Scarpa Ladies' Leather Boots

Author: George Tod

Evaluation



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Scarpa Ladies' Leather Boots after 1200 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 Scarpa boot - still looking good

Still plenty of tread remaining on soles

Wearing away of padded lining on left boot, causing excessive wear to socks

Extreme breakdown of padded lining on right boot

Cracking of leather, but not yet enough to let in water

Eventual wear of right boot from inside created a huge gap rendering the boots unusable

Cost

50 in 2006 reduced from about 100 - 110

About the boots

In case you are wondering why I should be reviewing ladies' boots, the reason is that, whilst I was just about to purchase some men's Scarpa boots, the salesman asked if I might be interested in these. They had been returned by someone who had worn them once and claimed that the two boots differed in size. I tried them on and found that they fitted perfectly, despite the fact that they were presumably made on a last which was shaped for a lady's foot. The men's boots that I had intended to buy were much heavier, being designed as a four seasons boot and suitable for attaching crampons for use in ice and snow. As I do very little of this sort of walking, the lighter boots were more suited to my purposes. Ladies' boots or not, I decided to buy them. Anyway, once I had removed the pink sequins and the high heels, they looked just like a pair of men's boots, so I wouldn't be suspected of being a transvestite! In actual fact, they were almost identical in appearance to my previous pair of Scarpa boots, bought in 2000, and represented very good value at 50.

Comfort

The boots were very comfortable right from the first wearing, so I began to think that boot manufacturers had a soft spot for ladies, whereas thay preferred to let men suffer from a prolonged period of breaking in their new boots. However, it was not until some time later that I realised that there was a downside to this. The comfort came, not just because they were a good fit, but by virtue of a padded lining. After about 200 miles of walking, this started to break down in the area around the heel. The construction of the lining was of foam plasic covered by fabric, so, once the fabric wore through, the foam was exposed, presenting a much more abrasive surface, especially as it started to disintegrate. The effect was to cause excessive wear to my socks plus a little discomfort to my heels.

Scarpa are by no means the only manufacturer to have gone down the route of putting padded linings into boots. Both pairs of Montrail boots I had prior to these Scarpa boots suffered from exactly the same problems. This seems to be a relatively recent problem, as I don't remember having any similar problem prior to 2003. Earlier boots were either unlined or had a much more durable lining that lasted for the life of the boots. I have two theories on this, dependingupon how cynical a view I take:

  1. Soft linings have been introduced to give a greater comfort, especially in the early stages of use, thus avoiding much of the discomfort associated with breaking in boots. This also has the effect of making them feel more comfortable in the shop and, therefore, it is more likely for people to purchase them. Unfortunately, however, the materials used to achieve this comfort have not been sufficiently developed to withstand the rigours to which they are likely to be subjected.

  2. This is a form of built-in obsolescence, making people buy new boots long before there should be a need. I often meet people who have had the same pair of boots for ten or more years, which means that they must do no more than about 100 miles a year in them. If the lining of a new pair of boots lasts about 200 miles before showing signs of wear, the boots would be two years old - too late to take them back for a refund, but long enough to think about a new pair.

Having worn out several pairs of older socks, before setting forth on my last long distance walk, I bought some pairs of Thousand Mile walking socks in the hope that they might better withstand the abrasive effect of these boots. Alas, however, the heels started to wear through in about a hundred miles and had huge holes in their outer layers at the end of the 200-mile walk. The only fortunate thing was that my own heels didn't suffer too much in the process, unlike my earlier experiences with Montrail boots.

Water Resistance

These boots were not of a one piece leather construction and had one seam on the outside and two seams on the inside. This gave them more potential places for water to enter. In practice, however, they proved to be good at keeping out water in all but the most extreme conditions, and retained this ability for most of their life, provided that that they were kept well waxed. Most boots are quite waterproof in their early life, but this generally deteriorates quite badly towards the end, whereas these were one of the best pairs of boots I have had for being waterproof near the end of their useful life. As with most leather boots I have had, cracks eventually appeared in the leather where it flexes most, but these had not developed sufficiently to cause any problems by the time I abandoned them.

Wear

Apart from all the problems mentioned earlier with regard to the boot linings, in all other respects, the boots stood up well, with no excessive wear or deterioration. The soles still had a reasonable tread left on them, the leather was still in reasonable condition, apart from some cracks starting to appear where they flexed, and the rand was still attached most of the way around. The thing that finally finished them off was, again, down to the wearing out of the linings around the heels. The lining of the right boot completely disintegrated around the heel. This exposed the stitching between the leather heel and the padded ankle support, and this then started to wear away, leaving a large gap between the two. Not only could water then enter at a much lower level, but wear to socks and discomfort to heels was even greater, making them too much of a liability. I always say that, if a pair of boots lasts more than 1,000 miles, they don't owe me anything. I did get over 1,000 miles of wear out of these boots, but they did still owe me something - the cost of a lot of ruined socks! However, considering the low price I paid for the boots and their general comfort, perhaps I could afford a few pairs of socks.

Good Points

Bad Points

General Assessment

These were a good, reliable, sturdy pair of boots offering a high level of comfort from first wearing, so there was little impression of having to break them in. In most respects, I would have no hesitation in recommending them as an excellent pair of leather walking boots, but for their one big failing: the poor durability of the padded lining. If only this had been made of a tougher material, the boots would have my whole hearted approval for excellent all-round performance. Surely I cannot be the only one who suffers this problem with linings. Do manufacurers not test their boots in real walking conditions, not just using a machine in the factory? Most of my walking is in the rugged conditions of hill and mountain walking, and it is possible that there is something about my gait that causes more rubbing of the heels, but then boots are intended for rough walking, so should be made from suitable materials to cope with the constant twisting and flexing that this entails. One thing is certain: the next pair of boots I buy will be scrutinised very carefully to check that they either have no linings, or that the linings are of a very durable material.


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