Vango Breithorn Boots Review

At just £90, the Vango Breithorn is very much at the affordable end of the boot market. You could spend twice as much on a summer walking boot, and while you'd definitely get a better boot, the law of diminishing returns suggests that it wouldn't be twice as good (whatever that would mean). So is the Breithorn good enough in itself to save you spending more? For some users, certainly.

But while I think it's decent enough for the money, I'm not as taken with it as I was with the Anatom V2 Suilven, a model I also reviewed recently, and with which it shares more than a passing resemblance. Both brands are owned by the same company, and these two boots are made on the same last, in the same factory; however the Suilven has a more refined feel, a more breathable upper and a more competent outsole; as such, the extra £30 it costs would be money well spent. If you don't want to spend over £100 on a boot though, read on for our take on the Breithorn.

Firstly, indulge me a moment of pedantry. The name is misleading in the sense that there's no way you'd be seen dead on an alpine 4000m peak in these boots ...or rather, that's exactly how you'd be seen. So now we've addressed what the Breithorn isn't, let's look at what it is.

Giving them a spin on a summery Skye evening  © Dan Bailey
Giving them a spin on a summery Skye evening
© Dan Bailey

Weight

At 1260g for my pair of size 47s (footbeds included) this is a light-ish boot, albeit not mega-light. For context, I made the Anatom Suilven 1204g. While most trail shoes would be lighter, I don't find the Breithorn feels heavy on the foot, and for long distance days I doubt its weight would ever seem an issue.

For the price, they're a decent hillwalking boot  © Dan Bailey
For the price, they're a decent hillwalking boot
© Dan Bailey

Fit

This boot is available for both men, and in a women's fit (Breithorn W), though not in a huge range of sizes (for men it's 41-47, no half sizes). I got on very well with the Suilven's fit, so no surprises that I'm also fine with the Breithorn's. I'd call the men's boot a middle-to-large fit in terms of both width and volume; there's certainly enough toe room for my broader-than-average foot, and I've been reducing some of the volume with an additional insole. It's got a good firm lock around the heel too, so I find there's minimal lift or rubbing at the back.

I do occasionally notice the flex point putting pressure on the bony top of my toes, but it can't be too serious since I then tend to forget about it for another few miles.

Everyone's feet are different, so at risk of repeating ourselves with every footwear review: there is no substitute for trying on a lot of different pairs when you're out shopping.

Upper

Mostly fabric, with a little suede and a lot of plasticy panels, the upper has a lot of stitching, which never inspires confidence in terms of longevity. You don't get a protective rand as such, but the small, soft rubber toe-cap is better than nothing on rougher ground.

Overall the upper feels pretty soft. The tongue, for instance, is both soft and very thin, which is good in the sense that there's no danger of it folding and digging into the top of your foot or ankle bone (often an issue with more rigid uppers). You get some padding inside, but it feels less firm and supportive than on a typical premium-priced boot, and with a bit of poking around with a finger I can feel the rivets on the locking lace eyelet, and the hard edges of the plastic overlay. Over time, as the cushioning inevitably beds down, I would be a little concerned about the prospect of long term comfort where harder parts of the outside of the boot could begin to dig in - but as yet this is just a hypothetical worry, and the padding still feels fine after a few weeks' use. Similarly, the lining does not feel as high quality as you'd find on a more expensive boot, and I can't yet say how well it will wear long term.

They get clammy in warm weather...  © Dan Bailey
They get clammy in warm weather...
© Dan Bailey

The top of the tongue and the ankle cuff are very breathable (they actually pass my breathe-through-it test), which is never a bad thing. However the 'Protex' waterproof membrane used on the rest of the boot is clearly not market-leading stuff, and on warmer days I've soon noticed my feet getting sweaty. I suspect this is thanks to a combination of the less effective membrane, and the non-breathable synthetic parts of the upper. Waterproof-lined footwear will always be hotter and clammier than a non-lined alternative, but even accounting for this I have definitely worn more breathable waterproof-lined fabric walking boots. The Breithorn is a definite step down in breathability from the Anatom Suilven, for one. With this in mind, I wouldn't particularly recommend the Breithorn for trekking in warmer climes; perhaps it's best considered a cool weather boot? Vango are based in Scotland, so that figures... And having worn it in a fair few Scottish bogs now, I can at least confirm that the membrane does reliably keep out the water so far.

...But they do pass the Scottish bog test  © Dan Bailey
...But they do pass the Scottish bog test
© Dan Bailey

The lacing runs smoothly, and you get the usual locking eyelet. There's a mid-height ankle cuff, with a rear cutout to take pressure off the achilles. Given the softness of the upper, ankle mobility is not restricted. I have noticed that the top of the lacing is very high relative to the top of the tongue; you usually get a bit more tongue height to stop the knot of the lace digging into the front of your leg when walking uphill.

Sole

With a lot of forward flex - you can fold the boot in half without trying hard - this is about as soft and bendy as you'd want a boot to be. The sole is quite twisty in the lateral plain too. For me, the Breithorn's insubstantial sole rather undermines the key reason for choosing a boot over a trail shoe - namely its increased support. While this flexibility makes for a soft and forgiving feel on the foot when you're striding out along the road, it also equates to minimal underfoot support when you leave said road for the rough ground on the hill. Vango suggest this is a backpacking model, but for carrying heavy loads over long distances I'd be willing to bet that most boot wearers would prefer something more substantial (if you're backpacking and you do want this much flex, you'll probably be a more experienced user who's into trail shoes as an alternative to boots).

Backpacking in the Breithorn boots  © Pegs Bailey
Backpacking in the Breithorn boots
© Pegs Bailey

The bendy sole doesn't offer a particularly secure platform on steeper slopes, and won't readily hold an edge if you're scrambling. In the interests of this review I did wear it on one easy grade 1 scramble (Skye's Garbh-bheinn) and lived to tell the tale, so it will definitely do at a pinch on easier hillwalkers' scrambles, but would not be a good call for more technical routes.

All said, this is a sole that's best for easy-to-moderate hill terrain, for carrying lighter loads, and for predominantly well-made trails rather than lots of rough pathless stuff. I've used it off-path, on steep ground and with a heavy overnight pack, but it certainly wouldn't be my first choice for these tougher days. On the other hand on something long and easy like the West Highland Way the soft, bendy Breithorn would be miles more comfy than a stiffer and more technically capable mountain boot. Context is everything.

Underfoot, the 'RockRubber' outsole is OK, but not brilliant. It's not as aggressively lugged as many walking boot soles, and doesn't have quite such a confidence inspiring bite on steep muddy slopes. In my experience, and this is purely anecdotal, the friction on rock isn't really up there with a decent Vibram sole unit either. Its use of an unbranded outsole is a point of difference between the Breithorn and the Anatom Suilven, and on the basis of having worn both I'd always go with the Suilven on a proper hill day.

Trying a bit of easy scrambling on Skye's Garbh-bheinn  © Dan Bailey
Trying a bit of easy scrambling on Skye's Garbh-bheinn
© Dan Bailey

Summary

For occasional or less ambitious walkers; people operating on a tight budget; and beginners taking their first steps outdoors but not yet sure if this is going to be their thing, the Breithorn would be a sensible money saving option. I can see it working well for DofE kids, for instance. It's a perfectly adequate boot for easier Scottish summer Munros and similar, and for less demanding overnight backpacking too; I've also been using it for general outdoor wear such as muddy family walks. As a no-frills option I'd say it's good value for a modest outlay. However if you can stretch to another £30 then its more accomplished relative the Anatom V2 Suilven comprehensively betters it for comfort and performance.

Vango say:

Our all-new Breithorn is our lightest and most feature packed backpacking boot allowing you to travel further. The rockered toe combined with the calibrated Vango Flexbeam® allow for a more supportive hike. The Breithorn features a newly designed heel-counter and heel-lock system for maximum heel-hold and protection when walking across rugged terrain.

  • Sizes: Men 41-47; women (Breithorn W) 37-42
  • Weight: 1260g / pair size 47 (our weight)
  • Protex® membrane - Ensures your feet stay dry and comfortable
  • RockRubber - Extremely durable rubber compound offering toe protection, matte finish and tactile feel.
  • Vango FootSpy Insole - Specially designed insole used to assess where your foot is in relation to the boot. Just use the red line as a guide.
  • Traction System - advanced traction outsole system designed from the perfect compound for grip and durability. Strategically placed tread pattern facilitates self cleaning and a more-secure walk.

For more info see vango.co.uk




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