Hoka One One Sky Arkali
Curiouser and curiouser. Hoka One One sprang (for that’s what you do in these) onto the scene a few years ago as an antidote to the minimum/barefoot movement. These were Maxi with a capital ‘M’. The design of the shoe added to the perception too. The brand became known for spongy, comfortable pavement pounding road running shoes, and recently moved, successfully into trail running shoes and also to hiking. But, Jim, it’s not like any hiking boots we’ve ever seen, and, of course, that’s no bad thing. The Sky Arkali is one of three new models (with the Toa and Kaha) that move higher up the mountain. And that’s where any similarity to typical hiking boots stops.
The idea is that it takes Hoka’s running shoe expertise and posits it in a hiking boot. They do feel very much like trail running shoes, but with a mid-level cuff that comes up around the ankles. The lacing is a mixture of laces and velcro around the very top. Despite feeling a bit like the shoes you got before you could tie your laces, it works brilliantly – the Bring Back Velcro Laces campaign starts here! It has a sock-like fit with an elasticated cover and is, well, astonishingly comfortable. I tested them out in wintry conditions on a long, two-day walk in the Brecon Beacons (with some snow cover) and they were supremely comfortable, straight out of the box too. They’re not waterproof, but even the water in Wales took a few hours to penetrate. On summer hikes, these are the boots you want. Other features include a Kevlar-enforced upper, high-abrasion rubber toe cap, and an aggressive Vibram rubber outsole with 5mm lugs.
Not a problem depending on end use, but be aware they’re not waterproof.
Kevlar-enforced MATRYX upper / High-abrasion rubber toe cap / Vibram rubber outsole with 5mm lugs / Velcro fastening.
Columbia Terrebonne II OutDRY Mid
The most important part of the unwieldy name of these boots is OutDRY, a significant technology that is owned by the group behind Columbia. Simply put, this method allows the waterproof membrane to be laminated to the upper. Most boots on test here have a waterproof ‘bootie’ that is placed inside the boot. There are two main advantages to the OutDRY method: firstly, because the waterproof membrane is stuck to the inside of the upper, there isn’t any space for water to sit and get logged in. Secondly, there’s not as much bulk to the shoe. It’s a technology we’ve seen in boots gloves and backpacks – keep an eye out for it.
So what of the boots? Well, they are strikingly low cut – almost a shoe – just about protecting the ankle. This helps cut down on weight, and they are indeed impressively light. The outsole isn’t the most aggressive, so we’d put these down as a pair of boots for walking on existing, not too technical trails. And for this they’d be excellent: they are comfortable, light, with a wide toe box and don’t have too many extras. There is also a reasonable amount of cushioning. You could happily spend a full day walking in these and barely notice them. The uppers are mainly leather with a mesh tongue area. The lacing is fine for a low-level boot, and they seem very well made.
Lightweight, comfortable, excellent cushioning.
Not designed for tough technical trails, but not a criticism.
Waterproof, full grain leather and mesh upper with a scratch rubber toecap / Omni-Grip non-marking traction rubber / OutDRY waterproof, breathable construction / Techlite lightweight midsole.
The Karraig are the first pair of boots Keen has specially designed for the UK market, that’s to say they’re designed for mud, high mountain passes and more mud. They are the most sturdy boots from Keen that we’ve tested, with a thick rubber rand, especially around the toe – you can imagine these faring well on a bit of Highland scrambling.
They are particularly high too, completely covering the ankle and they offer excellent support. This is partly down to the sophisticated lacing system. Because of the toughness of the leather, getting a tight fit around the lower part of the foot requires a fair bit of strength. A mixture of lace-locking clamps, plus two of the lacing holes pull around the back of the foot ensure a good fit, but they really need a tug.
Another improvement on Keen boots, and good for these islands, is an aggressive outsole with 5mm lugs.
What remains Keen through and through, however, is the spongy cushioning and a full, comfortable toe box. A KEEN.Dry waterproof membrane allows you to spend hours on the trails in these and stay warm, dry and comfortable. They are made with leather and mesh upper that looks as though it will last and last. Overall, a very comfortable boot for wet and cold weather in the mountains.
For more on this check out our full Keen Karraig Walking Boot Review.
Comfortable, warm, excellent ankle support.
Lacing requires some adjustment.
Premium leather and performance mesh upper / High rebound PU midsole / Integrated dynamic ankle support / 5mm wide lugs / KEEN.DRY® waterproof, breathable membrane / High abrasion rubber tip.
Hanwag Tatra II GTX
German manufacturers Hanwag make exceptional boots designed with the landscapes of the Alps in mind. We’ve come to appreciate the brand as a mark of quality craftsmanship; these are boots we reckon would last a lifetime with care. They can be resoled too.
The company makes a wide range of mountaineering and trekking boots, as well as trail and approach shoes. The Tatra II GTX is a hugely popular trekking boot, made with a durable leather upper and with as few seams as possible. The sole is super sturdy too, very stiff (not crampon-compatible) but it gives you the feeling that you can wander over any terrain. These do feel indestructible.
The lacing is particularly efficient, with ball-bearing runners that also clamp tight on four of the lower eyelets and then there are regular hooks. Once fastened tight, the cuff high above the ankle is comfortable thanks to a soft leather interior lining. Caps at the heel and toe help protect the foot. So far, so great. The only criticism aimed at these is that they are heavy, more than any others on test here. In many ways, these are the quintessential trekking boot: leather, durable, solidly built.
Here’s our full video review of the boot…
Excellent lacing, beautifully made, comfortable.
Nubuck leather / Gore-Tex membrane / Vibram AW Integral sole.
Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX
These are one of the best-selling boots in the UK and with good reason. They are superbly comfortable and very well made. The first thing to notice is how high these are. They go well above the ankle and up to the shin. It makes them very stable on rocky ground – the chances of going over on your ankle in these is slim. And while they feel secure, I also found enough wiggle room for my toes, keeping them warm but also helping with balance.
The sole is reasonably stiff – up a steep Munro these would be perfect, they are also rigid torsionally. The lacing is good too, drawing in well around the foot – straight out of the box I had no hotspots at all.
There’s a reasonable amount of cushioning with a good roll to the boots, even the size 11s I tested. I certainly found they we’re comfortable across the day. The outsole is reasonably aggressive, especially on the heels – they feel wonderful heading downhill.
I’m struggling to find any criticism, only that I did find them among the warmest on the test. After all, they are high, with a Gore-Tex lining and chunky leather and fabric upper.
Overall, an excellent option. No wonder they are bought in the bucket load.
For more, check out our full Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX review
Lightweight, comfortable, well made.
They do run warm.
Yorkshire-based Alt-Berg is home to true craftspeople. It is a company that takes ingredients and fit very seriously; there’s even a custom fitting service at the workshop. Even just holding a pair of Alt-Berg boots in your hands, you can feel the quality.
On test is the Nordkapp, a three-season boot designed for long days on Scottish Munros or English fells.
One of the critical components that make this boot stand apart is the seamless one-piece of Italian Nubuck leather that forms the upper. It makes it comfortable and durable. There’s also a waterproof membrane behind it, plus a wide rubber rand to protect the leather against scuffs. Underfoot, there’s a solid Vibram sole, again designed for British mountains.
A traditional leather boot is heavy, no doubt, but you’ll have these safe in the knowledge that they’ll last and last, plus the workshop offers a resoling service. When you get the fit right, and you should, you’ll feel as though you can take on any mountain.
Very well made, durable, comfortable.
Italian Nubuk leather / Sympatex, waterproof, breathable membrane lining / Vibram Masai/Micro / Full rubber abrasion resistant rand / shock absorbing micro midlayer between sole and foot.
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