My Meindl Dovre Extreme GTX boots have manged to reach the fine old age of 5 years (still on their original laces)and although being loving cared for by regular cleaning and waxing, have now just started to let in a little water. Now don't get me wrong I have absolutely loved these boots, often wearing them 10 hours a day, six or seven days a week, but the one thing that has always niggled me is that they tend to make my walking a bit 'clumsy'. I think this is down to two things, firstly the weight of the boots are not exactly lightweight and secondly the sole is quite thick, rigid and flat. Obviously these qualities can be a good thing in the right conditions but I find when stalking or tracking something a little bit more flexible would be ideal.
So what to do for a replacement. Having spent quite a bit of time researching and reading many peoples comments on the best boots out there, I stumbled across the 'Hanwag Tatra Top GTX Boots', which are made in Europe. Now if you are like me I'm very fussy when it comes to trying on boots, especially when I'm about to invest a fair bit of money on a pair, so I looked online to find my nearest stockist. Unfortunately there was none close by and I didn't fancy going down the mail order route as I wanted to compare more than one pair of boots at the same time time, and not wanting to have to pay carriage returning them if I wasn't happy, I decided to wait until I was passing a stockist. It wasn't long before I found myself passing close by to 'The Bushcraft Store' and so decided to call in. They had two different models of Hanwag that I was interested in and a range of Lowa boots that also had good reviews. Explaining to a very helpful member of staff that that I was looking for a tall, Gortex lined, agile boot and that had a rock band (not the rolling stones), around the boot was essential I tried on two Hanwag's and two Lowa's. The assistant was really helpful and left me alone for the best part of an hour, taking boots on and off, walking all around the shop, and using their shop displays trying to simulate different situations wherever possible. At the end of this time I made my decision and went with the Hanwag Tatra Top GTX Boots. They also seemed slightly lighter and had a more aggressive tread pattern than the others and had a slightly narrower fit than my old Meinl's which I thought might help my clumsy walking problem.
The first thing I did once home was remove the laces and give them a good coating of my old Meindl leather wax. This done I replaced the laces and wore them around the house to get the feel of them, followed by a long walk with the dogs. Now I have to say that it wasn't love at first sight with these boots, after all the Meindl's had a lot to live up to. These were the first pair of boots I'd had for a long while that needed breaking in and the next day was to prove it. Boots went on around 6:00am, and me being me pulled the the laces up as snug as possible with a view that this would help them 'set' to my feet. After a two hour drive the rest of the day was spent in long grass and mud in the pouring rain and on very hilly terrain, followed by another two hour drive home, finally taking the boots off around 7:30pm. By this time I was having regrets and thinking that I had made a big mistake with my choice, as my ankle bones were very sore from traversing steep slopes all day. On a plus point I have to say that my feet were bone dry, the soles were extremely comfortable and as I wanted, proved to be far more flexible than the Meindl's and certainly offered tremendous grip, something that the Meindl's never really had from new. On the subject of soles, the Hanwag's seem to have a built curve that you don't visually notice that much but it really does give you a spring in your step which is really great after a long day.
What could I do about my sore ankle bones. We'll after experimenting with the lacing I managed to cure the problem. The lower eyelets have a ball bearing built in to them which enables the laces to easily slide through when tightening or releasing them. I found that pulling them fairly tight through this section, then hardly any tension where the ankle eyelets are and then finishing of with required tension to the top of the boot gives me all day comfort in any terrain.
What else do these boots have in their favour? Well, there are a couple of other design details that help tip the scales in their favour. The heels have this natty recess to tuck the toe of the opposite boot (or anything else like a step) in to assist their removal from you feet.
The other feature is a pull strap securely fastened to the back of each boot to help in pulling them on. Now although these features are really useful, thanks to the ball bearing lacing system it is so easy to just stretch the front of the boots open once you've undone the laces and your foot slips out easily, and I'm a size11!
So after five weeks with these boots what's the verdict? Well I absolutely love them. I have worn them in all weathers (except hot sunshine), and know that I have made the best choice. They tick all the boxes I wanted them to and the build quality is great. At a current price of around £220.00 they are well worth a look.