Vasque Sundowner GTX
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $170
I've had both Italian and Chinese and there is no comparison.
I bought a pair of the Italian-made Sundowners in 1999. I wore them every day for seven years, had them re-soled at least twice, but maybe three times. When it was time for another re-sole, I decided to buy a new pair (fast-forward to 2008).
The new ones didn't seem to break-in very well at all, were never comfortable and the worst part, the sole split at the ball of the foot, rendering the boot no longer waterproof. It is at this point when I began looking more closely at the boot that I realized it was made in China.
I can tell you that the quality of the Chinese boots are far inferior to the original Italian. I tried to send the boots off to be re-soled...only to find out that the Chinese version cannot be re-soled...another knife to the formerly loyal customer. I would have gladly paid the cost of having the boots made to the old standard, but the Chinese boot is far inferior and not worth purchasing for any reason, not even if you are a casual hiker...
It is not possible for me to write a stronger recommendation against this counterfeit item. Vasque and Redwing should be ashamed to dupe their customers in this way.
Price Paid: $130
I own both the old Italian made Sundowner and the new Chinese edition. The old Vasques held up for about 17 years of seasonal abuse and were finally retired last year as the sole wore too crooked.
The new version of these trusted boots seems to be equally well made and I have no complaints.
Have used them on several hikes, and will put them to to the test this summer with several long treks. So far so good.
Price Paid: I forget
I have had my Vasque Sundowner GTX boots for - I don't really know- at least 15 years, maybe closer to 20 years. I bought them because at the time, they were the only decent hiking boots that I could find in WIDE width, to fit my ever expanding flipper feet.
I love these boots. They fit like a glove, like an old friend, like a pair of favorite old slippers. They have served me well for many, many miles of hiking and backpacking in the Sierras, Cascades, and Alaska. They have kept me dry and comfortable over a tremendous range of conditions. While everyone else needs to bring a pair of camp slippers in their pack, I just keep wearing my boots, because they are as good as slippers.
They have started to leak water a bit lately. I think that is because the sole is almost completely worn away around the front and sides, allowing water to penetrate between the sole and the boot. There isn't much left of the sole on the bottom either. I thought they were finished, but I found out about a guy in Seattle who can re-sole them, so I plan to give them a new life. They will probably outlive me.
The only problem is that they are so flexible that they cannot hold a crampon. They never were intended as mountaineering boots anyways.
Use: short dayhikes and around town
Break-in Period: very short
Price Paid: $125
This is my second pair of Sundowners. The first pair was the "Made in Italy" type. I had them for over 12 years until I decided to let them go. I was unaware that they stopped making them in Italy until I started shopping for a new pair.
I read all the bad reviews on the "Made in China" versions, but went to a store to check them out anyway. I liked what I saw and got them. The fit seems to me to be the same as my first pair (same last)and it broke in very quickly. The only noticeable difference that I thought I saw was the leather being used.
Overall I highly recommend these boots and I am completely happy that I bought the Sundowners again. These pair are on their second year with me.
Use: long and heavy pack days
Break-in Period: 1-2 weeks
Price Paid: ~$190
I have had 3 pairs of Sundowners over the years. Yes, the Italian made boots lasted the longest in time. A pair I bought in 2002 lasted 1700 miles! I still have them to prove it. I wore that pair out on a AT thruhike in 2002.
The pros are that the boot is simple construction, durable soles, wide widths, and completely waterproof.
The cons are that the soles are not as grippy as the newer models and failure is usually in the front sole separation. Also the Chinese models seem to have an issue with the upper lace grommet sitting on your ankle bone. I fixed that with a Superfeet liner that is now in all my boots.
Use: john muir trail w/heavy pack
Break-in Period: 50+miles
I have had very mixed results with my pair of Sundowner GTX's. I have put about three hundred miles on my pair and recently completed the JMT in them. Prior to going on the trip I wore the boots constantly, and they seemed to break in nicely over about 50 miles on local trails.
Early on I purchased the Sole Ed Viesturs custom in sole, as I found the boots to have insufficient arch support, and these insoles fixed that problem as well as improving the overall fit of the boot. I highly recommend this insole as an addition to your pair if you have support/fit issues.
Anyways, for the first half of my trip, the boots were hell. They caused serious blistering on the tops of both my big toes, as well as in myriad other places, and caused me severe achilles pain and swelling on the front of my ankle. I have always tied my boots tight, and I was doing the same with these Sundowners, and I was miserable.
About halfway through my trip I spoke with a friend who recommended wearing the boots loose to the point that I was able to slip them off without unlacing (a NOLS technique, apparently). After doing this the boots were great, no pain, no blistering, and the wounds on my feet even began to heal over the last 100 miles of trail.
Overall, I give these boots 3 stars, the fit issues early on were unacceptable, I felt like packing it in for the second half of my hike and that is a terrible place to be. I will not buy these boots again, but now that I am tying them loose, they seem to be a solid boot.
Durability wise, these boots were great, scuffed as hell but no major tears, and the sole did not begin to peel as it did on my buddy's tps-535. They were grippy in loose rock and dirt and kept my feet dry in some fairly wet/muddy conditions.
Break-in Period: several months of light hikes before the big one
Weight: I'm about 170 lbs, my pack is around 40 lbs.
WORST...BOOT...EVER. These damn boots should be taken off the market NOW. I can't believe they are still on the market.
A few years ago I had the misfortune of buying a set of Sundowners. They look great and feel comfortable initially out of the box. After hard hiking however, their fatal design flaw becomes obvious. There is some rough stitching along the heel of the boot, at the Achilles tendon area. Over time, the friction from this stitching can cause agony and serious damage to the wearer.
After my hike I had to big red lumps on the backs of my heels, a serious condition that can often only be remedied by surgery. Those boots sent me to the foot doctor and actually had me discussing the option of surgery after one extended hike. I had to stay off the trail for a couple of YEARS before my feet returned to more or less 'normal'.
When I called Vasque to inform them of the flaw in their boot, I received a defensive and indifferent attitude from their 'customer service'. I wasn't looking for anything from them (certainly not another pair of their boots), but they wouldn't even take the boots back!
I ended up throwing the boots in the garbage, where they belong. I will never purchase another product that is even remotely related to the 'Vasque' company. I now enjoy pain free hiking (finally) with other, higher quality footwear.
Materials: Leather, Gore-Tex, Skywalker soles, Superfeet insoles
Use: short dayhikes, rough trails w/ heavy pack, etc.
Break-in Period: 2 weeks
Price Paid: $170
These are without a doubt the most high-quality clothing I've ever bought. I've had these boots for five years now and they are still going strong. I have no idea how long they're going to last me, but I'm guessing from the wear it will likely be another three years or more.
I have hiked some pretty rugged terrain with these and long distances. The original insoles were not the greatest, so I put in some Superfeet insoles (well, worth the money). These boots are thoroughly waterproof up to about 1cm from the top of the tongue. The ankles are very comfortable. The soles aren't Vibram, but I like them better because they don't slip like crazy on ice and they last A LOT longer. I can't say enough about how great these boots are.
One con. . . When a boot lace goes, it's hard to find the flat 55" laces to replace them. But actually a 45" or 50" lace is a better length -- still hard to find though. Also, when I broke them in they hurt like nothing I've ever experienced, but then I just moved the tongue and it was a lot better. The one rivet literally put me off my feet for almost two days.
If you're looking for an amazing boot, look no further.
Use: Rough trails (or no trails) with heavy gear
Break-in Period: 1 month
Price Paid: ~120 USD
My Sundowners endure the worst I can throw at them without blowing out. My current pair has lasted me since 2004, which is a new record for my boots. I've seen very fragmented rock go right through between treads and through the sole once, but it wasn't mine (it was on someone else in my crew's pair); I've had no problem with these on identical substrate.
Care is a bit of a pain, and I've found that I have to re-seal them roughly 3-4 times a year to keep them weather proofed to my liking. The rivets are solid, and as I'd said, I've never seen a pair blow out, so the stitching is fine. Even the tongue has good stitching. Aside from possible issues with the soles, they have very robust, almost idiot proof construction.
My one complaint is that a pair of gaiters is a must with these. Even more so than other ankle boots, they seem to be a magnet for pebbles and other environmental debris.
Materials: Leather and Goretex
Break-in Period: Long
Weight: A bit heavier than fabric boots
Price Paid: $150
Great boot. I've used the Italian made for 20 years. Bought a new pair built in China...same great shoe.
I can't understand some reviews here...lace stud hurts foot? Back stitching hurts foot? Maybe you sized yourself wrong or you need better socks...dunno.
All in all my opinion goes these boots a good rating. They are tuff, dependable, comfy after a long break-in and waterproof. They are a bit hot though due to the solid leather construction. Also not real light weight.
A good all around boot with a timeless design!
Break-in Period: 1 month
Price Paid: $175
I have been wearing Sundowners since my So.(93) year in college. When I first saw them, I said these are not any boots. I have had a pair every year since then. I wear my boots every day, winter and summer. I love these boots. They are stylish and of course comfortable.
My friends won't pay the price for them, but end up buying 10 different pairs because they keep messing their boots up in the rain and other conditions. But I can say one thing, the China version does not look as good as the Italian versions did. The leather version of the Italian made, had a little more opulent look with their leather.
Price Paid: ?
When I first saw these boots I knew I had to buy them, the old school styling is perfect for me. I bought my pair of Sundowner boots when I moved to Aspen in 1993. I have been to some incredible places in these boots.
Today, the same pair is still on my feet several times a week. There has to be a good reason to wear the same boots for 14 years. I'm amazed that they have lasted all this time and equally amazed that Vasque still makes the model. I don't know what else can be said. One thing is for sure, if these finally wear out, they will be replaced with the same boots.
Materials: leather, vibram, gore-tex
Use: hiking, casual
Break-in Period: the Italian boots, took about 50 miles, the China models, 2-5 miles
Price Paid: $150
DON'T BUY THE CHINA MODEL! I have owned 3 pair of this boot. They used to be made in ITALY and WERE awesome, now they are made in CHINA and the leather quality and glue used to hold the sole together are useless.
Still light, and waterproof, but they won't hold up to a fourth of the use the ITALIAN made ones did. Find another boot.
Use: rough trail w/ heavy pack
Break-in Period: 2 weeks a little each day, wear them awhile then change to my old work boots
Price Paid: $169
I've read all the stuff about Vasque boots made in China, which mine are and I don't see any differance. They do take a while to break in all good boots do. This is my second pair (the first of which were made in Italy) and when they are gone I will most likely buy another pair.
Price Paid: $185
Unpadded top rivets cut stigmata into my ankles. I sent these back after one week.