Lightweight comfort, traction and support
By Rick Shandley
Wenger hit the mark with new Eiger hiking boot as the Eiger boot has become the showcase hiking boot for the Wenger/Swiss Army footwear product line. Having worn these boots frequently for about two months, sometimes daily, the comfort and traction they deliver gives the Eiger a good measure of credibility as hiking boot. But they are not intended to be backpacking boots where heavy loads and harsh terrain require greater ankle support and outsole firmness.
That said, the Eiger is a great choice in boot that is fully capable of cushioning your feet and shoring up you ankle on relentless day-long hike with a day-pack. And yes, these are boots you can wear casually on city streets where they kick in the bonus of being a bit stylish and cool to look at. And more…you can drive a vehicle with these shoes in comfort and foot-sensitivity to the foot pedals.
My Eiger boots came in the Cool Grey color Nubuck uppers (also available in black) bolstered with black rubber shielding from toe-to-heel. The boots came in size U.S. 13, and fit fine from the start; never requiring a break-in period. This is largely attributed to the use of Nubuck for the uppers rather than leather. Wearing only a single pair of sport socks, nothing fancy, there were no blisters after long hiking days.
Originally my request was for U.S. size 14 so my feet had some room for swelling on long hikes and give me the option of wearing two pair of socks on each foot. Size 14 wasn’t available, and I was told the Eiger’s run a bit large in size. And running a bit large is, perhaps, what allows me to enjoy the Eiger so much. I like the adequate room the toe-box offers my feet. The structure of the lace eyelets permits the Eiger boots to be laced-up fairly snug; snug enough to feel like they are part of my feet.
Also, this is a boot you can cover ground with as the Eiger is fairly light in weight. Instead of using a steel shank for firm foot support while managing against too much foot flex, Eiger is built with a polyurethane midsole to minimize weight, yet provide adequate firmness. Side-to-side ankle support is more than adequate to protect your ankles from twisting under the majority of trail hiking conditions.
In order to determine where the Eiger boot, as a solid hiking boot, would differ from a boot built for multi-day backpacking or hauling heavy gear packs, I used the Eiger’s on a long day hike with a 40-pound backpack along the Continental Divide trail near Silver City, New Mexico.
There were some steep, rutted, muddy, and rocky sections of trail where the elevation is around 8,100 feet. The section of trail, I traveled was obviously not very well used and snow-melt and summer monsoon rains had eroded the trail significantly, exposing an entire layer of quartz rock at that particular elevation. For the most part, the Eiger boots did a good job supporting my feet and delivering a comfort level that was easy on me. However, it was clear the added pack weight (making me a 260 pound person) was pushing the boots to perform at a level they weren’t intended for. And that takes nothing away from the Eiger.
These boots are designed to offer support, comfort, and traction in hiking conditions that are of limited duration and length. To assume they will offer the same performance when you tack on forty or more pounds of body weight over several days would be tantamount to boot abuse. Eiger is a hiker, not a backpacker, and for a hiking boot they do the job in style.
Between the Nubuck uppers and your feet is a waterproof boot liner. The Nubuck uppers will absorb water from stream crossing, soaking rain, and snow patches, but the waterproof bootie keeps the water away from your feet. You’ll even feel the water temperature, but you won’t feel the water. All is well, long as you don’t immerse your feet above your ankle where the boot-tongue connects with the uppers. As with most boots, if you expect knee-deep stream crossings, where knee-high gators if you don’t want water rushing in over the top of your boots. And when these boots do get wet inside and out, they dry fairly rapidly.
Traction and the use of temperature-reactive outsole rubber compounds called Temposit is a strength of the Eiger. Although it was difficult to quantify how different rock types or temperature conditions affected traction of the Eiger outsole, I always had the confidence of getting the traction I needed. The rubber outsole in contact on granite rock surfaces, where most of my hiking occurred, was always positive. Even on loose shale, partially submerged rocks on stream crossings, and boulder scrambles, traction was there. I had confidence in the grip on any surface these boots were used on. There is something very forward-thinking about this outsole technology that seems to have taking a cue from the automotive racing industry and race-tire compounds… traction.
So the Eiger is as true a hiking boot you can wear, and there were no significant drawbacks to report, save one. When the Eiger boots were delivered, they came with two pair of laces. It took about three weeks to understand why. The boot laces on both shoes immediately started to fray where the laces passed through the fourth eyelets up from the toe. The lace eyelets are stout loops riveted to the boot uppers. From the way the laces were being frayed, it appears there are rough edges or irregular contoured pathway angles on the inside of the lace hoops that cause abrasion. Both pair of boot laces that came with the Eiger boots wore out extremely quick. So much so, that another pair of boots was cannibalized for boot laces. And the same abrasion is affecting the third pair of laces which seems to indicate the design challenge may well be with the eyelets, not the laces. We were informed that Wenger is addressing this glitch and has a solution.
ALPS – MEN’S FM8112 / WOMEN’S FW8112
Price: U.S. $120
- Impact-Dampening Spydraflex Outsole with Temposit (Outsole changes with climate)
- AIS “Active Inertia System” Dissipating Vibration in the Midsole
- Hydrofoiled: HF Wave-Length Waterproof / Breathable Membrane Bootie
- Comfort Finish Slip-in Lining, High-Frequency Spot Welded (Seamless Like a Sock)
- Toe Rand and Heel Sling are molded to hold heel, toe shape, and position
- Insole and Liner are Anti-Microbial and Antibacterial
- Molded Insole, contoured to the foot bed for cooling and breathability
MEN’S (Black, Cool Grey, Dark Brown — SIZES 6 – 12 & 13
WOMEN’S (Black, Beige, Sizes 5-10 & 11)