I must have written more posts about boots than any other piece of walking equipment I’ve ever owned, and I don’t imagine this will be the last one either! It seems my search for the right pair of lightweight walking boots continues. I’ve long since given up looking for the ‘perfect boots’ and over the past two or three years, I’ve been working on finding a ‘good enough’, compromise boot.
For many years, until about 2015, I swore by Salomon boots. Their Missions and Comets were very comfortable and fairly waterproof, but build quality wasn’t great and the upper would fall apart quite badly and they stopped being waterproof after just a few short months. For about three years I then switched to trail shoes and used a mixture of Salomon and Inov-8, but I eventually got fed up with having wet feet all the time, and the amount of debris that gets into the shoe, resulting in stopping often to knock them out.
In 2019 I switched to Inov-8 Roclite 345 GTX Mid boots and I while I had a love-hate relationship with them, I had three pairs of these over a couple of years. I loved them for their comfort and fit, and hated them for their poor longevity. After the second pair fell apart over a spectacularly short period of time, I wrote this Twitter thread about them….
Unfortunately, I’d already bought the third pair, so I used them, knowing they weren’t the boots I was looking for. I wore them for the Speyside Way in early 2022 and the soles were so worn down that I felt almost every stone I walked on. In June 2022 I took a walk up Shutlingsloe with my old friend Matt and he expounded the virtues of his Salomon X-Ultra 4 shoes. I’d been using a pair of X-Ultra 2 shoes for local walks for a few years and they’d lasted really well, probably doing close to a thousand miles over their lifetime. I didn’t want to go back to trail shoes for hill walking though, but the XU4s also come in a Mid boot, so I tried them. An added bonus is that they come in a wide fit, so I didn’t have to add the extra half size, which I’ve always done with Salomon shoes.
I’ve been using the Salomon X-Ultra 4 Mid Wide GTX boots since July 2022 and I’ve just worn out my second pair! That’s two pairs of boots in under 12 months. Bear in mind that for most of the winter, I was using my Salomon Quest Element GTX boots, which are a full height boot and better suited to wet and slippery conditions. Two pairs of boots in 12 months is a new ‘low’ for me. If I could find them for £100, then maybe I could justify them (although I doubt it). However, Salomon have moved away from selling through retailers, who offer good discounts and special offers, and now only sell direct, at list price – so there’s no way I’m paying £170 for a pair of boots that are only going to last a few months.
In the case of both sets of X-Ultra 4s, it’s the soles of the boots that degrade, not the uppers. As you can see from the pictures below (of the second pair of boots), the uppers are fine, but the soles have been worn down to almost nothing. This second pair of boots have lasted me 10 weeks! I know I’m doing more walking, but I would guess they’ve probably done no more than 250 miles.
So it was, completely frustrated with both Inov-8 and Salomon, that I posted an appeal on Twitter, for people to recommend lightweight, waterproof boots, ideally with a wide fitting. I needed a new perspective, some new brands to investigate and the best way to do that I figured, was to ask like-minded people who have gone down the same path. The response was incredible and I received recommendations for boot brands I’d never considered, and in some cases, never even heard of.
I did a load of research and eventually decided to try a pair of La Sportiva Ultra Raptor II Mid Wide GTX – I got them for £135, which isn’t too bad (provided they last more than a couple of months) and they arrived a couple of days ago. They feel really comfortable, albeit I’ve only had them on in the house so far and they are certainly a higher cut Mid than I’m used to.
You can see from the pictures below, when I stand the Raptor next to one of my current X-Ultra 4 Mid, the Raptor has a much higher ankle, which should help reduce debris. There is only a very small weight penalty for this extra height, the Raptors weight 988g for a size 11, compared to 925g for the same size XU4s. I’ll get them wet later today or tomorrow and all being well, they’ll go with me on the Southern Upland Way in a couple of weeks. I can’t imagine the XU4s will manage the SUW, as my heel is already sliding all over the place when I encounter mud or wet grass.
One final word about Inov-8s before I close this post out. When I was looking for a replacement for the XU4s, I noticed that Inov-8 have released a new ‘V2’ range of both their Roclite 345 GTX and the Roclite 400 GTX and part of the marketing blurb says they should last longer than the earlier versions. I’m not wholly convinced, but I am tempted to give the 400s a try. The 345s provide very little sole protection from stoney tracks, but the heavier 400s may well do. At the moment these are fairly new, so there’s not many deals to be had, and I’m not prepared to pay £200 for a pair of Inov-8s that may only last a couple of months. If, over the coming months, they come down to the £150 area, then I may give the 400s a go. Watch this space I guess.