The Best Trail Shoes of 2018

(Inga Hendrickson)
Photo: Inga Hendrickson gear

The latest hikers are as cozy as they are bombproof.

trail
(Courtesy Tecnica)

Tecnica Forge GTX ($250)

You’re looking at the most comfortable hiking boot we’ve ever tested. The Forge GTX is also the first heat-moldable hiker on the market, using the same technology that gave us the custom-fit ski boot. But there’s more going on here than just luxe interiors. Tecnica gave the Forge a Gore-Tex layer to shrug off ­weather, a thick wrap cuff for support, and a burly build that offers plenty of stability and traction for serious backpacking. The rock plate stood up to hours of bushwhacking with a 60-pound pack in Colorado’s Park Range, and the fat lugs on the Vibram outsole gave us confidence on slick roots and gravelly paths. The waterproof layer kept feet dry and toasty when conditions turned slushy, even if the Forge tended to overheat on warm days. But back to that custom fit, which is the real selling point of Tecnica’s boot. Insoles and heinous break-in periods are a thing of the past, and the fitting process takes just 20 minutes at a Tecnica retailer. Even testers who don’t usually have comfort issues noted how much better the Forge hugged their foot. The boot reminded us that, in fit as in life, pretty good can always be better—sometimes a lot better. The Forge closes the gap between good and great. 1.3 lbs (men’s) / 1.1 lbs (women’s)

Men's Women's

trail
(Courtesy Five Ten)

Five Ten Access Knit ($130)

Best for day hikes

This low-cut boot mates Five Ten’s famous sticky rubber with a one-piece knitted upper that’s extremely breathable. In other words, it’s your best friend for hot day hikes in both wet and dry climes, because it excels at venting moisture and sweat. It also offers ample support to comfortably shoulder a 25-pound pack. On trips through Moab and Colorado’s high country, the extra-long tongue helped keep sand from working its way into the shoe, and Five Ten’s proprietary Stealth Phantom rubber provided stability and traction on tricky scrambles—no surprise from a company known for its climbing shoes. The rubber, wrote one tester, “grips like Velcro on rock.” 12.1 oz (men’s) / 9.7 oz (women’s)

Men's Women's

trail
(Courtesy La Sportiva)

La Sportiva Spire ($190)

Best waterproof-breathable boot

The Spire is a waterproof shoe that performs well above its pay grade. It’s light, breathable, and tough—the shoe testers said they’d don for an overnight in moderate to tough terrain. We were especially impressed with the Spire’s perforated midsole, which helped vent sweat and kept feet from soaking on hot days. And while lightweight boots start to collapse when loads get heavy, the Spire held up to weights as stout as 35 pounds, even on rooty, rock-jumbled trails deep in Colorado’s Zirkel Wilderness. A note of caution: it runs narrow, so try before you buy. 15.5 oz (men’s) / 13.1 oz (women’s)

Men's Women's

trail
(Courtesy Scarpa)

Scarpa Kailash Trek GTX ($235)

Best for heavy loads

Among the burliest trail shoes we tested this year, Scarpa’s Kailash Trek has a graduated midsole that’s stiffer in the heel and more flexible in the forefoot, giving you the support you need under a big pack without making you feel like a flat-footed robot on the trail. Testers said the midsole’s cushy front lent the Kailash the feel of a running shoe with the strength of a mountaineering boot, meaning it won’t buckle under heavy loads. The Gore-Tex waterproof membrane did its job during trail maintenance in Vermont’s Green Mountains. 1.6 lbs (men’s) / 1.3 lbs (women’s)

Men's Women's

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(Courtesy Vasque)

Vasque Mesa Trek Ultradry ($140)

Best wet-climate hiker for women

When it comes to expeditions with a chance of rain or puddles, the debate over waterproof versus venting rages on. The Mesa Trek proves that you can have it both ways. Breathable mesh throughout the instep kept clamminess at bay by reducing the amount of fabric your sweat has to fight through to escape, and Vasque’s proprietary Ultradry membrane sealed out rain and water from stream crossings. A comfortable cuff helped prevent chafing, and flexible ankle support appealed to testers who typically hike in trail-running shoes. The Mesa Trek is best for women who have narrow, low-volume feet and will appreciate not slipping out of the snug heel pocket. 1.1 lbs

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