Hiking boots with all-leather uppers have long been the gold standard in heavy-duty backpacking footwear. Leather breathes and can be treated for water resistance, and a one-piece leather upper means fewer seams to leak. All-leather boots are also warmer than lightweight mesh models, which is an advantage in cold weather but problematic in heat. A leather boot's rugged construction usually offers ample support for carrying a heavy pack, plus good traction and a stiff sole to protect against rough terrain.
The Lowa Renegade II GTX Mid (*MSRP $220) is one of the more comfortable leather boots we evaluate, earning high praise for a comfortable fit that requires little to no break-in period. It also weighs a half-pound less per boot than other top-ranked models in this category. On the downside, the Renegade II GTX wears out faster than other leather boots, with a lifespan measured in hundreds of miles instead of thousands.
The Hi-Tec Altitude IV Waterproof (*MSRP $105) fits most people well, too, although some complain about its lack of padding. Both the Renegade II GTX and the Altitude IV can handle light loads, but reviewers say they're not supportive enough for heavy backpacking and wear out within just a few years, which is unusually fast for a leather boot.
Although the Asolo TPS 520 GV (*MSRP $290) sometimes requires a short break-in period, users ultimately describe it as the most comfortable leather boot in this report. The Power Matic 200 GV (*MSRP $300) earns high praise for comfort, too. In return for putting in the break-in time for either model, you get a durable, supportive boot that's sturdy enough to carry heavy backpacking loads but not too stiff to walk in, thanks to a curved rocker curved sole. In particular, the TPS 520 GV stands out for a track record often spanning a decade or more and upward of 1,000 trail miles.
Of all the leather boots we evaluate, the biggest weakness seems to be traction on wet surfaces. Even the Asolo TPS 520 GV gets mixed reviews for its handling on wet rock, although reviewers say recent models have improved somewhat. The very similar Power Matic 200 GV seems to slip a bit on wet surfaces, as well. The Lowa Renegade II GTX Mid does well on mud and snow, but can't measure up to the others in terms of durability and support for heavy loads. Only the Hi-Tec Altitude IV Waterproof draws praise for its traction on wet rock.
When it comes to waterproofing, however, the Gore-Tex lined Asolo TPS 520 GV and Power Matic 200 GV come out far ahead with what one expert reviewer calls "impeccable" performance. Combined with the TPS 520 GV's great durability -- we found only a few complaints about a toe delamination problem -- that's enough to vault it to first place in this category.