In the past six weeks, the new Berghaus women’s Exterra Trek boots have carried me just about everywhere! Rather than do an out-of-the box review, I’ve put them on, laced them up and reviewed them in real life, and through the actual challenges your new boots will have to survive.
Up challenging inclines in the Brecon Beacons and down chalky faces in the South Downs, they’ve stomped along muddy tracks in the Forest of Dean, trekked along hard-packed coastal cliffs on the Isle of Wight and scrambled over pebble beaches in East Sussex; they saw May’s 28 degree heat wave and the wettest June on record.
So how did they fare?
Appearance and fit
As much as we try to resist, the first thing that often draws us to new gear is the appearance – something that Berghaus have done particularly well with the Exterra Trek. Whilst maintaining a touch of femininity with the denim-blue uppers, technical features are on show, with an exposed tensioning system and meaty sole that say these boots mean business.
When you see a good-looking pair of boots like these on the shelf, you can’t help but hope they’re the perfect fit, willing them onto your feet, like an ugly-sister with a glass slipper. Luckily, so long as you’ve got your sizing right, the Exterra Trek will make you feel more like Cinderella, as their slightly generous fit allows room for thicker walking socks in winter.
With UK sizes ranging from 3 to 8, and with half sizes in-between, there’s a pair for all but the teeny tiniest and very biggest feet. The soft tongue and malleable upper allows you to ease your foot in, without any of the jamming and heel stamping experienced with less-forgiving styles.
Lacing and technical elements
I loved lacing these boots up – not something I’ve admitted about a pair of shoes before. There’s something wholly satisfying about pulling on the laces and seeing the tensioning system work its magic – with laces anchored to webbing straps across the boot, you can actually feel your feet being secured in position as you tighten them.
Yet, once I was clambering over logs in the Forest of Dean and sliding down banks in the South Downs, these boots still had enough give to allow feet and ankles to flex, without letting my feet shift around inside the shell.
Apparently, it’s the polyurethane midsoles that give the Exterra Treks their moonboot-like bounce. Perhaps it was the jump I made from wearing six-year old leather boots to these brand new beauties that made the cushioning so pronounced in my first outing? Still, particularly on parched summer footpaths and solid rock, it felt as though my soles were filled with sponge.
Typical of England, May’s heat wave soon turned to June’s downpours but, nonetheless, this gave a good opportunity for the Exterra Treks to get reviewed in the wet.
If skidding down a muddy escarpment in the Brecon Beacons beneath a thundering storm is any sort of test for sole grip, the Exterra Trek passed. Berghaus say the great grip on these boots is all down to their OPTI-STUD outsole which, unlike standard grips, doesn’t distort under pressure.
But what I really loved about the sole of these boots was their sensitivity. There’s nothing more disconcerting than picking your way across a stream on wet rocks, scrambling up a bank of loose scree or clambering over a polished rock surface in rigid boots that leave you guessing how slick the surface is underfoot.
A lightweight boot with decent flex and great grip, the Exterra Trek allowed me to cross slippery surfaces and tackle impromptu rock climbs with confidence.
For me, ankle support is one of the most crucial features in a walking boot – On walking holidays I have a habit on of going over on my ankles no-matter how tall or robust the support is. Astonishingly, during my six weeks in the Exterra Treks, my ankles stayed sprain-free, despite appearing to offer just as much support as my old leather walking boots.
But supporting your ankles isn’t as straightforward as simply holding them in-place with tall uppers, it seems. “Ankles often fail when your alignment is out of sync”, Chartered Physiotherapist, Anna Cox (MSc), told me; “If these boots do a good job of holding your heels and feet in place while still allowing you enough flex to adapt over different terrain, then the chances of damaging your ankles can be greatly reduced.”
Berghaus second this theory, claiming that their unique heel girders provide lateral stability that prevent the feet rotating inside the boot and ‘rolling-out’ on uneven surfaces, – a motion that often leads to ankle injury. Sounds a bit technical but, nonetheless, it seems to work!
But no matter how much technology a boot employs, it seems that some feet will inevitably feel happier in certain boots. My six-week experience wasn’t entirely blister-free. After four hours in the Brecon Beacons I could feel hot-spots developing, so decided to whip out the Compede. Yet, when I lent my boots to a friend for a day, she reported happy heels and sore-free soles.
My toes, on the other hand, fared better. On a vertigo-inducing descent in the South Downs, the Exterra Treks were put through a rigorous downhill test but, holding my feet firmly in-place inside the shoe, toe jamming was kept to a minimum and I emerged with pain-free paws.
A coastal walk where the beach ran out offered a good test for waterproofing and, immersed in salty water and lapped by the tide, my feet remained dry.
Despite the suede upper and Cordura®-knit tongue giving these boots a predominantly textile, almost trainer-like, appearance, around 50 per cent of the Exterra Trek’s surface area is finished in highly water-resistant materials.
Most obvious are the rubbery toe caps and waterproof cradles around the feet but, what I hadn’t noticed on a first glance, was the high-rise rubber casing around the heel, waterproofing around the back of the ankle and subtle synthetic finish around the rim, which provides an effective splash-resistant lip.
Essentially, the Exterra Trek is a three-season boot, but could feasibly see you through most of the walking holidays Europe has to offer, throughout the whole year – unless you’re planning on over-wintering in the Alps or Scottish Highlands.
Made with Britain’s fickle weather in mind, the Exterra Trek uses GORE-TEX® Performance Comfort Footwear technology, specifically designed for changeable conditions – meaning that, whatever the weather, my feet stayed warm, dry and sweat-free.
- Feet stay firmly in place yet able to flex
- Perfect tensioning easily achieved with technical lacing
- Less suitable for regular cold-weather trekking
Good-looking, multi-use boots that keep your feet in the right place, at the right time. Ideal for spring and summer trekking, these boots from Berghaus will also see you through wet weather and the occasional winter day.
For more trekking blogs and guides, check out: Basic compass skills 1: Finding your way/ Trekking Boots: New models for 2012 / Adventure Sports Gear: Penknife or Multitool? / Meals for camping trips and trekking holidays
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