The Basher Hillmaster GTX is an all time classic walking shoe that have to date sold over a million pairs. Designed by the London Marathon founder and accomplished athlete, Chris Brasher, the Hillmaster GTX was first released in 1994 and is claimed to be Britain’s most popular walking boot.
In an age of technical fibres, wicking fabrics and space-age polymers, it is reassuring to see a timeless, leather design. However, these shoes are far from a vintage novelty. Brasher has strived to combine modern techniques with a classic look.
We first received these boots in November so it seemed inappropriate to publish a review without putting them through their paces in a variety of terrains and of course the Great British winter.
Aside from the classic leather look, our first impression of the boots wasn’t altogether positive. Straight from the box, the leather is very hard and needs a good amount of wearing in. Unlike shoes with man-made uppers, it is recommended that the boots are worn around the house for a good few days before taking them on a longer walk. Even now, nine months on, the leather still occasionally squeaks.
We are not the only reviewers to have noted this, many individuals find that due to the hard leather, the found the boots not only uncomfortable but also prone to cracks in the leather. As with all natural products, the leather needs to be cared for and whilst we have found the uppers to be hard and uncomfortable in the first couple of months, with regular cleaning and application of a leather nourishing agent we have not experienced any cracking. Despite a few irremovable toe scuffs, the boots are in great condition and are now much more flexible.
Another commonly noted observation is that the soles lack grip in wet conditions. Brasher use a polymer they brand as “EVAlution” which we found to lack grip on wet stones. Over the past nine months, the grip has improved as the rubber has worn but on a first test, simple stream crossings can be somewhat unnerving!
However, these observations are the limit of our criticisms and some might say that provided individuals care for their boots and allow them to wear in properly, these criticisms are not concerns at all, but simply by-products of choosing a boot made from natural materials.
Now that we have had chance to test wear in the boots, it is clear that Brasher’s ideology of a lightweight “trainer-like” shoe has been implemented very well in the latest incarnation of the Hillmaster GTX. Whilst the polymer choice for the sole does not provide the most grip on wet rock, the tread design does give excellent stability and mud shedding on moorland and boggy land. On rock or gravel surfaces the rolling sole aids walking and supposedly the “REVA Midsole” reduces fatigue, though we haven’t noticed any fatigue reducing benefits.
The Hillmaster GTX can be seen as a long term investment. It is considerably more expensive than entry level walking boots and like any investment, it needs to be cared for. The simple things have been done very well, the GORE-TEX lining gives impeccable waterproofing and even the laces and eyelets are high quality, well placed and though it sounds silly, on a long walk they just don’t come undone!
As such the Hillmaster can be considered a quality boot for the regular hill walker. The absence of Day-Glo colours and technical fibres mean that provided the boots are cared for, they will remain fashionable for years and on a camping trip, they can even be worn as evening shoes with jeans for that well earned pie and pint.