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The Louie Knolle Bomb-Diggity Bootastic Award

To put it simply, I do not enjoy conventional footwear.  On the average day, you will find my toesies free from the confines of shoes, either in the nude or in very minimal sandals for when I need to get all dressed up for “The Man”.  I adhere to the belief that shoes were invented by people who hated everything and wanted to make mankind suffer by making our feet get all sweaty and stinky, trapped in laced-up boxes.  However, I know that when it comes time for a tough, long hike in the mountains that I need to give my feet some protection from the elements. That’s when I need to strap into my Salomon Quest 4D GTXs (plot twist!)

Now I know what you are thinking: Louie, you like being barefoot; could these boots really be that greatThe   answer is yes. Yes, they really are.  I have long been a fan of Salomon footwear for their comfortable and supportive trail running shoes and how they perform in the gnarliest of conditions. Having also made a name for themselves with skiing gear and clothing for everyone from day hiker to ultra-marathoner, Sabootslomon has quietly been building boots that have earned the Louie Knolle Bomb-Diggity Bootastic Award.  

Enough gobbledygook! Here is the nitty-gritty on these bad boys.  The Quests feature Salomon’s rock solid Contragrip outsole, a Gore-Tex waterproof membrane to keep the tootsies dry, and Salomon’s ever popular toothed lace eyelets so that when you tie your boots, they stay tied. The newly updated 2015 Quest 4D 2’s feature upgrades such as a more comfortable tongue on the shoe and laces that have a rougher surface so they stay tied better.  I have the first generation models and those were the two things I would say needed improving. Good thing Salomon already took care of that for the rest of you guys!  

So, these boots rock.  I have worn mine for over a year and a half now and they have given me no reason to even begin to look for new boots yet. It will be a long time before I retire them!  I have worn them in the desert in January, the Smokys in February, guiding in Vermont April through July, in the Adirondacks in November and about a million other places. They have been everywhere with me it seems.  Though these are the “heaviest” in the Salomon line of hiking footwear, they are still lighter than any traditional backpacking boot lou3in my opinion.  The Quest’s 4D chassis, which provides support throughout much of the mid-sole, offers unmatched firm yet supple rigidity to the boot which keeps my feet happy as I’m walking on countless roots and rocks.  The sole on these seems like they stick to just about everything! Mud, rocks, leaves, talus, you name it and they will keep you from slipping on it (well, except for ice.  Ask Kayla about the time I tried to hike uphill on ice while wearing the Quests). I have waded through water that was up to the tippy-top of these boots and my feet stayed dry.  After 18 months of use, there’s still no leaks in the waterproof membrane of these guys.  

As I stated earlier, normally I am a sandal/trail runner hiker on short trips, but when I’m going to be out and about for long periods of time, these are my favorite boots I have ever owned.  The roomy toe box allows ample room for my toes to splay naturally the way I like and the sole protects my feet from rough surfaces while still allowing me to be flexible enough when I am in the mood for some heel clicks and 360’s off of rocks and logs (which is about 99% of the time.)  The height of the boot is also something I’ve come to like, even though at first I thought I was opposed to it.  When on really deep, sketchy terrain, the ankle support is bomber and offers unparalleled protection for your ankles.  When I’m on an easier trip, I only will lace up to the second eyelet from the top so it’s a little more of a loosey-goosey feel and I can feel like I’m not as rigid in the ankles.  

So in summation, these boots stick to surfaces like glue, even on the grodiest of trail conditions. They will keep your feet dry, period. They made a boot believer out of a barefoot/minimalist shoe lover, and your feet will be happy and smiling in these boots whether you hike for an hour or a month.  Also, did I mentionlou2 that Salomon has a 2 year warranty on their footwear? They totally do!! I have had no reason to need it, but it’s always a good safety net to have and twice as long as most footwear warranties.  Salomon believes in their product, 100%. So whether you’re going to the Cincinnati Nature Center, on your first backpacking trip to Philmont, or tackling any of the beastly long distance trails such as the AT or PCT, these boots will treat you right or my name isn’t Louie “Lou-bear” “Sunshine” “American Pie” Knolle.  

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Ahnu Elkridge Mid

Boots Boots Boots
Written by: Louie Knolle  

One of those things that can either make or break a hike or any other kind of walking activity.  I recently learned the hard way, being in desperate need for a new pair.  After hiking 75 miles of the Appalachian Trail over my Spring Break in March, I lost a significant amount of skin on the top of my big toes from excessive rubbing in the toe-box of my boot, and that’s never a good sign.  So when I arrived at the building in which I would await my ride, I took off my Merrells with a sigh of relief. I knew with 100% certainty that I was not going to use them for hiking again.  Don’t get me wrong, they were great boots!  I bought them in the summer of 2010 and had since then worn them for countless weekend and longer hiking trips and they served me dutifully.  Not even giving me any blisters once.  But it was time to let them go.

Elkridge Ahnu

When the opportunity presented itself for me to get a pair, I chose the Ahnu Elkridge Mids; I was very excited. I’ve never hiked (with the exception of winter mountaineering) in anything heavier than  a mid-height/weight boot, sometimes even sandals and trail runners if the trails don’t call for anything too heavy.  So the Elkridge Mids were the perfect next boot for me.  I received them on a Friday afternoon, and I was leaving for a 2 day, 23 mile hiking trip the following morning so it was the perfect chance to try them out.  I know what you may be thinking, “Don’t you need to break them in before you take them hiking?”  Although that is a fantastic habit to be in with any kind of footwear, I wanted to test out just how lightweight they were and the true comfort of the sole right out of the box.  The testing grounds would be Shawnee State Park, also known as the “Little Smokys of Ohio” to some.  It is known for its hills and would be the best place to test run the boots short of actually taking them to a real mountain.

The first impressions were stupendous.  Rising just above the ankle, the Elkridge is of similar height with other mid-height cut boots providing good ankle support if needed without making you feel like your hiking in your grandpa’s boots.  There aren’t any of those pesky extra pegs to lace around before you tie your boot; the lacing system goes slightly higher removing any need of that.  One of the other first things I noticed was the immediate comfort.  With an EVA midsole and a neutral balancing system meant to keep your foot stable and not overcorrect its natural gait, it felt much more natural than most other footwear I’ve worn.  This is a big factor for me when purchasing shoes because I have wider feet and try to wear minimalist footwear on a day to day basis, but sometimes you just need to compromise for the comfort and protection a boot can offer.  Speaking of wide feet, the toe-box is awesome in these.  My feet never once felt cramped and allowed ample room for the natural spreading your foot and toes perform when you step onto the ground.

Elkridge Mid AhnuAs far as performance is concerned, I was also very pleased on how they handled the endless ups and downs of the sizable “hills” that Shawnee had to offer. Since my boots were fitted properly, my feet did not encounter any sliding whatsoever inside the boot, so I kept all the skin on my toes!!  One of the biggest selling points for me is the eVent waterproof fabric inside the boot itself.  It is as waterproof as they come, and by gum, the breath-ability is amazing.  It only plateaued in the high 60’s that weekend, but as a person with sweaty feet they are accustom to overheating in boots. Bottom line, these are great light weight hiking boots.  Whether you’re going out for a walk in the park, need some work boots, lightweight boots for backpacking, or just to wear for everyday use, these are everything you are looking for.  Interested?  Feel free to come on in to Roads Rivers and Trails in Historic Milford to give them a try for yourself.sometimes requiring changing socks halfway through the day if I am hiking long miles.  I actually wore the same pair of wool hiking socks both days I hiked; only changing into a fresh pair after we had arrived at camp.  And by the end of the second day the inside of the boots were still as dry as a bone.  Just to say I tried, one of the last creeks we crossed with about 3 to 4 inches of running water, I walked right through it disregarding the stepping rocks to see if I could actually get these things wet.  I was disappointed (more like really happy) to see that even literally being surrounded on every side of the boot almost all the way to the top, the boots kept me nice and dry.

Gear Review: Asolo TPS 520

The Long Term Test
Gear Review: Asolo TPS 520
Written by: Bryan Wolf

My Experience with the TPS is not a short story. This story started almost 7 years ago when I bought my first pair for my very first backpacking trip. If you can buy one thing that immediately makes you feel like a rugged outdoorsman, it’s boots. Heavy on the leather, Gore Tex, mud stomping, ass kicking boots. I think the Asolos gave me mountain swagger. I wasn’t even sure at the time what Gore Tex was, and it didn’t matter, since my buddy Joe was an eagle scout and he knew everything in the outdoor world! Joe picked out all of the gear for my first trip and I forked out the cash. The boots were not cheap then and they are not cheap now, but their value remains consistent.

That first backpacking trip took me on a 2,175 mile journey through the Appalachian Mountains. Not having worn the boots before, we decided to purchase two pairs before the trail, and at the half way point we swapped them out to avoid any trail malfunctions. So, after 6 months of damage each pair had seen about 1,100 miles of hard trail abuse. Like I said though, it’s a long story. The boots were not retired from there, they had only just begun. Through Red River Gorge, constant AT revisits, and Alaska back country, these same 2 pairs of TPS boots remain the same solid, rock kickers that they were 7 years ago. With no sole separation and only a slight gap in the front toe, the boots stay dry and warm still to this day. The tread wear is adding up, especially after 1500 plus miles each so they are due for a visit to Dave the Cobbler, but I would gladly pay a few bucks to revitalize them.

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More or Less?
Are you old fashioned or ultra-light?

TPS” stands for Triple Power Structure; that is the 3 shock absorbing dual density points on the boots midsole at the points of usual wear. If you notice the picture above, the TPS system follows the foot starting with the strike point on the outer heel, it then improves stability supporting the inner heel and ends with a third shock absorber in the front of the foot for pushing off. A “PU Dual Density” sole, is called dual density because it combines a tough outer compound with a softer and more shock absorbing inner compound. The outsole on the TPS is a durable Vibram sole.

The 520 model is the Gore Tex model, versus the 535 non Gore. Gore is a waterproof bootie easily seen on the inside of a boot. The leather has a high weather resistance already so it can be overkill in some models. The Gore can also add insulation but does not breathe quite as well as an eVent fabric or a non-waterproof model. It’s not like you’re pushing perspiration through that thick of leather anyway.

There is no way around it, these boots are heavy. The leather upper is thicker than the sole on some of my Vibram Five Fingers. The boots come in just short of 4 pounds, and a wise man once told me 1 lb on your foot is like 5 lbs on your back. So it is easy to see the perks of going with some Salomon trail runners and bouncing around all nimbly bimbly like a cat. After all, things have changed, carrying 50-60 big lbs on your back was the norm not long ago. Today, further and faster is more of the game and 20-30 pound packs are more the norm. It is not about right or wrong, just about picking your path.

If The Boot Fits…
Finding the right boot for the job

The TPS fit me, and it fit me quick despite its rigid body. I did a few days of urban trekking before the trail to “break them in” and that was it. When we got our second pair we took them straight to the trail with no break in period. Maybe my feet were just rock solid by that point, toughened by the trail? Not everyone will be as lucky, and not everyone will agree. Ask yourself if the boots fit you, and do they fit your trip?

It is easy to say that the TPS is the “BEST BOOT EVER” but that seems a bit generalized considering we all have different needs. What I can tell you is that I enjoy wearing them, they feel great and they make me feel invincible. Not rock, nor rain will stop me in those boots. While I watch other hikers cycle through 10 or 11 pairs of trail shoes, I always feel great knowing the dollar value of my boots far superseded theirs. So what’s right for you?

This is coming from a guy that wears minimalist to backpack, and often. You can however rest assured that when we pack up for Alaska again, or on most of my winter hikes where the remote conditions require dependability over bragging rights of being lightweight, the Asolo TPS 520 GTX will be my pick. Sometimes there is no room for error; deep into Lake Clark Wilderness is not the place to duct tape a boot together (I won’t name names). To get sized for your boots and get a full run down on other boot features stop by Roads Rivers and Trails in Milford, OH.