First Look - Ecco Ulterra Boot: £150 / 526g
We first became aware of footwear giant Ecco's outdoor credentials last year when we reviewed the Biom Terrain, a super comfortable lightweight hiking boot unusually made from yak leather and using a methodically-developed biometric last.
We were pleasantly surprised, so when the men from Ecco got in touch with the offer to head out for a walk and try the new for autumn 2014 Ulterra boot, we jumped at the chance. Well, sort of lurched at it at any rate. Anyway, the new boot is slightly lighter than the Terrain, but again uses yak leather along with a Gore-Tex liner and direct injection manufacturing.
- Yak nubuck leather uppers
- Gore-Tex waterproof lining
- Lightweight toe and heel protective overlay
- Receptor technology
- DIP (Direct Injection Process) Technology
- PU foam cushioned mid-sole
You may be familiar with Ecco as a brand best known for making, well, 'comfortable' shoes, but as we discovered with the Biom Terrain last year, it also knows how to make a very capable outdoor shoe. So what's different about the new Ulterra?
The men from Ecco explained the basics over a cup of coffee in the Edale caff before heading out. The Ulterra, it transpires, is slightly lighter - by about 40g per boot according to our scales at 526g - and doesn't use the 3D biometric fit developed after measuring several thousand feet.
Made From Yaks
What it does have in common with the Biom Terrain is the use of Yak Nubuck leather, which is produced in Eccos own tannery and is, say the men from Ecco, incredibly tough and therefore can be used thinner and lighter. The boot is also produced using a direct injection process, so the upper is bonded directly to the PU mid-sole unit using just heat, no glue or stitching, for an incredibly strong join.
The other tec badge on the boot is 'Receptor' technology, which shows up as a pair of flex grooves across the forefoot of the Ulterra's sole. Anyway, introductions complete, we booted up and headed out onto the Edale skyline.
Great Heel Fit
First impressions are that the boot is light on the foot with a great heel fit - no lifting or drifting - but plenty of forefoot room. It also feels flatter and more minimal underfoot than the Terrain and on harder surfaces like tarmac, a little under-cushioned.
That feeling disappeared once we got onto proper paths and left a sort of flexible, agile vibe. There's loads of forefoot bend, but plenty of rear foot hold too, which is a nice combination. They also felt really comfortable and managed around four or five hours of solid walking straight out of the box on varied terrain without a single hot-spot or twinge.
Grip seems middling decent on the sort of summer surfaces we encountered, though we suspect the shallow lugs may struggle with really gloomy stuff, only time will tell.
In an ideal world we'd like a boot with just a little more underfoot cushioning, a slightly more aggressive sole unit and a more rounded feel to the footbed - somehow the Ulterra is well, just a little 'flat'. And oddly that just about describes the Biom Terrain, which is only around 40g heavier and costs £15 more. Hmmm...
There's no denying that at £150 the Ecco Ulterra is on the expensive side, but it manages to hit a really nice balance between lightness, instant comfort and high build quality. It's not the most cushioned of boots, particularly in the forefoot, but the pay-off is a nice, light, agile feel on the foot.
All of which is great, but for our money, the Biom Terrain does everything the Ulterra does but with a little more cushion, a little more grip and a hard-to-describe, but subtly nicer fit for a relatively small penalty in terms of both weight and cost and that's the boot we'd be tempted to go for for UK hill use.
Full review to follow.