Or, read on for the 294,835 step update below.
Imagine you are a basketball player in 1923. This means you have one choice in shoes: plimsolls, rubber soled shoes that are so terrible they don’t even have a distinct right or left foot. You run up and down the court all day, jumping up and down in what are essentially slippers. After years of aching feet, Chuck Taylor walks in with a pair of these:
And suddenly, everything has changed. These shoes have ankle support. They breathe with a canvas top. They have distinct right and left feet. These shoes are so far ahead of their time that they will be the first choice of serious athletes everywhere for 50 years.
That is the kind of splash Arc’teryx wants to make with their entry into the world of footwear. Throughout all of human history boots have been made in basically the same way: a leather upper was affixed to a a tough sole. Sure, the types of leather and the materials that these soles were made out of have changed significantly over time, but in my lifetime (I was born 1987) the formula has been essentially unchanged: a leather upper attached to a rubber sole. However, with the rise of fast packing in the past decade or so, hikers have realized that these methods create incredibly strong, but incredibly heavy boots. As fastpackers keep weight low they do not need the support these boots create, and moved away from hiking boots towards running shoes. This is an acceptable solution to many, but no one seemed to be questioning whether it was in fact necessary. No one other than Arc’teryx, that is.
Two things make Arc’teryx footwear radically different from all the hiking shoes that came before it. First, some of the shoes in Arc’teryx’s line are actually two separate shoes: 1.) A tough outer, and 2.) A removable inner which can be changed out for different conditions (e.g., insluated, waterproof, etc.). This design choice has been the focus of nearly all the press surrounding these shoes (for example, HERE, HERE, and HERE); however, I believe this is a red herring. The thing that really gives these boots the potential to be special is that the outer boot is not made of leather, but rather of a laminate that is simultaneously much tougher and much lighter.
Arc’teryx believes that these changes will will fundamentally alter our expectations of hiking foorwear. That’s big talk. To test that claim I (or rather, my wife Angie, HAPPY FATHERS DAY TO ME!) plunked down $300ish dollars and hit the trail with a brand new pair of Bora Mids.
Before we get started, we should talk about boot reviews in general. There is a fundamental problem with the way shoe reviews work: because reviewers have to handle a huge number of shoes per year, they really only get to test out their shoes for a short period of time. In this way reviews at places like Backpacker (where, full disclosure, I have done a little bit of writing) are really something more like unboxings and first takes. Enter our 1,000,000 step review.
The 1,000,000 step review is actually spread out across multiple reviews. First I do an unboxing and quick take, which you can find HERE. That segment covers out of box fit and finish, goes over specific features of the boots, and gives many many more details on the removable inner-boot system. I really suggest you read it, but in case you are squeezing this in at work while your boss is in the other room, a quick summary of that review:
STEPS 1-37,382 SUMMARY:
WHY DID I PICK THE ONES WITHOUT THE REMOVABLE INNER: Because I live in Arizona, will never need an insulated inner, and Arc’teryx is not making a non-waterproof option. Hence I would only ever use the gore-tex liner, so there was no point in spending the extra cash.
OUT-SOLE QUALITY: Much stronger and thicker than other boots in its class (e.g., Salomon Quest 4D, Lowa Renegade, etc.)
IN-SOLE QUALITY: Terrible, immediately replaced with superfeet green.
WATERPROOFING: Stood in full bathtub for 30 min, no leaks
LOOKS: Pure-sex. These boots have the moves like Jagger.
STEPS 1-37,000 CONCLUSION: Great, but I wish they had offered a non-waterproof inner boot.
I will be doing 3 or 4 updates along the way to 1,000,000 steps. This is the first of these updates: 294,835 steps. Onto the update!
In the first review, I mentioned that these boots were comfortable. What I did not realize at that time is that the laminate material that makes up the outer continues to break in more slowly than comparable nubuck leather boots. As such, these boots, which were already comfortable to begin with, have broken in even more to become an almost perfect mold for my feet. The minimal heel slipping that was apparent in the beginning is gone, the annoying clicking sound these boots can make when they are first worn is gone, and the general sense of clunckiness that came with such a stiff pair of boots when first worn is gone. By combining the out of box wearability of light hikers, and the made for your foot feeling of well broken in full grain leather uppers, these boots once, again, combine the best features of both worlds of hiking footwear.
Not to toot our own horn too much, but this type of observation is exactly what makes an extended review valuable– some of the early reviews noted that these boots did not live up to their expectations from a comfort perspective, but with the boot-hours I have logged I have to believe that these reviewers just underestimated the fact that these boots, unlike others in their class, get better with time.
My biggest problem with boots, in general, is durability. I live in Phoenix, and I generally train with a 50ish lb pack on the local mountain preserves. Even worse, I am a heavier guy (190 lbs) and I supinate really badly, placing all the wear one one side of the outsole. If I get bored, sometimes I’ll run a little bit with the pack on. This means lots and lots of weight on sharp, hot shale, which simply destroys boots.
As you might imagine, this means I eat through boots. Just for context in 2013 I ripped lugs off the outsole on 2 pairs of Salomon Quest 4Ds (including one in less than 3 hikes!), one pair of Salomon Comet 3Ds, and one pair of Lowa Renegades. I don’t think it’s outrageous to describe my use of the boots as the worst case scenario. With all that in mind, look at this and be amazed:
That’s right, 300,000 steps in and there is essentially no wear on the outsole. In my first post I hypothesized that Arc’teryx had used some of those weight savings from the laminate upper to give these boots a better outsole than their competitors. Given my ridiculous destruction of boots in the past, this would seem to be the case.
Lest you be worried that those lighter outers might be fragile, I have good news: they show no significant sign of wear.
I’ve had these boots in the rain twice, a creek once, and a few dewy mornings. So far my feet have remained completely dry.
Arc’teryx Bora Mid
Weight: 2lbs, 9oz
- Great lacing system
- Extremely durable
- Excellent outsole
- Excellent waterproofing
- Warmer than average
- Somewhat more expensive than competitors
- Embarrassingly cheap insole
SHOULD I BUY THEM: We’ll tell you in 705,165 more steps
By now you’ve probably realized that I like these boots. And that’s true, I like them a lot. They are simultaneously one of the lightest and toughest boots in their category. The waterproofing seems fantastic. After break-in they are the most comfortable boots I have ever owned. And, if that isn’t enough to convince you, maybe this is:
I like my Bora Mid’s so much that I bought their approach shoe counterpart, the Acrux FL.
Are they perfect? No, nothing is. As I belabored in my first post I find the lack of a non-waterproof inner so baffling that I gave up on the interchangeable liner concept completely and bought the Bora Mids instead of the Bora2 Mid (the only difference between these two being price and the removable liners). They are also somewhat hot for their class and do require a bit of a break in.
But the stakes with these boots are higher than that. Arc’teryx was not just trying to make a good shoe, but rather they were trying to change the very way we think about making shoes. The obvious question is, did they succeed?
With more than 700,000 steps to go, it is still to early to tell. These boots seem to be the best I have ever owned now, but a lot can change in a few months. In the meantime though, the sales people at Arc’teryx might want to find a way to bring the late, great Chuck Taylor back. He would want to see these.
Keep up with the 1,000,000 step review by reading the 514,061 step update HERE
Want to buy them? Try these links:
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.
See them in action:
Other pictures taken while they were on my feet:
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