Vibram soles

6:30 p.m. on January 27, 2010 (EST)
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I have a pair of Vasque boot which are very comfortable. However this new pair has the Vibram sole and I find that they are crap when it comes to traction on wet rock. Anybody know any tricks to help with this?

6:43 p.m. on January 27, 2010 (EST)
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REAL Italian "Montagna Block" Vibram, the original high carbon kind, worked better on wet rocks than anything else I ever tried. I suspect that you have some of the more recent lug soles made from "polyurethane" or a blend thereof, which is lousy crap on rocks or anything else, but, it is cheap and many boot makers thus use it.

6:47 p.m. on January 27, 2010 (EST)
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Apparently, they take a while to soak up some water and then they grip quite well. That is one story. All I know is, when it isn't Vibram, it might be one of the less durable but sticky rubbers, like my pair of relatively new Asolos, which lasted a year before the rubber just started crumbling; or it could be the recycled rubber that Patagonia use which is slippery straight away and doesn't improve.

I find the Vibrams (10 yr old Scarpa SLs) that I am using right now, on cold wet rock, ok, but I still wish they were better.

Conclusion (mine): Vibram might be the best compromise but the compounds might be different at any one time. Also a new pair can need 'scrubbing in'. Good luck. Jon

10:00 p.m. on January 27, 2010 (EST)
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I have the same problem with my Vasque Breeze. They work really well until I hit wet rock. Then they are neck breakers. And they don't get any better with age or use. My Salomon's with their Contagrip work exceptionally well on wet rock though.

8:54 a.m. on January 28, 2010 (EST)
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I just wonder why they have gone to such crap and crap is the best word I have for them. I owed wo pair of sundowner's over the last 15 years and this time I switched to the Switchback for a lighter feel. I wonder if the soles are differrent for different models?

12:44 p.m. on January 28, 2010 (EST)
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I must say though, that I once had a pair of boots by Aku (I think that's the name) that were absolutely terrible in the wet. Don't think they were Vibram.

I think that if Vibram are going to use different compounds in different boots (say, a more durable boot with better edging strength in stiffer boots) then they should at least give the compound a name or number so that the buyer has the information they need.

I am a bit sad to hear that Vasque are using crap from Vibram. I was going to try them next, as they are now becoming more available in the UK. I will try either Haglofs, Mammut (Raichle rebranded), Zamberlan or some other boot which I haven't used before/recently. I hope they aren't Vibram but I usually don't have much choice. My last purchase, Asolo, were the result of trying on four different boots with severe post-blister pain from a few days in crampons - they fitted best and that is all.

I know that Salomon Contragrip is supposed to be very good but they never seem to have them when I go for boots and when I last tried a pair on they didn't fit anyway. The pair of Salomon's that my partner used for years were thrown out when the leather cracked - the sole was still fine.

Ideally, we should try boots on blindfolded, as the look of a boot is irrelevant and we should try them in the wet. Even more ideally, there would be an easy way to have them resoled, so that using a sticky, less hard-wearing rubber would be not be a hindrance.

I think there might be two things going on:

One, there is a type of customer who wears a boot on the street and who, when the boot is quickly worn out, wants their money back; this person might be buying a traditional looking but cheaper priced leather boot and go out walking when it is dry.

The other customer hardly wears their boots at all in the street because they look very flash and expensive, buys on impulse and replaces the boots every ten years when they are worn down; but this person also expects the rubber to be sticky in the wet. I think that this latter 'disposable but technical looking boot' was what I had mistakenly bought when I purchased the Asolos.

I haven't seen a comprehensive boot test for safety in a magazine for years (usually it is the fashionable criterion of weight per boot that is measured). Also, watch out for shallow treads, which is another sign of the 'disposable' boot.


3:20 p.m. on January 28, 2010 (EST)
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In REI a customer was trying on a Merrell Outbound Boot with a vibram sole. The clerk mentioned that the sole was very slippery until scuffed. He recommended scuffing it up and down a cement or paved driveway, then it would work fine. He had mentioned this to a Merrell rep, too, who said the sole just comes out slick when new.

The customer, who said he was headed for Kilimanjaro, chose another Merrell which looked like a nice boot.

3:25 p.m. on January 28, 2010 (EST)
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Thanks Rambler. That sole design looks very similar to the sole on my Switchback's. I'll give that a try!

6:44 p.m. on January 28, 2010 (EST)
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Ya rambler I'm eager to give those Outbounds a feel. Been eyein' those for a while now...

7:00 p.m. on January 28, 2010 (EST)
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Vibram makes many fine boot soles. Each sole is ideal for some conditions and, necessarily, less than ideal for others. Here is the Vibram listing of hiking/climbing soles --

If you look through all seven pages, you will see just the right sole for your conditions. A good cobbler can change the soles on most high end boots for you.

7:38 p.m. on January 28, 2010 (EST)
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Thanks for that link overmywaders,

I have either the Montagna or the Ortler, they look identical. According to the website the Ortler are designed for Norwegian Welt construction which is what I have.

I have these boots:

Alico Summits, I was not familiar with the brand, but tried on a buddies pair and was impressed. Not top of the line custom FGL boots, but sturdy, supportive, and fit me well. Very stiff boot which I like in steep, rocky terrain. They have a leather liner & grip pretty darn good.

9:34 p.m. on January 29, 2010 (EST)
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I use those sole on my boots and had that problem at first also but after a couple trips out they broke in and I have not had any complaints with them now

12:24 p.m. on January 30, 2010 (EST)
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If you like your boots but need better grip on wet rock, follow the lead of Mr. Sipe. Siping really works (see )

Using a thin siping perpendicular to the line of travel should fix those boots. A Dremel with a tiny circular saw bit makes the very thin kerf you need, but a kozuki saw would as well. Even a razor blade might work.

3:46 p.m. on January 30, 2010 (EST)
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Vibram, has grown huge and diversified a lot since Vitalli Bramani started the company in the 1920s or 1930s. He invented the "Bramani" lug sole to replace the old nailed boots. If you ever see the old mountaineering nails, you will see that the shape of the outer edge lugs is similar to the shape of the tricouni nails. Anyway, after the company recovered after WWII, the company shortened the name to Vibram (Vitalli Bramani). They make soles for all types of shoes. My Rockports and a couple pairs of my Italian-made dress shoes have Vibram soles, as do many of the boots I have owned over the years. Different ones are as another poster indicated, for different types of shoe and boot construction, included the glue-on construction so popular these days as well as the sewn construction. Some of the soles are siped for use on wet surfaces (the current head of the company, grandson of the original, is an avid yachtsman).

10:01 p.m. on January 30, 2010 (EST)
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I've climbed all the way up to 5.9 with vibram soles. I do spend a lot of time on very rough rock, so perhaps they were naturally sipped. Its interesting that the very best traction with climbing shoes comes from brand new totally smooth (squeaky) rubber. Also the old heavy climbing boots had what we called "edge" that is narrow welts and stiffness at the edge of the sole that did not bend or collapse under weight. I suspect that ALL modern softer body hiking boots have lost the "edge" that the original design was designed to use, since it was designed to replace iron tread shaped nails in hard leather soled high topped military combat type boots. As Bill says - Tricounis. Hey Bill, where can I get some replacements for those nails?

Jim S

10:49 a.m. on January 31, 2010 (EST)
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Yes, thanks Overmywaders for that link too. I have been looking for new soles for my boots.

For better traction I usually will sand the bottom of the soles a bit to make them grip faster, but a week or so of hiking on nonslippery sandstone will also do the trick. But in places like the Grand Canyon my new soles usually only last about 4 months. They last about 3 times as long in Yosemite on granite.

11:04 a.m. on January 31, 2010 (EST)
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In fairness to the company, seeing "Vibram" on the sole is akin to seeing "Goodyear" on a tire. Tells the observer something about quality, guarantee, reputation, etc., but not the specifics of performance. Now, admittedly, there is one key difference, since the sidewall of a tire usually carries the model name, number, and other identifying bits telling of wear, etc. Bootmakers generally don't do the same, though there's no inherent reason they couldn't, as far as I know.

Over the years, a high proportion of Vibram production moved from Italy to developing countries, especially Brazil and China. If I recall correctly, Vibram started a "research center" or some such in China just last year. This of course might lead one to be concerned about quality maintenance. The bigger and more spread out an organization gets, the harder it is to police quality at the various levels. This results in the principle that one sees, for instance, in the preference for top-quality gear from small outfits that make one thing, but really, really well. (E.g., Western Mountaineering bags.)

Vibram's probably producing some of the best soles, but because of consumer demand at all levels, it's also producing much of the more techno-look stuff, too. The lesson, I guess, is: caveat emptor.

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