The XA Pro 3D Ultra GTX
The XA Pro 3D Ultra GTX (courtesy, Salomon)

What’s the best pair of trail-runners to hike the AT?

I plan to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail next year, so I'm gearing up now so that I'll have time to test everything. I'm experienced, have guided, and I'm looking to go superlight. What's the best pair of trail-runners for the AT? Dave New York, NY

The XA Pro 3D Ultra GTX

Regular readers know that I am simply not a huge fan of trail-runners as hiking gear. You save a few ounces, but you cost your feet, ankles, and knees a lot in terms of wear and tear and lack of support.

The XA Pro 3D Ultra GTX The XA Pro 3D Ultra GTX

But you I’ll give some slack. You sound fit, and you no doubt know how to pack, so you’ll be OK.

Mainly, find something that fits and looks a little bit like a boot without the upper. Salomon’s XA Pro 3D Ultra GTX trail-runners ($120) are a good choice. Very sturdy, good EVA cushioning (I wish more trail-runners had polyurethane midsoles), and a Gore-Tex bootie. Salomon has a big oar in the water for endurance competitions, so they know a few things about building tough shoes.

Montrail also knows a few things. Their Hardrock trail-runners ($110) are comparable to the Salomons, minus the Gore-Tex bootie (and let’s face it, more water is apt to lap over top of shoe than leak through it). Tough midsole for foot protection, excellent tread, and good fit for most.

Last candidate? Scarpa’s Apex GTX shoes ($120). Scarpa is primarily a boot company, and the Apex is the sort of no-nonsense shoe they’re apt to make. Kind of between the Salomon and Montrail shoes in terms of features—EVA sole, Gore-Tex bootie, and sturdy uppers.

Try all three on to see what feels the best. And it wouldn’t surprise me if you’ll need two pairs, so maybe buy an extra.

Check out all trail-runner picks, and loads of other gear, in our annual Summer Buyer’s Guide.

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