Big-boot stability meets approach-shoe agility in these do-everything hybrids. After off-trail canyon-country days comprised of sandy washes, baby-head-littered sidehills, and slickrock passes, one tester proclaimed, “I could cruise, climb, and descend with a 45-pound pack and never fear losing my footing, even after a storm dumped inches of snow.” The versatility alone would make these standout boots, but the universally comfortable fit puts them in a class by themselves.
Here are the four key ingredients. 1) A Y-shaped plastic exoskeleton (reinforced with a tiny steel cable) secures your heel for no-rub striding. 2) The “multi-fit footbed” (picture a thin and thick insole sandwiched together) let our testers adjust the boot’s volume by keeping or removing the thin layer. 3) To-the-toe lacing enabled testers to size the toebox to their liking and easily adjust midday, when feet swell. 4) A thin neoprene ankle collar keeps sand and debris from working into the boot and causing hot spots. A 76-year-old European gear company, Salewa is so confident in the fit system that it offers a blister-free guarantee. If your boot is sized right and “used in an appropriate manner” (pustules from running an ultramarathon in trekking boots won’t fly) and you still get a blister, you get a free exchange.
“It seems as preposterous as if Firestone issued a no-flat guarantee,” says our senior editor. “But after wear-testing three different Salewas this year—a low-top approach shoe, an alpine mountaineering boot, and these trekking boots—I’m a believer. I didn’t have a single hot spot from Rainier to Longs Peak to Capitol Reef.” Fine print: Trail-test as soon as you get the boots—the guarantee is only good for the first two weeks you own them. Waterproofing (the Gore-Tex liner didn’t leak a drop) and durability (Kevlar lines the midsole and bottom third of the boot’s suede upper) are also top-notch. $179; 2 lbs. 6 oz. (men’s 9); m’s 7-12, w’s 6-10; salewa.usA trail shoe with cutting edge design and detailed engineering. Designed for the athlete looking to attack rugged terrain with speed and aggressiveness. This shoe delivers an unsurpassed lightweight and nimble feel, and great traction on wet, muddy or dry trails.