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August 2005

Boot Review: Five Light Hikers

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

Asolo Defender XCR
Tempted to hike in trail runners? Get the same weight savings but better support in these speedsters.

©Mitch Mandel

If you take full advantage of today’s ultralight gear, your footwear should keep pace-you don’t need big-load support if your pack rarely tops 25 pounds. These shoes excelled at the fast-and-light game, with our female tester naming them her favorite after a 3-day trek to Peru’s Machu Picchu. On a detour up neighboring peak Wayna Picchu, where one misstep on the slick, steep, and narrow trail could have been fatal, she was glad to have this boot’s agile feel and grippy Vibram tread. On descents, the in-cut heel provided good downhill braking. It’s the lightest of the bunch, but the rubber toe survived continuous battering against rocks, and the XCR liner kept out water. Just don’t push this shoe beyond its weight class: Minimal support and torsional stability resulted in floppiness when sidehilling, and gave us sore feet after carrying more than 30 pounds. The soft EVA midsole, heavily stitched mesh uppers, and thin outsole won’t enjoy the lifespan of some heavier competitors. But they’re a good choice if you mostly fastpack on trails. The medium-volume fit favors long, narrow feet.

Price: $118 (Defender); $115 (Radiant, women’s model)

Sizes: men’s 8-11 ½, 12, 13, 14; women’s, 6-10 ½, 11

Weight: 1 lb., 15 oz. (877) 888-8533;

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