The last year or so has been a tough one. One full of challenges, worries and change for many of us. However, it has also given us an opportunity to appreciate the outdoors and what the UK has to offer. We are very fortunate here at Outdoorgear, with the New Forest on one side of us and the Isle of Purbeck and the Jurassic Coast on the other – not to mention the miles of beaches! With so many people enjoying walking and hiking the British countryside, we thought it would be a good idea to put together a guide on some of the products you’ll need, and what to look for to ensure you enjoy every mile! We're starting off this series with our favourite boot manufacturer, Hanwag.
Whether you’re walking 5 miles or 50, a pair of well fitting, quality walking boots are a must. Nowadays, the choices are almost endless, but regardless of what you go for, a good fit is the most important part. Over the last 10 years, I have been fitting boots for walkers, hikers and mountaineers (including a few Everest summiteers). I’ve seen all sorts of different shaped feet, bunions, sores – you name it. For the last few years now, we’ve been working closely with Hanwag who are renowned for their excellent fit. In my experience they are some of the most comfortable and best fitting boots around. The variety of fit options mean that a broad range of foot shapes are catered for. Oh, and the quality is second to none.
The Banks has been in Hanwag’s range for years, but was recently redesigned from the ground up. Manufactured using the highest quality Nubuck leather (a brushed, soft and velvety form of leather), a Gore-Tex waterproof lining and a Vibram Endurance Pro sole, the Banks GTX ticks all the right boxes. With a wide contact surface on the heel, the Vibram sole offers excellent stability on uneven terrain, whilst the particular compound of rubber has been designed specifically for good grip in wet conditions.
The Banks GTX is a lovely, soft, comfortable and lightweight boot, perfect for low level walking as well as more challenging day hikes. Available in both men's and women's specific fits in a wide range of sizes, the Hanwag Banks GTX is one of Hanwag's best selling models and has proven a real hit with our customers this year. My Mum has a pair which she uses in the mountains around the Austrian Tyrol (not a million miles away from Hanwag’s head office and factory!). The fit is nice and secure in the heel area, helped by durable and secure lace hooks, whilst the forefoot offers a generous amount of space for toe comfort. The Hanwag Banks GTX is perhaps the archetypal hiking boot; lightweight, comfortable yet supportive.
Next up, we have another classic boot – the Hanwag Tatra. This is another of Hanwag’s bestselling boots and is offered in a wide range of fits and lining options. We currently stock the Narrow GTX, (regular) GTX, Wide GTX, Bunion GTX and Wide Leather Lined. Designed for trekking and more challenging hikes, the Tatra is supportive, stable, yet surprisingly lightweight and comfortable. The days where a leather trekking boot weighed a tonne and took months to break in are long gone! As with the Banks, the Tatra uses a Nubuck leather, albeit a slightly thicker version. This provides excellent durability and weather resistance, whilst the models with a Gore-Tex lining keep you dry in really wet conditions. Vibram are yet again the choice for the sole unit, but this one is a little different to the one found on the Banks. The midsole features a stiffening shank, which provides the support and stability the boot is famed for. The outsole is cleverly designed with braking tread blocks, which dig in more when descending – who knew so much went into a sole!
Perhaps the most defining feature of the Tatra range though, is the comfort. The well cushioned cuff ensures comfort out of the box and this combined with the low weight (just 760g per boot in a size 8) mean that they are just at home for a stroll through the forest as they are on long hikes with heavy packs.
Like of the sound of the Banks but want something a bit more capable? Worried the Tatra might be just a bit too much for the kind of walking you’re planning? Hanwag have solved that issue with the Tatra Light GTX. This combines the best of both boots and is a favourite of Will here in the office (who does a great job of making sure all our customers are kept happy!). Will is pretty tough on his boots and uses them regularly. His Tatra Light’s have seen extensive use in the New Forest, on Dartmoor and weekend trips to Wales. The sole is stiffer than that found on the Banks, reducing fatigue on steeper ground – not often seen in such a lightweight boot. I always think of the Tatra Light GTX as the ideal boot for those who approach things with a bit more of a ‘fast & light’ mentality, but it is a great option sitting in between the Banks and the Tatra ranges.
Right, now we’re onto the really special stuff! All of the boots I’ve previously mentioned are constructed in a way called cemented construction. This produces really robust and long lasting footwear, which, assuming the leather is properly cared for (more on that later!), can be resoled time after time. Hanwag are probably the only manufacturer who use this method on their entire range (except for what I’m about to explain) – which is a real testament to their quality and company values. However, 100 years ago, this method wasn’t around. In those days, a method known as double stitched construction was used. It is a highly skilled and time consuming craft. Hanwag are one of the only outdoor brands who still have the expertise and knowledge to offer this method of construction. The benefit of a double stitched boot is unrivalled durability and quality. Here at Outdoorgear, we stock two boots from Hanwag which fall into this category, the Bergler and the Tashi.
The Bergler uses a tough Nubuck leather and is constructed in such a way that seams (which are a potential weak spot) are minimised. This stiff and robust boot uses a Vibram Tessin sole which offers excellent grip and stability. The double lines of stitching around the sole are stand proudly and indicates to those in the know that they are something pretty special. This is a boot designed for mountain hiking or demanding hill walking, over tough and varied terrain. To help improve comfort, the Bergler makes use of a soft, supple and rather luxurious leather lining. More details include ball bearings in the lace eyelets to ensure an even distribution of pressure when lacing. This is the best of the best and the Bergler is a boot designed to last a lifetime. The Hazelnut colour looks fantastic – we’ve had multiple compliments on them when out on the hill. Despite the stiff sole, the boot is surprisingly comfortable. We've had a pair on test for a few months now and are sold. The soft leather lining gives the boot a rather luxurious feeling!
The Tashi is effectively the same boot, but with one big difference. Rather than Nubuck leather, it uses Yak leather. This is one of the most exclusive boots in Hanwag's collection. The Yak leather has a unique grain, meaning that every boot is slightly different, and it looks amazing. But there is more to Yak leather than meets the eye. Hanwag source their Yak leather directly from a specialist factory in Tibet, where the Yak are free to roam the mountainous and challenging environment. The conditions they face mean their leather is incredibly robust. Despite this, Yak leather is unbelievably supple. For something really special, look no further!
As previously mentioned, Hanwag are well known for their exceptional fit. Their last have been perfected over the last 100 or so years. In all cases, their heelcup is what really stands out. It holds the heel unlike other brands providing unrivalled confidence. The narrow last is 5mm narrower in the forefoot, whilst the wide last is 5mm broader (than the regular model). What this means is that heel will be held securely even if you have the wide fitting boot – you don’t have to choose from a secure heel, tight forefoot and a broader forefoot with a sloppy, loose heel.
In addition to these lasts are the bunion boots. Bunions are a nightmare when it comes to fitting boots, and boots often require extensive stretching and customisation. Even then, boots are still not necessarily comfortable. The Hanwag Bunion collection are a lifeline to those with the condition. By allowing for extra room around the big toe joint and ensuring seams around the area are kept to a minimum gives bunion sufferers the best chance possible to enjoy mile after mile.
Regardless of what boot you end up with, it is vital to ensure you care for them properly. Keeping them clean and dry when not in use is important, but conditioning the leather is vital. This keeps it soft, supple and stops it drying out and cracking. When the boots do get wet, do not expose them to any direct heat (next to radiators or in front of the fire for example). Leave them to air dry in a cool, dry location and preferably use a pair of Boot Bananas to help speed the drying process!
Here at Outdoorgear, we come across a lot of products. We travel across Europe every year looking for the best products available. When it comes to boots, the fit is the most important thing. After a decade of fitting boots, I really do believe that Hanwag offer some of finest quality boots, with the best fit out of all the brands. We're big fans here, and do our best to pick out the most popular boots. However if you can't see the model or size you're after or need any more information, please get in touch - we'd be happy to help.
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