Big Boot, Big Comfort ReviewJuly 16, 2011
- Especially stable and protective; breaks in relatively quickly; super-strong platform to support heavy pack loads; very durable construction; premium waterproofing and sole; available in widths
- Breathability is reduced by full-grain leather upper and GoreTex bootie; lace eyelet (third from the top) is difficult to use.
If you’re headed into rough terrain with a week’s worth of gear, Vasque’s Bitterroot GTX is a great choice—it’s built to last and protects and stabilizes the foot extremely well. But for how stable and protective it is, the Bitterroot proved impressively comfortable out of the box.
The Bitterroot GTX is stiff, heavy-duty, waterproof leather backpacking boot for heavier loads and multi-day trips.
It would be fair to call the Bitterroot GTX an “old-school” boot. From the upper made of thick, 2.4mm full-grain leather to the metal lace eyelets and beefy outsole, it reflects decades of classic, proven boot design. There’s a reason backpacking boots are still made this way—they make it easier to carry a big pack and last a long time.
Of course, the knock against old-school leather boots is that they are heavy, stiff and take a long time to break in. But the Bitterroot GTX’s leather eased up after a dozen miles or so, and strategically placed stitching adds flex points. There are a few nods to comfort, too, like the thick foam that surrounds the collar of the boot and lines the ankle area. It worked like a car’s side airbags to cushion the impact as we banged along a rocky trail.
One thing that could be improved is the position of the lace eyelet (third from the top) that sits between the upper collar and the forefoot. Testers found that this eyelet sits too close to the top of the foot, and too far from the side of the ankle, to really pull the heel into the back of the boot. Also, the eyelet turns inward toward the top of the foot, making it difficult to pull and secure the laces.
The midsole and outsole have a built-in curvature, so you roll easily from the heel to forefoot with each step. The midsole also has resilient polyurethane foam to cushion each step, while a urethane shank serves as a rigid platform to stabilize the foot on uneven terrain.
While scrambling up a rocky wash, our testers noted that Vibram outsole rubber really stuck well to the limestone and granite, and the lug design effectively put on the brakes while descending steep dirt paths. The rubber on the outsole is somewhat soft for improved traction, so you do give up some long-term durability. But, it’s a fair trade-off.
As for the overall fit of the boot, our testers found that it’s best for people with medium to wide feet. And one nice aspect of the Bitterroot is that it’s available in widths.