The Terra's soft PU midsole, gives the boot a cushy, shock-absorbing feel.

Brand: Scarpa

Model: Nangpa-La XCR

[cushy comfort]

“I was never in a rush to get these boots off my feet, even at the end of long, hard days,” says our Massachusetts-based tester, who found them ideal for hiking smooth, well-trampled trails with moderate loads (less than 35 pounds). Credit goes to the Terra’s soft PU midsole, which gives the boot a cushy, shock-absorbing feel. Typically when boot makers use PU instead of EVA, they trade the cushy, springy rebound of EVA for the long-term durability of PU. Because the PU in the Terra midsole is softer and more airy than standard, it captures the best of both worlds—the lightweight cushion of EVA and the compression resistance of a standard PU.

Plus, it’s direct-injected between the sole and the upper, so it bonds to both layers, eliminating glues and allowing designers to reduce the thickness of the sole and overall weight of the shoe. A stiff nylon layer sandwiched between the midsole and the removable footbed gives torsional rigidity and some underfoot protection from sharp rocks. But it’s not full length so don’t pick this boot for long miles on rocky trails—you’ll get sore feet. The supple nubuck leather upper (lined with Gore-Tex) battled East Coast muck and river crossings and it came out bone dry every time. It required zero break-in, and a soft foam liner in the supportive ankle cuff adds comfort.

Though the Vibram sole has low-profile lugs, they have bite: One tester crossed New York’s 40-foot-wide Verkeerder Kill Falls without slipping on wet rocks, then smeared up a rocky chute. $169; 2 lbs. 6 oz.; m’s 39-47, w’s 36-43