Vasque Boots: St. Elias GTX
I typically prefer a lightweight and low-top boot when hiking, especially in the desert and in warmer weather. I've been known to hit the trail in Bedrock sandals on days when my toes just want to feel the breeze! Trying to choose a pair of heavy-duty, long distance ready boots was quite a puzzle for me. I'm not a fan of high top shoes anyway, so going to a boot with high ankle coverage was a bit tricky. Nothing seemed to fit well or be comfortable.
I tried on at least ten pairs of boots and ended up leaving the store frustrated. We were planning a winter trip to Yosemite and I knew I had to find some boots that could hit the trails in winter weather. It was going to be cold and muddy, and we'd be hiking through significant amounts of snow. I knew "waterproof" would be something I'd appreciate, but I wasn't sure that applied to "normal" hiking boots. I didn't want snow boots, as I also wanted these boots to be practical in our mostly dry and warm California environments.
After trying on too many boots, leaving, going home and reading about several different brands, I ended up back at REI and ready to buy these big bad boots. I was coming off of a difficult leg injury and knew that I needed to buy something with a great deal of support, that could help bear a load on some longer hikes, while also giving me increased stability and traction. The Vasque St. Elias boots seemed to tick all of my "needs" boxes, so I jumped right in.
Sizing was a little tricky, though. I started in the women's boots, naturally, but just couldn't get a comfortable fit. The sales guy recommended that I try the men's size, as it would provide a bit more width and likely be more comfortable for my feet. It worked like a charm, and after walking all around REI, I took them home with me.
The boots joined us on that snowy Yosemite adventure, and they were great. I feel like I have new legs when I wear these boots - excellent support and stability, despite my weak knee (due to injury). The boots kept my toes warm, with some warm Darn Tough socks, and my feet stayed dry. I walked through plenty of snow and even some stream crossings, and my feet stayed dry. We didn't take many long hikes on that trip, as my leg was still healing, but the boots were comfortable right out of the box and worked very well for that trip.
I've also taken these boots to Rocky Mountain National Park and did a quite a lot of miles, including hiking in snow and rain. They are great performers in wet weather.
I'm able to tie them tight around my ankles for hiking and bouldering, but can also loosen the ankle for a relaxing evening at a campsite (or for going through airport security, I've flown in these boots a few times now). They are not ideal for very hot weather, as they can get pretty warm since they are also waterproof. That said, I've worn them in 65-ish degree weather and have been fine. I don't tend to take them along on 80+ degree desert trips.
Here are some details straight from Vasque:
What's It For: Lightweight backpacking, Backpacking,
Benefits: Out-of-the-box comfort, Conformable outsole, Lightweight
Features: GORE-TEX® with Performance Comfort Technology, Molded Rubber Toe Cap
Stats: 3 lbs. 1 oz. (1378g), 2.3mm Waterproof Nubuck Leather Upper, Dual Density EVA Footbed, TPU Shank, A.T.C. (All Terrain Compound) Midsole with EVA Cushioning Pods, Vasque Exclusive Vibram® Frontier with XSTrek Compound Outsole
The EVA cushioning is noticeable in these boots. There is very minimal shock from each step, even when I'm carrying a full backpack. This means feet that feel much less banged up at the end of the day. The TPU shank is noticed when stomping through rocky terrain when rocks won't be stabbing your sole. It also gives a great amount of stability, which I've been mentioning. Despite the stiff shank, the boot has a good amount of flex - not feeling as rigid as some boots. It feels flexible and it moves with the foot while having that rigid protection at the same time. The leather and Gore-Tex combine for waterproofing, but like I mentioned, the Gore-Tex can get warm.
While these boots are bigger and heavier than any other boot, they certainly have a purpose and pair nicely with my more breathable low boots. When the weather, the length of a hike, or the terrain needs something more supportive and stable, my Vasque boots are the ones I grab. They are very comfortable and nice looking, too!
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