Recently we had the chance to test a pair of Columbia Fairbanks low on the streets of Chicago and review their features. The Fairbanks series is one of the most popular from Columbia, a brand renowned for their outdoors apparel and footwear products. It features a winter boot, a hiking boot and this low trail shoe. The Columbia Fairbanks low has become very popular among travelers and hikers for its comfort, versatility and relatively low cost. 

First Impressions

We got a pair in black and gum for this model and we were not disappointed. They are very lightweight for a trail shoe, with size 11 weighing just 12.6oz. They are also very flexible and practical. You can jam these in your suitcase without taking much space and they will be your best companion on your trip. They are designed to work well in urban areas as well as on the trails. 

How They Fit 

The Columbia Fairbanks low fit is true to size and they are very accommodating for those with wide feet. The toe box is roomy and the lacing system is set so it will better mold on your feet. Advanced hikers may find the toe box too roomy so if you prefer a more snug fit you can try going a half size down but in my case the regular size worked just fine.

Columbia Fairbanks black gum hiking shoes4

Columbia Fairbanks black gum hiking shoes2


The upper of the Columbia Fairbanks low is made of a lightly padded mesh that is very breathable. As you wear these, even if high temperatures there will, be little to no sweat or heat trapped in. Also the mesh is very fast to dry out in the sun after you get them wet in the trails.   The overall design is similar to the winter boot in this series, having a synthetic overlay in the toe box for protection and seams placed on the sides that work with the lacing system to ensure an optimal lockdown. The laces are set up so they hug the feet wide from side to side, making it easier to follow the shape of your feet. This is one of the reasons why those with high arches enjoy wearing these. As I tested these for this review the laces came undone a few times which was a bit annoying but luckily there are more than a few ways to solve this issue. The back of the shoe features a suede heel cap which does an excellent job in keeping the foot in place. There is just enough padding in the heel area and tongue to keep your feet comfortable on top of the EVA insert. 

Are Columbia Fairbanks Low waterproof?

The low version of the Fairbanks shoe is not waterproof, unlike the mid size (the hiking boot) or the high version (the winter boot). Columbia made these with an emphasis on breathability and comfort but the good news is that you can use a waterproof spray for mesh materials and you can make these water repellent. 

Columbia Fairbanks black gum hiking shoes1

Columbia Fairbanks black gum hiking shoes3

Sole Unit 

For the sole unit of the Columbia Fairbanks low the brand used two of its proprietary technologies, the Techlite midsole and the Omni-Grip traction rubber. The first is an engineered EVA foam that is the thickest in the heel area and it does a good job in keeping the feet comfortable while also delivering good energy return so your feet won’t get tired too fast. The  sole also has about 10mm heel to toe drop which gives you a nice boost with every step. The Omni-Grip rubber on the outsole is very grippy which makes this shoe appealing to many others beyond hikers and travelers. Overall the sole unit is flexible and somewhat soft which is more fit for beginner hikers and less so for the advanced ones. Given that the sole is not that hard, claiming on steep rocks and gravels with these will likely get your feet tired within a few hours. This flexibility and the outsole pattern makes it so these are great for faster paced walks, in on the trails or in the city. 

Who are they for?

The Columbia Fairbanks low is for the beginner hikers or for travelers that need to have with them a shoe that they can basically take anywhere without sacrificing looks. They look good with any casual attire and they are very versatile and durable. The beginner hikers will appreciate the comfort, how lightweight they are and the advanced grippy sole. 

Columbia Fairbanks Low Review3

Columbia Fairbanks Low Review2

Bottom Line 

The Columbia Fairbanks low is a shoe that offers a great value for the money spent. As I did this review I found out why they are so popular and why they have been around for so long. They are comfortable, lightweight and offer excellent support throughout the day. They are so versatile that you can wear them almost anywhere, on your hiking adventures, on your everyday errands or even at work. They are a great casual looking shoe if you do not want to wear more athletic looking shoes like the Nike Juniper 2 or the ASICS Venture 9