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FOR HIKES THAT TURN INTO RUNS Speed freaks will love this runner/hiker hybrid, which Adidas dubs an adventure shoe—we just call it fast. A cushioned, flexy sole with running DNA is just the start. The upper, constructed of mostly wide-open mesh, kept our feet ventilated even on days that topped…

Don’t settle for socks that go flat. The X-Hale Trailhead has double loops of thread at the ball, heel, and ankle, so high-impact areas won’t get crushed by miles of impact. bridgedaleusa.com…

Testers didn’t want to take this shoe off, thanks to its blend of trail-worthy guts and low-key style. The sole’s balance of support and flexibility was perfect for speedy trail hiking. And while the rubber toe cap makes it look like other approach shoes, the Paso has a wider…

THE WETTER, THE BETTER Not surprisingly, sandal maker Chaco’s first-ever light hiking shoe excels in soggy conditions. As one of our testers shimmied down a waterfall drainage, he bloodied a knee, but, thanks to a full-coverage rubber rand, the Canyonlands escaped scratch-free. The low-profile outsole provided plenty of friction as…

GO ANYWHERE, FAST If we entered a shoe in the Dakar Rally, the Storm would be the choice. It’s tough, thanks to split-grain leather and plastic reinforcements on the upper. It’s light (16 ounces per shoe), due to details like nylon instead of metal eyelets and an absence of unnecessary…

Butter. That’s the best way to describe the feel of these socks, which blend soft merino and alpaca fibers. Wicking channels at the forefoot move moisture up to the ankle, where it evaporates more easily. dahlgrenfootwear.com…

Though some manufacturers like to throw around the sexy-sounding “approach shoe” title, the CTC is no marketing gimmick. When my trip up a creekbed turned into a bouldering session, the CTC proved as nimble and grippy as a traditional climbing shoe. Wrapped in sticky rubber, the narrow toe box…

GREAT ANKLE SUPPORT In a world of Honda Elements and Subaru Outbacks, the Ranger is a Ford Bronco: old-school and well-built but certainly not flashy. The crux of this classically designed boot is the collar. Leather strips on the outer surface offer stiff resistance to ankle rolls, while the inner…

PRECISION LACING ON DEMAND Fine-tune the fit as easily as you dial up the volume on your stereo. The Vaporate’s Boa system—49 thin steel cables integrated in the shoe’s upper—bear-hugs your foot with wraparound pressure at the twist of a knob (located at the back of the heel, safe from…

Get socks that’ll outlast your shoes. These seem like they were forged rather than knitted. After a two-month pounding, the merino/nylon/Lycra socks look good as new. darntough.com…

Cheaper shoes exist, but you’ll be hard pressed to find one that beats the Prima for dollar-per-mile value. It’s light enough for a day hike and sturdy enough for a week in the Grand Canyon, and its midcut height and waterproof-breathable Gore-Tex XCR liner will handle the sloppiest edges…

BEST FOR BIG LOADS Looking for something that isn’t a clodhopper but can handle a three-day back-packing trip? The Kayland’s waterproof eVent membrane lets sweat out, while the shoe’s plastic stabilizers and EVA foam form a lightweight support structure that allowed us to carry 40-pound packs without wincing. And if…

GREEN KICKS WITH GUTS Eco-friendly shoes used to be fine for backyard lounging, not the backcountry. With its new footwear, Patagonia makes it clear such restrictions no longer apply. Here’s why. Performance: The outsole’s narrow profile and stiff edges boosted my confidence on sketchy downclimbs, while the upper’s durable leather…

These eco-socks are made with 65 percent corn-based fiber. And they work. The fabric over the toes is knitted like mesh to release heat, while a flat toe seam eliminates irritating hot spots. foxsox.com…

At 2.4 pounds per pair, this scrappy boot performs above its weight class. Made with super-sturdy nubuck and full-grain leather, the Skamania was still standing after going 12 rounds with a full pack on my back. The key is the midsole’s rigid nylon shank and molded EVA cushion, which together…

PROTECT YOUR JOINTS Can a low-cut hiker really deliver the ankle support of a high-top? Um, no. But the Camp Four comes darn close. The trick is accomplished with bands of thick PU molded to the rear of the shoe, which offered stiff resistance when my ankles tried to roll.

Weight saver: Don't be fooled by this stove's tiny dimensions. It cranks out big heat, adjusts down to a simmer, and has four serrated pot supports that are surprisingly stable for the size. A hingelike joint enables the Flex to fold flat and pack away like a deck of cards.

At six bucks a pair, these synthetic, well-padded ergonomic socks are a bargain. powersox.com…

Stripped-down light hikers can leave weekend adventurers craving a little more of everything. But, just like my pre-ramble, all-you-can-eat Southern breakfast, the Eclipse XCR fills the plate. Balancing strength and flexibility, this waterproof Gear of the Year winner made a meal of Alabama’s rugged Pinhoti Trail in a hard winter…

LEATHER GOES NEW-SCHOOL While others try to reinvent light hikers with synthetic materials, Merrell went another route: It transformed the classic leather midweight into a new breed of light hiker instead. At just over a pound apiece, the Phasers are built for light-load cruising, but the sturdy, no-nonsense construction and…

Nubuck leather, a Gore-Tex XCR liner, and midcut ankle support for $125? Snap this up before the bean counters at Aku snatch it back. You get an all-purpose hiker with aggressive traction, a near-perfect blend of cushion and stiffness, and a durable, instant-break-in upper. The tread bit into ice…

*This shoe has been discontinued by New Balance and is no longer available. 1. The 850 simply fit and felt better than all the rest. Its deep heel pocket and snug waist created a tailored fit, and the toe box never felt confining. A web of dual-density plastic sandwiched…

ONE TOUGH CUSTOMERThe Breeze Low keeps its cool in warm weather with ultrabreathable nylon mesh, deployed here on both side panels and tongue. But the Breeze is no featherweight: Bands of leather cradle the scuff-prone mesh, shielding it from abrasion, and a plastic armor plate below the midsole guards against…

LITTLE BIG BOOT A hike on the eight-mile trail to the top of Colorado’s 14,259-foot Longs Peak demands a lot out of a shoe: support, traction, durability, agility, and low weight. That’s a tall order, but the Namche carried the day, performing like a running shoe disguised as an approach…

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…

TOUGHER THAN IT LOOKS The waterproof Terrex may look like every brightly colored sneaker out there, but one of our testers proclaimed it “rugged as hell” during an off-trail scramble up Santa Fe’s ski basin. We think he was referring to the outsole’s combination of soft, grippy rubber and deep…

SPEEDY HYBRIDVector charts a course that’s swift, stable, and true. The reason? Hi-Tec injected the shoe with a hypodermic needle full of running-shoe DNA—it’s very flexible and weighs only 13 ounces. But like a heavy-duty hiking boot, the Vector proved surpris-ingly water-resistant. Bonus: A closed-mesh upper and tongue let my…

The fuel miser: It's freezing and the wind's howling—a perfect time to fire up the Reactor, which has a completely enclosed, windproof burner. The integrated pot/burner system puts the Reactor in a class by itself: It's compact, incredibly fuel-efficient, and boils a liter of water in a fast three minutes.

When the going gets tough, the tough tighten up their Enigmas. Like an up-armored light hiker, the Enigma has the body of a sneaker and a Vibram sole shaped for cruising, but it plows through mixed terrain like a Hummer. Rigid support won’t wilt under a heavy pack, and…

THE PERFECT TRAVEL HIKER We didn’t pick this shoe because it’s good-looking enough to wear to dinner. We picked it because it performs just as well as the other light hikers we chose and you won’t look like a dork walking around downtown later that evening. The mid-sole of the…

MUCK BUSTERStylewise, the most I can say about the Renegade is that, well, it won’t exactly upstage your Gap khakis. But performance is what counts, and, with a full-grain leather upper and a stiff, three-quarter shank planted beneath the polyurethane midsole, these sturdy mud-lovers hand a whuppin’ to slick roots,…

Deluxe two-burner: Are you a stealth car camper? Hide this stove in the trunk. The clamshell design is much more compact than traditional two-burner units yet unfolds into a sturdy, propane-burning stove that rivals your dad's old Coleman for performance. 4.5 lbs; coleman.com      …

Some low-cut shoes beg for mercy under the weight of a 40-pound pack. But the Passage Ventilator can bear a load, thanks to a muscled chassis that includes an injection-molded plastic plate in the midsole and a broad outsole that provides a stable platform for every step. Molded plastic…

LIGHT BUT SUPPORTIVE Take a closer look and you can see it: One solid, continuous piece of polyurethane forms the midsole and sidewall supports on the awkwardly named AL-T. Because fewer materials are needed to brace the shoe, it’s very light but still sturdy enough to wear on technical trails—or…

1. The Gore-Tex XCR–lined Sandstone has a strip of airy mesh along the tongue (where it can best release the foot’s heat) and leather/tightly woven mesh along the sides, where durability is key. The upshot: No sweaty feet or blisters—even after four back-to-back 12-mile days—and no blowouts. 2.

Ultimate versatility: The Stella+ is light enough for long-distance trips and stable enough for a big group (it'll hold a four-liter pot), plus the remote-canister design allows you to use it with an Outback Oven. Smart: The automatic-ignition switch is located far from the burner, where fingers won't get singed.

You wouldn’t expect Guinness to make anything but stout, and you shouldn’t expect Five Ten to make a shoe that can’t climb. The Prodigy has obvious rock-shoe features: sticky Stealth C4 rubber on the outsole and a profile that allows tight-quarters foot placement without pinching wide feet. The Prodigy…

LIKES IT ROUGH The Voyageur was one of several shoes that we sent to our most abusive tester. His take: They’re “as tough as beef jerky.” After several weeks of hiking, the upper’s sturdy leather hide, the rock-solid stitching, and the company’s trademark brawny toe bumper showed virtually no signs…

FIT FOR LONG DAYS Can your hiking shoes survive the airplane test? On a long journey, swollen, sweaty feet can drive you mad, but en route to Spain’s Canary Islands mine stayed cool and comfortable while I hustled through three airports and nearly 24 hours of nonstop travel. Credit plenty…

These wafer-thin socks rule for high-mileage jaunts in close-fitting shoes. With 69 percent merino, the fabric feels cool as cotton, while a dose of nylon hugs the arch like a second skin. smartwool.com…

Though it’s not billed as a trail runner, the Kota is constructed on a running-shoe last, and it shows. Racing to beat sunset, I sped down north Georgia’s Hemp Top Trail in these shoes and reached the car with no foot fatigue. Underfoot, the cleatlike tread bites the ground, while…

PREFERS TECHNICAL TRAILS The mashed-up name says it all: smear + edge = “smedge.” True to the equation, the Smedge is a serious approach shoe that won’t let you down when the trail gets vertical. Plastic overlays fortify the shoe’s mesh, so it won’t tear. And like a rock shoe,…

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