What place do hiking boots have in a Goodyear welted collection? A look at three options
Updated: Dec 14, 2021
Something a bit different today. Most of my shoes and boots are on the dressier side, but I do like to keep a rotation of more practical boots for hiking or traveling (obviously they've seen rather less mileage in the last year or so). On the rare occasion that you do exert yourself physically, it makes sense to be well shod.
Now, big disclaimer here: I make no claims to being an expert on hiking boots. I know what I like the look of and what feels comfy - but if you want an in-depth analysis of support, water resistance, breathability etc. you'll need to head to a relevant outdoorsy forum. This post is more a reflection that hiking boots don't have to be an anomalous part of your shoe collection that you keep hidden in the closet.
Viberg 2055 Boots
Size UK 10
A recent purchase - I've never really owned many pairs from the big American makers (eg. Alden, Red Wing, Viberg, White's) - they aren't easy to get hold of this side of the Atlantic, and sizing is a bit of a minefield.
These were purchased from Marrkt's recent Viberg sale. They do run somewhat large - on reflection I would choose a Viberg 9.5 in future (the same as my UK size, so a far cry from the usual US > UK conversion) but when securely laced up the fit is good.
I've done some longer walks in them now, and they are actually impressively comfortable. The soles have excellent grip, and aesthetically I find the tobacco leather to be really versatile for jeans. It's also pretty impervious to inclement weather and physical abuse.
Some may find the slightly banana-shaped last a bit on the blobby and formless side - they are clearly a million miles away from the dressy look of British makers. But overall they are the pair that I have been reaching for most frequently when the weather is looking threatening.
Meindl Bhutan MFS Boots
Size UK 10.5
The least fashion-focused of the three pairs, Meindl are a very established maker for hiking boots. This pair took me across Japan (or at least across a couple of cities in Japan) in 2019, if not in style then very much in comfort.
Sizewise they appear very large on paper - I usually take a UK 9.5, and these are closer to UK 10.5 or UK 11. Certain assumptions are made about wearing thicker socks etc. with these. The fit is good though - they require a very tight lacing, and when fully laced to the top there is no sliding or extra room.
The soles feature Memory Foam System padding, which moulds pleasingly to the foot over time. The uppers are a nubuck olive leather, with a Gore-Tex waterproof lining. The Vibram sole is stiff but very high-grip.
On the downside, they are undeniably a chunky and heavy pair of boots. On the foot this feels less noticeable after time, but if you put them next to another pair of boots for comparison, they are somewhat gigantic, and they take up a pretty aggressive amount of space in the suitcase.
Vermodalen Saint Denis Dutone Boots
Size UK 10
Ordered through Kickstarter, these were something of a saga to obtain, with multiple delays and unexpected challenges during the manufacturing process. The guy running the Kickstarter was nice though, and my need wasn't particularly urgent, but I can see why some of the backers became frustrated.
The end result is certainly an unusual-looking boot - the combination of reddish-brown and black is eye-catching. They are somewhat let down by some poor finishing - one of the boots had a ridge of leather protruding along the interior that dug viciously into the side of my foot. It was resolved with a couple of plasters stuck over it, but not ideal. The leather itself was also somewhat squeaky around the tongues, and is of a slightly plasticky quality compared to some of my higher-end pairs.
However, I was won over by some of the details - the St Denis laser-cut logo tag on the side of each boot is very appealing, and the soles are ferociously grippy. They also fit into a "normal" outfit better than the other two pairs due to slightly more modest overall proportions.