From Italy comes the Zamberlan 1996 Vioz Lux GTX RR, an incredibly tough, heavyweight backpacking boot, ideal for the roughest trails or backcountry conditions. Comprised of handmade full-grain Tuscan leather, the Vioz Lux is ideal for multi-day trips under the heaviest loads.
It is an upgrade on Zamberlan’s best selling 996 Vioz GTX boot, the designers adding a PU-coated toe rand; an abrasion-resistant material that provides extra protection from scrapes and sharp rocks, and to give extended life to the upper leather.
Another notable change is the addition of calf leather-lined collars, giving enhanced comfort and durability around the ankles.
I actually owned a pair of the older model, and a lack of comfort around the upper ankles was probably the only real issue with it, but Zamberlan have identified and rectified this with the Vioz Lux.
The upper is made with just one piece of leather while the inner Gore-Tex layer – which wraps around the side wall of the boots and over the mid-sole – ensures added breathability. The lace eyelets are made from metal and are riveted into the highly-durable leather, while the gusseted tongue means less stitching and guaranteed waterproofing to the opening of the boots.
I broke these boots in on a 7-day trek in Northern Vietnam, backed up by hikes in Morocco’s Rif Mountains, the Scottish Highlands and New Zealand’s Tongariro Crossing, so in the last 6 months they have seen different types of trails under a range of climatic conditions. So, let’s see how they went.
Support & Flexibility
The medium-cut boots provide excellent support, while the Zamberlan Flex-System – essentially a well-designed cut-out in the leather – enables comfortable forward-flexing of the ankle without compromising lateral stability. The boot flexes naturally at the base of the tongue, and after a few wears there is complete flexibility for the toes.
Dual-density polyurethane midsoles make this boot extremely comfortable, while thankfully cutting down on unnecessary extra weight. The midsole comes with a stiff nylon shank that provides a great deal more support to the arch of the foot, especially when clinging to the steeper inclines with heavy loads in the backpack.
Zamberlan have stuck with their tried and tested Vibram 3D sole for the Vioz Lux, and for good reason. Everything on this sole is geared toward traction. The red ridges lining the center of the boot provide outstanding grip on the steeper inclines, while the lugs are situated far enough apart to self-clean. So no build up of rocks and debris to worry about.
The heel could be my favorite bit of this entire boot. You could be forgiven for thinking you are holding a hammer. It is heavy and highly-durable, with two thick, sharp lugs forming the most efficient braking system I have found in a boot. The spacing between the heel and front section of the sole lends an efficient, energy-saving forward rocking motion. And of course, the Zamberlan 3D soles are re-solable, so take care of your leather uppers, replace the sole when it runs bare, and you have a trekking companion for a very long time.
Waterproofing and breathability
I have spoken about the Gore-Tex and leather combination that make this boot waterproof, but nothing is completely waterproof, right? Well, I have yet to find a drop of water in these boots after a day at the mercy of the elements, despite taking them through some pretty deep bogs in the Scottish Highlands. The fact is, if you keep the openings of these boots above water level, your feet are going to stay dry, while that lovely little Gore-Tex layer provides unparalleled breathability, so all that perspiration has somewhere to go.
Durability & Breaking ‘em In
This is a serious bit of gear. The waxed Hydrobloc technology keeps the leather stronger for longer, while everything about this boot just feels tough.
But with tough boots come the inevitable longer break-in times. It took a good few long days to wear these bad boys in. And those days came with a few rest days in between as the inevitable blisters healed themselves.
We have come a long way to find a negative with this boot. A US size 11.5 men’s boot weighs a whopping 2 pounds, while even a smaller size 9 boot weighs in at 1 pound and 12 ounces, making it one of the heaviest backpacking boots on the market.
The size seems to run true for these Zamberlans. I am a size 12 in other hiking boots and other forms of footwear, and it is no different for these boots. They come with a removable insole that is thickly-cushioned.
Once broken in, these boots will be your best friend, being so comfortable that it is like wearing cushions strapped to your feet.
What I Like
You feel like you can go anywhere with a pair of Vioz Lux boots. And you pretty much can. I have lugged these boots over volcanic terrain in New Zealand, through knee-deep snow in Wales’ Snowdonia, through Scottish bogs and over scree and jagged rocks in Morocco’s northern mountains, and at no point did the boots ever feel out of place. They love the tough stuff, which makes you love it too.
My feet were warm in a Scottish winter, often slogging through knee-deep snow, while the Moroccan sun took temperatures into the 90s, but at no point did my feet bake inside the boots.
After the break-in they are exceptionally comfortable and keep your feet dry as a bone. But most importantly, I have worn Zamberlans now in the two highest mountain ranges on Earth, over some grueling long-distance hikes, without a single foot or ankle injury (and I am clumsy, to put it mildly).
What I Don’t
If I felt like having a whinge, I could say that these boots are too heavy. Or that the break-in time is too long. But hey! If that is the price I have to pay for having tanks on my feet, then so be it!
What I should mention though, is that I am a large man, 6 foot 3 inches and powerfully built, so the weight of these boots seem all in proportion for me. Perhaps that would not be the case for a smaller person, who could notice the miles adding up after a couple of long days on the trail.
The $345 price tag on Zamberlan’s US website is a little steep, but considering the durability of this product, this is a serious investment, and one likely to save you money in the long run. Oh, and the name Zamberlan 1996 Vioz Lux GTX RR is probably a little long-winded, but we can forgive them that.
Related content: Tongariro Crossing: One of the Best Day Hikes On Earth?
The highly-acclaimed Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX is a far lighter alternative to the Zamberlan Vioz Lux, although the water-resistant suede upper is an inferior product and susceptible to abrasions. Some reviewers have claimed that the boot looks old after a few days of serious hiking, while many incidents of lugs breaking off the sole have been noted. At $269 it is a cheaper alternative, and more of an all-purpose hiking boot.
A little-heavier than the Zodiac Plus, but still lighter than the Vioz Lux, and designed for the tougher trails comes the Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX, which finds itself somewhere between the two boots. It is very well reviewed, while the $230 price tag makes it a tempting buy.
Probably the closest boot to the Vioz Lux on the market today also come from Scarpa – this time the Kinesis Pro GTX – a $349 boot that is actually 2 ounces heavier than the Zamberlan. It offers higher-cut support, while the extra dollars can be found in the protective rubber rand, which stretches around the entirety of the boot.
Six months later…
These boots have now completed hundreds of miles on various trails, some of them among the roughest I have come across, and the boots are still in excellent condition.
The Vibram 3D soles look as though they have just come out of the box, while the toe rand has taken the brunt of the scratches, with only one noticeable-yet-minor scratch on the upper leather itself. A good quality G-Wax is recommended to keep the boots looking and performing at their best.
The Zamberlan 1996 Vioz Lux GTX RR hiking boots can be purchased at Amazon (click here to check current pricing).