Q:

Do boots with built-in ankle support really work?

I hike with an ankle brace and just read about a new system called Biomex from Lowa Boots, which is essentially a built-in ankle support system. Do you know anything about this? Joe Santa Barbara, California

Mar 11, 2004
Outside
Outside Magazine

Vertex

A: I know that it's just now hitting the market, so nobody really has had much chance to try it. But early reviews from some testers have been positive, and the concept certainly has appeal.

What is the concept? Essentially, to use new materials and boot-making technique to create a light, comfortable boot that has as much (or more) support than a big, heavy boot. In particular, the Lowa boots that use the Biomex system are designed to marry the support of plastic ankle "cuffs" with a design that aligns the foot so it's less apt to twist when you (inevitably) trip over something. The boots using this approach are intended to prevent an ankle twist rather like good brakes in a car would prevent you whacking into a vehicle ahead of you. That's in contrast to trying to hold the ankle in place once it starts to roll. And that's a nearly impossible target=—when a hiker begins to tip over on an ankle, there's not enough cowhide in Montana to save him or her.

For now, Lowa has incorporated this design into a boot called the Vertex ($225; www.lowaboots.com). It's a light backpacking/trekking boot intended for off-trail hiking with moderate loads (up to 30 pounds). I expect that if consumers accept the Vertex, you'll see Lowa build the Biomex system into other boots.

I hope they do. Some years back, Salomon tried something similar with a line of boots called the Adventure series. They were great boots. But they looked so weird that customer acceptance was low and they eventually were discontinued in favor of more traditional-looking, but less innovative, footwear.

Anyway, you and I are in somewhat the same boat. I often wear an ankle brace myself. Would the Lowa boot obviate the need for one? To be honest, probably not—at least, I'd be reluctant to take the chance. However, I think that in conjunction with an ankle brace it will reduce the risk of another injury, compared with a "normal" boot worn with an ankle brace. So it's definitely worth looking into.

I hope to have a pair of these things in hand early this spring, and will report as soon as I can.

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