Finding the right pair of hiking boots for your feet is like looking for a needle in a haystack. After 6 years of intense use in the Alps, Kilimanjaro, the Rocky Mountains and the Scottish Highlands, I had to say goodbye to my well-trusted, but now falling-apart hiking boots. It was just before my journey on the West Highland Way and I knew what better way to test my new pair of Zamberlan hiking boots than a long-distance trail. If my feet would survive 50 miles in these boots, they could also walk 500.
The Zamberlan Ultra Lite
The Zamberlan model I tested is the Ultra Lite GTX WNS. I chose this boot over others for its sleek look, its specific fit for women and its versatility on mixed terrains and conditions. Like all Zamberlan hiking boots it was hand crafted in Italy by experts to ensure highest quality and value. And indeed, the finishings on the boots are flawless and I felt perfectly safe taking the boots out on the West Highland Way. Here are some facts:
– Zamberlan is an Italian family-owned mountain boot manufacturer that has been hand crafting high quality hiking boots since 1929. It is a brand that stands for tradition as well as the newest technology.
– The Ultra Lite boot is fitted with high quality upper leather which receives a special treatment to maximise its water resistance, extremely waterproof and breathable Gore-Tex lining and a quick-drying anatomically shaped footbed. The sole has been developed with Vibram to give additional protection on any terrain. I might sound like a catalogue here, but all these features really are important to look out for in a good pair of hiking boots!
– The boots come in a special ‘Ladies’ fit, which means that they are specifically designed to fit female foot anatomy. It features better wrapped ankles, more supported insteps, narrower heel pockets and higher arches.
What I liked about the Zamberlan hiking boots
What can I say – I loved the boots! Here are a few reasons why:
I was really worried about taking a new pair of hiking boots onto the West Highland Way, as I barely had the opportunity to break them in in advance. My busy calendar allowed for only two little hikes in them, so I braced myself for blisters all the way. Alas, I brought the blister plasters in vain – I might as well have left them at home. Despite that the boots felt a bit hard on my feet in the beginning, they softened to the shape of my feet really quickly and I was blister-free even on day 4!
Read more: Hiking the West Highland Way
WEIGHT & SOLES
Much of the West Highland Way follows an old military road which is made up of uneven rocks halfway buried in the ground. They are not necessarily nice to walk on. The hard and heavy soles however, seemed to protect my feet from the worst, and most of the day I walked without noticing the spiky rocks under my feet – and the grip was great, even on lose ground. Despite that however, my Zamberlan hiking boots are really light – only 550grams. They give me full protection without weighing my feet down.
Surely not the most important factor when choosing a new pair of outdoor shoes, but an awesome add-on. I love how my Zamberlan hiking boots look! They are dark brown with a smooth surface. By default they come with brown shoe laces, but a quick Amazon session later, and I had suitable shoe laces in bright red. As a travel blogger I am particularly excited that I now have hiking boots that serve their purpose and look great on Instagram!
What I disliked about my Zamberkan hiking boots
There were not many things that I disliked about the hiking boots as I was testing them, but here are a few things to consider before making the purchase:
Italian sizes are usually slightly smaller than standard European shoe sizes. I actually had to send back a pair of boots as I ordered them in my regular size and they were way too tight. I sized up one entire size (to a EU 40), ordered another pair and then they finally fit.
FIT AROUND MY ANKLES
In the beginning, certainly during those first few short walks I did in these boots, I felt that they were still too tight around my ankles. I had to loosen and loosen the shoe laces to feel comfortable, but feared that my ankles would lack protection. However, I think that was simply a matter of breaking in the boots, as now I feel that the leather has softened to perfectly fit the shape of my feet.
Which brings me to…
THE FACT THAT THEY’RE LEATHER
As you might know, I recently switched to a vegan diet; mostly for environmental reasons, but animals rights also play into that. The fact than my new Zamberlan hiking boots are leather, does not really fit into that philosophy…
However, I appreciate that Zamberlan only uses high quality materials, produces in Italy and is committed to an ethical treatment of their skilled staff members and suppliers. Finding vegan hiking boots of similar quality and performance is not easy, as the problem is not only the upper material like leather, but also the glues used in many shoes. Zamberlan boots are produced fairly and made to last a lifetime; it is a brand owned by people with a passion for mountains and the outdoors who are devoted to enabling other people to experience them in the best way possible.
A lot of craftsmanship goes into each pair of boots produced by Zamberlan. Instead of producing cheaply somewhere overseas, they keep their entire production process on Italian ground and in the hand of highly values workers. The fact that the boots are leather is not ideal, but I feel that the production circumstances and brand statement outweigh that.
Are Zamberlan hiking boots for you?
If you ask me, the Zamberlan Ultra Lite are a great pair of hiking boots for anyone looking for a versatile pair of outdoor shoes with maximum protection and performance.
Zamberlan is a trusted brand that is used by many professional mountaineers, so you know you’re in for a reliable product.
They don’t come cheap at £175, but if you plan to use them again and again, in the Scottish Highlands or the Rocky Mountains, they are definitely worth the investment! Cheap hiking boots never are…
The Zamberlan Ultra Lite is produced exclusively for the UK market and therefore cannot be bought directly from their website. However, there are a number of retailers who sell the Ultra Lites online. For more information on these stockists or to order a pair directly (and I can’t recommend them enough) please give Zamberlan UK a call on 0044 1665 510660! Hopefully the new Zamberlan UK website will be up and running soon, and getting a new pair of Zamberlan hiking boots will become even easier.
Of course you can browse the Zamberlan shop for a different pair of hiking boots here.
All photos by Kathi Kamleitner.
Disclaimer: Zamberlan provided me with a free pair of hiking boots in exchange for an honest review of the shoes after my West Highland Way hike. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.