Koflach Viva Soft
Use: glacier/heavy pack
Break-in Period: none
Price Paid: < $180 US (?)
Unlike the other comments on these shoes, I had some negative experiences with these shoes. Especially the robustness of the shoes did not meet my expectations.
But to start, first the positive side of the shoes. They are warm, stiff enough for crampons and due to their double structure, they dry fast (at least much faster than leather shoes). And to conclude, they are relatively cheap.
Due to the soft inner shoes, the break in period passed without a single blister. However, I did have some problems with my instep. Due to the pressure and the stiffness of the shoes, they started to ache after a few days of walking. I could solve this by tying my shoe laces somewhat different (loosely around the ankles).
The most serious problem, however, was the robustness of the shoes. After only five weeks of using the shoes on mixed terrain, not only the soles were gone, but also the nose of one of my shoes broke into two halves. It was simply cut from the little toe to the shoe laces. Probably I had hit a stone, but in my opinion, that should never be a problem for a mountain boot. Fortunately, I was able to reach the normal hiking trails (by keeping the shoe together with a crampon). There I had to throw them away and continued my holidays on some old "crampon-friendly" leather shoes.
My brother had also bought such Koflachs. His outer shoes also suffered from severe wear of the soles. Further, the laces of the inner shoes got detached from the shoes. The stitches simply got loose.
All together, the shoes turn out to be not such a bargain as I initially thought...
Use: Winter mountaineering
Break-in Period: eternity (they don't break in)
Price Paid: $250
If they fit you in the store, these are *the* boot for winter hiking/mountaineering.
They are very warm. Pretty stiff sole, but you tend not to notice this as much when there is snow underfoot. They can take strap-on crampons (what I use), but are probably better with step-ins. You don't have to worry about tightening your crampon straps too much and cutting off your circulation, because the hard plastic shell will prevent this. Around camp you can ditch the plastic shells and sleep with the liners. Or use just the plastic shells for those late night trips outside of the tent to answer the call.
Remember, though, they are plastic and won't break in. If they don't feel really comfortable in the store, you will hate them forever. Try other brands until you find one that feels right.
Use: Glacier/winter climbing
Break-in Period: None (if they fit)
Weight: ?4 lb.
Price Paid: $190 (at recent sale)
I have wide feet, and was told these ran narrow, and I knew I would use a heavier sock than for summer climbing - so I got two sizes bigger than my regular shoe, and in my case they fit very well on first use. Used them on Mt. Rainier, and in much colder weather in the Catskills - warm feet.
On the other hand, they are not supposed to be used for really cold weather, and a number of people I've communicated with relay serious complaints about fitting. If they don't fit right in the store, don't buy them because they won't change much. But at a recently advertised price of $190 or so (I paid $275 last year) you should try them on if you are in the market for an entry level plastic boot.
Use: every where
Break-in Period: never
Weight: 2 lbs (size 6)
Price Paid: $279 cdn
Good boot for the price, if this is what you need.
I have worn my pair of Viva Softs for two seasons of tree planting, they have served me well, but are now dead. It only took about 1500 hours. Due to my experience with these boots, and many friends who have them, I will dispel a few myths.
One, they are not really that heavy (plastic and foam are light materials). Two, they actually tend to fit wide. They do offer a lot of ankle support, which in the long long run is bad for your knees (knees are not meant to rotate the way your ankles do). They are really heavy when wet, and take a day or two (or three or four) to dry out).
Use: glacier travel/mountaineering w/heavy pack
Break-in Period: none
Price Paid: $200
I love these boots. I cannot remember a time when my feet were seriously cold while wearing two pairs of wool socks. (except on Denali when I don't think anything could have kept me warm) I also have not had a single blister either. The soles wear pretty well. They are worn down from walking on scree and moraines but not too bad.
On the other hand, I find that moisture gets soaked up by the inner boot and the inner boots are difficult to dry.
Use: heavy bback pack
Break-in Period: never
Price Paid: $165 a long time ago
While in one piece they gave me a lot of support and protection. they are very light for the size and purpose. They kept my feet dry and warm when no one else had dry sox left. After many seasons and only few actual heavy uses, these boots literally shattered when stomping the snow off them to go inside. Fortunately I was at home and not out on the field where such a failure would be a disaster.
Where to Buy
The Koflach Viva Soft is not available from the stores we monitor.
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