Thursday, November 12, 2015

Gear Closet: Hi Tec V-Lite Altitude Pro Boots

A couple of months back I had the opportunity to test a pair of hiking shoes from Hi-Tec called the V-Lite Flash Force, which I found to be extremely comfortable, versatile, and affordable. In fact, I was very impressed at the time with the amount of technical features that Hi-Tec had managed to squeeze into the shoe, which I thought was perfect for light hiking. So, with that in mind, I was eager to test yet another boot from the company, this time one that was designed for more aggressive trails and more challenging activities.

I got my first look at the V-Lite Altitude Pro Lite boots back at Outdoor Retailer in August. When I put them on in the Hi-Tec booth, I was immediately struck with just how comfortable they were. In fact, my exact words were that it felt like I was wearing a comfy couch on my feet. After having an opportunity to test these shoes further, I can safely say that they are definitely amongst the most comfortable hiking boots I have ever worn.

Before I delve too deeply into my thoughts on the Altitude Pro boots, let me first say that this shoe was designed in Europe, and had been available there for some time. In the spring of 2016, it'll make the leap across the pond to the U.S. as well, giving American hikers a new option for their upcoming trail excursions. In the U.K., the boot sells for £99.99, which is about $150 using the current exchange rate. If that price holds when they are released stateside, they'll be a heck of a bargain.

Designed for use on more aggressive trails, and in alpine settings, the Altitude Pro is fully waterproof, but comes with a breathable membrane that helps to keep your feet cooler and dryer. That said, much like with the V-Lite Flash Force, my feet were very warm in these boots, which would discourage me from wanting to wear them on summer hikes in warmer weather. They are fantastic for late-fall, winter, and early-spring use however, and if you're hiking in the mountains where cooler temperatures are the norm.

Also like the Flash Force, this shoe features a Vibram sole that includes the Rollingait System. This specially designed sole is meant to move naturally with the foot, keeping it more comfortable and reduce fatigue in your legs. It was originally developed to help with trail running and walking downhill, but it has evolved over time to become part of Hi-Tec's hiking shoes as well. This is one of those features that is difficult to actually judge how well it is working, but I'd venture to guess that it does play a role in the comfort of these boots. I would also say that my legs and feet did seem less tired when wearing them as well.

Durable and well made, the Altitude Pro seems like a shoe that will survive many trips in the outdoors, and continue to travel with you on hiking and backpacking trips for years to come. The fact that they are lightweight, provide good ankle support, and actually look good too means that you'll actually be looking forward to wearing them on those escapes.

Putting these boots to the test on a variety of terrains, I found that they offer good traction on dirt, mud, rocks, and other wet surfaces. I haven't had a chance to try them out in snow and ice just yet though, so I'm not sure how they'll perform in those conditions. We all know that winter poses a different set of challenges, but I suspect that these boots will do just fine in all but the worse of weather.

It is impossible to write about the Altitude Pro without coming back around to just how comfortable they are on your feet. While it is true that they are packed full of features and technology, the bottom line is that none of that makes much of a difference if a shoe isn't comfortable to wear. You'll have no fear of that here however, as Hi-Tec has done an outstanding job of creating a boot that is simply a joy to have on your feet.

If these boots are already available in your market, and you're considering buying new hiking shoes, these deserve to be on your list. I think you'll find that they provide outstanding performance in all but the most demanding mountain environments. If you live in North America, you'll have to be a bit patient and wait for their arrival here. They should hit store shelves in time for spring, and I promise they are well worth the wait.

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