Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Gear Review- Asolo Fission GV Hiking Boots

It is waterproof, comfortable, and won't give you blisters. It protects your soles and toes from sharp rocks and genreal toe-stubbing clutziness, and is engineered to wick-away moisture to keep your feet cool and dry. The perfect boot? Not quite, but as far as hiking boots go the Asolo Fission GV Hiking Boots for women come close. 
When I purchased these beauties I immediately put them to the test, and in the past few weeks they have been tested in a variety of environments ranging from the leaf-clad paths of Itasca State Park in Minnesota to the steep climb to Rattlesnake Ridge in the Cascades. They have been been on well maintained trails, and have created trails of their own. In all of these tests they have performed remarkably well, and I couldn't be more pleased.


1) The Style- Style is not the same as fashion, and these boots make no attempt to disguise their purpose or to imitate the look or feel of a tennis shoe. The Asolos are made to tackle any hiking environment and to protect the feet of the wearer. They have the "traditional" boot silhouette, which provides extra ankle support and stability. The Asolos are constructed with water-resistant suede leather and nylon, which is meant to "ensure that the uppers are durable and flexible, offering good support and breathability." (REI.com) They also have GORE-TEX® waterproof liners to help your feet stay dry, and Vibram® rubber out-soles to protect eh soles and allow the wearer to have an excellent grip when descending. All of these features sound great, but the true question is how do they hold up in reality?
Fortunately, in my experience the Asolos have performed as well as (if not better than) promised. The soles gripped rocks without issue when I descended the rather steep Rattlesnake Ridge trail in Washington's Cascade Mountains. When used on a five-mile hike in 80+ degree weather, my feet stayed dry as the boots allowed them to breathe and wicked sweat away as promised. I have yet to wear them in a downpour or splash in a stream with them, so I can not attest to the thoroughness of their waterproof abilities, but I can attest to their comfort level and cushioning.
When I received these boots I foolishly decided to wear them on a few-hour off-trail hike without breaking them in. I expected to earn blisters for my idiocy, but (to my delight) the Asolos felt as if they had been molded to my feet over years and after the hike there was no soreness or a blister to be found. No matter the length of my hike, at the end of the day I've had incredibly happy feet, and as I've learned quickly, happy feet equal a happy hiker. 
As if all of these features weren't enough, the Asolo boots have another element that has become (to my surprise) an absolute favorite of mine. The toe-bumpers. Those simple rubber toe covers at the end of your boot are an absolute gift if you are like me and stub your toes a lot. Originally I was unsure about them- I believe my original thought was "my, those are ugly"- but after attempting to break my toes on hidden rocks and tree roots numerous times, I now see the toe-bumpers as works of genius. No one likes a stubbed toe, and with the Asolos it is almost imposssible to get them.*

*Note: please don't take that as a challenge and slam your toe into a wall or something as hard as you can to see if you toes stay protected. These boots are amazing, but I doubt they were designed to protect against that level of silliness.     
2) The Fit- The Asolos fit well to the foot. As mentioned previously, I wore my Asolos on a hike without breaking them in and suffered no blisters or other common break-in pains. I did order my boots a half-size larger than my everyday flats, but I also do that with my running shoes, and as such am unsure if that is a personal quirk or a good rule of thumb for these boots. I would recommend wearing the boots with higher socks to protect against ankle chaffing. I am unsure if this is necessary, but I feel that it is better to be safe than sorry. I would definitely recommend trying the Asolos on in store before purchasing, however if this is not possible, REI has a wonderful exchange policy.

3) Projected Utility- The Asolos are a high quality boot that is perfect for my needs. They have so far withstood every form of punishment I have thrown at them without any signs of wear or tear. I have not as yet taken these boots on an all day hike, but Asolo guarantees their product for one year, and many of the customer reviews I have read talk about their boots lasting for 5-10 years even with frequent wear. As such, it is my hope that these boots will be capable of being used relatively often (a weekend or two a month) for at least five years.

Overall the Asolos are a solid, comfortable boot that provides excellent support and protection for the feet and ankles. They are well designed and constructed out of durable, high-quality materials. Of course, the drawback to these boots is their price- they are listed at a steep $240. I was fortunate enough to snag my pair during REI's anniversary sale for under $200, but I was prepared to pay full price for these wonderful boots. If they continue to perform as well as they have thus-far and last for as long as I hope, then they will be more than worth the stiff initial price.      

-AK



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