After 10 long years my reliable pair of Solomon hiking boots finally gave out. No the soles didn’t fall off, all the structure between the soles and the main boot fell out over the course of a 2 hour hike with my kids. While this left me with wet feet and soles that slide around (since they were only attached by the toes and heels) it was an easy hike and the kids mostly splashed in puddles while I watched.
The dilemma with any search for hiking boots is that they are expensive and simply wearing them in the store for 15 minutes tells you only about 5% of the story of the boot. This leaves almost any boot purchaser at the mercy of fate as they walk out several hundred dollars poorer with a break in period planned hoping that by the end the boots will end up being comfortable companions for years to come.
Yes you can wear boots at home, but that may add about 1% to your knowledge of the boot. A boot that feels great on the flat ground around the house can have major heel slip issues on steeper terrain and then you’ve already got them out and dirty, so they’re now your boots.
Knowing this I tried on a bunch of boots at my local outdoor shop and found one single pair that fit well and felt like it would stay firmly in place on my foot. This boot was the La Sportiva Thunder III GTX.
Things to like about the Thunder III GTX
It took me months, maybe longer to get my Salomon boots laced properly. If they were laced tight enough through the ankle to prevent heal slipping my feet would go numb because the circulation was cut off. Eventually I got the lacing figured out on the boots, but it took many blisters on the path to that perfect lacing.
This was not my experience with the Thunder III. From the first day they laced well and were comfortable on my feet. Not once have I had blisters or any major discomfort. The thing I love be most about their lacing system is the locking eyelet at the ankle.
Once you get the forefoot tight enough you can lock the lacing tight and then get the upper part of the boot just the way you like it. The big lacing problem with my last boots revolved mainly around getting the forefoot way to tight as I tried to get the upper the proper tightness. It’s nice to not have any issues with that in the Thunder III GTX.
Second, I love the fit. I have a EE or EEE width foot which makes many boots or shoes hard to fight. I regularly end up going up a half size just to get something that’s not pinching my forefoot. The Thunder III GTX just fit my wide foot comfortably right away.
I also love how the boots are stiff, but still retain their walkable feel. Living outside Vancouver BC means I have lots of dog walks to do in the pouring rain and these boots feel like a heavy running shoe when I wear them for their waterproofness on the blocks around my house.
Despite feeling like a heavy running shoe, these are really light for a full hiking boot. The first day I put them on the store they were noticeably lighter than my previous boots. The light weight of these means I’ve picked them over my Gore-Tex trail runners many times where previously I would have gone with the runners to increase the comfort on a day when I’m not carrying a huge load.
Things not to like about the Thunder III GTX
Really, I can’t find anything of major note to hold against the boots. The worst knock against them is that after a long uphill as we head on the downhill I tie them again to make sure my toes don’t creep forward, but I do this with every pair of trail runners, shoes or hiking boots I’ve ever owned. So maybe that’s just me.
With nothing cited against the boots, clearly I’m recommending them. I’ve found them to be a very comfortable boot with any load. They’re stiff without feeling like you’re walking on a board and they’ve protected my feet on steep scree and handled deep snow and snowshoes easily.
I really love these boots and look forward to a number of years getting to enjoy them.