Cross a Suburban with a BMW and you'd get the automotive version of Lowa's Jannu Lo: a smooth and fast ride anywhere. By combining a tough upper with a solid platform and then lining the inside with baby-butt-soft leather, the Jannu delivers an exquisitely plush, but armored, feel. The shoe would have earned Gear of the Year honors for that alone, but add the royal-blue exteriorLowa's antidote to hiking-footwear earth-tone monotonyand you have a shoe that stands out just as well on the sidewalk as on the trail.
Lowa Jannu Lo $125 www.lowaboots.com
1. An all-leather interior puts the Jannu in the luxury class of light hikers. Its lining feels buttery soft, like a golf glove. After a few days of wear, it conforms to your foot like a custom shoe. Leather won't dry as quickly as a synthetic liner, but in return you get the ultimate in durable comfort.
2. The Jannu is constructed with a leather commonly used in rugged mountaineering boots. The flexible fibers in the split-grain leather upper protect your foot against scree and other trail hazards and prevent the scrapes and cuts that shorten the life spans of flimsier shoes.
3. Expect an ultrasmooth ride, even on rocky trails. That's because the EVA foam in the midsole absorbs shock and cushions your foot from heel to toe. The soft zones in the heel and ball of the foot are bordered by firm polyurethane that helps stabilize the foot throughout your stride.
4. Make no mistake: This is no old-school leather stomper. Strategically placed mesh on the upper and tongue keeps weight reasonable and prevents the shoe from becoming oven-hot. Still, the Jannu's hiking-boot DNA means excellent support and stability for long days on rough terrain.
5. The durable lugs on the Vibram sole shouldn't wear down after a season or two of use, as can happen with some of the stickier rubber out there, and the toothy tread bites hard on loose dirt and rock. On steep, slippery descents, we especially liked the sole's anti-skid braking.