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Reviews > Footwear > Boots > La Sportiva Trango Trek GTX > Heather Oakes Palmer > Test Report by Heather Oakes
Initial Report: December 5, 2006
Field Report: February 12, 2007 (skip to)
Long Term Report: April 17, 2007 (skip to)
Name: Heather Oakes Palmer
Backpacking Background: I consider myself an intermediate hiker and beginning backpacker for over five years; my longest backpacking trip being only three nights. Day hiking and weekend backpacking comprise most of my weekend warrior experience averaging one backpacking trip per month and two day hikes per month averaging between 10-15 miles (16.1- 24.2 km) per day. I tend to backpack in warm, humid climates, with a good amount of hiking in the southern Appalachian Mountains and I have rarely hiked in below freezing or snowy conditions yet. I am a lightweight backpacker and buy my gear accordingly, often splitting various objects and amounts of weight with my husband.
Manufacturer: La Sportiva
Product Description: The women’s Trango Trek GTX is a heavy backpacking boot designed for use with “fastpacking and technical hiking in rugged terrain requiring precise foot placements like rocky “baby's head” trails, boulder fields, extremely rooted old-growth treks, steep, sloping trails or side-hill game paths.” The ankle is advertised as having flexibility and a support collar for ascending and descending, while the sole provides traction and stability. The Gore-Tex insole and lining has moisture management capabilities along with its promise of comfort.
The La Sportiva Trango Trek GTX boots include Gore-Tex and Vibram tags, sticker, and an extra pair of laces. The catalog and tags describe the technical specifications of the 2006 La Sportiva product line. My first impressions of the boots are of wonder at their size and rugged design. I feared they might even be too big for me as I re-checked the size, but they fit perfectly over my merino wool lightweight hikers and heavier socks alike. My thoughts upon wearing the boots were mostly that they felt like concrete blocks and I wondered if I could even feel the ground upon which I clomped.
The tough Vibram sole stretches high in the back, and covers the front toe area protecting against inevitable stubs. The bottom of the sole looks and feels completely inflexible and rock hard with enough bumps to make me feel as if traction will not be a concern on the trail.
The lacing system consists of five rows of wide leather loops spaced over the flexible mesh tongue with two fast lacing top hooks. The tongue rises slightly higher than the rest of the boot and folds neatly in between the two sides preventing debris from getting inside. Fully laced to what appears to be a good fit, the boots seem overly tight just below the speed lacing hooks in the front and sides of my foot. I’ll report later on how the fit feels while hiking and/or what lacing changes may need to be made.
In the articulated ankle area each of the sides rising slightly higher towards the front of the boot, while the very back of the ankle has a significant U-shaped drop. The materials alternate between the leather and tough mesh-like areas. A large pocket of the black mesh lies directly over the protruding ankle bones allowing for the side-to-side flexibility and support that La Sportiva advertises. The ankle area also feels initially tight in certain spots such as directly below the protruding ankle bones, but I will not be able to tell if this is good or bad until I begin hiking.
Finally, the boots possess a fairly soft lining and insole area which is a nice surprise considering how strong the rest of the boot looks. The lining feels very warm. If so, this will be a great plus, as temperatures are dropping as I type this. These boots feel tough and I am not a graceful butterfly in them. My ankles are secure and protected in these boots and I feel that they are definitely strong enough to easily move aside any rocks and debris in my path. While after only trying them on and walking around indoors, I fear that I will need to relearn how to walk in boots since I have been so long wearing the lighter trail runners. With all the great features on these boots I will have many things to look forward to while testing.
Field Report: Field Conditions:
A delayed and schizophrenic winter has certainly changed what the normal conditions for Georgia this time of year would be. I have tested the boots on breaking-in hikes near Atlanta around 1200 ft (366 m) and backpacking trips in the north Georgia mountains in elevations between 2000-4500 ft (610-1372 m). For most of my testing including the first backpacking trip with these boots; days were between 45-65 F (7-18 C) and nights between 32-45 F (0-7 C) even above 3000 ft (914 m). During my last backpacking trip, the weather behaved more like a normal February with temperatures only reaching 35 F (2 C) in the middle of the day, nighttimes into the low 20’s F (-6 C) and plenty of chilly 5-11 mph (8-18 kph) wind. The winter rains/ice/muck are present this testing period and I have been able to test the boots in plenty of mud, light rain, and sleet. Field conditions have also included trails full of mud, small rocks to boulders, slippery/icy patches on both rock and dirt, and sometimes ankle to knee-deep wet leaves.
I have not always had the best of luck with shoes. My second toe is just as long as my big toe, I have no arch, and I have narrow heels that like to slip up and down giving me nasty heel blisters. As mentioned in my initial report, I felt that the La Sportiva Trango Trek GTX boots felt fairly hard and inflexible prompting me to think early on that I would need to break them in. While I realize that I’m not testing boots to walk to the pub (perhaps that is another Yahoo group), I still felt that any usage of the Trangos would aid in the breaking-in process. I take weekly urban walks up to 3 times per week averaging 2 mi (3 km) using my various brands of light hiking socks. Everything went well, I noticed that I would need lacing adjustment if the ankle felt too tight but everything else felt fine. Then I took the boots on dayhikes on moderate trails in nearby Sweetwater Creek State park going 5-7 mi (8-11 km) with a daypack for 3 hikes. I had no problems with fit or comfort, so in early January I felt confident taking the boots on a backpacking trip. I noticed that in temperatures higher than 60 F (16 C), the boots made my feet feel too hot but either the boots or my socks breathe very well since there were no damp socks or feet to report.
On a backpacking trip heading north on the Georgia section of the Appalachian Trail, on the first day I felt painful rubbing on the backs of both heels. I could feel my heel slipping up and down especially while hiking up the sharper inclines. While hiking on less steep uphills, flat areas, and downhills my heels didn’t hurt nearly as much. I was wearing Teko EcoMerino wool light hiking socks given the moderate 50 F (10 C) day temperatures, so my feet felt a little warm in the heavy boots but were not damp. On that day the trail had a few slippery mud patches, the usual amount of rocky trail sections in addition to the series of ups and downs that characterize the AT in Georgia. Stopping a little early to make camp due to painful heels I then looked at them after hiking 5 mi (8 km), and I discovered redness and slight blistering on both heels.
On the second day, my heels looked less red and the blistering had receded but the heels were still being rubbed from the beginning of the hike until the end. The end result of the hike was a small open wound from where a blister had formed and burst on my left heel sometime during the 5 mi (8 km) hike out. I was wearing the same socks from the day before and had not stopped during the hike to attend to my heel pain. Other than the heel rubbing, I felt some initial ankle area discomfort but it was easily fixed by simply loosening up my laces once my feet began to swell from the hike.
After that backpacking trip, I continued to take day hikes without a heavy pack in order to break the boots in more. I wasn’t sure what had caused the boots to rub my heel raw but I guessed that it could have been that I was carrying a 22 lbs (10 kg) pack, or due to the more strenuous trail especially the steep uphill hiking. On my next day hike I was able to hike on trails longer than 5 mi (8 km) with a full pack of comparable weight and felt only slight pressure in the heel area.
On a recent February backpacking trip, the weather was more wintry with the first days’ temperatures between 35-27 F (2- -3 C), with slight wind and light rain. Due to late start, I only hiked about 3 mi (5 km) on a moderate trail with no ill effects to my feet. On Saturday the temperatures were around 25 F (-4 C) when we hit the trail. The Saturday hike was on a more strenuous trail and after only 1-2 mi (1.6-3 km) my left heel had blistered and ripped off leaving a small coin-sized hole on the back of the heel, not to mention a good amount of pain. The right heel also had a blister, but was not broken yet. I put a band-aid and moleskin on the left heel, just moleskin on the right, and cut my hike short by turning right around and walking back for a total of 3-4 mi (5-6 km). My heels burned with every step that was not on a downward incline. It felt like someone had attached sandpaper to the inside of the boot and it was rubbing up and down my heel. After the hike the hole in my left heel had grown to a 1 inch (2.5 cm) wide circle, and the right heel blister had broken but was not leaving open skin. I had planned on wearing my thicker Smartwool socks this trip hoping that a thicker sock would cushion my heel, but I couldn’t find them and ended up wearing Smartwool light hiking socks which are thinner than my Teko socks.
The boots are not all heel-ripping evil, they do have some pluses. They are as durable as they look, I see only slight scuffing on the tread and toe areas. The tread grips surfaces well and has proven its worth on mud and wet rocks a few times during the testing period. The boots are water resistant enough to keep feet and socks dry in a 30 minute continuous light rain and through puddles and streams. I do still feel some limitations in movement mainly in the sole and arches but the articulated ankle does its job; it allows me movement within the boot preventing any rubbing around the ankle area but keeps my ankles firmly upright even when my balance is precarious. My arches and toes are also happy with these boots, so my only problems are the backs of the heels. I’m convinced it is not the weight on my back or trail length, the problem is that my heels slip noticeably on difficult trails so for further testing I plan on wearing heavier socks and some generic insoles to see if empty space in the boot causes heel slippage.
A wimpy winter, and an early spring followed by a vicious cold snap gave me ample opportunity to test the Trango Treks in multiple weather conditions throughout the entire testing period. During the final portion of the testing, I had day time temperatures of 31 F (-1 C) to 85 F (29 C) and night temperatures ranging from a windy low 20s F (-6 C) to 65 F (18 C). Trails ranged from moderately steep hills to strenuous ups and downs, all sizes of rocks, wet leaves, mud, slippery wooden trail-stairs, and sand. Since the winter was so mild, I did not encounter snow or icy slush on the trails.
At the end of my field report, I noted that the boots had previously caused much pain and discomfort to the back of my heels. My heels would slip up and down as I climbed steeper trails until even flat walking caused pain. In order to prevent this heel damage I purchased thicker socks and researched different boot lacing techniques such as the Runner’s Knot, and the Boot Heel Lock. I also tried wearing generic drugstore-brand insoles.
The first day hike with a new lacing technique was on a moderate 4 mile (6 km) trail. As the temperatures were around 85 F (29 C) that day, I decided to forego the thicker winter socks in favor of lighter ones. After hiking up the steepest inclines on the trail I did feel a hot spot on my right heel, but I did not have a blister or broken skin once the hike was over. I have to give credit to the boots for their breathabilty on this hike: even with the high temperatures, only the inside of my sock was slightly damp and my feet were completely dry. I also hiked this same trail with and without a full pack (25 lbs /11 kg) under almost exactly the same conditions, again noting that there seemed to be no difference to my heel comfort based on what weight I was carrying.
Deciding to test my foot comfort further but without an overnight stay, I choose a moderate 8 mile trail (13 km) with some inclines but nothing too steep. The temperatures were in high 60s F (21 C) and slightly humid but comfortable enough for me to wear the thicker socks. I had no foot discomfort at all, nor were my feet damp from the humidity. Aside from an insane amount of pollen on my boots, the hike was a successful test of wearing the thicker socks. During this hike I was also able to test ankle support again as I found myself sliding down a hill and not rolling an ankle. I’d say that’s another successful test of ankle support of the Trango Treks. On the same trail at a later date I tried wearing generic insoles to help fill in spaces in the boot hoping to keep my heel from slipping; the insoles caused the tops of my feet to be rubbed raw by the top of the boot even after repeated lace loosening.
The first 10 mile (16 km) day of my backpacking trip, I wore thick socks and carried about 27 lbs (12 kg) on my back. On the Georgia section of the Appalachian Trail, on a moderate to difficult trail loop there were not as many steep inclines but even after 8 miles (13 km), hot spots on my heels began to form so I pre-emptively put moleskin on the heels. After about 30 minutes the moleskins slid down my heel and were useless. Luckily no blisters formed once we set camp. On the second day, the bottom of my feet hurt and I did have hot spots on my heels, but no blisters appeared and I’m pretty much going to blame the sore feet on me being out of shape. My feet also felt very warm even with the temperatures from 35-55 F (2-13 C) during the day, and into the low 20s F (-6 C) at night but I never felt that my feet were overheated.
After plenty of hikes involving many rocks, sand, wet leaves, mud, stairs, and prickly brush; the Trango Treks show very little signs of wear. They are still pretty stiff in the soles and uppers, easily hard enough to thwack offending cockroaches woken by the early spring (I do realize that roach thumping isn’t really within the La Sportiva brief). The toe box looks only slightly scuffed, and trust me when I report that the toes of the boots were stubbed often, and the varying levels of mud and muck were easily removed by some towels and water.
Overall, the La Sportiva Trango Trek GTX boots are a solid boot choice but they have not swayed me in the boots vs. trail runners argument. While these boots do have strong ankle support, good grip from the soles, decent breathabilty, and could likely withstand being trod upon by a prehistoric creature; I never quite got used to the weight of the boots and I never felt truly comfortable not only hiking in them but also in my overall foot comfort. While my flat arches never hurt and my toes had plenty of room in the toe-box, I never completely figured out how to prevent painful heel rubbing without the tops of my feet being rubbed instead. Thicker socks and different lacing techniques helped my heel problem, but never completely obviated it. I fear that on an extended backpacking trip I would be in some serious pain. While I eventually got used to feeling like Frankenstein’s monster walking in them; I liken wearing these boots to driving a large truck or SUV. I felt taller and possibly ‘safer’ but also very disconnected from the ground and just a bit off balance. The boots certainly were very warm, and I will consider them the colder outside it is or if I move further north. For a lightweight warm climate backpacker, the boots are really just not for me.
Thanks to La Sportiva and BackpackGearTest.Org for letting me test the Trango Trek GTX boots!
Reviews > Footwear > Boots > La Sportiva Trango Trek GTX > Heather Oakes Palmer > Test Report by Heather Oakes
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