Or, read on for the 1-37,382 step update below.
Arc’teryx set the outdoor world on fire when then announced their entrance into the footwear world. As you might expect from a company that makes all its money by out innovating everyone else, their boots were like nothing anyone had ever seen. Coming in both a shoe and a boot styles, instead of using a stereotypical construction all the Arc’teryx footwear is actually two shoes in one. Much like classical mountaineering boots, Arc’teryx footwear is made up of two separate pieces: an inner, which looks like sock, and and outer, which contains the outsole, midsole, and an outer made of a single piece of hydrophobic laminate. The promise of such a system is two-fold: 1.) By changing between multiple inners you could customize the footwear for the conditions (i.e. insulated for when cold, waterproof for when wet, breathable for when hot), and 2.) If inners are offered in multiple thicknesses, customized fit should be able to attained. For people those who do not want interchangeable inners, sightly cheaper versions of the boot and shoe were offered in which the inners is permanently affixed to the outer.
Initially this last detail seemed strange: why in the world would you buy the version with affixed inners when you could spend slightly more and get a modular hiking system? Unfortunately, the coming months have made everything clear: Arc’teryx has not offered the inners necessary to live up to this promise of modularity. All the inners currently offered are the same thickness, meaning the fit is not variable. In the shoe models the only inners available are gore-tex (no non-waterproof, no insulated) while the boot models offered gore-tex and insulated inners (no non-waterproof). For people who want non-waterproof models, only one the shoe model, with a permanently affixed inner, is an option. This could all change, but as of now, that is all that’s out there.
All of the sudden, the permanently affixed versions seemed a little more tempting. After all, why spend more money when it adds almost no extra utility? Further, early reports suggested that the inners could slip around, especially with low volume feet. However, all of the other promising features– solid outer construction, near-seamless waterproofing, innovative outsole design– were in these less expensive options. Which brings me to the subject of this review: the Arc’teryx Bora Mid.
The Arc’teryx Bora Mid shares all the construction qualities of the more expensive Bora2 Mid, except instead of having a replaceable inner boot, a water proof (gore-tex) un-insulated inner boot is permanently affixed to the outer boot. For exchange for the lack of modularity Arc’teryx will sell you this boot for $270 (about 20% less than the Bora2 Mid). However, Arc’teryx claims that all the construction of these boots is identical, and therefore this review should be directly comparable to the Bora2 when used with the standard gore-tex inner boot. The Bora Mids weight 2lbs, 9oz, which is truly amazing when you consider that just a few years ago the previous class leader, the Salomon Quest 4D (2lbs, 13oz), was considerably unbelievably light.
There is an elephant in the room here, though: The real problem with boot reviews on the internet is that they generally come from just a limited amount of time with the product. Sure, some information is better than none, but if you really want to know how your $200-$300 are going to hold up more that just a weekend hiking are needed. Enter our ONE-MILLION STEP REVIEW. Over the next few months I will walk one-million steps in these boots, giving your guys periodic updates along the way (294,835, 500,000, and 750,000 steps). Today we are going to cover the basics: unboxing and early break in. I’ll link back to any other reviews here, when they are written. Now, lets talk about the boots:
Take Home Message:
Arc’teryx Bora Mid
Weight: 2lbs, 9oz
- Great lacing system
- Tough (so far…a lot of steps to go)
- Excellent outsole
- Excellent waterproofing
- Warmer than average
- Somewhat more expensive than competitors
- Embarrassingly cheap insole
SHOULD I BUY THEM: We’ll tell you in 962,618 more steps
But if you’re going to but them now please support Lesser Places and purchase them using these links for MENS or WOMENS. For the removable inner Bora2 Mids click here for MENS, womens not available at this time. Doing so gives us a costs you nothing extra and we get a little extra cash to keep this site running.
Pure sex. That is the only way to describe these boots. Wearing these boots makes me feel like Marty McFly with his power laces:
As described above these boots are unique. Essentially they are constructed as two separate shoes which are then sewn together to form one solid boot (though, again, you can spend some extra money and get the version where the two come apart fully). The outer shoe is one piece of hydro-phobic, multi-layered laminate, which is connected to the Vibram outsole with a solid, substantial rand. For breathability the inner layer of the laminate has large holes, which are covered by an outer layer with made of fine mesh. It is also important to note that because all these layers are laminated together there are no seams anywhere on the out boot. Hypothetically speaking this should create a more durable outer.
The inner boot is essentially one large gore-tex lined sock with an elastic band on top. The inner itself is made of a highly breathable material that looks identical to that used on Columbia brand water shoes. Under this padded, highly breathable material lays the gore-tex shell, which is further backed by a very thin nylon layer. Because the inner uses a sock type construction there is only one seam, which should improve waterproofing. For anyone who is wondering, the inner boot seems to be attached to the outer with a seam on the sole. I have no idea if these the two parts could be separated without ruining the boots, and I don’t plan of figuring out.
As would be expected of an Arc’teryx piece of gear, build quality is exceptional. Everything is tight, there are no loose seems, no glue overruns, and no imperfect cuts. Normally you would credit this attention to detail to the fact that Arc’teryx gear costs a buzzilion dollars, but the fact that these boots are competitively priced within the category should be a wakeup call to Arc’teryx’s competitors. Arc’teryx is proving here that there is no excuse for shoddy build quality in this budget range.
I go back and forth on whether waterproofing boots is a good thing. One thing is clear: I like having dry feet. Logically that means you should want waterproof boots. But here’s the thing: if your waterproof boots leak and your feet get wet the water cannot get out except through the very, very tiny hole by which the water entered. In a lot of cases then the key to dry feet is to have breathable boots that let your feet get wet initially, but dry quickly. Therefore, if your boots are going to be waterproof it is CRITICAL that the waterproofing be 100% effective. The best hiker of our generation, Andrew Surka, has an amazing piece on this problem if you are interested, click HERE to read it.
To test waterproofing I ran my standard “fill the bathtub up to the VERRRRY top of the boot and stand it the water for 30 min test.” The Bora Mid’s did exceptional: After 30 min no leaking of any kind was found. This may be credited to the fact that the inner boot (where the gore-tex layer is found) has only one seem, and therefore only one place to fail. It should be noted here that I have owned three pairs of the Bora Mid’s closest natural competitor, the Salomon Quest 4D, all of which have leaked terribly from day one. The only other boots I have owned that have done this well are the much heavier, and slightly more expensive, Asolo TPS 520.
Also of note, because the outer boot is completely hydrophobic and the inner layer has good waterproofing I found these boots to dry exceptionally quickly: Take them off, turn them upside down and all the water in the boots basically drains right own. The inner boot does absorb some water, but because they are so breathable they dry quickly.
The Bora Mid’s use an deep vibram outsole with an interesting Y shaped pattern on the heel. Arc’teryx claims that this shape helps with braking on downhill (more on that below). Of particular interest is the size and shape of the lugs. The lugs on this boot have more in common with the intense lugs found on backpacking boots than with mid-weight hikers. This is because one of the place that boot makers in the mid-weight category save ounces is by cutting down on the depth of the tread in outsoles. While this does save weight, it also decreases the life of the boot. Because Arc’teryx saved so much weight with the laminated, compared to nubuck leather, outer they can get away with putting a bigger, better outsole on the boot. In sum, this means that the Bora Mid’s soles should have a service life much closer to bigger, heavier backpacking boots while still being lighter than most mid-weights.
Arc’teryx uses a pretty standard lacing system. It is worth nothing that they seem to have stolen my favorite feature from the Salomons: the bottom most lacing eyelet has a lace capture system that holds the laces across the top of the foot tight. While this makes untying your shoes take a little longer, I have found that this type of lacing system keeps stays tighter throughout the day, keeping your heel tightly in the heel box and reducing heel blisters.
Real World Use
In total, I have put 37,382 hiking steps into these boots. Since this is the first part of this series, a few of things about my testing process:
1.) I live in Phoenix, Arizona and it is summer right now. That means that the vast majority of these miles are going to come on sharp, rocky, steep hills in 100+ degree heat. Short of walking on a volcano, these are just about the worst conditions you can put a boot through.
2.) While conditioning I almost always carry a 50 lb pack.
3.) I’ll be keeping track of my steps hiked using this nifty mileage-to-steps converter.
So, in short I think it is fair to say that these 1,000,000 steps will be just about the hardest 1,000,000 steps that you can put on the boots. Sharp rocks, steep hills, hot temperatures, and heavy guy with a pack– I would expect that under normal use the boots will wear less than whatever results I find.
After my first three hikes in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve system I think I can say a few things for sure:
1.) These boots brake exceptionally well. Maybe this is due to the fancy heel shape as Arc’teryx claims, maybe not, but regardless I feel much much more confident in downhills that I have in other boots of this class.
2.) The included insoles are a joke. On my very first hike I noticed that I was getting a little bit of heel slipping. Since these boots felt like they fit like a glove, this was surprising . A quick look at the insole makes the problem clear: the included ortholites are stupidly thin.
I replaced the stock insoles with a pair of superfeet green, which alleviated the heel slip and added support throughout the boot. My guess is that Arc’teryx knows that people who are going to spend this much on boots have their own insole preferences, and I know no other other boot manufacturer includes a decent insole, but it still drives me nuts. When you spend $270 on a pair of boots you should not be expected to go out and bring your own insole!
3.) The elastic band is a blessing and a curse. It makes ingress and egress annoying– essentially you slip your toes in and then yank on the pull tabs until your foot pops into place. However, the elastic does a really good job of keeping debris out of the boot. I also suspect it will help keeping the inner boot from flooding when you step into that stream that is just slightly too deep (within reasonable limits, of course).
4.) The boots are (kinda) hot. Early reviews at Backpacker suggested that this boot is hot. To me, this is a relative issue. Compared to an all leather boot, like my beloved Asolo TPS 520s, these boots are amazingly cool. Compared to a non-waterproof mid-weight boot though, they are downright hot. I would say they are slightly hotter than other boots in the category, but not unreasonably so.
5.) Most importantly, early indications are that these boots are indestructible. If I haven’t made it clear already I think these boots most natural competitors are the Salomon Quest 4D’s, Lowa Renegades, and Vasque St. Elias. I have owned all those boots, and subjected to the trials of Phoenix craggy trails they all have started to show wear very, very quickly (for example: my last pair of Quest 4Ds lost a piece of the outsole on day 2 of use; these trails are really hard on boots). I’ve gone over the the Bora Mids boots with a fine toothed comb and for the life of me I cannot find a single sign of wear on the sole, outer boot, or inner boot. I’ll keep you posted on this in later reviews.
In my short time with these boots they seem pretty amazing. Well constructed, well waterproofed, comfortable, and light, they might just be the ultimate mid-weight boot.
However, I keep coming back to a serious, critical mistake that Arc’teryx made with this footwear series. At risk of being repetitive, I’ll say it again: These boots are little brother to the Bora2 Mid, which have a removable inner boot. In this way, you can change the inner boot out to match the conditions, which sounds amazing. Hypothetically, you could have a waterproof boot inner for when it is going to rain, a insulated one for when it is cold, and (most importantly for a desert dweller like me) a fully breathable one for the other 95% of the time. However, Arc’teryx is not offering a non-waterproof inner boot, significantly limiting the usability of the system. For example, with their breathing holes on the side, these boots would have been perfect for my trip up Aravaipa Canyon last weekend had they offered an non-waterproof option. Until they close this gap, buy the cheaper non-removable inner Bora Mid. If you really want and insulated boot, put that extra $145 ($50 for the difference in boot price, $95 for the insulated boot liner) towards some super warm socks.
HOWEVER, these boots should be judged by their own quality, not on the unfulfilled promise of the of a system. Measured on their own merit these boots are amazing. They have an outer that seems as tough as a full leather boot, waterproofing that actually works, and the tread of boots designed for much heavier use than anything in the category. In other words, these boots take all the amenities you love from your big bad backpacking boots, put them into a boot lighter than most mids, and do that all while remaining competitively priced. We’ll really know in about 962,618 more steps, but early indications are that YES, THESE ARE THE BOOTS YOU HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR.
Want to buy them? Please support Lesser Places and purchase them using these links for MENS or WOMENS. For the removable inner Bora2 Mids click here for MENS, womens not available at this time. Doing so costs you nothing extra and we get a little extra cash to keep this site running.
Disclaimer: This post, and all posts on LesserPlaces, may contain affiliate links– links that allow me to receive a small kickback at no additional cost to you when you shop through them. This is how we keep the lights on.
Max Wilson is a graduate student studying ecology at Arizona State University. You can follow him on twitter @maxomillions. Don’t forget you can follow Lesser Places by email, or on Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram using the menu at the top of the page.