Our feet are incredibly complex. The foot balances support absorbs shock and helps maintain cooling; in return the demands on footwear are equally complex. Hence the design of the footwear has to begin with the foot itself.
I have been a late starter in pursuing my passion for trekking in mountainous terrain and my initial forays were done using the Forclaz 500 from Quechua . There is no doubt that the Forclaz 500 is a highly successful model but then in all fairness it has its own limitations and these limitations led to the search for a boot that would overcome them and provide yeoman service.
So for me, after lot of research and reviews I narrowed down to the LOWA Tibet. Let me speak about the Tibet GTX in the succeeding paragraphs. From the sea level to 5000 mts , from Himalayan winters to Western Ghats , from razor sharp rocky terrain to mud splattered trails , they have been used everywhere and come out with flying colors .
Background. Established in 1923 in a small village in Bavaria, Germany the Tibet range of Boots are even today handcrafted from genuine leather. LOWA describes the Tibet as “Ideal for carrying heavy loads over long distances in rugged terrain and extreme weather conditions.”
I would be covering it in following subsections for brevity and clarity:
- Construction including design features
- Key Result Areas
Construction: The Tibet is constructed of hi grade Nubuck leather with a patented Gore-Tex and the sole is VIBRAM. The inner of the boot has a nylon stabilizer for greater durability. Broadly speaking the leather ensures that the boot is able to take the rough use that it is designed for, while the Gore-tex liner offers waterproof breathability and the sole design from VIBRAM, who are the leaders in out sole technology have resulted in a great sole pattern.
The design of the boot consists of a high walled rubber rand/sheath that runs all around the boot and ensures that the Boot can take the abuse that it is subjected to. The wide rubber rand protects the boot from scree, rocks and other related hard rough objects while on the trail. The hard rubber toe is built to power ahead and forms the blunt head that takes the Boot head on over the terrain.
GORE-TEX liner gives outstanding waterproof breathability, this design also reduces the hot spots that can cause an individual a lot of grief. There are ventilation holes in the side which make the foot to act like a bellow thereby pushing air outside. Hence the temperature inside for the foot is considerably cooler and foot is lot more breathable. This feature showcases the scientific thought process in designing a boot of the caliber of the Tibet.
Vibram sole design ensures that the lugs are wide spaced helping in sole to stick on the track with greater traction, also greater surface area helps in kicking out the slush and mud easily. The Tibet boast of a SPS cushioning system which basically supports the foot to roll in a straight manner down trail thereby protecting the ankle.
There is a midsole made of PU (poly eurathane) which is durable supportive and environmental friendly. This PU lasts way longer thereby offering a significantly better platform for off trailing.
This is one serious boot that is really going to provide stability under load and tackle tough terrain specifically off terrain. The LOWA is a solid sure footed platform and excels, there are boots that perform similarly but walking long miles’ day after day with a load on the back across uneven trials like those present in Uttarakhand, Ladakh will stress the foot. It is out here that Tibet performs and is an enormous asset when climbing up or down. side hilling across steep ridges. In my view this is one great Technical performance footwear available in the market.
Material. Industry benchmarks with Nubeck grade leather, VIBRAM soles, Gore Tex liner and PU Midsoles. All these I have spoken above.
Other design feature of the Tibet includes the Lacing system. Lacing is a very overlooked aspect in Boots but makes an enormous difference in allowing the boot to fit right in place and be held there for the hours on the move. Let me enumerate how the Tibet differs from the others in this one crucial aspect. Lacing is one of the most critical elements for tension and pressure as required. The forefoot of the LOWA has in the lacing eye lids, a ball bearing system thereby having a fluid system in place. This helps in maintaining the required pressure on the fore foot. As we move upwards, at the transition towards the upper ankle we have the flex fit lacing system that can pivot in all directions as per the shape of the foot. A simple great feature, moving as per individual foot shape and requirement. The transition from the forefoot up to the ankle is the most critical portion of the lacing and LOWA performs flawlessly.
The unique locking system is worth mentioning, the lock system provided when is flipped out allows the lace to move freely through however when it is flipped in, the lace is held rigidly in place, thus once we have tightened the forefoot as per requirement and flip the lock in place, the forefoot lacing is now independent of the ankle lacing thereby allowing different pressure to be maintained as per the individual requirement. The lower foot is locked in and does not interfere with the ankle area tension.
The tongue of boots provides a great role to the foot itself and also is the cause of immense grief to many on account of a bad design. The Tibet has got it just right in this aspect. The tongue is made of a thick padding which is just about right. There is always a balance to be maintained between providing comfort, protection without creating bulk and LOWA has done it perfectly. On the tongue itself we come to the next unique part of the lacing system called Xlacing system. The stud fitted out there on which the lace is wrapped ensures that the tongue will always stay centered in front of the boot and not move to the side. A detail that I have not seen in any other boot.
These can be used for just about any trail in India, any season. Combined with a suitable gaiter, they will be the ultimate answer to monsoon treks in western and eastern Ghats through numerous streams and waterfalls. Mountains are their home and the ambient temperature does not matter, even if it is as low as -30 deg. Snow , slush , moraine, glacier, water streams , city life , summit attempts , no matter the location , the Tibet Gtx from LOWA is a front runner.
Key Result Areas:
Breathability: Gore Tex liner as well as the air venting technology ensures that the foot breathes. This also results in minimal foot odor and bacterial infection on account of sweat generation.
Minimize Pressure Points: seamless construction and genuine leather with a nylon stabilizer inside ensures that pressure points on the foot are minimized.
Abrasion Resistance. The bigger toe area and the high rubber rand ensure that this boot is built to take on the terrain head on.
Waterproofing: The waterproofing ability is exemplary.
Traction. The patented design using VIBRAM soles ensures that the traction provided is capable of dealing rocky terrain, watery crossings etc.
Comfort. The feet can withstand long hikes in just about any kind of mountainous terrain with a backpack on the shoulder. The Tibet GTX is designed to prevent foot fatigue and soreness on long treks.
Protection. The Tibet is built like a tank. The feet are enclosed safely and firmly inside a Tibet. The high ankle structure also prevents any kind of ankle sprain or injury.
Break-in period. No break-in period/minimal needed if at all. They are ready for action from the moment out of the box.
Weight. Considering the facilities and features, these are incredibly light weighing only 1.8 kg.
Safety. The features like SPS system and the design of the sole lugs ensures that the probability of ankle sprain, twisting of the foot is reduced to minimum in downhill conditions, moraine patches and wet rocky patches.
Opinion. When it comes to a hard core boot that will handle the terrain and take care of your feet, the LOWA Tibet is what you should look at. With all the equipment that I buy, I base it on performance and quality, not on name only or pricing. I conduct research starting with professional guides, read literature concerned and lastly the user experience is the single most important input. I hope this review will assist you in the purchase of your next boot.
Glossary of Terms
GORE-TEX: Gore-Tex is a waterproof, breathable fabric membrane able to repel liquid while allowing water vapour to pass through.
VIBRAM: VIBRAM is a special material used in soles of mountaineering boots which has revolutionized the way Hiking/mountaineering boots. It provides excellent traction, abrasion resistance