I got these boots for work and my profession usually consists of survey and excavation in remote, rugged areas with little level ground to be had. After my last pair of North Face, which lasted over 5 years, I knew I wanted another pair.
Aside from the strange pancake analogy, I was sold on the features of this boot. Self-cleaning Vibram sole, Northotic insole, Goretex waterproofing, and most essentially, increased ankle support without a six month break in period.
I wore them around on daily outings for a week or so before putting them to the test. Initially, they seemed quite comfortable; a little narrow, but with the extra room in the toe, I wouldn't dare go up a size.
Lightweight, with a sturdy shank, the only thing that didn't seem right was that it felt as though the boots were corralling my feet into an unnatural stance. My feet were rolling to the inside, I suppose from a lack of arch support, but it felt like they were spilling out over the sole of the boot.
The real hell week for these boots was in the Coal Fields of Southwestern Virginia. It was a cool, damp week of crossing and skirting ridge lines with scarcely a deer trail.
The first revelation was that the "X" reinforcement on the side of the boot was, more or less, cosmetic.
Within half an hour, the suede was soaked by dew on the underbrush, making it heavy and cold. Not too long after moisture had found a way through to the top of my toes. In rainy conditions, the water didn't take long to get to all but the underside of my arch, although some undoubtedly was wicked down through my socks.
The steep inclines made the arch support issue more apparent and hot spots popped up on the top of the foot where the grommets are. At the end of the day my feet were damp and the boot did little to combat fatigue so they were sore. Doubling up on socks helps with hot spots and fatigue a bit, but then they sweat more.
The Virbram sole is a little stiff where it is suppose to flex with your stride, but the traction is great, on all surfaces, and the lugs don't load up with mud, even in the Carolina clay.
Certainly not the worst boots I have experienced, but for the price, I expect them to provide all-day comfort and not to have these little issues.
These boots are okay for general hiking and daily use, but I probably would not recommend them for long hauls or really rocky terrain.
I will give them a little while longer, but if I am still not impressed they will have to go back. That is why I buy from Backcountry.com, because they stand behind the product, no matter what.