This all-purpose scrambler performs well on both rough rock and smooth trail. “The tread kept me from sliding on steep, loose terrain, while still providing a solid smear on slabs,” said a tester after scrambling the South Teton in these lightweights. A roomy toe box and good forefoot flex provide comfort on long approach hikes, yet the Dragontail still has plenty of sensitivity for edging or hopping across talus. The shoe has enough torsional rigidity for off-trail hiking, and underfoot support is adequate for light-load backpacking. The padded, close-fitting collar protects the ankle and keeps out debris. The sturdy leather uppers produce impressive durability for a scrambler, but they’re not as breathable as shoes with more mesh. Best for medium-volume feet. $130; 2 lbs.
Hi-Tec V-Lite Recon EV Mid
Get ankle protection in a nimble, lightweight package with this mid-cut. The Recon offers good toe room, and a close fit from the mid-foot to the heel enhances the sneakerlike performance, as does the extremely flexible midsole. After numerous hikes and trail runs, testers said the outsole stuck well on slickrock and packed-dirt trails. The eVent waterproof membrane breathes supremely well. The Recon is ideal for carrying up to about 25-pound loads in hot environments where you’ll encounter lots of stream crossings. Caveats: There’s little cushion or underfoot protection against rocks. And we saw early wear in the uppers and the EVA midsole; they won’t last long in a rough (read: off-trail) environment. Best for medium- to high-volume feet. $110; 1 lb. 14 oz.
This is one of the most versatile low-cuts we tested. After logging more than 100 miles from the Cascades to southern Idaho’s high desert, testers were unanimous: The Shellrock is light and flexible enough for dayhiking and occasional trail running, and, thanks to a well-formed heel cup and a partial shank, has the support for fastpacking with 20-25 pounds. Fit is comfortably snug from heel to midfoot, with Keen’s signature wide forefoot for maximum toe wiggling room. A zone of sticky rubber on the outsole grips well on talus and steep slabs. Downside: There’s little underfoot protection from rocks. Best for medium-volume feet. $100; 1 lb. 10 oz.
Lafuma Sky Race OT
Dayhikes and trail runs in Colorado’s Front Range proved this low-cut is a solid multi-sport shoe with excellent waterproofing from Nextec’s Outdry lining, a waterproof/breathable membrane laminated directly to the uppers. Unlike interior liners, this construction prevents the uppers from soaking up moisture–thus eliminating water weight. We submersed the shoes in a creek for five minutes and stayed totally dry inside. On the move, breathability was good but not superior to other membranes. Lafuma’s dual-lacing system allows you to adjust the forefoot fit independently from the ankle; we liked the flexibility, but had to retighten the upper lace frequently. The midsole is moderately cushioned, making the Sky Race best for dayhikes and ultralight backpacking. Best for low- to medium-volume feet. $130; 2 lbs.