As well as doing a number of smaller trekking/hiking expeditions each year, my friends and I combine for one big annual expedition. This is usually in the New Zealand Southern Alps. This always tests boots and sorts the weak from the strong.
This year, we went in for 8 days carrying a full pack with 8 days of food. The daily grind was going up a valley and over a mountain pass, encountering grass and scrub in the lower valley reaches and transitioning into rock and scree climbs in the upper reaches before descending to the next valley to camp or hut for the night.
We were off the trail the whole time. I did 7 mountain passes averaging around 2000m (6000ft) in those days probably averaging around 8 hours per day. My choice of boot for these big missions is always critical.
I was attracted to the Salewa Mountain Trainer Mid GTX for a number of reasons. These reasons I will promote as the great features of the boots to give credit where credit is due.
At 670gms (23 ½ ounces) per boot, these boots are reasonably light. Over the years, I've moved to lighter boots where possible as obviously the lighter the boot, the lesser the effort to lift each leg. And when you're doing a lot of miles, that counts.
The balance is not cutting yourself too short and the boot not coping. These boots provided effective support even with a relatively heavy pack.
After having sweaty feet on a previous recent mission from "hot" boots, I found I did not overly overheat in these boots, and they did the job well.
This was my first time using suede boots which I found more than adequate and confirmed that heavier leather hide boots are just not necessary unless in winter conditions.
The rubber rand surrounding the front of the boot is always a good choice. This is the most “beaten up” area of the boot apart from the sole, and the rand protects and lengthens the life of any boot.
Fit & feel
As well as looking good, these boots performed well on the fittest. When properly laced, they supported my ankles well, and I had a reasonable heel lock. The boots did not rub on my heels.
The 3F system using small wires provided good support overall linking the heel to the sole, improving stability. Inside the boot, there is a little label stating “memory padding,” indicating that the boot is memory molding to your feet.
I can't say that I noticed the effect of this technology other than the boot was comfortable. So much so that I did not have any “break-in” period with these boots. While I wore them on a small overnight tramp and a few day training events, I did not feel the boots needed a break in period and could be worn almost straight out of the box. That's a big bonus!
So there is no such thing as a waterproof boot right? They all have big holes at the top of the boot which allow water in, only hindered by your big fat feet in the way.
And you sweat don’t you? Even if you aren’t river crossing, your feet will get damp, so quick drying boots are more important. With a combo of the Goretex and suede construction, I would say that (subjectively) these boots dry much more quickly than average.
Great over wet rocks
For me, this is so so important. I have ditched new boots that did not grip in on wet rocks. Why? Because slippery boots hugely increase the risk of incident.
These boots use Vibram Wrapping Thread Combi (WTC) soles and performed well over wet rocks. This is obviously impossible to test in the store, which is why reviews like this are important and why we rely on companies like Vibram to deliver the goods and trust their brand reputation.
The big fail
The soles of my boots are near worn out after 9 days of reasonable use. As can be seen from the photos accompanying, all of the sole edges have worn off, and the sole has been shredded.
The heel edge which is so useful for downclimbing on rocks is virtually worn out. In the latter days of this mission, I was clearly slowing down and having to be cautious on the climb but particularly on the descent.
In the end, I was trying to 4WD on near slick tyres. In this respect, the boots overall are a big expensive fail. These boots will now be destined for “around the house” workboots unless I get a hacksaw and cut new grooves in the boot.
The boots were exposed to a lot of rock and scree, but these are expensive boots. I need at least 20 days out of them to justify the expense.
These boots need to be renamed. They are not up to mountain conditions if they can't handle rock and scree. They should be called Hill Trainer GTX or similar.
If you are going to be walking in forest or bush or anything with dirt as your base, I would recommend these boots for all the reasons stated above. If you are going into the mountains and will be on rocks, then weigh up your wear versus cost.
I don’t blame Salewa entirely for this as this is Vibram technology which should have performed better, but I feel a bit burnt by them.
Happy safe trails!
Good to know
- Salewa took it up a notch when they approached mountain guides and learned about their experiences. They addressed the most common complaint by updating the Mountain Trainer Mid GTX.
- With the notion that descent is the hardest part of a hike, Salewa has adapted the Flex Collar and Bilight midsole to this pair. These technologies work together to aid in easier descent. The Flex Collar promotes plantar flexion while the ergonomic design of Bilight midsole makes it shock absorbent.
- The revamped version now uses Gore-Tex Performance Comfort from the previous Gore-Tex Extended Comfort. Both offer waterproofing. However, the update renders moderate insulation. The new membrane is suitable for different seasons.
- Previously, Salewa utilized the Vibram Approach Sole. The updated version is now equipped with the Vibram Wrapping Thread Combi (WTC). It has a low-profile look that renders optimal traction. The improvements of this hiking boot caused an increase in weight. Both the men's and the women's versions are about 20 grams heavier.
The Salewa Mountain Trainer Mid GTX is offered in standard whole and half sizes for both men and women. It comes in medium width. This backpacking boot features the Climbing Lacing system which allows users to customize their fit. It has a to-the-toe lacing for a precise adjustment for support and optimum performance. It generally runs true to size.
The Salewa exclusive Vibram Wrapping Thread Combi (WTC) powers the Mountain Trainer Mid GTX. This lightweight component has a minimalistic design and aggressive lugs. These qualities enable the users to have a natural feel of the ground while rendering traction and walkability.
With the mid stiff nylon insole and Bilight midsole, this hiking boot is able to provide support and comfort. The Bilight midsole is designed to be extra flexible while offering more cushioning in the heel area. It is a shock absorbent component. Its design prevents the boot from sliding when taking on steep terrains.
Accommodating a broader range of foot shapes and sizes is the Multi Fit Footbed plus (MFF+). This component has a customizable layer that conforms to the volume of the users’ foot.
The non-toxic, all-natural technology used in the Mountain Trainer Mid GTX to prevent odor is the Cleansport NXT. It destroys the odor-causing bacteria that are activated every time sweat is present on foot. These microbes remain dormant until reactivated by perspiration.
Using a 1.6mm suede leather and wear-resistant fabric in its upper, the Mountain Trainer Mid GTX provides flexibility and durability. Suede leathers are known to be long-lasting and light. The 360-degree full rubber rand that surrounds the backpacking boot's upper strengthens its construction.
The 3F system creates a connection on the heel, instep and the ankle to contain the heel securely in place. Also known as the Salewa “Y,” this technology renders ankle support, flexibility and precise fit.
The ergonomic design of the Flex Collar takes care of the comfort during descents. It promotes the ankle’s rear range of motion thus eliminating foot fatigue. It does not inhibit plantar flexion of the foot. In a standing position, plantar flexion is when the foot is pointing down and away from the leg. Being able to perform plantar flexion freely, along with proper strengthening of the lower leg muscles mitigates injuries.
The Gore-Tex Performance Comfort takes care of waterproofing and breathability. It offers moderate insulation to retain heat when needed. Its comfort is felt in a wide range of outdoor conditions.