Brasher Hillmaster II GTX Leather Boots

Author: George Tod

Evaluation



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Brasher Hillmaster II GTX Leather Boots after 1100 Miles

Note: I now measure mileage using my GPS, which generally gives about a 10% higher figure than that measured from maps.


General view of Brasher boot - still looking good

Still plenty of tread remaining on soles

Wearing away of padded lining but not as badly as some boots

Rand starting to become detached in places, but not too badly

Some minor cracking of leather where it flexes

Cost

£120 in 2009

About the boots

In recent years I have generally been able to find good boots at discounted prices, but this time there ware very few boots available in my size. After exhausting the available stock in my favoutite discount store, I tried another shop that was offering very little in the way of discounts, but had a wider range of boots to choose from. The ones that most suited me were these Brasher leather boots, and when I tried them on, they fitted perfectly and felt extremely comfortable right from the start. I had also heard from other walkers that their Brasher boots had given excellent service, so I decided to raise my price limit, hoping that this would be justified in the longer term. The only reservation I had at the outset was that they tapered down towards the back of the ankle more than most other boots, and I was concerned that it would be easier for water to come over the top when walking through streams or boggy places. I presumed, however, that there was some good reason for this shape to be chosen - possibly to allow more freedom of ankle movement when walking or climbing over rough terraine. The main problem I had experienced with my last few pairs of boots had been the rapid breakdown of the padded lining at the back of my heel, so I was pleased to see that these boots had a lining of what appeared to be soft leather where most rubbing was likely to occur, so it was less likely to wear away.

Comfort

I was so impressed with the comfortable fit and feel of these boots that I ignored all the normal rules of breaking them in gently, as I couldn't believe that they would give any problems. The first walk I did in them was a winter mountain walk of about 11 miles with a lot of walking on rough and steeply sloping ground covered in tufty grass and through boggy areas with even worse tufty grass. It was not long before my heels started rubbing and getting sore. Matters were not helped when my feet got wet by going through boggy areas where the water was too deep. This may also have been made worse by the low height of the backs of the boots, which would only keep out water about an inch or so less in depth than most other boots I have had. The result was that I had a blister on the back of each heel by the time I had finished. Much of this I blame on myself for my overconfidence, which had arisen from first impressions. Had I started with a few periods of easier walking, some of the discomfort could have been avoided.

Subsequent walks proved more satisfactory, though I still had a tendency to get sore heels on many occasions. However, this has tended to be a problem for me for a number of years and may be due to factors relating to age rather than being the fault of my boots. With age, I have found that I have less fleshy padding on my bones, so there is more likelihood that rubbing will cause discomfort and blistering.

When I bought the boots, I was informed that they had memory foam in the padding around the heels and ankles. I cannot say that I noticed a great deal of difference when wearing them, though I can say that throughout the life of the boots so far, I haven't suffered any soreness on my ankle bones that has sometimes happened with other boots, so maybe the memory foam has helped in this respect.

Water Resistance

Despite the fact that these boots did not have a one-piece leather construction, their water resistance has not suffered as a result of any joins in the leather. Most boots are quite good at keeping out water in the early stages, but this can deteriorate badly lowards the latter part of their lives. These Brasher boots are still very good at keeping out water after over a thousand miles, even when they have not been waxed for some time. The main problem in the wet, as mentioned previously, is when the water is a bit too deep and enters over the top of the back of the boot, whereas boots with a higher construction may have managed to keep it out. In general, however, these are some of the best boots I have had for keeping my feet dry throughout the whole of their life so far. They have a GORE-TEX® waterproofing layer between the outer leather and the lining; the first leather boots I have had with one, so this explains why they are so good at keeping out the water. It also explains why they can get away without having a one-piece construction and also means that, if the leather starts to crack right through, they should still remain reasonably waterproof, and this could well extend their useful life even further.

Wear

Nearly everything about these boots has stood up well to a lot of rugged walking through all sorts of conditions, and the general level of wear and tear is still very good beyond the thousand mile point that I expect boots to reach whilst still being serviceable. There has been some wear through the lining by the heel, but this has only worn through fairly recently giving them a far better performance than many other boots I have had. Wear like this inevitably leads to more problems with sore heels and blisters, and can lead to excessive sock wear when abrasive padding is exposed, though in this case the effect has not been too bad, as the padding that has been exposed is not at all abrasive, so I can still see them giving me useful service for another few hundred miles. There are signs of cracking in the leather where it flexes, which is generally to be expected, but this is not yet serious and it is likely to be quite some time before it is bad enough to allow water through. Tread on the soles is still deep enough to give good grip and is less worn down than might have been expected at this mileage, so overall these boots have performed very well.

Since taking the photographs, I clocked up another five hundred miles in them, making a total of about 1600 miles by which time the leather had cracked quite badly and the soles were getting thin. However, despite holes through the leather they were still more waterproof than many other boots were when they were new thanks to the GORE-TEX® lining still remaining intact.

Good Points

Bad Points

General Assessment

Overall, these boots have given a very good performance and have been as good or better than many other similar boots in most respects. There have been some minor failings with regard to discomfort at the back of the heels, but this can vary from person to person and also depends on walking conditions and several other factors, so is not necessarily a failing of the boots themselves. The low back of the boots may have some advantages such as allowing freer movement and less rubbing of the ankles, but also has some disadvantages such as allowing water in more readily and giving less ankle support in certain circumstances. It very much depends on what type of walking is being undertaken as to whether one outweighs the other or vice versa. These are the most expensive boots I have ever bought, even allowing for inflation, but this is partly because I was unable to get them at a discounted price. However, they have lasted about 50% longer than most of my other boots, so in terms of cost per mile they come out very well. I have been very pleased with their comfort, quality and durability, so I would have no hesitation in recommending them to anyone.

When it became apparent that these boots had reached the end of their days, I decided that I would really like another pair of the same, because I had been so pleased with them. Still somewhat concerned with the high price tag, I decided to look online to see if I could get them cheaper. In normal circumstances I would not do this because I have always felt that I have to try boots on before buying, especially as I have wide feet and a high instep which often causes difficulties in getting a good fit. However, in this case I knew that the fitting would be the same as my old ones, so I felt much safer about not trying them on first. Consequently I got the next pair for only £90 in December 2014 and they have been serving me well since then, though I have not been doing as much walking as I used to do. The design has changed only slightly since I bought the previous pair, so I have not shown another set of photographs. They are every bit as good as my first pair, so I expect to be wearing them in comfort for a good few years to come.


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