We prefer shoes and boots that are all synthetic, no leather. Although leather components in a hiking boot seem to communicate quality and durability to consumers (therefore consumers “demand” leather, according to manufacturers), we see no advantage to leather. It’s heavier, absorbs water, and stiffens and cracks when it dries out. Many manufacturers would argue that modern leathers are treated to avoid these problems, but we much prefer synthetics because they are lightweight and perform better (boot manufacturers, are you listening?).
That’s why the Keen Growler, became our favorite lightweight winter boot. It has a mostly synthetic upper, an outsole that provides good traction, a good fit, and it’s reliably waterproof. Since the Growler is now discontinued, we have been looking for a good replacement, and we found one in the New Balance 1000.
The New Balance 1000 is a lightly insulated boot that comes in men’s (left) and women’s (right) models as well as extended sizes and widths. The women’s version has a furry collar.
The New Balance 1000, introduced in fall 2010, is a lightly insulated multi-purpose boot. This would include hiking, snowshoeing, snow walking, shoveling snow, après ski, doing winter errands in town; you can even wear them to church if you’re so inclined. They are mid-height plus, so the boot surrounds the ankle and extends up the leg a bit. It’s the same height as the Keen Growler.
The New Balance 1000 is described as a multi-sport lightly insulated boot, meaning it can be used for a variety of activities in colder temperatures.
Insulation is 200g Primaloft Eco, which is sufficient for cool weather active sports, like hiking, walking, backpacking, and snowshoeing – anywhere extra warmth and traction are desired. It is not meant for really cold conditions like snow camping.
We tested men’s size 12 4E width and women’s 6.5 D width, which weigh 18.9 oz/boot (536 g) and 13.2 oz/boot (374 g) respectively, which are about the same weight as the lightest mid-height hiking boots.
The boots are fairly flexible, which is good for a general-purpose insulated boot, because the foot flexing helps to keep feet warm. A really nice feature of New Balance shoes and boots is that many models are available in extended sizes and widths, including the NB1000. I have wide feet, so I got the boots in a 4E width. The extra width provides plenty of room to wear heavy socks inside the boots for extra warmth. My advice for fitting insulated boots is to size up at least one size and add one increment of width too. Fortunately, New Balance allows you to do that, while other shoe and boot manufacturers don’t.
Other notable features include a D-ring to attach a gaiter hook at the front of the boot, a ridge on the heel to hold a snowshoe strap, soft foam padding and a gusseted tongue around the ankle area to keep snow and debris out, a lugged Vibram outsole for multi-directional traction, and a durable rand around the sides.
We tested the NB1000 in most of the activities mentioned above. In winter they are handy for doing just about anything outside where extra traction and warmth are needed. In early spring we wore them on an overnight hike to a mountain cabin, where we hiked a total of 18 miles (29 km) in them through wet snow, water, and mud. They stayed dry inside and were very comfortable to wear while hiking all day.
The rigid plastic external heel counter provides support equal to a heavier boot. For me, the heel cup was a little loose with thinner socks, but snug when wearing thicker socks.
The NB1000 is well suited for winter walking or hiking. They became our favorite footwear for frequent walks on snowpacked trails. Their 200g Primaloft Eco insulation is sufficient for active pursuits, but not enough for really cold temperatures or slower activities.
While we found the NB1000 to be perfect for winter walking, they are a bit chilly for things like snowshoeing, unless it’s a sunny warmer day, or we are pushing it as an aerobic workout. When snowshoeing with friends, it’s a workout for the person in front breaking trail, but the people plodding behind get cold feet with lightly insulated boots. A good solution is to use heated insoles, like the new rechargeable ThermoSoles, that have a wireless controller. (We will publish a review on those later on.)
New Balance states that the 1000 upper is “water-resistant and seam-sealed to keep feet dry and comfortable.” The boots do not have a waterproof-breathable membrane or bootie. We tested the boots in lots of snow, water, and mud and they did not leak. The aggressive Vibram Icetrek sole grips hardpacked snow very well. The best test of a boot’s waterproofness is to walk several hours in wet snow, which we did with the NB1000 and they stayed dry inside. This is saying a lot, because other boots with OutDry, Gore-Tex, and eVENT membranes that we have tested have wetted through during the same test.
The NB1000 weighs about 3 ounces/boot (85 g) less than the Keen Growler, which is evident when we compare the two side by side. The Growler has a more robust construction, with more durable materials and Keen’s traditional pronounced toe cap. The NB1000 reflects New Balance’s running shoe expertise, with a preference for utilizing lightweight materials to attain the same functionality. Overall, we would say that the Growler is built to withstand more rugged use and last longer, while the NB1000 will perform well but will have less longevity. The bottom line for most people is that winter shoes are worn less often and in less rugged conditions than summer hiking boots, so they will last a long time with normal use.
New Balance 1000 (left) compared with the Keen Growler (right). Both boots have solid performance and good durability, but the New Balance does it with less weight.
It’s also notable that the original Keen Growler is insulated with 200g Primaloft and has an eVENT bootie. The boots we reviewed had that configuration, and they performed exceptionally well. However, about a year later Keen switched to a proprietary insulation called KeenWarm and a proprietary membrane called KeenDry, which perform well from what we hear. The Growler is also wide in the toebox, equivalent to the NB1000 in a 4E width, so they fit me very well. No matter, the Keen Growler is discontinued, although there may still be some around in retailers’ storage rooms.
Back to the present, we feel the NB1000 is a worthy replacement for the Keen Growler as our favorite lightly insulated winter boot. It has New Balance’s DNA in their selection of lightweight materials combined with design features that maximize functionality and longevity. In other words, they are not overbuilt like the Keen Growler, rather they resemble a rugged trail runner more than a light hiker. And that is the type of lightweight footwear that we prefer. They are also a great value, about the same price as a pair of trail runners.
|Manufacturer||New Balance (http://www.newbalance.com/)|
|Year/Model||2010 Model MT1000 and WO1000|
|Type||Mid-height plus, multi-sport, lightly insulated boot|
|Insulation||200 g Primaloft Eco|
|Sizes||Men’s 7-15 in five widths
Women’s 6-12 in three widths
|Materials||Upper is water-resistant and seam sealed suede and mesh; midsole is molded
EVA, lugged Vibram outsole
|Features||200 g Primaloft Eco insulation, highly water-resistant mostly synthetic upper,
Vibram IceTrek outsole, gaiter ring, snowshoe heel strap compatible, durable
rand, dual-density foam collar, gusseted tongue, rigid external heel counter
for extra stability
|Weight||Measured Weight: 18.9 oz/boot (536 g) (Men’s 12 4E)
Manufacturer Specification: 16 oz/boot (454 g) (Men’s 9)
Measured Weight: 13.2 oz/boot (374 g) (Women’s 6.5)
Manufacturer Specification: 13.5 oz/boot (383) (Women’s 7)
Disclosure: The manufacturer provided this product to the author and/or Backpacking Light at no charge, and it is owned by the author/BPL. The author/Backpacking Light has no obligation to review this product to the manufacturer under the terms of this agreement.