American brand Ariat was founded in 1993, and over the past three decades has evolved from a company focused on integrating athletic footwear technology into boots for equestrian athletes, to today’s far broader ambition to create “products for all types of outdoor and work environments”. This includes walking boots, such as the Skyline Mid, dubbed by Ariat as a boot “engineered for outdoor performance, constructed for durability, comfort and protection”. We put a pair to the test to find out more.
My first thought when I first picked up Ariat’s Skyline Mid boot was, “what a handsome-looking boot!”. This is largely thanks to the distressed brown, full-grain leather used to create much of the upper, combined with the darker tones of the tongue, laces, and ankle cushioning. The result is a well-balanced appearance – practical- and traditional-looking, but also smart.
Looks are one thing, but the real question is, how well do the boots perform on the trail?
Well, they’re comfortable, and like almost every boot on the market these days, they can be worn straight from the box. I worn mine on a few short walks before building the distance to 10 miles plus, experiencing no signs of discomfort at any point. The sole (AST technology) comprises a gel-cushioned footbed, which feels great on your feet without being over-soft and suffocating. There is also a nice level of cushioning around the ankle and in the tongue of the boot; combined with the heal stabiliser, this offers comfortable support within the boot.
The boots feature a shock-absorbing midsole (EVA), which, coupled with the cushioned sole, performs well on rough ground such as rocky, rooted, hilly paths, as well as flat towpaths, riverbanks, and pavements. The boots aren’t too heavy either, which makes them suitable for warm, dry days.
The outsole (bottom of the boot) comprises a multi-directional traction design with a fairly standard lug height. The result is a good level of grip on wet rock and muddy ground. Extra wear protection around the toe and heal create an effective guard against abrasive rocks, stones and sharp vegetation.
The Skyline Mid upper is made of full-grain leather, which is the strongest, most durable leather, and largely regarded as the highest quality grade. As well as offering durability, it’s known for being water resistant. In practice, the boots are waterproof, but like a lot of the more supple boots on the market, they aren’t 100% waterproof in really heavy, sustained periods of rain, or when submerged in deep puddles. With this in mind, I’d recommend these boots for three-season walking in Britain.
The women’s version of the Ariat Skyline Mid waterproof boots shares many of the same features as the men’s model, though the colour and design varies slightly.
Facts at a glance
- RRP: £135
- Material: leather
- Designed for: Walking/hiking
- Waterprooing: Waterproof Pro™ construction with waterproof full-grain leather
- Fit: size fits slightly smaller than expected, so it’s worth going half a size bigger. Quite narrow – if you have wide feet, the boot may feel a little tight
- Colour: distressed brown
Vivobarefoot Tracker FG
British shoemaker Vivobarefoot believes that footwear should “let your feet do their thing”. With this thought in mind, its shoes are made to harness all the benefits of walking barefoot – flexibility, stability and, ultimately, an improved posture – with all the usual protection that a boot brings. Its lightweight hiking boot, the Tracker FG, is a prime example of this, blending attractive style with extreme comfort and an overwhelming feeling of freedom.
Unlike most boots, the Tracker has a thin and completely flat, puncture-resistant sole. If you haven’t worn Vivobarefoot shoes before, the lack of drop from heel to toe will take a few minutes to get used to – but this slight unease soon turns to an overall sense of liberation. It’s as though your feet are feeling their way across the ground, rather than treading on it.
Fan-shaped with lots of room in the toe box, your toes are able to spread out, which in turn improves stability and helps strengthen muscles in the foot. They are extremely light (476.2g per boot) and breathable, which allows you to move quickly through hills, forests and mountains, and their flexibility means you can even run in them. (note: the sensory perception provided by the thin sole aids this quick movement but may prove an issue if carrying a heavy pack over long distances).
The outsole is firm, and the quality leather upper (with a fully waterproof membrane), mid-cut ankle and high lacing deliver a good level of support on uneven trails. The multi-directional lugs are designed for firm ground, making them ideal for dry-weather walks; I found them to lack a bit of grip on particularly wet and muddy paths.