“Just so you know, it might feel like your legs are taking off,” warned the shop assistant. 20 seconds later and the bags I was wearing like giant socks began inflating, slowly lifting my feet off the ground and forcing my knees to push up against the Velcro straps that were holding them down.
The reason for this strange process was because I was trying on the Tecnica Forge, a three-season hiking boot that uses thermo-moulding to provide a fit to match the shape of your feet. Plenty of acclaim has already gone the Tecnica Forge's way this year with the jury at ISPO Gear Expo naming it Product of the Year for 2018, and the Outdoor Industries Association in the UK shortlisting it in the footwear category of their annual awards.
Now, thermo-moulding isn’t anything new. Many skiers and snowboarders will already have come across the same boot fitting method before – it’s been around for a number of years. However, this is the first time it has been used in a hiking boot.
How They’re Moulded
Shops that stock the Tecnica Forge, like ProFeet in West London where I had mine fitted, all have technical equipment that’s used for the molding process, and there are specially trained shop assistants to take you through it.
Tecnica Forge First Look
Available from: Specialist retailers Profeet, or online (unfitted)
First of all, the insoles are warmed up in a kind of oven for around five minutes, then they’re placed into little plimsol-like booties which you then slip on before stepping into the aforementioned giant sock-like bags which are inflated around your feet. It feels a little bit like getting your blood pressure taken – it’s not uncomfortable, or at least the process finishes before it will start to feel uncomfortable.
After this, the boots themselves, having had their turn in the oven, are slipped on and worn through the same process in the inflatable bags. And that’s that. All-in-all, the fitting takes about 15 minutes.
The Features of the Forge
Even aside from this clever thermo-moulding stuff, Tecnica's Forge boots are very impressive. They have a Vibram stole with a sizeable high heel brake, a waterproof Gore-Tex membrane, self-locking laces, nice foam cushioning around the ankle and a uniquely shaped tongue. There’s a synthetic version, which I was fitted with, and there’s also a leather option.
How They Felt
After the fitting, I had a walk around in the shop and the specialised fit was noticeable. I’ve got narrow heels and most boots tend to feel too loose around them but these felt pleasantly snug. I also have a slightly high instep and I could feel plenty of support from the insole here.
After this, I wore the boots on an admittedly, fairly tame 5km walk across a London common to a pub –and I had no problems. They felt sturdy, grippy and not too warm on the sunny spring day.
Not a proper test I know, but there's one coming I can assure you. Make sure to keep an eye on the site for it over the next few weeks.