These boots were purchased in Palmerston North. There I found myself in dire need of new boots before entering the first serious mountain range – the Tararuas. I read a few reviews praising their grip, support, protection etc. After having tried them on I felt that they would do the job well.
Upper: full-grain leather/synthetic mesh
Lining: eVent waterproof breathable membrane/polyester
Midsole: dual-density EVA
Support: thermoplastic polyurethane shank and arch support
Weight: around 2 lbs 2 oz/963g (pair)
Comfort & support
As I easily twist my ankle I was a bit worried whether or not the Coburns would provide sufficient support while carrying a heavy pack. To my surprise the boots do their job quite well as the collar wraps around the ankle quite tightly. How tightly it wraps around is of course dependent on how tightly you tie the laces.
When it comes to shock absorbance the Coburn boots need improvement, it feels like there is nothing between your feet and the ground. Every root, rock or even the tiniest pebble creates a huge discomfort under your foot. It can be compared to wearing a pair of Converse sneakers in the outback, your feet feels completely shattered after a long days hike, which again affects the distance you’re able to cover.
Ahnu says that the Coburns have a “gusseted tongue to help keep water and debris out” and a “waterproof and breathable eVent® bootie”. The truth is that the gusseted tongue and eVent system is rather inadequate when it comes to keeping feet dry. After a mere 4 minutes of walking in tall, dewey grass I could feel water leaking through the toe area of the boots, ultimately making them as waterproof as my sandals. However, after a proper waxing job they did withstand water better, nonetheless, you will still feel that some water seeps through unless you wax the boots every other week.
The Ahnu Coburn boots have a 1-inch-tall rubber bumper to protect your toes, which in all fairness is not a lot. Above there is a 1.7 mm leather upper which is colored black. This creates an illusion that the rubber bumper goes well over the toes providing great protection from all angles, this is not the case. It is only the small 1-inch-tall rubber bumper to protect your toes and this is by far not sufficient to give any reliable protection. On many occasions I cursed the boots and their lack of a proper barrier against the rocks and tree roots.
The durability of the leather truly surprised me; it was scraped against sharp and very abrasive volcanic rocks on numerous occasions without showing any real wear or tear. When the leather finally did rip it was due to the stitching falling apart rather than the leather itself wearing out proving that the leather can take a proper beating.
Due to previous experience with Vibram soles I was keen on finding a boot without Vibram soles, the Ahnu Coburn was the answer. The soles on the Coburns have “non-marking, self cleaning lugs for ultimate grip and traction”. Ahnu made the lugs on their soles 5mm deep on the heels in order to provide better grip when descending, this is 1mm deeper than average. On paper this is all sounding quite promising, unfortunately the soles provide very little grip in real life. On several occurrences I felt unsure whether or not the boots would grip or slip – most of the times it did the latter. In order to feel sure that the soles would grip properly I had to dig my foot far into the soil, so far down in fact that most of the front of my feet would be completely covered by dirt. I felt so unsure about the gripping ability of the boots that I’d rather take them off and walk barefoot instead. While Vibram soles have troubles with wet surfaces, the Ahnus struggle with any surface – wet or dry.
I wasn’t very impressed by the durability of the soles either, the bigger lugs on the heel started to wear off after 3 weeks of use. The longer I used them the more bits and pieces fell off leading to even less traction. I must say though that they did not wear down as badly as the Vibrams did, but this is a small comfort when the grip of the brand new Ahnu Coburns were as poor as the worn down Vibram soles of the Crispi’s.
These boots have the potential of being a great choice for those wanting a lightweight boot. Unfortunately, they are too minimalistic in order to do so. The sheer lack of traction, shock absorbance, waterproofness and last but not least protection for your toes make them torment your feet rather than loving them. I comprehend the lightweight mentality, however, at a certain point it gets in the way of comfort and that is what the Ahnu Coburn boots does.