I wear hefty walking boots less and less, but for me they still have a place. In cooler conditions the fact that they're hotter than shoes can go from being a minus to a plus; for wet weather or boggy ground, meanwhile, boots obviously have an edge too. Add the possibility of snow and a chunky boot looks better still - particularly if it can take a crampon. With all this in mind, for big rough Scottish hill days in the spring and autumn bridge seasons I'll often opt for a walking boot over a running shoe.
But I'm picky about which. For anything less than full winter conditions, for instance, I much prefer a leather boot without a waterproof lining. I find these more comfortable and less sweaty than the lined alternatives, and if well made and well cared for they're no less waterproof (in fact, a waterproof lining will often fail before the leather outer!). Unlined boots are hard to come by - it seems the market demands Gore-Tex - so it was nice to discover that this is an option with Hanwag's Tatra II.
A really well-made model that's both sturdy and comfy, the Tatra is Hanwag's best-selling walking boot, and for good reason. I think what really sets it apart is that it comes in so many versions. With three different width fittings, plus the option of Gore-Tex or leather lining, all available for both women and men, this is more like a family of boots than a single model. You don't see that level of choice on offer every day, so hats off to Hanwag. Of course I went for the leather-lined Tatra II.
With its three fittings, standard, wide and bunion, and a good range of sizes for both sexes, there's got to be a Tatra boot to fit most people. That's a lot of stock to carry!
Being broad-footed I first opted for a wide, but this turned out to be too narrow for me at the toe (OK elsewhere). Anecdotally I'm not alone in finding the Hanwag fit comes out on the pointy side, which for a Germanic company is a bit of a stereotype-buster. I'd go so far as to suggest that the standard and wide fittings could easily be renamed narrow and standard. I don't have bunions but I do have awkward- shaped wide-toed feet that make fitting footwear a faff. Since the 'bunion' model offers additional room around the big toe joint I thought it was worth a shot; and it worked like magic. These boots fit perfectly, a rarity in my long and often painful experience, and unlike a lot of traditional-looking leather boots they were comfy straight out of the box too.
The volume is very high, so I added a second layer of insole to soak up some of the depth. Toe room is generous, with space to wiggle, but when securely laced up I've suffered no foot movement, so neither heel lift nor toe strike are an issue.
What are they for?
Hanwag use an ABCD categorisation for their footwear, where A is a lightweight shoe and D a rigid boot compatible with full step-in crampons. The Tatra II is BC, a rugged trekking boot for rough ground and heavy loads. Despite having a heel ledge that can take the rear clip of a semi step-in crampon, I would class this as only a B1 boot: thanks to its wide sole, forward flex and pronounced rocker (upturned toe) I've failed to get a decent fit with semi step-in crampons, so I think that it's best paired with more flexible strap-on walker's C1 crampons. As such I'd call this a 3-4 season boot, and in winter it's probably best for less rigorous walks above the snowline. In the Scottish hills, spring and autumn would be my preferred seasons for the Tatra II; you could also use them very happily on Alpine treks that cross the odd non-technical snowy col.
Here's the catch: these things are not light. Including the standard insoles, my pair of size 47 (UK12) Tatra IIs weigh a hefty 1960g. Even some full-on B3 mountaineering boots are lighter than that. A closer comparison would be with Scarpa's latest SL Active, a similarly chunky all-leather walking boot that I also have out on review. These weigh 1980g per pair. I guess the simple fact is that sturdy leather boots are always going to weigh a lot. I'm not going to criticise the Tatra II for what it isn't - a lightweight option - but I can say that in use out on the hills its comfort and support go a long way towards making up for that mass, and as yet the weight has not bothered me.
The Tatra II's nubuck leather uppers are clearly a decent quality, though they are less scuff-proof than a harder, 'shinier' full grain leather. Its soft brushed feel gives the boots an attractive look out of the box; however in my experience, after a fair bit of use and several re-proofings, nubuck tends to lose its velvety texture, so I would not expect these boots to look box fresh forever. The seams are all double-stitched for toughness, and the minimum of stitched panels - particularly in the forefoot - limits the points at which water might find a way in. If well treated, these boots should remain effectively waterproof for a long time, while the fact that it's all leather with no sweaty membrane layer makes the Tatra II about as cool and breathable as you could hope from a chunky leather boot (it's all relative of course). I've worn them happily on sunny late summer days with temperatures in the low-to-mid teens, but I might not choose them if the forecast was hotter.
Lacing doesn't extend as far forward as the toes, so there's no scope for fine tuning the fit at the very front; however, the lace eyelets are all robust and smooth-running, and a pair of lockoffs allow you to vary the tightness between the foot and the ankle. Coming well above the ankle bone, the cuff is medium-high (a bit lower in the women's model), and feels supportive without seriously limiting ankle movement. Padding at the top is really soft and forgiving, and so too is the all-leather lining, which feels both hard-wearing and luxuriously comfortable - I love the inside of these boots!
The tongue is thick but soft, and generally stays in position rather than slipping uncomfortably to one side; my only criticism is that it squeeks with every step (perhaps some vaseline would help).
For protection you get a little rubber cap at the toe and heel. On really rough rocky ground, a full rubber rand would have offered more cover to both the boot and the wearer, and I have already got some minor scuffing on the leather upper along the side where there's no rand. On the other hand, less rubber means more breathability, so whether or not Hanwag made a good call here probably depends on how hard you tend to hammer your footwear.
Underfoot, the Tatra's solid feel continues. A robust Vibram 'AW Integral' outsole provides grip, its chunky lugs giving plenty of traction on mud, steep wet grass and rock. For downhill braking, there's a big heel ledge. There's plenty of lateral stiffness for support on rough ground, but a good springy flex at the toe which helps the boots feel less clumpy that their weight may suggest. The rocker, or upturn at the toe, also makes for a nice natural walking action. With its forward flex this isn't a reliable platform when edging, so I wouldn't recommend the Tatra II for hard scrambling. However the midsole soaks up a lot of the impact when walking on hard surfaces like tarmac or gravel tracks. Overall the sole is ideally matched to the Tatra II's chief remit - big hill days on rough ground.
Supportive, comfortable and built to last, the Tatra II is a lot of walking boot at a reasonable price. With three fittings on offer, and either a membrane or a leather lining, choice is the name of the game here, and most walkers are likely to find a combination to suit. I'm a big fan of the leather-lined model, though others may prefer the belt-and-braces addition of a Gore-Tex lining; there's only £5 price difference between them. Crampon compatibility is a hit and miss affair with most boots, but I think the heel ledge is a bit misleading here, and that this boot is best considered a B1 model for use with strap-on walker's crampons. It's suited to less serious winter use, but I think the Tatra II's best seasons are spring and autumn. If you're after a traditional leather boot for challenging hill rounds or tougher long distance backpacking, this one would take some beating.
A tailored fit, superb comfort and outstanding stability, these characteristics have cemented the Tatra's position as Hanwag's best selling trekking boot family. For SS18, Hanwag introduce the Tatra II GTX which features an updated, modern design and minimal weight as well as advanced new features that promise greater functionality.
- GTX £220; leather-lined £215
- Sizes: 6 - 13 men; 3.5 - 9 women
- Available in: standard, wide and bunion fittings
For more info see hanwag.com
- Weight: 1960g / pair size 47 (our weight)
- Upper: Nubuck leather
- Lining: Available with Gore-Tex lining or chrome-free leather lining
- Sole: Vibram® AW Integral
- Each pair of Tatra boots is made from 25 materials, 110 parts and requires 106 production steps.
- New lace hook in the tongue keeps tongue in place
- New locking lace clamp – allows you to keep the fit secure around the foot but loosen at the ankle
- Improved insole – more cushioned
- New lower cuff on the women's model