Most adventures don’t need heavy, hot hiking boots. A lightweight hiking shoe or trail runner can get you to the summit and be more comfortable at the same time.
To be fair, hiking shoes and trail runners are different but the line between them is getting muddier by the day. Let’s wash off those dirty shoes and look at the two styles and how they can help you knock off those long hikes in comfort.
A favorite for hikers over the last couple years, the Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX is a solid hiking shoe that can do anything. Fitting like Salomon’s popular trail runners, the X Ultra 3 goes on swiftly with the Quicklace cable system instead of laces. The GTX in the name means there’s a waterproof Gore-Tex liner to keep your feet dry.
What sets the X Ultra 3 apart from other trail shoes is its stiffness. It carries heavier loads well and protects your feet from rocky trails. There is also a plain mesh version with better ventilation and a taller waterproof boot.
Most waterproof hiking shoes are warm because the liner keeps water out but traps heat in. The Gore-Tex Surround liner, which lines the top, sides, and bottom of the Spire GTX, let’s heat and moisture out all around your feet. The secret sauce lies in the air channels in the sides of the shoe, letting air flow underneath your foot. A superfine mesh particle barrier keeps the dirt out and the air moving. Bottom lime: These are waterproof enough to stand in water, yet they breathe while you walk.
Your feet take a beating on long hikes. Every step slams your heels onto hard, uneven terrain. The Sticky Stone hiking shoes from Garmont use Double Damper technology to keep your feet happy. An outer layer of cushion prevents sharp objects from pushing through the sole while an inner layer of cushion lessens heel impact, letting you hike farther.
The Sticky Stone’s use of Vibram’s Extended sole protects the sides of your feet and the shoes. Megagrip under the toes grips rock with ease if you need to scramble a bit. Pulling the second eyelet tight under the laces pulls the Heel Lock cable tight, preventing heel blisters. The alpine fit holds your foot snug while giving toes room to breathe.
If your hike is more of an approach to some climbing or bouldering, best to opt for the Arcteryx Konseal FL. You can climb up anything with the super sticky Vibram Megagrip rubber on the sole and a flat toe to catch the small edges. The Konseals are built with the Arcteryx attention to detail. The molded toe cap and raised sidewalls protect your feet and the shoes. A hard edge on the heel helps you stop when you head downhill.
Trail runners are lighter weight than their hiking counterparts and the Challenger ATR 4 from Hoka One One is no exception. Weighing in at 9 ounces per shoe, they feel like wearing a cloud. The amount of cushioning they have feels like you’re walking on a cloud as well. The very generous cushion lets you run over any kind of surface and not even feel it.
Big lugs in the sole grip dirt and rock off-road but still rips on the pavement to get to the trails. The Challenger features Hoka’s Early Stage Meta-rocker that rocks your foot forward with each step. This quick transition keeps you moving faster on the trail.
Initially developed for endurance running, the Trailbender II by Vasque has a ton of cushion like the Hokas but with a bit more support. That arch support and high rebound in the heel help you move quickly.
Tight-knit Airmesh is very breathable but keeps the dirt and rock out. Sticky AxisGrip rubber on the sole retains traction in any kind of terrain. All the tiny plus-shaped lugs on the bottom stay free of debris and conform to the ground.
Known for their durable mountain gear and Swiss quality, Mammut also builds mountain shoes for training. The T Aegility Low is perfect for those fast hikes or trail runs. The Memo foam inside conforms to your feet as you wear them more, improving the fit, while Rolling Concept cushion and 360 Heel Support keep them comfortable and stable.
The shoes are highly vented with Mammut’s VENtech, which also helps keeps the stink down. Lace-up quickly with the speed-lace system and tuck the rest under the lace holder.
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