Patagonia & the Italian Job
Text and outdoor photos Frank Steinmann
“Mille viae ducunt hominem per saecula Romam”, spoke Alanus de Insulis (about 1120 – 1202), referring at that time to Christian Rome under the papal doctrine as a pilgrimage destination for a multitude of ancient wanderers. Depending on the disputed logistical effort, this route may have cost the lives of many historical sandals. Whether this may have been an early incentive that defines the standard that handmade Italian shoes still enjoy worldwide today, I may not quantify. In any case, one fact stands out: shoes “made in Italy” are usually exemplary for craftsmanship and quality.
This was also in the minds of the engineers at Patagonia, and so the current wading shoe model “Forra” was unceremoniously decided to be produced in Italy. As a partner, they looked for none other than the traditional brand Fitwell, which has been handcrafting footwear for alpinists since the late 70s. The company is currently a self-proclaimed 4.0 matriarchy, after the daughter Marika of the former founder Guiliano Grotto, took over the company in 2020.
Fitwell shoes are located primarily in the outdoor sector and enjoy a worldwide reputation among all the mountaineers, climbers, canyoneers, paragliders, hunters and now probably anglers too. The handmade shoes are made incorporating contemporary materials and concepts such as Cordura, Vibram, Air Move or even Prima Loft, just to name a few.
For Patagonia, as an advocate of sustainable and socially responsible production methods, the location in Italy is of course a great advantage when it comes to short delivery distances within Europe. This should also be obvious to the end consumer when they track their CO₂ footprint as wearers of the fine footwear.
Staying with the ancient and orthopedic jargon, the Achilles heel of our wading equipment is henceforth the wading shoes, respectively our waders. Stress and wear of both elements are massive and if you pay attention to the cacophonous jumble of self-proclaimed connoisseurs and testers on all sorts of platforms of the so-called social media, there is either nothing that holds up or you may gain the impression that personal brand balancing drives one or the other “professional” to promote a particular product.
Patagonia succeeded with the Danner boots a small milestone in terms of durability and quality, the price development of these prime wading shoes has leveled off in the last year also significantly more customer-friendly, so we look forward to seeing what the Forra Wading Boot, which is priced at 250 € MSRP, has to offer!
I had the opportunity to test the shoe for now 6 weeks extensively, on the one hand while fishing in the Julian Alps, which is more on the premise of leisure luxury, but also in my daily work as a freshwater ecologist in far less picturesque rivers and creeks. Of course, after this short period of time I can not make any statement regarding the longevity of the Forra Boots! Wear and tear are processes that take time, ideally relatively much of it and of course correlate with other individual factors: Body weight of the wearer, regular care and immediate drying of the shoes, to name just a few factors.
At 1162 grams, the shoes are quite light and therefore very comfortable to wear. Anyone who still mimes the globetrotter in 2022 and holds the view that long-distance travel by plane fits in well with the global climate and the proclaimed understanding of nature by an angler will of course be particularly pleased with the low weight of the shoes.
Those who cover a lot of distance while fishing, hiking, climbing, jumping from rock to rock or even combining trekking and fishing will also find their pleasure in the lightweight construction of the footwear. The relatively high shaft of the boots encloses and supports the ankle and, in combination with the Vibram sole, offers a secure feeling, especially when moving on unfamiliar terrain. The cushioning of the sole is terrific and allows for fatigue-free and gentle wading and running. The upper material of the Forra Boots is made of a robust-looking and feeling Cordura mesh, which dries quickly and does not unnecessarily soak up water, so the weight of the shoes always remains relatively low. The lacing device is variably adjustable and the associated fittings are designed to be rustproof and abrasion resistant.
The transition from the sole to the upper part of the shoes is rubberized and glued. To what extent this edge, which is probably the most stressed by the rolling in the forefoot, is a neuralgic point, will only be shown in the long-term use of the Forra Boots! The toe berm The transition from the sole to the upper part of the shoes is rubberized and glued. To what extent this edge, which is probably the strongest load marked by the movement of the forefoot, is a neuralgic point, will only be shown in the long-term use of the Forra Boots! The toe area is well protected against impacts by the also rubberized cap.
As for the design of the Forras, some may complain that the shoes seem too “unisex”, with their purple laces and the floral decoration of the Fitwell Company on the toe cap. But seriously, then just swap the laces for a neutral pair and stick some FC St. Pauli sticker on top of the flower. The cut of the shoes is contemporary and sporty, not clunky or somehow reminiscent of a Mars expedition.
Summing up, I can only conclude that I really enjoy wearing the Forra Boots and would describe them as comfortable, convenient, robust and high quality! For the already mentioned 250 € you get top notch and sustainably produced wading shoes, which actually leave nothing to be desired. Take a look for yourself at the “light Italians” and try a pair at the local dealer of your confidence, I’m sure, there is immediately some “Amore” into play.
More features about material and workmanship can be found on the Patagonia homepage.