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March 2008 Boots Review: Heavy Duty Boots

Asolo Manaslu
How much do you value your toes? The price of these expedition boots pegs their worth at $85 per digit, and we’re not arguing. Our Rocky Mountain editor lived in the Manaslus for 23 straight days on Mt. McKinley last year. He says they’re everything expedition boots should be: insulated and supportive without being too heavy, stiff, or sweaty. A wide fit makes them warmer and more comfortable than standard expedition boots on low-grade mountaineering routes like McKinley’s West Buttress, yet the Manaslu doesn’t feel floppy. An integral Gore-Tex and Kevlar gaiter–with a double-elastic seal at the knee–traps heat and repels all snow. The outsole edges well and has slight flex, so it’s not too blocky when you’re walking on firm surfaces. Best for medium-volume feet. $850; 6 lbs. 15 oz.

La Sportiva Trango Extreme EVO Light GTX Duratherm
A descendant of the Editors’ Choice-winning Trango S (4/04), this supremely comfortable lightweight adds a warmth and weatherproofing boost. You still get a snug last and closely scultped forefoot for great toe feel on rock; a bit of rocker for all-day striding, and enough stiffness for some vertical cramponing. It’s not a full-on winter boot, but there’s enough insulation for days like the -17°F windchill freezer our testers endured on Longs Peak. Best for narrow, low-volume feet. $390; 3 lbs. 10 oz.

Lowa Korba GTX
Hard miles ahead? This boot is made for rocky terrain and off-trail bashing with loads as heavy as you can handle. Leather-and-Cordura uppers and midsole protection are like armor, and the waterproofing impeccable: During an October rainstorm on Vermont’s Long Trail, our tester might as well have been walking down a river. Still, his feet stayed completely dry in these Gore-Tex-lined boots. Traction also was superior in the wet stuff, even on slick friction slabs. Fit is slightly wide throughout. Small hikers will find these boots stiff, but they flex for bigger people. Plan a few days of break-in. Best for high-volume feet. $230; 3 lbs. 5 oz.

Lowa Ranger GTX
Every tester who pulled on this boot had the same initial reaction: excellent fit. After hiking in them, they had more praise. Arch and heel support is topnotch, as is the to-the-tiptop lacing, which aids stability and keeps out debris. The full wrap-around rubber rand protects the boot from the worst bashings. Feet stayed dry through all-day rainstorms thanks to a Gore-Tex liner. The boots can handle on-trail loads of 45-50 pounds, but lateral stability isn’t good enough for the heaviest loads off-trail. Breathability is mediocre (we had sweaty feet on warm days) and the laces loosen easily. Plan a few days of break-in. Best for medium-volume feet. $250; 3 lbs. 7 oz.

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