Model: APEX XT
“Wearing these boots, my feet felt totally immune to the worst the Grand Canyon could dish out—rocks, blizzards, grinding sandstone, alkaline streams, gummy clay, you name it,” raves one tester. At the heart of the Baffin’s extreme protection is a super-rigid midsole, with a 5-mm-thick polyurethane shank that provides excellent off-trail stability and torsional stiffness under a heavy pack. Additional armor: An inch-and-a-half-tall rubber rand circles the entire perimeter. And a particularly tall ankle shaft—with an anatomically shaped tongue that contours around the shin—sealed out all debris, including snow and sand.
Even without a waterproof liner (a Gore-Tex model is available; $340), the water-resistant, 2.4-mm-thick nubuck upper kept feet dry during stream crossings and in light rain. Traction was the best in the test. “I plowed through everything like a tractor,” says one tester. Glove-leather lining boosts comfort and durability (fabric liners wear out over time, but dry faster). Best for high-volume feet; testers with skinny feet complained of hot spots in the forefoot. Tradeoff: Allow a full week for break-in.