What’s the best all-around shoe for an active tour of Europe?
I am about to embark on a three-week backpack adventure across the European continent. I am looking to only take one pair of shoes with me, so I need something that can withstand a wide range of terrain and conditions. What is the best all-around shoe for walking through cities, hiking, climbing, backpacking, etc.? I have considered the North Face Single-Track, the Salomon XA Pro 3D Ultra GTX, and several different models from Inov-8. Am I on the right path? Robby Cleveland, TN
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Yeah, I think you are on the right track. The Salomon XA Pro 3D Ultra GTX ($140, due to the steeper-letter tax on its name) is a very competent trail runner with a Gore-Tex bootie, grippy outsoles, and good pronation control. The North Face shoe ($100) is similar minus the Gore-Tex. Inov-8 [http://www.inov-8.com/] is a fairly new company that makes a range of interesting-looking footwear, such as the Roclite 295 ($105), which has among other things a design that is supposed to cradle each metatarsal individually.
The XA Pro 3D Ultra GTXThe XA Pro 3D Ultra GTX
Thing is, these are all essentially running shoes. Fine for walking around towns and some light backpacking. But when you start mentioning climbing and backpacking, I’m not so sure. A trail runner really doesn’t give you much protection from getting soaked by a puddle or stream crossing, for one thing. And trail runners lack the ankle support and foot protection for rough terrain or big loads.
So maybe something a bit more mid-height? Salomon, for instance, makes a mid-height boot called the 3D Fastpacker Mid GTX ($150—again, that letter tax). They’re sort of a tall XA Pro, but with beefier sole construction for support and protection. They also don’t look bad, so they’ll work around town.
This past year I also wore a shoe from another newish company called Oboz. Their Yellowstone II boots ($145) are great—pretty light, but with a ruggedly built outsole. They have great traction, nylon shanks for good stability and protection, and a proprietary waterproof-breathable liner. Or try the Merrell Outland Mid ($130), another mid-high boot that sort of bridges the gap between trail runners and full backpacking boots. They’ll take you from the Spanish Steps to the Swiss Alps quite nicely.