Many of us remember hiking boots back when they were solid, full grain leather models with impressive norwegian welts.
These were esthetic and durable but only conformed to the feet after the painful process of “breaking-in,” in which the boots inflicted blisters until the feet calloused up in the sensitive places and the boots softened a little.
And it was only ever a little. Also, traditional leather boots heavy and only ever marginally waterproof, and then with constant retreatment with sealants.
The alternative of lighter, synthetic models with waterproof Goretex linings or laminates offered welcome lighter options, but forfeited the ankle and foot protection and the stability of the solid traditional hiking boot.
Tecnica offers a new design with the Forge GTX MSRP $330 (Nubuck leather upper) and Forge S GTX MSRP $350 (synthetic upper) that takes on all of these Achilles heels of hiking boot design.
The Forge is light, (1 lb 5 oz. in size nine) provides the protection of a padded ankle collar, the stability of a flexible but solid sole and waterproof Goretex uppers and an insole that eliminates the break-in period.
The secret of the perfect instant fit are the separate insole and booty that are thermally moulded to each wearer’s foot in a special machine. The process involves sitting with your feet in the warm, loud moulding machine for a few minutes, but afterwards, the boots will fit your feet like no other you have ever worn.
The quest to eliminate hotspots extends to other features, like the use of an ankle collar, rather than a traditional tongue, and lace locks that allow the user to further customize fit by varying the lace tension on the upper and lower boot.
As survivors of breaking in many boots, we were trepidatious of the claims of no hotspots, but with just a few kilometres on them, they were more comfortable on long, rocky hikes than broken-in leather models.
The vibram Megagrip sole was also a revelation, as it struck a compromise between friction on smooth surfaces and traction in the mud. A foam layer between the sole and mid-sole softened out some of the rocks and other bumps. In all, these boots provided protection and comfort on the toughest terrain.
The Forge will appeal to climbers and serious backpackers who need the protection of a full-on boot and do not want to compromise on fit and comfort. A high-end trekking boot for demanding users.