Still in Canada for a few months, it’s time to approach the essential question of shoewear. As I’ve experienced it many times before, a pair of classic sneakers is not a viable substitute for serious protection to the cold, after a couple of hours, as the sole isn’t quite as effective in protection against the cold which comes up from the ground. What’s more, if the snow has fallen, the cold will filter in much quicker because the shoes will become damp very quickly.
So, how to keep yourself warm effectively when you have your feet in the snow or you’re exposing yourself to the arctic cold? Bear in mind that even when you’ve chosen an effective Parka jacket, your feet are equally important to look after too.
A good pair of winter boots
Without even talking about style, firstly consider that your shoes must:
– Have a thick sole (you can never repeat this enough, it’s a “key factor” as Benoit would say)
Note: Vibram is known for their thick and comfortable soles. It gives the feeling of walking on a cushion of air, with a little more style than the Nike Air Max soles. I can’t emphasise enough on the importance of investing (again and again) in this genre of brands that have proven their worth.
– Be waterproof (optional) if you think that you’ll be going to humid places.
The re-coating of the shoe must be done by a specific material or impermeable leather, chosen by you. Be careful with chemical waterproofing which will stifle the leather and spoil it quickly. A good protective spray will save you the bother. Make sure you dry your shoes when used, with newspaper at the bottom to absorb moisture.
– Be comfortable. If not, it will feel really compressed and you will develop blisters when you walk, which isn’t nice.
Don’t listen to the salesperson that tells you “it will slacken”. Unless it is made out of leather, you need to wear them a little beforehand, so that the leather slackens and takes the shape of your feet properly. The presence of a padded leather collar (the cushions at the top of the heel that can be found on Timberlands) is a good indicator of care being taken for the comfort of the wearer.
The composition of the “Yellow Boot” by Timberland isn’t left in a hazardous place.
– Be solid, to make the most out of your investment. Research the longevity of the product with regard to what you’ll use it for. The fabrics used will give you an idea of what you have in your hand. If you handle the shoe a little, you will notice the obvious solidarity of the product and the quality of the end result, notably the seams and the care taken to fasten the rivets. Even the laces provided with the shoes can be an indication of quality.
Abington Collection by Timberland
When the cold starts to filter itself through the thin leather of your sneakers, it is time to change over to more solid shoes. It’s because of this that I have confidence in Abington, the Timberland range inspired by American laborers, who wanted to offer a more robust shoe well adapted to hard toil, without having to sacrifice design.
In concrete terms, the boots of a lumberjack that gets through rivers, chops down trees in the early hours of the morning and camps (often) by Klondike.
Are you fed up of seeing these Yellow Boots time and time again? Be aware, it’s part of the test!
When Abington and Nobis didn’t exist, we had to cover ourselves in leather and fur.
The classic Abington model is the Hiking Boot. Accurately representing the DNA of this brand, the products are designed with:
– An exterior sole made from Vibram, in fabric, which absorbs shock, the sole allows the wearer to walk in rocky terrains and rebalance the weight for a better and improved sense of support and an improved sense of comfort when walking.
– The GoodYear welt prevents water from seeping in by the cracks in the shoe. The foot is completely isolated from all forms of seepage.
– An Anti-Fatigue technology, which further improves comfort whilst walking, developed so that serious walkers can hike all day without suffering.
What’s more, we’ve discovered the Padded Leather Collar, which softens the friction of the ankle against the edge of the shoe.
The loops are replaced by D Rings, little circles that keep the laces solidly fixed, which makes it easy to lace up your boots. Don’t hesitate to apply lacing techniques specific to hiking, it’s always useful to know, especially to free up tensions on top of the foot or even to make sure the laces stay together.
I want to draw your attention to the quality of the leathers used: a particular care must be paid to the choice of the fabric (sourcing), seeing as there are two companies one hundred years old, with the experience in tannery, which provides the leather to make these shoes.
Horween Leather, an American company who have worked with numerous industries, which include automobiles (Chrysler, Chevrolet, Ford or even General Motors). The second, an English company called Charles F. Stead & Co who has taken part in the production of derbies, brogues and other desert boots, for numerous brands with the Queen.
Abington X Woolrich A/H 2013
For winter 2013, a new collaboration was created with two huge brands within the textile industry: I will name Woolrich and Cordura.
Woolrich is an outdoor, ready to wear brand, which offers quality clothing, adapted to the cold. Two hundred years old, this company has managed to guard its heritage from the American civil war, proposing clothing inspired by trappers and 70s American shoes. Incidentally, Geoffrey had acquired a Parka and is very pleased!
The collaboration with Woolrich consisted of covering the shoe with synthetic wool (entirely from recycled plastic) in order to provide it with a supplementary insulating capacity.
The coating shows a subtle red criss-crossed pattern on top of dark grey background. The red laces stand out from the overall appearance of the shoe, which, with a black sole, carries a solid and physical appearance together.
The finish of the black leather has achieved an original style to this collaboration that is quite frankly powerful and effective.
You can expect to pay between 250 and 300 dollars for this dual work, knowing that your needs are largely met: comfortable, effective against the cold and a holds a successful design.
In terms of size, I would say it is TTS (True To Size). I carry a US size 11 and a UK size 10.5, which corresponds more or less to the sole interior as 29cm.
My opinion on this pair
My experience with these shoes has been generally positive! Like my Parka, I expected to have well-covered feet. I wore them without stopping for the first two weeks and my feet never hurt at the end of the day.
It is equally important to note that the shoes only smell a little after an intense usage. Timberland has used anti-bacterial materials to limit the appearance of nasty odours.
A more than welcome innovation is knowing that feet don’t sweat too much with this surfacing.
You don’t need to wear socks that are too thick. Firstly, blood circulation in the feet is reduced in the feet because of compression from the shoe. Secondly, the wool that insulates the shoe is already efficient enough.
Abington X Cordura A/H 2013
The Cordura fabric is designed to resist friction and shock. It is around four times more solid than Nylon and is used for laborious clothing, bags and even military fabrics. Property Of, Herschel, Carhartt and lots of other brands sometimes use Cordura for products aimed at workers, travellers, or even students.
With the Abington Hiking Boot X Cordura, it includes the characteristics found in the classic Hiking boot but is covered with more of the famous Cordura fabric.
The retained colour on the sole and the laces differs from the collaboration with Woolrich. I really like the green and blue colour scheme on the shoe that gives us a real military feel.
I managed to acquire a pair after having worn the partnership with Woolrich for a while. I was so satisfied that it was completely necessary for me to try the collaboration with Cordura (I could have them from a shop that’s offering a promotion for 80$!)
This alliance is slightly less efficient in resisting the cold, but keeps you sufficiently insulated without getting too hot.
I intended to use them on hilly terrains, where it would be better adapted than the Woolrich, because the Cordura took impact and scratching very well and without marking them.
For myself, it’s the better one of the two partnerships because it is more durable to time.
Opinions on Abington
The consistent usage of these two pairs of Abington shoes in difficult conditions allowed me to form a clear opinion: neither the snow, nor the constant walking, nor the daily -20 to -30 degree temperature have managed to diminish my satisfaction in wearing these comfortable and practical shoes that are much more elegant than a pair of regular hiking shoes.
The maintenance is barely hard work, seeing as it isn’t covered in leather.
With regard to leather shoes, I would have to clean the leather every night to prevent it becoming eroded by chemical salts (this is quite common in order to melt the ice), which decolors and fades the shoe. The effect is significantly reduced on the material of the shoes when you notice it after one month and mid-intensive usage.
With a brand such as Abington, something I didn’t know anything about at the beginning, I noticed that Timberland is a lot different that what I had imagined up until now. The recently developed ranges are booming with innovation, achieving really great designs. (cf Earthkeepers)
Keep the Abington at the back of your head for your next shoe-wear purchase. Please note that the summer range equally has many decent surprises that I’ll let you in on.
Bonus Bresciani socks
The socks that you will see appearing on the Abington photos come from Bresciani.
Really warm and nice to wear, don’t hesitate to use big geometric designs and noticeable colours. They carry quite a visible original twist to my outfit and contrast with the rest of my clothes which are often much darker (and sombre).
The similarity with the shoelaces is a detail that will please the perfections out there but know that you can always be more subtle (yes, it is possible!)
In terms of warmth and insured comfort, I prefer natural materials like wool, cashmere and even cotton, even if certain synthetic fabrics equally give good results.
If you’re looking for a more affordable alternative, have blind confidence with Uniqlo who will equip you against the cold with clothing that isn’t overly thick yet effective.
I also have a few pairs from Kodiak, which are at test against the cold.
A final note: remind yourself the hardest thing isn’t the cold, but the wind and the humidity. Battle against moisture from forming in your clothing with breathable garments that don’t absorb water (wool, for example).
Create outfits with specialised fabrics (windproof, waterproof, etc which will, once combined together, will give you the best possible protection.