Yes, I Said Full Grain Leather Boots: Asolo TPS 520

Allow me to present the TPS 520 boots from Asolo. They are classics.

Regrettably, some people today don’t generally embrace a certain quality about these boots: They are made of full grain leather. Quite a few hikers have abandoned leather altogether in favor of mesh, vinyl and plastic molding for support and comfort. Those new-style boots get good ratings in the gear guides. You might even own a pair and love them, but here are some reasons to not dismiss these classics.

For background, these Asolos have carried me through hundreds and hundreds of miles in the Adirondacks, New Hampshire’s Whites and Vermont’s Greens as well as long stretches in the Chugach Range and Garibaldi Provincial Park. They have treaded over mud, scree, granite, snow, ice and at various points had crampons and snowshoes strapped to them. In fact, they’re story – and The Suburban Mountaineer – recently helped me win a year’s membership with the American Alpine Club compliments of Asolo USA.

Interestingly, I discovered an almost prejudiced attitude about full grain leather boots among other hikers my age and younger when I moved away from the northeast to flat, humid Peaklessburg. I had just come to town and needed to get new boots for the upcoming season. I was looking at three pairs of boots all at similar price points, except the sales guy was pushing me into the lighter, mostly mesh and vinyl boots. He expressed concerns about how heavy and warm the leather boots could get. I was a little puzzled, but stuck to my convictions and bought them.

Later I went hiking in the Monogehela National Forest. They performed great and I didn’t think much of them — always a good sign of reliability. As the summer heat and humidity reached the high 90s (as it frequently does here, sigh) I wore the boots less; then again, I wasn’t going out hiking in this weather either; I’m from Upstate New York and I’m built for a much cooler and colder climate.

After living in Peaklessburg for a while, I visited the northeast to Vermont and hiked Mount Mansfield. This time I wore my light hiking mesh and vinyl running shoes. It was late spring and it rained the day before. If you do the math, that means moisture, dirt, grime on the outside of the shoes, the socks and my feet. I wished for the TPS 520s and for the chance to illustrate what I knew to be their strengths to the fella pushing the light hiking shoes exclusively. Clearly, he just didn’t hike in these conditions.

The last thing I want to point out is the pleasure of having well broken in leather to support you when you’re standing and walking. If you ever heard cowboys in movies romanticize about how their boots are the only way to go… it’s true for me too with these boots.

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