The rule: Big-time fortification and support means you’re stuck with a boxy, high-top boot. The exception: the Havoc Mid. The key: A stiff nylon shank extends from the ball of the foot to the back, where it curves up slightly to cup the heel. (The waterproof shoe comes in a low-cut version as well; we tested both and loved the support of the lighter model as well.)
One tester wore the Havoc on a steep, rocky trail in the Grand Canyon and reports: “The heel cradle provided great lateral stability as I stepped down ledges. The Canyon can be killer on the feet, but mine felt fresh at the end of the day.” Dense EVA pads sandwich the shank from above and below; they provided effective cushioning under the ball and shock absorption under the heel for testers carrying up to 40-pound loads. Large lugs and a sharply cut heel provide braking power and prevented slipping on mud.
The upper has breathable mesh side panels and plenty of fortification: A rubber toe guard and full-grain leather around the heel and forefoot protected our Grand Canyon testers from rocks and cactus. Our Colorado tester appreciated the extra support and water protection of the midcut as he hiked through puddles and up scree slopes on peakbagging and fishing excursions in Rocky Mountain National Park. “My ankles never felt torqued, and the Gore-Tex never leaked or felt clammy,” he says. $160; 2 lbs. 2 oz. (low-cut $150; 1 lb. 14 oz.); m’s 7-14, w’s 5-11; thenorthface.com