About the Author: Jason P. spends his days working in the creative marketing department of a big telecom company. He also does a bit of real estate investing on the side. He and his wife love hiking with their dog and shopping at local small businesses and antique stores when they travel. Jason is a practitioner of muay thai and traditional boxing, and his favorite drink is a piney, dank West Coast IPA.
For the most part, hiking boots are a pair of function-first purpose built footwear without style in mind. Yes, a few are bestowed with vintage hiker aesthetics in a classic build, but most are either bulky leather builds or overly technical lightweight affairs. All come with significant tradeoffs. In the case of the former, they’re heavy and less flexible. In the latter, they sacrifice durability and style for lightweight agility. Ideally, the perfect hiking boot would take the best pieces of both and stitch them together.
Along comes Naglev, a small boot maker from Italy, hoping to solve the puzzle with their Kevlar-equipped WP Combat.
A clunky, granola, “Dad” hiker they are not.
Looks like something Q branch developed.
Materials and First Impressions
The boot is exceptionally sleek thanks to uppers made from a single piece of Kevlar. This is indeed the same Kevlar used in bullet proof vests, and they’re using it here to deliver a lighter weight feel while remaining tough and durable. It also makes for a really understated design. You don’t get all the typical layers and overlays of a standard hiking boot, and it produces a strikingly upscale appearance via the rich woven texture and colors of the Kevlar weave. The Kevlar feels like a waxed mesh and has ample flexibility.
Thermoplastic polyurethane “rand” (the tape stuff) reinforcements for extra strength.
A hard tape-like plastic coating provides support in key areas. There are some slight glue marks from the tape, but nothing overly egregious. Functionally, the tape provides more structure around the mid-foot and heel, and acts as a water-seal where the midsole meets the upper.
Underneath the lightweight strength of the Kevlar is a wool bootie and what Naglev claims to be a waterproof membrane. The tongue and lower half is certainly wool, but the upper portion above the top of the heel counter is a multi-layered open cell mesh.
Rubber lugs are softer than other lug soles you’d find on hikers. It could wear down quick?
Inner bootie, rubber sole, and footbed are all allegedly replaceable. But by who?
A local cobbler? For real? Would you send them in to the factory? That’s not real clear.
A thin outsole is the area of most concern. The rubber is soft and the lugs, while large, are noticeably more pliable than the lugs you’d find on other, admittedly less stylish boots. Durability could be a question mark.
Lastly, the tape is deployed as a toe bumper at the front of the boot. A proper hiking boot needs some sort of toe bumper to protect your foot from rocks and branches, especially on scrambles and tighter trails. The use of this “Thermoplastic polyurethane rand” certainly keeps the weight down, but durability and protection over time? Another unique point of construction are the laces, which extend clear down to the toes. The last lace sat at the base of my toes.
Fit and Feel
- Size up.
- Even when you size up, WOW these aren’t easy to get into at first.
The foot opening at the top of the shoe is boa constrictor tight. Regardless of the width of your foot, you’re likely to struggle a bit to get your foot into this boot. While flexible, the Kevlar doesn’t stretch, and the stretch of the inner bootie is only helpful to the point of the space between it, and the Kevlar. After much wiggling and manipulation, your foot slides in and feels very, very secure. Locked in. The work is worth it; stability and security are exceptional. But these aren’t like getting into most other hiking boots.
Constrictor tight openings.
Getting them on takes practice. And effort. A lot of effort.
Naglev uses European sizing, recommends sizing up, and I concur. For reference, I am consistently a 9.5D in boots; including my Grantsone Cap Toe, Allen Edmonds Higgins Mill, and Danner Mountain 600 boots. In sneakers, such as the Adidas Ultraboost and On Cloud X, a size 10. In the Naglev, a size 44 – or a 10.5 for us Yanks – fit well. Huckberry offers free returns, so you have peace of mind to try a size and send it back free if it doesn’t quite work for your foot.
Cushioning is plentiful upon first step. The veg tan leather and coconut fiber footbed is comfortable and should mold to your foot over time for a more individual fit. Given the intended use of the boot, though, I’m not sure how coconut fibers will hold up over, say, 200 miles. Still, the build speaks to the quality and attention Naglev put toward creating a premium fit and feel for this boot. It’s impressive.
Cable lacing system.
Extra “rand” at the toe, but not a traditional, thick, toe bumper.
The lace cables are a winning inclusion, and something more outdoor brands would do well to include in their functional footwear moving forward. These thick, strong cables close around the foot to secure it to the footbed, without the need for heavy overlays stitched or glued to the rest of the upper. Everything feels dialed in, without being too constricting.
BUT DOES IT… HIKE?
Naglev absolutely built a premium hiking boot with major style. The Kevlar upper, wool bootie, and vegetable tan leather are all high-end materials used for specific functions, but in combination come together in a fractured package.
The Kevlar is absolutely durable and flexible, and works well as a lightweight replacement for leather, but for me they retained a significant amount of heat. Any temperature regulation from the wool bootie was negated for me. In an easy, flat hike in temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, my foot began to sweat and just never dried. Thin merino wool socks did nothing to help. YMMV of course.
After putting them to a test, the biggest area of concern still seems to be the outsole. The rubber is soft; offering a good amount of cushion on hard surfaces and flexibility when rock scrambling. However, that same softness is likely going to lead to quick wear-and-tear.
They look exceptional (or at the very least exceptionally different) compared to most hiking boots of the same quality, and will likely be enough for most day hikers. However, the surprisingly difficult job of simply getting them on, the fact they might run warm for some, and the possible (key word: possible) durability issues with the soft rubber lugs make them far from a sure thing.
These boots are best for more casual hikes on easy to moderate hikes in dryer conditions, or where you’ll need a boot to take you from trailhead to alehouse without swapping your footwear. If you’re taking longer day hikes or through hikes, look for something with more technical features (specifically on the outsole and midsole).