Tecnica Forge GTX fitting from TrustyGOPC on Vimeo.

I’m pretty much an off-the-rack kind of guy. Suit sleeves a tad long? I’ll just roll ‘em up a little, Don Johnson style. Pants a little loose? Nothing a run through the “hot” cycle won’t cure. And a haberdasher? For ball caps? C’mon.

I was like that, too, with my hiking boots, settling for whatever came close to fitting. That is, until earlier this year when I heard about the new Tecnica Forge GTX hiking boot.
Technica and hiking boots, you may be thinking, they don’t belong in the same sentence. Ski boots — isn’t that more their thing?
It is. Or, rather, was, until the Forge GTX.

Tecnica: an evolving tradition of good fit

Like all good handmade boots, Tecnica traces its roots back to Italy, where brothers Giancarlo and Ambrosiano Zanatta in 1960 established Calzaturificio Tecnica Spa, building on their father’s tradition of handcrafting work boots for laborers in the Dolomites. They soon directed their attention to the growing world of recreational footwear, pioneering the development of the molded ski boot, which not only made once-painful ski boots comfortable, but helped skiers better connect with their skis and thus, the snow. It was a revelation to skiers of the 1970s and ‘80s.
Eventually, Tecnica decided what worked for skiers should work for hikers. Last fall, they unveiled the Forge GTX (leather) and Forge GTX S (synthetic) in Men’s and Women’s versions. They arrived at Great Outdoor Provision Co.’s Raleigh and Winston-Salem stores this spring.
For someone who wouldn’t give a tailor the time of day for a 5-minute hemming, I was only too happy to devote 30 minutes of my life to Cameron Village boot specialist Adam, who promised to make my hiking feet happy for life.

The sorcery of custom fitting

A Tecnica Forge GTX fitting begins with the transformer-like opening of what looks like an ice chest on wheels. The top splits open to reveal electronics, hoses, timers, black vinyl bags, black slippers — it’s both intriguing and a bit alarming.
Adam pulls the insoles out of my size 9.5 boots, then flips a switch. “It’ll take about 8 minutes to warm up,” he says of the double pair of nylon flaps that, when heated, will wrap around the insoles and make them malleable enough to conform to my feet.
Once the insoles are warm, I slip them into a pair of size 9.5 Wicked-Witch-of-the-West-type slippers, slip my feet into the slippers, then stick each foot into compression sacks (which remind me of the apre’s-ski Moon Boots that put Tecnica on the map in the early 1970s).
Then he has me stick a foam block between my knees.
“What the …?” I begin to inquire.
“It’s just to keep your knees in place.” With that, Adam flips on a compressor that feeds air through those plastic tubes into the compression sacks. Slowly, I feel the bags tighten around my feet.

Under pressure

The pressure stabilizes at 150 and we wait another 8 minutes (or is it 3? 3 and 8 are the magic numbers in this process). I take my slippered feet out of the compression sacks, slip off the slippers and hand the insoles to Adam, who sticks them back in the boots.
Meanwhile, Adam’s been warming up a pair of gator-like wraps. I put the boots back on, Adam wraps the toasty wraps around the boots, my feet go back into the compression sacks for another 8 minutes.
“What happens if I go through all this and they don’t fit just right?” I ask.
“We’ll remold them,”says Adam. “We can remold these several times.”
“So they could be legacy boots that I could hand down to my kids?”
I’m semi serious. Though the Tecnica Forge GTX is surprisingly light, it’s also bulletproof. It’s got a tough leather upper, like my beloved Kletter boots of old, and its Vibram™ sole with Megagrip compound looks built to outlast backpacking’s Triple Crown. And while I’m not crazy about GoreTex boots, the Tecnica Forge GTX has a wrap-around tongue and is gusseted to near the top: I could walk through six inches of water easy without water getting inside, perfect for those Southern App gulleywashers when the trail does double duty as a drainage.

Time for a test drive

As promised, the fitting is over in 30 minutes. I wiggle my toes and they wiggle back. Otherwise, I can tell that my feet aren’t going anywhere they shouldn’t inside this boot. For a blister-free day on the trail — and significantly less foot-fatigue — I have, I believe, found my boot.
“Take ‘em for a walk around the store,” says Adam.
“I’ve got a better idea,” I answer.  “I’ll take ‘em for a hike.”

*The Tecnica Forge GTX is available in our: Charlottesville, Charlotte, Raleigh, Virginia Beach & Winston-Salem locations.