Alt-Berg Yan Tan boot

Alt-Berg Yan Tan boot

2-3 season lightweight all-terrain boot

Whether you're tackling the Pennine Way or just rambling around, it’s well worth investing in the right footwear. The Yan Tan boot is a strong 2-3 season, lightweight boot perfect for most UK walking.

Our pros and cons...
  • Excellent fit
  • Very lightweight
  • Superb quality
  • Expensive

Introduction

It's rare to find gear that's made in the UK these days. Alt-berg have two factories: one in North Yorkshire and one in Italy. I've already blogged about my recent visit to the Alt-Berg factory in Richmond to see how their boots are made and have a personal boot fitting.

The fitting really was an exceptional service. Some boots (most of the all leather ones) come in English sizes 3 - 15 together with 5 width fittings, making a total of 115 different fittings! Since then I've been out in Nidderdale putting the Yan Tans through their paces.
 

Yorkshire Yan Tan boots properly tested in Yorkshire mud!
Yan Tan boots tested!

I've tried them for a variety of activities and in a range of conditions:
  • Walking - long walks with a light rucksack (TNF Surge) and shorter walks with a heavy load (15kg baby in a LittleLife Cross Country carrier), in very wet conditions under foot
  • Running - on roads and forest tracks with TNF Surge rucksack
  • Casual - jumping around between boulders at Brimham Rocks
  • Commuting - walking to the office in the recent snow
I've blogged about my visit to the Alt-Berg factory in North Yorkshire to see how their boots are made and have a personal boot fitting
The foundation stone upon which all footwear is built is the last. This is the foot shaped mould around which the upper is formed. Every bootmaker develops his own lasts based on experience.

In 2006, the senior bootmaker at Alt-Berg started work on a new last - an ergonomic A-Forme® Last - inspired by an early running shoe shape. The Yan Tan uses this new last, which Alt-Berg claims helps allow the foot to take up its natural alignment in the boot, while supporting the arch and instep during the walking gait as well as offering a raft of other benefits.

The new last is also designed to work with foot support insoles and so I'm also testing a pair of Svartz insoles, also made by Alt-Berg.

Features:
  • Vibram sole with ultra lightweight, shock-absorbing midlayer, plus toe rand for extra protection
  • Soft leather lining inside collar for comfort and support
  • Sympatex waterproof, breathable membrane
  • Leather lacing loops on lower boot for improved flex
  • Tough Kevlar material side panels - increased breathability, yet tough on rough terrain
  • Weight 650gms (size 9)

Testing the Yan Tan in current waterlogged UK conditions
Muddy conditionsMaterials

Although Alt-Berg have their roots firmly in traditional boot-making, there are plenty of new and innovative material technologies at work in these boots, too.

The upper is made from a mix of hard-wearing Nubuck leather and tough Kevlar material side panels, which is great for weight and breathability. If there's one thing I need in boots it's ventilation - and I didn't suffer at all with these.

The lacing system includes a clasp on the third hook, which means that you can lock-off lace tension in the lower boot whilst finishing off lacing the first/second hook - simple, but really nice touch. This should be mandatory on all boots!
The ground in Nidderdale was absolutely waterlogged but my feet were bone dry

The boots have a Sympatex waterproof, breathable membrane with a gusseted tongue and I really put this to the test on each walk. The conditions under foot were incredibly wet - the ground around us is absolutely waterlogged and quite a few of the local paths go right through farm yards which always seem to be full of slurry. After several hours walking along the Nidderdale Way my feet were bone dry - there was absolutely no sign of any water ingress at all.

The Tri-flex® 3 season midsole has good torsional and flex resistance on rough terrain. The sole is high quality Vibram Tsavo, with a shock absorbing micro midlayer to give heel strike cushioning on rough terrain. The boots also have a full rubber scuff resistant rand.

Fit and comfort

These boots are the most comfortable boots I've ever worn. With the Svartz insoles and an old pair of walking socks, I've not needed to break them in at all, I've had no blisters or cramps and I've never needed to faff with the laces once I've set off walking. 

I tested the boots at Brimham Rocks
Brimham RocksThe boots give excellent ankle support - the soft leather lining around the upper ankle area is great for comfort and support. This is particulary important when you're carrying your little girl in a child carrier over rough terrain and they felt incredibly sturdy for this (and she's probably around 15kg).

The Vibram soles provided great traction in the mud and support on rougher terrain, especially noticeable when jumping between boulders at Brimham Rocks. They performed like a heavy-duty pair of boots but without the weight.

Although I didn't plan on any running, one of the routes I took was a little longer than I'd expected and so to speed things up a bit I decided to run the road by Brimham and through some forest tracks over to Evestone Lake (dodging the last shoot of the season on the way!).
Perfect boots for challenge walks where you need support on the way up but want speed on the way back down

I normally run off-road in Salomon XA Pro's but after trying the Yan Tans I might change! Well, that might not quite be true - but I was staggered at how comfortable the boots were for running after approx 2.5 miles.

I immediately thought of our Ben Nevis challenge in June - these are perfect boots for challenge walks where you need the support on the way up but want speed on the way back down.

The final test I did was in town, walking to the office in the snow this week. They looked great with jeans - much better than all-leather boots - and because they're so light, were perfect for this.

Yan Tan boots clean up nicely!
Yan Tan testingPracticality

Obviously a key aspect to buying new boots is how well they recover from your little adventures. As the ground is so wet at the moment, these have been properly muddy on every outing. So following the instructions in the box, I've been cleaning them down with water (just hosing them down when I get back), leaving them to dry (not near the log fire) and then giving them a quick blast of Leder-Bok.

This is a spray treatment for suede, nubuck and fabric boots that contains waxes and soluble oils that soak into the suede/nubuck/fabric, and help keep the boot upper more supple, whilst restoring some water repellency. Each time they've come out perfectly clean - see the cleaned boots in the photo.

Buying

Although these are great boots, they're not cheap. A pair will set you back £175 - if you add the insoles and waterproofing, it comes to around £200. As to whether they'll last, I suspect they will but I've not had mine long enough to report on how they wear long-term. You can get them resoled as well.

Alt-Berg have a range of stockists - their 'Premier' stockists carry a large range of sizes, including at least 4 width fittings for the full leather boots. Details are on their website. If you are within a drive of Richmond, I'd recommend going to their factory shop just for the experience.

Summary

Overall I've been incredibly impressed with these boots. You can see the quality from the moment you take them out of the box (in fact the box is quite well made as well!) - and this is borne out with an extremely comfortable, practical boot. And a bonus for me - although I have tried hard for this not to influence my judgment - is that they're made by a Yorkshire company!

I'd say they would be suitable for 90% of walking in the UK - other than snow conditions - and that they would be particularly good for challenge walks where a lighter, sturdy boot is beneficial. They would also be great for most overseas treks - I would have loved a pair of these to get to Everest base camp in. Needless to say I'll be wearing mine up The Ben in June!

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Our overall rating - 9/10
                   
Quality - 10/10
                   
Value - 8/10
                   
Performance - 9/10
                   
Appearance - 9/10
                   
Size - 10/10
Suitable for activities:
  • Hill walking
  • Walking
  • Trekking