Unless you’re going to need crampons, the Altai boots from Brasher are just about perfect for any British terrain you can care to think of. They’re a reasonably high-ankled boot with a very wide sole and what we’re talking about here is Support, with a capital S.
As you slip the Altai boots onto your feet they feel much more like a piece of mountain equipment than your average walking boot. They hold you in a snug, comfortably-heavy embrace like being engulfed in the bosom of a school nurse after you scuff your knee. You know you’ve found a safe place to store your feet even before you tighten the laces.
Starting from the sole up, let me explain what makes these boots so supportive. The rubber that comes in contact with the ground is made by a company called Vibram, who specialise in making sticky, rugged soles for boots. Brasher have used their Winkler (I’m really struggling not to do a Fonz impression here) sole which is a full 6mm wider than even Brashers own Kanaga GTX Mountain Boot. That’s a lot of width to spread your weight over and get grip from. The rubber itself is a compromise between being sticky enough to grip damp rocks (it is, I tried it) and hard enough that it doesn’t wear away in months. According to the Vibram website, the Winkler is a popular replacement sole, so that bodes well for the Altai being a long-term companion.
The mid-sole is a 2-layer EVA foam which provides plenty of cushioning from the ground. Interestingly, I felt rather disconnected from the ground at first because I’ve been wearing much softer boots lately, but after a few minutes I grew to like this and it seemed easier on my feet. The sole is stiff enough that you don’t roll off stones, but yet supple enough in the forefoot that it flexes when you walk.
A great big rubber toe-box and heel cup protect the boot from sharp stones and wear, which is something I really like about Brasher’s boots. They kind of remind me of Land Rover bumpers – no nonsense.
The Altai’s uppers are made from thick (1.8mm) suede and fabric, which is tastefully designed and well manufactured. Some people don’t like fabric lacing systems because of the potential mud build-up, but I’ve never seen this as a problem myself and the Altai is an easy boot to adjust the lacing on for bespoke fitting.
A GoreTex liner makes sure that any water stays out of the boot, and that if you do work hard enough to build up a sweat that it can evaporate out and leave your foot nice and dry. This, as usual with Brasher’s GTX boots, works exceptionally well and comes up as high as the 2nd-top lace loop, which gives you the potential to cross 6 inch deep puddles without second thought.
In practice, because the Altai boots felt so supportive, I wanted to give them a really good test to see how my ankles fared. There’s a very uneven and rocky path on our test trail which is down right dangerous in trainers and has seen many a lower-cut boot fail to give enough ankle support. For the first time on any boot test I’ve genuinely enjoyed that bit of the hike. Rolling off stones wasn’t a problem at all.
Brasher call the Altai a 3-season boot, which is to say that it’s suitable for Autumn and Spring coolness and rain. Technically it’d be OK in Summer too, but I think I’d only have these as summer boots if the terrain demanded it. I wore them this week and my feet were on the warm side. In fact, I’d wear them through winter without a problem at all.
Weighing in a 1.38kg for a pair of 9s, the Altai isn’t particularly heavy, or stunningly light. It’s about the right weight for the boot and reassuringly solid.
A pair of Altais will set you back £135 RRP, or £110 on the web. At £135 they’re out of the range of your average novice, which is fine since they’re not designed for novice terrain. They are a proper hillwalking boot that’ll see you right throughout the year, and with that in mind they’re priced about right.
SUMMARY: Brasher continue to offer a wide range of boots, each with a different British outdoor speciality in mind. For rough terrain, maximum ankle support and all weathers, the Altai boots hit the mark. They’re constructed well, have a great, grippy sole and feel superbly supportive. GoreTex membrane keeps out the wet stuff, and a good-looking design with big rubber bumpers fore and aft means your feet are well protected. Great insoles and a comfy mid sole mean that they’ll be soft on the feet, and they’re easy on the eye.
Price: £135rrp, £110 on the web
From: Google Shopping (available in mens and womens)
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