Product review. Hi-Tec Alpyna Mid WP.
As well as running articles on more general aspects of equipment such as rainwear (http://www.charlescamping.ie/store/waterproof-and-breathable-outdoor-clothing) or footwear fitting (http://www.charlescamping.ie/store/footwear-fitting) I will also do occasional articles on specific items that have caught my eye or that I feel may be of particular interest to our customers. The idea here is not to fill as much space as possible with stories about the latest and greatest outdoor toys but to highlight items that I feel deserve a bigger audience. This may be because they are particularly good at something or it could be something which represents exceptional value or it could just be an item that grabs my attention for reasons that don’t make any sense at all. This particular item is the Alpyna boot from Hi-Tec which was introduced last year and which has so much going for it that it truly merits a moment in the spotlight.
At first sight the Alpyna boot looks pretty unremarkable. The men’s version has a brown, shiny leather upper while the women’s is a slate coloured leather with a nubuk finish. Both look like many other boots on the market today. The sole is new generation Vibram rubber which gives very good grip compared to older Vibram units, especially on wet ground but overall the first appearance is positive and fairly unremarkable. The only thing that really stands out is the low price which initially led me to wonder if this was a warning sign rather than a benefit. Normally if one component, in this case the sole unit, is relatively expensive then the expectation is that the price of the item overall rises or corners have to be cut elsewhere in order that the manufacturer can keep to budgetary restraints. Happily the price appears to be a deliberate decision on the part of the manufacturer to take a financial hit for a while in order to get this boot established in the market. The Alpyna competes on spec and performance with much more expensive alternatives and acquits itself very well.
Those who know me know that I am a little bit interested in the matter of how footwear and humans fit together. The word obsessive has, on occasion been bandied about. The reason for this is very simple indeed. The performance, function and durability of a boot or shoe are almost entirely defined by how well it fits. All the waterproof membranes available in the market work quite well and all will be destroyed pretty quickly if any of your toenails are scraping against the front or side of the toebox. Footwear structures are all pretty solid yet all can split or break if a wide forefoot is constantly forcing the fabric of the boot outwards especially under flex pressure. Even the grip and support will be reduced if your skinny foot is slopping around the inside of a too spacious boot.
For this reason it is important to remember that a gear reviewer might think a shoe is the best thing since sliced bread and give it a glowing, five star review. You, with your very differently shaped feet might consider the same bit of gear to be an absolute banger that caused blisters, leaked and fell apart really quickly. Don’t disbelieve what you read but do try to filter all the information so that it is relevant to yourself. There is no substitute for being properly measured at the time of purchase and having your prospective new boots fine tuned for you.
There is more information on fitting here in a previous post http://www.charlescamping.ie/store/footwear-fitting
The Alpyna has a middling width heel and a medium to wide fitting forefoot. Positively, the volume around the foot is reasonably neat which means that I didn’t have to haul the lacing uncomfortably tight over my feet. This boot should accommodate quite a wide range of wearers. It is firmly in the medium to wide area but without feeling baggy and the heel is tight enough to hold most people firmly without requiring excess lace pressure. I wear them with a medium thickness technical sock and my Superfeet Green insoles and the fit was very comfortable; roomy around the toes and firm everywhere else.
Whilst the upper is a very traditional construction, the sole unit of this boot is a little unusual. At this price point most sole units are made from high density EVA foam. This provides shock absorption and keeps the weight down. EVA though tends to break down over time so the cushioning and stability can be seriously reduced and sometimes by quite a lot in very little time. In an effort to improve this aspect of performance the EVA midsole block in the Alpyna is positioned inside the Vibram Pro Tec Comfort sole unit. This protects the EVA from external damage and reduces misalignment by preventing the uncontrolled collapse of the midsole. A lightweight nylon stiffener is incorporated into the midsole for control and stability on rougher ground.
This might sound awfully complicated but in reality it is a simple and elegant way to get the very best out of all the componentry. The light weight of the EVA doesn’t mean that long term stability is surrendered. The composite nature of the sole unit reduces cost and waste while strengthening the internal structure of the midsole and none of this ends up costing a fortune.
I have had a pair of these since late last summer and have taken them on sixteen trips around the Wicklow hills. Initial forays onto Sorrel and Black Hill threw up no hassles so I took them out on some longer excursions. They have accompanied me from Glendalough, up Lugnaquilla and from the Wicklow Gap, over Tonelagee back to Lacken. This winter has produced all manner of weather and they have coped admirably with the incredibly sodden state of the ground underfoot. At this stage the test pair are dirty, abused and still perfectly functional.
My initial fear of these due to the low price seems to have been no more than Caledonian pessimism on my part. The leather upper has shrugged off my total lack of TLC and still looks in pretty decent condition. Obviously a policy of total neglect is not recommended in the long term as all boots will give up the ghost in the face of such abuse although it is good for the economy and most outdoor stores will be happy to see you replace your gear more often than is necessary.
The new Vibram sole grips really well in most conditions but as always it should be stressed that although this is a very good rubber it isn’t magic and doesn’t suspend the laws of physics. On very wet and slimy surfaces, on ice and on loose, layered mud you will have to exercise caution and watch your step. No rubber will do the balancing for you even this generation of soft compounds.
The Alpynas didn’t need any significant break in and have remained comfortable. I stretched them a tiny amount around my right little toe after the first walk as a precautionary measure and that is all the adjustment they have required.
Overall I have no complaints about these boots. They won’t take you to the summit of Everest but they will take you to base camp. As a reasonably light, general purpose hillwalking boot they have few competitors at this price and outperform some significantly more expensive rivals in the marketplace. For pretty much any situation up to the point where you become a regular wearer of crampons the Alpyna is definitely a boot to be considered the next time you need to think about a replacement pair.
I don’t want to completely swamp this site with gear reviews but if you have a suggestion for a subject or a point to make then do get in touch with me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
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