I’ve always had a hard time finding shoes and boots that fit right. Anybody who’s read my past reviews knows that. Well, to add to my woes I recently found out that your feet can still grow, or at least change as you get older. Who knew? At a recent visit to a shoe store with my kids I had my size checked just to see. I thought my feet had gotten wider over the years increasing the difficulty of my shoe search; ends up they got longer! I went from a 10.5 Wide which I’d worn for about 20 years to an 11 Wide. It turns up that extra half in inch made all the difference in the world in fit.
With that revelation fresh in my mind I figured I needed to start reevaluating my footwear choices and my first stop was for a pair of my most worn shoes: hiking boots. A couple weeks of shopping online and at some local shops brought me to Vasque Boots. Now, I’ve worn Vasques before and even reviewed their Breeze low GTX hiking shoes here on the Monkey a couple years back. This time around I was drawn to a full hiking boot, the Breeze GTX 7466. After a couple of quick e-mails I had a pair at the Woods Monkey Pittsburgh Testing Facility and was ready for some long term field testing.
The Breeze GTX 7466 is a good all-around hiker in my opinion. At 2 pounds 9 ounces for the pair, the boots are light, but are sturdily constructed. The upper is a mix of leather and nylon mesh with padding around the ankles. The entire boot is Gore-Tex lined which keeps them waterproof but still allows them to breath. The Breeze GTX uses a special Arc Tempo Last (the inner part of the shoe that shapes to your foot) to enhance fit and a sturdy Vibram sole with an aggressive tread pattern. Sizes range from 7-15 with both narrow and wide choices in most sizes. The boots are 8 hole in height with the lower eight eyelets being nylon loops, and the top three being quick lace hooks. There is a rugged nylon loop on the rear of the boot as well to help you pull the boots on if needed. The Breeze GTX 7466 comes in a burnt orange/Taupe color combo that seemed to go well with a wide variety of clothing from earth toned cargo pants to casual blue jeans.
I received my review boots just before heading to the annual Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade (SHOT) show in Las Vegas. Now, I know a trade show isn’t exactly the same as being in the woods but from past experience I can tell you that it can be brutal on the feet if you don’t have comfortable shoes. The show is 5 days counting Media Range Day, and involves 9 or 10 hour days of constant walking and standing on concrete floors covered in carpet. I’ve read in the past that there 13 miles of aisles at SHOT. I’m not sure what the exact number is it but whatever it is you end up running back and forth across the show throughout the day as you try and take in everything that’s there and make your appointments with various companies and vendors. It’s a lot of walking. More than I would typically do on a similar length hiking trip! That concrete also makes it harder on your feet than a typical dirt trail as well. In years past I’d get back to the hotel room at the end of the day and the first thing I’d do is ditch my shoes and swap out for a pair of Crocs or just go barefoot for a while. After washing away the foot aches with a couple beers and some time off my feet anyway.
I have to say that I was extremely pleased this year to say that I had pretty much no foot issues at all. I was a little concerned that I didn’t have a lot of time to break the boots in before I headed to Vegas but that didn’t prove to be an issue. The Breeze provided good ankle support for all the walking and did a good job with all of the standing as well. I know in years past I’d be feeling the ache in my feet and ankles during the day, and by the end of the week I was wrecked. That definitely didn’t happen this year. I won’t say my feet weren’t tired at days end but they definitely held up much better than in years past and I was good to go for the evening with minimal downtime to recover. Although I did generally get a couple beers in for medicinal purposes just in case…
The first day of SHOT is Media Range Day. This is a chance for the media to actually get some hands on time with the plethora of new firearms and accessories being previewed at the show. It’s an early start to the day and you get bussed out to the Boulder Rifle and Pistol Club in nearby Boulder City, Nevada. The range is classic Nevada desert and made up or hard packed stone paths and rocky sand. I was pleased with the boots performance in this environment as well. The gravel trails and shooting bays aren’t unlike what you’ll find on some rails to trails paths and the Breeze GTX’s handled this just fine. The aggressive Vibram sole did a good job of biting into the loose sandy ground too when climbing the low rises on the range. It was another day of being on our feet for most of the time and the boots did quite well. I wouldn’t hesitate to wear them on a longer actual hiking or camping trip in similar conditions.
The trip home took me from the sunny 60 degree January weather and sandy desert of Las Vegas to single digit temperatures and an ice and snow mix back in my home port or Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Over the next couple of weeks I wore the boots regularly at work and off duty and found out how they performed in ice, snow and cold wet mud. The Vibram sole provides good traction on this mix and the boots were warm enough with good wool socks underneath. I wouldn’t say they’re a replacement for a good pack boot for deeper snow, but for general use in cold weather and some outdoor activity with a couple of inches of snow around they performed quite well.
Other than a short cold stretch, our winter has been pretty mild this year but we have had a lot of rain so I had ample opportunity to test out the Gore-Tex in the boots as well. With about 3 months of use I can say that I haven’t had any issues with wet feet during any sort of routine use. To test that theory out further I deliberately did some walking through a stream on a day hike that I took with fellow Monkey staffers Ian Fielder and Scott Wickham. I made sure I submerged the boot up to around the ankle and stayed in the stream for a period of time. There were absolutely no leaks whatsoever and when I stepped out of the stream it seemed that the water beaded off of the boots and the outer leather and nylon dried quickly. Temperatures were down in the lower 30’s at the time so I would have been rather miserable had the boots failed but my confidence in Vasque wasn’t misplaced.
This trip also gave me a chance to check out the traction of the Breeze GTX on more rolling terrain and muddy trails. The sole did clog with mud to some degree but never to the point that I felt that I was losing traction even when climbing steeper slopes. The tread is aggressive and bites well and I didn’t have any issues. Cleanup wasn’t too bad later one either. I let the mud dry and then knocked the boots together along with a couple of raps against the sidewalk and that seemed to clear most of the mud from the tread.
With a couple of good hard months with the Breeze GTX 7466 under my feet I have to say that I can see why this is has been a steady seller in the Vasque line. It’s a good solid boot that provided great fit right out of the box and is capable of handling a wide variety of conditions from sand, to mud to snow. The Breeze GTX runs for around $160 at various online retailers and in my opinion is worth every penny of that and then some. Years in the military, as a police officer, and as an outdoorsman have shown me that having warm, dry, comfortable feet can make a huge difference in enjoying your time in the field and getting your mission done with a minimum of misery so I’m more than willing to pay for a good pair of boots that make that possible!
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