Pulling on a pair of boots that don’t have a tongue takes some getting used to. After weeks of testing the Arc’teryx Bora Mids, I still reach for a phantom, non-existent tongue when taking the boots off. Nearly 40 years of wearing shoes has ingrained some expectations about how they’ll be constructed, you see. But having to learn a new method of putting on boots is a small price to pay for boots this light, this comfortable, and this all-around good.
The Arc’teryx Bora Mids ($280) have been around for a couple years now, but they still look like they’re the boots you’d buy from the REI Mars location in the distant future. They’re essentially two pairs of shoes in one: A soft Gore-Tex liner that looks and acts as something like a waterproof sock surrounded by a hard outershell/upper made of a hydrophobic, breathable material that feels like a thick, rigid plastic. The slightly higher-end version of the boot (the Bora 2) features a totally removable liner, but in my testing pair the liner is permanently attached to the boot. You slide your foot into the bootie (or, with my giant, paddle-like feet, grip the loops on both ends of the bootie and pull and pull with all your might) and then cinch the uppers around your foot like a clamshell.
It’s a design so weird, I contacted a designer at Arc’teryx, Greg Grenzke, to ask him about it.
“The idea of the tongue-less design was to improve the breathability. We wanted to eliminate any unnecessary layers that could restrict how the boot breathes. We also needed a footwear solution that would be comfortable in a range of different conditions. This led to a modular system. A hydrophobic shell with a removable liner allows you to dry it out quicker, especially during multi day trips.”
Again, that removable liner is only available on the more expensive Bora 2 boots, but my testing pair dries out extremely fast—far faster than comparable boots I own, whether they’re waterproof or not.
What does this design provide? Lightness. Breathability. Waterproofiness. The holy grail of hiking boots. The Bora Mids tick all those boxes.
I’ve never worn boots this light (roughly 2 pounds, three ounces) that still feel like they’d kick through a brick wall. The uppers sit on a thick Vibram outsole with tough, molded heel and toe caps. The seamless, one-piece outershell is tough and abrasion resistant, and provides plenty of confidence-building ankle support. The EVA-injected midsole is well-cushioned and comfortable. The booties act as a set of gaiters, keeping rocks, dirt, and water from seeping in the boots. I’ve comfortably tromped through ankle-deep streams with little to no water seepage.
But that comfort takes a little time to develop. Right out of the box, the Bora Mids felt restrictive and clunky. The heel slipped a bit, and the footbed felt a tad narrow. The uppers felt rigid and unforgiving, and, frankly, I expected discomfort on the trail. But after a couple weeks and a few dozen miles, the liner had really begun to morph to the shape of my foot. The heel slip is completely gone. The outer shell has softened and the midsole feels like it’s adapted to the shape of my feet too.
Bottom line: The Bora Mids are as burly as you’d ever want and offer all the protection of a much heavier boot, but they’re comically light and very comfortable. Even if they look like something space marines might wear.
$280 • BUY
MORE GREAT LIGHTWEIGHT WATERPROOF HIKERS
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