|Femundlabben after one season of use. |
Last season, Protex A/S sponsored me with a pair of Femundlabben aka Femund Boots --- the newest dog mushing boot to hit the market. I've used the boots since February 2013 and did two races with them: the Goose Bay 150 and the Sheep Mountain 300. Here are my thoughts regarding their performance:
The Femund Boot
Protex is the same company that makes the wildly popular Polar Lobben boots, often used in conjunction with overshoes. With the new boot, Protex has modified the design of the Polar Lobben to make a boot even more suitable for dog mushers--- no curled toe, a no-slip tongue, reinforced sole, and an easy, fast lace-up system. I wear the same size Femund boot as I do regular Lobbens--- and am able to wear a full size smaller in overshoes (L to M). This makes walking, peddling --- everything--- so much easier!! I feel unbelievably light and free with this shoe system---no more clunking around in too-big overboots.
Warm feet are dry feet
To stay warm, feet need room to move and breathe. This is why boots from Protex are so warm---not because they are super insulated---but because they are made out of breathable wool. Dry feet are warm feet, and wool transports moisture away from your body. And herein lies my only concern with the Femund boot---I think the leather added to reinforce the shoe may absorb more moisture into the boot than if it were made only of wool. In comparison with the Polar boot, moisture in the Femund boot was noticeable. However, compared to bunny boots, Baffin boots, or Sorels, moisture in the Femund boot is practically a non-issue. As I understand it, the leather modification was added to address a weak point along the sole (an issue I have never experienced) and increase the overall longevity of the boot. In any case, the advantages to using the Femund boot far outweigh the one and only detraction. I had no problem on the 150, and on the 300 I was able to combat boot moisture by regularly changing socks (something I do anyway) and taking advantage of wood stoves and toyo heaters at checkpoints to dry boots. Being able to move freely and still have warm feet is a hard balance to find---and the Femund boot is the closest I've ever gotten. To top it all off, the boot is trimmed in paw print ribbon and has the beautiful blue and orange Femundløpet logo on the outside. The embroidered name is optional-- but a good idea. I fully expect more than a few mushers to jump on the Femundlabben Bandwagon -- and knowing which pair of boots in front of the woodstove is yours might come in handy ;)
Due to the round toe, there is not quite as much room in the Femund boot as there is in the Polar boot. As such, the company recommends you size up. I found this to be true; I ordered the same size I normally use in Lobbens and noticed a tighter fit. However, the boots stretched with use, which has been my previous experience with Lobbens. I can now comfortably fit two to three pairs of socks inside, but would recommend sizing up at time of purchase, as Protex suggests. With the Polar boot, I automatically size up three sizes from my regular shoe size (38 to 41). With the Femund boots I would do four sizes (38 to 42). In Norway it is quite common for mushers to size up even more to accommodate special felted wool socks (called kartanker). I have a pair of size 44 Polar boots (A men's 10 1/2 !) to use with this type of liner. However, as these felted socks are not commonly available in the US, four sizes up should be enough for most people to wear two to three layers of socks with room to spare.
I am super happy with the Femund boots and anticipate spending many thousands of miles in them next season. If all goes well, I fully expect these boots to accompany me on the 2014 Iditarod... racing from Willow to Nome !!
Femundlobben are available for purchase from Protex's web shop and are on sale (!) until December 15.