LOWA Focus GTX Lo Boots
Of all the countries with a reputation for manufacturing quality products, Germany ranks very high. From science and automobiles all the way to beer and woodcarving, they have a history of precision and durability. LOWA gives more substance to that belief by hand-crafting some truly fantastic outdoor footwear. While that may not be all that surprising, the fact that they create some of the highest quality and longest-lasting boots out there while adhering to – and embracing – some of the most strict labor and environmental laws in the world might catch you off guard. Not only do they make 95% of their product line under these conditions, they also source as much of their materials as possible from companies that have the same standards, instead of going with cheaper alternatives. It’s refreshing to see companies that value their responsibilities to their community and the planet more than making an extra dollar (or euro).
They have learned in over 80 years that true value usually isn’t the cheapest option, but what you will get the most use out of for each dollar spent. By using the best materials – including German and Italian leather and high quality GORE-TEX lining – LOWA produces boots that will last longer than other brands out there, averaging 5 to 7 years of regular use. With proper care, their life can even stretch into decades. That means better value and less boots ending up in landfills. More for your dollar, less impact on the environment (that is what you call a win-win).
The LOWA product line ranges from multi-day backpacking boots made to help you carry large packs as well as trekking boots designed for shorter trips with less gear. I was able to get a pair of the Focus GTX Lo style to test out, which belong to the latter genre. While these trekking boots weigh in at only 1.1 pound each (in men’s US size 9), are intended for somewhat easier and less technical trips, and designed for use with gear ranging from 30 to 50 pounds, they are certainly not light on features. With a breathable GORE-TEX lining to help regulate temperature, a lacing system that helps create the perfect fit, and materials that support your ankle without stifling movement, the Focus GTX Lo is designed for pampering your foot on the trail. A tread that is designed to be self-cleaning and has increased surface area for better grip means that you aren’t trading performance to get that comfort, either.
To really test the Focus GTX Lo, I had to get outside – a lot. I tested them on varying surfaces and grades, as well as with different weight loads. From peak-bagging to caving, and even a little bit of exploring a game trail (it sounds better than saying I took a wrong turn), I put these LOWA boots through the paces. After getting used to the lacing system actually adjusting to your foot and being able to have a much better fit, these boots had no hot spots or friction areas, even when handling steep grades in either direction. Weight varying from an approximately 10 pound day pack up to a 40 pound child carrier seemed to make no difference in performance, comfort, or support. They were even impressive during a stretch of scrambling over shale to reach the summit of Provo Peak. Paved surfaces were simple (as expected), and even the roughest of conditions became much simpler than experienced with other lightweight hiking boots (which have since been donated to a family member). Basically, the Focus GTX Lo provided excellent traction and stability while removing foot discomfort and pain from hiking, which has a nasty habit of turning something fun into torture in a hurry.
At an MSRP of $195, they are certainly priced higher than the boots you see on sale at your local outdoor store. But, considering that you will be enjoying fewer blisters, less rolled ankles, and better traction for more than 5 years of use, they are well worth the investment. Supporting a company that does right by both people and the environment is icing on the cake. Well played, LOWA. Check out the LOWA website for specs, where to buy, and other footwear options, including backpacking boots, snow boots, and trail running shoes.