Since my beloved Asolo Cotopaxi boots bare-treaded out on me at the beginning of last season, I’ve been searching for a suitable replacement. Last year I wrote about some boots I tried, and they got me through the season. But I wasn’t satisfied. So I kept looking. Key ingredients for me are sole stiffness and ankle support, both equally important. Next in line are (more or less in this order): narrow Vibram sole (not particular about traction pattern), Gore-Tex liner, full rubber rand, easy lacing system. Fit is an obvious necessity, but everyone’s feet are different, so the lasts that each manufacturer uses are going to work for certain types of feet and not others. Fit — as far as boot features go — is a non-issue; you gotta find the maker for your own personal foot.
My feet are really wide in the front and very narrow at the heel. The Asolo Cotopaxi were the best boots in the world for me because they were really tall and stiff (amazing ankle support from the 10″ top, mounted on a mountaineering platform), but they did cramp the front of my foot a little bit. Convinced that boot height was the key to protecting my glass left ankle, I bought a pair of Zamberlan insulated hunting boots last year. While they are Cadillac comfortable, the soles are not nearly stiff enough for chukar hunting and the insulation, even in sub-zero temperatures, was too much. I then tried a pair of mountaineering boots that didn’t really fit my feet (and was able to return them, thankfully).
Enter the La Sportiva Gore-Tex® Trango S Evo Mountaineering Boots. When they arrived I put them on and wore them around the house for 8 hours. I did some yard work, drank a beer, played with the dogs, sprayed some wasps, hit a few golf balls, graded some student papers, basically replicated your typical chukar hunt. After 8 hours my feet were happy. So I kept them. On my first hike I tested their side-hill worthiness, focusing on the ankle support. I was impressed, despite these boots being about two inches lower than the Cotopaxi boots: the ankle collar is heavily padded and somehow really stiff, with hardly any lateral give. At this point in the season, I have 34 miles, 24+ hours, and 9,000 feet of climbing in these boots. No blisters, no sore feet, no complaints. I’m surprised I like them so much. I wish they were taller, but, frankly, I’m starting to rethink the height thing.
One reason for the re-think is that the Trangos are unbelievably light: my size 42 (Euro sizing) boot weighs 26.7 ounces. My first Asolo boots (the ones I destroyed my ankle in) weigh 30.4 ounces each. The Cotopaxis weigh 32.1 ounces. And the Zamberlans weigh 36.5 ounces. The differences between these boots might not seem significant, but when you consider you lift each foot about 750 times per mile of chukar terrain, that’s a difference of about 460 pounds of lifting, per mile per foot, between the Trango and the Zamberlan. On yesterday’s 6.6 mile hunt, if I’d worn the Zamberlan boots instead of the Trangos, each of my aging chicken legs would have lifted 3,032 more pounds. That’s better savings than K-Mart Blue Light Special Savings. If I really wanted to get depressed, I’d do this same calculation for how much more I weigh this year than last year at this point in the season. But for now I’ll focus on the boots. They make me happier than my growing gut.
Not everything is super-swell with the Trangos, however. The soles are wearing a bit faster than I’d like; since traction is pretty important in chukar terrain, you need some well-lugged boots. But it’s a trade-off to get a rubber compound that isn’t so hard it will slide off rocks instead of grabbing them, and these soles do well in that regard. And the colder it gets, the harder and slicker that rubber gets, so there’s no miracle material for soles as far as I know; it would be lovely to have a thick-lugged sole that was grabby in any temperature and never wore out. Something for NASA to think about.
The only other thing so far that isn’t a total positive for the Trangos has to do with the fact that they’re meant mainly for use in snow and above-the-timberline activity. This means that in chukar territory these boots collect lots of cheatgrass seeds (see photo). Yes, cheatgrass seeds weigh something, but not enough to worry about. The concern here is that if you don’t periodically clean those burrowing seeds out of the tongue area of these boots they’ll penetrate the Gore-Tex liner and end up making their way inside and impale your fleshdogs. I’m not certain if this is even possible, and it’s really not that big a deal to clean them out of the tongue area (although it did take some time and tweezers).
Time will tell if this is the boot for me. I wore the Cotopaxis for 7 full seasons. I doubt these will beat that, but I’d be thrilled if they made it three seasons. If my feelings change about these boots, look for an update. As always, I welcome comments.
Based on my initial enthusiasm, my wife, the most finicky-footed creature in human history, decided to try a pair. After one hike, her jury’s still out. I like the women’s color better, though…
19 Replies to “Chukar Boot Review: La Sportiva Gore-Tex® Trango S Evo Mountaineering Boots”
I’d be interested to see if you’ve looked at the Lowa Tibet? Uninsulated, Gore-Tex liner, 10″ height, full rand, stiff mountaineering design, etc.
Thanks for your comment, Ryan. I have eyed the Lowa Tibet and will probably head that direction next if the Trango doesn’t work out. A couple things kept me from the Lowa: price (the Trangos were less than half at Sierra Trading Post), and the sole looks wider than I want. Have you used these? I like that they can be resoled (at least REI’s spec sheet says that). I’d wonder about their stiffness in the sole, too.
Hi Bob, I have not used the Lowa’s yet but I’ve inspected them closely (I’m kind of a boot junky) and have tried them on a few times. They are a little bulky, especially compared to the Zamberlan boots out there that I’ve looked at, but they seem very stiff and supportive in the sole & ankle. Much less flex than my all-leather Asolo backpacking boots, for example.
My brother and college roommate from years past wore Solomon? Boots this year and loved them.and hiked 12-14 miles of chuk ground. Not sure which ones they were but they were $200+.
My favorite boot was from Target years ago. It was 29.99. And they lasted 2 years each pair, then they discontinued them. I shoild have bought 10 pairs. It’s all about the feet and ankles. Im always experimenting, yet no perfection for my feet. Hasn’t slowed me down. I’m still chasing the chuk chuk.
You owe it to your feet to try Kenetrek boots, Bob
On my 2nd season in ND, SD,NE, and KS. I KNOW it’s not mountains but you need to look.
GOOD, safe hunting to you and your wife!
It’s interesting that you like Gore-Tex boots when so many hiking blogs claim that Gore-Tex is worthless. My own experience has been that 8″ Gore-Tex boots work fine for me as long as water doesn’t get over the top. I wore Gore-Tex lined work boots for the last ten years before I retired and found them to be very comfortable in the Midwest mud and puddles. My boots were well made and comfortable, but the waterproof lining only lasted a year and a half. I seldom wear boots any more, unless conditions demand them. I bought a used pair of La Sportiva Bushidos to see how they fit and how they felt and I have found them to be very comfortable and sure footed. Buying foot ware is not an easy thing for me. I can’t really tell if I’m going to like a pair of shoes until I get some miles on them. By that time, the manufacturer will have discontinued that model.
Have you ever tried logger style boots. I’m a fireman and this is what we wear on brush fires. I have a pair of “Drews” boots that were custom fit for me. They have been the most comfortable boots that I have ever worn. I started using them on chukar a few seasons ago and they work great. After many years of use and abuse they are finally wearing out. I’ll try and squeeze one more season out of them. My next pair will be another custom pair from “Nicks”. There’s two drawbacks, one is the initial cost. This can be a turn off for sure, but you can bet that you’ll get more life out of these boots than just about anything that you’ve used in the past. They can be re-soled and most can be rebuilt as well. This will be a significant savings over just throwing away an old pair. The second drawback is weight. Mine are 5.5 pounds. I don’t really notice this though, maybe because they fit so good, or maybe I’m just used to it. I’ve been using an 8″, but I’ll get a 10″ next time, just to try them and see if there is any significant difference. Good luck in finding the perfect boot.
I’m a firefighter also and own Wesco boots for wildland. They are way too heavy for chukar hunting. As far as I’m concerned, the only reason we use them in the fire service is because of their toughness but they are not even in the same league as these other boots for comfort or weight. The tall heel on them is terrible as well.
Where are the Birds Bob ?
I’ve ordered a hand made custom pair boot with measurements specifically taken of my feet from Russell moccasin co. Light weight birdshooter series. Will see how the work!
I am in this boot mess like you, Bob. Trying to find that perfect balance of comfort, support, sole longevity and stiffness, weight, and value – it is a challenge. I am not against spending 4-500 on a pair of boots if they will meet all the criteria. However; last season I bought a pair of Crispi Nevada boots ($$) and wore them in the store, around the house for MANY hours, and finally after a long time in the home I finally ventured out into the chukar hills. Well I knew within the first two hunts that I had a problem that walking and wearing in my home couldn’t produce – toe jams (not the kind you pick from between your toes, but what you actually do that causes bruising and lost toenails) My foot was between sizes, the one that fit really well was too small for chukar mountain climbing, the one that would have been good for chukar climbing was way to sloppy. Thankfully Scheels took them back and said they were most concerned about my satisfaction and comfort – they made a true returning customer out of me. I love the Salomon Quest 4D GTX boots, but the soles wear fast and don’t have the type of shank I prefer for my weight and the sensitive feet I have and the rubber compound shreds in the rocky shale of the chukar hills. Still to date, I have found no other boot that rivals the comfort of this boot – so I picked up yet another pair that wont last but 18-20 months. After this boot I will be back on the prowl again for a better boot with the requirements I seek. Bob keep us all posted on the La Sportiva thoughts as they begin to wear.
Thanks for commiserating, Jeff. I think we all feel the pain of the quest for sensible chukar footwear. I’ve written and called Asolo US about the Cotopaxi and have yet to get a response. The Crispi and the Lowa Tibet boots look great to me (aside from the insulation on the high Crispis), but the soles appear wider than the narrow mountaineering soles that I like because they make it easier to pinpoint foot placement. And my eyes are getting worse, so even with my narrow soles I’m often surprised by what I step on. Ultimately, I guess boots don’t matter nearly as much as making sure I get out there as often as possible, or as often as my feet will allow me to hike.
I just bought a new pair of boots for hunting. They are the Salewa Mountain Trainer Mid GTX. I bought these for everything except the steepest stuff (still using my Limmer Midweights for the nasty stuff). They are super comfortable and are great for putting in the miles, but work pretty well for sidehilling. I am looking for a replacement for my Limmers. I love some of these European mountaineering boots as most of them are pretty comfortable out of the box. Most of them come in pretty funky colors though.
I wear the Salewa Mtn. Trainer’s for work every day and hunt in them on dry days. They seem to fit close to my Kenetrek Mtn. Extreme’s which get used on nasty days and have held up well for 4 yrs. They both feel/fit just like my trap/skeet/sclays gun, perfect, which is why they work. Thanks for a cool place to hang out and will be representing one of your hats in WA and northern NV this season.
As a retIred Forest Service ranger, I found no boot more suitable for rough terrain than White’s “smokerjumper” model with a 10″ top. You say sole stiffness and ankle support are your first priority (as they are for me)? If you look those terms up in the dictionary you should find a picture of the White’s smokejumper. And yes, this boot is the number one choice of wildland firefighters, which should tell you how they stand up to the roughest terrain and toughest use. Yet, once broken in, they are so comfortable that they are literally the only boots I’ve ever owned that I would wear for a tough 16 hour day yet be in no hurry to take them off when I got home. They are heavy but they protect your feet and ankles like an M1 Abrams tank. They are also pricy but when at last you have worn them to a nub, White’s will rebuild them to like new for about half the price of a new pair. My chukar hunting is working lava runs in the Mohave desert, a landscape that looks like photos sent back from the Martian surface except lots steeper, and I can’t imagine chukar hunting without them.
Not sure if anyone’s reading this at this point, but a quick update on this La Sportiva boot. I finished the season in them, logging about 210 miles and 70,000 feet of elevation gain, and they look and feel like new still, with a little more wear on the sole than in the photos above. The Gore-Tex liner is still perfectly intact. I went on a 4-mile hike in the snow and mud a couple days ago, and they kept my feet comfy and dry. In short, I couldn’t be happier. I’m trying to find another pair on sale so that when they wear out I’m not stuck in this loop again.
Bob, are you still wearing these boots this season? I just bought a pair of the Trango Tower Cubes (which I believe were the replacement for your boots). I have just worn them around the house as I want to make sure that they have enough volume in the toe box for me before I venture out on a hunt. So far, they feel great. They are really light, but they are pretty stiff as well. Seem like they will be side hilling machines. I’ll keep you posted on them as I wear them this season.
Bob, After wearing these Trangor Tower Cubes for 2/3 of last season and the first part of this season, these boots may be the best purchase that I have made. I’m a pretty big guy, so they may not be as stiff for me as they would be for lighter guys, but they are sidehilling machines. They are also comfortable to walk in when I’m in flatter country as well. They are some of the lightest boots that I have owned. Never thought that I could get all three of these features in a boot that is this stiff and so well suited for the steep stuff.
One other thing, they changed the material on these boots, so they don’t pick up the cheat grass like your pair does. They have sort of a funky exoskeleton that will pick up some cheat grass up between the bottom lacing point and the boot, but other than that, they hardly pick up any seeds at all.
I am also watching the durability of this Vibram sole, which I believe is the same that you have. My weight could be causing this durability issue, and the fact that I typically hunt country that is rockier than where you mostly hunt.
One nice thing about this sole is that it does not get rock hard when it is cold.
If and when you need a replacement, I wouldn’t overlook this new model.
Hi Scott – I’ve actually been wearing a new pair of Tower Cubes this season, and like them, but not as much as the red slippers. Not as much ankle support, but you’re right about the seed-collecting difference: the Towers have nothing stuck to/in them. I think I need a softer insole in the Towers, too. But they’re incredible light and absolutely side-hilling machines (love that description). And I agree with you on the soles; I know they’re not designed to walk on igneous rocks all day, and they’re wearing faster than I’d like, but they do stay softer when it’s cold. Chalk all this up to the fact that there’s no perfect Swiss Army boot out there for all conditions. These are pretty close, though, at least for me.