Monday, 30 September 2013

Salewa Alp Train.Mid GTX-Pell Review

A little while ago, I had the stark choice of re-soling my Scarpa boots or trying something new and lighter. In the summer months, and even when it's raining, I like using trail runners and just keeping my feet clean and dry when in camp. But there are places, and conditions, where I prefer a boot. After the Classic Haute Route in 2011, I was chilling out in Zermatt and wandered into the Salewa store to take a look. I'm a gear geek, I suppose, so it seemed like a pleasant way to waste an hour. I saw a great pack which I nearly bought as my OMM Villain had not performed the way I'd wanted it to with 10kg of mountaineering kit in it. I also saw some great footwear.

Fast forward to 2013 and the trips I had planned meant I wanted a new pair of boots. Chris Townsend reviewed the Alp Train.Mid GTX-Pell in TGO and so I contacted Salewa to see if I get could get a pair on test. They agreed and sent me the very pack I'd been looking at back in 2011. The Miage II. More on that later.

So what to say about the Alp Train.Mid GTX-Pell. Fit is important to me as I range from an 11 in some boots/trail running shoes, to a 12.5 in others. Salewa sit perfectly in the middle and, if you are used to Scarpa boots, Salewa fit just the same. Although, buying boots online is a lottery so I'd always suggest getting them fitted in a shop (and paying for them there, if they've taken the time to advise you on fit and help you choose the best boot for you).

The Alp Train.Mid GTX-Pell is a pretty light boot for the features. I've spent so much time waxing lyrical about how clever Arc'teryx can be, it's nice to point to another company employing their grey matter with the kit they produce. Weight has been saved wherever possible and in some very clever, unique ways. In crude summary, the webbing at the back rather than full, padded liner; fabric lace-loops rather than metal; the upper fabric itself. The vibram soles have this curious climbing zone annotation where the lugs are different and sculpted for scrambling rather than walking. The 3F system around the heel to bring the lacing across the top of the foot in more snugly. It's really quite clever. And I love the little loop to pull the heel on. Nice.

They feel light on the foot as well. They fit so well, and shave around 200g (per foot) off some of their nearest competitors (590g for a size 9). It's a difference you really feel. The fabric looks a little like  cleaning will be nightmarish but after five days in some really awful mud, even the yellow came up looking like new. The gore-tex performed well. My feet breathed well in Smartwool medium hiking crew socks and remained dry and comfortable.

The grip from the vibram soles is exceptional in the dry - about as sure as placing cams and hauling yourself up a rope. In the wet, it's as good as any boot I've ever used. In bad mud, which we had on the decent down from Maglić, they were just like any other three season boot. Mud got snarled up in the lugs and the grip simply disappeared. Compromises are everywhere.

Freedom of movement is good, whilst the boot remains supportive and snug. The 3F system is designed purely for this purpose and Salewa's thinking is that changing the way nature does things is counterproductive. It makes for a more intuitive boot. The lacing at the front near the toe is specifically designed with climbers in mind and there is a multi-fit footbed to help give each size of boot the broadest range of fit and application.

Salewa have also used the same principals X-Bionics have been using to destroy the bacteria which cause odour - silver. 100% Fresh silver reduces bacteria, they explain. "Clinical studies show that silver is effective against the bacteria that cause odours. Bacteria metabolise sweat and body moisture, emitting waste products that produce strong odours in a shoe. The resultant odor is unpleasant. Treating the shoes with silver ions destroys enzymes within the bacteria that are necessary for them to live. The bacteria die off without these enzymes." Ok, then. That sounds good. And they didn't smell too bad after five days but I think more prolonged use is necessary for any analysis of that.

All in all, I was really pleased. Comfortable, light and effective in 90% of conditions. Waterproof and breathable. Easy fit. Flexible useage range. Clever features. They are very good boots indeed and, if you get stuck on a mountain in them, that yellow will be seen for miles...


  1. Another brand that is well-known abroad (I'm thinking Austria & Switzerland in particular) but rarely seen in the UK. Thanks for the review - it's good to get a comprehensive picture of what we might be missing!

    Name duly filed away for next time boots are on the agenda (I can't really run to buying without a definite need) which might be as early as next year - if I'm lucky!


  2. I found them to balance lightweight with effective as well, they were comfortable and cleverly thought through. Reasonable price-point too. Salewa are one of those brands making in-roads into the UK and they're a welcome breath of fresh air.