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I'm a little wary when it comes to reviewing footwear. Since we're all built to a different last, one person's superb fit can be another's blister-inducing nightmare. Anyone's opinion of a boot or shoe will be swayed by how well (or not) it fits. Since we're only human too, testers must work hard to remain as objective as possible, and readers should remain alert for any hints of subjective bias. Now I've got the discalimer out of the way, I'll start by saying that the Salewa Mountain 'Trainer' Mid GTX fits me, personally, like a sock. It is the most comfortable summer walking boot (for boot it is, despite the name - though a low-cut shoe version is also available) that I have stumbled across in years. And I've tried more than a few. Of course, you might be different; and on the subject of fitting footwear see an article on choosing a summer boot here .
First the basics: The Mountain Trainer Mid GTX is made for via ferrata, trekking and what Salewa call technical hiking - or scrambling, to you and me. Its climb-oriented outsole and down-to-the-toe lacing suit the billing, but the shape is less specialised and assymmetric than some models in this field, with a last that's designed for all-day comfort on your feet. It's a fairly light boot, yet supportive enough underfoot for heavy load carrying. The fabric/suede upper is backed by a waterproof membrane, and protected with a full rubber rand. There's nothing ground breaking here, but as all-rounders go this is a well-designed and nicely understated package - and at a fair price too.
I've been wearing these boots on the hills since the beginning of June, and while this isn't a long term test they have had a fair mileage in that time, on a range of terrain from peat bogs to low grade scrambles.
When the trial began I'd just been given a new pair of orthotic insoles to correct an achilles problem, and their depth had instantly rendered my usual walking boots and approach shoes unwearable. I've a fairly high-volume foot at the best of times, and the addition of orthotics was proving problematic. So I was relieved to see that the Mountain Trainer Mid has a generous internal volume which accommodates bulky corrective insoles well; score one to Salewa. But perhaps your feet are less deep than mine? If so Salewa's Multi Fit Footbed might suit. This is a two-part insole consisting of the usual piece, plus a velcroed-on under layer which can either be left in place to fill spare volume in the boot or removed to offer more room. It's a neat enough idea, but don't expect anything supportive. The footbed is as unsubstantial and floppy (ie. cheap and crap) as any that come as standard with a pair of boots. This isn't a criticism of Salewa per se, since I don't know a boot manufacturer that scores well on insoles.
For me at least, the fit is what sets these boots apart. As well as the fairly generous volume, or depth, there's a reasonable width too - especially at the front end where the rounded (rather than pointy) toe profile leaves enough space to accommodate a bit of foot spread over a long day. Yet with lacing that comes right down to the toe it's possible to get a tighter, more precise fit at the front too - good for scrambling, or if you've a narrower foot. At the rear the heel cup is less aggressive than on many boots, but I find my heel is held snugly in position anyway thanks to a combination of well-placed internal padding and an external supporting band, the so called 3F System (it doesn't need a name, but it does work). The ankle cuff is a particular sore point for me at the moment, but the Mountain Trainer Mid's is stretchy and forgiving. Overall the ankle has good freedom of movement, yet still feels well supported.
For more info see www.salewa.com
I first took them on a trip to do Lochnagar's Eagle Ridge. It was a warm, muggy day, and though a Gore-Tex lined walking boot might not be my ideal option in sticky weather I didn't - bearing in mind the insole issue - have much choice here. In warm conditions I generally find footwear with a waterproof membrane lining to be too sweaty, and when talking about boots with a full grain leather upper I'm often heard to complain that waterproofing the inside is just plain overkill. However with a suede/fabric upper like the Mountain Trainer Mid's I'm prepared to concede that it'd leak like a sieve without the backing of Gore-Tex or some such, and despite initial misgivings today I was pleasantly surprised to still feel reasonably cool and dry up on the Meikle Pap col. Down in the corrie the final approach to the ridge crossed a wide tongue of lingering spring snow, steep enough to treat respectfully and with a run-out onto boulders quite some way below. Warmth or no it retained some solidity, and required a bit of modest step kicking. In his soft approach shoes my mate was happy to send me first. This might be a light summer boot, but its Vibram Mulaz outsole proved substantial enough for the job. With their flat under-toe 'climbing zone' and grippy rubber a better climber than I might have confidently worn the Mountain Trainer for the route itself too, but knowing the tricksy cruxes that waited above I slipped into rock shoes for the route. My boots went in the rucksack, and while at this stage I might have preferred (genuine) trainers the Mountain Trainer Mid GTX had already proved its worth on the walk-in. Besides, at just over 1.5kg for a pair of size 11.5s the pack weight really wasn't too bad, even tottering several hundred feet up on the I can't believe it's not HS bits of Eagle Ridge.
Next up was a sunny morning round of Bannerdale Crags, Souther Fell and Blencathra. To make things interesting I added an ascent of Sharp Edge, and while this short but classic grade 1 scramble is not the sternest test of a boot's climbing ability a bit of playing about gave me a fair idea of how well the sole can edge on little slate lips, and smear on polished slabby bits. On reflection I probably could've worn them happily up Eagle Ridge.
Days out since have been family affairs, and this means plenty of heavy load carrying - for which these robust boots are well suited. It's the only way to get a 2.5-year-old up and down any meaningful hills before nightfall. Going off-path for a bog-hopping 'short cut' on Cross Fell was a chance to test the waterproofing. It works - so long as you don't flood the boot. Catbells on a scorching hot day put the lining's breathability through its paces, and while I'd definitely have been happier without it I have to admit that the sweatiness could have been far worse. The Lomond Hills were even hotter, and still the boots remained bearable.
The last consideration, but by no means the least, is durability. While it's too soon to be conclusive, after a few days' worth of use these boots still look new - bar two spots. The suede upper is just beginning to scuff and slightly lose its shape in places as it conforms to the flex of my foot; I suspect it isn't the highest possible grade of leather. Worse is inside, where the hard-edged built-up heel of my orthotics is wearing a groove in the lining, and I imagine will soon breach the waterproof membrane. This will hardly be a concern for most users of course.
In summary: Salewa's Mountain Trainer Mid GTX is a capable and reasonably priced summer all-rounder that'd be equally at home bagging Wainwrights, via ferrata-ing or traversing the Cuillin Ridge. If they could just bring out a traditional unlined full leather version then I'd struggle to find any faults at all.
UKC Articles and Gear Reviews by Dan Bailey - UKHillwalking.com: