Q:

Do hiking boots made with fabric uppers offer enough ankle support?

Are backpacking boots made with fabric uppers stiff enough for good ankle support and protection against sharp rocks? I'm looking at the Kayland Apex Trek for a trip to Alaska, where I will glacier walk with crampons. Most of my other packing is done in the lower 48. John Evanston, Illinois

May 8, 2008
Outside
Outside Magazine
Kayland Apex Trek Boot

Apex Trek Boot

A:

It’s certainly true that today’s boots increasingly are “hybrids"—part leather, part fabric. For the most part, that creates a more comfortable boot, as fabric doesn’t need any break-in period. Fabric also is lighter, and, well, cheaper than leather. So you most often see it in sub-$150 boots. Also, take into account the notion that fabrics don’t soften as much as leather over time. So while such a boot may feel softer at first, it’s apt to hold up pretty well.

That said, I wouldn’t call the Kayland Apex ($250) so much “fabric" as “synthetic." It’s really a light mountaineering boot with a rigid sole that’s fully crampon compatible. Its uppers consist of microfiber along with a tough nylon material that looks a bit like leather. Pretty high-end materials—tougher and more durable than the stuff you find in light hikers. I wouldn’t have any worries about whether it would offer enough support. I’d worry that it’s too much boot for what you need.

But, if you’re headed that way, take a look as well at the La Sportiva Trango S Evo ($290). It’s also a hiker/light mountaineering boot, one that I’ve worn (I confess I haven’t worn the Kaylands) and that I like a lot. It’s crampon compatible and has a slim profile that’s at home on the trail and on steeper rock or ice. Like the Kaylands, it’s a synthetic boot with uppers of Cordura nylon and reinforced polyester. Very tough.

Or, for something a little more traditional, take a look at the fairly new Scarpa Escape ($235). Its uppers are mostly leather, save for the rubber rand around the lower perimeter. Crampon-compatible, Gore-Tex lining (both the La Sportiva and Kaylands also have waterproof liners), Vibram soles, and very comfortable. They’re wider than the La Sportivas, so take that into consideration. I’ve worn these boots as well and find them extremely comfortable and versatile.

Another really good all-leather boot is the Asolo Power Matic 200 GV ($245). It’s in the same class as the three above: heavy trekking or light mountaineering. Full leather uppers, crampon-ready, Gore-Tex liner. It’s a pretty stiff boot, probably the stiffest in this lineup. If support is a concern, these would be worth a look

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