Why we like it These midcut boots pack enough support for most backpacking trips, yet cost no more than most trail runners.
Support The SpHike (for “sport hiking”) has a firm plastic plate that wraps up around the sides of the thick EVA midsole and provides enough stiffness to support pack weights up to 45 pounds. “My arches felt fully supported and protected even running down rocky trails,” says one tester who wore them backpacking in Glacier National Park.
Traction The Vibram outsole’s deep, V-shaped lugs performed flawlessly on steep, muddy trails. The SpHikes’ traction helped our Glacier tester react to a backcountry emergency: He speed-hiked and ran 10 miles in three hours (while carrying a 35-pound pack) to get help for a distressed hiker (she turned out fine). “I never slipped once on the wet rocks, despite more than 3,000 feet of elevation gain and loss,” he says.
weight Don’t be deceived by the bulky look; these are remarkably light shoes. That’s because the beefy midsoles are mostly EVA, which sacrifices long-term durability for a comfortable, cushy, trail-runner-like feel. The upper is primarily mesh reinforced with thin synthetic strips from the laces to the midsole. A suede and thin rubber toecap offers protection with minimal weight penalty.
tradeoff Durability. After 100 test miles, the heel tread and suede along the lace eyelets showed significant signs of wear.
Fit The roomy fit accommodates high-volume feet best, but the effective lacing will snug the fit for narrow feet, too.
$120; 1 lb. 10 oz.; m’s 7-13; us.hi-tec.com