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Salewa Mountain Trainer Mid GTX

rated 3.5 of 5 stars
photo: Salewa Mountain Trainer Mid GTX backpacking boot

A solid, mid-weight hiking boot for rough trails and off-trail scrambling. Good fit and long-term comfort from the front door to trail's end. Vulnerable seams at the toe wear through, limiting useful life span

Pros

  • (Mostly) solid design and materials
  • True to size
  • All-day comfort
  • Gore-Tex liner

Cons

  • Toe seams wear out quickly

 

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Most trails here in Norway aren’t built, just worn in over rocks, roots, and bogs, and if you want to visit any summits here, you’ll likely be scrambling up off-trail rocky ridges, steep talus, and over summer snowfields. Running shoes are fine for strolling down a well-built trail, but when the going gets rough I want a pair of boots. I’ve tried and worn out several pairs of light hikers over the years, along with a pair or two of midweights. Early this summer I walked into a mountain shop in the ski town of Oppdal wearing the shredded, slick-soled remains of my latest pair with the intention of investing in something a little beefier. The Salewa Mountain Trainer Mid fit well so I decided to spring for it

Design and features

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 Salewa describes the Mountain Trainer Mid as an Alpine trekking boot. The uppers are suede leather with a Gore-Tex liner to keep out the wet. The rubber toe cap and wraparound rand merge with a tough plastic heel counter to protect the upper around the entire sole. Salewa’s 3F System, used on many of its boot models, consists of a wire that runs from the side the heel through loops at the bends of the ankle on both sides of the boot and around the back of the heel. There’s very little if any movement of the wire when tightening the laces; the real objective seems to be to keep the heel firmly ensconced in the heel cup, and that seems to work well.  

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 The gusseted tongue extends high up on the front of the ankle and it and the ankle collar are well padded. The ankle is cut low in the back to allow full ankle flex. The expanded PU midsole provides a little cush without compromising trail feel. Vibram soles provide decent traction on both mud and bare rock.

Fit and feel

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The main reason I went in for these boots on site is that they felt so good when trying them on and walking around the store. My usual size 46 is spot on. With the laces snugged up there is no movement or rubbing in the heel. IMG_2954.jpgThe high tongue and ankle cuff are well-padded stay comfortable over the long haul. The Mountain Trainer Mids have continued to be comfortable and blister free, including on a recent, long day hike of about 30 km (12 mi) and over 2000 m (6600 ft) of elevation gain and loss.

Performance

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 My very first outing in these boots was a good test case – a 4.5 hour day hike covering 13 km (8 mi) and 1130 (3700 ft) m of vertical over two summits on one of Norway’s coastal islands, a few hours drive from Trondheim. There were long stretches of deep, unavoidable mud, steep rocky scrambles up to the ridgetops, and a long rocky ridge traverse and descent, ending back down in the mud. The Vibram sole gave good grip on the rocks and minimal slippage in the mud. The boots were pretty well slimed by all the mud at the end of the hike, but the GoreTex liner kept the inside mostly dry, albeit with some buildup of moisture from sweat. More importantly, my feet were tired but not especially sore after all the distance and the long downhill.

Since then the boots have seen more rugged miles on day trips and overnighters in the Norwegian mountains, including a recent, 13-hour ridge traverse that involved 30 km (18 mi) and over 2000 m (6600 ft) of up and down, mostly off-trail and with some scrambling over steep talus to reach some of the summits. I was pretty beat, but my feet felt pretty good, considering.

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About half of it

Durability issues

Let’s face it: light- and midweight boots aren’t made to last forever, any more than running shoes are. For one thing, they can’t be resoled, so even if everything else holds up their useful life fades as the lugs wear off. Like a running shoe, a lightweight hiking boot might be good for 500-700 km (300 – 450 miles), depending on terrain. I would hope that a more expensive and sturdier midweight boot would hold up at least 1.5x as long, so 1000 km / 600 miles plus. I’m guessing the Mountain Trainer Mid was designed with something like that goal that in mind. I have not kept track of my use so far but would guess that I’m at only about 200 km / 120 miles, a lot of it very rough.

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Whatever the distance, it was enough for the exposed seams at the toe to wear through.  Fortunately, there’s enough overlap at the seams and support from the laces that the boots are still usable, but I could see dirt and mud working into that opening, although that hasn’t happened yet. The laces pass through two cord loops on each side, I think to provide some  locking after tightening, but they could be vulnerable as well. Some users on Salewa’s web site have had the loops wear through of pull loose. All this makes me think that, despite the leather upper and rubber toe cap and rand, I may not get as much distance out of these boots as I might have hoped.  Maybe it would hold out longer on tame, well-maintained trails, but then I would probably use a running or trail shoe.

Last word

 I will enjoy these boots for their comfort during long on- and off-trail mountain outings -- while they last. Unfortunately, with the seams at the toes already worn through, I’m not sure how long that will be. Next time I’ll look for a boot without vulnerable seams, hopefully with the same good fit and level of comfort as the Mountain Trainer Mids.

Background

I've put in over 200 km in these boots, much of it quite rough, including off-trail scrambles in rocky and muddy terrain. I have worn out countless pairs of hiking shoes and boots in well over 50 years of hiking, backpacking and mountain scrambling in the US, Norway, and further afield.

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: About NOK 3000 ($300)

Bought a pair of these and the Alp Trainer Mid to do a side-by-side comparison. Both are excellent boots so far. Although I only have about 15 miles on these boots, they were like heaven right out of the box, and have felt terrific from the get go. No complaints so far, but let's see how they hold up.  

Took the Alp Trainer on a Catskills hike yesterday with very a minimal break-in period. Despite my early reservations about the fit, they held up like a champ yesterday.  Despite slippery leaves, running watery trails, and loose rocks, they saved me from many an ankle roll and felt generally good.  

Again..let's see how they hold up.  More to follow

 

Price Paid: $179

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Specs

Men's
Price Current Retail: $217.46-$289.95
Historic Range: $53.97-$289.95
Reviewers Paid: $179.00
Women's
Price Current Retail: $174.96-$249.95
Historic Range: $24.00-$268.99
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