No need for aftermarket traction devices or instep crampons with these made-for-winter trail shoes: Each sole is embedded with 16 carbide-tipped spikes (the same material that’s on the tips of your trekking poles), which bite into even the crustiest, hardest, meanest terrain. Our Alaska tester ran more than 100 miles on everything from ice and snow to rock and gravel, and never missed a step. Caveat: It’s not slippery or uncomfortable on pavement, but the crunching of the spikes gets real old real fast. And take them off before going inside and scratching the wood floor.
After 117 miles, they still look brand new. The reason? The Zeal’s abrasion-resistant nylon upper has a polyurethane coating, which shed mud and held up against months of off-trail hiking and running in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest. Tip: The polyurethane sidewalls (orange in above photo) add stiffness to the shoe, so allow for some break-in time before tackling long runs.
The Zeal has TPU arch support and a minimalist feel; the EVA midsole is thin enough to retain flexibility, but the 6mm drop means the heel is just thick enough to provide cushioning for dayhikes with a 20-pound pack.