Decathlon Quechua Forclaz 500 boot review

I am (regular readers will agree) an ardent fan of lightweight trail running shoes for trekking. Yet, as a prudent trekker, I concede that certain situations do need the extra protection and comfort offered by a heavier and stiffer trekking boot.

E.g.

  1. During winters, on snow and ice, boots provide greater warmth and protection.
  2. Over sharp rocks, boots flex less than compared to shoes and thus keep feet more comfortable and better protected.
  3. In slush and over muddy trails, boots with bigger and more aggressive outsole lugs generally provide more traction than shoes.

Last September with winter approaching, I wanted a little more protection for my feet and settled for a pair of Quechua Forclaz 500 Wenge boots for treks in and around the Dhauladhars. The following features drew me to these boots.

Table Of Contents

Features

  • Traction : TPU Essensole sole with 5 mm lugs for good grip.
  • Cushioning : Full-foot PU midsole: durable and high-performance.
  • Waterproof : Breathable and waterproof Novadry® membrane keeps feet dry.
  • Stability : High upper with two hooks on top provide excellent support on any terrain.
  • Lightweight : 555 g per shoe in size 8.5

Specifications

  • Manufacturer – Decathlon (Quechua).
  • Model – Forclaz 500 Wenge (now renamed to Quechua Forclaz 100 High.
  • Colour – Brown / Grey.
  • Weight – Pair - 1121 grams for size 43 (8 1/2) on my weighing scale.
  • Outsole – Rubber with 5mm lugs.
  • Upper – Split leather and synthetic textile.
  • Price – Rs. 3499 (current price 3999).
  • Purchased on – 2015 June
  • Purchased at – Decathlon store, Zirakpur (Punjab)

First Look

Quechua Forclaz 500 Wenge is a mid-cut boot designed for trekking. These boots sit between the now-discontinued Vibram soled Forclaz 600 and the mesh topped Forclaz Fresh boots, in the Decathlon trekking boot line up. Accustomed to lightweight trail runners, at first glance I found these boots to be heavy yet built well enough to take a beating. The boot upper is a synthetic textile with a wide, split leather reinforcement that runs along the sides of the boot. Outsole tread design resembles mud-terrain tyres which led us to believe these boots would perform well in slush and mud.

A deep cut instep makes these boots compatible with snow gaiters. A plush padded tongue in the front and a padded scree collar runs around the back of the boot. Just below the scree collar, is a carrying loop cross-stitched into the reinforced back. As with most Decathlon boots in this price range, the stitching is well done. There is no loose thread or missing stitch. Another thing that caught my attention was the combo lacing system, which involves a webbing, two D rings and three hooks.

My first impression was of a substantially built but heavy boot that should excel in mud and scree.

Field Test Conditions

Over the past year I have used these boots in conditions that include

  • Winter treks in the Dhauladhars. Elevation between 1800 metres and 3000 meters over fresh snow and ice. The terrain was rocky with up to 6 inches of snow and a few patches of ice.
  • Monsoon treks in The Western Ghats with days of heavy rain and humidity between 90% to 100%. The terrain was wet rocks, sticky slush and mud interspersed with heavy vegetation.

Boot Fit (3/5)

Fit is essential for a trekking boot because poor fit increases the chance of getting a blister. Forclaz 500 is a roomy boot designed to accommodate a variety of foot shapes. The boots are especially well suited for men with broader feet and a less pronounced foot arch. Nevertheless, The boot insoles are removable and men with high arches can swap these insoles for more anatomic insoles. The boot toe box is wide and generous, and provides ample space to wriggle your toes. The heel cup is anatomic and with the correct lacing technique the heel stays well planted. A well-planted heel is a good sign for those looking to avoid painful blisters. The hybrid lacing system works well to keep the boot snug against the foot without creating any pressure points. Yet, I wish that Decathlon had integrated their excellent foot cradle design, in this boot.

The boot tongue is poorly designed. The padded tongue is excessively padded and fails to sit flush against the shin. Any lateral movement creates an ungainly gap between the foot and the boot tongue that allows scree, debris and snow to enter the boot. The padded scree collar on the back of the boot is soft and comfortable. However, this scree collar chafes against the Achilles tendon on long steep descents. I would have preferred a deeper cut in the scree collar to avoid chafing.

Note: The boots are generously sized and may not be a good fit for men with narrow feet

Versatility & Support (4/5)

Anyone who has trekked in the Dhauladhars will vouch for how edgy and rocky these trails can be. Nevertheless, the torsional rigidity and protection provided by the full-foot EVA ensured that the sharp rocks never mauled my feet. The two hook lacing system ensured that the shoe was held tight against the ankle. This extra ankle support enabled me to lug my heavy photo gear over the steep Jatkari village to Chamba descent without a hiccup. These boots feature a cut-instep which is gaiter compatible. This oft-overlooked but significant factor makes this a serious all-weather trek boot. On the downside, the hard rubber outsole robs the shoe of some cushioning and comfort. On long, sharp descent your knees will feel this lack of cushioning.

Breathability (2/5)

Despite the textile panels on the top and sides, breathability is barely adequate in these boots. This was a big problem on monsoon treks in the Western Ghats where the humidity seldom fell below 90%. This lack of breathability meant I had to take my boots off every couple of hours to get rid of the moisture. Even in low humidity, winter conditions I found that the textile panels were inadequate in getting rid of moisture accumulation due to perspiration. I am unsure if this poor breathability is due to the choice of textile lining used inside the boot or due to the proprietary Novadry® waterproof membrane.

This lack of breathability also adversely affects the dry time on occasions that I managed to get these boots wet. Normally, a wet trail runner dries off with body heat or in the worse case, it needs to left overnight to completely dry off. Yet, on multiple occasions, I noted that these soaked boots require over a day and a half to completely dry off.

Waterproof (3/5)

Decathlon India describes the Forclaz 100 High as waterproof boots. However, once you read the fine print you will realise this is not the case. These boots feature Decathlon’s proprietary waterproof membrane called Novadry® which will keep the boot dry for about 4000 flexes in light rain. In all fairness, this waterproof membrane does a fairly good job at keeping the boots dry in light rain, over small puddles and anything less than ankle-deep snow. On my winter treks I discovered that these boots would stay dry for three to four hours in less than ankle-deep snow. After three to four hours of trekking, moisture would start to seep in through the textile panels. Nevertheless, I would rate a three-hour dry stint though ankle-deep snow as good performance.

The problem with any waterproof membrane including Novadry®, is its longevity. Over the past year of use I have noticed that the level of waterproofing has degraded and these boots have become more permeable to water ingress. It is a shame Decathlon or any outdoor gear manufacturer in India does not sell a water repellent spray like Nikwax which makes restoring this waterproof coating impossible.

Grip (4/5)

The 5mm lugged Essensole® rubber on Forclaz 500 provides commendable grip on most surfaces. 5mm lugs may seem like a small step up from the 3mm lugs on Decathlon’s trail running shoes, but this increase make a significant difference in the field. The lugged outsole has biting edges along the sides and this works extremely well on rock, scree and over muddy trails. Traditionally the Achilles heel for Essensole® rubber compound has been wet rocky surface. This shortcoming is much improved in the current generation, but Vibram® rubber still trumps Essensole® when it comes to wet weather grip.

A far more serious shortcoming with these boots is that the tread is not a self-cleaning design. This means that any sticky mud that does find its way inside the tread, stays inside. This accumulated mud diminishes the lug’s ability to bite and thus makes them inefficient.

To demand a self-cleaning tread design on a sub 4000 rupee boot, may seem like nitpicking. Nevertheless, the previous generation Forclaz 500 had a much better-designed tread that was far more competent at shedding mud.

Perhaps Decathlon is aware of this limitation because the recently launched Forclaz 500 High features an updated tread pattern.

Durability (5/5)

After one year of use in rain, snow, scree, mud and everything in between I can vouch for the durability of this boot. I reckon this boot will last me another year with minimal repairs. The only signs of wear on these boots are small cuts on the outsole lugs, some frayed stitching along the sides, abraded textile on the inside of the boot and a few minuscule cracks in the split leather reinforcement.

It is important to realise that boot cleaning plays an important role in increasing their longevity and I am notoriously lax in this regard. The cracks on the leather reinforcement could have been avoided with the right boot care. Yet, considering what these boots have been put through over the last year, I have no qualms at admitting that these boots can put several boots (some costing three times as much) to shame with their build quality.

Conclusion

After using Forclaz 500 Wenge for over a year I have come to realise the reason why these boots are so well-loved in the Indian trekking fraternity. While they may not excel at any specific task, they offer performance that is “good enough” in almost every non-technical trekking scenario. You will be hard-pressed to find a pair of boots in the sub Rs. 4000 price bracket that offers so much versatility with such few cons.

In my fantasy I would love to own a pair of boots for every terrain that I trek through. However, in this real and pragmatic world, I am glad to have an option as versatile and cost-effective as Decathlon’s Quechua Forclaz 500 Wenge / Forclaz 100 High boots.

Pros

  • Great value for money.
  • Hardwearing and very durable.
  • Good grip on rocks and mud.
  • Excellent for rocky terrain.
  • Gaiter compatible.

Cons

  • Heavy.
  • Poor breathability.
  • No self-cleaning tread.
  • Poor tongue design does not sit flush against the shin.
  • Novadry coating wears off after 6 months of heavy use.
  • A hard outsole offers poor cushioning.