I am probably the worst person on earth to test boots. I have feet that hurt everywhere. My heels rub on my boots and I have to have three pairs that I rotate to keep my left leg happy. I also have slightly dropped arches and platipuslike wide feet. So when I was picked to test these HAIX boots I wondered why? I suppose its because I am addicted to hillwalking, I live 6 months of the year in the African bush, I hike in the Himalayas,Turkish Mountains and every hill I can find or see in the United Kingdom. In addition I generally destroy everything I use; except my Lee Enfield 303 and my Canon G16 camera.
My Philosophy on boots and walking.
So you know that I have had bad feet for a while. You also know that I love walking- hiking and trekking. I still do it – I just tape my heels up with duct tape and relace my boots for ascents and descents (looser for ascents- tighter for steep descents). The reason I keep walking is I love it. As for my foot problems.. a very good friend of mine Yomped across the Falklands Islands in that famous year of 1982. He did it in DMS boots, the famous British Army “Dunlop Moulded Sole”. Hard on the heels on concrete and water retaining (yes it came in and did not go out). The DMS boot had one redeeming quality. It was comfortable once you wore it in. My friend told me that after marching the breadth of East Falkland, and having an alfresco breakfast on the two sisters, he stopped walking. “It took me 2 months to feel my feet again”. He just got on with walking. So that’s how I walk now- If I feel discomfort, I make sure the affected area is protected and that I wont get blisters or other injuries, and I walk through the pain- and eventually it goes away. I always hike with duct tape!
I was handed the boots in a pub in mid wales- on the night before a shoot. My boot Guru is a retired Zimbabwean Colonel who always tells me that I need a thumb’s width between my toe and the front of the boot. This was the case, and to my amazement, they were wide enough. I am used to Scapa Boots or Meindl which pinch my feet until I wear them in. But the Haix Athletics were large enough and wide enough – not bad for a pair that had been sized over the phone. They have a softish sole, but it has excellent grip and the construction of the boot is such that it seems to have internal strengthening. Indeed a quick read of the description from Haix reveals a number of innovative design details which aid in supporting the foot securely.
As soon as I put them on, I felt as though I had put some high trainers on. They were soft enough and comfortable enough to be hardly noticeable. I put two pairs of socks on and spent the day shooting in the mud. This was hardly taxing for the boots but standing kneeling and putting my feet in odd positions did not seem to cause them any difficulties. The laces and the built structure allow the HAIX Athletic boots to become very supportive when needed. And then when you need a looser fit, they can be relaxed while still providing support.
The next step was to wear the boots every day for every task. I drove my 110 Landrover in them, walked miles on concrete in London, and then took them into the welsh hills. I clambered up very steep inclines and through muddy forest tracks. They went deer stalking with me in England, where I found myself running back and forth up the tracks. I even stood in a rather deep mud puddle for a few minutes to test their waterproofing before walking some more.
The reason I did all of this, rather than spend 15 days hill walking in them?Most civilian users of boots travel in them as well as walking/trekking in them. A modern day boot generally tends to be a specialised “alpine” walking boot for mountains only- or an all rounder that replace shoes. Nowadays we need to be able to drive a truck or car, get out and walk for hours, run if we have to. Maybe Up and down hills or in semi desert scrub, before getting transport back to a city and walking on concrete for days. A pretty demanding list..
Initial conclusions- are they broken in yet?
Firstly I should make a frank admission. On the first major steep ascent- my left heel gave me jip, but it would have done anyway- I loosened the boot and carried on. The discomfort went away. I have long come to the conclusion that I will always have trouble with my feet. This trouble was minor-and nothing to do with the boots.
My second frank admission is that I don’t feel comfortable at giving my opinion on a boot after 18 days of use. But I have been asked for my initial impressions. The boots are not even broken in. It takes months to really work out if a boot is comfortable and if it works.
I am overwhelmingly positive overall with the Haix Black Eagle Athletic 10.
The boot is light.
My pair are a real British 12 and they are wide enough.
They are soft on concrete, they feel like walking in sensible trainers.
They have excellent grip on the mud slides that pass themselves off as paths on welsh mountains.
When laced correctly they give excellent ankle support.
When running the boot feels like a trainer.
It is easy to drive in a cramped Land Rover for hours with multiple cluctch depressons and gear changes off road.
They were able to support me well through multiple shooting positions.
The Haix athletics are excellent with Gaiters.
So all in all this boot is a superb all rounder – not an alpine trekking boot that can be used with crampons – nor a soft high leg trainer. It is a true hybrid that could be used by anyone in a multitude of conditions and environments.
I will now take the boot to Tanzania for a month and put it through its paces in the heat and sand and coastal areas. This review will be updated.
Article and photos by Turkishraf.