“These will stand up to at least five years of hard Grand Canyon hiking,” says a backcountry ranger who typically wears out a pair of lightweight boots every six months. Credit a one-piece, 2.8-mm-thick, full-grain leather upper and bombproof metal eyelets. That longevity, combined with the reasonable price, makes the 520 GV both a top performer and a great value. The stiff midsole prevented sore feet even when testers carried 50-pound loads over rocky terrain. And a high, rigid, padded ankle shaft enhances stability and keeps out debris.
“The only thing I had to empty out of these boots was a scorpion in the morning,” says one tester. Despite the burly construction, break-in is minimal for this class of boot (it took two to three days), thanks to Italian-tanned leather that molds to feet and a rockered (curved) sole that flexes at the ball of the foot. Another tester says, “My feet felt so good that I was completely unaware of the boots’ weight, which is way heavier than what I typically wear.” The fit, which is roomy in the forefoot and narrow across the instep, worked on everyone’s feet—from wide to narrow.
Blisters, hotspots, and toe-bang were not issues, thanks to the precise fit and snug lacing system, which kept testers’ feet from sliding forward inside the boot on the Grand Canyon’s notoriously steep and long descents. The hard-duty Vibram sole gripped everything from scree to slickrock, and the Gore-Tex liner kept feet dry.