First look: Tecnica hiking boots return to US with a major innovation

We got our feet into the very first pairs of Tecnica's new heat-moldable hiking boots. SPOILER ALERT: They are awesome.
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For the last few weeks, we've been testing the first pairs of Tecnica Forges to hit the U.S. shores in the Blue Hills of Massachusetts.

For the last few weeks, we've been testing the first pairs of Tecnica Forges to hit the U.S. shores in the Blue Hills of Massachusetts.

After a seven year hiatus, Tecnica will once again begin selling hiking boots in the U.S. And not just any hiking boots. The new Forge collection is the first ever heat-moldable hiker, and it just might change the boot-fitting game.

Heat molding is nothing new in the ski boot world, but, outside of footbeds, it’s unprecedented in hikers. The Custom Adaptive Shape (C.A.S.) system, adapted from Tecnica’s ski boot line, lets bootfitters create a fully-customized fit in less than 20 minutes.

Sue Killoran, who handles public relations for Tecnica, and Leslie Baker, Tecnica’s marketing director, showed up at my office with a couple pairs of boots and what looked like a rolling hard-sided cooler—the C.A.S. system. Before we could finish a cup of coffee, I had a pair of midweight leather boots that hugged every tiny curve of my feet.

How it works

These customizable boots come in two versions: an all-leather model, the Forge, and a synthetic version, the Forge S. (We tested the leather version.)

Each boot features a thermo-moldable material in key areas: the heel, the arch, and the ankle. Bonus: As part of the process, you also get customized footbeds, about a $50 value.

To get things rolling, Leslie inserts the footbed into a sort of heating envelope for a few minutes. The warmed up footbeds go into a neoprene sock, which I quickly put on. I slip my feet into big, fat inflatable booties, strap my knees together for stability, and Leslie flips a switch. As the booties inflate, the footbeds contour around the base of my feet.

We hang out and chat for about three minutes, as Leslie heats up the boots themselves by tucking hot-wired foldable inserts inside.

Working quickly so the boots stay warm and malleable, she replaces the footbeds into the boots. I lace them up, and back inside the inflatable booties I go. Once again, they puff up and compress the boots around my feet.

It feels good—like warm compression socks. And another three minutes later, we’re done.

The test

As of press time, I've put about 20 miles on these boots, while I train for a 100-mile hike on the Tour du Mont Blanc later this summer. I've done several short dayhikes in the Blue Hills of Massachusetts and lots and lots of hill laps, all with a 15-pound pack.

At 2 pounds, 7 ounces per pair (women's 8), these are solid midweight boots, capable of handling substantial backpacking loads. The midsole is firm with good torsional rigidity and underfoot protection. The chunky Vibram sole gave me good traction on all manner of dry trail, including smearing on steep granite slabs.

The asymmetrical tongue and overlapping ankle cuff provide good support without the bulk.

The asymmetrical tongue and overlapping ankle cuff provide good support without the bulk.

I like the streamlined tongue design. The fabric tongue is fully stitched directly to the upper on the medial (interior) side, meaning there's no bellows. A short supple, bellow joins the tongue to the upper on the lateral side of the boot. The result is a snug, supportive fit without a lot of extra bulk around the top of the foot and ankle.

The thin Kevlar lace loops (as opposed to metal hooks) on the top of the foot also add to the cleanness of the upper. The textured laces never loosened up or came undone throughout my hikes.

But the fit is where this boot really shines. From the first step, it truly did feel like it was made for my foot. My arches felt supported, my heel felt locked into place, and my ankles felt mighty and strong. 

Now, I have fairly normal, healthy feet, and since my bunion surgery three years ago, I have no problem spots or peculiarities. It remains to be seen how accommodating these boots are for people with a history of problems.

Retailer logistics

Participating retailers will need to have a C.A.S. machine on site. Tecnica will work with interested retailers. It's unclear at this point whether there will be an additional charge for the machine.

One obvious question: What if a customer buys the boots, has them custom-molded, and then decides they aren't satisfied? Tecnica says the boots can be reformed several times, and that each store will have to work out their own return policy.

Update: My son and I logged more than 600 combined miles in the leather Forge's during a summer's worth of training for the Tour du Mont Blanc, which I completed in September 2017. The Forge's proved ideal for the demands of the trail, with ample ankle and underfoot support while carrying packs up to 20 pounds. (The Forge has enough to handle packs twice that weight, yet they never felt clunky on our feet, like many other midweight backpacking boots do.)Traction was impeccable on the dry but varied terrain we encountered, and the boots are dusty but as good as new. Our only durability issue was with the thin, Kevlar-core laces. My son burned through three laces on one of his boots when the sheath wore through. All in all, I'd give these boots 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Gear testing high in the Alps on the Italian-Swiss border

Gear testing high in the Alps on the Italian-Swiss border

Tecnica Forge $250

Tecnica Forge S $270

Contact: (800) 258-3897; tecnicausa.com

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