There are some great boot companies out there (Asolo, Sportiva,etc) but Zamberlan is my personal favorite. These light hikers pictured are great for just that, I would also have no problem going on RECON with these boots.  They have great ankle and sole support (the sole matters).

I humped a pair of the heavy weight Zamberlan’s (model not made anymore but they’re similar to this pair) all over the Afghan mountains.  I even strapped gators to the boots and used them to snowshoe up some snowy peaks in north-eastern Afghanistan.

I first fell in love with these boots when I was a “new guy” M-60 gunner.  Our guys were getting injured because the issued boots pretty much sucked (Desert Jungle and that goofy assault boot Oakley made among others). My Zamberlans saved my ankles in the desert under heavy load and harsh conditions. The boots that guys were going heavy to back then were the Asolos and Zamberlans.

Boot Buying Tips

  • Check the sole for support. Vibram soles are great for a lot of things but they are unusually noisy and bad to hunt in if you’re in the woods.  If you’re climbing around rocky terrain then no worries.
  • Get the sizing right.  No two companies have the same sizing.
  • Try your boots on and put weight on your back and test incline/decline. Most good stores will let you do this and you get a good idea real fast if these are the boots for you.
  • Upgrade to Superfeet. Your feet and back will thank you. Everything rests on your feet so take care of them with good support.
  • Beware of the break-in period. It seems every boot has one…2-3 weeks. Wear them wet and cut that time in half.
  • Ask for help. There’s some people at REI and Dicks that work to hike, take advantage of their expertise.
  • Make sure you are getting a well made boot that will hold up it’s worth the extra money and they’ll likely last you a lifetime.
  • Gore versus No Gore. If you’re going to get wet then get Gore. If not, don’t worry about it and your feet will breathe better.
  • Use the Double Lace through! When lacing up double through before the bow. If you take one extra wrap before making your double bow it will bind the lace in place and you will get less slip through. This is important for uniformity when carrying a pack. Try it!
Notice the extra wrap (double through) up top and just below before the lace transitions to the hooks.
Notice the extra wrap (double through) up top and just below before the lace transitions to the hooks.

WARNING: When I bought my Zamberlan’s (yess I paid $220 for them) at REI last week, I tried on a pair of Vasque Wasatch hiking boots. Everything was great about these boots but when lacing them up the metal lace tabs at the top of the boot cut the shit out of my finger (split my fucking finger nail in half and cut underneath).

I felt the tabs afterwards and they were like little razors. This is obviously a HUGE human factors oversight on Vasque’s part.  I swear REI thought I was going to sue them when I had blood all over their nice packaging.  Not so but, my love affair was quickly over with Vasque.

This was a deal breaker for me, if that happened during casual lace up then I’d hate to see results of lacing these boots up in the dark of the night. Medic!!!!  The devil is in the details and one small oversight in human factors integration into manufacturing can kill a product……

Quality Counts and is worth the extra $$

A lifetime warranty is trumped by quality manufacturing every time. And warranties don’t matter when you are away from base camp or enemy territory.   Pay the extra money and sleep well at night (keep your boots on if you’re on Recon) knowing you’ve got one less thing to worry about.

My money where my mouth is: I just paid $200+ for these boots. Worth every fucking penny.
My money where my mouth is: I just paid $200+ for these boots. Worth every fucking penny.

The Zamberlan Story

Their Website

Giuseppe Zamberlan, the grand father, started the “activity” right after the end of World War 1. From simple shoe repair he moved on to footwear production, driven both by necessity and by his big passion for his local mountain range, the Piccole Dolomiti. He understood the poor performance of the early existing soles – made of leather with iron studs – and he both shared and supported the revolutionary ideas of Vitale Bramani, founder of Vibram, who was studying and developing rubber soles at the time.
These types of soles became accepted world wide for the future. He bought the fi rst machinery, started relationships with suppliers of raw materials, employed some co-workers and started a small workshop.
Of great importance was his wife – Maria – who became a skilled machinist and sewer.
Emilio, son of Giuseppe, grew up with the same huge passion for the mountains and helped his father to produce shoes until gradually he succeeded him. He continued his father’s work in directing the company towards foreign markets. Emilio was also supported by his own wife who helped him managing the company.

For more than 35 years now Zamberlan has been distributing to many European and world wide markets and today more than 90% of its production is destined for export.
Now it is the turn of the third generation. Marco and Maria now manage the family company. Like their forefathers, they too inherited the enduring love and enjoyment of the mountains and for their work, so closely related to that enjoyment, which takes them through all stages of designing, manufacturing, testing and distributing the most comfortable footwear for this purpose. 80 years after the beginnings Zamberlan is distributed in more than 40 countries and continues to manufacture its most traditional and prestigious models in Italy.