I have old man feet. A bunion on one foot, flattening on the other. So long as I hike with a light load, mass-produced boots will generally do me just fine. I have a Keene pair for light loads, and a Salomon Quest 4D GTX pair for when the pack is loaded up. On a recent trip to the snow-covered hills around Shasta, I realized that I needed to be able to carry not just the camera gear, but also the minimal survival necessities like a bag, food, water, etc. That would also mean better boots, and maybe crampons and snowshoes. Recently, I happened to see an article about Tecnica's new semi-custom Forge GTX boots. In my skiing youth, Tecnica was the racing boot make I did not need. I stuck with Lange. But what I read here and here about these hiking boots was very intriguing. So, today I set out to check them out along with the possibility of a custom footbed for my lighter duty boots.
The nearest dealer with the necessary equipment was about an hour away in Dublin. Off I went, and I am glad I did. Dorky as they look, once fitted, they are incredibly comfortable. The fitting process was interesting, likely a sign of early technology that will one day become much simpler. In fact, it's pretty easy to imagine that in the future, one will step into some sort of "nano booth" and, depending on one's choices, tiny nanobots will craft clothing and footwear to custom fit. Unlike tailors, nano-devices work cheap, so eventually, we will all wear bespoke.
For now, though, we have to do it the mechanical way. It starts of course with simply trying on the boots and see how they feel on your feet. here is the boot in leather:
It looks more "normal," but I noticed that this boot has an asymmetry to it. Part of it is the single-sided tongue, and part of it may be the rounded toe, but whatever it is, it has a bit of odd to it. Nothing quite as unusual as my old Salomon Star Trek boot, which bit the dust about 5 years ago after 20+ years of superb service:
Anyway, I tried both the leather and the synthetic, and I settled on the latter. For its subtlety I guess. The process of fitting takes about a half hour all in once the machinery is set up. The footbed liners get heated and then molded to your feet first inside a set of neoprene-like slippers:
Your feet and the liners then go into a set of boot bags:
And then these are strapped around your legs with a brace between your knees to keep them separated and your feet better positioned. Air is pumped into the boot bags to pressurize them and force the footbed to mold around your foot. It's a weird feeling as the air lifts your feet off the floor:
While that's being done, the outer boot is being heated up:
Once the footbeds are done, and the outer boot is at the right temp, your feet and footbeds go into the boot, and then back into the inflatable boot bags, where you get all pumped up again:
After a few minutes, the pressure is released, and you walk around for a few minutes while the boots continue to set. Out of the box, these boots fit decently, but out of the machine, they feel outstanding. So comfortable, one is tempted to drive in them, though that's rarely a great idea with hiking boots. Can't wait to hit the trail with these.