Pros and Cons
Filed under:Footwear, Gear reviews, Trekking Boots, Banks, boots, Hanwag, trekking
With the warmer months finally here, Chris Kempster tries out a lightweight 3-season walking boot that offers superb comfort and stability combined with a stylish design...
German footwear specialists Hanwag has been steadily increasing their profile in the UK market over the last few years, and models such as the Tatra II GTX trekking boot and Ferrata Combi GTX scrambling/via ferrata boot have particularly impressed our testers here at Trek & Mountain.
The latest model we have on test, the newly-updated Banks GTX, is an altogether ‘softer’ affair than the models mentioned above, prioritising as it does ultimate comfort for long hiking days, over outright technical performance. From their spec, they appear to be ideal for 3-season hillwalking or trekking, with the added bonus of a Gore-Tex lining for when the heaven’s open. But let’s take a closer look…
The Banks GTX’s upper is made predominantly from nubuck leather, but also makes use of suede panels and synthetic materials – the latter prevalent in the ankle area of the boot. Nubuck has its advantages over other types of leather; it’s more durable and more water-resistant than suede, but is more breathable (though slightly less durable and water-resistant) than full-grain leather. The overall look of the Banks is classy yet slightly techie; to our eyes at least, there’s a touch of the La Sportiva Trango in the way the nubuck sections are overlaid – which is no bad thing. There’s suede reinforcing panels at the toes and heel of the boot, and the ankle cuffs and tongue are extremely well padded, with a mesh-covered honeycomb construction helping with ventilation.
The Banks has a speed lacing system, with high quality metal eyelets, one pair locking, that allow you to tension the upper and lower sections separately. The pair of eyelets closest to the ankle are set well back, and this helps to keep your heel in place when they are tensioned.
The Vibram Endurance Pro outsole makes use of a Vibram trekking rubber compound, which according to the sole specialist is ‘engineered for stability and comfort’. The lug pattern consists of a wide contact surface at the heel which is intended to give good stability on longer walks, and quite widely-spaced round lugs in the middle of the sole. The heel and toes are rounded upwards slightly, helping to give a good rolling movement when walking.
The midsole of the boot uses a reinforced PU foam wedge for softer cushioning and better roll-off and again, this is all to make the boot comfortable over long days on the trail.
The Banks has been a good boot to test during the Covid crisis, as we haven’t been able to get to any high mountain trails or even lower-level scrambles – instead we’ve been restricted to more gentler trails, and this boot will lap these up all day long.
We really liked the fit of the Banks, with its slightly roomier forefoot. Getting a precise fit is easy with the excellent lacing system, and once done up, the boot feels really supportive around the ankles and the heel is held firmly in place.
Out on the trail we found the boots supremely comfortable. The sole unit is quite supple, giving a good rolling action that’ll be kind to your feet if you are walking for many hours, as will the cushioning
in the midsole.
In the rain we found that the upper of the Banks wets out pretty quickly (the water doesn’t bead off nubuck like with a full-grain leather boot) but while the suede panels hold the water for quite a while, we found that the nubuck panels dried off very quickly. Of course you have the Gore-Tex lining to fall back on, and at no point did our feet actually get wet while wearing the Banks.
On the subject of Gore-Tex, a small word of caution. We found the Banks relatively warm for a 3-season boot, and this combined with the Gore-Tex lining could make it a bit clammy for some people. We didn’t find it to be a problem, even on hot days, but if you do tend to experience these kind of issues then it’s worth bearing in mind.
The lack of a stiff-ish sole means the Banks is not suited to scrambling, via ferratas or walking in snow, however that is not what it is intended for. What it is suited to is long days on paths and trails, and for this purpose it excels. It’s a lovely looking boot too, and with it coming in both men’s and women’s versions, as well as in a wider version for men and a narrower version for women, there should be a version to fit most people.