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N.H. company forges ahead with moldable hiking boot

  • Tecnica of West Lebanon plans to unveil a new heat-moldable hiking boot in the spring. MARTY BASCH / For the Monitor

  • A planned hiking boot by Tecnica of West Lebanon will allow a personal fit for trekkers. MARTY BASCH / For the Monitor



For the Monitor
Sunday, November 05, 2017

Those first miles in a new pair of hiking boots can be a frustrating experience. Deficiently designed boots can result in discomfort, painful blisters and annoying hot spots.

Tecnica, a New Hampshire company, hopes to change that next year when it unveils the first heat-moldable hiking boot in what it’s calling the Forge Collection.

Set to be released to select retailers across the country in mid-February, 2018, the boots feature a new technology to hiking footwear that is familiar to consumers using Tecnica alpine ski boots which offers a heated moldable fit that is both customized and personal.

Called custom adaptive shape, hikers will be able to visit a select retailer and in about 20-25 minutes have those boots adapted to their feet.

Get heated, walk out the door and there’s no more breaking-in periods.

I had the chance to do that recently, meeting a couple of Tecnica representatives at a North Woodstock brew pub and then spending a few weeks tallying a good 20 miles or so in the White Mountains to put them to the test.

Tecnica, an alpine ski boot, winter footwear and hiking boot manufacturer, is located in West Lebanon. The company oversees sales and marketing across the country while also working on product development with the parent company Tecnica Spa in Montebelluna, Italy.

Tecnica started making mountain and work boots in 1960. The company put itself on the retail radar with its Moon Boot in 1970, an apres-ski boot inspired by the boots worn by the Apollo astronauts taking first steps on the moon. Tecnica is also known for developing the first bi-injected plastic ski boot in 1973. The Forge collection is its first hiking boot in some seven years.

The company will offer two models for men and women. One is the Forge GTX with a leather upper that comes with an MSRP of $250 and the synthetic upper Forge S GTX that costs $270.

All come in three colors. New England locations scheduled to carry them so far include the Outdoor Gear Exchange in Burlington, Vt., Pinnacle in Stowe, Vt. and Evans on the Common in Townshend, Mass. More stores are anticipated.

I put my feet into the Forge GTX that had a ski boot look, sleek black with hints of blaze orange – pretty slick for the woods.

Then it was time for the fit process. The retailers will be outfitted with a compressing and heating apparatus that allows them to shape the boot to customers’ feet. It begins by heating the footbeds with the machine in a device that looks like a taco. When the footbeds have been heated they’re placed on the customer’s feet. Having a seat, the customer places his feet in a balloon-style bag that allows the molding to take place.

After that the cutting edge time starts. The device is used to heat up the moldable section of the uppers allowing for a custom fit around the ankle, arch and heel. The customer places his foot in the boot with the molded footbed in the machine and then sits as the whole boot is fitted.

Taking those toasty first steps, I could feel the boot hugging my feet. I particularly felt the added support in the ankle that came from the overlapped cuff as compared to the classic tongue design.

I then spent the next few weeks getting to know the trekking boot. I put in more than 20 miles on a mix of terrain that included narrow trails, woods roads, ledges, stream crossings and some muddy sections. I hiked in dry conditions and after much-needed rain, on the flats and with elevation gain.

The boots were definitely easy to spot on the trails and readily became conversation pieces when noticed by inquisitive hikers. I found the chevron-shaped lugs on the Vibram sole provided good traction on the ledges and during rocky stream crossings even when lightly wet.

These aren’t mass market boots. Retailers have to put more time into the sale while customers are in the store longer (and perhaps spending more).

The boot may be a bit pricey for some, as solid boots that can go for many miles and years can be found at half the price. But for hikers wanting a light, sound, customized boot, the Forge could be the right fit.