Brand: Merrell Footwear
Model: Avian Light Stretch
Need one shoe for everything from dayhikes to dog walks to peakbagging epics? Get the Scree Shield. This rugged low-cut has a simple suede upper that belies its highly evolved innards, which “have so much stability I didn’t need poles even on sloped traverses,” says one tester who used the Scree Shields while hiking the northern AT with a 35-pound pack.
Underfoot, an arch bridge embedded into the triple-density EVA* midsole provides side-to-side support and ensures that heels are perfectly centered in the heel cup. And the low-profile Vibram sole has an asymmetrical, rubber heel strike pad that made these boots stride and rebound like sneakers. “Even after summiting multiple rocky peaks in New Hampshire’s Presidentials, I still had spring in my step,” says one tester. Traction is solid, thanks to mini TPU spikes that extend from the forefoot shock plate through the sole.
The slightly asymmetrical last makes for a snug, approach-shoe fit, though it’s not too tight for all-day hiking. Smart: Flat laces thread through the tongue, keeping it centered so it effectively protects your foot from lace bite on steep downhills. $130; 1 lb. 10 oz.; m’s 7-12, w’s 5-11