As some folks might know, I am a vegan, which means I try my best not to take part in the exploitation of animals. Now this is all fine and dandy, but until recently, when it came to boots and shoes there wasn't that much choice out there. What non-leather boots there were available (and I have tried a few) turned out to be pretty naff and about as waterproof as a tea bag.
You pays your money...
Enquiring in an outdoor shop about Vegan boots earns you the status of being looked down upon and/or pitied by the staff, some of whom don't even appear to know what being a Vegan entails (not that I think they should), but these shops are supposed to stock boots and, well, there is an increasing demand for this sort of thing.
I had bought a very good looking pair of non-leather Merrell boots which were just about OK, but they weren't very waterproof, which is something of a sine qua non, living in sunny Snowdonia. The Merrell's were fine for posing around the caffs of Betws, but once on the hill, they became super foot soakers. I began to despair and bought a cheap pair of wellies, but we all knew that idea wasn't going to fly.
Petra did some research on the net (I'm not very patient when it comes to buying stuff, even for myself.) She came up with the Veggie Trekker Mk5 from Vegetarian Shoes. They weren't cheap (£174.95). But Petra knows her stuff, so... I bought them. Once I had got over the shock to our bank account, I tried them on.
They are 3 season boots- a boot with a stiffer sole but with enough flex in it to cope with uneven ground whilst out hiking. They aren't suitable for use with crampons...but then I'm not a mountain top guy, preferring to go all around the gnarly middle slopes and scope out mines.
The construction is very tough, the materials looked very durable. The sole is Vibram, a must for folks who walk on rock and wet surfaces. They were super-comfortable from the first time I wore them, and have continued to be so, a year and a half later.
On the hill...
They are possibly a little on the heavy side, but nothing compared to a pair of Scarpa boots I owned in the 80's (and wore to bag 47 Munro's plus Snowdon and Cadair Idris, so they couldn't have been that bad). I generally wear two pairs of socks and there have been no problems with chafing or blisters, despite some long expeditions.
The boots have proved to be very waterproof. I treat the outer membrane uppers with nikwax the night before an outing and that seems to keep them dry and protect them all day.
Underfoot there is always one point where I will have to walk in mud/puddles, even on a good day. I am not someone who likes to walk on paths, preferring to get my photos from unusual vantage points, usually in the middle of a bog. On a damp day, well, you can imagine. On a couple of occasions, I thought the water was over my boots- the upper collar was wet, but internally the boot was dry. Everything was fine after a day on the window sill in the sun.
Time will tell...
So, a year and a half with these boots. They have worn extremely well, the sole is hardly showing any wear, while the uppers have been chafed on rock but are perfectly serviceable. The cleats have taken some punishment from my scrambling over slate tips and rock, but are easily bent back into shape afterwards. I haven't even needed a pair of new laces yet! The waterproof protection around the boot between sole and upper was slightly damaged by ramming my foot into a hole in a wall at Dinorwig, getting "that " photo- but was easily mended with some epoxy glue. It has since given no trouble.
Would I recommend them? Yes, wholeheartedly. If you are serious about your walking and you don't want to wear leather I can think of no better boot. A comparable boot from manufacturers such as Scarpa (their Khumbu GTX is similar in spec, but leather) comes in at around £190. I'm hoping to get another 18 months of wear out of them, and if I do, I will share my thoughts with you then!
You can order the Veggietrekkers from here