L.L.Bean Gore-Tex Cresta Hikers, Leather (GTX)
Materials: ALL leather!
Use: General backpacking
Break-in Period: Not done yet
Price Paid: $169
I was shopping high and low for my first pair of high dollar hiking boots. I originally considered Vasque, Zamberlain, and Raichle, but was turned off when I found out many models are now imported and not made in Italy anymore.
On top of that, I have wide feet, and that pretty much limits me to Vasque or Danner. But I noticed these LLBean boots had about the best overall review in the Outdoorreview.com database, and they were also highly regarded by Backpacker magazine. When I found out they are all leather, still made in Italy, and come in wide sizes, I was sold.
This is the first pair of Italian shoes I've worn and they have met my every expectation: thick luxurious leather and flawless stitching and workmanship. The leather around the ankle and tongue is buttery soft and textured (like an expensive leather coat). But I've never had a shoe fit like this one before. Very secure and snug around the heel, glove-tight around the ankle, with a roomy toe area.
You don't have to really cinch down the laces to keep your feet in place, and there is no worry of your toes mashing into the front of the boot while descending inclines. The boots are heavy and sturdy, so you get your money's worth. I heard these boots are made for LLBean by Aku, a reknowned Italian boot maker. The whole inside of the boot is lined with Goretex fabric, and looks seamless.
Yeah, I expected to pay $200+ dollars and see a famous name on the side of the boot, not LLBean, but you can't go wrong with their customer service (I was hearing bad stories about Vasque). Wear the boots for 6 months, if you don't like them, return them for full refund! Don't think that will happen with these babies, though.