Hi-Tec’s Sierra Lite i WP Walking Boot is a pleasant surprise in many ways. When I got the press release many months ago I worried that the Lites would be basketball sneakers styled to look like walking boots (in part because Hi-Tec have also launched a retro-styled fashion sneaker called the Sierra at the same time, which is collossally confusing). But after wearing them through some of the worst weather we’ve seen in the UK for, well, a year I’ve come to give them some big respect.
The Sierra Lite i WP (here on in known as the Sierra f0r this review) is a summer weight boot which is waterproof without using a sweaty membrane. Instead it uses something called ion-masking which is a nano-technology that bathes the entire shoe with a film of water-hating molecules and has the effect that, not only does the boot shed most mud and water droplets, but that water doesn’t soak in to the actual fibres of the boot and cause wetting-out. This means that your foot can continue to perspire and the boot will continue to breathe. When you realise that you can sweat up to 500ml an hour through your feet (1 and a half cans of coke), the benefits of having no membrane holding it all in become obvious.
The Sierra’s sole is a custom made Vibram module that features some chunky forefoot lugs and a couple of areas for uphill and downhill traction. What you notice about the sole when you slip the Sierra on your foot is that it’s thin for a walking boot. You don’t get that extra inch of height that short blokes like me enjoy, and it feels quite secure and steady on the ground. I would have expected to have felt a lot of foot fatigue from more ground feedback (stones and ruts) but in practice didn’t notice much. The Sierras feel like wearing a sturdy trainer rather than a traditional walking boot.
The insole is an Ortholite anti-bacterial unit, and this is where most of the padding is. The heel of the insole is a couple of CM’s thick and spongey, which gives a lovely cushioned strike when walking. It is also said to wick moisture from under your foot and out of the side of the boot.
The upper of the Sierra is mostly an airy mesh with nubuck detailing and an underlayer of more robust manmade fabrics which hold everything together and add ruggedness. The toe has a large bumper to protect against sharp objects on the trail, and the heel has a moderately firm cup. I have a very narrow heel, so found it a little loose at the rear, but this wasn’t actually a problem because Hi-Tec have a huge amount of padding at the ankle which starts just above the heel cup and limits the amount of slide that occurs. The effect is very comfortable indeed.
The tongue of the Sierra is sewn in to the height of the 4th metal eyelet. This, combined with the thin sole, doesn’t give you as much depth as some walking boots, which you need to be conscious of if you are a puddle-hopper.
The metal lacing eyelets work well at holding things securely. The ‘locking’ lace loop at the lowest point of the ankle is a webbing loop, which is interesting. I do wonder if it could be subject to wear over time, but there aren’t any signs of that on my samples yet. The upper two lace loops are metal, and very firmly hold the lace in place. In fact, possibly too firm and again I’d worry about long-term lace wear. That said, Hi-Tec do supply the Sierras with an additional pair of laces (in a lairy orange!).
The styling of the Sierras will be the key to their success, or not. They’re designed to look more like technical trainers than traditional (or even contemporary) walking boots and have a sort of Marmitey love or hate. I love them, but then I’m a fan of orange and black. They do make your feet look very wide though, which is slightly alarming at first.
At £125 they’re positioned well against their competition and are well worth a look as a summer boot. The lack of a membrane means that some people with never consider them, but in my case means that I actually prefer them.
But as with all footwear, always try a pair on before buying – fit is a very personal thing.
SUMMARY: The Hi-Tec Sierra Lite i WP is a brilliant, comfortable and highly water-resistant boot for summer use. Mine have never leaked in long, wet grass, puddles and rain, and teamed with woolen socks have never felt particularly sweaty. There’s plenty of padding in the ankle and insole to make these a capable all-day wear, and they’re grippy and supportive enough for trail, grass and mud use without problem. Priced well.