Merrell Millennium M2 Boot
By Glenn Randall
What shape will hiking boots take in the twenty-first century? Merrell's answer, the Millennium M2 Superlight ($150, 800-869-3348), doesn't look as radical as you might expect. Instead, the new design offers a host of more subtle refinements that add up to an incredibly rugged, lightweight (three pounds per pair), and comfortable weekend hiker.
The innovation starts at the tongues--yes, two of them. The outer tongue, filled with compression-molded EVA that diffuses pressure even when you really crank the laces tight, seals out debris. The secure inner tongue keeps the foot from slipping. Support comes from a top-grain leather upper, but several other features make the Millennium particularly sturdy. An injection-molded silicon plate underneath the lacing hardware protects your foot, and a rubber toe cap preserves that critical wear point. The sole, a joint Merrell/Vibram effort with extra-sticky rubber and aggressive lugs, grips well on both rock and dirt.
The other components, while not revolutionary, are first-class: A molded nylon insole provides torsional rigidity, a polyurethane midsole offers durability, and an air-filled heel-cushion increases shock absorption. All told, the Superlight provides the traction, stability, and support necessary to hike with difficult burdens--and they should last well into the next century.