A very versatile piece of kit, the Duality GTX mid-height hiking boot from high-end Swedish outdoor specialists Haglöfs offers something genuinely different. Aside from the unique look of the boot – which some people will inevitably like more than others – the Duality comes with two interchangeable midsoles that allow you to make a choice between extra comfort or enhanced performance and protection, depending on the terrain you’re tackling. Beyond this interesting USP, however, the Duality is a handsome and decent (if expensive) three-season boot for hiking in a range of conditions and landscapes.
Made with recycled materials
Waterproof and breathable
Comfortable knitted upper prevents ingress of grit
Good heel and toe protection
Can be hard to put on
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Haglöfs Duality AT1 GTX Mid: first impressions
There’s really only one place you can start when reviewing the Haglöfs Duality AT1 GTX Mid, and that’s with the feature heavily hinted at in the name: their dual nature. These mid-height hiking hooves come with two removable, interchangeable, color-coded pairs of midsoles. But is this extra feature something that could put them up there with the best hiking boots available?
• List price: £240 (UK) / about $290
• Gender availability: Male / female
• Weight (per boot): 2lb 9.5oz / 1,180g
• Materials: Leather and recycled polyester upper, Gore-Tex membrane, algae-based Bloom Foam midsoles, high-abrasion resistance rubber outsole
• Colors: Men’s: Deep Woods & Habanero / True Black & Purple Rain / Black; Women’s: Lichen & Hibiscus Red
• Compatibility: Three-season, non-technical hiking in a range of environments and conditions, from forest paths to alpine trails
The red midsoles are designed for hiking through forests and along country and coastal paths, and the green pair are for tackling more technical terrain, potentially even alpine ascents (although these are definitely not mountaineering boots – they’re better suited to three-season, low-alpine use). The green midsoles are denser, in order to provide more protection and support in more challenging conditions, while the red midsoles are bouncier and more comfortable to wear on casual strolls.
The idea is that by investing in one (admittedly premium-priced) pair of boots, you actually get two, for use on different landscapes. In theory, you could use the red midsoles during an approach walk, and then swap to the green ones for the summit push.
I’ll go into the performance of these midsoles more below, but it’s important for people to know that there is a whole lot more to these well-designed boots than just the interchangeable inserts.
Haglöfs Duality AT1 GTX Mid: on the trails
To be perfectly honest, I suspected the interchangeable midsoles concept central to the design and appeal of the Duality GTX boots would be little more than a gimmick before I properly trail-tested these boots. Having been blown away by the performance of other pieces of high-quality kit from Swedish outdoor specialists Haglöfs, I really should have known better, but to my cynical mind it seemed like a marketing tool for pushing a very expensive pair of boots (and, full price, these are a serious investment).
I’m still not sure you can really argue that you get two pairs of boots in one here – or that the concept of an interchangeable midsole quite justifies the sky high price tag – but on test I can report that I found the distinction between the two midsoles was totally tangible, and that it did make a noticeable difference to my hiking experiences.
I’ve been walking in the Haglöfs Duality GTX boots for around a year now, across a wide range of terrain types from Welsh peaks and rugged tors on Dartmoor (where the denser, more rigid and protective midsoles have been ideal) to forest trails around Exmoor and in the Surrey Hills, and undulating sections of the South West Coast Path, all of which were made marginally more enjoyable by the additional flex and bounce offered by the red midsoles.
On occasion, out of pure curiosity, I’ve worn one green and one red midsole at the same time while out walking – an exercise that proves beyond doubt that they definitely do vary considerably in performance
So, suffice to say, the palpable difference between the midsoles is pronounced enough for me to go to the effort of changing them according to profile of the outing I have planned, and I do think the concept is as valid as it is novel. My only real criticism is that the focus on this defining feature means it overshadows some of the other credentials this brilliant boot boasts.
The upper of the Duality is constructed from supple nubuck leather with a tight-fitting, densely woven inner sock that reaches around the Achilles and extends for the full length of the laces (cutting out the need for tongue, which also means no grit or trail juice can get in).
The whole ensemble is extremely flexible and requires no breaking in – the Duality are really comfortable to wear straight out of the box. Once you’ve got them on, that is, because they can be a bit of a struggle to get your feet into, thanks to the tightness of the sock section of the boot. This tightness does lend a degree of welcome ankle support to the boot, however, so it’s worth the effort. There are also multiple finger loops on the heel of the boot to help you pull them on, which also contribute to the unique look of this model.
The whole upper is enveloped in a Gore-Tex membrane, which supplies effective breathable waterproof protection, and there are vent holes on the leather chassis, which help with the breathability of the boot.
The outsole looks a little thin from the outside, but that’s partly because of the removable midsole design. Armed with substantially reinforced toe and heel protection, these boots do look after your feet very well. The lugs aren’t super aggressive, but they do their job well, supplying grip, traction and braking control when required. The pattern – formed mainly by fairly uniform chevrons – does pick up some mud when walking in wet conditions, but it can be stamped out.
As you would expect from both the price tag and the brand name, the build quality of these Haglöfs boots is excellent. And the environmental credentials of the Duality is pretty decent too: the midsoles are made with algae-based Bloom Foam (Rise) an alternative to petroleum-based EVA, and the knitted upper, webbing and laces are all fashioned from 100% recycled polyester. The leather comes from a tannery audited by the Leather Working Group and the DWR treatment used is fluorocarbon free.
Author of Caving, Canyoning, Coasteering…, a recently released book about all kinds of outdoor adventures around Britain, Pat has spent 20 years pursuing stories involving boots, bikes, boats, beers and bruises. En route he’s canoed Canada’s Yukon River, climbed Mont Blanc and Kilimanjaro, skied and mountain biked through the Norwegian Alps, run an ultra across the roof of Mauritius, and set short-lived records for trail-running Australia’s highest peaks and New Zealand’s Great Walks. He’s authored walking guides to Devon and Dorset, and once wrote a whole book about Toilets for Lonely Planet. Follow Pat’s escapades on Strava here and instagram here.