Gear Review: Vasque St. Elias GTX Boots

Vasque St. Elias GTX
Vasque St. Elias GTX

Vasque St. Elias GTX
$190, 3 lbs. 1 oz. (men’s 9)
Sizes: men’s 7-12, 13, 14 medium width, 9-12, 13 narrow, 8-12, 13 wide; women’s 6-11 medium, 7-10 narrow and wide

I typically prefer a lightweight shoe or boot for backpacking with a load of 35 pounds or less. But when I’m carrying well over 40 pounds—as I did on a recent six-day family hike in Sequoia National Park—I want a boot with big support and stability, both to help me avoid a twisted ankle (or worst), and to prevent my feet from feeling badly beat up every day from the pounding of so much weight landing on them. The St. Elias GTX delivered on both counts.

The midsole, which incorporates soft EVA cushioning pods, absorbed most of the shock of landing with all that extra weight on my back. A TPU shank, for support and protection against sharp rocks, and stiff torsional rigidity provide a solid platform when a heavy pack makes you unsteady. And yet, there’s more forefoot flex than in many boots in this category, so it doesn’t feel stiff.

Other details are impressive. The all-leather uppers conform to your foot; combined with the midsole cushion, the boot has a soft feel for its weight. The locking lace hooks at the midfoot let me loosen or tighten the fit around the upper foot depending on whether I was headed uphill or down. The metal hardware allows laces to slide smoothly and ensure years of durability. The tongue and ankle are nicely padded for protection, and the Gore-Tex membrane kept water out when I splashed through shallow creeks. One caveat: these boots are warm, so they’re best for cooler climes. (My feet got hot on warm August afternoons in the High Sierra.) Fit is medium volume, comfortably snug in the heel and midfoot with a little extra width in the toes.

See all of my reviews of backpacking boots, including two midweight models I like that are not quite as burly as the St. Elias GTX, the Aku SL Sintesi Mid GTX and the Scarpa Tech Ascent GTX.

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.

—Michael Lanza


Gear Review: Outdoor Research Throttle Short

Gear Review: Big Agnes Big Easy chair kit


Leave a Comment

6 thoughts on “Gear Review: Vasque St. Elias GTX Boots”

  1. Hey Michael,
    I have been trying to compare the La Sportiva Thunder III Gtx and the Vasque St. Elias Gtx boots for backpacking, I keep hearing all about stability and the need of a strong midsole. My first real backpacking experience was with a 60lb pack, wearing a pair of Vibram Fivefinger Kso’s, and 50 miles in 10 days. my feet were a little sore but nothing too bad, I believe that both boots have enough support for my feet so,my main concern is which boot is more comfortable/agile and breathable because I really hate bulkiness and blisters, Any information is greatly appreciated, Thanks!!

    • Hi Frank, the St. Elias GTX and Thunder III GTX are very similar boots in terms of support, weight, and stiffness. You should choose between them based on which model fits your feet better, and only you can decide that by trying both on and walking around in them. But first, I’d ask whether you need boots that heavy and supportive, especially if you backpacked wearing Five Fingers with a 60-pound pack. You might be happier, and have cooler, less sweaty feet, with much lighter boots or hiking shoes. Check out some of my other reviews of hiking shoes and backpacking boots (see those phrases in the tag cloud, lower left sidebar). You might also find my tips on lightening your pack helpful: Good luck.

  2. Hey,
    Excellent review. I’ve had my eye on these but was a little concerned about the durability. If you happen to see this, have you experienced any delamination on these? I’ve been wanting to move to Vasque as my main backpacking boot but the soles separating seems to come up in a lot of the reviews I’ve been reading.
    Thanks and, again, great review.

    • Hi T.J., I’ve seen no delamination of the outsole on these boots. My impression is that they’re very well constructed. Delamination can happen for a variety of reasons related to poor care of leather boots, too, though that would normally take a long time.

      • Thanks much for dropping a note back Michael. After reading your response I just pulled the trigger on these. All the specs add up and was glad to hear they’ve been solid for you. I’ve been an AKU guy for a long time and this will be my first pair of Vasques. Feels like I’m dumping a girlfriend. 🙂
        Thanks again man.

        • You’re welcome, T.J. I think you’ll like the boots. I’m a longtime Aku fan, too, but I’ve also worn many brands and multiple models from most brands, so I’ve gotten picky about what I like.