Product review: Tecnica Forge S GTX hiking boots
By Ken BÉLANGER
Photo: Tecnica Sports
Tecnica has applied some of their ski boot technology to hiking boots. Available in two versions: the Forge GTX (nubuck leather) or Forge S GTX (synthetic), these boots are heat and vacuum thermo-formable and boast an overlap design rather than a traditional tongue. They have round laces with Kevlar lower pulls and hook uppers similar to many mountaineering boots. They have a high protective rand for rock and scuff protection. Tecnica supplied a pair of Forge S GTX, and Banff's Soul Ski & Bike did the fitting. I took them to Nepal's Khumbu region for three weeks on the Everest Base Camp and Three Pass trek in November 2019. I also wore them guiding fall and spring hikes in the Rockies.
The fit process took about 30 minutes, and consisted of heating the insoles, then placing my feet on them inside a vacuum bag. Whilst this was happening, the boots were being heated, and then the process repeated while wearing them. Tecnica recommends fitting true to size, rather than a half size larger as I usually do with non-technical mountain footwear.
On the trail
With the advent of lightweight synthetic materials, I haven't had "the pleasure" of breaking in a pair of boots for many years. Can't say I miss it much. Thanks to the moulding, these boots instantly fit like a glove.
The laces were easy to cinch - perhaps too easy as I tended to overtighten them for the first few days. They slipped minimally so only required an adjustment or two per day, which is pretty good considering the steep up and downs we encountered.
The overlap front performed as intended - secure and no tongue to slide even after long, dusty Khumbu-coughing days on the trail. This design also creates a more watertight seal, I was able to casually wade through boot-top streams without water ingress.
The stiffness of these boots coupled with the Vibram soles were sufficient to easily kick steps in hard snow. They did a better job of this than my lightweight mountaineering boots. The Forge S GTX felt solid, predictable, and composed on uneven terrain and the soles have a tenacious grip. They're light boots without feeling underpowered. In fact, they hiked and kicked steps better than their light heft would suggest. The three-layer EVA soles were soft and well-cushioned. Again, better than expected for such a lightweight boot.
I didn't do any technical climbing in these boots, only some sporadic high-altitude bouldering. This was enough to learn I wouldn't use them on alpine rock - the soles flexed excessively when edging and the lugs are too deep for effective frictioning, the toe box is quite wide, and the soft, cushioned sole negated any rock feel. No heel or toe welts so strap-on crampons only. But hey, these are intended for hiking, not climbing boots.
Alas, I do have a regret... I wish I would have chosen half size larger. Despite experience telling me otherwise, the nice, wide toe box convinced me to follow Tecnica's recommendation and choose true to size. But once on the trail, I found my toes brushing the ends on long downhills. This light contact became bothersome on the last few days of the trek, where essentially it's all downhill for thousands of metres of elevation loss. Extremities are prone to swelling at altitude, but this is my fifth trip to 6000 metres and I don't experience this. At lower elevations I had the same problem. Knowing now that these boots will hold feet firmly in place, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend an extra finger length for comfort.
Photos: Jacob BUEHLER
The Forge S GTX is an excellent boot that is supportive enough for heavy backpacking loads, but light enough for quick day hikes. The thermo-mouldable fit and overlap design work as advertised. I've now worn them nearly 50 days, and they still look new. The high rands should help with the common midfoot fabric flex cracking so I expect durability to be excellent.
Ken BÉLANGER is an ACMG Ski, Hiking, and Via Ferrata Guide and the ACMG Partnership Coordinator with a base in Canmore and outdoor offices all over the world