Vasque St. Elias GTX
A solid, well made, very comfortable backpacking boot that doubles as a day hiker on rough terrain.
- Easy break-in
- Durable upper
- Excellent lacing system
- Terrible laces
- Virbram sole wears quickly depending on terrain
After reading some stellar reviews on the Vasque St. Elias GTX, including its winning Editors Choice as "Best Hiking Boot" from Outdoor Gear Lab, I dove in and grabbed my first pair of all leather pair of boots.
Most of my trail time is spent backpacking but I still get out on a lot of day/night hikes. I wanted a boot that would perform well with both light and heavier loads and the St. Elias has definitely served that purpose. Despite their 3 lb+ weight, I don't know if I've ever had that feeling where you can't wait to take your boots off at the end of the day.
What I was looking forward to was an all leather boot "forming" to my foot and that was the case. After some wear and tear they feel like they're custom made. The break-in time was much shorter than I anticipated and while I wouldn't do 15 miles out of the box, it only took a couple of short trips before I felt confident in putting on some miles.
The boot is very waterproof and has delivered exceptionally well in rain and snow. Rock solid protection. However, it is necessary to reapply a coating on occasion. Nikwax Waterproofing Wax for Leather has worked perfectly.
I was also concerned about breathability in warmer temps but it's never been an issue. And as one who doesn't want to feel every rock under my feet, the St Elias has delivered in a big way. Traction is excellent and other than the discoloration that comes from leather (which I like), the upper shows very little signs of wear after many hundreds of miles. The lacing system is also outstanding.
There are a couple of caveats though. If you pick up the St. Elias you should buy a pair of replacement laces along with them. The stock laces are a joke, especially considering the price of these boots. Unfortunately, Vasque doesn't offer replacements. Sof Sole Trim-To-Fit have done the job perfectly.
Sizing is also an issue. Vasque runs very, very narrow and it took me three tries to get the right size. Thankfully, they offer a Wide which, in all honesty, feels more like a standard width. So unless you have a very narrow foot, the Wide might be the way to start. I also needed to go up a half size, but that provided just the right amount of room in the toe box.
And while I don't necessarily see this as Vasque's fault, the Vibram sole, which was rock solid to start, wore down far too quickly for my taste. The fact that the upper is still in such great shape will result in a resoling. But if you're doing a lot of hiking on rocky terrain, it's something to consider. If you're spending time on groomed, softer trails, I imagine these boots would last for many years. Still wish a competitor to Vibram would emerge. Not the first time I've had the soles go far before the upper.
So if you're looking for a solid boot to do double duty, and don't feel trail runners are the answer to all man's problems, the Vasque St Elias is definitely one to consider.
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $155
Classic leather hiking boot, made with modern materials.
- A good cold and wet weather choice
- Upper can take a beating
- Laces should be replaced at purchase
Seems to run small. I wear an 11 in most shoes/boots. Had to exchange for an 11 1/2.
I wear the Salomon X Ultras most of the year, but in late fall 2018 in a very wet NY, they soaked through Day 1, and it was too cold and wet for them to fully dry until I was home; I was very happy to have brought camp shoes. I realized I needed a heavier waterproof boot for wet days with nights in the low twenties, and that I should carry gaiters.
The boot has a sewn toe guard, which is great because many glued on guards fail. Understanding the toe box and toe guard area will not expand with break-in should be factored in when sizing. If your toes feel tight when purchased, I believe you will not enjoy the boot.
The boot is heavier than a lot of synthetics, but the tradeoff it is warmth and dry feet for longer (at least when new). I read about the lace problems, and replaced them with Delele 63" round weave laces from amazon; the round weave seems to make the lace less likely to become untied.
They do require break-in, I wore them around the house a few nights prior to use. Real break-in came during a 3-day 2-night trip with a 35 lb pack to start. My pinky toes were sore on day 3 (always the case for me with new leather boots with a serious rubber toe guard), but I didn't develop blisters.
I remove the insoles to dry and use a horsehair brush to remove dirt before storing.
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $150
This boot is very stable and comfortable. Having other Vasque boots over the years, I knew what to expect and was not disappointed. I would highly recommend this boot for backpackers as well as hikers.
- Runs true to size
- Available in Wide
This boot is very stable and comfortable. Having owned other Vasque boots over the years, I knew what to expect and was not disappointed.
I like that you have the ability to get your size in Wide as I have a wide foot and this allowed me to get the correct fit.
I have worn these boots carrying 40+lbs in my pack, up and down various terrain, multiple days and the comfort and support these boot gave was perfect. As for breaking these in, I only wore these around the house for several days prior to doing a 10+ mile day hike with a 25lb pack.
On this trip I stopped about a mile into it and adjusted the lacing; which I like to do after I get walking with my pack on my trips, and I was good to go for the 3,000 ft of total elevation that I encountered on our trip.
The ability to lace these boots up and have them stay they way you tied them until you either make an adjustment or take them off is a plus for your feet.
I have also walked through streams and my feet stayed dry. The high ankle support and the overall construction of this boot along with a decent price point make this boot a great buy for backpackers.
My 14-yo son has the same boots and he just outgrew his last pair. He asked that we get him the same boots as he liked how they fit, felt and the break in (or lack there of) period. He put the new pair of boots on right out of the box and we hiked 4.5 miles with 20lbs in our packs and he had no problems.
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $125 on Sale
These feel like great boots, though a little on the heavy, beefy side as others have noted. However, they failed me when I needed them.
- Full leather
- Reasonable weight
- Good fit
- Just a bit on the heavy side
- The toe crease "moved" when first soaked in a heavy rainfall, crushing my toes
I broke in the St. Elias boots dutifully over several hikes before an 11-day mule-supported Sierra Club trip in 2017 on the John Muir Trail in the Sierras. Fortunately for me, Day 1 was a warm-up dayhike to Mono Pass above Little Lakes Valley.
These great-fitting, waterproof boots changed the toe crease when it rained heavily and soaked the leather outer for the first time. Suddenly the crease pushed into my toes painfully.
Fortunately I had a pair of new, untested Vasque Breeze III boots in the car "just in case". I had preferred the beefier St. Elias thinking their extra support would be worth the weight. Our guide suggested that I bring along the Breeze boots as a backup. I swapped out a spare pair of pants, fleece, etc. to make room for the Breeze.
On Day 2 we left the cars behind.
By Day 3 the tops of my toes were blistered and I was so grateful that I could switch to the Breeze boots in my duffle bag.
The Vasque Breeze III GTX turned out to be perfect for the rest of the trek (carrying a light daypack) and on a subsequent backpacking trip up Mt. Langley carrying a 34-lb backpack. They are now my go-to hiking boots—both Goretex and non-Goretex versions depending on the season.
The St. Elias were returned to REI.
My advice: If you prefer the beefier St. Elias, soak them and then wear them on a hike just to be sure you don't kill your toes.
Many years of dayhiking, global expeditions (lots of Himalayan treks, etc.), and limited backpacking in the Sierras. If I can't get a porter, mule, camel, or horse to carry my gear, then I prefer my wilderness trips to be in a kayak.
Source: bought it new
This is a quality waterproof backpacking boot that is available in wide sizes. Great Vibram sole.
- Lacing system
- Break-in is a little longer than expected
This is a high quality waterproof hiking boot. The waterproof membrane appears to be of high quality as the boot breathes remarkably well. The fit seems correct as advertised, I live the fact that there are two widths available. I have replaced the footbed with a Green SuperFeet footbed and that seems to improve comfort considerably.
The boots seem to be breaking in well. I have been switching between a lightweight and a mid-weight sock and have found that when wearing the lightweight sock, there is a pressure point just below the arches. This seem to diminish as I break them in more.
The lacing system is fantastic. There is a pinch loop that allows you to adjust the tension of the lower v.upper boot. Very handy!
The boots are very water resistant. I have worn them on snowy trails and they did just great. The vibram soles offer great traction both on rocks as well as in snow.
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $189
Great boot with stiff sole which provides great foot support. I have plantar fascitiis. I tried different boots, Vasque St. Elias GTX is the boot that provides support that I need for my foot condition and allows me to continue to hike and enjoy the great outdoor trails.
- Great foot support
Boot does run a tap narrow. Ordered half a size up, took care of it.
Source: received it as a personal gift
Takes a little breaking in.
- Very comfortable boot, great for work and hiking
- Good mud lug
- Comes in wide size that is actually wide
- The sharp eyelets will cut your strings pretty fast if you are not careful, but they keep the strings locked in.
- Go ahead a buy another pair of strings, you will need them
The boot does a wonderful job supporting my foot. After I changed the lacing (I have high arches) they are the best boot I have found for backpacking. They are waterproof so they can get a bit warm in hot weather, it is a very well made boot and I do suggest getting a pair.
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $145
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Current Retail: $230.00
Historic Range: $94.98-$230.00
Reviewers Paid: $125.00-$189.00
3 lbs. 1 oz / 1378 g
2.3mm Waterproof Nubuck Leather
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Current Retail: $219.99
Historic Range: $43.00-$219.99