LA SPORTIVA HALITE GTX BOOTS
TEST SERIES BY BRETT COOK
March 16, 2008
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5' 11" (1.80 m)
180 lb (81.60 kg)
I have been hiking and backpacking since 1978. Now, I often go bushwhacking with climbing/caving gear and try to buy equipment that won't fail in the field.
I've gone a little towards the light side, but I need gear that won't let me down.
I go hiking several times a month, generally 6-10 miles (10-16 km) with elevation changes of 1500' to 4000' (457 - 1219 m). Terrain varies from scrub-thorn to mountainous.
My pack weight varies between 10 and 30 lbs (4 - 14 kg) with occasional loads of 50 lb (23 kg) or more.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Manufacturer: La Sportiva
Year of Manufacture: 2007
Manufacturer's Website: La Sportiva
Listed Weight: 22 oz (624 g) ea.
Measured Weight: 24 oz (683 g) ea.
The boots were shipped double-boxed and arrived without incident.
They are light for their size, even though they're a bit heavier than advertised.
I think the overall construction of the boots is good, with no obvious manufacturing errors. All seams are tight and well-placed.
Materials are a mix of natural and synthetic and appear to be reasonably tough with the possible exception of the black coating around the toe area. I believe it to be cosmetic; it looks too thin to offer any serious abrasion protection.
The Vibram (R) sole is glued on, as is common today. The angled lugs form the Impact Braking System.
A cutout in the back of the boot allows room for the foot to flex.
READING THE INSTRUCTIONS
The included literature states that the Impact Braking System reduces impact by 20% and increases traction by 20%. I have no way to verify these claims, so I will have to simply have to rely on qualitative statements, like whether I like the traction or not.
Instructions for care cover the basics: clean and dry after use, don't expose to heat.
TRYING IT OUT
The size I ordered is a bit too big and the extra volume in the toe box makes them feel clunky.
My toes are long, the ball of my foot is wide, I have narrow heels, and a low arch. This makes it very difficult for me to find shoes that fit because all lasts are not created equal. I sometimes have to wear different sizes if I buy different styles from one manufacturer.
In this case, the boots are a bit too roomy and my feet slide around inside too much. I've contacted La Sportiva Customer Service to see about getting a smaller size. I believe the smaller size will be right and I look forward to field testing them.
I will break in the boots by doing short, easy hikes for the first couple of weeks. I plan to gradually increase mileage to 10 mi (16 km) or so and also increase the elevation gain.
I want to see how they perform in a variety of terrains - loose, slippery, steep.
Over the course of four months, I should be able to see how well the boots are made. Will the glue bust loose? Will the seams come apart? Is the tread a good trade-off between traction and longevity? Will my toes get pounded on the downhills? Will my heels get blisters on the uphills?
Hiking steep slopes will allow me to test both the Reactive Flex System and Impact Brake System.
Once the snow hits, I'll be able to find out if the Gore-Tex (R) liner is able to keep the moisture out without making my feet unduly sweaty.
Overall, I'm impressed with the quality of materials, build and weight of the boots. I hope the size 45 fits because the boots do seem well made and I'd like to give them a fair test.
I'll report the field test results in a couple of months.
SIZING AND BREAK-IN
I initially tried a size 45.5, since that's the size our local store had in stock and it seemed to fit. Also, I'd owned a pair of boots in the past that were European size 45 and they had been very comfortable. I have wide feet and my middle toe is longer than the big toe. This causes difficulty in finding shoes that fit and I often have to go up a half to a full size.
When the size 45.5 Halite's arrived, I could tell right away they were too big. I contacted Customer Service at La Sportiva and asked for the next half size down. They shipped them out and I tried them on when they arrived. They also felt a bit big, so I thought I'd better try one more half size smaller, a 44.5. Customer Service was very understanding and shipped out another pair. These felt "just right".
The new boots measured weight = 23 oz (652 g).
Note that all temperatures listed below are approximate.
I wore the boots around the house for a day to make sure they were the right size and I wasn't going to have any issues. A break in period doesn't have to be long with boots this light, but I like to use them on easy terrain before I go any long distance.
I cinched up the laces so they were a little tight and walked around the block (about a mile or 1.6 km). I do this to try to get the boots to form to my foot a little more quickly. There was a little pain just ahead of my heel on the outside edge of my foot, but it went away after I loosened up the laces a bit; not bad.
The next morning, I got up and drove to a short trail at the base of the Catalinas called Linda Vista.
Linda Vista Trail:
Maximum Elevation: 3000 ft (914 m)
Elevation Gain: 300 feet (91 m)
Length: 3 mi (4.8 km) loop
Temperature: 50 F (10 C )
This rocky trail climbs up through part of the cactus-covered bajada (debris skirt) that surrounds the base of the front range of the Catalinas. The trail has plenty of shin to knee-high step-ups and loose rock to make the short loop interesting.
Rain from the previous night made the trail somewhat muddy in places, but mostly just helped soften the ground a bit. The rocks were a bit slippery, but the boots gripped well. I only experienced a couple of small slips and never felt concern about losing control.
The boots were comfortable, but did seem a bit warm. Aside from that, the boots are very light and I was able to place my feet confidently. So far, I like them.
After I got home, I noticed that one of the seams had opened up. I hadn't noticed this when I first looked at the boots, but I think it must have been loose from the start. Anything that is mass produced will have some percentage of small errors like this. This was such a minor issue, so I repaired them myself. I had strong thread on hand, but the color isn't an exact match. The photo's below show the boots before and after my fix.
I tested these boots in several locations around Tucson that would allow me to test their performance under several conditions:
loose rock and steep trails
smooth, sloping surfaces
water and wet boulder-hopping
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
Elevation Gain: 2588 ft (789 m)
Distance: 4.0 mi (6.4 km)
Temperature: 50 - 60 deg F (10-15.5 C)
The trail up Pusch Peak in the Santa Catalina Mountains is one of the steepest in the area. I thought it would be a good way to test traction, flex and comfort of these boots.
This rocky trail slowly climbs 820 ft (250 m) in the first mile (1.6 km). The second mile (1.6 km) seems to go straight up and gains 1788 ft (545 m).
The trail is mostly decomposed granite with granite boulders scattered around and low vegetation (prickly pear, shin dagger, catclaw, mesquite).
The soil was still damp from recent rains and fairly firm near the bottom. The upper trail was drying out and gave me plenty of opportunities to test the traction.
I was able to smear flat, sloping faces of granite boulders without difficulty. The boots performed very well and I began to gain more confidence, trying higher angle slopes. I could smear rocks up to about 45 degrees slope with very little slipping, which was mostly due to the sand stuck to the bottoms of my shoes that acted like little ball bearings between the soles and the rock. These aren't climbing shoes, but they did very well.
I had no problem flexing my foot to match the angle of the rock and did not feel inhibited by the boot in any way. The flex system seems to work.
The trek back down is often where I have problems with slippage: not this time. The combination of angled lugs and rubber compound did a great job of keeping me stuck to the ground, even on loose soil. I was able to hop across boulders easily. I'll give good marks to the Impact Braking System also.
I had no blisters at all and my feet were comfortable the whole way. The roomy toe box kept my toes from getting pounded on the way down.
The black rand is starting to show signs of abrasion, but so far is intact.
Good marks for the shoes all the way around.
Elevation: 8500 ft (2591 m)
Distance: 1 mi
Temperature: 40 F (4 C)
A fresh snow one weekend prompted me to drive up the mountain to play in the snow with the dog. I remembered to take the Halites along, but forgot the gators. The snow was nearly knee deep in places, shin deep elsewhere.
After post-holing for about half a mile (.8 km) uphill, I decided I'd had enough and headed back. My socks were getting wet around the ankles from the snow spilling over the top and I was feeling a little dampness around the toes. I decided to try again on another weekend with the gators.
Aspen Trail Loop
Maximum Elevation: 8135 ft (2478 m)
Elevation Gain: 690 ft (210 m)
Distance: 3.5 mi (5.6 km)
Temperature 40-55 F (4-13 C)
My 2nd attempt to test the boots in snow worked out better; I'd remembered to bring the gators along. The Aspen trail loop is a nice hike around Marshall Peak that's made a bit more challenging with the addition of snow.
The trail follows a stream from Marshall Gulch up to a saddle and then contours around the peak. It winds through the trees and is rocky in many spots, but covered in pine needles for much of its length. A recent fire burned many of the tall Aspens for which the trail is named. This winter's snow and rain storms have caused many of the burned trees to fall across the trail, making route-finding interesting. The compact snow varied in depth from none to about 6 in (0-15 cm).
About .5 hr into the hike, I noticed some moisture getting through the Gore-Tex liner, making my toes wet.
I had on light wool socks and was only on a day hike, so I wasn't too concerned.
The lower sections of the trail were covered with snow, but the high sections were exposed to the sun and were clear. The sun was out and I thought the warmth would help dry my boots. But, the leather toes were completely soaked and did not dry out; neither did my feet.
The Gore-Tex may have slowed down water intrusion, but it certainly didn't block it. It did help hold the moisture in however.
Wet Boulder Hopping:
La Milagrosa Canyon
Elevation Gain: 300 ft (91 m)
Distance: 4 mi (6.4 km) roundtrip
|La Milagrosa River Crossing|
La Milagrosa is a steep sided canyon with large boulders in the bottom and lots of brush. Our trip was a warm sunny December day. Water temp was about 45 F (7 C) and air temp varied between about 50 - 65 F (10 - 18C), depending on whether we were in the sun or shade.
I wanted to see how the boots held up to wet rock and mild splashing, and this canyon has plenty stream crossings and polished boulders to negotiate.
Quick dunks in the water didn't get my feet wet at all. But, eventually one of my feet slipped of a slippery rock and went in over the top of the boot. Ok, now my left foot was wet. Fortunately, the water warmed up quickly inside the boot and wasn't uncomfortable.
Now I had one wet foot and one dry one. Well, that meant I had to see if I could manage to get the other one wet too, right? It stayed dry during the occasional splashing while crossing the stream. So, I tried standing in water over the top of the toe to see if it got wet. After a few minutes, it felt like a bit of water was seeping in. It was a nice sunny day, so I didn't mind the wet feet too much and was having fun.
By the end of the day, I had one wet foot and one very damp one. Even though my feet were warm, and I had on synthetic socks, they never dried out completely.
I had good luck hopping boulders and only slipped occasionally. It takes soft, sticky rubber to stick to wet, polished granite, but the Vibram soles on the Halites did well. I really am enjoying the boots so far.
During the downhill section of the hike, I noticed again how cushy the boots are. I also appreciated the shank that supported my feet when I needed to step up using just the ball of my foot. The heel cup kept the boots in place.
Maximum Elevation: 6033 ft (1839 m)
Elevation Gain: 1100 ft (335 m)
Distance 5.5 mi
Temperature: 50 - 60 F, with spots of ice
This hike climbs up a steep drainage to a pass just North of Rockfellow Dome, a large granite outcrop. The trail gains 1000 ft in the first .75 mi, then levels off a bit and follows a high drainage past several climbing areas and connects with the Middlemarch trail and finally a pack trail to form a 5.5 mi (9.2 km) loop. The trail includes steep, polished granite slabs, rocky creek bottoms and level sandy sections.
The polished granite was a bit of a challenge, but I didn't expect a miracle and the boots did fairly well. No one sole or compound can do it all.
I had no problems with the sometimes icy stream crossings, as the creek is shallow enough not to go over the top of the ankle cuff. The Gore-Tex did a good job of keeping my feet dry while following the creek.
Given the temperature and trail conditions, I was quite pleased to be wearing the Halites.
|Path through the Stronghold|
Maximum Elevation: 6265 ft (1910 m)
Elevation Gain: 3400 ft (1036 m)
Distance 8.5 mi (13.7 km)
Temperature 60-70 F (15.6-21 C)
The final test for this field report was to try the boots on a bushwhack to a prominent feature of the Catalina skyline; Table Mountain. The route we followed entails traveling off-trail for some distance to a remote location through heavy brush, loose rock and hidden cacti.
I've always wanted to try hiking along the entire ridge from Table Mtn. to Pusch Pk. This ridgeline has some fantastic cliffs, but no trail access.
The route we chose formed an 8.5 mile trip up Pima Canyon to an unnamed side canyon that climbs steeply up to the top of a tall cliff.
The side canyon climbs 2500 ft in 1.5 mi (762 m in 2.4 km) through boulders, prickly pear and shin-daggers hidden by the tall grass that had grown from the past summer's heavy rains.
Once on top, there was a more gradual climb to the top of Table Mtn. After enjoying some cliff-top views, we headed back down the long ridge to Pusch Peak.
|Edge of Table Mountain|
Our route took us through more cacti (agave, yucca, shin-dagger) and loose boulders. We took a short planning break when we reached the Blade, a tall, thin rock projection we needed to go past that occupies the saddle between Bighorn Peak and Pusch Peak.
The ground slopes steeply down below the Blade and is covered with loose rock and cacti. I had no problem with agave or shin-dagger spines piercing the boots. I did pick up a few prickly-pear spines, but these luckily did not reach my feet.
Going around the Blade involves scrambling over large, loose boulders and some easy 5th class climbing. I did appreciate the light weight of the boots here as I was able to move my feet quickly whenever a rock I stepped on slipped or started to roll.
I noticed that the Halites did a better job of gripping when the toes were pointed straight up or downhill than they did edging across in loose soil. This is probably due to the direction of the lugs and cup-shaped forward edge of the heel. Edging was adequate though, and we were able to find a route up Pusch Peak where we picked up the trail going down from Pusch Peak described above.
I did have a little difficulty tightening the laces though prior to the steep downhill trek and I had a couple of hot-spots from the boots slipping. The laces just don't slide through the nylon loops as easily as they would through eyelets. It's possible a slicker material could be used for the laces, but that would also make it harder for them to hold a knot.
In my initial report, I expressed concern about the durability of the UreTech abrasion resistant coating on the toe and heel. After 28 mi (45 km) of use, there are a couple of rough spots on the toes and heels, but that's it.
I liked the light weight and comfortable feel of the boots. The grip was very good and consistent. I could hike steep, loose trails with confidence.
The boots performed well in general in a variety of conditions, including steep terrain, loose rock, large boulders, snow and wet rock.
The large lugs grip well and pick up very little mud or rock. I like the flexible ankle and the Impact Braking System for making me feel confident on a variety of trails.
The Gore-Tex liner does a good job of keeping out snow and water for short periods. Once the leather on the upper gets soaked however, the Gore-Tex will conduct water inwards and keep it there.
The boots were a bit warm, which I believe is due to the Gore-Tex liner. They are too warm for summers in the southwest, where more ventilation is necessary. I'd like to try a version without the liner for summer use.
The boots are advertised for day hikes or short overnight hikes. I found the boots to be very comfortable and well-cushioned. I think these are a good three-season boot for general hiking and light backpacking.
I have no concern at all about using them on long hikes where cool weather is likely, and occasional stream crossings or patchy snow might be encountered.
I often bush-whack to reach cliffs, caves or just an interesting rock spire. Bushwhacking is hard on any gear. There are no groomed trails; material gets snagged, punctured and torn. A wide range of skills are needed to negotiate a route and boots are required to perform tasks the designers may not have had in mind. The boots may not perform perfectly in these situations (where a rock-climbing shoe might be preferable, for instance), but they have to perform and hold up well enough in a wide variety of conditions to get the wearer through the trip. The Halites performed well in this regard. They protected my feet from prickly plants, kept me upright on loose rock and held to slim ledges when required.
The last image shows the boots after testing. Some signs of wear are noticeable, but they are still in good condition and have many more miles (kilometers) left in them.
I was quite pleased with the boots overall and am happy to have been given the chance to test them.
|Boots at End of Field Test|
I will continue to use these boots for cool and cold weather hiking.
I want to try them with a heavier pack to see how it handles a load, something in the 30 lb range.
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
I've continued using the Halites since my Field Report. I have gradually increased the length of my hikes and use them as my first choice for footwear.
My recent hikes have included Romero Canyon (described in my Field Report) and the Wild Burro Trail in the Tortolita Mountains north of Tucson. Wild Burro is a nice low-elevation trail suitable for cool-weather hiking. It varies from 2900 ft to 4500 ft ( 800 m - 1300 m) and is one of the nicer desert hikes I've seen. The trail winds through rolling hills, crosses Wild Burro Canyon near a spring (low volume) and continues along the opposite ridge. The trail is well groomed and offers nice views of the Tortolita Mountains. Cacti abound, so I like the fact that the Halites protect my feet from occasional brushes with thorns.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
The boots continue to work well as stated in my Field Report. I still love the comfort and grip.
My longest hike so far was 11 mi (17.7 km) on the Wild Burro Trail. I finished the hike with no rub spots or soreness. I did notice that the cushy feeling I first noticed while wearing these boots is starting to fade. I think it is time to get some new insoles.
I've worn these boots on 10 hikes covering a bit over 40 miles (64 km) in southern Arizona. The hikes covered a variety of terrain, including low, sandy desert, wet canyons with polished granite, snow, and steep climbs with loose scree. I have also taken them bushwhacking, where no trails exist and conditions are generally unstable and overgrown.
Overall, the boots have performed well on all surfaces I tested. I have been impressed by the traction, feel and lightness of the boots. I have no qualms about taking them into unfamiliar territory as I have learned that I can trust them to hold while I concentrate on where I'm going.
|Boots at end of test|
The boots have held up well. I have used them in harsh conditions and tried to push the limits a bit for lightweight boots.
Good traction generally means soft rubber, which wears more quickly than longer lasting (but slippery) hard rubber. The soles on the Halites are a good mix of compounds and provide a decent amount of durability and traction. They are showing some wear, but they have held up better than I expected and I should get many more miles out of them.
The uppers show little signs of the abuse I've given them. I reported concerns about the durability of the thin UreTech abrasion-resistant coating in my Initial Report, but is still unbroken. The lightweight materials still offer support for the ankles and have so far prevented cactus spines from reaching my feet.
I am not impressed with the Gore-Tex liner. It only blocks short exposures to water and at the same time, retards drying. So, my feet got wet and took a long time to dry out.
The thing I like best about the boots though, is that they fit my feet. I have difficulty finding shoes that fit due to the fact that my feet are wide at the balls, narrow at the heels and my middle two toes are longer than my big toe. Things like the position of the ball of the foot inside the shoe and the curve of the toebox have a big effect on how comfortable the shoes feel.
The cushy insole is starting to lose it's cushy feel. The boots are still comfortable though and I will replace the insole and continue to wear them.
I am happy with the fit and performance of the boots. They are as lightweight and comfortable as tennis shoes, but they do a better job of protecting my feet from thorns.
The only thing I don't like about the boots is the Gore-Tex liner. It makes the boots a bit warm due to decreased ventilation and only blocks external moisture for a short time. As a result, internal moisture is not allowed to escape, so my feet get wet and stay wet.
I will continue to wear these boots when the temperatures are cool, since the Gore-Tex liner slows the transfer of heat out of the boot.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
I would like to thank La Sportiva and BackpackGearTest for the chance to test these boots.
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