Salewa Alp Flow Mid GTX
$239, 2 lbs. 9 oz. (US men’s 9)
Sizes: US men’s 7-13, women’s 5-11
In a continuing quest to find boots that handle any kind of terrain and conditions without baking my feet, I took the Alp Flow Mid GTX—which sport Gore’s newest, most-breathable technology, Surround—on a pair of hikes that push footwear to extremes: a mostly off-trail, two-day backpacking trip in early October in Idaho’s White Cloud Mountains, and a late-May dayhike up Garnet Canyon in Grand Teton National Park, slogging through a lot of soft, wet snow.
The Alp Flow Mid proved excellent for my trip in the White Clouds, carrying up to about 35 pounds hiking over wet, shifting talus, loose scree, through mud and puddles, and bushwhacking. The boots could handle 40 pounds or more comfortably, thanks to an EVA midsole with a partial, plastic shank that delivers a nice balance of cushion, underfoot protection, and torsional rigidity. Plus, walking in them feels almost like walking in lighter shoes because of the substantial, natural flex the boot has below the ball of the foot. The medium-volume fit cradled my heel and held my midfoot in place, preventing my feet from sliding (and causing blisters). To-the-toes lacing and a locking lace hook at mid-foot—the latter allows you to adjust the tightness of the forefoot separately from the ankle—help dial in what feels like a customized fit. The roomy toe box keeps toes cooler and prevents them from banging against the front of the boot.
Even though the uppers were visibly wet in the White Clouds and Tetons, my socks stayed dry—which was particularly impressive when I was kicking steps for a few hours through soft, wet snow and occasionally postholing to my knees in Garnet Canyon. (I wore gaiters.) The Gore-Tex Surround not only keeps moisture out, it features 360° of breathability—as you walk, air gets pumped through the perforated inserts and midsole and the mesh sides of the uppers. My feet did get a bit hot by the end of that Tetons hike, when the temp rose to around 70° F (at lower elevation). My verdict: They’re more breathable than many midweight, mid-cut boots; but any boot in that category, especially one with leather uppers, will be warmer than any low-cut or lighter, mid-cut footwear.
The uppers made of nubuck leather and ballistic mesh, reinforced with rubber in the toe bumper and exoskeleton along the sides, make the Alp Flow Mid almost bulletproof; the weak link in durability looks like the soft EVA foam around the heel, which will suffer the abuse of rocks least well. Still, that’s not a part of a boot that tends to get banged up much. I expect these boots will last for several hundred miles, and you’ll eventually replace them because of normal wear on the outsole or the EVA midsole has gotten compacted and lost its cushion. Lastly, the Vibram Hike Approach outsole’s aggressive tread, with deep, widely spaced lugs, gave me good traction in snow and all kinds of off-trail ground, but isn’t made for smearing on steep slabs.
All in all, Salewa’s Alp Flow Mid GTX is a sturdy and comfortable all-around boot for backpacking or rugged, wet dayhiking.
BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog by clicking this link to buy the men’s or women’s Salewa Alp Flow Mid GTX boots at backcountry.com.
See also my stories “Why and When to Spend More on Gear, Part 1: Packs and Tents, and Part 2: Rain Jackets, Boots, and Sleeping Bags,” “My 10 Most-Read Gear Reviews,” “The Simple Equation of Ultralight Backpacking: Less Weight = More Fun,” “Buying Gear? Read This First,” “5 Tips For Spending Less on Hiking and Backpacking Gear,” and “Ask Me: How Do We Begin Lightening Up Our Backpacking Gear?”
NOTE: I’ve been testing gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See all of my reviews by clicking on the Gear Reviews category at left or in the main menu.
Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, the creator of The Big Outside, recognized as a top outdoors blog by USA Today and others. I invite you to get email updates about new stories and gear giveaways by entering your email address in the box in the left sidebar, at the bottom of this post, or on my About page, and follow my adventures on Facebook and Twitter.
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