Editors' Choice 2012: Salomon Synapse Mid Hiking Boots

Fast and light and luxe: Get running-shoe comfort and hiking-boot stability.

After climbing 5,100 feet from the rock-strewn bottom of the Rio Melado valley to the snowy heights of Chile’s central Andes, one tester hailed the Synapse Mids as “the perfect blend of cushion and security in an incredibly light package.” The performance comes from the integration of several key design features. For starters, the springy EVA midsole extends out from the heel, providing a platform nearly a half-inch wider than your footprint.

That, combined with a snug synthetic upper and one-pull lacing that lock your foot in place, provides superior stability for the weight. And you still get smooth, easy striding that feels trail-runner fast. Credit a rounded heel that softens each foot strike, and the higher-than-average drop from heel to toe (14mm), which our tester says “felt like it quickened my stride.”

The large, staggered lugs flex on impact, while bands of plastic running from heel to toe snap the shoe back after toe-off, creating a rebound effect. Add a pronounced rocker—or curved sole—and the whole package combines to offer an “agile, full-speed-ahead feel.” Tightly woven mesh across much of the upper delivers hot-weather breathability, yet it still repelled grit and debris on dusty trails and bushwhacks. The absence of stiff midsole protection makes it best with moderate loads. Don’t need the ankle support? The Synapse comes in a low-cut version ($120) that ultrahiker Jennifer Pharr Davis used to set a new Appalachian Trail speed record last year. $140; 1 lb. 10 oz. (men’s 9); m’s 7-13, w’s 5-10; salomon.com