State of the Art

Light Hikers

May 15, 2006
Outside Magazine

Even light hikers need stiffeners in the sole; these plates act like a secondary skeleton to support your foot's 26 bones. But the steel shanks of yesterday's wafflestompers are long gone, replaced by updated designs—using various combinations of pliable foam and lightweight synthetic plates—that create unique blends of flex, cushion, stability, and protection. The best new midsoles reflect the way these shoes are really used: to hike fast, scramble up peaks, and stroll to the pub.

Variations in lasts—the forms around which shoes are shaped—make it hard to always achieve perfect fit. But hiking-shoe manufacturers have taken a page from snowboard boots, which use thin steel cables—called the Boa lacing system—that snake through the guts of the shoe and wrap your foot for an otherworldly snug fit. After testing, we deemed prototypes not yet ready for prime time, but expect to see refined versions soon.

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