Like a lot of hikers out there, we default to trail runners when we’re not toting big loads. But sometimes, when the terrain gets rough, it pays to have a little extra support to ward off fatigue (and twisted ankles.) These 6 pairs of boots split the difference, adding protection with minimal heft.
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Best All-Around: La Sportiva Saber GTX
The Saber’s aggressively rockered outsole and rigid midsole give it a smooth ride that makes it feel more like a sneaker than a boot. It allowed us to walk naturally, even in the rough off-trail terrain of Arch Canyon, Utah. Buy Now (Men’s and Women’s) / Read the Full Review
Best Fit: Tecnica Plasma Mid
Tecnica’s custom-fit heat-molding technology for hiking footwear debuted two years ago, and the light-yet-sturdy Plasma Mid is the best boot to use it yet. Buy Now (Men’s and Women’s) / Read the Full Review
Best Stride: Hoka One One Challenger Mid Gore-Tex
True to Hoka’s DNA, the Challenger Mid is all about underfoot comfort. Its 5-millimeter heel drop—the smallest in the test—allows your feet to remain in a neutral position while hiking, which helps stave off foot fatigue. Buy Now (Men’s and Women’s) / Read the Full Review
Most Stable: Jack Wolfskin Force Striker Texapore Mid
A TPU plate under the ball of the foot in the Force Striker helped us move confidently in uneven and rocky terrain around Mt. Whitney. Combined with a wire-support lace system and the rigid upper, it makes the boot ultraresponsive. Buy Now (Men’s and Women’s) / Read the Full Review
Most Breathable: The North Face Activist Mid FUTURELIGHT
The Activist’s Mid’s main draw is FUTURELIGHT, an electrospun, air-permeable waterproof/breathable membrane. During a rainy trip in Arizona’s Beaver Dam Mountains Wilderness, the tech kept our feet dry but ensured they never got too sweaty with temps in the 80s. Buy Now (Men’s and Women’s) / Read the Full Review