Hiking in wet leather boots, up and down mountains, for days on end, really sucks. Really. That’s what happened to me on my last big trip through the 100 mile wilderness. So when I got back from Maine, I vowed to renew my quest to find a non-leather boot that dries quickly and but still gives me the feel of a leather boot.
I’ve tried a number of lighter weight boots this year including the Inov-8 Roclite 370 Trail Boot but it didn’t have a stiff enough last to support my foot, even when augmented by a green Superfeet insole. I also tried a pair of KEEN Targhee II Mid Hiking Shoes which were much better, but too damned hot for three-season use.
My leather boots are Asolo 520 TPSs, so I decided to try Asolo’s non-leather hiking boots to see if they would satisfy my needs. Asolo makes two non-leather boots, the Flame GTX and the Fugitive GTX, so I ordered them both from REI to try them out. The Flames arrived first, so I’ve been using them exclusively for the past 3 weeks and I’m very satisfied with them.
As you can see above, the Asolo Flame is made using suede leather and nylon mesh but comes with a Gore-tex liner for waterproofness. Each boot weighs 24 oz in a men’s size 9.5 US which is about 7 oz less than the leather Asolo 520 TPS in the same size. This weight difference is very noticeable when hiking, especially when they’re wet inside.
The Flame’s last is not as stiff as the last in my leather boots, but it still quite satisfactory, and way better than the Inov-8 Roclite or the KEEN Targhee. This is a hiking boot, even though it’s rated by the manufacturer for lighter loads than a heavier backpacking boot.
Break in time is quite quick for the Flames. I’ve hiked 45 hard mountain miles in them so far without even a hot spot. But it’s taken me about 25 of those miles to feel the right degree of angle flexion that you need for descending steep rock laterally while keeping the surface of my boot on the rock face. If you’ve ever hiked on ice in crampons, you know what I mean.
Heightwise the ankle cuff on the Flames is a little lower than the cuff on my leather Asolos, but without diminishing the level of ankle support I like in a hiking boot. Fit wise however, the cuff is a lot looser and it wraps around your leg above the ankle more like a plastic mountaineering boot, increasing the chance of scree getting into your boot unless you wear a gaiter. I haven’t had this issue yet, but it’s a matter of concern for me and I’m thinking about buying some eVent gaiters for use with these boots.
Fit wise, these boots lock my heel into the back of the boot extremely well without any heel lift. Initially they felt narrow and a wee bit small on my foot, but after experimenting with different sock thicknesses, I figured out that the problem was with the insoles. I automatically put green Superfeet insoles into every pair of hiking boots I try on as soon as they come out of the box. Normally this is not an issue, but it raised the foot bed of the Flame too high. When I replaced them with the original insole it solved the fit problem completely.
Now we come to the question of drying time. The Flames do dry out faster than my leather boots, but not what I would consider incredibly faster. To test this I submerged an Asolo TPS 520 and an Asolo Flame in a bucket of water for 12 hours. I drained both boots and squeezed as much water out of them as I could. Then I put them side by side in an open window and timed how long it took for each boot to dry completely. The Flames dried in 2 and 1/2 days while my leather boots dried in 3 and 1/2 days. Not bad and at least directionally positive.
But stay tuned, the Asolo Fugitives don’t have a fit problem with green Superfeet insoles and are made with less leather than the Flames, so they may dry even faster.
Disclosure: The author owns this product and purchased it using their own funds.
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