In the title I call these “boots,” but that word certainly doesn’t conjure up an accurate image of the lightweight Altitude Lite Waterproof footwear from Hi-Tec. These may be the lightest over-the-ankle shoes/boots I’ve ever strapped on for a hike: they weigh in at just a shade more than a pound each, which is in line with a lot of low-rise regular walking shoes.
Like many Hi-tec products, the Altitude Lite models are primarily a value play. If you want a lot of features in a boot that costs less than $100, this is your brand. It’s pretty tough to find a breathable waterproof hiking boot with a serious lace system and tread with real lugs for two digits, but these list for $90 and you can probably find them for less at the links at the end of this review.
Naturally there are some compromises when you pay half price, and I’ll go into those in a minute. But in my tests their proprietary I-Shield waterproofing solution worked very well. At one point I was walking up stairs that had turned into a waterfall. There’s is a nanotech coating system rather than a membrane system, but it gets the job done and my sweaty feet still evaporated okay during a warm hike.
The lacing system worked well for me and I was able to get a good, supportive fit. The gusseted tongue is comfortable and the mix of suede and synthetic uppers feels supportive enough for predictable trails. You can take these slogging through mud and streams and they’ll be fine. They come with built-in anti-odor protection as well.
Naturally with such a light hiker, you probably aren’t going to choose these if you’re carrying a huge pack over lots of rocks. Which also brings us to those compromises. You probably also don’t want to use these if you’ll be going over a lot of boulders in the rain or through creekbeds with lots of algae-covered rocks. The soles on these performed well in dry conditions, but I couldn’t trust them on slick surfaces when they got wet. They just don’t have the grip you would get from Vibram or other high-end rubber composites.
They fit well out of the box and don’t take long to break in, but you’ll probably want to replace the insole after a few weeks. That was definitely one of the shortcuts to get the list price down, as it often is, so pull both insoles out and replace them with something more durable that has heftier cushioning and support.
The Hi-Tec Altitude Lite Waterproof hiking boots do have a one-year guarantee though, as well as a 60-day “comfort guarantee.” Overall these are a great value and they come in wide sizes—something that is woefully rare even in brands with list prices topping $150. See more info at the company website and pick up your pair at Zappos, Amazon, or Overstock.com.