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Saturday, September 15, 2018

Newly Arrived - Italian Handmade Moutain/Hiking Boots from Fracap! Magnifico is right!!

Having recently taken an 8-mile mountain hike in Braunbeck with the family wearing my trusty Grenson Fred brogues boots with lug soles, my wife and I decided it may be time to invest in a boot that's a bit better suited to mountain scrambling.  While I love my Grensons and they comport themselves well, they are a bit heavy and don't really have the cushion I find that I need as the hardcore mileage really begins piling up.

When even the wife, who typically just rolls her eyes and asks 'where will we ever put them all?' tells me it's time to purchase some footwear, I start shopping post haste!  My criteria for my new boots were: Super high-quality, handmade, all leather hiking boots that offer great performance and that are not too heavy as well as providing the vintage style that I love.  These criteria narrow the field of potential candidates considerably.  My search having taken me far and wide, including local outdoor sports outfitters (lightweight and high quality, but not handmade or with the correct vintage style), locally famous boot makers such as Bertl , which are handmade right here in Munich (handmade and with amazing tradition/vintage look, but far too heavy - these are for real hardcore mountaineering), and, of course, onto the internet.  During my Web searches, I found myself returning time and again to boots made by Fracap Italy (a brand as yet unknown to me).  Specifically, their M120 Magnifico Boot ticked all the boxes for me including the all-important vintage looks and relative lightweight.  I knew that I had found the ones!

Fracap was originally founded way back in 1908 by Antonio Cappello, the Cappello family has been making high-quality, handmade footwear in the same location in a small town in Puglia called Monteroni ever since.  Located in the 'heel of the boot' of Southern Italy, just a couple of kilometers to the Southwest of the larger city of Lecca,  This region contains from great history and looks to definitely worth a visit.

Fracap has a great website that allows you to essentially design and order your own custom-made boots, which they will make up for you in relatively short order.  They offer 35 colors of leather and suedes (all tanned in Italy), 4 colors of leather mid-layer, 10 different color/styles of outsole,  3 colors of heel (for ripple sole only) and 4 eyelet options, etc. right down to the laces, which results in well over 8,960 different possible combinations and I've not even included the 12 available shoe lace options. Which, if my math is correct, would result in 107,520 possibilities in just the model M120 boots.   For those among my readers that strive to have something that is totally unique, Fracap is for you - go crazy!  

For my first pair, however, I chose to order my boots from END clothing (easy purchase and fast delivery), since they had in stock just about the exact pair I would have had them build for me anyway AND they had them on sale (yes, I'm a sucker for a bargain)!!  The pair I chose is the Fracap M120 Natural Vibram Sole Scarponcino Boot in dark brown.  Although, I was also very tempted by the same version boot in Tan as well.  END Clothing has a nice selection of Fracap Boots.  If you're in Europe or the UK and don't necessarily need to have fully custom boots, I strongly recommend you check them out.


How was the arrival?  Top notch I can assure you.  My boots arrived just a few days after I place my order and I was immediately impressed by the packaging.  The box and general presentation are very well done.  Fracap has really gone to great lengths building these boots and no detail has been overlooked with the packaging and overall presentation either.  Included with my boots: correct color leather cream, three pairs of boot laces, and an extra set on in-soles, and a high-quality shoe brush.  And not to forget the heavenly scent of leather upon my opening the box!

Build Quality:
As you can see from the photos, these boots are made with the very traditional one-piece construction (just a single piece of leather is shaped over the last to form the entire upper).  This method is very difficult to execute well and more expensive in terms of leather since these leather pieces are cut so large, the quality of the leather has to be near to flawless and very uniform.  Fracap also uses only the highest quality vegetable tanned Italian tanned leathers inside and out (the boots are fulling line with beautifully soft calfskin. All this being married to your choice of 10 Vibram outsole options and using the very traditional handmade build methods makes for a boot that is built to last and to look great while doing it.  

Initial try on:
I ordered size UK 11 (US11, EU 45), which are a half size larger than I typically wear because I wanted extra room for thick socks and I certainly couldn't live with boots that were too tight.  In most instances, I wear EU size 44.5, but this size can be hard to come by so I figured I would be safest to size up a half size.  Turns out I probably would have been fine with UK size 10 (US 11, EU 44), because these have plenty of room even wearing thick socks.  I simply added the extra insoles (which just add extra comfort as well) and now they fit great!

The saw ridged outsole have a bit of a funny feeling when I first walk in them - adding a bit of spring to my step - an effect that will be welcome on-trail.   I think I've chosen the right outsole as well, as this rubber seems to be really dense and which I think should translate into very good long-term durability.

These look the business!

Initial Walking experience:
Our first family walk in the country was a relatively easy affair.  Starting with a kilometer of flat walking through our beautiful Bavarian farm country around Pei├čenberg transitioning to only a moderate climb up a well-marked trail, then more walking through farms and the natural landscapes.  We took our time stopping to pick a few apples and wild blackberries along the way and of course stopping to feed the cows:-)

From my initial kilometers walked, I can say that my feet enjoyed supreme comfort, we were walking in a drizzle to light rain most of the afternoon and my feet stayed warm and dry throughout the day.  The insoles provided just the right amount of cushion with each step

I'm looking forward to putting many more miles on these boots this fall and will update my review with a longer term update in future.  So far I can say that these boots are very well worth the investment!

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