The North Face Back-to-Berkeley Boot SE
Size: Mens 8.5
Weight per Pair (size 9): 908 grams
· Felted wool upper
· Waterproof suede mudguard
· 100g Primaloft Eco insulation
· Gusseted tongue
· OrthoLite sockliner
· Die-cut EVA midsole
· Durable TNF WinterGrip outsole with IcePick temperature-sensitive lugs
Locations Tested: Verbier, Switzerland; St. Anton, Austria; Summit County, Colorado
Days worn: 40+
The North Face Back-to-Berkeley Boot SE has an awesome (and unique) felted wool upper that gives the boot a great vintage look while still benefitting from modern materials and construction. It’s a really nice balance of tech and style, and I really dig it.
Materials / Design
The Back-to-Berkeley SE is light. That’s the first thing I noticed when I took it out of the box. Most “retro” or vintage-style boots are pretty heavy, thanks to welted construction and heavy materials. This boot is like a feather by comparison.
One of the primary places TNF saved weight is in the sole. The sole of the boot is thin and rather flexible, while still offering a decent amount of support.
The felted wool upper is soft but durable. It is not what most people would imagine when they think of a wool fabric. The fabric itself is much thinner than that found on a wool jacket that has a similar look.
The look and feel of the thickness in the fabric comes primarily from the insulation in the boot. The wool is treated with a DWR to keep your feet dry and the boots clean. Yep, DWR wool—lookout for it.
The Back-to-Berkeley SE does not have a waterproof / breathable laminate.
The BBB was not designed to be a serious hiking or mountaineering boot; it is lightweight and very flexible. It has rather thick Primaloft insulation which makes the boot quite warm, too warm for summertime hiking.
Fit / Sizing
Length-wise, my Back-to-Berkeley 8.5 feels pretty true to size. It is definitely a bit wider than I was expecting, given the slim look of the boot from the exterior.
I have a narrow foot, and the BBB is definitely wider than I need. That being said, I can still wear it quite comfortably all day.
The only qualm I have with the generic fit of this boot is the lack of arch support. (Of course, there are people who prefer a flatter insole, so if you’re into more minimalist footwear this might be a positive rather than a negative.)
The insole of the boot is just about perfectly flat, there is no arch support provided with the stock insole. I plan on putting in an aftermarket insole that will provide more arch support at some point, and I’ll update this review if there are any changes that results … other than the improved arch support, of course.
The primary features of the Back-to-Berkeley make it very conducive for casual activities in the winter. The IcePick patterned sole of the boot provides amazing traction in compact snow; it’s like having snow tires for your feet.
The lugs easily bite into hard and compact snow. The only place where they don’t greatly improve traction is on solid ice.