A mile into our hike, heading uphill on a spring-like day, I kicked at the dirt for grip where the trail got steep. We were en route to Glymur, the highest waterfall in Iceland, and our guide had picked one of the more dramatic approach trails to view this immense, 190-meter cascade.
On my feet were a pair of premium boots from ECCO, the company’s BIOM Hike model, due to the market later this year at $255. Though constructed of brown leather and a traditional-looking design, the mid-height boots hide characteristics that make them unique in a category crowded with products unchanged in years.
To start, ECCO uses leather from yaks, which is thin and tough. The company owns its own yak tanneries in Asia and it controls the supply chain and “technologies” behind the leather. This included adding a treatment during the leather-making stage that grants better water repellency, the company touts.
The guts of the boot are constructed with injected-PU, a soft but durable foam, and the result is a fit that is both forgiving and protective where it needs to be. PU and Yak leather are lightweight materials, and the overall weight of these boots, at about 20 ounces a foot, is respectably airy considering the height on the ankle and overall support.
ECCO likes to talk about its “natural motion” technology, which describes a design that purportedly lets the last of a shoe, the sole, and other footbed parts combine to “allow for a foot to move how it’s most natural to move.”
In all honesty, a foot laced tight into a hiking boot is hardly a natural thing, no matter how well it flexes and grips the ground. But compared to the stiff, over-built boots that rule this category, the ECCO line is hands-down more compatible with the anatomy of a foot moving in its “natural,” un-booted way.
Overall, the Hike model is among the more nimble boots of its type that we have put to the test — it flexed nicely for grip and speed on the move instead of “clomping” along.
On the steep trail up to Glymur, as well as a set of subsequent hikes to test the new boot in Iceland, we were impressed with its comfort and fit. The boot gave enough stiffness and ankle support for scree fields, volcanic wash-outs, areas and slippery rocks, river crossings, wet logs, and other obstacles that Iceland threw in our way.
—John Peacock is assistant editor of GearJunkie.