Time to put a Spring in your step
We hit the trail to check out a new batch of hiking boots that particularly took our fancy
Each to their own, as they say, basically meaning that what suits one person may not be appropriate for another, and that is not simply dependent on comfort and style, but also functionality. Do bear in mind exactly what type of walking you plan on doing before making your choice. Believe me, I have been a product tester for years, and it is always a difficult one to make, so we recommend you do your research before splashing the cash. Having said that, do not be swayed by the price tag because an expensive pair of boots does not always generate excellent performance.
AKU MONTERA GTX
Purely out of curiosity, I carried out a search on the word ‘montera’, to discover it to be a hat traditionally worn as part of the folk costumes of the Iberian peninsula. It is also a soft, black cloth bicorne hat worn by bullfighters. There is more. It also originates from Montero, meaning hunter, and from monte (mountain). The Montera GTX boot fits the latter translation nicely, as this versatile, lightweight footwear is spot on for hill walking. With a suede upper and GTX Performance Comfort lining, the boot collar is made with elastic material, which ensures an excellent fit around the ankle and all-day comfort.
This is the first time I have come across the Michelin Pulsar tread. Inspired by mountain bike tyres, you can just imagine elongated lugs and chunkiness, so you are guaranteed excellent grip as well as comfort. The soft, comfy Montera last sits in the Mountain Inspired segment, and has been specifically designed for less demanding conditions, so unless you are off-trail and hitting the hard stuff, these will prove to be the perfect companion. The asymmetric construction of the outsole employs AKU’s ELICA Natural Stride System, which consists of the last, insole board, midsole and tread, which combined follow the anatomical shape of the sole of the foot, cleverly adapting to normal heel and forefoot inclination and thereby reducing both impact and strain. £139.95, www.aku.it
BERGHAUS EXPEDITOR SQ TREK TECH
Similar to the AKU Montera, the Expeditor has been built for multi-active all-day comfort. Again, it has a suede upper, plus a DWR coated air mesh. As per usual, the team at Berghaus has come up with a high level of waterproofing as part of a boot made for comfort and durability, whether you are tramping across the fields or across the hills. I was interested to note that the Expeditor has been independently tested and now features on the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Recommended Kit List. I cannot say I am surprised, as it fits the bill perfectly for the multi-active consumer.
The durable water resistant finish and an AQ waterproof lining are complemented by the OPTI-STUD hiking outsole pattern, which spreads surface contact under the foot, so a sure grip is assured. With cushioned comfort and torsional durability, your last step of the day will feel as good as the first over a variety of terrain. £100,00, www.berghaus.com
MAMMUT COMFORT HIGH GTX SURROUND
I always enjoy hitting the trail in a pair of Mammut boots. There is always a pleasing element of non-surprise with them, as they always feel comfortable straight out of the packing, the wide toe box suits my foot, and there is that certain clever mix of cushioning and sturdiness, and in this case, the word ‘Comfort’ says it all. Mammut claims these to be for fast and light hiking, so that is exactly what I did, and yes, naturally, the manufacturer is quite correct. Trialling them in late winter-come-early spring, I reckon the Comfort will come into their own in warmer weather.
The generously proportioned forefoot and tailored fit work well for me, and with the soft inner, full waterproof protection and all-round breathability, thanks to the Gore-Tex SURROUND technology, you are getting a lot, but then you are paying a lot, too. Let me explain about the ‘Surround’ technology, which means what it says on the tin, in that the internal waterproof membrane passes around and under the foot, while the ‘spacer area’ between the sole and heel is vented to help air flow by up to 30 per cent, which, in turn, stops your feet getting too sweaty. Additional ventilation comes from the air-permeable layer between the wedge and insole, from where you also gain from comfortable cushioning. Mammut is one of the first manufacturers to promote the new Gore-Tex Surround Technology, so time will tell when it comes down to any long-term improvement in 360-degree breathability. £170,00, www.mammut.ch
REGATTA SAMARIS MID
Now, I bet you are wondering whether I bothered to research the word ‘Samaris’? Guilty as charged. And what did Google come up with… an electronic music group from Iceland, who mix glacial electronica and bold, percussive beats with haunting, chant-like vocals. Sounds all a bit airy-fairy, unlike the Samaris boot, which, like the Berghaus Expeditor, enters the field at the same RRP, and is also a lightweight, weatherproof contender.
The endurance mesh uppers have been specifically engineered with extra spacing around the toes to allow for natural movement when you are striking out on those long, sometimes arduous uphill slogs. Perhaps wearing earplugs and listening to the soothing sounds of Samaris will help take your mind off the long haul. The Hydropel technology is there to disperse mud and water, while the waterproof/breathable Isotex membrane keeps feet dry inside and out. I like the deep padded collar and tongue, and the rubber toe and abrasion-resistant heel bumper should stave off a few knocks. The Samaris also boasts a weight-saving, hard wearing carbon outsole and a multi-directional cleat pattern to aid traction and shock absorption. £100,00, www.regatta.com
OBOZ BRIDGER MID BRDY
Oboz is a completely new brand to me, and I was keen to check out what the manufacturer had to offer. Well, I was certainly not disappointed. Now, fast rewind to the beginning, where I discover that the Oboz crew is made up of a couple of old school tele skiers, a kayaker who can claim the first descent down the Ocoee, a former NOLS instructor who is familiar with going weeks without bathing, and an obsessed climber turned avid biker. A motley bunch, in the nicest possible way, that managed to connect throughout the decades of being in the outdoor industry and decided to join forces a decade ago to start Oboz. Next, combine the words ‘outside’ and ‘Bozeman’ and you have Oboz. If you were not sure, Bozeman is in Montana, where the team live, play and work.
The company motto is ‘True to the Trail’, and Oboz manufactures a range of footwear to help walkers on the trail and into the wilderness. First impressions of the Bridger… very nice indeed. A refined fit, comfortable cushioning around the cuff and tongue, hugely impressive lugs on the outsole, and decent toe and bumper rand for knocks and scrapes. The boot delivers both support and performance in bundles. The Bridger has a sturdy leather upper, a dual-density EVA midsole and deluxe footbed, which provides exceptional cushioning and arch support. Torsional rigidity is great, and I found there was just enough forefoot flex for natural striding on trail. As for those large 5mm-deep lugs in the carbon rubber outsole, grip was no issue whatsoever, no matter what terrain I covered. If you are looking for a boot which is armoured for abuse, then you have it here. £142.99, www.obozfootwear.com
And now for something completely different…
HOKA CLIFTON 3
This is an extraordinary running shoe, in a good way, combining ultra-soft cushioning and comfort into a lightweight package, resulting in a shoe for anyone, from the occasional jogger to the elite athlete, which I am most certainly not. The manufacturer has successfully engineered a unique performance midsole geometry which features a higher volume, softer density, and greater rebounding foam than standard running shoes. Slip one on and you will see exactly what I mean. Cushioning is superb, and I almost went through an uplifting experience lacing them up and taking my first strides, the ride being so stable.
It is clear that HOKA ONE ONE understood from the outset how natural foot motion is so vital for uniformity of stride. Incorporated into this upgrade is minimum drop geometry along with a rolling rocker design, so you can fall into a consistent rhythm in each foot strike. I understand that this is the third generation of the Clifton, the first bearing too roomy a forefoot, the second incarnation overcorrecting the problem to the extent that the shoe was then too tight. Stage 3, and we have progressed to a new fit with a more accommodating forefoot. Clifton 3 technicalities include ultra-lightweight no sew SpeedFrame construction, meta-rocker geometry, full-length compression molded EVA midsole, and that full ground contact design. Impressive, indeed. £103.00, www.hokaoneone.eu
TEVA ARROWOOD SWIFT SLIP ON (TEXTILE)
This is a great shoe for taking on your travels. Light and sporty, the Arrowood Swift features a quick-to-dry mesh upper and a laidback slip-on design, and sleek, modern styling. The water-ready Ariaprene upper is soft and quick drying, and facilitates breathability, so you can expect day-long comfort during those casual weekends away.
The shoe boasts a durable, lightweight FloatLite outsole with rubber pods, which offers good traction. Alongside that Ariaprene upper, breathable mesh lining and textile insole, the shoe has an easy hook-and-loop closure for, well, easy on and off usage. The only down side for me is that the shoe is not available in half sizes, so I remain ever hopeful that my test pair does not get too loose after time. £85,00, www.teva.co.uk
…and for the bottom layer
BRIDGEDALE COOLFUSION TRAILBLAZE
Okay, it is a bit old hat to say you will be blazing the trail here, but what you do get is a lightweight hybrid construction with anti-compression cushioning at the Achilles heel and metatarsal head. Fusion Technology is a unique blend of knitting technology, so expect a combination of the highest quality yarns wrapped with high-performance microfibres. T2 anti-compression loop technology is exclusive to Bridgedale. In essence, this is a loop within a loop, which offers an additional level of impact protection, with the inner loop boasting even more resilience than the outer loop for cushioning when you need it. Those targeted cushioning and mesh panels will also help ensure all-day comfort and ventilation. £16.49, www.bridgedale.com
Tester: Michael Cowton