First Impressions: Alico Tahoe boots


My wife likes to hike. I don't like to hike. So we hike.

To this point I've always done most of my outdoor activities in the same pair of Nikes I wear to work or wearing casual shoes like Jack Purcells. It hasn't been ideal, and with a trip upcoming with a lot of hiking planned my wife forced me to look at getting a pair of more outdoor-oriented shoes. What she meant was probably a cheap pair of cross trainers or something to throw around. What I heard was the opportunity to buy something I would actually like. Too late, no backsies.

Since I don't hike that much, I didn't want to break the bank. Ideally, the shoes/boots would also be something I could wear outside of hiking to get more use out of them. That eliminated 99% of hiking shoes/cross-trainers for me, which I've always felt have been aesthetically designed like the footwear versions of a Pontiac Aztek or a Suburu Outback.

Fortunately, traditional hiking/backpacking boots offer some refuge in this regard. Rugged and stylish in their own way, there are a lot of brands who have been making quality hiking and backpacking boots long before they became trendy a few years ago (such as Danner and their well-known Mountain Light line). Though I've had my eye on some models for a while, I could never justify paying for them.

Enter Alico, a relatively lesser-known Italian brand (at least here in the US) distributed through Sierra Trading Company, an online storefront I've come to love for value-hunting. Alico bases production out of a small factory in the Dolomites, making everything from firefighter to skiing boots.  Their website looks like something that was made in the 90's for free, and they don't have a lot of information on their site. What you can garner from the brief product pictures and specs, however, is that their boots are all business and look tough as hell. The Tahoe model caught my eye, and with over 550 reviews and an aggregate 4.5 out of 5 score, they clocked in at $121.96 shipped with discount code. Definitely worth a try.

Here are some first impressions after a few days with them.


Construction

The Tahoes are constructed from one-piece full grain anfibio calf leather uppers. The leather is 2.8mm thick and very stiff out of the box, with a fully gusseted and padded tongue. On a test wear out in light/medium rain showers, water beaded off easily with zero absorbance. Weighing in at 3 lbs 6 oz., they definitely have a substantial weight, though shorter and about a lb lighter than their big brother, the Alico Summit. Construction quality throughout is solid, especially taking into consideration their price point. The stitching on the boots is good and double stitched on most lines. The sole is a familiar Vibram Roccia rubber lug.


The boots come with standard laces that articulate well with the D-rings and top speed hooks. Once laced and tightened, the laces don't slip around at all. A steel half-shank is incorporated between the insole and the outsole. Shanks are small pieces of material commonly used in mountaineering and heavy footwear as extra arch support and to lessen the load on feet during ascents. When moving over rough terrain, the shank protects the feet from impact as well. Though modern shanks can be built from different materials, steel is the most conventional and what is used here. 


The insole is Texon (organic cellulose) fiberboard with EVA (a soft and flexible polymer of ethylene and vinyl acetate). The footbed is definitely my least favorite part of the shoe as it's quite thin and lacks significant arch support - something echoed in a lot of reviews I've seen. The Tahoe, unlike the leather-lined Summit (and some of Alico's other leather-lined boots), is lined with Dri-Lex, a moisture-wicking textile. Something to note is the conspicuous absence of the popular Gore-Tex fabric used in many other boots (like Danners) - a waterproof material some say has poor breathability and ends up turning into a bit of a sweat box.


One of the most interesting aspects of construction is what Alico calls their Norwegian Welt. Also called the Norvegese by the Italians who utilize it most, it's an old method of construction used in footwear designed to be waterproof. It achieves this is by turning out the upper and laying the welt on top of it. The welt is then attached with two characteristic lines of stitching as below - this leaves no channel for water to come through. On close examination, though, it appears the upper lies on top of the welt on Alico's boots in what is actually a "stitch-down" construction - a similar waterproof method which creates a more clean look by hiding the welt below the turned out upper. This site does a great job of showing the differences:



Credit to: http://mydenimlife.com/blog/construction2/


Sizing and Fit 

I read all of the 550+ reviews on STP's site, and there were a lot of differing opinions regarding sizing. For what it's worth, I am an 8D in most Allen Edmonds shoes and I tried to order my true size in the Tahoes. I ended up exchanging them for a 1/2 size down (7.5D), which fit well with medium-weight socks.


The general profile of hiking boots are a bit chunky and stubby, and the Tahoes are no exception. It's the kind of look that either you love or you don't.


Being trekking shoes, I haven't yet had a chance to really put the boots through their paces on a long hike. With normal wear, however, they were surprisingly easy on my feet. As noted above, even with the pretty bare removable insole, wearing them around the city for a few days didn't cause me any problems or chafing.

Impressions and Value


I've come across an old adage a couple of times attributed to Sir Edmund Hillary following his ascent of Mount Everest: "One pound on your feet equals five pounds on your back."  There apparently have been studies which support the assertion that weight carried on the feet is disproportionately exhausting, which is a definite downside of heavier footwear like this. I can't speak to it personally, but it isn't hard to imagine being the case. That being said, boots like this aren't built with weight being the first priority. Heavy backpacking boots are made to withstand punishment and offer stronger support for longer trips and off-trail hiking. While admittedly a bit overkill for most casual use, I like the "buy it for life" feel of products so stoutly built.

I won't be able to fully evaluate the boots until I've used them extensively, but on first impression I'm pretty impressed with these Alico Tahoe boots. They're a combination of great leather and solid craftsmanship, and they seem tough as nails - I have no doubt they'll stand up to years of abuse.  In terms of value for money, I would be hard pressed to come up with a serious competitor at their price point. I'm not sure why more people don't know about these (their website and limited distribution makes me think lack of marketing is a major reason). There are some companies that are all marketing and no product (i.e. Shinola), and others that quietly go about their business making quality products without the pomp and circumstance. I much prefer the latter.

The Tahoe is one of the lighter duty models in a full lineup of Alico boots carried by STP.  You can check out the full line here. Don't forget to apply the DealFlyer codes - ideally somewhere around a 35% off + free shipping.

Things I Liked

Thick, sturdy, full grain leather
Waterproof welt construction
Fully gusseted tongue
Vibram lug sole

Things I Didn't Like

Heavy
Removable insole is pretty Spartan
Dri-Lex fabric vs. leather lining on other models 

Comments

  1. I was finally lucky enough to find these again after having purchased these under the EMS label (a small New England based outdoor apparel / gear shop) many years ago. Those boots lasted me over 15 years and would have lasted longer if I have taken care of the leather properly during the first couple of years - maybe even forever because the Vibram soles can be resoled.

    They aren't particularly light but get super comfy when you break them in (like actually comfortable, not just "not uncomfortable").

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    1. How would you recommend caring for the leather on the Alicos?

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    2. I've heard these should be conditioned just like other boots or leather footwear, which is pretty easy to do. WJK3 may have some more specific thoughts.

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    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    4. Well, learning from my past experience of not properly caring for my first pair, I did a bunch of research and I found that Obeneauf's Heavy Duty LP (leather preservative) works great for conditioning and protection. It contains beeswax which gets into the pores of the leather and doesn't have the kind of crap that can break down leather over time.

      Here's the method I came across and used:

      First I preheated my oven to 200 degrees.

      Once it reached 200 I turned the oven off, cracked the door open for a minute to let it cool down just a bit, then put the boots in on a sheet of tinfoil for 5-10 mins. This opened up the leather.

      I took them out, and I gave them a good, thick coating of the LP by hand (the body heat helps) and let them sit for 20-30 minutes.

      Then I wiped off the excess using a chamois cloth, warmed a bit with a hair dryer, then wore them around the house for a couple hours.

      (You could probably use a hair dryer instead of the oven if you are worried about overheating them.)

      I then wore them around the house for several hours here and there to start breaking them in.

      This treated the leather properly for a good start to life and helped begin the breaking in process.

      You can do this a couple times or so to help break them over the course of the first 6 months.

      Repeat 1x a year or so for maintenance - just be sure to clean before a damp cloth (no harsh soaps).

      Be sure to wipe any dirt, salt, etc off with a moist cloth after wearing to prevent damage.

      I wore my first pair all the time and I think it took a few months to break them in, but once I did they were really really comfortable.

      I got 15 years out of mine without doing this - if you treat them well, they'll last a lifetime. (They can be resoled easily by a reputable (not in the mall) shoe repair shop.)

      Unfortunately I broke 3 vertebrae in a car accident a few weeks after I finally found my second pair and can only wear "sneaker boots" now because of back pain.

      (Got a pair of barely worn Alicos size 10.5!)


      One last thing I learned: don't use mink oil as it can overly soften the leather which can degrade the support these boots provide.

      Hope this help!

      -W

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    5. Something for people to keep in mind is also that LP usually darkens leather color substantially. Not bad, in and of itself, but worth noting.

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    6. Good Point Dan!

      I myself didn't see any darkening at all, probably because these suckers were pretty dark to begin with, but def something to keep in mind when treating lighter leathers.

      (Also, I should have also said, as with any product used to treat any material, if you're worried, test on a small discreet spot first.)

      Best - W

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  2. Thanks for the feedback and experience - They've been a great winter and hiking boot for me so far, and look none the worse for wear. I wish Alico would market a little more in the US than just selling through STP, as they're a great value compared to much of the market.

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  3. Awesome nice looking pair of boots, try www.PalladiumBoots.com's boots which are light weight and good looking.

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    1. There's something a little Converse-y or PF flyery about Palladium boots (not a bad thing), which I've had on my radar before. I like the look, and thanks for the suggestion.

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    2. Hey Alex! Yes, PalladiumBoots are totally the shoes to look for! Me & my bf prefer this style, as it slick design and u can use them either on a hike or just hangout with your friends on a daily routine, check them out: http://www.palladiumboots.com/men/footwear/evolution/pallaville-bgy-txsn-03989-011-m

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  4. Hi! Those boots are really good-looking and gauging from the specs, they seemed hardy, as well. I wonder if you can help me pick the right hiking boots for my friend whose birthday is coming up in a few weeks. I'm going all out and buying him the best so budget is not much of a hindrance. Recently, I've stumbled on a site that offers quite a number of reviews, care to look at it? Here's the link http://backpackingmastery.com/top-picks/the-best-backpacking-boots.html

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