Adidas Cloudcap XCR
For steep slopes with iffy footing, Rocky Mountain editor Steve Howe usually prefers boots with stiff edges and high-cut ankle protection. But after wearing these nimble midcuts on a 3-day winter trip through Utah's canyonlands, he's making an exception. "By far my favorite midweight boots," he says. "They're stable, weatherproof, and cushy enough for daily trail runs--and even the occasional asphalt jog." Much of that stability and cushioning is due to its GCS (Ground Control System) heel construction, an innovation that earned cousin company Salomon an Editors' Choice Award in 2005. Internal springs disperse the shock from footfalls, especially awkward ones, and even on steep slickrock, the wide outsoles resist rolling over. Of course, it doesn't hurt that the Cloudcap has an aggressive tread made from a rubber that was grippy enough for the slipperiest of Sulphur Creek's slot-canyon boulders. The Gore-Tex XCR liner and full tongue gusset wards off wet snow and and water from stream crossings with ease, and the well-padded upper repels ankle-biter rocks, sand, and grit. Bottom line: An excellent choice for fast and light trips, with the protection you need for loaded travels on or off trail, all at a running-shoe weight. $145; men's 6-131/2, 14; 2 lbs. 2 oz. (men's 9); (800) 448-1796; www.adidas.com.
When two veteran testers told us that these were the most comfortable light hikers they'd ever worn, we took notice. The Nasty is a runnable low-cut that grips granite and scrambles up rocky hills like a mountain goat. Unlike many lightweights, it has soles with rounded instead of squared-off edges to prevent excessive pronation and supination. We thought the rounded soles might lead to rolled ankles, but testers instead reported that their feet felt liberated--with more natural flex and range of motion. The sole is made up of four separate sections, a construction that reduces weight and provides support, protection, and stability in all the right places. Studded rubber toe bumpers and heel cups grabbed trail features at any angle. Rubber lugs in the arches gripped on rounded surfaces like logs. The synthetic uppers cradled testers' feet without pressure, and the asymmetric lacing system, which drops the lace path to the side of the foot for comfort and security, won praise. Best for wider feet. $100; men's 8-121/2, 13, 14; women's 51/2-101/2, 11; 1 lb. 11 oz. (men's 81/2); (800) 943-4453; www.garmontusa.com.