Vasque Breeze LT Mid GTX ($180)
Sometimes more really is more. In a trail shoe, plush cushioning, ample armor, and sturdy support add up to maximum comfort. But the cumulative weight of all those foot-pampering features can quite literally be a drag. So when Vasque announced that it had shaved a full pound from its trail-softening Breeze—with no decline in wearability or performance—we expected big things. And the Breeze LT certainly delivers. Even devotees of low-cut trail runners flocked to this mid-height boot, which is comparably snug while offering superior traction and stability.
The advantage comes from Vibram’s new Litebase outsole, which incorporates a pliable but durable textile layer into the rubber for a base that’s up to 50 percent thinner and 30 percent lighter than those made from other compounds. The resulting shoe doesn’t qualify as a true ultralight, but it comes close, while still offering enough underfoot support to carry decidedly un-ultralight cargo; its springy insole and dual-density EVA midsole make this the all-arounder that most weekend backpackers need. “It’s super comfortable, stable, and supportive,” said a tester after off-trail hiking and scrambling in Colorado’s southern San Juan Mountains. The grip proved dependable on wet surfaces and even ice. The thin, meshy upper helped it breathe better than many waterproof boots. And the shock-absorbing construction let hikers carry 40-pound loads over nine-hour days—and still have happy feet come evening. 14 oz (men’s) / 9 oz (women’s)
Salewa Wildfire Edge ($170)
Best Peak Bagger
Tackling a fourteener, the Grand Teton, or any other rocky summit this summer? Consider this approach shoe, which hikes and scrambles equally well. There’s a stiff insole plate in front that helps with edging and grip. When the going gets technical, you can put the laces through an additional eyelet up top—it’s attached to an ankle sling that jams your foot forward for better climbing. While that sounds torturous, the shoe’s actually quite comfy, with a flexible Pomoca Speed MTN sole. 15 oz (men’s) / 13 oz (women’s)
Inov8 Roclite 345 GTX ($175)
Best Ultralight Boot
Built for runners and hikers who log high mileage on extra-rough trails, the Roclite 345 prioritizes weight savings with every feature—including the outsole, which is infused with superlight, supertough Graphene for added rebound and durability. Waterproofing comes courtesy of a Gore-Tex membrane. And the boot has a rock plate to shield against stones and roots. Fastpackers reported that the Roclite 345 supported 20-pound loads on around-the-clock missions with aplomb. 12 oz
Oboz Lynx Low ($120)
Best Day Hiker for Women
As capable as any garishly styled trail shoe, but with a muted appearance that fits right in on city sidewalks, the Lynx lets adventure travelers pack just one pair of shoes. Underfoot, the TPU plate and EVA midsole deliver enough support and shock absorption for ten-hour days on rocky trails or cobblestone streets. An airy knit upper keeps your foot from clamming up, and a lugged, sticky-rubber sole provides reliable traction. 11 oz
Garmont Dragontail Hike GTX ($220)
We like to call this our three-day-weekend backpacking boot. It isn’t stiff enough to carry a 60-pound load, but 30 pounds is no problem: the leather and synthetic upper provides ankle support, and the deep-lugged, abrasion-resistant Vibram sole handles serious terrain. Credit the Dragontail’s comfort to its wide toe box and more pliable build. When the weather turns, the high cuff and Gore-Tex liner keep your dogs dry. 1.5 lbs (men’s) / 1.3 lbs (women’s)
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