User Review: Alico New Guide
Materials: Heavy 3mm leather uppers, Glove leather liner, Vibram soles, Norwegian welt construction.
Use: Day Hikes, Backpacking/40lb pack, Light Mountaineering.
Break-in Period: long, plan for it.
Weight: 3lbs per boot
Price Paid: $180
This is my 2nd pair of Alico boots. I have the Summits also. These boots are made in Italy and the sizes run a little narrow. I have a somewhat wide foot so I bought the extra wides and people with a normal width may opt for the medium to D width. I also found that the sizes run large. I normally wear a 9.5-10 and in both pairs of Alicos I use 9's. Sierra Trading company is where I purchased both pairs. This is an excellent company with good customer service and pretty good prices. I highly recommend them.
The Alico Guides are a great looking, classical, old school boot. You may recall the old Raichle leather mountaineering boots from the 60s-80s. Stiff, heavy and those bright red laces. These Alicos are just about the same as those old Raichles. Very few of these old school heavy duty all leather boots are still being sold and you have to look around to find them nowadays. Limmer boots also come to mind but these excellent boots are very expensive.
I have hiked hundreds of miles, done some light mountaineering and backpacked a ton since the late 70s. I would say I am mid-level in experience. I used the old style Raichles till you could no longer get them and then switched to the newer, high tech boots that are sold today. I used these new style boots for around 7 years and I found that they have many short comings. Almost no support, poor waterproofness, they caused me various foot problems, are expensive and I destroy them in a season or two. After going through a half dozen pairs of Salomon, Merrell, Vasqe and the like, I decided to go back to the old style hiking boots 6 years ago and bought a set of Alico's excellent all leather Summits and I have been far happier ever since.
My Summits are still going strong but are down for a re-sole. The sturdiness of Alico's construction and their build quality is second to none. With proper care a set of Alico guides will probably last at least 5 years of hard use. Maybe I am just hard on my boots, but I could never get a pair of the newer high tech boots with their mix of synthetic materials and glued construction to last more than a couple years. I was always having them repaired or replaced. Having to shell out the $'s every time a set went bellyup got real old. My first Raichles lasted 10 and the Alicos have just about the same design and build quality. If these Alicos are anything like my old Raichles I suspect that I will get many years of service out of them. So even though they cost a little more up front, over the longterm I think I will be money ahead.
Another plus is that they can be re-soled for around $60, so you can get even more value out of a pair. The foot and ankle support on the trail is fantastic. There is no comparison to the "tennis shoe" hiking boots sold today. This is an all leather boot. No synthetics, no gore-tex, no plastic. The beautiful white glove leather interior wears good under hard use and does not cause blisters, at least for my foot. These all leather boots also breath surprisingly good. I use a liner sock with a medium to heavy wool sock to help wick moisture away and keep my foot dry and blister free. In contrast I was always getting blisters with the newer boots even though they felt great in the store. I think because the newer boots break down so quickly, your foot starts sliding around inside them. Also despite all the claims of Gore-tex linings and other high tech fabrics, the newer boots I have used just did not seem to breathe as well. I think these two things are what caused all the blister problems.
At nearly 7 in's tall, along with the stiffness of the leather and the heavy lacing, these Alicos provide excellent ankle support. Traction is good in all sorts of conditions. The Vibram soles are hard to beat although they do tend to clog up in muddy conditions. The one piece all leather uppers are very waterproof from the factory and it is easy to keep them that way. I never had any leaks or even dampness from my Raichles or Summits and I hike in the Pacific Northwest in very damp conditions.
I do a maintenance on the boots a couple times a year. First a good cleaning with a mild soap and a stiff brush, then a good quality leather conditioner like Limmer or Obenauf's. Finally seal them with Sno-seal or NikWax. In between major cleanings I may give them a quick cleaning and spray them with a silicon water proofer and I always dry and store them properly after use. These boots are heavy, no doubt about that. But honestly, you get used to the weight and they feel great on the trail. The weight has never really bothered me except on a couple of long hikes of 10 miles plus. The secure planted feel of these boots and knowing your foot is properly supported and protected is worth the extra weight to me. I guess it's a tradeoff.
Do plan for a long break-in period or these boots will hurt you. I wear them around the house at first, then outside doing routine daily activities for a few weeks. I soften them up with a good qualitly leather conditioner. If all else fails there is always the wet sock treatment, getting the boot semi wet inside to help it soften and mold to my foot. The Alico Guides didn't need that and after a couple weeks of normal wear they feel pretty good. I plan a couple 5-mile day hikes with them and will proceed to longer hikes if they seem broken in.
Bottom line: I would have given them a 5 star except for three things, Heavier weight, high initial cost and the long break-in period. I do recommend to anyone looking for a sturdy, well constructed, classically styled boot to take a look at the Alico Guides. If you do get a set, take the time to break them in and learn how to maintain them properly and you will have a "real" set of hiking boots that will serve you well for a decade or more.