Brand: The North Face Gear Reviews
Model: Smedge II
“Get this all-purpose midweight and save enough money to buy some sweet merino socks—maybe several pairs,” said one tester after wearing this Gore-Tex-lined, fabric-and-leather midcut for five days in Denali National Park. The Zenith doesn’t sacrifice technical ingredients to achieve the head-turning price, and it’s even lightweight for the support. The trick? First, the asymmetrical cuff that mirrors the offset positioning of your ankle bones: It’s higher on the medial (inner) side than the lateral (outer) side, which creates the feeling—and performance—of a higher cut boot.
Second, a full-length plastic shank is nestled in the midsole. Not only does it provide excellent underfoot protection, it’s articulated under the toes to facilitate easy striding, and it wraps around the sides of the foot for bomber stability. Garmont shaved weight by threading to-the-toe lacing alternately through webbing lace loops and the leather upper, using heavier metal hardware only on the upper cuff. And when our tester jumped into Glacier Creek to chase down his partner’s dropped gear, water poured in over his boot tops, but the Zenith dried in a couple of hours.
Multiple testers applauded the roomy toebox combined with a snug-fitting midfoot. “When I cinched the lacing tight, this boot was secure even while sidehilling,” reports a California tester. Wide-spaced, low-profile lugs on the Vibram sole gave the Zenith “excellent traction on rain-slicked, ankle-twisting gravel bars and crumbly moraine when I was carrying an unwieldy, 40-pound load through Wrangell-St. Elias,” says one tester. Best for wide, higher-volume feet. $150; 3 lbs. 6 oz.; m’s 8-14