Living in Colorado, the outdoors is a way of life as much as the craft beer movement that started in the Centennial State. Getting out for an “after-worker” (my colloquial term for a hike, bike ride, paddleboard session, or other outdoor activity squeezed into the late afternoon hours after work and before dinner), is a daily practice for many Coloradans, myself included. I’ve averaged about 75 hikes or roughly 500 miles per year, so I spend a lot of time in hiking boots. I recently tried the Erem Xerocole boots ($169.99), and won’t be hitting the trail without them for the foreseeable future.

Note: I tested the Erem Xerocole men’s boots. Erem also offers a women’s option.

A brand designed for the desert

What first caught my attention about Erem is the desert-specific design. The Xerocole boots in Almond Bluff are the same sandy brown as the Book Cliffs range that towers above my hometown of Palisade, Colorado.

If you’ve ever hiked in the desert, you know that it can get quite hot. The Xerocole boots are built for the heat, touted for its breathable materials that encourage air circulation, keeping the wearer’s feet cool — much like a car with the windows slightly cracked open.

Adding to the upstart brand’s bonafides, the Xerocole was named the official hiking boot of the Arizona Trail, so you know it’s going to look good and perform well in the desert.

Sustainability is on point

Erem hooked me with its promises of sustainability. The Xerocole production process is “biocircular,” meaning the boot is made of sustainable materials that can be reabsorbed by the earth (i.e. decompose) after its useful life. The sole is 70 percent recycled rubber.

The brand is in the process of building the world’s first “Biocircular hiking collection,” which I certainly want to be part of.

Comfort and performance. Photo: Tim Wenger

Added perk: They wear like Vans, transporting me back to me '90s skater kid roots. Photo: Tim Wenger

Ignore the horrible calf tattoo. Photo: Tim Wenger

The Xerocole blends perfectly with desert surrounds. Photo: Tim Wenger

How do the Erem Xerocole hiking boots perform?

I tried the Xerocole boots first on the Palisade Rim Trail’s lower loop, a 3.5-mile, after-work jaunt that gains about 800 feet. The boots felt loose at first andI wasn’t sure if that was by design – perhaps air flowing in from the top was part of the breathing process. I figured not, though, because it was difficult to get a good foothold on the dirt when my ankles kept sliding around. So I pulled the laces tighter and tied a double knot. Problem solved.

On the descent, I noticed that the rubbing and throbbing so common with an out-of-the-box pair of hiking boots was missing. My ankles felt as good as when I’d started, as did my toes. Even the slight bunion on my right foot hadn’t carved an indent into the toebox. Basically, I wasn’t counting down the seconds until I could swap the boots for flip-flops as I often do on these speedy hikes.

This was a feeling I’d never experienced the first time out in a new pair of boots, and remains what stands out the most about their performance. The Xerocole boots are comfortable without “grinning and bearing it” through a 10-mile slog of pain to break them in.

erem xercole trail

Photo: Quiggyt4/Shutterstock

I then deemed the boots ready for a longer hike. For this, I ventured deeper into the desert of Fruita, Colorado, to the Devil’s Canyon Trailhead for a seven-mile loop out to Pitchfork Tower and back. The temperature on this late-June afternoon was above 90 degrees, and I’d need the boots to perform as well as the water bladder in my backpack in order to mark the day a success. The trail includes rocky stretches and  at least two sand patches, plus two small stream crossings, making it a great desert trail to test the boot against all elements.

The Xerocole’s outsole has a thick tread ideal for gripping the curves in rock faces, and the boots excelled at ascending the trail’s rocky stretches; I climbed just shy of 700 feet with ease. The shock-absorbing cork took in the hard rock and soft sand equally well.

The design reminds me of the pair of Merrell hiking boots I’ve had for years, mixed with Vans skate shoes, another brand I’ve long stood by. This rethink of hiking boot design is what gives the Xerocoles their comfort – they perform like boots but wear like shoes, albeit high-top ones with a very thick sole.

By the end of the hike, my feet weren’t screaming for release and I felt like I could have kept hiking for several more miles. The boots lived up to what was promised by Erem. And as a bonus, they match the standard desert-town fashion to the point that swapping them out before grabbing a post-hike drink with friends isn’t necessary.

Tips for getting the most out of your Erem Xerocole hiking boots

  • Xerocoles are high-top boots so leave the short socks at home. Wear hiking socks or at least socks that rise above the top of the boot. This also prevents rubbing on your calf or shin.
  • Tighten the laces as tight as you can get them. The boots are adept at hugging feet if you provide enough support to last through the hike.
  • The bottoms of most hiking pants will perfectly cover the top and tongue of the boots, and in most cases, this actually looks quite stylish (by mountain town standards).
  • I opted for the Xerocole boots in Almond Bluff, but they also come in Caramel Brown and Silver Birch.

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