Yorkshire boot manufacturer Alt-Berg has spent over three years developing the new A-Forme boots, which are designed for a different foot shape to the existing Alt-Berg range and the majority of boots from other manufacturers. Not only do the new Yan Tan boots feature this new last, they also represent a radical departure from Alt-Berg’s standard range of traditional leather boots.
Alt-Berg Yan Tan
Alt-Berg suggest that standard boot shapes tend to push the big toe inwards. Alt-Berg’s new A-Forme last adopts the asymmetric shape which accepts the existing toe position – a shape often seen in running shoe designs – while adding a number of refinements developed from other classic lasts – a wider, shallow forefoot, a narrower heel and a narrower mid-foot. As Alt-Berg’s Senior Bootmaker puts it: “The A-Forme is a fusion of the modern running shoe combined with classic models from the past, inspiration from old technical manuals and observations of feet as we seen them today.”
The result is a boot that reduces sideways pressure on the big toe, while increased width across the forefoot allows the foot to sit in its natural shape and alignment. A narrower ‘waist’ and reduced volume at the instep increases resistance to sideways movement, and a pear-shaped profile holds the heel in its natural central position with a narrow section at the top resisting heel lift. The last gives above-average toe roll for ease of gait.
Alt-Berg are renowned for their traditional brown leather boots and at first glance the Yan Tan boot appears to be a real departure from this – designated a 2-3 season boot it features large fabric panels combined with smart nubuck leather and a sleek, streamlined look. But in reality the boot features many of the elements that have created Alt-Berg’s enviable reputation – the fabric panels are in fact Kevlar reinforced – almost literally bulletproof – there’s a Sympatex waterproof breathable liner and the 2.4mm Nubuck leather is of the highest quality and reassuringly chunky. There’s still a good rubber rand to protect the toe area from scuffs though. The heel cup is sturdy and provides good stability despite the lightweight nature of the upper. The ankle cuff has some thin padding and is lined with beautifully soft leather. Secure lacing is achieved through the use of a mix of simple loops at the forefoot, a clever locking eyelet to securely fix the heel into the heel cup, and the usual metal hooks at the ankle. This combination makes it easy to modify the lacing to suit any areas of pressure, and when fully laced the foot feels securely cradled.
The sole unit is stiff with positive edges for security on loose ground and I reckon you’d get away with a flexible crampon on it on less technical terrain (though Alt-Berg don’t endorse this). As a 2-3 season boot the Vibram Masai Trail outsole has a relatively shallow tread pattern, and the thin layer of cushioning in the midsole offers a degree of shock absorption without adversely affecting feedback from the terrain. The whole package combines a decent mountain sole platform with a lightweight and breathable yet supportive upper – I’d be happy to use these boots for everything outside of full-on winter conditions, though they work so well with a flexible crampon I’m tempted to take them a little further…
As you’d expect from fit experts Alt-Berg, the Yan Tan is available in a huge range of sizes, from UK4 – 14 including half sizes. There are two width fittings, medium and wide. My size 11, medium fit boots weigh 753g per boot, which compares very favourably with the full leather 3-4 season Alt-Berg Mallerstang at 1018g per boot. A RRP of £170 is at the top end of the scale for a lightweight boot, but reflects the huge amount of research and development that has gone into the boot – rumour has it that Alt-berg’s bootmaking guru Mike Sheehan has spent eight years working on a last to suit the 20-25% of people that aren’t properly catered-for with existing last designs. Nonetheless, if the A-Forme last and superior build quality isn’t particularly important to you, there are definitely lower-priced alternatives.
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