Salomon’s Mega Trek 6 Light GTX
Salomon Mega Trek 6 Light GTX (courtesy, REI)

What’s the best mid-weight boot out there?

I’m planning a PCT through-hike (for next year) and thinking through footwear. Everyone seems to fall into one of two cps: heavyweight leather clunkers or ultralight replace-as-you-go. What about the middle ground? Is there some sort of rigid, steel-shanked running shoe with significant underfoot cushioning that can handle this trip? Mike Boston, Massachusetts

Salomon’s Mega Trek 6 Light GTX

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Well, Mike, the trouble is that the terms “significant underfoot cushioning” and “rigid” are somewhat at odds. So, the short answer is: No, there are no trail-runners or similar types of shoes with a steel shank. Most don’t even have what you’d think of as a “shank.” At best, you’d find a polyurethane midsole in place of the slightly softer EVA.

Salomon’s Mega Trek 6 Light GTX

Salomon’s Mega Trek 6 Light GTX Salomon Mega Trek 6 Light GTX

That said, the “middle ground” is big and expanding, with lots of good shoes that qualify as full backpacking boots while extending to grateful feet much of the comfort of trail-runners and similar lightweight shoes. Asolo’s Fugitive GTX boot ($170; is a great example of this. It’s a real boot—leather uppers, Gore-Tex liners, grippy soles. But it’s so comfortable you could almost start your trip with the boots right out of the box.

Salomon’s Mega Trek 6 Light GTX boot ($140; is another fine lightweight pair of boots. Rubber rands protect your toes, while a sort of nylon exoskeleton adds support without much weight. And lastly, Scarpa’s ZG 40 GTX boot ($165; has light suede-and-leather uppers, sticky Vibram soles, and a Gore-Tex liner to keep you dry.

I can think of a million reasons why a mid-weight boot beats trail-runners for a trip such as this. Better ankle protection against roll-over and sharp rocks, better foot protection against stones and other trail bumps, better water-resistance when boulder-hopping streams—the list goes on and on. You won’t be sorry you invested in some decent boots.

The votes are in: Check out the winners of Outside‘s 2006 Gear of the Year awards, including the year’s hottest light hikers.

From Outside Magazine, April/May 2021
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Lead Photo: courtesy, REI