I just bought a pair of Asolo 535 non-Gore-Tex hiking boots. I planning on hiking the John Muir Trail in early August, and I'm trying to determine if I really need boots or if I can just use running shoes. My pack weight will be right around 30 pounds. Spencer Denton, Texas
So what kind of boot is best? Asolo's 535 ($175; www.asolo.com) is a classic all-leather boot for fairly rough backpacking, and in this case might well be overkill. By the same token, I usually don't advocate super-light footwear for extended backpacking. Certainly not anything like a running shoethe EVA (or equivalent) midsole on most of those shoes is far too light to support your feet properly, even with a moderately sized pack. A good trail runner or "cross" shoe might work, however. I'd recommend something such as the Lowa Tempest II Lo ($100; www.lowaboots.com). They're a rugged low-top shoe, with a midsole of polyurethane (stiffer than EVA) and a nylon shank for stability. Salomon's GCS Pro ($90; www.salomonoutdoor.com) is an out-and-out trail runner that might make the cross to longer day hikes, too, if only for the GCS (Ground Control System) that marries two plates with a rubber spring to help the shoe mould to the underfoot terrain on the heel strike. New this summer and worth a look if you're after some lightweight, tech-packed shoes for your dogs.
Still, I think you're better off with a light hiker. These days they're nearly as comfortable as a trail runner, and that extra support can pay off. Asolo makes a nice non-Gore-Tex shoe called the Echo ($135), a fabric-and-leather hiker with just enough stiffness through the sole to protect your feet from sharp rocks and the like. Montrail's Torre ($125; www.montrail.com) is another good choicea little more leather than the Echo, and a little stiffer shank.
Try some on and see what you think. And enjoy that hike!
Check out the 2005 Gear of the Year winners in Outside's 2005 Buyer's Guide , then get yourself a copy of the issue, on newsstands now!