Ask Me: What Boots Do You Recommend For Treks in the Alps and Scottish Highlands?
[ML Note: I received the following two similar questions from readers, and the boots recommendations given in each response would apply to both.]
I am a subscriber of your blog. I really enjoy your posts and value your opinion. I’ve undertaken a number of long hikes in Europe. I’ve always used heavy boots and I want to hear your opinion on the use of lightweight boots. This summer, a group of people very close to me will join me on Scotland’s West Highland Way (152 km). I frequently use your tips and experiences to prepare them in relation to the needed gear (as it will be the first time for all of them) and fitness preparation. I am considering La Sportiva Core High GTX. Would you recommended it for a hike carrying about eight kilos? My second option is the Salomon Quest 4D 2 GTX. I am of course open to recommendations. I would be grateful if I could have your opinion.
Thank you in advance,
I’ve hiked and backpacked in and reviewed the La Sportiva Core High GTX. I’ve also reviewed the Salomon Quest 4D 2 GTX. I suggest you take a good look at both; you’ll see these two boot models are really quite different.
The Salomon Quest is heavier, stiffer, and significantly more protective and supportive than the Core High GTX; the Quest is just a much bigger boot for carrying loads of 30 to 40 pounds. The Core High GTX is very lightweight, fine for carrying eight kilos, although I think it has a minimalist midsole that doesn’t offer substantial protection against rocky trails. I would say that if you prioritize low weight in a mid-cut boot over getting a lot of support and protection, and your feet and legs are strong enough to not need the support and protection of a heavier boot, then the Core High GTX is a good choice.
The other thing to consider is that lightweight boots like the Core High GTX, even when they’re waterproof-breathable, do tend to soak through eventually on a wet trip, such as the West Highland Way would typically be. The Salomon Quest would keep your feet drier and warmer in wet conditions.
I would love to hear what you think of the West Highland Way, I’ve thought about trekking it for years, but have not been there yet. I have done some hiking in the Scottish Highlands with my family, but our kids were very young then, so we were limited. Now they’re old enough to do much more.
Good luck and write anytime with questions. Thanks for writing and following The Big Outside. I’m pleased to have readers in Cyprus!
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Thank you for your reply, it is truly appreciated. Thank you for your effort to inform people like me. What you do is important for us.
I wish all the best to you and your family.
Regards from Cyprus,
Marios and the gang
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This year, we are planning to hike the Tour du Mont Blanc in the Alps in July as part of a father-daughter trip to celebrate her high school graduation. Would you have any recommendations for a pair of hiking boots for her?
Ellicott City, MD
Nice to hear from you again, I’m glad my advice was useful and that you pulled off such a fantastic trip in Glacier.
I’ve long wanted to trek the Tour du Mont Blanc, so I hope you’ll tell me how it is and share some photos when you get back. What a great high-school graduation present!
I have trekked a couple of times in the Alps and done treks in similar terrain and conditions in Italy’s Dolomites and in Norway. Finding the right boots depends quite a bit on an individual’s feet and finding the brand whose boots fit you/her well. You should take a look at my “Pro Tips For Buying the Right Boots.”
That said, given that you don’t have to carry too much weight on a hut trek (no camping gear and not much food), but you could encounter plenty of rocky trail, elevation gain and loss, and possibly snow, I would suggest a reliably waterproof-breathable, midweight boot (roughly weighing 2 to 3 lbs. for a pair of men’s 9, which is the six many companies use for weight comparisons), that has decent forefoot flex for easy striding, and a fairly aggressive outsole—deep, wide lugs—for all kinds of trail conditions.
Take a look at my backpacking boots reviews. Again, I emphasize it’s critical that she try on different models to see how they fit and feel. But the type of boots I’d recommend would include these models:
Salewa Alp Flow Mid GTX (read my review)
Oboz Bridger Mid BDry (read my review)
Scarpa R-evolution GTX (read my review)
Asolo women’s Tacoma Gv (read my review of it and the men’s Triumph Gv GTX)
Salomon Quest 4D 2 GTX (read my review)
Salomon Conquest GTX (read my review)
Scarpa Tech Ascent GTX (read my review)
Some avid trekkers would advise you to go with lightweight, mid-cut boots or low-cut shoes (around 2 lbs. or less per pair), either with or without a waterproof-breathable membrane. And I don’t completely disagree—that can work for someone who’s a strong hiker and doesn’t require a lot of support from footwear when carrying a light pack that doesn’t weigh more than around 20 lbs./9 kilos. Plus, midweight boots with any waterproof-breathable membrane can get hot on sunny, warm days, which can make feet sweaty, whereas lightweight boots or shoes tend to be cooler—even lighter boots or shoes with a waterproof-breathable membrane, provided the uppers are made of more-breathable synthetic fabric instead of suede or leather (which is warmer and more water-repellent).
But anyone choosing very lightweight boots or shoes should also not mind hiking with wet, possibly cold feet at times, because really lightweight shoes and boots (even with a waterproof-breathable membrane) aren’t always going to protect feet from water, rain, mud, puddles, and snow as well as boots that are made with finer craftsmanship and materials.
I wore a pair of lightweight boots with a membrane and synthetic uppers for a week of trekking in Norway’s Jotunheimen National Park, in a lot of snow and wet conditions. And even though it wasn’t a major problem, and we stayed in a hut every night where I could dry out my boots, I spent most of each day with wet, somewhat cold feet and got a little tired of it. (I had brought lightweight, mid-cut boots to Norway thinking we wouldn’t see as much snow as we did and that those boots would be adequately waterproof. But even when they have a membrane, lightweight boots with synthetic uppers are better for conditions that are only a little wet, like splashing through an occasional puddle; they tend to get overwhelmed in constantly wet conditions.)
See all of my reviews of backpacking boots and my reviews of backpacking gear at The Big Outside. See also my stories “Buying Gear? Read This First,” “5 Tips For Spending Less on Hiking and Backpacking Gear,” “The Simple Equation of Ultralight Backpacking: Less Weight = More Fun,” and “Ask Me: How Do We Begin Lightening Up Our Backpacking Gear?”
I hope that’s helpful. Let me know if you have any more specific questions.
Have a great trip.
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