Exhale. A strange name for some shoes. Until, that is, you come back from a day’s hiking with sore feet and tired knees, and you slip these bad-boys on. You do a little sigh of comfort and the name makes perfect sense all of a sudden.
SOLE, the Canadian footbed specialists, have been ploughing their knowledge of foot-support in to their own range of shoes for a couple of years now, and the Exhale is the strangest of the range. Styled like the shoes that the Michelin Man might wear, they’re apres-activity footwear which is a cross between a slipper and a shoe.
With a thick foamy sole and rubber grips reminiscent of boat deck-shoes, they’re built for use outdoors around camp, or for padding around in cold-floored hostels.
With a puffy upper made from tough nylon stuffed with a warm insulation, they’re actually quite hard wearing despite their appearance being similar to a downy sleeping-bag. The toe section even has a reinforced bumper covered in a super-tough nylon usually specced in luggage design.
The inner of the Exhale is where SOLE’s foot support expertise are fully deployed. The footbed (insole) is sculpted with a metatarsal dome and cupped heel which support the tired ligaments in the base of your foot and make it a much more comfortable apres-hike shoe than a flat-soled slipper.
The heel cup of the Exhale folds down, transforming them to slip-ons which I’ve preferred for loafing around the house in. The folded-down heel isn’t uncomfy to walk on, and has worn well.
The Exhale is quite sweaty if you wear it in a typically heated UK house. It’s not smelly though, thanks to a Polygeine treated inner that doesn’t encourage bacterial growth. The footbed used in the Exhale is finished in a fleecy material which is pleasant on bare feet, and grips well if you’re wearing socks.
They come in at a fairly hefty £65, which is a lot for a shoe which some could argue is fairly niche in its market. I think the Exhale will appeal to a small section of people who genuinely want to use it as an apres-hike shoe, but more so to those random folk who just ‘get it’ with these shoes. I must admit that I wasn’t one of those who immediately saw a need for them when I first got the information through, but since they’ve arrived I’ve worn them almost every evening.
SUMMARY: Really comfortable shoes for wearing after a long day on your feet, and a step up from slippers. With outdoor soles and proper support inside, they defy their looks as soft, squishy duvets and actually provide a way to nurse your feet as you wander. If you see them in store, give them a try on.