Asolo Focus (Top)
$80; 877-888-8533; www.asolo.com
A low-cut shoe with the sole of a backpacking boot, the Focus boasts about the sturdiest foundation you can find inside 2 pounds, 4 ounces. A polyurethane midsole is topped by a fiber insole and underlined with a shallow but stiff Vibram sole. As long as your ankles don't fail, you just can't overload these shoes. Carrying a 40-pound backpack with a breeze cooling your ankles is a novel experience. Yet thanks to a nicely shaped and padded footbed, the Focuses don't feel overly rigid with a lighter load. Think of this shoe as a Humvee with the top down.
Scarpa Vento Mid (Middle)
$130; 801-278-5533; www.scarpa.net
The midheight Ventos look like dedicated hiking boots, but at 2 pounds, 8 ounces, they're lighter than most. So how do these seemingly contradictory characteristics perform? The answer comes on the trail: Despite the stiff heel and arch, which fend off sticks and stones with aplomb, the boot is airy and flexible. Great for hot-weather hiking, the fabric-and-leather uppers ventilate freely, while still guarding ankles against rocks. Just don't overload them: The aggressive look notwithstanding, you'll feel every pebble under the ball of your foot if you're carrying a pack that weighs more than 30 pounds.
Vasque Fusion GTX (Bottom)
$130; 800-224-4453; www.vasque.com
If your local mud season lasts from March to November, you need extra-waterproof footwear. Vasque's Fusion GTX has a midheight top and a Gore-Tex liner so you can wallow through the sludge with impunity. Plush ankle-bone coverage and stout uppers protect your dogs during rough-and-tumble bushwhacks. On the trail, a polyurethane midsole and fiberglass/polyurethane insole augment the ankle support. The result? A 3-pound package burly enough to handle light backpacking duty in rainforest conditions.
Asolo Focus (Top)