Need a tough, lightweight, high-quality mountain boot for the Pyrenees HRP? 500 miles, 50000m, not one day of tired feet! Look no further than the Altberg Tethera. Read my review of how they performed for me …
Like you I don’t buy walking boots often. The boots I have bought over a career spanning more than thirty years in the mountains have always been of high quality, and I have always purchased them from independent retailers where I know I will get good fitting advice and on-the-ground knowledge about their performance.
The reason I was choosing a new boot for the HRP expedition in the Pyrenees was one of having the right footwear for the job.
For winter mountaineering I have been using a Scarpa Fitzroy for the last twenty years, but it is too heavy for a multi-day expedition over such a distance.
For summer walking in UK and Europe I have been using Scarpa ZG65 XCR, ultralight and cool, but showing signs of wear and, I considered, not robust enough.
I considered new Scarpas, and also innovative new designs from Inov8 and Salomon too. In the end I decided I wanted a boot with more rigidity and robustness that the ZG65s but retaining the lightness.
My mind was half made-up it would probably be from the Zamberlan Vioz GT Plus range or a higher-spec ZG from Scarpa.
Enter Richard at Peglers in Arundel (alas no more – such a shame to lose an independent retailer with such great service). And enter Altberg, a company I had not heard of before, but a British company based (and manufacturing) in Richmond, North Yorkshire, with a strong tradition in making boots for the military and for motorcycling as well as mountain walking.
The first thing I noticed about the Tethera boot was the lightness. Given the quality of construction – a one piece leather upper with a traditional Vibram sole – I expected to be holding a heavyweight, but at only 732gm per boot (Alt-Berg’s stated weight for a size 9) it was not noticeably heavier than the ZG65s.
They also come in five width fittings, making it easy to find a custom fit, just for your feet. My wide feet suited the extra-wide in a size 45. The were supremely comfortable in the shop, and had a reassuring strong feel. All the technical stuff can be read on Altberg’s website.
Here’s the only endorsement you will need: in 500 miles of walking and 50000m of ascent over 50 days on the HRP, I did not once experience tired or sore feet wearing the Altberg Tetheras.
I can summarise some of the key points:
- Cushioning: there was no feeling of pressure or heel-strike under my feet, either on tarmac or sharp scree.
- Grip: The Vibram sole seemed to be of a soft compound, which gave it a very reassuring grip, even on wet rock.
- Waterproofing: The Sympatex lining and leather combination worked brilliantly. Only on one exceptionally wet day between Hospitalet and Bouillouses did any moisture get through, and even then it it was minimal.
- Breathability: The temperature reached 40° in the Basque Country and the high thirties towards the Mediterranean, and yet my feet remained dry and cool. Note that experience of breathability is a very personal thing; Wayne had some difficulties with painful feet using the same boot, which may have been caused by overheating.
- Rigidity: We had some scary descents from some cols, and many kilometres of teetering across boulderfields. The ankle support offered by the mid-height cuff was solid and at the same time soft and comfortable.
- Durability: The boot has a rubber rand – one of my must-have features – which prevented abrasion to the leather around the welts. The leather itself became scuffed, but a light treatment every week with Altberg’s own Leder Gris wax-oil brought the surface back to almost a new look. There is evidence of sole wear, of course, but it looked minimal (my silent footfall philosophy might have helped …) Richard in Peglers was surprised at how little wear the boots appeared to have had.
- Special Features: the locking lace hooks were easy to use, giving a one-pull tension that was easy and even, and allowing a half lace when wandering around in camp.
- Footbeds: I could have invested in specialist footbeds, but the endorsement I give here comes with using the Altberg supplied footbeds. Enough said …
No boot review would be complete without mentioning the sock combination, which is different for every walker. I used three different socks both with and without liners, all from the excellent Bridgedale. They were:
- Bridgedale Endurance Trekker
- Bridgedale Bamboo Hiker
- Bridgedale CoolMax liner
The Bamboo Hiker socks from Bridgedale are made from a viscose material derived from bamboo fibre, and are silky smooth and cool. But the smooth slipperiness was the problem – they tended to ruck up in the boot, especially with the Coolmax liners.
So my most regular choice was the Bridgedale Endurance Trekker, which gave a good balanced performance of cool comfort.
The Alt-berg Tetheras have changed my view about trekking footwear. I used to think that saving weight on the feet – half a million steps times 300gms is a huge additional effort isn’t it? I was (and still am) swayed by the argument that human feet are anatomically perfect, so why not let them do the work.
The arguments are compelling. But my experience leads me to recommend the Altberg Tetheras without hesitation, and a five-star rating. They are lightweight and strong, well-cushioned and reassuring, with great build quality – in short, the best boots I have ever worn.
Thanks Rich, for the recommendation.
Disclaimer: Boots are the most personal choice of any item of mountain equipment. This review is written from my experience, and I would strongly advise consulting a specialist retailer before making any purchase of walking boots.
Steve Miller says: Hi. I’ve just read your review of the Altberg Tethera boots. I can whole heartedly agree with you!. I too visited Peglers as a for my first pair of ‘Proper’ walking boots and Richard fitted me a pair of these as I too have wide feet. I completely agree with your comments. I completed the Coast to Coast walk in them (June 2011) with absolutely no problems. Both the boots and Peglers were first class.
Ken adds: Regrettably Peglers of Arundel ceased trading in 2013. A great loss to the outdoor retail market.
Jim C says: I have just purchased a new pair of theses boots. I fully sport the review and can’t wait to put them to the test. I want to endorse the shop where I bought my boots. Mountain Feet, Marsden, UK. Fantastic!!! The owner was so helpful, incredibly knowledgable and friendly. I spent the first 30 minuets talking about my feet and activities. I had them measured in SO MANY WAYS. I had a brew and good chat. I tried two pairs of the Therhera on. And spent 20 mins in them walking on different terrain. The guys in this shop really know there stuff. Incredible. Not just about the boots but about the anatomy of the human foot and legs. Get these boots!!! But makes sure you get the right fit. It’s not as simple as you might think!”