Our take It’s rare to see our testers unanimously agree on a shoe, but that’s what happened with the Free Hiker. “The wide toebox was so comfortable,” said one. “All the cushioning felt amazing on my knees,” said another. But the real secret weapon is a TPU midsole, which gives these sneaks bouncy ball-like energy return when you push off. We appreciated it on long hauls: “I summited Sultan Mountain via the northwest ridge on a 14-mile day with more than 3,000 feet of gain, but I ended the day with practically fresh feet,” says one Colorado tester. A one-piece, knitted synthetic upper fits like a sock (yes, you do still have to wear actual socks), and is breathable in summer temps.
The details The Free Hiker’s Conti-nental rubber outsole impressed one Colorado mountain guide. “I felt confident enough to run down a steep and muddy trail in the rain,” he said after a 17-mile trek near Cimarron Pass in the San Juan Mountains. Drawback: Two weeks of hard off-trail hiking resulted in some snags in the upper. (Performance wasn’t affected, though.)
Trail cred “I know fellow guides who resole trail runners with after-market rubber outsoles for better traction. This boot offers the same accommodating fit and cushion as a running shoe, but with better grip so that you don’t need to resole,” our guide tester says.