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August 2005

Boot Review: Five Light Hikers

Introducing a new breed of synthetic boots: fast, nimble, and surprisingly supportive.

Two thousand miles–nearly the length of the Appalachian Trail. That’s how far our testers walked in these midcut boots, from the desert Southwest to the North Cascades to the Swiss Alps. Our verdict: Goodbye old-school leather clunkers, hello nimble hikers. The latest synthetic materials make these shoes quick to break in and nearly as agile as trail runners, but deliver far better ankle support, waterproofing, and grit defense than their low-cut counterparts. The five boots that made our final selection are ideal for summer’s moderate-load treks and high-mileage dayhikes. Read the reviews carefully to see which pair is right for you.

Montrail Stratos XCR
The test’s most versatile shoe is the ticket for everything short of a job interview.

©Mitch Mandel

Wherever we went and whatever we did-from steep scrambles in the Rockies to soggy Northwest treks carrying 40 pounds-these shoes kept pace. The all-around performance starts with a near-perfect fit that worked for a variety of foot shapes. Add good arch support, ample toe space, and a snug, no-slip heel cup, which together took the sting out of 20-mile days. The sole’s torsional stiffness let one tester haul a moderate load across the jumbled terrain of a Swiss glacial moraine. The XCR liner kept water out when splashing through shallow streams-although, like the rest of the field, the Stratos soaked through after long periods in wet snow or drenched brush. Lacing’s what it should be: quick and secure. The outsole’s shallow lugs gripped well on loose dirt, pebbly slopes, and off-trail rock in Washington’s North Cascades, but slipped on water-slick surfaces. Rubber reinforcements buffer the toe, ankle, and heel, though one pair’s rubber showed early signs of wear, slightly delaminating from the upper. Best for medium-width, medium-volume feet. (Tip: Buy before August 1, when the price goes up $10.)

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