Model: Aztec II
“These low-cuts handled a huge mixed bag of conditions during a two-week climbing trip in the Cascades,” says one tester. “The trip involved numerous off-trail approaches on rocky, steep terrain, including wet rocks, mud, roots, boulders, and slick logs. Through it all, they excelled in comfort, traction, support, durability, and breathability.”
A Vibram outsole dotted with suction cup-like nubs offered plenty of friction when she scrambled up rock slabs, but also gripped slick rocks during sketchy river crossings: “I was hopping across wet boulders as surefooted as a goat,” says our tester. And unlike some other sticky soles, this tread showed no wear after months of use (Salewa mixes a durable rubber compound in with the sticky stuff). The generous rubber rand and a stiff, tapered toebox allowed testers to feel secure when bouldering class 2 and 3 slickrock cliff faces in central Arizona.
The midsole, comprised of EVA foam for cushion and a TPU shank for support, “is comparable to that of a midweight backpacking boot,” notes another tester who comfortably hiked through Arizona’s Wet Beaver Creek Wilderness while carrying a 35-pound pack. Testers also appreciated the ability to dial in fit with to-the-toe laces.
A stiff heel cup attaches to an exoskeleton*: It snugs around the back of the heel and provides lateral stability across the instep. The nylon mesh upper in this non-waterproof version (also available in a Gore-Tex model, $149, pictured) was plenty breathable in 80°F temps in eastern Washington and held up to abrasion. $109; 1 lb. 14 oz.; m’s 7-13, w’s 6-11; salewa.us
*EXOSKELETON Made of stiff, molded plastic, this supportive web wraps a shoe like a protective cage, lending stability and durability (and often aiding fit).