In the West, following a delightfully wet winter, forests are lusher than they’ve been in years, and hillsides are overflowing with wildflowers and berries. Across the country, the National Park Service is celebrating its 100th birthday with a series of centennial events in our most beautiful outdoor spaces. All of which is to say that it’s a big year for hiking. Fortunately, the latest crop of trail shoes is up to the task. Diverse new models are entering the market: featherweight low-cut hikers, multipurpose boots that perform equally well on afternoon romps and weekend backpacking adventures, and supremely sturdy but silly-comfortable high-tops that are the ideal choice if this is your year to tackle the Pacific Crest Trail.
Under Armour Verge Mid GTX
Gear of the Year
In a category filled with hard-to-distinguish designs, this boot stands way, way out. It’s easier to imagine Stephen Curry rocking it on the court than seeing it on the display wall at REI. The fit is more basketball shoe than hiker, with a pliable mesh upper and welded overlays that conformed to our feet, creating a snug but not restrictive cradle. Down below, however, this is a classic hiker: a TPU shank in the midsole offers support, and a Michelin-rubber outsole with aggressive lugs gives supreme grip. We had to pay attention to foot placement on rough terrain, because the Verge doesn’t provide much protection against jagged rocks, but that’s a small compromise for a hiker that offers the best mix of comfort and agility of any we’ve ever worn.
Price $170 Weight 13.1 oz
La Sportiva Tx2
Best For: Getting to the wall.
The Test: La Sportiva really took the word approach to heart with the svelte new Tx2. The entire top of the shoe collapses, allowing it to shrink to half its size when you need to throw it in your pack and switch to a burlier boot on technical ascents. A loop on the heel clips to your harness if you’re changing into climbing shoes. On your way to the crag, rubber rands shrug off errant objects, a gummy Vibram Megagrip outsole latches onto boulders and shale fields, and an EVA midsole provides so much support, you’ll be tempted to log some real miles in it.
The Verdict: A well-thought-out approach shoe.
Price $125 Weight 9.8 oz
Chaco OutCross 4
Best For: Fording creeks.
The Test: We wouldn’t call this a water shoe—it’s more like a light hiker that doesn’t mind getting wet. If we did happen to fall off a log crossing or get stuck in the rain, the abundance of mesh ventilation enabled quick drying, so we didn’t feel bogged down for the rest of the hike. On dry trail, Chaco’s plush Luvseat PU midsole, nylon shank, and heel lock provided plenty of armor for day hikes over variable terrain with a 10- to 20-pound pack. The gusseted tongue and toe cap offered front-end protection for occasional scree scrambles.
The Verdict: A low-cut hiker with great moisture management.
Price $120 Weight 11 oz
Salewa Ultra Train
Best For: Speed records.
The Test: Part trail runner, part low-cut hiker, the Ultra Train has great ground feel, lots of bounce, and a noticeable forward roll that nudges you along the trail. One tester said he felt lazy at a normal pace and often found himself motoring close to peak heart rate. He also lauded the fit. The well-designed lacing system means you can ratchet the shoe to your foot for zero slippage without cutting off circulation. Mesh on the sides and over the toe vents steam, while a Michelin tread—based on a mountain-bike tire design—stuck to whatever it encountered, even on wet days.
The Verdict: Made for the hare, not the tortoise.
Price $139 Weight 10.2 oz
Hoka One One Tor Summit Mid WP
Best For: Climbing fourteeners.
The Test: With loads of classic Hoka cushioning, the Tor Summit is “perfect for big days of peak bagging,” reported a tester. Even after miles of scrambling up, down, and over jagged high-alpine boulder fields, he insisted that his feet never once felt beat up or worn down. The rocker profile also helped reduce fatigue during long days on smoother trails. The Vibram Megagrip outsole and five-millimeter lugs provided lots of traction on everything from wet logs to kitty-litter desert rock. The waterproof membrane protected against late-summer rainstorms.
The Verdict: All that padding has a purpose.
Price $180 Weight 1 lb
Oboz Scapegoat Mid
Best For: Long day hikes.
The Test: A workhorse build—tough synthetic leather with a reinforced rubber toe and heel guard—made this hiker punch above its weight. One tester described it as “a bigger, heavier backpacking boot hiding in a light hiker.” It was also nearly indestructible. We purposely dragged our feet across rocks and branches, but the Scapegoat came out with nary a scuff. Thankfully, it retained the playfulness of a mid-cut hiker, with plenty of spring and agility, making another tester want to put in more miles. “I swear I felt sad taking them off,” he said.
The Verdict: Mike Tyson hiding in Manny Pacquiao’s body.
Price $145 Weight 1 lb
Lowa Tiago GTX Mid
Best For: Babying your piggies.
The Test: The extremely picky tester who wore this boot was blown away by its out-of-box fit. Instead of constantly adjusting the Tiago throughout his hikes, per usual, he just pulled it on and left it alone. What’s going on? Lowa built the boot with a pliable but supportive upper, with three well-placed ankle hooks that allow you to snug the laces without crushing your foot. A proprietary squishy foam in the midsole makes for a plush ride, while a Gore-Tex liner and mid-high construction keeps feet dry and happy when the going gets wet and messy.
The Verdict: The best-fitting boot we tested.
Price $175 Weight 1.1 lbs
Salomon Quest Prime GTX
Best For: Doing it all.
The Test: This is 2016’s best multipurpose boot: great for everything from day hikes to weekend backpacking trips. That’s because it’s just burly enough in all the right ways. A medium-stiff sole lets you carry up to 40 pounds, suede construction in key spots adds heft and support, and rubber toe and heel guards provide extra foot armor. But the Prime doesn’t skimp on comfort. Hikers with finicky feet or those who want a minimal break-in period will find it easy to wear, courtesy of Salomon’s perfectly dialed-in last. (The company has made a lot of hiking and ski boots over the years.)
The Verdict: Planning multiple trips in varied terrain? This is your boot.
Price $190 Weight 1.3 lb
Garmont Tower Trek GTX
Best For: Through-hikes.
The Test: A rock-solid rubber outsole that plowed over obstacles both big and small, paired with lots and lots of ankle support (the top reaches to just under your lower calf), make this hiker ideal for long days of backpacking under heavy loads. But what really caught our reviewer’s attention was the Schoeller stretch fabric in the flex insert, tongue, and collar, which allowed the boot to cinch onto his foot for a blister-free, second-skin feel almost immediately—something that’s nearly unheard of in a boot this burly. And at 1.6 pounds, it’s also silly light for all the support it offers.
The Verdict: The most comfortable backpacking kicks on the market.
Price $330 Weight 1.6 lb
Mammut Trovat Advanced High GTX
Best For: Weeklong backcountry adventures with the family.
The Test: We spent only one summer in this hiker but feel confident that, with proper care, it’ll last through a decade’s worth of backpacking trips. Mammut didn’t concern itself with making this the lightest hiker on the market. The outer is made from a thick nubuck leather that feels like it would win a fight with your pocketknife. Underneath, a beefy, ultra-stiff Vibram sole is built to endure thousands of miles of pounding. That burly construction makes this boot supremely supportive when you’re loaded down.
The Verdict: So tough, you’ll pass it on to your kids.
Price $249 Weight 1.7 lb
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