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While Wenger is primarily known as the manufacturer of Swiss Army Knives and watches, the company has recently begun to produce a broad range of footwear, from hiking boots to casual man’s and women’s shoes. The Eiger is a new boot that isn’t quite a classic like the iconic Swiss Army Knife, but is still a decent first attempt at producing a high-quality hiking boot. We tested the Eiger on numerous day hikes as well as backpacking trips and found that it has some admirable traits, yet could use a few upgrades.
One thing proved true over the course of our testing: the Eiger has solid construction. We saw little wear on the upper, which is primarily made of soft nubuck leather, and is reinforced with a rubber toe rand. Along the sides of the boot is a overlay band of rubber that provides a bit of side protection but mostly adds a bit of sturdiness. Certain details indicate that Wenger is trying to build something that will really last, such as the use of metal lacing hardware that is riveted to the upper.
Wenger also outfitted the boot with a pretty good midsole that features a plastic plate running from the heel to the forefoot. From the arch to the heel, the plate sits on EVA foam to provide a support skeleton that rides on a cushioned layer. The plastic also wraps up around the lower portion of the heel to stabilize the back of the foot. From the arch forward, the plate makes the boot somewhat rigid torsionally (meaning, it won’t twist easily side to side), which is important to keep the foot stable on uneven terrain. Still, the forward portion of the plate bends easily to allow a natural stride. Finally, it creates a decent layer of armoring to protect the bottom of the boot from rocks that can bruise the foot.
The outsole is made with a rubber designed to become more or less pliable, depending on temperature. Honestly, when we used the boot in warm and cold temperatures, we couldn’t tell a difference. However, the sole gripped rocks well while scrambling, and felt especially secure when walking down sloped boulders that were damp from rain.
All together, the upper, midsole and outsole create a system that provided good cushioning and support during long dayhikes. However, we thought the boot was less comfortable when hauling a 40-pound backpack over several days. The boot relies on the outsole to cushion the forward portion of the boot, and we thought it could use a layer of foam trough this area of the midsole. Basically, the Eiger is more of a hiker than a serious backpacking boot.
We saw other areas where there’s room for improvement. For example, the soft leather on the upper has its advantages—the boot is comfortable immediately and requires no break-in time. However, the leather is a bit too thin, and we could feel the impact of rocks as we banged the boot while scrambling.
Also, while the Eiger is made with a waterproof membrane that functioned well during our testing, water seeped into the top part of the collar during stream crossings. The problem is the tongue gusset, which extends only to the fourth lace eyelet, and does not run to the top-most lace hooks meaning despite the membrane, water’s getting in through the gaps. Another issue with the tongue is that it is thin at the top, and there is not much padding, so there are some hard edges for a shin to bang against on descents.
Available in models for men and women, the Eiger fits medium-width and wide feet, though it’s not a good choice for those with low-volume feet. Our testers noted that the heel pocket did a good job of keeping their feet seated, and the toe box provided a modest amount of space, though one tester remarked that he thought it was a bit too narrow.
Our final issue is one we don’t raise too often: shoe laces. The Eiger has what we believe are the most uncomfortable laces we’ve tugged on in a while. These coarse, thin cords dug into our fingers and actually caused pain as we cinched them. Plus, the laces began to fray after using boots just a few times. Wenger really needs to ditch these because they could turn off a prospective buyer immediately.
Clearly, there’s room for improvement with the Eiger, and Wenger may need to modify the design if it intends for this boot to be used for backpacking. Still, it’s a noble first step, and Wenger is a proven brand, so we look forward to what comes along in the future.
SNEWS® Rating: 3.5 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)
Suggested Retail: $175
For more information:www.wengerfootwear.com