At the beginning of 2008 my boyfriend (now my husband) invited me to join his family on their annual walking holiday in Switzerland. I needed to invest in a really good pair of walking boots which would be stiff enough to use with crampons but comfortable enough to use all the time. I went to my local outdoor shop where I settled on a pair of Asolo TPS 520 GV boots (women's). I picked these because they fit my very narrow heels and slightly wider toes as well as providing adequate support for my rather flat feet. Their good looks didn't hurt either.
Asolo is an Italian brand which specializes in high performance mountaineering footwear. They are well known for quality. In addition, these boots have Vibram soles, which are considered some of the best soles on the market by many "hard core" walkers as they are generally very grippy and hard wearing. To ensure your feet stay dry, they have Gore-Tex lining.
The Asolo TPS 520 GV boots are made from 2.6-2.8mm full grained leather. They are primarily a rich, dark brown colour called Chestnut. I love the way they look- even if mine are usually so caked in mud I can't really enjoy it. The yellow and black laces complement the design just fine, but more importantly, the flat design means they don't loosen too much or untie while your are walking.
I struggle to find shoes that fit at the best of times. My heels are very narrow, the majority of my foot is average, and my toes are on the wide side. My left foot is at least half a size larger than my right. My right foot is shorter but slightly fatter. I have rather flat feet which need good support (I had reconstructive surgery on my feet when I was 15 &16- I don't want to undo all their hard work). My ankles are on the weak side (I twisted them regularly when I was young) so I need something that fits in the ankle and provides good support. These Asolo's are quite simply the best boots I've ever had. They fit my narrow heels like a dream providing excellent support- in fact, I haven't turned an ankle in these in the 4 years I've owned them. They have always been exceptionally comfortable as well. I rarely get blisters in them- even when I was first breaking them in. The first few times I wore them I would get some pinching pain across the top of my foot at the widest part of my right foot (the fat one), but soon the leather stretched to accommodate my foot. The insoles are perfect for my flat feet. They support my arch without being to intrusive. They provide just the right amount of give. I can walk in these all day (and day after day) without getting sore feet. They are, without question, the most comfortable boots I've ever owned. I normally wear USA size 8-9 depending on the brand and style of shoe. I like slightly roomier boots to accommodate thick socks so normally tend towards 9's for walking boots. For these boots, the USA size 9 fits me perfectly. Normally this would convert to a UK size 7 (according to just about ever chart I've seen on the internet), but these boots list the size as UK size 7 1/2. Now, this seems off to me as I've never bought a UK size shoe larger than 6 1/2 (and I normally go for somewhere between 5 and 6) so you definitely need to try these on before buying them and not just trust your "normal" size.
These boots are excellent for all kinds of walking. They perform well on snow, ice, dirt, mud, grass, and most types of rock (I find them a little slippy on wet, slimy rock). I always feel sure footed. The Gore-Tex lining keeps my feet dry even on the wettest days. Only once have my feet been wet in these boots; I stepped in a ditch that was deeper than I expected and water came in from the top of the boot (so it was entirely my fault and not a problem with the boots). These boots do a good job of keeping my feet warm in winter; on the hottest days of summer they are a bit too warm and my feet do sweat a little, but you can't ask for everything. These are darn good boots year round.
Do They Last?
I had my first pair of these boots for 5 years. In that time they endured 3 two week walking holidays in Switzerland, hundreds of days and weekends out and thousands of dog walks. They easily carried me over 10,000 miles and I am not easy on shoes/boots. I don't always pick my feet up properly and am constantly bashing the toes against rocks (which these boots do an excellent job of protecting my feet against- so it doesn't even hurt when I do it). They are nearly always caked in mud as I rarely have time to clean them (I wear them twice a day to walk the dog). Over the years my husband took pitty on them 2 or 3 times and cleaned and waxed them, but otherwise they were used and abused. Obviously, the laces were the first to go. Actually, I'm shocked they lasted 3 years as I normally break laces much sooner. Eventually, after nearly 5 years the soles significantly detached from the boot. I would have considered having them resoled, but the leather wasn't really in good enough condition to make it worth it. So instead I purchased a brand new pair. Then a few months ago my husband and I decided we would go trekking in the Himalayas in 2 years time. I immediately bought another pair to have in reserve because the last thing I want to do is find a new pair of boots while training for something like that. The pair I had should last but with all the walking I will be doing I didn't want to take any risks.
Price and Availability
I don't remember how much I paid for my first pair of boots, but they are currently available from numerous outdoor retailers in the USA like REI for around $289. They are a little harder to track down in the UK, but there are a few places that carry them. I bought my second pair from Gaynors of Ambleside's website for £149.99 (reduced from the list price of £170). They are made in UK sizes 3.5-9.5, but it is getting increasingly hard to find many sizes. I had to buy my 3rd pair form the States as I couldn't find a pair here in my size.
Note: sometimes these boots are listed as Asolo TPS 520 GTX.
These are very good, all purpose boots suitable for the whole year. They are comfortable, durable, and look nice (particularly when new). I highly recommend them- particularly if you have a narrow foot/heel.
This review is also posted under the same name on ciao.