There are lighter shoes better for easy trails, and there are real rock shoes that climb better. But if your day involves walking, scrambling, and even mellow climbing routes, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better pair than these. The Rock Hoppers hit this sweet spot for one UK-based tester, who used them for all of the above and recommends these approach-style shoes with pack weights up to 25 pounds. “The stiff sole helped keep me balanced on jagged rocks where a slip would have resulted in a fall into the Celtic Sea,” he said after exploring the Pembrokeshire Coast Path in Wales. “When you step on rocks wearing these, your foot stays flat instead of wrapping around them,” he says. “It makes climbing little ledges much easier, and my foot isn’t as sore at the end of the day.” That stiffness comes from the midsole, made of a thin layer of TPU and micro-EVA, which is firmer and more durable than standard EVA.
The key to the Rock Hopper’s traction is an exclusive Vibram sole with a durable sticky-rubber compound—previously used only in military boots—designed for superior grip on wet, muddy, and slippery surfaces. A flat “climbing zone” around the perimeter of the sole delivers precise edging control, while a tough rubber rand and all-suede upper provide superior protection, so our tester could jam his foot into cracks without worrying about hurting his feet.$130; 2 lbs. 2 oz. (size 44); m’s 7-12.5; milletusa.com