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I was shopping high and low for my first pair of high dollar hiking boots. I originally considered Vasque, Zamberlain, and Raichle, but was turned off when I found out many models are now imported and not made in Italy anymore.
On top of that, I have wide feet, and that pretty much limits me to Vasque or Danner. But I noticed these LL Bean boots had about the best overall review in the Outdoorreview.com database, and they were also highly regarded by Backpacker magazine. When I found out they are all leather, still made in Italy, and come in wide sizes, I was sold.
This is the first pair of Italian shoes I've worn and they have met my every expectation: thick luxurious leather and flawless stitching and workmanship. The leather around the ankle and tongue is buttery soft and textured (like an expensive leather coat). But I've never had a shoe fit like this one before. Very secure and snug around the heel, glove-tight around the ankle, with a roomy toe area. You don't have to really cinch down the laces to keep your feet in place, and there is no worry of your toes mashing into the front of the boot while descending inclines. The boots are heavy and sturdy, so you get your money's worth. I heard these boots are made for LLBean by Aku, a reknowned Italian boot maker. The whole inside of the boot is lined with Goretex fabric, and looks seamless.
Yeah, I expected to pay $200+ dollars and see a famous name on the side of the boot, not LL Bean, but you can't go wrong with their customer service (I was hearing bad stories about Vasque). Wear the boots for 6 months, if you don't like them, return them for full refund! Don't think that will happen with these babies, though.
Excellent boots, fitted like snug gloves for over ten years.
By using well fitting crampons, aided many an exciting route in Scotland and the Alps.
Used daily recently for walking to work over the last year has finally lead me to purchasing a new pair of Alpin Trek £130.00. Bit steep but well built.
Use: Hill / rough trail
Break-in Period: Few days
Price Paid: £45
I've just wore out my second pair of Zamberlans. Surprisingly when I went to my local dealer I was told they didn't stock them anymore because of supposed faults and complaints. Apparently the seem between the upper leather and the sole has tendencies to crack or tear, making the boots no longer waterproof.
My first pair of Zamberlans lasted for three years and are actually still usuable even though there's no track left on the soles. The second pair, however, I wore for four years continuously. Not only did I use them for long distance tracking but I also used them in the workshop at work and generally all day. I didn't have to wear them in as they fitted like a glove without causing blisters, like my first pair. I never actually treated the leather which is still in pretty good nick.
After these years I must admit that I found a tear along the side where the leather joins the sole. There isn't actually a hole but it does let through water. After the years of abuse I'm still not disappointed with the performance of these boots compares to other brands and I find it hard to believe they are this difficult in general to get a hold of.
Top boots for comfort and quality, I reckon.
Use: low/medium level
Price Paid: £99