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Alico Guide

rated 4.0 of 5 stars
photo: Alico Guide backpacking boot

I bought a pair of these Alico Guide boots several years ago. Stiff is the word for them, due to the 3/4 length shank in the sole. You will NEVER break this part in. This is what most of these reviews are referring to when they talk of long brea- in periods, as most feet want to flex in the middle; these boots flex near the toes only. The shank puts a spring in your step if you walk with the right gate, but makes the boot feel like a brick attached to your foot with the wrong gate. The ankle support is the stiffest I've seen yet.

I own two sets of footwear: a pair of Doc Martin sandals (highly recommended as the soles LAST) and these Alico Guide boots, so I wear the boots quite often 'round town. My stature is quite small, at 125 lbs, but I wear a 10EE (10WW in Italian sizes, this is an Italian boot), and have a very narrow ankle.

The stiffness in the ankle of the boot allows little flexibility there; this throws my balance off at times when the sole is tilted when I don't pay attention to where I'm walking, but together with the 3/4 shank, gives supreme support to walk on the most heinous scree, rocks, etc. on mountain goat walks, if I do pay attention. This is the key to these boots, in my opinion.

Someone bigger than me may never feel the need to wear these in, or may wear then in much faster than I. But =I= would not begin to take these hiking until I wore them almost three years. And when I did, blisters on the heels from going uphill, but that was probably partly due to the wrong size socks that bunched up. Then again, heel blisters have always plagued me with EVERY boot I've owned except the Danner Ft. Lewis (these fit like Moccasins boots with a super-stable sole and are by far the most comfortable boot I've owned or worn, but trap moisture over long multi-day hikes.)

But the stiffness of these boots require the hiker use more thigh and butt muscles, less calf muscles, to hike up hills. I'm a calf-user. These boots make me feel like I'm walking like either (a) Frankenstein or (b) a cowboy straight off his horse on a long ride; on the other hand, they give my stride a sense of power and authority.

The glove leather lining in the heel and around the ankle are unbeatable for low-friction, high wear use. This is what sold me on these boots. Most production boots have a seam in the heel area that falls apart over years. I've worn these Alico boots for 6 years nearly every day around town, and there is little no wear showing on them inside or on the sole. I'm used to walking through the soles in most shoes in 10-12 months.

My Danner Mountain Lights (a comparable boot in terms of single-piece leather upper construction and stitch-down Vibram sole, and also highly recommended) lasted two years of daily wear as seriously abused work boots, after being worn for years as seriously abused hiking boots, before the sole was gone, the leather had holes worn in it, and also had the lining worn through the heel, which had to be cut to keep the blisters away; and these put blisters on my heels when I first hiked in them, but wore like the most comfortable gym shoes in the end. The =lack of liner= in these Alico boots is what has me looking at other Alico lines.

These Guide boots can be hiked in all day, yet don't get overly moist inside. Gore Tex liners only last 6-12 months at best, and when the leather is completely saturated, Gore Tex does not work!!! Your boots may not be a swamp inside, but your socks will still be wet. Only treating your leather keeps boots waterproof, and a seamless one-piece leather upper is the most water-tight.

I did not keep my leather treated in these Alico boots, and one night when the weather was damp I went running top speed across my friend's yard, jumped up onto his deck, catching the riveted D-ring for the laces closest to the toe on the edge of the wooden porch, which pulled it out. No damage to the leather, I guess the wet leather stretched enough to let the rivet retaining washer inside to pull through. I just re-riveted it with a steel rivet, all is well.

Besides that, these boots are absolutely bomber-proof, and make incredible work boots around the yard digging holes, or for trail-building, as the 3/4 shank is perfect for using shovels.

Will I buy again? Don't think I'll need to; I think these boots will last until my body can't go no mo'. Will be looking for a pair of their Tahoe or other boots with a shorter shank!

Materials: Leather with 3/4 shank Vibram sole
Use: Heavy boot use - work & hiking
Break-in Period: 3 years for me
Weight: see specs
Price Paid: $250+

Where do I start with this mammoth boot? Well for one it is probably the heaviest boot remaining on the market today, which for purists out there makes it a must have. Each boot weighs approx. 3.25 pounds. If you are used to the sneakers most boot makers sell as backpacking boots than you will be taken aback at first.

I first thought that there was no way that I should be buying a boot this heavy. All the experts say you should go light. However as I wore the boot more and more, the boots felt lighter and lighter. Instead on the trail I felt more and more secure that I was never going to hurt my feet or turn an ankle. While others have twisted ankles or banged the heck out of their toes wearing "approach shoes" or cheap Merrells, the boots have done nothing but make me more confident that I can go anywhere on and off the trail.

The Idro-Perwanger leather is a one-piece 3mm leather job with the only seam in the ankle (Idro-Perwanger is a tannery in Italy which tans the leather in a special manner which makes it very water-resistant). The leather is thick and stiff at first. However once I broke the boot in, they are the most comfortable boots I have ever owned. The interior calf-skin lining and outer leather molded right to my foot, with the creases in the leather flexing at the perfect spot each time.

The boot is 6.5" high and has a fully gusseted tongue to keep debris and water out. While this is higher than most hiking boots on the market, the added height and stiff ankle are welcome as they support your ankle and provide better climbing up either snow or rocks.


The sole is a Vibram Montagna (the classic original Vibram design) and stiff except at the toe flex point due to the 3/4 steel shank. The sole is also stitched down in the classic Norwegian Welt method which provides added stability. Forget the advantages when it comes to repair, they look great because they are so unique in today's hiking world. No flashy graphics or flourescent collars (Salomon boots come to mind). This boot looks like a boot should. I have received compliments from people while hiking, many not even aware they made boots like that anymore.)


The torsional stiffness provides the utmost protection against uneven and rocky terrain. In fact what initiated my interest in this boot was a hike up Mount Washington in July '04. The entire hike above the treeline destroyed my feet as the boots I was wearing basically bended to the shape of the rocks I was hiking on. The Alico Guide will actually allow you to step in crevices or on uneven terrain and allow you to use the boot as a makeshift step.

The support also allows backpackers to carry weight without worrying about losing support.

One thought which helped sell me on these boots. Most "backpacking" boots sold today are not sturdy enough to support larger loads. However most boot buyers purchase boots based on how they feel for 5 minutes in the store carrying little if any added weight. Thus bootmakers have found that the boot buying public is not knowledgeable enough to know that just because the boot feels great in the store does not mean that it will end up working. Sure enough they purchase the lighterweight boot which is often now made in China (somehow 12-year-olds are not exactly craftsmen) and built not-to last. They often have slimmer leather which while reduces weight and breaks in quickly, will protect your feet less while hiking.

The Alico Guides feel great, but stiff at first (this goes away as they break in). Most consumers incorrectly think that this means the boot does not fit. However I get the absolute best support and can use the boot with strap-on crampons in the winter for light mountaineering. People who buy other boots such as the Vasque Sundowner end up having to purchase a pair of moutaineering boots. By purchasing a heavy Norwegian welt boot, you save so much money and will have a better hiking experience from that point on.

I cannot say enough about the boots. I use Limmer Boot grease to waterproof them and to ensure I get almost 10-15 years of service in the boots. (Most boots will last 2-3 hard seasons before they either wear out or break down completely).

Break-In Period:

The break-in period is approximately 2-3 weeks with about 20-30 miles before the boots truly mold to your feet. However the boots feel fine when breaking them in, but do not feel like a glove until you put some miles on them.

Hikes I have been on with the boot:
--- Camel's Hump
--- Jay Peak
--- Stowe Pinnacle
--- Mount Mansfield
--- Hunger Mountain
--- Lincoln to Appalachan Gap
---Around Burlington for first 20 miles - breaking them in somewhat before hiking.

Materials: 3 mm Idro-Perwanger Leather (rough-out , light brown)
Use: Hiking, backpacking
Break-in Period: 20-30 miles
Weight: 6.5 pounds
Price Paid: $179.99 (not including tax)

Not the quality I expected given the reviews and the price. I sent the boots back after a short summer of use.


  • Ankle support
  • Cool looking
  • Perwanger leather?


  • Couldn't waterproof satisfactorily (Obenauf's LP)
  • Boot lining seam ripped
  • Boots wore unevenly very quickly!!!
  • Sole coming unglued


I initially gave the boot a great review and I was excited about trying them out after using plain old work boots on steep hillsides for many seasons. I dug them the first season once they broke in—after they got soaking wet and softened up. 

This year, the second season, I was noticing that the boots were wearing off-kilter and this made it feel like I was walking on a slope when I was on flat ground (think bow-legged cowboy in old boots), this also had me concerned that I could roll an ankle easier given the angle the boots were at. My coworker even asked how long my boots last me when she saw the state of the Alicos.

I concede that my feet supinate and that I have a wide foot, but I have never had a pair of work boots wear like this, including Chinese made boots in the $85-$120 range.  I don't think it was the Vibram sole that wore unevenly, I believe it was a combination of the leather upper stretching and distorting to one side and the leather layers between the sole and the upper compressing unevenly.  But who knows, I'm not a cobbler.

Last thing, at the time I sent the boots back the sole in the arch area was separating from the boot, I was waiting for it to progress to the toe or heal and lose my soles in the middle of the forest!

Really disappointing. I sent them back to Sierra Trading Post and will try out a pair of modern looking backpacking boots.

If I can upload a couple photos I will.



Fit: I normally wear an 8.5EE but ordered a size 9 EE, seems like I made the right choice.

Comfort: Knowing how stiff the boots were I taped my heals before wearing them. I still received a little blistering but nothing too bad. It was only after the boots got thoroughly soaked in the woods that they softened up/molded to my feet that I no longer needed to tape my feet. Maybe soaking your boots and wearing them dry as some suggest isn't a bad idea. The boots are now quite comfortable. Oh, I replaced the crappy insoles with a $9 pair.

Support: I bought these boots hoping they'd provide better support than traditional work boots. I work off-trail in rocky forests and the ankle support in combination with the shank made climbing and side-hilling less treachorous. Compared with floppy 8" work boots the ankle support of the Alico's is like wearing ankle braces. I also like the lace-to-toe construction which allows you snug up the toe box as the leather stretches.

Water Resistance: I have failed at waterproofing these boots so far. I have used Sno-Seal with other boots and it worked well (though messy and a magnet for crud) but was too afraid to use it on the Alicos due to its petroleum content. Obenauf's LP seems like a nice product for conditioning but failed at waterproofing the Alicos even though I used multiple applications and a hair dryer to melt it in. Keep in mind I wear the boots off-trail often in wet, abrassive vegetation.  Alico suggests using a flurocarbon based water proofing product—anyone know of one? I also used a thin bead of Welt Seal on the welt.

I have worn these boots for the past four months, 5 days per week and 6 hours a day. The leather hasn't cracked, the laces haven't broken. A seam inside the boot has split which I duct taped.  

I am interested in seeing how they survive a second field season and if I can find a product that can waterproof the boots, at least for a day, without damaging the leather. My last pair of boots were Carolina's that held up really well but they are more suited for construction sites than mountain sides. The Carolina's now feel like moccasins compared to the Alico Guides.

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $200

On arrival I inspected the boot. Full leather construction, but the leather is not a full grain leather, but a waterproof treated nubuck. Each scuff the boot receives makes the boot ruffle up like swede. A application of Angelus Wax polish makes it turn back to smooth nubuck.

I wear 12-11.5 W I ordered 12W and it fit like I wanted it to. When wearing mountaineering weight Smartwools there is a good CM in front of all my toes, no toenail contact with any of the toe box, and with a bit of wiggle room on the sides of my toes. This fit allows my feet to expand over the course of the day's long march and not develop toe blisters and lost nails.

The stock insoles were terrible and they were promptly replaced with Superfeet blue. The brand new boots were weighed, each boot alone with stock laces and no insole weighs 2lbs 14.5 oz (46.5oz) according to the baby scale at the local clinic. Compared to my previous boot the Asolo Powermatic 200 11.5D at 1lbs 14.5oz(30.5oz) that is a lot more! This is probably due to the super thick sole, the double tongue leather lining and thicker upper.

Upon lacing up the boots, the tongue of the left boot appeared to be lop sided and it did not tuck in nice and neat like the right boot. The flex point on the leather upper was also different on the left to the right. The right flexed directly across the first eyelets. While on the left boot the flex point was behind the 2nd set. This caused my left foot some considerable pain on metatarsals, but luckily the adjustable tongue, and lacing allowed me to stave off the pain by leaving the laces over metatarsals completely loose. This made the left boot look completely disheveled.

The soles were stiff as could be. Initially there was no flex, eventually it softened up and the sole flexed along the ball of the foot as it was supposed too.

I took this boot out about 3 miles a day over flat terrain to begin the break in process. Each week I received a new blister on my heels as the boot softened up. After a total of 60 miles walked in the boots my left knee began to develop an intense pain. The left boot (again!) was making me walk on the outside edge of my left foot rolling my knee in an unnatural position.

I examined the boot and it appeared to rock, the bottom was not flat on the left boot exactly as described by several other reviews at Sierra Trading! I took the boot to a cobbler but he said the boot was lasted, constructed incorrectly, he could do nothing except tell me to return the boot.

Before I returned the boots I did a water tightness check by spraying them with a hose than sticking them into ankle deep water. Water comes in through the padded scree collar and the seams on the back of the boot like a sieve, the only place with a vertical seam. I recommend any buyer of this boot use stitch guard and seal off the leaky areas.

In conclusion, I don't trust Alico anymore because that is such a huge mistake to make in construction. Also from other reviews on the internet a pair of comparably constructed 13W Limmer Midweights weigh 22oz compared to the 46.5oz of the 12W Alico. There is absolutely no reason for me to exchange this boot and hope for a new pair. I'm moving on to try new boots.

Materials: Treated Nubuck and leather lined.
Use: Light mountaineereing with crampons, and heavy backpacking.
Break-in Period: 80% broken in after 60 miles on flat terrain.
Weight: 12W each weigh 46.5oz
Price Paid: $220

I have owned my Alico Guides for 11 years. All other reviews talk about breaking theses boots in, I wore them straight out of the box daily for 8 hours a day for 3 months for my Geology thesis research in New Zealand.

I thoroughly massaged Snow Seal on with my hands (warm) into all seams and the leather. I did this every couple of months or so. I have worked in locations with ankle high water all day and take my boots off at the end of the day to fluffy dry socks, miraculous! I have had countless fellow trampers and co-workers ask me how I kept my feet dry. The tongue gusset looks bulky, but is still comfortable, but also seems to extend higher than other similar boots.

The best thing about these boots though is their ability to be comfortable while still offering amazing stability in loose and uneven terrain. They have a 3/4 steel shank in the sole that turns any toe hold into a foot supporting personal step! I have not owned many other boots (just a pair of Garmont's I grew out of at 24, weird?) so I can't comment on other boots. I just know that I usually never notice my boots during the day. They disappear until I take them off to climb into the tent or hut.

I would say that if you are walking on mild tracks or topography then you'll never use the full performance of these boots. You might even better to buy Salomon or Merrell sneaker based boots. But if you encounter a scree slope or uneven ground then the Alico's will reward you handsomely. I often carry heavy loads and have traversed many wild and alpine conditions and have never thought to question my boots performance.

In summary, these are waterproof, comfortable, and wonderfully supportive hiking boots that will last 10 to 20 years or more. I thought of rating these 4.5 stars, but I cannot think of any defect in these boots.

I was lucky to get a pair of Alico Guides, they were "on sale", looked good, and were made in Italy. It is only now when my feet have grown again, (fallen arches according to my doctor brother) and cannot afford another pair that I appreciate what amazing service my Guides gave me.

Materials: 3mm Leather
Use: All kinds of use. Daily field work, day trips, 4 day mountain pass traverses, etc
Break-in Period: Short with careful application of oil or cream
Weight: Heavy, because they have to be.
Price Paid: $150

I'll second a lot of opinions here, however...

Came to this site, as I'm looking for another pair, got 5-6 years out of my first, including one resole, and they were just plain beyond worn out.  Have 10-11 years out of this last set (I'm getting a lot more sedentary). 

This is a stiff boot, and of exceptional quality. They happened to fit me well out of the box and although they broke in slowly, they were for me always comfortable, never really blistered, or rubbed. Support is exceptional, still even on my second set, but my feet seem to have gotten fatter with age, and I need to move up a 1/2 size. One of the last truly made boots you can buy. 

If you are looking for this style of boot, you can't do much better IMO. As mentioned factory insoles are worthless, I like Superfeet Green in mine. Unfortunately I see the original Guide on the Alico site in Italy but only the New Guide model on Sierra, which does not look like my current boot. I sort of fear ordering a set (I'm in AK now, no one seems to carry them locally) as I'm not sure how different the new ones will be. 

As mentioned also, you must waterproof this boot in the manner you would do a classic boot. I can still stand in 5 inches of water all day long in mine and never have wet feet. I read somewhere a ridiculous suggestion to just spray them with silicone, for cosmetic purposes I presume, it won't cut it.

Price Paid: $200

This is an old fashion boot, which explains its classic good styling, extraordinary build quality, and extreme discomfort. I've put over 1000 miles on my feet this year, and I am totally unsatisified with this shoe.

Out of the box the Alico is as stiff as a ski boot. But that is to be expected with a heavy duty boot. I did many short day hikes (around 10 miles) with these boots to loosen them up. After two monthes (120-150 miles) the boots continued to make my feet utterly sore. I started bringing sneakers in my pack to change into as the pain become unbrearable, still hoping the the boots would eventually break in.

Finally, I realised there must be a defect, so I brought them to my local cobbler. He showed my how the sole of the boot was cut improperly and was forcing me to walk on the outside of my feet, causing the pain I was experiencing. I had the problem corrected for $50.

This correction stopped the pain in the bottoms of my feet, but the boot continued to rub and create blisters on the tops of my toes where the crease in the leather folds into the toe box. The boots remain unwearable.

I have finally given up on these boots. I've spent a pile of money, and I am utterly unimpressed with the final product because as well built and attractive as the boots are, they cause my feet pain. Please note that the other reviewers have not come to the same conclusion as me, and it is possible that I was unlucky enough to get a lemon pair.

Nonetheless, I can't in good faith recommend this product.

Price Paid: $280

Honestly, it would be pretty foolish to put a pair of these boots on and think you're going to have a nice hike. But if you need heavy duty outdoor footwear these rock.

I spent my time in them doing trail work, but I met a logger a while back who swears by them. When I put these things on I feel like iron man... well, from the mid-calf down. 3mm leather is about the best protection for ankles and toes you can get without using steel.

I bought my first pair in '99 and they got a lot of use. I kept them waxed well and water never once soaked through them and the outer leather is still bomber. They are not kind to feet so use good quality liner socks. I had them resoled a couple years back.

Unfortunately, the inside leather finally tore away in the heel and I don't see any way to repair that so I guess I'm retiring them. I bought a pair of the New Guides, but they fit differently so I may send them back.

Use: trail work
Break-in Period: a summer
Weight: 165 lbs
Price Paid: $170


  • Absolute top notch quality...period!


  • They take a few months to truly break in.

If you are someone who needs his feet time to adjust...then go buy your North Face or some other Chinese made crap and move along. This boot company makes an old fashioned, truly bomb proof pair of footwear. From the hand-stitched soles to the absolute top quality leather, you cannot go wrong with these boots if you actually give them a shot!

I live in the Northeast Kingdom part of Vermont. There is no place more trying (besides the White Mountains in New Hampshire) on a pair of new boots. If anyone else is a Veteran, then they know what a truly sh*tty experience breaking in combat boots is during basic!! That is a problem break in—NOT THESE!!

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $250

I feel the pain of others who had a hard time breaking this boot in. I finally resorted to the old Army trick of putting the boots in the shower and filling them with hot water and letting them set for an hour. After dumping the water out, I wore them until they were dry, which took a long time, then I just wore them all the time, day in day out, and now I can't stand to take them off at the end of the day. I can walk for miles with no discomfort at all. Give them the chance they deserve - break them in hard and heavy, and you'll have a pair of boots that will last you twenty years.

Materials: good heavy leather
Use: trail hiking, general wear
Break-in Period: one month
Weight: HEAVVY!!!
Price Paid: $200

Guys, you have to seal the seams on such boots. Same today as yesterday.

Two ways to do this—with seam sealer or a wax based preparation (Sno-Seal or Aquaseal paste).

The welt already comes sealed from the factory but may need to be reapplied occasionally with wax.

Alico, like Scarpa and other high quality mountain boot makers today, infuses its leather with silicone. This is called "anfibio leather". It is highly water resistant, requires no waterproofing prior to wear, and is breathable. Occasionally you may need to replenish the waterproofing on the exterior of the leather. I use a light coating of Aquaseal. For casual wear normal shoe polish (either colored or neutral) will work fine.

Price Paid: $200

Bottom line—they're called "Guide" for a reason.

If you don't plan on wearing these boots all day every day on the job or in the backcountry don't buy them. If you do plan on using them for what they are intended buy four pair once you are sure of sizing.

These are the best boots I have ever owned and I've owned a few. The last pair I had were resoled four times and would have seen ten if my dog didn't decide to made a snack of them.

Price Paid: $220

I am impressed with the comfort, toughness, and protection these 3/4 shank, full leather boots provide, and only two weeks break-in time. I found and purchased my boots online, and was glad to know ahead of time that these tend to run narrow--so heads up!

Anyone who appreciates the style and durability of this classic boot type will certainly enjoy these. And everyone gets their money's worth when they buy high quality footwear like this.

Materials: leather
Use: rough trail/light muontaineering
Break-in Period: two weeks
Weight: 5 lbs
Price Paid: $160

I have been walking around the rough terrain of eastern Afghanistan in these boots. Many times during a walk I feel a sense of pride knowing that I always purchase the best on the market. Putting the boots on for a walk up or down a steep ridge makes man a goat. Good job!

Use: Rough trail with at least 120 lbs
Break-in Period: Break-in in 3 days with liquid mink-oil
Price Paid: 179.99 USD

Well, I am wondering when the break-in period will end. I would say that these boots have broken me -- the worse blisters I have ever had.

I am still hopeful, however, that eventually they will be comfortable.

They are great for rocks, very stiff and supportive. Getting there is the problem. Whew!

Break-in Period: ???

OWWWYYYY, My blisters won't stop. How long do I give these boots to break in? I can only use for a short time, but when in use, great boots.

Price Paid: $130

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