep out the moisture while allowing sweat to escape.
The Coldsparks delivered mostly on that pledge. The boots were great at keeping my feet dry when accidentally plunging into streams on winter hikes, but I did experience some seepage when slogging through slush for a few miles. When my feet got wet, it often was not outside water seeping in, but sweat not being able to escape. If the sock was a bit too bulky for the weather and my feet started to get hot, the excess moisture did not escape as quickly as I would have liked.
The Vasque Coldsparks are what I choose when it comes to my outdoor adventures — they perform like a boot but feel like a sneaker.
I found I had to change my socks at least once during a longer hike of 7-9 miles. It’s a trade-off I don’t mind — it’s much easier to swap out some socks than it is to go non-waterproof and risk frostbite because your boots got wet when accidentally post-holing into a snow-covered stream.
With 200 grams of Thinsulate insulation and a rugged sole, the Coldsparks are a good all-around cold weather boot. They beat out the Merrell Moab FSTs and similar boots, which only have 100 grams of insulation and are lightweight for a winter boot.
When you stand still, the 220 grams of insulation in the Coldspark helps stave off cold feet, but it does not prevent cold feet. I found it to be effective for approximately 20 minutes of standing in 20-degree weather. Once you hit the 30-minute mark, your feet start to get cold, and you either must start moving again, or find another way to warm them up. When it comes down to it, the Vasques are what I choose when it comes to my outdoor adventures — they provide a great combination of comfort and warmth in the winter.
The Vasque Coldspark also has some bonus features that winter weather enthusiasts will appreciate. Each boot has a molded rubber heel kick that is designed to secure a snowshoe strap. It also has a Gaiter D-ring to ensure the gaiter stays in place while covering your boot. It even has a gusseted tongue, which keeps out debris.
While you can use the Coldsparks with snowshoes and even microspikes, the soft leather upper is not ideal for using these accessories. When you are wearing microspikes to hike on icy trails, you can feel the rubber of the microspikes pressing down on your toes. This slows down the circulation, and your toes could get cold more rapidly.
This same pressure also is felt with snowshoes, though with snowshoes you can adjust the strap to find a secure fit that does not pinch your toes. Because they are so soft sided, I would be careful using universal crampons with the Coldspark. Test them out on a lesser trail so you can remove them if they are uncomfortable and still walk safely home in a bare boot. Don’t get on an ice-filled ridge and discover you absolutely have to remove the crampons because they are killing your feet.
The soles and leather on the Vasque Coldspark performed superbly during my testing. The soles still look brand new even after almost daily use for more than a month. They’ve slogged through deep snow, icy trails, salt-laden parking lots and more without any issues. The textile leather held up to snowshoes, microspikes and normal usage without tearing or abrasions. The only area that looks worn is the leather trim around the toecap. It’s scuffed quite a bit, but that’s to be expected, as I have not been gentle with the boots.
While the soles and the leather upper held up well in my testing, the lacing system did not. Two of the top lacing hooks pulled off during my month of usage. The first fell off while hiking Mount Moriah. Halfway up the trail my ankle suddenly felt loose in the boot, and I was shocked to discover the top lacing hook on my left boot was missing. I was able to secure the boot by skipping the top hooks completely, and I successfully completed the hike.
A few weeks later I was tying the other boot, and another top hook came off. It appears that these eyelets are glued to the leather upper, and a stitch is used to pinch the leather together over the hook to help keep it in place. This method failed not once, but twice, and left me wishing Vasque had used a more durable hook, maybe one that was riveted in this part of the boot. After browsing though consumer reviews, it appears that this issue is not a common occurrence. Only a small number of owners complain of broken lacing hooks; most reviewers do not experience this problem and are overall pleased with the performance of the boot.
Vasque provides a one-year warranty against defects in workmanship and materials. The company will repair the defect or exchange the product.
The Vasque Coldspark is a winter hiking boot that provides warmth and comfort in a stylish package, but it has a flaw in the lacing that could be problematic for a small number of owners.
Is there a better alternative?
When it comes to comfort, the Vasque Coldspark is at the top of the list for winter hiking boots. If you need a boot that has no reliability issues then you should take a closer look at the Oboz Bridger BDry insulated winter boots or one of Salomon’s winter hikers like the Kaina Mid CS for women or the X Ultra Winter CS for men.
How long will it last?
As long as you use and not abuse the Vasque Coldspark, there is no reason why it shouldn’t last at least a few seasons. The most glaring weak point is the lacing system whose hooks are prone to failing.
Should you buy it?
You should buy the Vasque Coldspark if you want a stylish, comfortable boot that’ll handle the trail as well as the parking lot. You should not purchase the Vasque Coldspark if you are looking for a heavy-duty winter hiking boot with extra warmth and the additional stability needed for rugged, long distance alpine-zone hikes.
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