TEC­NICA FORGE S £240

Could this world-first heat-moulded walk­ing boot be fit per­fec­tion?

Trail (UK) - - GEAR -

Imag­ine de­sign­ing your ideal boot. Most im­por­tantly it would be moulded to fit your foot to per­fec­tion, right? Tec­nica, bet­ter known in snow sport cir­cles, has taken ex­actly that con­cept and us­ing some in­ter­est­ing tech­nolo­gies from its ski boot de­sign, ap­plied them to its new high-end 3-sea­son walk­ing boot, the Forge.

Al­though these boots are anatom­i­cally moulded in men- and women-spe­cific de­signs, and can be worn straight out of the box, they are only avail­able in four se­lected spe­cial­ist retailers, where a 20-minute cus­tomi­sa­tion process takes place to per­son­alise the boot to your foot. The Forge there­fore takes a firm stride away from in­ter­net shop­ping, and brings footwear fit­ting firmly back to the boot shop.

Thermo-form­ing

My fit­ting of the new Forge took place at Whal­ley Warm and Dry in Lan­cashire. My last visit to Whal­ley was slightly dis­as­trous in terms of my role as boot tester, as I was left never want­ing to wear any­thing on my feet other than the spe­cially se­lected boots and cus­tom cor­rec­tive in­soles I was fit­ted with. Hav­ing had my walk­ing com­fort rev­o­lu­tionised by prop­erly-fit­ting footwear, I had be­come rather evan­gel­i­cal about the sub­ject. And so I was in­trigued as to this new heat-mould­ing tech­nol­ogy.

With feet mea­sured in ev­ery di­rec­tion, the heat mould­ing took place in two phases – first the in­soles, then the boots them­selves. Each were warmed to a set tem­per­a­ture, and squeezed into shape around my foot by an enor­mous blow-up leg cast. The pro­ce­dure feels some­where in-be­tween a gi­ant blood pres­sure test and an in­flat­ing space suit.

Out of the box

The boots look sleek and ex­pen­sive. For 3-sea­son boots they have a rigid ro­bust feel in the hand, with deep ag­gres­sive lugs and heel breast on the sole. The cuff of the boot is an unusual wrap-around de­sign which sits flat against the an­kle to re­duce pres­sure points from a join with the tongue, and self-lock­ing Kevlar lace loops re­place the tra­di­tional metal hooks.

On the foot

Out on the hill they have a sur­pris­ing amount of flex in the sole given how stiff they feel in the hand. Fully moulded, the boot feels su­per snug around the foot, and the in­sole has ro­bust arch sup­port. This makes the boot feel ul­tra-sup­port­ive on un­even ground. A slight hotspot on my an­kle was eas­ily stretched out by Whal­ley’s boot fit­ter, mak­ing the boots com­fort­able to walk in for long pe­ri­ods of time. On first test, the light­ness, the flex­i­bil­ity, the com­fort and the grip­pi­ness of the sole com­bined to make this boot a hot con­tender for a per­ma­nent place on my shoe rack and a first choice for 3-sea­son walk­ing.

There are lim­i­ta­tions though... The ‘thermo-formable’ ma­te­rial is lim­ited to the ar­eas around the footbed, heel, an­kle and arch. While that sounds ex­ten­sive with the ad­justa­bil­ity of lac­ing at the fore­foot, my flat-as-a-pan­cake feet meant that there was still a lit­tle more room around the top than the boot fit­ter would

have liked. Also, while the footbed is fan­tas­ti­cally sup­port­ive and fits my foot like a glove, it is not cor­rec­tive. So if like me you have a few nig­gles that re­quire a cus­tom footbed, you may find that you still need to wear those in the Forge.

Fi­nally, boots mould to your feet as you wear them, so what the Forge ba­si­cally pro­vides is a fit straight out of the box that would usu­ally take many months to wear in. If the boot is not suit­able for your foot shape to be­gin with, these will not be the boots for you.

The great thing about the Forge is that their cus­tomi­sa­tion al­lows them to fit a wider range of foot shapes per­fectly. It also en­tices you into a spe­cial­ist boot fit­ting store in the first place – who will en­sure you get the best boot for your buck.

Top: In­flat­able leg casts lit­er­ally squeeze the in­soles, then the boots around your feet and an­kles to form them around your ex­act foot shape.

The thermo-form­ing ma­te­ri­als are heated up to make them mal­leable.

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