Thursday 29 August 2013

Brasher Kanika GTX Walking Boots – Update

Last Autumn I bought myself a pair of Brasher Kanika GTX Walking boots. For me, this was a bit of a departure in that they were a) fabric, b) in the sale and c) bought untried off the Internet.

Brasher Kanika GTX Boots - condition as they are now

Now I’m always open to a bargain. But when it comes to footwear I am usually quite finicky. Normally I have chosen boots only after a rigorous selection process. Sore and/or uncomfortable feet are a nightmare on a walk, especially when trekking or doing an LDP, and if you need to be able to rely on your footwear for several days or weeks in a row you need to have the right choice. So I always want to be as sure as I can be that they will fit and be comfortable when tackling the range of walking we do.

Fabric boots were also something of a departure for me in that I have traditionally favoured the durability and protection that leather boots have offered (against stones, rough terrain, peat bogs, etc). I don’t like wet feet either: after one memorably painful day’s walking a few years back, I now insist on a decent barrier against water ingress as I am in no hurry to repeat the experience. 

Lightweight fabric boots with waterproof Gore-tex lining (1132g/pair size 8.5)

Having said all that, I was also interested in trying to bring my footwear thinking into the 21st Century, especially with a view to two characteristics: reduced weight and increased comfort levels. Like most people's feet, mine have changed over the years and now tolerate heat, cold, wet, discomfort, etc, differently to how they did ten, twenty, or thirty years ago.

So, when I found the Kanikas at a knock down price, it seemed like the ideal opportunity to try something a bit different and test a few preconceptions as well as a pair of boots.

The original review is

Early indications were good: sturdy, supportive, light and comfortable – just what I was after. But what would they be like after a bit of punishment?

Well, ten months on and they’re still going strong. In one sense I’m not surprised – after all, Brasher are a reputable manufacturer – but I think I had a lingering concern about just what build or materials quality would be sacrificed in making a “cheaper” boot, even by a trusted supplier? Presumably, as well as being aimed at a lesser suitability, a lower price point indicates a reduced materials spec or an expected lesser performance in some way? Technologies also change, and whilst some changes are good, some are a complete flop and disappear, never to be seen again.

No deterioration of stitching or gluing in toe/rand area 

With preservation of my Burmas in mind, I've actually worn them quite a lot – not least a week on the Camino and ten days in the Balkans during which they were subjected to a variety of testing conditions. And it’s so far, so good: still comfortable and wearing well after an estimate of some 350 to 400 miles. They were plenty comfortable on the harder tracks and roads of the Camino, cool enough in the hot Balkan weather, and tough and protective enough (just) when subjected to more rugged mountain days. They are probably my “go to” footwear of the moment: in other words, a good all-round pair.

I’m not an advocate of the throwaway society – far from it, in fact. But the principle of spending £50 to £70 in the sales on a pair of reasonable boots (boots good enough for general walking and maybe a bit more) and walking them into the ground whilst saving my more expensive boots for the toughest conditions might well be a step forward. Horses for courses, you might say.

Ankle cuff padding and stitching in good order

Burmas are currently £190 RRP (although they can be bought for about £150) and prices are escalating as exchange rates and rising living standards in the countries in which they are made have an increasing impact. I should easily get my hoped-for year’s wear out of the Kanikas, and then some – which is looking to be a real bargain. If I can get a couple of years out of them, I’ll be quids-in. And, by picking the right footwear for the occasion, it shouldn’t lead to more expense over a 3-5 year cycle if I stick to my rough pound-a-week budget per pair.

The upshot of this experiment has been twofold. Firstly, I’ve got a pretty good pair of comfortable boots for a pretty good price  - and I’m always happy to get good gear at competitive prices!

But it has also shifted my perceptions slightly as to how to choose and use footwear. Whereas before I might have had “boots” for proper walking and “trainers” for easy outings or popping to the town/pub, I can now see the benefit of having a range of options. If you did winter climbing or high-altitude mountaineering, you’d have suitable boots for the job. So why not apply the same principles to subdivide other types of walking activity?

Sole units show little wear despite 350+ miles usage

The idea of having a wider range of footwear and matching their use better to the expected conditions makes sense. It sounds obvious, and although many have understood this principle for a while it is probably not practiced as much as you might think.

Like I said, this has been something of a mini epiphany. Isn’t it good when you challenge your perceptions and hit on a winner? 

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