Tried & Tested | The North Face Verto Alpine Gore-Tex boots

black hiking boots are pictured standing on a rock, the grassy background a blur

I have rarely felt like I could run in a hiking boot, but the Verto Alpine boots absolutely gave me that feeling of liveliness when I first put it on. A combination of a supportive top-layer footbed, a softer foam in the mid-layer and a sole that flexes more than I expected, meant they were instantly ready to walk in. The flex of the sole is squarely what I would label as ‘medium’ for a trekking boot, offering a good compromise between the natural stride of a regular hiking shoe, while still providing enough support for confident scrambling up steep edges.

At 605g per boot in an EU45, the Verto Alpine only incurs a small weight penalty relative to its low-cut rivals. Considering the deep lugs of the sole, the ankle support and the Gore-Tex layer, 605g seems very reasonable. (For reference, my Scarpa Guides are 535g and my Five Ten biking/approach shoes with barely any lugs are a flighty 460g).

The heel pocket was the next feature I observed. It is snug and positively retained my heel; I had zero heel lift when walking. The upside of this is that I could greatly reduce the tension of the laces, which then allowed my blood to circulate freely on longer days out. I own other boots where the upper ankle portion is either too loose or too tight, meaning I’m always floundering between a redundant bit of extra lacing or something that is pinching my skin.

The Verto boots are awesomely comfortable. The width of the forefoot is another major draw for me. My feet widen out to the sixth toe area, which has meant I always shop for a ‘wide’ version of boots. With the Verto Alpine, the regular width was ample. The width is standard through the majority of the boot and only bulges out at the sixth toe area, allowing wide forefeet to flatten out in total freedom, avoiding numbness.

Just taking the supplied insole out and looking at its shape is a good way to see the available width upfront. As for a bit further north at the toes themselves, I would characterise the width as regular, once more, although the toe forms a neat point at the tip, reminiscent of an aggressive approach shoe – handy in tight spots.

Something that aids the sense of comfort of the Verto boots are the clever locking clips that retain the lace-tension at the transition between lower and upper laces. Other brands solve this by using friction-based systems, but this small clip, which The North Face calls ‘lace-lock eyelets’, is so easy to use that it is frankly harder to avoid using it than it is to engage it. The result is that each time I lace-up, my lower cuff tension is isolated from the upper-ankle tension, which allows me to adjust each portion to aid in either support or comfort, depending if I am climbing or flat-grounding.

a north face branded hiking boot with high cuff is photographed - a product image for online sales

The tongue is soft-padded and opens easily for easy entry-exit. Again, historically, I would have to size up in order to get in and out of a boot so easily. The Vibram lugs are deep at 5mm and well spaced, ensuring even the thickest muck self-sheds with each step.

There is a neat bit of siping to the lugs at the heel which, compared to my other approach shoes, meant I was less likely to slide when using my heels to descend where it became steep.

The toe stiffness and the responsiveness of the footbed makes it perfectly adequate for difficult scrambles, but true alpinism would be more challenging, as The North Face elected to place lugs for soft conditions at the inside of the forefoot, where the uniform surface of an approach shoe would be better suited to rocky ascents and edging.

The boot is not compatible with ice-crampons. But there are some nifty mini-knobs in the centre of the boot sole to aid with grip on via ferrata bars, no doubt.

Normally I would select a low-height model for hiking, rather than the full boot, but the support from this anatomical ankle is so good that I can’t imagine taking it away now I’ve tried it. I would be keen to try the lower Verto Alpine boots on in a shop, but I can’t imagine it is as snugly supportive.

As for durability, Vibram pays for its grip by wearing slightly quicker than other rubber types, but that is the price for wet weather grip. Fortunately, the lugs are so deep it will take an age to wear them significantly. The hard-wearing rock climbing rubber patches plastering the toes and heels will protect the Verto on the rocks for years. The plastic lace retention clips will start to give up eventually, but they will not put the boot out of action.