External frame provides support – most noticeably on the outside edge
Fits a narrower female foot
Can handle moderate pack weight
GORE-TEX lining was a bit steamy—even in 50 degree weather
Tough to “lock down” the instep
The Lowa Bora GTX won our 2013 Best in Class Award for women's light hiking boots—it simply proved to be one of the most exciting boots in the test. The Bora is a super-stable shoe that felt at home on aggressive or mild terrain. It's stiff enough to handle high mileage hikes and supportive enough to get you through a really nasty talus field, but its truly comfortable on smooth trails with a light pack. In a closely competitive test, this boot outshined all other boots like it.
A heavier, mid-cut, waterproof light hiker with a split-grain leather/mesh upper. The Bora features an external polyurethane frame and polyurethane midsole with three-quarter shank and moderate depth lug pattern.
Support & Stability The Bora was one of the only boots in the test to feature a PU midsole. Why should you care? Polyurethane is very lightweight, durable material and can handle higher mileage hikes and more weight. It won’t compress like EVA foam (the squishy stuff in your running shoes), which gives it more stamina on frequent extended outings.
The three-quarter shank provided substantial torsional stability: on a three hour hike on rocky, uneven terrain in New Mexico’s White Mesa area, my foot remained steady, reducing foot fatigue at the end of the day. The PU overlay provided another layer of support, adding rigidity at key points alongside the arch and ball of the foot. I have a very narrow foot, and Lowa boots are normally a bit roomy for me so this added support was much appreciated.
Comfort: Climate Control The Bora uses a GORE-TEX bootie for waterproofing. Although GORE-TEX claims their liners allow for maximum breathability, I still found my feet getting uncomfortably steamy, even on a (50 degree) winter hike.
Comfort: Cushioning With the minimal factory insoles, I was wishing I had a bit more cushion at around 5 miles, but this is par for the course for most factory insoles and was not substantially more uncomfortable than other boots in the test. On the up-side, the noticeably soft collar eliminated bruising and chaffing around the ankle.
Comfort: Fit Although the boot itself is low-volume, which is great for my narrower foot, I found myself stopping often on steep descents to try to tighten the laces. I would have liked a bit more security around the instep.
Quality and Construction Lowa delivered again on super high quality materials and construction. Split grain leather and mesh upper combine for high durability and suppleness. The Gore-Tex lining provides waterproofing up to the top of the gusset. The rubber outsole has adequately aggressive lugs, provided sufficient traction for just about any terrain—it really stood out on a steep, nearly sheer rock feature during one test hike. A substantial, textured toe rand, and the external frame protects the shoe from premature wear and tear.
A note on our durability ratings: Because we rarely have enough time in a field test to actually wear out a boot, durability is determined by the materials used (ex: full-grain leather lasts longer than mesh); features such as rubber toe and heel caps; and whether or not the upper is constructed out of one piece of leather, or multiple pieces and materials sewn together. Our ratings are based on general wisdom and we cannot guarantee that a boot with a higher durability rating will actually outlast those with lower ratings.
Value At $185, the Bora was the priciest shoes in the lineup along with the Patagonia Drifter. On the other hand, this was one of the highest performing shoes in the test. If you’re an intermediate hiker looking to step up your game with a premium product, the price tag may be worth the investment.