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Kit-review: A greener kind of walking boot

Written by Fiona October 14 2010

Loving the outdoors...

Over recent years there appears to be something of a growing trend for walking. From staycationing families to Munro baggers, the stats and anecdotal evidence seem to point to greater numbers of people getting out and about in the UK’s countryside. I’m liking this new craze for a number of reasons:

* As an outdoors fan myself I like to think of many other people enjoying the same spirit-lifting day in the country as I do, whether walking, cycling or enjoying a range of fab outdoor activities.

* Walking is is environmentally friendly and in an increasingly eco-conscious world it’s great to find more people being able to do something that will not have an adverse effect on the climate etc.

* Walking is great for fitness and mental health and so if more people are walking then society might become collectively fitter and healthier. We can only hope!

* And, if more people get into walking then more people will want to read my blog, and in particular, my walking kit review blogs. One day I’ll make money from my outdoors blog and so the more traffic I get the closer I become to this dream!

The women's Hi-Tec Altitude IV WPi NT Enviro

So it seems fitting (given the above points) that I was recently sent a pair of newly launched walking boots to test-walk. The  Hi-Tec walking boots look similar to other mid-range leather walking boots – but they do have one important difference. The Altitude IV WPi NT boots are  environmentally-friendly. They come in men’s, women’s (up to a 9!) and children’s sizes. RRP around £85.

So how can this be? According to Hi-Tec: “Inspired by the landscapes the National Trust cares for, the boots have been designed with the product’s environmental ‘footprint’ in mind, including recycled materials and minimal use of chemicals normally found in footwear.”

Indeed, Hi-Tec tell me that the Altitude IV WPi NT Enviro is the beginning of an “important and significant journey for Hi-Tec; small, greener steps in the right direction”. Hi-Tec also supports the National Trust in encouraging people to get out and enjoy the many thousands of acres of countryside and coastline it looks after across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

So while the Hi-Tec boots are lightweight, waterproof and comfortable they also tick a number of earth-friendly boxes:

* The boots have recycled content metal steel shanks.

* Nature Tex 50/50 lining.

* Reduced chrome leathers not using the heavy chemical mix required in conventional tanning.

* Waterproof construction featuring ion-mask™ water management technology

* Uppers constructed using water-based cements; a greener process than traditional methods.

* Recycled rubber outsole content: 15% post consumer waste.

* Recycled steel shank content: 90% post consumer waste.

* Recycled EVA content sock liner: molded for a contoured and cushioned fit.

* The outsole is made from a durable recycled rubber.

What do I think?: I love it when something that is green-friendly still looks “ordinary”. You would not be able to tell the difference between this Hi-Tec boot and many others in the range. The boot is also comfortable and is ideal for a range of summer walking and lower-level walking or smaller hills in autumn and winter.

Out on the trails the boots made easy work of walking and despite being a wet day my feet stayed warm and dry. These aren’t the lightest boots I’ve tried but there aren’t the flimsiest either. Walking boots, especially leather boots, should be robust enough to last many walking seasons and I think these boots would keep the average walker happy for years. At around £85 they are priced in the moderate walkers’ range and I’d say they are about right for the money.

Not everyone is a leather walking boot fan – and, indeed, over the years I have tended to wear fabric boots – but I’ve become a convert in the last six months or so after trying several 21st century versions of the leather walking boot. In my youth it would take many very sore outings in leather walking boots before they were comfy enough to trust on a longer day’s hike. Today’s leather boots immediately feel “worn in”.

I also like the comfortable, mid-height ankle. This style makes the boot best suited to less rugged and lower-level walks but would cover most average person’s walking adventures. A higher ankle is argued to be safer on more mountainous/winter hikes because they are more supportive. Personally I find the high ankles generally uncomfortable so I tend to take my chances with  a mid-height ankle.

Sole grip and flexibility were good, too. Going up and down a rough track and also on a sheep path on a medium-sized hill I rarely slipped. Unlike my friend – now to be known as “Plimsole Girl” – who arrived at the start of the hike in Perthshire with only a pair of trainers! Pity her feet were smaller than mine, otherwise she would have been test-driving the Hi-Tecs instead of me.

My only wish is that women’s boots came in narrower sizes. As anyone who reads this blog will now I have big feet! Thank goodness then that more manufacturers are making women’s fit boots in larger sizes. I think a lot of brands could take note of Hi-Tec who do women’s boots up to a size 9 and in half sizes, too. But would it be possible to do some larger sizes in a narrower fit? These Hi-Tec boots are almost there for me but not quite. Perhaps I just have extraordinarily narrow feet! One way around this is to wear insoles.

Another nice touch is the extra “gift” that comes with the boots in the shape of a label filled with wild flower seeds. Apparently you plant the label, water it and the flowers grow. Such a lovely idea and also nice and green!

To find out more about the boots and for stockist info see the Hi-Tec website

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