Thursday, 10 June 2010

Stout Boots & Red Laces

As Recieved, Dry and Very, Very Stiff

Footwear choice for the hills has changed dramatically over the past few years with more and more people switching to lightweight trainers for all but the most serious conditions. In little over a year I've gone from a pair of Meindl Borneo leather boots to Karrimor Pro Run trainers or AKU Croda boots. The Meindl's weigh in at 1844g pair/size 43, the AKU Croda's at 1411g and the Pro Run's a mere 597g. My heaviest boots are Berghaus Kibo fully stiffened boots which are lighter than they look at 1929g thanks to the use of man made fabric. I've relegated the Meindl's to everyday/work wear so I'm pretty used to the weight but I recently obtained a pair of new old stock traditional leather boots that re-define weight and stiffness.

'Made in Italy' With Few Concessions to Comfort

They're made by Dolomite from one piece leather with a triple leather midsole, Norwegian Welt, Vibram Montagna sole, very little in the way of a soft ankle cuff and are leather lined, they don't even have a cushion/removeable insole.

1 Piece Leather Upper

3 Layer leather Sole

I'm not exactly sure what era the boots belong to but I'm guessing that they're around late 70's to mid 80's. Looking through late 80's Field & Trek catalogues this style of boot was rare, the only ones being Loveson and Zamberlan.

Although boots of this type are unusual in the UK they are still made by the likes of Alico, Gronell, Meindl and even Altberg so if you feel like going retro you can.

When the boots arrived they were unbelievably stiff and pretty uncomfortable to even wear due to the stiffness of the leather, it was virtually impossible to walk in them and I wasn't sure that they'd ever be comfortable.

I started to apply the new Nikwax cream to the boots as the leather was pretty dry and really worked the leather with my thumbs along the sides from instep to toecap. It took a fair few applications of wax and plently of thumb work before I actually tried walking in them. After 3 miles on tarmac I was glad to get them off but having continued to wax and work the leather they're now wearable for a few hours at a time. I suspect that they've got at least a 3/4 steel shank and as yet there's very little rocker compared to even the Berghaus Kibo but I expect that with continued wear that the rocker will become more pronounced which should make walking somewhat more natural.

Triple Stitched Norwegian Welt Construction

To be honest I got them more out of curiosity than anything else as I've never owned a pair of boots of this type, the closest being my Gro-nell Nordic ski boots and if I wear them it'll only be as an experiment. I mentioned that I wear Meindl Borneos as everyday footwear and as such I'm used to the weight but these are something else, at 2874g pair/43 they're almost 1kg heavier than the Berghaus Kibos/Meindl Borneos and one Dolomite boot weighs as much as a pair of Aku Crodas, in fact even my Burton Moto snowboard boots are lighter.

The Old, The New

I have to admit I do like the look of them, I just need a nice pair of breeches,a ventile jacket and with my old Bergans A Frame rucksack I'll be good to go singing the Happy Wanderer ;-)


  1. I like the look of them, very retro. Likely wouldn't wear them due to the weight, but they are cool =)

  2. I remember these days well. I had a pair of the dolomites and i couldn't believe how heavy they were when they were wet.
    You are brave wearing them now.

    I still have my 1st Winter waterproof jacket that i bought in 1969 from Sprayway. It's still in very good condition and it weighs a ton. I must get it out of the loft and post a photo. I think it was called the Yeti jacket.

  3. Hi Hendrik, they do have a certain charm :-)

    Alan I'm not sure brave is the right word, stupid perhaps? :-)

    I'd love to see some shots of your Sprayway jacket or any other gear from back then.

    I must admit I like the look of gear from years ago, it all looks very functional with no concessions to fashion. I'd really love to get my hands on a pair of nailed boots though, they would be ultra cool.

  4. Ellis Brigham used to have a shop on Deansgate in Manchester and in the downstairs area they had a display of their original nailed boots. Now *they* did weigh a ton!
    Not only are these older boots beautiful to look at - the workmanship is positively artistic - but they stand the testament of time (they're just too tough to actually wear out!). It is also likely that they were made by craftsmen who had a specific trade in this area.
    We do seem to be living in an age where goods are cheaper, have a short lifespan and we're used to chucking out and replacing. I don't think the modern products are so 'good looking' either. Where do all the trashed Terrocs go, are they all busy not rotting in a land fill somewhere?
    I got my first boots - Zamberlan, 1985, YHA shop Manchester - with my first 'Waterproof'. The Waterproof was not much cop, but it was reasonably cheap at the time and sort of did the trick; I can't bear to get rid of it and it hides in the boot of the car...

  5. Ha ha! I used to have a pair of Lovesons just like them! Circa 1984ish.:)
    Mike fae Dundee.

  6. Hi Mike, and you lived to tell the tale :-)

  7. Only just Richard. :)
    I can remember getting a huge blood blister under my heel with them! Those old boots were used year round. Everything from summer daywalks to easier winter climbing routes. I even lost a crampon from one boot whilst half way up a winter climb. I finished the climb using a sort of hopping/lunging action with 2 axes and one crampon. That was a brown underpant moment that is stuck in my memory.
    Happy days!
    Mike fae Dundee.

  8. LOL, I bet it was.

    That was the way it was back then, even when I started in the late 80's, conventional wisdom was stout boots year round.

    I still remember when I was about 12-13 going up the pony track on the Ben with my dad and being passed on the zig-zags by 2 girls wearing knee breeches, thick socks and massive boots, I was in love ;-0

    Perhaps subconciously I still relate to that image which would explain my attraction to leather boots ;-)

  9. I got a pair of used Asolo Sport Yukon and hence continued to scour for more Norwegian welt boots.
    Scored a pair of Alico Super Guides at sierra trading post. Anyone who wants to score this might want to look at the Wenger San Rocco Backpacking Boot. The tongue construction is what i consider supremely forgiving for your upper feet.

  10. they were suitable only for rock climbing ...not for walking.The full model was called " La Dolomite guida"Model under supervision of italian climber "Giorgio Bertone"After a log walk with them i cried with tears..I learned to dress them just for ascent and carry a pair of snickers for approach.


    still works

  12. For the record La Dolomite (later just 'Dolomite') did make thinner soled hiking boots but those extra thick/stiff soled ones pictured were a mountain boot.