I have to start by admitting that my Supalite Brashers are actually male ones as unfortunately the highest size available in female was 8 and I needed 9. I was, however, assured by the guys in Black's that there wasn't much difference and if they felt right they would be right.
Now, they felt more than right - they felt absolutely fabulous. "Supalite" is a fitting name, as each boot weighs barely 500g and on first trying fitted beautifully. This isn't a common occurrence for me. I hate buying shoes, and although it doesn't apply as much to buying boots and trainers as to more dressy shoes it's still an ordeal. I have long and very wide feet with high arches, and as I got older and fatter they seem to have grown longer and wider. And thus, although I had huge psychological problem even contemplating spending 100 GBP on a pair of boots, after trying countless other pairs in three other shops I decided to go for the Brashers.
After all, I needed boots for our six-months long trip to Canada, Australia and New Zealand. We were weight and space limited (2 adults, 2 children, 4 sleeping bags, 2 camping mats, mostly cold weather months and the worst exchange rate for ten years or so) and thus I needed footwear that would do for everything from pounding city pavements to (mild) trail-walking, in temperatures ranging between below zero to mid-twenties.
The Brashers did admirably. I had no other shoes with me apart from a pair of crocs for indoors when necessary and thus I wore them pretty much every day between early March and October 2010. My feel were - a little bit - sore after the first couple of days (but I did a lot of walking) but they didn't take more than four days and maybe a total of 10 miles walked to break in completely. This is unheard of for me, as most footwear takes me weeks to get used to.
The Goretex kept me dry, with a little bit of NikWax care every few weeks, throughout. I used the boots in the rain, in the pouring rain, in the sleet and in the snow, I walked into puddles and even (sort-of) forded streams and they stayed dry and comfortable.
I don't like too stiff boots and the Supalite Brashers were just right on that score: when laced up all the way they worked fine on all rougher terrain I subjected them to (although admittedly there was nothing out of the ordinary, as we had the kids with us at al times) and with looser and lower laces they were find for pottering about. I even learned to drive in them!
I used heel cups in the boots and this probably helped a lot on pavements: I think without those, they might have been a bit hard on the sole in the city. However, I am old, very heavy and arthritic so probably more likely to suffer anyway.
All in all, the boots were worth every penny of the 109 pounds I spent on them and already have paid for themselves. I don't wear them as much now as we have been back to the UK for a few months and I wear trainers most of the time, but whenever I put them back on for a countryside walk, I still appreciate the great quality of the boots.
Two years on and they have split where they bend in the leather and started letting water in... but I have worn them almost every day and they have got very wet sometimes, and they are the most comfortable boots I have ever owned - used for a two hour dog walk every day, in all weathers, through wet fields and muddy hillsides. so still worth the money. I changed the liners for the regular brasher liners a couple of times. The leather doesn't hold its colour once it has washed off but you can use renovating polish to prolong its life.
One year without realising what I was letting myself into, I promised my husband a new pair of walking boots for his birthday. I was expecting to pay £60-£70 but bless him, he fell in love with a pair of Brasher Supalites and I didn't have the heart to say no. With a 10% discount they cost me £108 and he assured me they were worth every penny.
Bad Boot History
At this stage I'd been fighting the need to buy proper boots. As a student I studied geology and spent a lot of cold miserable weeks plodding over mountains with wet feet. In my book, proper boots weighed a tonne and took a lot of looking after. We used to do the most bizarre things to make them fit and to soften the leather - sitting with your boots on in bowls of hot water, putting lots of Nikwax onto the wet boots so the nasty stuff got sucked into the pores as they dried. Horrible - really horrible. And they used to stink too.
We'd been doing a lot of walking and I was happy with a scruffy pair of glorified trainers - ugly walking shoes with low ankles. I didn't see the need for something better but hubby just kept banging on about his wonderful Brashers. We'd booked a 'proper' walking holiday and I conceded that my shoes weren't going to pass muster. Maybe I was going to have to fight my revulsion and buy some proper boots.
Now my feet aren't exactly 'standard'.
They are very narrow especially round the heel.
They are skinny feet and I have skinny bony ankles - I'm not going to claim to be carrying no excess flesh but I can confirm that none of it is on my feet or ankles.
And I have high insteps - apparently I'd have made a great ballet dancer if it weren't for a total lack of talent and growing to be 5 foot 8.
Personally I think I have really nice feet but I struggle to find shoes that won't fall off and I'm utterly rubbish at heels.
Women's boots are usually built to be lower round the back of the ankle than men's boots. This is something to do with anatomy - not so obvious as a bit of extra space in the crotch of your jeans but whatever the reason, it seems to be established practice with boot makers.
Common practice is for boots to be stiff around the ankles in order to give support - but then if they are too stiff, they rub like heck and my bony little knobbles get reduced to red raw bumps of pain. Luckily, I have strong ankles as a result of playing ice hockey for years and building them up so I don't want too much support.
In recent decades, feet have been getting longer and wider and that doesn't work for me. A walking boot is one place where you don't want too much space in it or your foot will slide around and you will get blisters (see my review on Compeed Blister Plasters).
Most boots weigh so much that you think twice about taking them on holiday. Do I really need them? Can I get away with some trainers? Or those nice all terrain sandals that look the biz but rub in all the wrong places?
Off to the shops
I went to an outdoor shop - probably Mountain Warehouse - at Clacton outlet centre of all the bizarre places. Well I had a 10% discount card and fancied a trip to the seaside and was living about an hour away at the time. This is also where husband had got his and they had separated us from a large amount of dosh over the years. I think there's something about the scent of Kendal Mint Cake that just has me reaching for the credit card.
I was determined - I would buy some funky little canvas boots in a nice colour that would not make me look like I was wearing walking boots. I would spend no more than £60. I would not be seduced by the power of Brasher.
Love at first step
Love is such a powerful emotion. Feet went in to the Brashers, hand went into pocket, £108 went onto the credit card.
I could not resist. It was like putting on a pair of slippers - a well-worn old pair of friends.
Brashers Supalites are:
* Unbelievably light - less than a kg for the pair
* Unbelievably soft - especially round the ankles
* Comfortable - oh boy, they are just so good. No rushing to get them off at the end of the day. I could sleep in these and they have NEVER given me a blister.
* Made from a single piece of leather (well, two pieces - one for each boot of course). I have no idea how they do it but it works - fewer seams, fewer leakage points
* Lined with gortex membranes - so they breathe. When I'm wheezing on a hill my boots are breathing freely. Gortex also means that they are waterproof - yes, really, amazing. (Obviously if you step into a river and the water goes over the top then they aren't. But you should buy a set of those kinky fishing waders if that's what you are into).
* Scruffy as heck because I don't clean them very often - after a while but you've gotta love em.
Brasher Superlites need:
* To be worn and loved
* To be treated once in a blue moon with a specialist cream that doesn't block the Goretex pores
Things you shouldn't do in Brashers
* Let a guy on the side of the street in Marrakech clean them for you, however much he begs and pleads - ordinary polish will block your goretex
* Lend them to your friends - they'll never give them back
* Really hard trekking - they are designed as a hill boot and aren't a really heavy duty boot. However, we've done a lot in them and they've not let us down yet.
* Let the soles wear down too much - the soles aren't the absolutely best and they are starting to lose a touch of the grip they had when new. I don't know if you can get them resoled - this used to be an option on boots when you'd spent years breaking them in but with these there's no breaking in required so maybe you'd better just buy some new ones.
Shop around and price check them - the RRP is £120 and if you can get them under £100 give yourself a pat on the back. They don't get discounted by much - they don't need to!