Monday, 14 December 2015

Gear Review: Scarpa R-Evo GTX Hiking Boots

Scarpa R-Evo GTX
The Scarpa R-Evos were the first everyday hiking boot to utilise Scarpa's 'Sock-Fit' technology, a boot building technique that has slowly been filtering down from their top end mountaineering and ice climbing boots - more on that later. I bought my pair after a moment of weakness while trying them on in a shop. I was amazed at their instant comfort and parted with my hard-earned cash (plus discount of course) in a flash. I think I'm quite lucky to have Scarpa shaped feet as they make some fine boots for all manner of walking, climbing and mountaineering.
Side view of the Scarpa R-Evo
I purchased them after getting fed up with two pairs of Salomon Cosmics which, despite their superlative fit, leaked badly after minimal wear (I bought one pair and subsequently had them replaced under warranty to no avail). Time to try another brand I thought. I had read good reviews of the R-Evos from other websites which prompted me to look at them in the first place. They are an extremely handsome looking boot with their two-tone grey-orange theme though the 'greyness' of mine has faded over time, becoming a sort of grey-brown colour which is a little disappointing.

As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, these fit me perfectly and were out walking almost directly from the box. One of their key features is the Sock-Fit, which I'll discuss in a moment but for now, here are their technical specs:
  • Materials:
    • Upper: Suede and Schoeller S-Tech fabric
    • Lining: Gore-Tex Performance Comfort
    • Insole: Comfort Flex
    • Midsole: EVA
    • Outsole: Vibram Fagus Lite
  • Sock-Fit construction
  • Speed Lacing System
  • Ankle Padding System
  • Heel Tension System
  • Weight: 1.3kg (pair)
Sock Fit
So - the Sock-Fit. What's it all about? Instead of a traditional tongue that is created from the same fabric as the boot and floats separately from the uppers - the Sock-Fit tongue is made from one piece of softshell fabric which is attached to the boot at the lacing points. In practice, this makes the boot 'one piece' which has the necessary stretch to flex and move with your foot - very much like a sock. The fabric Scarpa has used is Schoeller S-Tech which looks and feels like most normal softshell fabrics though has a certain 'squishiness' to it and undoubtedly has Gore-Tex sandwiched within it.
The softshell tongue that forms the Sock Fit
This softshell fabric extends from the tongue to two triangular windows at the ankle which allows the boot to flex here as well. Overall, the fit of these boots on me is superb; close and supportive yet unrestrictive and, ultimately, there isn't a hint of movement of the foot in the boot which helps to eliminate blisters.

Sole
They have a specially designed Vibram sole that I've found to grip well to most surfaces - I've yet to have a serious slip in these other than the odd skid on steep, wet grass. 18 months worth of walking (averaging about 20-30 miles per month) has started to wear the tread a bit so I'm not sure exactly how long they will last before a re-sole or the bin beckons.
The Vibram sole on the R-Evos
Waterproofing
As will all fabric boots the waterproofing is provided by a Gore-Tex layer in the boot which is all that is keeping the elements at bay. Thus far, the boot has performed admirably in bad weather, save for one curious incident during their early days where I ended up with a wet foot having just walked through some long wet grass on the slopes of Place Fell. While I've yet to replicate this and have since worn the boots during some fairly poor weather with no issue, I can only assume that it was the result of wet trousers leading to wet socks and a wet foot. As with any lined boot, feet do get hot and sweaty on warm days which has caused some friction around my ankle.

Other features
These are listed straight from Scarpa and, in all honesty, I have no idea how significantly they contribute to the overall comfort. Memory foam padding is evident around the ankle, the Heel Tension System supports your heel and prevents torsional twisting, and the Speed Lacing System allows for speedy adjustment of the internal volumes of the boot. In other words, you can tie the laces which I think is a real must-have feature for any pair of walking boot. A robust toe rand wards off scuffs and abrasions at the front of the boot.

Conclusion
These are a well-made pair of boots that fit me very well indeed - they are very comfortable. Obviously, if they don't fit you then they are as good as useless. They are my go-to footwear generally between Spring and late Autumn. I believe that the Sock-Fit actually works well, creating a close, secure fit around the foot but with the necessary flex required to make them comfortable. They look to be handling the English mountains rather well with no obvious signs of damaging wear and they have retained their waterproofness well beyond the lifetime of the previous Salomons. Being over a year old now you can pick them up well under the RRP of £180 which makes them much more affordable. If you have a Scarpa shaped foot and are in the market for a new 3 season boot, I'd recommend giving these some consideration.
The R-Evos tackling the Bad Step