The Drifter nails the sweet spot in this category, matching bootlike support and protection with trail-runner shock absorption and weight. “The springy cushion lasted through 20-mile days, day after day,” says one ranger. Another tester reported no foot fatigue after carrying a 50-pound load. The secret is the Drifter’s five-layer sole package. It starts with a removable polyurethane (PU) and cork footbed, followed by a midsole of spongy EVA foam.
A stiff plastic lasting board runs from heel to ball; it provides underfoot protection from craggy trails, as well as enough stiffness to prevent feet from over-flexing (a common light-shoe problem that leads to foot fatigue on long days). Layer four is more shock-absorbing, compression-molded EVA, and it’s finished off by a knobby-lugged Vibram outsole.
“I carried a guy 5,000 feet up a muddy Bright Angel Trail in a rescue litter,” reports one ranger. “Despite the awkward load and sketchy conditions, I felt sure-footed.” The 2-mm-thick nubuck leather and mesh upper is augmented with an external rubber cup that cradles the heel and a rubber toe rand that protects from abrasion. “The toebox has plenty of room, which is key on long descents,” says one tester. Gripe: Fine sand works its way through the mesh upper.