(Inga Hendrickson)
2021 Summer Buyer’s Guide

The Best Hiking Shoes of 2021

Your foot’s one true love is finally here


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The North Face Vectiv Exploris Mid Futurelight ($169)

(Courtesy The North Face)

Performance advantages have always come with trade-offs. Want stability? You’ll need to sacrifice agility. Need waterproofing? Expect sweatier feet. Trim weight, and you’ll forfeit protection. But the Vectiv Exploris changes that calculus, stacking benefits like stability, traction, and ventilation, all in a single appealingly light mid-height boot. Underfoot, designers paired a high-rebound rockered EVA midsole with a TPU support plate that has sidewalls to cradle the heel and forefoot. The result offers both the propulsive feel of a running shoe and the lateral support hikers need on rugged, uneven terrain. Our team barely registered the foot-pummeling rocks of Colorado’s Park Range. “I feel fast,” one tester announced. Another reported that “turning an ankle seems like an impossibility— that’s how stable this boot is.” The design eliminates the need for a rigid cuff. Instead, the Vectiv’s collar is soft and hugs the ankle to keep out debris. Grip is excellent, too: the bottom lugs conform to rough terrain. At the same time, a smooth pad at the back end of the outsole improves the transition from heel to toe. The upper—ultralight, ultratough Cordura ripstop fabric with TPU overlays—stood strong against sharp talus. Even ventilation is standout, thanks to Futurelight, the North Face’s proprietary air-permeable waterproof membrane. It expels vapor before it condenses into water, keeping feet drier than most other boots designed for foul weather. 14.7 oz (men’s) / 13 oz (women’s)

Men’s Women’s

Danner Trail 2650 Campo ($140)

(Courtesy Danner)

Best for Hot Days

“As comfy as going barefoot, only cushier,” reported one hiker after wearing this quick-drying breathable shoe through scorching desert and waterlogged marshes. The linerless upper foils clamminess by reducing the number of layers that sweat must push through. (It also sacrifices insulation, making this a dedicated warm-weather tool.) Ultrafine mesh adds ventilation, but it’s shingled to keep out debris, so the shoe won’t fill with grit as many similar low-cut light hikers do. Meanwhile, drainage ports in the light EVA midsole oust water. Stack that system atop a protective TPU plate and a Vibram Megagrip rubber outsole, and you get a stable platform that’s ready for punishing terrain. 11 oz (men’s) / 9 oz (women’s)

Men’s Women’s

Vasque Satoru Trail LT Low ($150)

(Courtesy Vasque)

Best for Going from Office to Trail

Marie Kondo would approve of these shoes. They pull double duty and therefore simplify your life. Bold color-blocked mesh uppers make them stylish enough to wear with jeans to work or dinner, but they also have strong outdoor chops for weekend and after-work adventures. An aggressive hiking-boot-style sole grips rocky terrain, while the TPU mesh upper is breathable enough for peak summer and protective enough for short bushwhacks or scrambles. The EVA midsole and bouncy footbed made of open-cell polyurethane kept our feet happy on outings as long as eight miles. 1.25 lbs (men’s) / 1.06 lbs (women’s)

Men’s Women’s

Lowa Taurus Pro GTX Mid ($180)

(Courtesy Lowa)

Best for Backpacking

Go ahead, pack the camp chairs and chardonnay. This boot is light but burly, and it’s supportive enough to carry luxury-laden loads into the backcountry. A leather overlay at the ankle joint provides support without stiffening the cuff, which is soft for all-day comfort, while a springy, polyurethane-injected midsole and full-length nylon shank add stability underfoot. Thin nylon in the upper improves breathability beyond many Gore- Tex models, and the rubber lugs are like Spider-Man’s fingertips on wet and dry trails alike. Optimized lasts for men and women mean the fit is dialed. 1.1 lbs (men’s) / 14.5 oz (women’s)

Men’s Women’s

Tecnica Magma ($140)

(Courtesy Tecnica)

Best for Running and Hiking

Lots of people hike in trail-running shoes because they’re comfortable. But doing so sacrifices support, which means your feet can get beat up over time. Enter the Magma, which perfectly bridges that gap. These svelte kicks had us feeling fast and light on our feet. But a meaty outsole, polyurethane shank, and forefoot rock plate offer so much grip, stability, and protection that we weren’t afraid to bash around on challenging trails. It’s perfectly suited for a mellow afternoon hike, but you’ll also be happy taking it Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim across the Grand Canyon or scrambling up one of Colorado’s more technical fourteeners. 11.3 oz (men’s) / 9.5 oz (women’s)

Men’s Women’s

Columbia Escape Summit OutDry ($150)

(Courtesy Columbia)

Best for Wet Hikes

We’ve long been fans of Columbia’s waterproof technology in jackets, because it keeps precipitation out and moves internal moisture exceptionally well. Turns out it also excels in midcut hiking boots. In hot, wet conditions, the Summit breathed better than anything else in our test. We raced up trails during muggy New Mexico monsoons and were flabbergasted by how well the membrane pulled sweat off our feet, keeping them dry and blister-free. That tech is bolstered by a seamless mesh upper, which airs out fast and fits like a glove around the forefoot and ankle. A wide, well-padded heel boosts stability and cuts down on fatigue. 13 oz (men’s) / 10.7 oz (women’s)

Men’s Women’s

Oboz Sypes Mid Leather B-Dry ($165)

(Courtesy Oboz)

Best for Sustainability

Oboz makes what we’d call archetypal boots: ones that are comfortable out of the box, capable on a wide variety of terrain, and rugged enough to put up with years of hard abuse. That balance has landed the brand in the Buyer’s Guide before. This year’s offering is just as well made as those we’ve loved before. Even better, it also uses environmentally friendly materials, including a tough reinforcement strip at the heel collar made from repurposed Cordura and a surprisingly supportive insole made largely out of algae. On the trail, it’s comfortably stable and protective, without unnecessary clunk or bulk—perfect for long days on rugged terrain. 16.6 oz (men’s) / 13.8 oz. (women’s)

Men’s Women’s

From Summer 2021 Buyer’s Guide Lead Photo: Inga Hendrickson

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