I’ve been struggling with hiking boots for years due to not being able to tie laces. For a long time I’ve used a spring loaded cord-tie (as used on sleeping bag draw-strings) to pull laces tight, however this really isn’t the easiest solution, as it is hard to maintain a good tension. Normal shoes are not a problem - as there are many slip on designs that work well, and I just love Chelsea boots during the winter. (We won’t discuss the velcro solutions I was forced to ensure as a kid…)
Back in Jan 2007 ago I discovered the Boa lacing system through a Wired article about Dean Karnazes’ ultra-marathon ways, and it has changed my life (well… changed how easy it is to put on hiking boots!). It consists of a braided wire in place of the laces, and a knob to tighten the wire. They’re really easy to use - just turn clockwise to tighten, and pull to release.
The North Face Arnuva 50 Boa is the only example of the system I can find on a North Face product on Amazon.com, although it’s only a running shoe. I can’t find any Boa vendors on amazon.co.uk.
After searching outdoor shops in the UK and France with no success, I found myself in San Francisco visiting the North Face store. There I found the first generation of their Plasma GTX XCR Boa - which ticked all of my boxes for a lightweight hiking boot. I bought a pair there and then, which I’ve used for trekking in Egypt and Jordan, along the Great Wall in China, and up numerous mountains in the Alps around Grenoble. After around two years, the boots are beginning to show signs of wear, so I’m now looking for a potential replacement.
In terms of hiking boots it looks like there are two available using the Boa system as of this post, a second generation of the Plasma GTX XCR Boa from North Face, and a second from Vasque.
At the moment I’ve not found a vendor in Europe that will sell them - as North Face don’t sell this boot in EMEA (they only offer the running shoe listed above for some reason), and I don’t have much experience with Vasque resellers. I may have to bite the bullet and purchase one over the web, and pay the UPS shipping charges.
I’ll post back (or update this post) with the conclusion to this story. Feel free to add a comment if this article has helped you, or if you can direct me to a shop somewhere near Grenoble in France where I can find either of the above products.