Kit review: New Brasher Hillmaster II GTX walking boots
I was recently at the launch of the Brasher Hillmaster II walking boots. For all those who love their Brasher boots – and there are many, many people worldwide that swear by Brasher boots and shoes (including my dad, please see below* and many walkers on Ben Ledi**) – you’ll be pleased to hear that the new walking boots still look and feel like Brasher boots. But the new Brasher boots are claimed to be even better.
A 10-point improvement plan has focused on specific fit for men and women, quality and comfort.
The new Hillmaster II GTX still incorporates many aspects of the original design but with increased performance and more comfort. The key changes in the new boot are:
- Gender-specific comfort fit for men and women that has been tried and tested for all-day walking comfort
- Fabric lining for enhanced comfort
- New lightweight and hardwearing Hillmaster sole unit with cushioned comfort and reduced lug depth to offer anti-clogging, grip and durability
- PU midsole and rand, offering shock absorption and protection for all day walking
- Soft, supple and abrasion resistant luxurious full grain leather upper 2.2-2.4mm for men and 2.0-2.2mm for women
- Revised collar and tongue pattern for enhanced comfort
- Repositioned locking hook for extra heel hold
- Memory Foam in the collar and tongue, plus additional ankle foam pads, for extra comfort.
The boots weigh 1482g (per pair size 9), come in chocolate colour and both men and women-specific sizes. They will be available in stores from early 2013 with an RRP of £150.
My thoughts on Brasher Hillmaster II
I wore a pair of these new boots during a very wet and muddy walk at low-level in the Lake District (during the Brasher Hillmaster challenge). If you know me – and my writing on this blog – you’ll know I have long and narrow feet. I was wearing Brasher women’s UK8.5. With a pair of women-specific Brasher walking socks, the boots were just long enough. I would have been tempted to go up a half size but that would have been a problem with the width fitting. The 8.5s were a bit wide already and I had to adjust the internal boot volume with an extra footbed.
In honesty, when I tied up the boots for the first time I wasn’t sure they would be comfortable while out walking. I am not a leather walking boots fan although I do see all of the advantages, such as waterproofing, durability and moulding to your foot. I usually go for Gore-Tex fabric books because I find them generally lighter and more flexible. But I was at the Hillmaster launch and so it would have been very rude not to wear their leather boots!
And I’m very glad that I did.
As soon as we set off, I forgot that I was wearing new boots. They immediately felt comfortable and I was surprised by how light the boots felt. Given the very wet conditions I was delighted by how the boots coped. I felt no wet or damp inside the boots and they coped brilliantly with wet rocks and the soaked wood of wet river bridges. I even put this to the test by trying to slide along a section of wooden bridge but the boots wouldn’t let me slide.
The lacing system also felt secure. Brasher have moved the eyelet positioning to allow walkers to tie the laces so that their feet retain a better “heel back” position in the boots and I can’t recall my feet moving about in the boots while I walked. This was pretty impressive given my next point.
What I’d like to know is why almost all boots I try are too wide for my feet. Just because I have a size 8.5 doesn’t mean I have wide feet. In fact, all the women I know with feet longer than a size 8 have narrow feet. I’d really like more boots designers to take this into account. (If you have a longer and narrower foot then I have found that La Sportiva and Salomon walking boots and Inov-8 off-road running trainers fit the best.)
Overall, however, the boots felt strong, robust and light. My feet stayed really warm as well, despite the wintery conditions. This is a major plus because my feet are normally freezing while walking in the winter.
Anyway, I would like to test the Brasher boots on something a little tougher and so I will walk them in the Scottish mountains this winter and report back.
*My dad on Brasher shoes
It just so happened that I called my dad just after the brasher launch event and we got talking about Brasher boots! He told me that he loves his Brasher shoes. He said: “I have worn Brasher shoes for years and I really like them. They are really comfortable and last forever – and even when they do start to show wear I simply send them back to Brasher for a refit. They sort the inside and outsole and send them back as good as new. This is a real plus-point of Brasher.
“The shoes look great whether you’re wearing walking trousers, jeans or even casual trousers so I wear them most of the time, whatever I’m doing.
“The other advantage is that the sole is flexible enough for me to feel the car pedals. Many walking shoes just feel too stiff to feel the pedals for driving. I also find the soles are grippy enough to cope with time spent on our canal boat.
“You mum has a pair, too. She really likes them and thinks they are comfortable. If Brasher would like me to test a newer version of the shoe, tell them I’d be very happy to do so!”
** Brasher boots on Ben Ledi
A recent wintery walk on Ben Ledi (a Corbett near Callandar, Perthshire) revealed an astounding number of Brasher hill walkers. While the G-Force and I sat waiting for Little Miss Outdoors and her two pals to catch up with us we began looking at the boots that people were wearing as they passed us. I was amazed to see that every one of the half dozen that passed us wore brasher. After that I kept an eye out for Brasher boots and I reckon that almost a third of those that we saw walking had on a version of brasher walking boots. “It’s that kind of hill,” said the G-Force. “It’s not too tough but still an adventure enough and Brasher boots are suited to that kind of walking.”