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Reviews > Footwear > Boots > Chaco Azula Mid Waterproof Boots > Test Report by Andrea Murland
Chaco Azula Mid Waterproof
I began hiking frequently in 2006 and have since hiked in Western Canada, Australia, and spent 2 months backpacking in the Alps. I spend most weekends either day-hiking or on 2-3 day backpacking trips, with some longer trips when I can manage them. I also snowshoe and ski in the winter, but don’t have a lot of experience with winter in the backcountry yet. Elevation is typically 500-3,000 m (1,600-10,000 ft), in the Canadian Rockies and the Selkirk, Purcell, and Monashee ranges. I try for a light pack, but I don’t consider myself a lightweight backpacker.
Description & Initial ImpressionsThe Chaco Azula Boots are waterproof mid-height hiking boots. The manufacturer’s website gives quite a bit of information about the construction, which I have summarized here.
Upper: water-resistant suede and nubuck
Lining: waterproof seam-taped bootie, polyester mesh lining
Outsole: Active Adventure outsole (EcoTread rubber and 25% recycled content), 5 mm (0.2 in) lug depth
Midsole: EVA with ESS shank
Insole: LUVSEAT polyurethane footbed (Chaco’s supportive platform which is acknowledged by the American Podiatric Medical Association)
As I mentioned, the upper of the boot is a combination of suede and nubuck. A stitching pattern extends from the laces down to the inner and outer edges of the boot, as well as to the back of the heel. The square laces run through a webbing loop at the front and then four webbing loops on each side of the tongue before going through a webbing loop in the centre of the tongue and then through a D-ring on each side. There are two metal “quick-lace” eyelets on each side of the boot, at the top. The tongue is lightly padded and gusseted to the level of the D-ring. The ankle collar is also padded and has a webbing loop at the back. The boot is 14.5 cm (5.7 in) high at the front of the ankle collar, and 12.3 cm (4.8 in) high at the back, coming to just above my ankle. The outsole of the boot has the advertised 5 mm (0.2 in) lug depth. The sole rises under the arch of the foot and curves towards the toe. The outsole itself rises over the front of the toe slightly, and there is also a rubber toe-cap at the front of the boots.
The insoles are removable. There is a pattern in the soft fabric covering the insole. The insole itself is about 4 mm (0.16 in) thick under the forefoot, and has very noticeable support under the arch of the foot. The underside of the insole has a lug pattern, with the lugs being very noticeably deeper under the arch.
The boots appear to be well-made, with no visual defects.
Trying Them OutThe Chaco Azula boots are comfortable right out of the box. I have a fairly wide forefoot and need a high toebox, and my initial impressions of these boots on my feet is that there is enough room in the toe box for me. The arch support in the insole is very noticeable upon putting on the boots. It’s not uncomfortable (I have other Chaco shoes, so I am familiar with the LUVSEAT footbed), but I can feel it. It falls in the right place on my feet. The laces are easy to pull snug and tie, and are long enough to tie into a double-knot, but not so long that they drag.
I went for a short walk, and the boots were comfortable with no immediate uncomfortable spots or slipping in the heels. Hopefully that stays the case on rougher terrain and longer hikes.
SummaryThe Chaco Azula Waterproof Mid boots are waterproof mid-height hiking boots. They seem comfortable so far and look well-made. I am looking forward to testing out how well they function on the trail over the next few months.
Field ConditionsI have spent a fair bit of time in the Chaco Azula boots over the past two months. I have done three overnight hikes in them; one on a Search & Rescue (SAR) response, one on SAR training, and one just for fun. All of the overnight trips were in pleasantly dry weather, with daytime temperatures up to 25 C (77 F) and overnight lows down to just above freezing. The overnight trips ranged in distance from about 2 km (1.2 mi) up to 25 km (15.5 mi). I also used the Azulas on ten day hikes, ranging in length from 5 km (3.1 mi) up to 20 km (12.4 mi). On one of those days I encountered some very heavy rain in the afternoon. Surfaces have ranged from grass and dirt trails, to rocky trails, to dusty and rocky terrain off-trail. I always wear the boots with midweight merino wool socks.
ObservationsThe Azula boots have, overall, been quite comfortable so far. They are light, soft, and the soles are flexible, so they feel light on my feet and easy to walk in. They were comfortable enough that I didn’t hesitate to spend the night on a SAR response “sleeping” (there wasn’t much sleep involved, but I tried) in them. The insoles provide comfortable support for me, and although my feet were tired at the end of the longer backpacking and day hiking days, I wasn’t in any great deal of pain on the bottoms of them. However, on the overnight trip for fun, which was the longest, I found that after about 8 km (5 mi) I was starting to develop a blister on the bottom of the littlest toe on one foot, on the corner of the toe that bumps against the fourth toe. By the time we stopped for the night I had a matching blister on the other foot, and by the end of the next day they had been joined by blisters on the fourth toes (where they touched). I also had blisters on one foot on my first metatarsal and on the inside edge of my heel. The blisters on my toes point me towards thinking that the boots are just a bit too narrow for me in the toebox, as I could feel that my toes were overlapping as I stepped; I was actually stepping on top of my fifth toe.
I have mixed feelings about the soft, flexible sole. I feel very connected to the ground when I walk in them, as I can feel the terrain under the boots. However, after a long day on rocky terrain, feeling every rock under the sole starts to lose its appeal. I do like the boots for hunting, as it seems easier to creep around in the bush with the soft sole. I also have found it easier to tip-toe in the flexible boot than in some hard-soled boots. On one occasion, I was standing on a small log, bouncing on it (trying to get it to break), when I experienced a pain in my left foot. I hopped backwards off the log, though to my surprise my left foot didn’t come off. I was even more surprised to realize that the pain and the fact that I was stuck was because the stub of a small branch had poked through the sole of the boot and was stuck in the sole. Upon examination of the boot later, it appeared that the stub hadn’t merely become stuck in the tread, but had actually punctured the sole. I don’t know if it went all the way through. The traction is pretty good on all the types of terrain I’ve encountered. I’ve only had slips on dust-covered smooth rocks and in extremely slimy mud.
The boots seem to be quite waterproof. Standing in shallow (i.e. below the top of the boots) water, either flowing or standing, hasn’t given me a rush of cold as if the boots were leaking. However, there have been a couple of days when after some more hiking my socks feel wetter than I think they should be from sweat. This is something that I plan to investigate further during the next two months. The suede seems to wet out on the surface quite quickly. I have flooded them from the top a couple of times, and they take about two days to fully dry, with the insoles out. On the bright side, the boots are still comfortable even when they’re squishing water at every step.
As far as durability goes, the boots are doing ok. Other than the stick-in-the-sole that I already mentioned, there haven’t been any major incidents. There are some areas of wear on the suede, and a couple of loose threads appearing on the toes.
I have noticed that my gaiters don’t fit with these boots. My gaiters are sized for my old hiking boots, which were considerably bulkier, and are too loose around the bottom with the Azulas. That’s not the fault of the boots, but it is unfortunate.
SummaryThe Chaco Azula Boots are lightweight and comfortable, though I think they might be a bit narrow in the toebox for long hikes for me. They are showing some signs of wear but nothing major. I am looking forward to spending some more time in cooler weather in them, and to further testing out the waterproofing.
Field ConditionsI have enjoyed using the Chaco Azula boots for the last two months of this test. I used the boots on a three-day hike in Montana, as well as eight day hikes. The backpacking trip was in warm, clear weather, though there were some small patches of snow on the ground from storms a few days earlier. The terrain was mixed, with the trail crossing rocky slopes as well as going through forest and old burns, and in places the trail was hard to follow through the brush and deadfall. Elevations were up to 2300 m (7550 ft), the total distance over three days was 35 km (21.7 mi), and the longest day was 19 km (11.8 mi). On the day hikes, I encountered mostly dry conditions and most hikes were shorter, less than 10 km (6.2 mi), with one hike that was about 25 km (15.5 mi) long. Snow finally came late in the test and I took the boots out on a short hike in the snow.
ObservationsI have continued to find the Azulas quite comfortable. On long days, my feet are tired by the end, especially with a pack, but on most day hikes they are sufficient. On the three-day hike, I did get blisters on my littlest toes on the second day, but they weren’t quite as bad as on the overnight hike that I reported on in the Field Report. I think that these boots aren’t ideal for me for trips with a heavier pack, though they seem to be adequate for day hikes.
Regarding waterproofing, I did some tests in my kitchen sink and put the boots in water up to the bottom of the laces. I left them there for about ten minutes, and then checked them for wetness inside. The right boot felt dry, but the left boot felt rather soggy around the area of the arch. Since that was where I got the branch stuck in the sole, I have to assume that the stick punctured all the way through the rubber. That’s disappointing, both because the boot is no longer waterproof, and because it doesn’t seem like something that should happen to a hiking boot sole.
The boots are showing some additional wear on the suede from the past two months of wearing them, including some heavy bushwhacking. There are more rough patches, particularly on the medial side of the boots.
SummaryThe Chaco Azula Mid boots have been great for day hiking and have done well for backpacking as well. I think they are slightly too narrow for me in the toebox, but I don’t notice unless I’m carrying a big pack.
Waterproof (except for the poke through the sole)
Stub of branch pierced sole (compromising waterproofing)
Some wear showing on the suede
Thanks to Chaco and BackpackGearTest.org for the chance to test the Azula Mid Waterproof Boots! I look forward to continuing to use them for day hiking.
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Reviews > Footwear > Boots > Chaco Azula Mid Waterproof Boots > Test Report by Andrea Murland
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