L.L.Bean Gore-Tex Cresta Hikers, Leather (GTX)
Materials: Leather w/Gore Tex
Use: Backpacking and rough trail hiking
Break-in Period: Comfortable right away -- well broken in after 2 weeks of hiking
Weight: 3 lbs 9 oz
Price Paid: $159
This boot is a work of art...and even the great reviews don't do it justice.
The uppers are simply things of functional beauty - thick, luxurious leather-- meticulously constructed. Perfect right down to the smallest stitch.
The cut and form reflect Bean's years of refinement, working with the same Italian bootmaker. (I heard the whole story when I got these in the Freeport store.) You can see what they are talking about when you look at the form-fitted heel from the outside. The subtle curves and lines show why the foot fits so securely into the heel cup. The toe box is wide and rounded...you can wiggle your toes comfortably even on descents (as long as you are fitted properly, of course.)
The footbed and Vibram soles show similar details. The soles extend slightly at the bottom to create a wider platform that keeps the footstrike centered -- thus helping avoid rolls and sprains...which is a major benefit for someone like myself with trick ankles prone to painful twists.
This is complemented by the overall fit and support of those heavy-duty uppers. I'm not sure how they've done it...but Bean (and those Italian guys) seem to have designed the Cresta to customize to your foot as they break-in. (That's they way it seemed to me anyway.)
I looked at a LOT of boots to replace my worn out Asolo 530's (also a great boot...) My College age son loves his Vasque Sundowners...and I tried them along with the current Asolos, Montrail Moraine, Merrel Wilderness, and La Sportivas Makalus (heavy duty--but with great support). I was about to choose one of them when I found myself at Bean's Freeport store on the way back from a ski trip.
I had read glowing reviews of the Cresta by the magazines and online reviews by users...so I checked them out. The quality was obvious right from the start.
To my way of thinking this is the state-of-the-art in an all-round boot for avid backpackers and hikers. (If I were more into true Mountaineering and long, extended backcountry backpacks, I would probably have chosen the La Sportiva Makalu's.)
But I usually head out for 2-5 nights at a stretch...and do a LOT of demanding day-hikes. The Cresta is clearly the best option for those kind of treks (on my feet, anyway.)
Another factor in their favor: Bean has the best customer policies in the business. You can ALWAYS return something that doesn't work out. (No need to walk just around the house with the Crestas...take 'em out and hit the hills.)
Great to see that Bean's still doing it right.