Over the coming months, I’ll be testing and reviewing a variety of footwear options across a variety of uses and terrain under the heading “Backcountry Bootfitter” so if you’re interested in any and all things related to backcountry footwear keep your eyes on your inbox for blog posts under this heading.
In my opinion, the serious mountain or backcountry adventurer should have a “quiver” of shoes and boots in regular rotation, no different than having a variety of guns in your safe, bullet and load combinations for your rifle or a selection of arrows, tips and broadheads for your archery rig. As I discussed in the “Bulletproofing Your Feet” article, the human foot and ankle complex can and should be trained to deal with a variety of demands, across a variety of surfaces so using different shoes and boots over the course of your pre-season training and scouting, as well as during the hunting season itself will help build strong, durable and adaptable feet and lower legs.
Salomon sent me a couple pairs of boots for testing purposes and in this review I’ll cover a well known model, the Quest 4D GTX. In the interests of full disclosure, these boots were sent to me free of charge but I will not pull ANY punches with any of my reviews, whether I paid for the boots or not. And given my background as a Pedorthist, and the sheer number of people I’ve seen with foot and foot related issues over the past decade I can assure you I do not review footwear lightly.
Now on to the important information!
The Quest is a perennially popular boot and has been seen on the feet of everyone from the SEALs to through hiking, granola lovers. A boot this popular, does not get that way if it’s not at least half-way decent. In my opinion, one of the most attractive characteristics of this boot is it’s ability to serve a very wide number of purposes. Given the reasonable cost of this boot, and given the fact it’s not too much boot for a summertime hike with the family yet enough boot for anything but the most demanding mountain terrain, the Quest is a very attractive option for the hunter on a budget.
Now, coming back to not pulling punches, I have rarely been able to wear Salomon footwear, whether we’re talking trail runners, light hikers or backpacking boots. I have never found the width adequate for my forefoot (front half of my foot) which more often than has resulted in numbness and outright discomfort when I have tried a Salomon model. This was my first time wearing and testing the Quest and I’m happy to report it was the exception to my Salomon “rule”, with one addendum. I have to wear the boot without the factory insole to get the width I need. And to be clear on this, that’s without ANY replacement insole. No Superfeet, no orthotics, just the bare bones boot itself.
As an aside, I’ve actually found this technique (no insole at all) to be an effective way to find that extra quarter size many of us need in our footwear. As an example, if you try a shoe or boot in a size 10 and it feels small but the 10.5 feels too roomy, go back to the 10 and pull the insole out. You’ll be surprised at how well this works. In most cases the factory insoles don’t do a whole lot for you anyways. But I digress.
I’ve now used the Quest on roughly 10 different hikes here in North Vancouver and I’m lucky enough to have some seriously technical and steep trails mere minutes from my front door so I can comfortably say I’ve put them through their paces. A full season, and enough to test their durability? No, but enough to form a solid opinion of the boot from the perspective of fit and overall function. Plus, there are enough reviews out there covering their durability that you can find that information easily enough (Rokslide for example has a good durability based review of the boot).
As is typical for a Salomon product the forefoot width is on the narrower side but in this case I can give them an “average width” rating, as they certainly are not a truly narrow fitting boot. The lacing system is fantastic, and allows for “zoning” the fit of the boot which is something I needed to do to get the correct overall fit figured out for my feet.
What I mean by “zoning” is the lacing system allowed me to slack off on the laces in forefoot/toebox but at the same time seriously lock in my hindfoot, heel and ankle a feature I have to have in my boots. There is nothing I hate more than heel slip and “sloppiness” around my ankle. In my professional opinion, a lot of the “stability” one gets from their boots comes from how snugly the boot wraps your ankles and heels as opposed to the stiffness of the boot itself. A nice snug fit around the heel and ankle allows for direct feedback from the boot to your muscles and the spatial receptors in your joints. The lacing system on the Quests allowed me to really customize this heel/ankle fit to eliminate heel slippage while still allowing me lots of space in the toebox.
The Quest also has an excellent sole construct from the standpoint of traction, protection and ground “feel”. I tested the boots in some seriously wet West Coast conditions and in comparison to some of the more alpine oriented boots I’ve used over the years, the traction was in fact superior on rock, roots and logs.
Now when it comes to “protection” for the feet, I’d like to make a very clear and firm point here. In my opinion, the average hunter is “over-booted”. Outside of the most steep, technical terrain ultra-stiff, thick soled boots are not necessary. Most goat hunts? Yes. Alaska Dall hunt? Maybe. BC Stone hunt? Maybe. But for the overwhelming majority of deer, elk, and bear hunting and arguably for a lot of the Bighorn hunting in the lower 48 a super rigid, true mountaineering style boot is not necessary and in fact often results in overloading the knees and hips. It’s simple physics. If you take something that is meant to move (the feet and ankles) and lock them down, the movement and forces they (the feet and ankles) would normally help absorb is simply transferred up the chain into the knees, quads and hips.
The Quest represents a rare blend of adequate protection without any appreciable loss in “ground feel”. This is a truly unique combination to find in a boot that’s worthy of mountain hunting use as there’s almost always a trade off between protection/stiffness and staying “connected” with what’s underfoot. When it comes to moving fast with a light pack or stalking in close on an animal, big, heavy clunky boots have a distinct disadvantage. I’ve hunted with many guys that wear their “mountain” boots for less serious hunts and I can hear them coming long before I see them. What do you think an animal hears? These boots are even flexible enough that I could run in them comfortably, and when I did I purposefully landed on some rocks and sharp, upturned roots to test their protection and had no issues with these terrain features creating any discomfort in my feet whatsoever.
So in summary, if you have a narrow to average width foot, are looking for a lightweight, true multi-purpose boot appropriate for everything but the most technical, serious mountain terrain and on a budget the Quest 4D GTX is a boot you should consider. And if you already own a true “mountain” boot and are interested in using something lighter and more agile for early season hunts, Spring bear hunts or cross-training your feet this is a top contender.
Editor in Chief