In Part #1 of this review I went into great detail about my first impressions of this boot. I have to say I was duly impressed. And FYI, so was the 70+ year-old leather guy I had stretch em for me.
OK, I have had plenty of time to tryout the boots, including the break-in phase. My White’s took a full 80+ hours of actual hiking to break them in to the point where I thought they wouldn’t cripple me by wearing them all day. The Lowa’s didn’t take as long, but proper breaking in does take some time. Don’t try to shortcut this process, you will find yourself regretting it with very sore feet.
As of now I have about 20 or so hours in the boot. I have hiked into the steep granite mountains in our area as well as so deep sandy arroyos. I think the boots will take about 15 – 20 hours of “break-in” before I can handle an all-day hike.
One of the things I noticed right away was how stable it kept my ankle while traversing rocky rough ground. And when you are carrying a heavy pack it is vitally important that your ankles are completely stable and not prone to being “turned.” The other thing I noticed was the padding inside of the boot. It has to form to your foot as well. When I first started out I noticed a feeling of bunching right below the outside of my ankles. Fortunately I was wrong. It was just the regular padding (Gore-Tex liner) that I was feeling. As the boots learned the right place to flex as I walked and climbed, the “bunching” feeling went away.
The other things I noticed when I started out was that cocoon feeling was a bit snug. Again, it was the liner being nice and thick to start with. But it soon molded to match my foot and ankle area just fine.
One of the really nice aspects of the boot that I found myself loving was the firm shank. What I am getting at is there isn’t a whole lot of flex to the sole of the boot. And that is a really, really good thing. When you are climbing over rocks of any size you don’t want to feel all them poking you in the bottom of your foot. Put your tennis shoes on, walk over different size rocks in rough terrain and you will understand what I mean.
Another aspect to the firm and solid sole is stabilizing your foot. When you are carrying an additional 30 – 60 pounds in your pack you want your foot very stable, not prone to twisting, turning, or the sole of your foot getting beat up on smaller rocks. This boot smoothed all of that out what stabilizing your foot. The 9” height also added to that as well.
The hike before last I was sure the boots were a “no-go” for sure. My feet were sore, walking was uncomfortable and I was ready to give up. But, having spent so much money on these boots I was hating that idea. So I had one idea left…a long hike in the steep, rocky mountains to figure it out once and for all.
Up to this point I had done the following:
- 6 hours of wearing them in the office.
- two 1-1/2hr hikes in the mountains on a rocky trail.
- 4 separate hikes in the desert arroyos nearby.
- 1hr hike along a smooth gravel trail.
But now the real test…the make-it or break-it for these boots.
I got tot the parking area and swapped out my tennis shoes for my boots. I had brought a pair of my Minus33 Merino wool socks to wear vs. my Smartwool socks. No particular reason other than my Smartwook pair that I had been using was dirty and the Minus33 pair was on top of the stack. I am glad they were. I got saddled up and headed up the foothills trail. Three separate times I re-laced my boots to get them more comfortable. I was discouraged with how they were feeling but I was determined to give them a fair trial.
I finally got to the steep mountain part of the trail and headed up into some gnarly country. I just kept going and going and was thrilled with the performance of the Lowa’s. I did a little side-track to hit a slick granite slope of about 40degrees or so. I wanted to test the grip of the soles. I was duly impressed. Then I did another little jaunt over to a degraded granite rock scree. The footing was just fine, the boots held onto whatever was available and I never slid once.
Now, on to the last part of the hike and that was a push over a steep saddled that drops off into an incredible mountain pool of water. Yup, a pool of water way up in the mountains in the desert southwest. Well, there is one minor drawback…mountains lions. Yeah, they are known to hunt this pool of water since all the game in the area has to come here to drink. Oh well…no lions this particular day. Well, none that I saw 😉
I hiked down some wet trail…footing just fine, no slippage. I got the pool and there is a solid granite face about 35 – 40degree slope that has been washed smooth over thousands of years of water flowing over it. So, you guessed it! I walked up it to test that footing. Bingo! No problems.
I took a little time to wash my feet in the cool mountain spring-fed pool of water. It really felt good. I wrote a whole LESSONS LEARNED post on it. It should be posting within a week or two. I talk about how to take care of your feet while hiking.
So I finally decide I have to head back down to civilization with clean, refreshed feet. I got back into the boots, laced them back up. I immediately noticed a change. I had hit the break-over point. While my boots are not fully broken-in yet, I finally got to the point where they weren’t killing me. I am sure it was the steep climbing and heating up my boots. It will still take another 20 or so hours of break-in but I am confident now that they are keepers.
When I thought about it on the drive back to town I realized what really made the difference more than anything else, my Minus33 socks. My Smartwool socks were just not the right socks for this boot, the Minus33 socks were. I can’t explain it to you, I can only tell you what happened…and the Minus33 socks rocked it!
More exactly they are the Minus33 Merino wool, Day Hiker Sock –
• Full plush lambs wool cushioning throughout arch support
• Flat toe seam stretchs fibers from toe to toe for snug fit
• Impact areas reinforced with double nylon for durability
• 85% Merino Lambswool, 13% Stretch Nylon, 2% Spandex
One thing for sure…I will be going with one of my Superfeet insoles, sad, but true. The insole that comes with the boot just didn’t provide enough support to my arch. You might have better luck than me.
Overall – the boot is excellent! It is made for carrying a heavy load, in rough country, for long distances in cold and/or wet conditions. You will spend a lot of money for these boots but they are worth it. They are worth every penny.
One thing I noticed, keep them conditioned. That means clean the leather and keep it conditioned to be water resistant. If not, you will find yourself with wet feet. But you should be taking care of your boots anyways.
And as for the desert southwest heat…these boots are just fine. Yes, they are insulated against cold, but it also insulates against the heat. And I have no idea how they do it, but if you ware wearing good quality wool socks, which you should be doing, the heat escapes through the boot or wicks out the top. I am not sure which, but my feet didn’t over heat. Same is true for the other folks that I know that wear these boots here in our area.
On the flip side…when it is cold outside these boots do just fine. I wear high-quality Smartwool socks and didn’t have any discomfort, But I didn’t wear the boots in below zero weather either. But from what I have researched, there shouldn’t a problem in cold weather, colder than zero. I don’t personally know the lower temperature range of these boots but I would not hesitate to wear them in below zero conditions with the right socks.
So…to buy or not to buy?
Related Articles –
- Lowa Tibet GTX boots – Part #1
- Lowa Tibet GTX boots – Part #2
- Lowa Tibet GTX boots – Part #3
- Merrell Moab Boots
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