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Gear review: Hanwag Alta Bunion GTX boots

Recommended Price: £195
Weight: 1510g (Pair, size 10.5)

I’ve long been interested in trying out footwear from Hanwag, since hearing that they make some models on a special last suitable for people with bunions. Though less known in the UK, German company Hanwag have a long pedigree, having been founded in Bavaria in 1921.

The Alta is a pretty sturdy but fairly lightweight traditional full height leather hiking boot. The uppers are nubuck leather with a waterproof gore-tex lining, and the sole is a Vibram unit with a decent tread, providing good grip. The ankle cuffs are lined with soft leather, and inner cushioning is generous; the whole boot feels very well made. The lacing is easy to adjust and locks well. Whilst the boots feel quite rigid when new, they break in quickly and are actually quite flexible. They are not rated for use with crampons and although they’ll fit flexible ones, you wouldn’t be able to front-point.

Now to the unique part – that bunion last. The shape of the boots doesn’t look unusual from the exterior, but internally the boots provide seam-free space for bunions. More properly known as hallux valgus, bunions seem to be a fairly common problem with hillwalkers. It’s something that develops over time – I used to wear quite narrow fitting Scarpa boots years ago that now would have me hobbling in agony! Technically, bunions are a progressive foot deformity which affects the joint where your biggest toe is attached. Over the years, that toe gradually becomes angled towards the other toes. As you can see in the photo, there can be knock on problems – the second toe can become squashed out of shape – a phenomenon known as ‘hammer toe’.

The bunion itself is the bony joint of the big toe that protrudes more and more as the bunion develops. It’s this part that ends up rubbing in normal boots. Bunion sufferers usually have to opt for wider and wider shoes until possibly having the joint corrected with surgery – though this has a long recovery time and the bunion may start to develop again in subsequent years.

My bunions mean I usually have to opt for the very widest fitting boots, going oversize, or wearing very flexible footwear that can accommodate the bunion. So I was delighted to find that the Altas were comfortable from the get-go, with no rubbing on the bunion at all. For fellow sufferers, I’d recommend these, though you might need to use the store locator to find a stockist.

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