£50.00 – Field & Trek (RRP £100)
In the last week or so I’ve had to consign two pairs of boots to the recycling. One, an elderly pair of Meindl Burmas, has leaked for a while, but I kept them as a standby for walking the local lanes in dry conditions, not wanting to waste any valuable tread. The other, Brasher Air 8’s, have recently begun to leak after about 6 or 7 years of intermittent use.
In truth, neither pair owes me a thing. Each has covered many hundreds of miles and accompanied me on many a happy trip. As I already have a newer pair of Burma’s, I was really on the look-out for a new pair to replace the Air 8’s.
And this is where technology and thinking has moved on a little. Brasher were one of the first walking boot manufacturers to embrace the concept of lighter footwear, and have produced some market-leading products over the years, such as the iconic Hillmaster model. Nowadays, with so many manufacturers offering lightweight (or even ultra-lightweight) boots and shoes it is easy to overlook Brasher’s significant contribution to lighter footwear.
Truth be told, in this matter – as in a number of others – I’m a bit of a traditionalist. I prefer the solidity and stability of boots. I don’t like walking with wet feet either: one particularly uncomfortable week a couple of years back disabused me of that notion. So none of your “leaky shoes that dry quickly” or low-cut trainer-types that let wet in over the top for me: boots it is, unless easy, dry conditions can be guaranteed (and you only need to think back over this last summer to work out how likely that is).
However, I’m not a complete Luddite, and if boots can be made lighter and more comfortable yet still maintain levels of support and protection, that’s great. For tough, mountain conditions or boggy moorland walking I still prefer a leather boot such as the Meindl Burma. But for general low-level walking in the countryside I reckon a fabric boot is fine.
So when I came across a pair of Brasher Kanika GTX boots selling at half price on the FIELD&TREK website, my curiosity was piqued. A lightweight, fabric boot with a Gore-tex waterproof lining by a respected manufacturer for £50: these must be worth a try.
In “buying without trying” I had broken one of my cardinal rules: never buy boots without trying them on first. I am quite finicky about footwear, but I reckoned I knew enough about the brand from previous experience to risk giving them a punt untried.
So I must admit I got a bit of a surprise when I put them on for the first time. I have quite wide feet, and was used to previous pairs of Brasher boots being quite generous on the width. But these felt quite narrow, and I wore them round the house for a couple of nights before invalidating the returns option and taking them outside for a spin. I figured that being fabric they would “loosen” slightly as they were worn, which seems to be the case, and I am happier now that a good fit will be obtained.
At 1132g per pair (size 8.5) they are quite light for a boot, and certainly felt so when in use. Yet they also felt quite sturdy, robust and supportive, with a nice bit of flex to the sole, a comfortable rolling action, and a reasonable amount of torsional rigidity given they are designed as a lightweight fabric boot for lowland walking, not a crampon-compatible mountain boot. Hopefully, then, no tired feet at the end of a long day!
There is plenty of padding round the ankle cuff and the top of the bellows tongue, and the cuff is high enough to provide good protection to the ankle bone. A protective rubber trim to the toe box offers further foot protection. I think that after a couple of trips they will mould nicely to my feet and prove to be very comfortable. If I had one slight criticism it would be that the laces are a bit on the short side: something easily remedied but a tad annoying nonetheless.
Last Sunday, I put them through their paces in earnest: an eight-mile walk in nearby countryside that had them tested on metalled lanes and stony tracks, through wet grass and deep puddles, and along slippery, muddy paths – and all that in the first mile! And I’m happy to report the Kanika’s coped pretty well on the whole. OK, traction in some of the muddiest sections was not brilliant, but I think any boot would have struggled to maintain a firm grip in such slick, clay-rich conditions, and I don’t think the lack of friction was due to any failing of the sole unit or lug pattern.
All-in-all, then, a thumbs-up. I’m not an advocate of the disposable culture, but for this price I paid if I got just one year’s use out of them I would be happy: that would equate to around £1 per week (a benchmark I set myself for big-ticket items). So not bad at all, although I reckon they’ll do better than that.
Like I say, these are currently on sale at F&T for £50, although there are plenty of other stockists to be found and an array of prices. I think this is because this model is in the process of being discontinued. However, there are current versions that are very similar: Kiso for the men (RRP £120, buy for £85) and Kenai for the ladies (RRP £100, buy for £50).
If you’re in the market for a reasonable pair of boots for light use, I think these are definitely worth checking out.
Value (at price paid): 9/10