Is Kevlar the future of outdoors footwear? These hiking boots are made from the incredibly strong bulletproof material (along with another unusual ingredient)
Italian brand Naglev have released a fully-featured walking boot made from the bulletproof fabric known as Kevlar – and it’s actually receiving rave reviews. Here’s the lowdown.
First things first, what is Kevlar? Well, it’s “a heat-resistant para-aramid synthetic fibre with a molecular structure of many inter-chain bonds” (yes, we copied and pasted that off Wikipedia). Or, in layman’s terms, it’s the super-strong stuff that goes into bulletproof vests. Fire a gun at a Kevlar vest and the fibres, which are so tightly spun it’s nearly impossible to separate them, will essentially catch the bullet while absorbing and dissipating its energy. With a tensile strength 10 times greater than steel on an equal weight basis, Kevlar is also used in construction projects, motor vehicles, wind turbines, industrial cabling and a thousand other applications.
And now it’s used in hiking boots too. Kevlar in footwear isn’t a new thing. Nike and Adidas have both experimented with Kevlar in their designs since 2013, but now Naglev have brought the technology to the outdoors footwear market. The Naglev Unico Combat Waterproof is a high-ankled, waterproof boot that “combines natural elements with technologically indestructible materials”. The outer shell is made of a single piece of Kevlar while the inner is a glove-like wool sock.
Obviously, the use of Kevlar in the Unico Combat Waterproof is not for its bullet-absorbing capabilities (we don’t recommend firing a gun at your feet when wearing these boots). Instead it was chosen for the fibre’s incredible strength and indestructibility.
“It has a unique combination of high strength, high modulus, toughness and thermal stability”, as Naglev put it, and in terms of durability it’s difficult to think how you can improve on unbreakable. The Kevlar outer uses a so-called “sandwich construction” integrating the cable lacing, padding and stiffener, and securely locks the ankle in combination with a soft leather spoiler.
But Kevlar isn’t the only unique material used in this boot – it also features coconut fibres. You weren’t expecting that. But perhaps Kevlar’n’Coconut will become a new classic combo. Used in the insole of the boots, coconut fibres are 100% natural, biodegradeable, chemical-free and have a “springy fibrous structure that makes your feet feel as if they are lying in a nice comfy bed”.
The use of wool in the internal sock liner and tongue, which provides enhanced comfort and moisture-wicking, is rather innovative too. Other materials used include a band of elastic that contours the ankle, natural gum rubber in the outsole (which is soft, supple and flexible with a rugged lug pattern for good traction), a protective TPU rand and vegetable-dyed leather in various parts of the boot.
The overall result is a simple, clean and minimalist boot with a creative design and innovative materials, priced at €260. It’s reputedly strong and durable, but weighs only 420g per shoe (that’s lighter than a standard hiking boot, such as the Hanwag Banks GTX at 625g per shoe), and you also get good abrasion-resistance (naturally) and full waterproofing. Online reviews are generally positive. ”Stiff” and “requires breaking in” are often cited as cons, whereas “strong”, “supportive” and “robust” are commonly referenced pros.
Based in the Alps in the Italian region of Montebelluna, famed for its long history of footwear production, Naglev is a young brand with a unique take on hiking. Run by father and daughter duo Achille and Elettra Morlin, whose family have been in the footwear business for 130 years, Naglev built its reputation on the Naglev Unico Hiker shoe, a precursor to the new Unico Combat Waterproof. The brand’s philosophy focuses on the use of sustainable materials, cutting-edge technology and single-piece construction without unnecessary seams.
Is Kevlar the future? We’re not too sure and the jury is still out – but these boots remain incredibly intriguing.
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