Tag Archives: boots

Ecco Biom Hike Mid bargain

IMG_0714My Biom Hike Mids are the most comfortable leather boots I’ve used. Normally they retail for £170, but I spotted a pair on Amazon for £126 in black. As they have disappeared from some official Ecco websites, I wonder whether they are about to be discontinued.

As these seemed to be a bit of a bargain, I thought I’d buy a pair and keep them in storage. I’m sure my existing Biom Hikes will last for another couple of years. The limiting factor is likely to be the GoreTex lining.  If you find boots that fit well, they are worth their weight in gold!

I looked on Amazon again the day after I bought them and the price had returned to £170. Perhaps I just got lucky, but it pays to keep your eyes peeled.

Boot weighing

IMG_0583Out of idle interest, this afternoon, I weighed my current boot collection. From the left I have: the Ecco Biom Terrain (573g), Salomon X Ultra Mid GTX (428g), Salomon Fastpacker GTX (481g) and the Ecco Biom Hike Mid (606g). All were weighed without a footbed to aid comparability. The Fastpackers have now been retired to gardening boots and have a few grams of mud that I couldn’t be bothered to clean off 🙂 .

Over the past week or so I’ve been using the Ecco Biom Terrains for dog walks, comparing occasionally with the Salomon X Ultras. The Terrains are  very comfortable and need next to no breaking in. Of the four boots they have the least cushioning and might be a bit hard underfoot of long road walks (I’ve not gone far enough to tell). They feel very stable with a positive grip.

The X Ultras are quite soft and more cushioned underfoot. I suspect these would be less fatiguing on long days. They feel like trail shoes except for the ankle cut. At the moment, for the TGO Challenge, I expect I will use the Biom Hikes, as they combine underfoot cushioning and superior water resistance, but we shall see.

Ecco Biom Hike Mid boots update

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I thought it would be a good idea to give a quick update on these boots as they have elicited quite a bit of interest. I’ve been wearing them every day for the last three months for dog walks. Arguably, they are overkill for walking the dog but they are just so comfortable that it’s difficult to motivate myself to use anything else.

The key to their comfort is their flexibility. While you couldn’t mistake wearing them for trainers, the sole unit is remarkably pliable. This is slightly surprising given that both the rubber tread and cushioning mid sole are quite thick. Nevertheless, they are very flexible, making walking very natural and effortless.

Despite this flexibility, they are also very stable. Some boots with thick midsoles are like walking on platforms, but not the Bioms. The deep tread has proved excellent on muddy paths. The rubber seems to be grippy on slippery hard surfaces (like our front path!), yet there is hardly any evidence of wear.

The Yak leather is lovely. It’s very soft and supple, yet there are hardly any marks on it. The colour has washed out a bit, giving a nice “distressed” patina. I’ve treated it once with Ecco leather conditioner and waterproofer. The leather still gets soaked quickly, but as I remarked on my Dartmoor trip, they seem to be quite waterproof. This will be tested on my next trip!

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The rubber toe caps are a bit scuffed now, but I really like the toe caps and rand. While the toe box is quite stiff, the rand is very flexible, unlike those on many other boots. I know a lot of people claim that Goretex lined boots are very sweaty, but this has not been my experience with the Bioms.

The overall fit tends towards high volume, whereas my feet are rather dainty(!). By adding a volume reducer sole insert (Brasher 3mm), the fit is now nearly perfect. I’m also using some Sidas Comformable heat moulded insoles, which were originally for my ski boots. Despite being slightly short, they are fabulous and I’m thinking of getting another pair made.

The other tweak I’ve made is to change the laces. The ones supplied are too stretchy and I’ve swapped them for some more robust Scarpa laces. These are much better and allow for a firmer and more precise fit.

In conclusion, I really like these boots. My only hesitation is whether there will be a reoccurrence of the slight Achilles’ tendon bruising on my left foot that I suffered on Dartmoor last time. I will only know when I use them for a long walk. Hopefully I will have a definitive answer by February.

Ecco Biom Hike mid boots reviewed

Oh, the agony! These are so nearly brilliant boots. I’ll tell you why they fall short at the end. Dartmoor was an excellent test for these boots as the weather had left the moor very wet in places. One reason for going back to leather boots was to see whether they would be able to keep my feet dry. I just don’t like wet feet! In the summer, I didn’t enjoy my experiment with trail shoes, even with neoprene socks.

My Biom boots after cleaning. A nice “distressed” look!

While my Salomon Fastpackers don’t leak, they do wet out quickly and become much less breathable. Although my feet don’t get soaked, like they would with unlined trail shoes, they do get quite damp. However, Fastpackers do dry quickly. I was somewhat dismayed that in my first foray into bogs, the Bioms wetted out quite quickly. However, I shouldn’t have worried, my feet remained dry throughout the four days I was on Dartmoor.

After half an hour’s bog trotting, the leather wets out

I treated the leather with the Ecco waterproofer and some Duxcoat before I went, but the water only beaded for a short while before it soaked in. I was surprised at how quickly the Yak leather dried when I was out of the boggy sections. I wonder whether this is because the leather swells and prevents a deeper penetration of water. With other leather boots I’ve owned, it’s taken a long time for the leather to dry once saturated, but not with the Bioms. I’m sure the tanning process and the type of leather have an influence.

This picture was taken an hour after the one above, the boots are drying rapidly

The large rubber toe bumpers also play a part as they prevent the toe section from saturation, which is a major failing of many boots. The inner material appears to wick sweat away efficiently and the Goretex membrane seemed not to be a barrier to expelling sweat. I think also the mid construction aids air flow. Anyway, to cut a long story short, these boots sailed through the bog trotting on Dartmoor with flying colours.

The Bioms are unusually flexible for a boot, which made walking more comfortable and they required very little breaking in. The Yak leather uppers are also very supple, aiding flexing. While they definitely felt more like boots compared with Fastpackers, they didn’t feel confining. I had replaced the rather floppy footbed that came with the boots with Superfeet green footbeds, which worked well.

The boots are quite roomy compared with Fastpackers and I was worried they might be a bit sloppy, but they can be laced comfortably tight. What is very noticeable is the extra room in the toe box. The laces that are provided are not particularly beefy and are a bit stretchy, so I replaced them with some Scarpa laces, which provided a more positive fit.

The deep tread on the soles gave superb grip and stability. For me stability is important as I have a weak ankle that makes me stumble sometimes. Being relatively low cut, there was enough support for me, without compromising ankle movement.

OK so what’s wrong with them? I suffered from some soreness under the balls of my feet, but I put that down to a poor sock choice on day one. I used some Bridgedale Coolmax liner socks. When new, these are very soft, but with repeated washing they tend to become quite harsh. I walked about seventeen miles on day one and they made small blisters. I changed to merino from then on and was much more comfortable.

My right foot was supremely comfortable, but my left foot suffered from some minor bruising at the base of my Achilles’ tendon. I can’t see any difference between the boots, but it was quite noticeably uncomfortable. I’m not sure whether my left foot is incompatible with the boot or that the boot requires a bit more breaking in. I shall try again, possibly putting some Compeed over the affected area to give some cushioning.

I did also suffer a bit of toe bruising. I failed to put on the gel toe protectors on the first day. I can’t blame the boots, it’s just my stupid feet. Lesson learnt, I’ll just have to use gel toe protectors.

Overall, I really like these boots. They are fantastically comfortable, at least on my right foot. It’s frustrating that there seems to be an issue with my left foot. I hope that it can be sorted out, either by protection or by the boot softening further. They appear to be very waterproof. Mine are the suede/nubuck version and the smooth leather ones may be even better (even if they don’t look as nice).

They are very roomy boots. I wonder whether I could have taken the next size down. For all walking boots and shoes, I normally go up a size. I think they could do with a more supportive footbed (but so can most boots/shoes) and it’s worth replacing the laces (Scarpa 130cm work well).

Finally, it’s made me reconsider my attitude towards leather boots. They do seem to be more effective than textile boots at keeping your feet dry. A yak leather version of the Fastpackers would be an interesting experiment! It also makes me wonder what the Brasher Fellmaster boots might be like. If you want dry feet, leather seems to be the way to go.

Ecco Biom Hike mid boots

Footwear is an area of gear where it’s not easy to get right. Over the past few years, I’ve tried several different boots and shoes. Mainly I’ve use Salomon Fastpacker Mid boots. For me, they’ve been the most comfortable footwear and a good compromise between trail shoes and more traditional boots. I’ve tried trail shoes a few times, but they just don’t work for me in the hills. I find they are awkward on slopes, particularly for contouring. I’m also not a huge fan of wet feet. On the other hand I find traditional walking boots clumsy and tiring. Hence, mid boots are a good compromise.

Although the Fastpackers are waterproof, they do wet out quite quickly, which then impairs the breathability of the Gore-Tex membrane. The result is that over the course of a wet day my feet get quite damp. They are not sopping, like they would be in an unlined trail shoe, but they still get quite wet.

My interest in the Ecco Bioms was piqued by Chris Townsend’s experience of them at the Scandinavian Outdoors Awards. I was immediately struck by the substantial rubber toe bumper, which should stop the saturation of the leather at the toe, which is the downfall of many leather boots. He also reckoned they felt a bit like trail shoes and seemed to be very water resistant. After a bit of consideration I decided to take the plunge and buy a pair. Unlike Chris’s test pair, I chose the lower mid style of boot.

At £160, they are certainly not cheap, but they do appear to be very well made. The uppers are made from yak leather, which is supposed to be more robust than cow hide. The roomy toe box is well protected by a rubber rand, which extends around the junction of the sole and the upper and then curves up to protect the ankle. Unlike most rubber rands, it is very flexible. The heel cup is supported by a rubber frame as well.

The yak leather outer is quite soft and feels like a very fine suede or nubuck. There is some exposed stitching which I might have to proof. The upper side of the tongue has a suede feel to it and is quite soft and well padded. The lacing system ensures a snug fit with substantial metal eyelets and hooks. In particular there is a proper heel lock hook (HiTec please take note!). The laces are a little bit stretchy and may have to be replaced. There is a loop to thread the laces through on the tongue but I found this made it awkward to secure the laces on the heel lock hooks so I unthreaded it.

The lining is a soft wicking synthetic material with a Gore-Tex lining. The footbeds are made from a soft fibrous material and give little support, so I’ve replaced them with Superfeet green footbeds. The sole is a substantial but flexible rubber unit. The tread pattern is chunky and deep and I imagine should give a good grip as well as lasting for a long time.

Out of the box, they made a very good impression, but what are they like to wear? On the evidence of a few dog walks and a couple of longer walks in the forest, I really like them. While they are definitely boots, they are very flexible and the low cut gives good ankle mobility. The think sole means that they do feel more like boots than trail shoes, but they are not clumsy like more rigid boots. While there is cushioning, it is not excessive. I couldn’t describe them as dainty but they are not clod hoppers.

They are definitely warmer than the Fastpackers (and trail shoes) but not excessively so. I think the mid construction allows more airflow. The toe box is quite roomy. I’m hoping that this might solve the problem of bruised toes that I’ve suffered from over the past two years. Being leather, the boot grips the top of my foot more firmly and so should be more solid on descents.

One thing I don’t know is how waterproof the outers will be. Being leather they shouldn’t wet out as quickly and water shouldn’t wick across the surface. The downside may be that they will dry out more slowly once wet and might be somewhat stiffer. I’m tempted to take them to Dartmoor at the end of the month to test them thoroughly. Overall, so far, they’ve proved to be very comfortable.

The Brasher Fellmaster GTX looks a good comparator and a bit cheaper, although the sole unit might be stiffer. It feels like a bit of a retrograde step going back to more traditional boots, but if it cures the toe bruising problem and keeps my feet dry, it will be worth it.

Disclaimer: these boots were bought with my own money