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Reviews > Footwear > Boots > Montrail Namche Boots > Test Report by Chuck Kime

Montrail Namche Boots - November, 2007
Photo courtesy www.montrail.com
Montrail Namche Boots, Celery

Contents
Reviewer Information[return to top]
Name: Chuck Kime
Nickname: Fuzzy
Age: 41
Gender: Male
Height: 5' 8" (1.72 m)
Weight: 243 lb (110 kg)
Email address: chuck_kime AT yahoo DOT com
City, State, Country: Upper Darby (Philadelphia suburb), Pennsylvania, U.S.A.

Additional Information applicable to this test
Foot size: 9½EEEE (US)
Shoe size: 8½EEE-10D (US), depending on cut of shoe

Backpacking Background[return to top]
My family started car/trailer camping when I was about 5. I now go on monthly Boy Scout camping/hiking weekends, with similar family trips occasionally, and plan to add one or two week-long trips per year. Advancing age, arthritic knees and injuries have led me to rethink my gear choices, switch to hammocking, make some of my own gear, and look closer at my ‘toys’ with an eye for multi-use and light weight. I now have a sub-20 lb (9 kg) 3-season load – before food, fuel and water – and should be able to reduce it further with a little effort.

Additional Information applicable to this test
I have been wearing shoes for… lesseee… twelve times four… plus three… carry the one… oh, almost 40 years now. I prefer leather to vinyl/synthetics on the non-mesh outer part of shoes. I also wear my ‘technical/hiking’ clothing at other times, so as not to increase the storage space I require (and my wife’s ire) by having duplicate items, and to give me increased testing opportunities.

Product Information[return to top]
Manufacturer: Montrail
Model: Namche
Year of Manufacture: 2007
URL: http://www.montrail.com
Listed weight: none
Measured weight (size 10 w/ insoles): 2 lb 1 oz (936 g), scale accurate to 0.1 oz
Measured weight (size 10 w/o insoles): 1 lb 15.4 oz (890 g)
Measured weight (size 11 w/ insoles): 2 lb 5 oz (1049 g)
Measured weight (size 11 w/o insoles): 2 lb 3.4 oz (1004 g)
Color: Bombay Brown
Other color available: Celery
MSRP: none given

Features/claims (from web site)[return to top]
  • Ventilated abrasion-resistant forefoot
  • Gryptonite™ GT sticky traction

Initial Report - May, 2007
Arrival [return to top]
The Namches arrived on May 21, 2007, in a standard retail box. Box and contents appeared undamaged.

Description [return to top]
The Namche is part of Montrail’s Fusion line, meant to be a lightweight, protective option for long-distance hikers. They are mid-height (higher than a running shoe, slightly lower than a chukka), with a well padded collar and tongue, heel and tongue pull-loops, a tension-distributing lacing system, a removable/replaceable insole, and a deeply lugged sole. They weigh just a hair more than my walking shoes, only a little more than my trail runners, and just over half what my combat boots weigh. From top to bottom:

The tongue is thickly padded with a sewn-on pull-loop. The tongue is lined with the same fabric as the rest of the shoe, while the outside mesh fabric is mostly covered by a perforated ‘leather’ patch. Down the center of this patch are some sewn-in webbing details, one of which provides a lace-through loop to keep the tongue from sliding down into the shoe.

The collar – also thickly padded – is cut at a slant, just covering my ankle bones in front and the most vulnerable portion of my Achilles tendon in the back, though it is not notched at the Achilles as some other shoes are. There is a pull-loop at the rear of the collar, sized sufficiently – though barely – for my thick fingers to fit through. A little bigger would be nice, as the stiffness of the back of the shoe leads me to use the loop to assist getting the shoes onto my extra-wide feet and ankles.

The lacing system is primarily loops of ¼ in (7 mm) webbing, five on each side and one at bottom center, with two plastic/nylon/rubber eyelets on each side at the top. The side webbing loops go from the laces all the way to the sole of the shoe, distributing the lacing tension completely around the foot and not just across the instep. The shoes came pre-laced, with the laces run back through the top eyelets instead of forward, which helps to lock the lacing down a bit more. I will likely try them both ways to see if I notice a difference.

The upper of the shoe is primarily a fairly open mesh, covered on the sides with a finer, stiffer clear mesh, presumable for wear protection. There is a rubber toe bumper in the front, as well as a semi-rigid clear plastic/vinyl reinforcement about 1 in (2-3 cm) high all the way around the shoe where it meets the outsole. The outside of the collar continues on both sides forward and down to meet the outsole near the back of the arch.

The outsole is fairly thick in the back, tapering to a thinner, rounded profile in the front to aid in stepping off. The black rubber sole, which Montrail calls their GT formulation, is sharply and deeply lugged, which should keep most mud from getting stuck and aid in traction on loose soils. Separation between the heel and forefoot is noticeable, and an insert of a different material takes up the inner portion of the sole.

The removable insole is – like most athletic-type shoes, in my experience – made of a lightweight closed-cell foam with a slight arch support. It is covered on the foot side by a black fabric with a noticeable weave pattern in it, and on the underside by a rubbery green coating from behind the ball of the foot all the way to the rear. I expect this coating helps keep the insole from sliding inside the shoe. I have used neoprene insoles with arch support in all of my boots for over 20 years, and am curious if the stock insoles can provide sufficient support and comfort.

First Impressions [return to top]
The Namches are full of nice details, pretty much what I expected from reading the web site. Lots of mesh to help keep my feet aired out (they sweat, sometimes badly), and a lacing system that should keep them in place. The padded collar feels comfortable so far, and the tread seems good for both dirt and rock. I look forward to getting some trail miles in them.

Field Testing Plan [return to top]
Our Boy Scout troop camps monthly, generally in the wooded areas of southeastern Pennsylvania and the Pocono Mountains. Almost all of these outings include a minimum of 2 nights of camping, with temperatures expected to be from lows around freezing to highs around 90 ºF (32 ºC) during the 4-month test period. Elevations will range from sea level to approximately 1,500’ (457 m). We have added monthly hikes to our schedule as well. My wife and I, who between us have 3 high-ranking boy scouts (ages 15, 16 and 17), are also looking into additional camping without the scouts, and there are possibilities of some AT section hikes (with overnights) in Pennsylvania with my son as he works towards the Hiking Merit Badge.

We have several trips definitely on our schedule so far for this year: a potential rafting trip in June, and summer camp – with *much* hiking – in July, along with some parades and hikes with my son.

I plan to wear the boots on all coming outdoor trips, including camping and hiking, as well as wearing them to work and around town as the weather dictates, checking for both comfort and durability.

Things I am/will be looking for: [return to top]
  • Fit. Do they fit me? Is the sizing accurate?
  • Materials. Is the upper durable? Does the outsole wear much?
  • Comfort. Do they provide good arch support (and, if not, can other insoles be used)? Do they hold my feet securely while walking/hiking? Do they pad my heel strike well (I ain’t small)?
  • Traction. Do they slip at all on wet rocks? How about wet pavement? Do they shed mud well?
  • Ventilation. How warm can it get and still keep my feet cool? How cool can it get and still keep my feet warm?
  • Smell. Do they hold any stench?
  • Appearance. Can I wear them to work? Out to dinner?
  • Washability. Are there special instructions? Are they easy to follow? Do they dry well? Do they hold much dirt in the first place?
My findings so far: [return to top]
  • Fit. I found the Namches in size 10 to be both too short (very unusual for me) and too narrow (not, unfortunately, very unusual). I will be exchanging them for a size larger.
  • Appearance. I like them, but they appear to me like a basketball shoe, precluding them from not-so-casual wear. Of course, they are meant for hiking, so this is a moot point.
Things I like [return to top]
  1. Light.
  2. Airy.
  3. Fairly secure fitting.
Things I don't like [return to top]
  1. Sizing is not consistent with other brands.
  2. The rear of the shoe is fairly stiff, particularly around the Achilles tendon. Perhaps a notch in the collar would help.

Field Report - August, 2007
Field Testing [return to top]
I have been wearing the Namches to work on and off since my Initial Report, with about 1½ mi (2 km) of walking as part of my commuting. I work in the historic part of Philadelphia, so I have cobblestone and other surfaces not typically found in town by most people. I found the soles to be firm, but very capable of absorbing shock and imperfections in the walking surface.

Over the past month or so I have been experimenting with different lacing techniques, and have noticed that the Namches are more sensitive to lacing tension than any other shoe I have ever worn. Once I got it right they were very comfortable and secure, but until then they were merely stable and secure. I generally tie all of my shoes with a fairly even ‘tightness’ all the way up my foot, but this created a number of uncomfortable spots with these shoes. First, if I tightened the first two loops too much, the webbing that holds the laces put too much pressure on the base of my big toe, so I only made them snug. I was able to comfortably tighten the next three loops around the mid-foot with no problems. The last two lacing holes – in the collar – needed to be just barely snug, or the back of the collar would start to wear a nasty hot spot on my Achilles tendon. When tied this way the shoes provide no more ankle support than any low-top shoes I have, but do provide significantly more impact protection around my ankle, something which should be taken into account when hiking some of the places I have been. I am also now able to wear the shoes for an entire day without any comfort complaints, though it took some practice to get it right.

In addition to daily-wear usage, from late July to early August I brought the Namches to a week of Boy Scout Summer Camp in the Pocono Mountains of eastern Pennsylvania, where my son and I left the main part of camp one day for a 10-mile (16 km) hike around the reservation. Temperatures for the week ranged from about 55 °F (13 °C) on the coolest mornings (after a couple *very* rainy nights) to about 85 °F (30 °C) most afternoons, with oppressive humidity in excess of 90% all week. Elevations at the reservation range from about 600 ft (190 m) to just over 1200 ft (370 m) according to the available maps. Since our camp site was (by far) the furthest from the main part of camp, a bit less than ¾ mi (1 km), regular walking around camp (with a day pack on) with no special hiking at all added up to 10-15 mi (16-24 km) per day.

On the first (Sunday) night out, after waiting out the worst of a major rain storm under some tarps with a few of our scouts, I walked up to our camp site. My 4th or 5th step out from under the tarps put me in a puddle that was deeper than the tops of my crew socks. Needless to say my feet got wet, as the mesh construction of the Namches – which keeps my feet cooler than most – does nothing to keep out wetness. The shoes remained comfortable over the entire walk, although I could feel the water sloshing around my toes. They did not dry completely overnight, so I let them sit and they were dry by lunch time Monday. We headed out Tuesday after lunch for our long hike and I had no comfort issues the entire time. The Namches performed well over dry rocky paths, both uphill and downhill, and through dense underbrush, as well as places where water still stood in level areas. I did not feel any pounding on the soles of my feet, nor any significant point pressure from any rocks I came across. When we stopped to eat dinner I changed into my camp shoes out of habit (I like to give my feet a little rest every now and then) more than any need to relieve discomfort. After darkness fell, and the dew point had been reached, we hiked back out through a grassy area that got our shoes quite wet on the outside. I was aware of some wetness on the tops of my toes, nothing like the sloshing from a few nights prior, but the shoes again remained comfortable.

Things I am/will be looking for: [return to top]
  • Fit. Do they fit me? Is the sizing accurate?
  • Materials. Is the upper durable? Does the outsole wear much?
  • Comfort. Do they provide good arch support (and, if not, can other insoles be used)? Do they hold my feet securely while walking/hiking? Do they pad my heel strike well (I ain’t small)?
  • Traction. Do they slip at all on wet rocks? How about wet pavement? Do they shed mud well?
  • Ventilation. How warm can it get and still keep my feet cool? How cool can it get and still keep my feet warm?
  • Smell. Do they hold any stench?
  • Appearance. Can I wear them to work? Out to dinner?
  • Washability. Are there special instructions? Are they easy to follow? Do they dry well? Do they hold much dirt in the first place?
My findings so far: [return to top]
  • Fit. I found the Namches in size 11 to be long enough, though still too narrow if I tie them too tightly in the forefoot.
  • Materials. I have seen no damage to the shoes; even the mesh does not show any abrasion.
  • Comfort. I am impressed with the arch support, and they pad my heel strike well. As I have noted, they are *very* secure.
  • Traction. I did not noticeably slip on wet rocks, and they are decent shedding mud.
  • Ventilation. My feet were cool even in hot, humid conditions. Nice.
  • Smell. No problems yet.
  • Appearance. Except for some scuffs in the ‘leather’ around the collar (and a bit of dried mud in the tread), they look more or less new.
Things I like [return to top]
  1. Light.
  2. Airy.
  3. Fairly secure fitting.
  4. Well padded in the sole and the collar.
Things I don't like [return to top]
  1. Sizing is not consistent with other brands.
  2. The rear of the shoe is fairly stiff, particularly around the Achilles tendon. Perhaps a notch in the collar would help.
  3. They are very sensitive to correct lacing tension.

Long Term Report - November, 2007
Field Testing [return to top]
End of test I had a couple of trips/hikes fall through since my Field Report, so this report has been pushed back a month to get in some more miles. I could have worn them to work to get some miles on the cobblestones of historic Old City Philadelphia but, though I find the boots supportive and comfortable while walking/hiking, I find them less comfortable for just sitting around – particularly around my Achilles tendon and also around the ball of my foot, where variation in pressure points due to motion and flexing does not take place while sitting still.

Missing Tread Block One day in mid-October I noticed an odd feeling under the front of one shoe, and realized I was stepping on a small ‘strand’ of rubber. Investigation showed that it was the forward-most tread block from that shoe that had peeled/broken off of the sole. This is in an area that has plenty of tread and not too much wear, so I am not concerned about traction, but it does make me curious how long the rest of the sole will last.

Over the last weekend in October we took the scouts to Gettysburg to hike portions of the historic trail. I took my son out with me to complete over 9 miles (15 km) that he was unable to do in April. Temperatures ranged from 45 to 55 °F (7 to 13 °C), with clear skies and strong winds following much rain Friday night. Elevations ranged from about 450 to 750 ft (130 to 240 m). Trails ranged from paved roads to uneven footpaths through the woods. The Namches proved once again to be up to the task of hiking different terrain, but continued to wear on my Achilles when I wasn’t actually walking.

Things I was looking for: [return to top]
  • Fit. Do they fit me? Is the sizing accurate?
  • Materials. Is the upper durable? Does the outsole wear much?
  • Comfort. Do they provide good arch support (and, if not, can other insoles be used)? Do they hold my feet securely while walking/hiking? Do they pad my heel strike well (I ain’t small)?
  • Traction. Do they slip at all on wet rocks? How about wet pavement? Do they shed mud well?
  • Ventilation. How warm can it get and still keep my feet cool? How cool can it get and still keep my feet warm?
  • Smell. Do they hold any stench?
  • Appearance. Can I wear them to work? Out to dinner?
  • Washability. Are there special instructions? Are they easy to follow? Do they dry well? Do they hold much dirt in the first place?
My findings: [return to top]
  • Fit. I found the Namches in size 11 to be long enough, though still too narrow if I tie them too tightly in the forefoot.
  • Materials. I have seen no damage to the uppers; even the mesh does not show any abrasion. One of the small tread blocks came off the front of one of the shoes.
  • Comfort. I am impressed with the arch support, and they pad my heel strike well. As I have noted, they are *very* secure. I have not felt any need to swap out the insoles, though I would likely need a larger size if I did.
  • Traction. I did not noticeably slip on wet rocks, and they are decent shedding mud.
  • Ventilation. My feet were cool even in hot, humid conditions. Nice.
  • Smell. No problems.
  • Appearance. Except for some scuffs in the ‘leather’ around the collar (and a bit of dried mud in the tread), they look more or less new.
  • Washability. The occasional rainy day or walk through wet grass has kept the outside clean enough for my purposes.
Things I like [return to top]
  1. Light.
  2. Airy.
  3. Fairly secure fitting.
  4. Well padded in the sole and the collar.
Things I don't like [return to top]
  1. Sizing is not consistent with other brands.
  2. The rear of the shoe is fairly stiff, particularly around the Achilles tendon. Perhaps a notch in the collar would help.
  3. They are very sensitive to correct lacing tension.
Summary [return to top]
The Namches have proven to be a well made, soundly designed boot, and I will continue to wear them for a while, though I will not be buying more due to sizing issues. I have about 60-70 miles (95 to 115 km) of hiking coming up in the next 6 or 7 months, and expect most – if not all – of those miles will be in the Namches. My only caution to potential buyers is to try them on in advance, as the sizing seems to run a bit small and/or narrow.
Thank you for your time.

Chuck Kime
a.k.a. Fuzzy


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