Decathlon's Quechua Forclaz 500 / Forclaz 100 High - Long term user review - Jack of all trades
Decathlon has recently renamed their Quechua Forclaz 500 Wenge boots to Forclaz 100 High. Despite this convoluted rename, these boots, now in their third iteration, remain Decathlon India’s best selling trekking boots. Extremely popular with hikers on non-technical trails, we have met many Indian hikers who swear by these boots. Yet, “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” and therefore we put these boots through our most comprehensive and gruelling gear test till date. From sea level to 3400 metres, from Himalayan winters to Ghat monsoons, and from a razor sharp rocky terrain to mud splattered trails, we have used and abused these boots over the past year to answer one simple question: “Do these boots deserve their status as India’s most popular trekking boots?” Read our comprehensive gear review to find out.
We are, as most of regular reader will agree, unashamed fans of lightweight trail running shoes for trekking. Yet, as prudent trekkers we concede that certain situations do need the extra protection and comfort offered by heavier and stiffer trekking boots. e.g.
- During winters, on snow and ice, boots provide greater warmth and protection.
- Over sharp rocks, boots flex less than compared to shoes and thus keep feet more comfortable and better protected.
- 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, we wanted a little more protection for our feet and settled for a pair of Quechua Forclaz 500 Wenge boots for our treks in and around the Dhauladhars. The following features drew us to these boots in the first place.
- 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 your 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
- 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 our weighing scale
- Outsole - Rubber with 5mm lugs
- Upper - Split leather and synthetic textile
- Price - Rs. 3499 (current price 3999)
- Purchased on - 2014 September
- Purchased at - Decathlon store, Zirakpur (Punjab)
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 we found these boots to be heavy yet built well enough to take a beating. The boot upper is 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 cut away 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 our attention was the combo lacing system, which involves a webbing, two D rings and three hooks.
Our first impression was of a substantially built albeit heavy boot that would excel in mud, scree and bushwhacking.
Field Test Conditions
Over the past one year we have used these boots in conditions that include
- Winter treks in the Dhauladhars with elevation between 1800 metres to 3000 meters over fresh snow and ice (see Triund, Snow-line café and Prashar lake winter treks). The terrain was sharp rocks with 6 inches of fresh snow and patches of ice.
- Monsoon treks in Western Ghats with days of heavy rain and humidity between 90% to 100% (see Irshalagad and Kothaligad treks). The terrain was wet rocks, sticky slush and mud interspersed with heavy vegetation.
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 non shifting 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, we wish that Decathlon had integrated their excellent foot cradle design from the Kapteren Crossover, 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. We would have preferred a more aggressive 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 didn’t maul our feet. The two hook lacing system ensured that the shoe was held tight against the ankle. This extra ankle support enabled us to lug our heavy photo gear over the steep Jatkari village to Chamba descent without a hiccup. These boots feature a cut away 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 descents over ground your knees will feel this lack of cushioning.
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 we had to take off our boots every couple of hours to get rid of the moisture. Even in low humidity, winter conditions we found that the textile panels were inadequate in getting rid of moisture accumulation due to perspiration. We are 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, but these shoes do not breathe well, period.
This lack of breathability adversely affects the dry time on occasions that we 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 we noted that these soaked boots required over a day and a half to completely dry off.
This lack of breathability also leads to poor dry times when the boots get wet. Normally if a trail runner gets wet in a stream crossing or a monsoon shower, it can be dried at an overnight halt. These boots when fully wet require more than a day to dry out from the inside.
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 our winter treks we 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, we would rate a three hour dry stint though ankle deep snow as pretty good performance.
The problem with any waterproof membrane including Novadry®, is its longevity. Over the past year of use we 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 an impossible preposition.
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.
After one year of use in rain, snow, scree, mud and everything in between we can vouch for the durability of this boot. We reckon this boot will last us 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 we are 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, we have no qualms at admitting that these boots can put several boots (some costing three times as much) to shame with their build quality.
After using Forclaz 500 Wenge for over a year we 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 offer so much versatility with such few cons.
In our fantasy world we would love to own a pair of specialised boot for every terrain that we trek through. However, in the real and pragmatic world we are glad to have an option as versatile and cost effective as Decathlon’s Quechua Forclaz 500 Wenge / Forclaz 100 High boots.
- Great value for money
- Hardwearing and very durable
- Good grip on rocks and mud
- Excellent for rocky terrain
- Gaiter compatible
- 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
- Hard outsole offers poor cushioning
Our verdict: 4/5.
Best value boots for non-technical treks (2015).
Do you own these boots? How has been your experience, and do you agree with our conclusions? Let us know in the comments below.