Thursday, March 07, 2013

Alt-berg - first impressions

After a long wait trying to track down exactly the right size, I'm very excited about my new Alt-bergs.

Most walking stores will spend time making sure your boots are the right size lengthways (finger down the back, standing on their little slope etc etc). But really, what is the point of all that when you get a 'one size fits all' width?

I think my grossly spread feet are the reason why I hate wearing any shoes and always get blisters on the outside of my little toes or between my toes after 25-30 miles.

Alt-berg make boots here in the UK and they make five widths! I'd now be prepared to pay much more, but they're not much more than you'd expect to pay for any of the big names.

My boots are called Fremington - a 3-season walking boot. Size 8 and a half, extra wide.

First impressions:

  • The cuff is a lovely nubuck rather than the more usual fabric (the latter always wears through before the boot has worn out). 
  • The tongue is one-piece all the way up to the top. 
  • The waterproof membrane is Sympatex, a Goretex-type breathable waterproof membrane. (I always buy boots and jackets with Goretex or similar - I like to stay dry!) 
  • The Vibram sole is stiff as a board. Much stiffer than my existing pair (though this may be partly because they're well worn). This is great news - fantastic on uneven ground such as stones or tussocks. Hopefully it'll be slower to wear too.
  • A minus point - they feel noticeably heavy! 740g each compared to my previous (very similar-looking) pair which are 600g each. 
  • They scream "quality"!! Hurray for UK manufacturing.

I was a little disappointed to find that even though I'd bought extra-wide, the sole measured exactly the same as my previous pair - maybe even a couple of mm narrower. On a visual inspection, it's obvious that there's more boot above the sole than my old pair - I assume that the soles are pretty standard and the last (the former that the boot is made on) gives the actual shape and dimensions of the space inside the boot. They don't feel as wide as I would have expected. But trying one of each boot (previous and Alt-berg) on bare feet makes it obvious that the Alt-berg fits my shape better. I can even splay my toes a little! (and that's comparing a well-worn boot with the brand new Alt-berg)

I had read that Alt-berg's sizes aren't generous, and I'd concur - I have half a size bigger than I'd normally buy. Important to try them.

The real test is to walk some distance (10 miles) because your feet really swell. At this point I would normally be feeling uncomfortable inside my regular-width boots - my toes would be feeling constricted, and this would become pain after 25 miles.

And here's the real benefit of my new boots. Even though they're not broken in yet, there was none of that. My toes were still feeling free even after a distance. The next day they're feeling fresher than they normally would. I'm hoping they'll make my longer-distance walks more enjoyable this year - I'll give updates.

(If you're thinking "why isn't she wearing proper walking trousers", I do have two pairs of those. You can tell me all about high-performance materials and wicking etc but give me demin every time. Sure it takes time to dry if it gets wet but I believe it's warmer and tougher so gives better protection against bumps, scuffs, pricks and stings. I'll live without pockets on the legs!)

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