Good God. What were Hi-Tec thinking when they Christened these boots? I’m not typing that title every time I want to make reference to the boots in this review, so henceforth the ‘Hi-Tec V-Lite Altitude Ultra Luxe WPi Walking Boots’ shall be known as Arnold.
I got Arnold through the mail a couple of weeks back and the first thing I noticed is that Arnold was way too big. I’ve had many a pair of Hi-Tec boots before, including a couple of their V-Lite range, but Arnold has been eating a few too many pies – he’s huge. My usual size 9s could have fitted my feet, socks, a sizeable lunch, a string quartet and a couple of Pot Noodles, so I had to ask Hi-Tec to send out Arnold’s slightly smaller brother, Arnold, instead. So… be warned. If you like the sound of these boots – try them on in a store for fitting purposes.
Sizing and silly names aside, the Arnolds were a pleasant surprise when they arrived.
They’re a full leather-upper boot, but much lighter than they look. They weigh in at 1.44kg, which is more like a fabric boot’s weight than a leather one. Arnold may be a wide-boy, but he’s not dense.
Slipping the boots on, you’re immediately taken by how supple they feel. Wandering around in them feels like a pair of trainers rather than a pair of walking boots, and that’s in part due to the sole. Hi-Tec have used a very soft Vibram sole with loads of flex in the forefoot, but bolted onto their Stabila-flex mid-sole meaning that the whole thing doesn’t twist around too easily. That’s a good thing.
The tread pattern of the sole isn’t that deep, so I worried slightly about it getting clogged with mud, but in reality slipperiness wasn’t an issue when walking up and down muddy banks and stream beds.
The leather upper is traditional looking and feels nice and supple. Hi-Tec have invested heavily in an alternative form of waterproofing called ion-masking, rather than go for a waterproof liner. If you’ll bear with me I shall attempt to explain what ion-masking is:
Developed by clever people working for the UK Defense Department, ion-masking is a coating of water-repellent nano-thingies which bond with the leather of the shoe at a molecular level. It can’t be rubbed off and because it’s molecular, it should last as long as the material itself does. Also, because it’s not a solid coating, but rather more like a magnetic one, it lets through any moisture vapour as easily as the leather itself.
All well and good, but does it work?
Yes. It does two things very well. Firstly, rain and splashes, and even muddy puddles run straight off the boot like they’re trying to get away. And secondly, I could stand in a stream for as long as I pleased (8 minutes, it transpires, is as long as I pleased) and stay dry. Neat. However, I’m wondering whether the boots are treated before, or after they’re made. If it’s before, then surely the stitching holes will eventually leak?
The lacing system on Arnold is simple and effective. Lightweight metal lace hooks do their job well, and I could get the boot nice and tight. The tongue is quite chunky, which can lead to a little uncomfort, but taking care when lacing can sort that out.
The ankle on Arnold is a bit of a problem. I just couldn’t get it comfortable. It looks like it should be OK, with a padded leather inner and deeply scooped Achilles section, but it just seemed to rub no matter what I did. Perhaps different shaped ankles will have more luck, but for me it was a little irritating.
Support wise, Arnold is middle of the road. He’s definitely not a mountain boot, and I’d hesitate to use him for an arduous trek on loose stones. The soft leather upper, low cut heel and soft sole lend Arnold more to simple hikes, travelling or gravel tracks.
Given the price, £100, I’d say that was actually quite a fair expectation for a boot like this. It’s an entry-level boot with a good feature (the waterproofing), comfortable sole and decent construction.
Summary: Once we got the fit sorted, these boots were a pleasant rambling accompaniment. They’re as soft as trainers and the soles are all-day comfortable with decent grip and OK mud clearance. The waterproofing works well and in theory should never wear out – but note that they’re not a very tall boot, so deep puddles need care . The ankle sections rubbed on me quite annoyingly, but this may just be a ‘me’ thing. I’m giving Arnold 4-hammers with a very large caveat – TRY THEM ON before you buy, because they don’t fit like you’d necessarily expect.
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