Finally, I found my hiking/backpacking boot: Zamberlan’s 996 Vioz GTX Leather Backcountry Boots.
I cannot say enough positives about these boots. I am in love with them. I wear them even when I am not hiking in the mountains. I want to sleep with them on. I want to be a spokesperson for these boots. Listen to me: These boots are incredible.
Let me summarize first why I’m so excited. My quest to find a pair of backpacking boots was a hard uphill battle:
- My Vasque’s VasqueBreeze GTX Hiking Boots are a good boot but only for day hikes that aren’t too rocky. I quickly learned the more rugged terrain and the heavier pack, the more I could feel every bit of ground, which caused incredible foot pain.
- My Danner’s Mountain Light Cascades were oh so pretty but that was about it. One of the many top issues: The tri-fold tongue, which created multiple other problems to the point that these boots were returned.
- My Danner’s Explorer Boots came next and let’s just say the list of cons were embarrassing. These boots were also returned and in the end, sorry Danner, but both boots left me giving up on your company.
All of this essentially meant my search for a hardy and comfy pair of backpacking boots left me feeling hopeless. I was confident that people who backpack are simply forced to pick the worst of the worst when it came to boots, and I wasn’t ready to succumb to such sorrow. That’s when Andy told me about Zamberlan, an Italian boot company that is highly regarded in Europe. Let’s not hesitate: Here’s my review of them.
- They are so comfortable. I mean it. I said above that I’ve considered sleeping with them on and I wasn’t joking. I’ve never worn any footwear — hiking boot or otherwise — that has been this comfy.
- They have the thickest soles I’ve yet to try in hiking boots. This means with any terrain, including jagged rocks, tree roots, piles of sticks — I cannot feel any of it.
- They have a “rock-forward” motion, which honestly makes me feel like my boots walk for me.
- Supports heavy packs (which *cough cough* means my about 40 pounds.)
- Not a lot of stitching so water does not get in and — in case you’re curious — I’ve walked through water much higher than this pictured, so much so that the water flirts with the top of my boots and they remain dry.
- Overall great traction and grip
- Memory foam insoles mean super comfort.
- Breathable! *Cue angels singing* This was a big deal for me because full-leather boots are known for keeping heat in. However, these boots surpassed my hopes for various temperatures: They are made for cold hikes but honestly I wear them in the hottest months — y’all, I’m talking over 100-degree temperatures — and my feet are never hot. That says something.
- Tons of toe room. Andrew thinks I’m crazy because I tell him all the time during hikes, “I’m stretching my toes out!” and it’s true — I splay my toes as wide as they can go in these boots.
- High-quality materials that hold up. The soles are still perfectly in tact and the leather is super resilient. I’m not easy on my boots, too, so seeing barely-there scuffs after what I’ve done in them — That’s a miracle.
- Small pro but the boots are a beautiful and simple design.
- The soles can be slightly slippy on wet rocks. I’ve worn boots that have slightly more traction on wet surfaces.
- A bit of debris seems to always find its way into the boots. I’ve tried lacing them differently and I’ve tried tying them super tight but still debris finds a way in.
- This is super minor: When I purchased mine, they only had the dark brown available and I had my heart set on light brown. Good news for you though: They have light brown now! To add a bit of “flare” and make mine different, I changed the laces and put in a different company’s bright yellow ones, which I absolutely love . . . and also which is probably the most girly thing I’ve yet to do hiking.
- Like all full-leather backpacking boots, the price is higher; however, I will say these boots are an average cost compared to similar ones made my competitors.
Rating: out of Five Vistas
Tips when tracking down your own hiking or backpacking boots
- Don’t give up! There is a pair of hiking boots that will fit your feet! Keep trying different boots and be honest with yourself about what does and does not feel comfortable — Use that to determine what direction to head in.
- For tons of other tips and tricks, visit my other backpacking boot reviews at the links above.