Published on October 21st, 2011 | by Greg0
Boot Up With Lowa: Serious Footwear, Part One
Someone wise once insisted: Winter is coming. It’s hard to argue with fact, and even in San Francisco, temperatures drop and folks grab jackets and hats and scarves. And though we don’t get much in the way of snow, a regular ritual is the trip to Tahoe, where snow is a way of life. Not all of us love skiing and snowboarding- some of the staff far prefer surfing or climbing in Hawaii- but we sent out a brave soul willing to suffer temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit with the purpose of testing out two footwear options.
Today, we’ve got the LOWA Renegade GTX Mid men’s boots. LOWA isn’t a name you hear a lot in the United States, but we suspect that will be changing. Handcrafted in Europe, this was a surprisingly sleek and sexy pair of leather boots, intended for all-terrain use. GORE-TEX waterproof lining isn’t a surprise, but one thing that caught our eye was the Vibram EVO outsole. Made by the same folks behind FiveFingers, those almost-barefoot gloves for your toes, it was nice to see the familiar tread pattern and logo , and we loved the traction provided (especially in wetter conditions).
Available in sizes 7.5-16, ours were sized 9.5, and seemed to fit about right if a tad on the small end. Our tester’s foot is a little narrow, but these offered enough padding to support the ankle nicely. We loved the variety of color options available, unlike some footwear we’ve seen, and you can choose from blue or gray as well as a few brown and blacks. The very first time the boots went on, they were immediately comfortable, no breaking in required. Snug, warm, and dry- three important things that many boots can’t handle in inclement conditions. These aren’t necessarily meant for serious alpine use- they just aren’t warm enough- but are absolutely the perfect choice for hiking.
Our first journey involved a variety of obstacles- sand, rocks and gravel, bouldering, wet pavement, as well as plenty of dirt and mud. The reasonably light weight was a factor- despite the ruggedness, these manage to stay around two pounds total. With boots, you have to carefully consider your likely conditions and your normal use- if you’re going to be on your feet all day or wearing a pair for hours on end, comfort is absolutely paramount. Often, we’d recommend an after-market insole, but the included ones were as good as we’ve seen- cushioned but perforated for what they call climate control. Indeed, despite a relative lack of ventilation visible in these, feet were cozy and fairly dry even after hours of challenging hiking.
Laces were solid, and craftmanship was top-notch- we found no loose stitching, common on inferior designs. And there were remarkably few seams present. We tried scuffing these up and twisting our feet side-to-side, but the marks came right off and our ankles and arches stayed uninjured. While not everyone will love the “mid” style- it can feel a little weird on the back of your foot at first- we got used to it quickly. The footbed and especially the heel were engineered well; in some other shoes you can feel some wobble or give around the heel, but not with these. About the only complaints we registered: the Renegade GTX’s could use a bit more reflective touches for safety, and they are definitely on the pricier side.
A single fall, sprawl, or even just wrong step can be costly though. And one thing we learned early was not to skimp on footwear- nothing is worse than damp feet on a long walk back to camp or on the tail end of a hike. At $200 or so, this could very well be the last pair of boots you’ll need- and it’s our favorite set so far for sheer enduring comfort and stability.