Trail Ready Footwear Tested: Hiking Boots to Tackle Any Terrain
Published on 05/03/2012
By Peter Reese
Spring has officially arrived, and hiking trails everywhere are drying up and getting ready for summer. Toss last years worn out boots in the garbage; you need fresh tread if you're going to tackle every trail on your hiking hit list this year.
GARMONT VETTA HIKE GTX
Getting lightweight hiker freedom and still handle all-day trekking across technical terrain. The distinctions between boots are not readily apparent until camp is seven tough miles away – and mostly uphill. What’s inside the boot shows up in difficult terrain at trip-threatening moments like these.
Garmont’s contribution to the light-but-smart boot is the VETTA HIKE GTX. Testers were struck by two factors immediately. Number one is total foot support through the entire stride. Here, there’s no sense that the midsole construction has any weaknesses from heel strike through toe roll. Second, VETTA’s motion control shored up lateral stability on uneven and shifting trails (meaning, ankle and foot roll largely got shut down). Do these factors really matter? When pack weight exceeds 25 lbs. and the topo map has lots of lines close together, Garmont’s heritage of serious backcountry insight comes into play. Lace adjustment takes extra time on VETTA to properly tweak the fit so casual walkers and the impatient need not apply. Construction is typically Garmont, with no obvious wear points and rand, rivets, tongue and trim at premium levels. Anchored by a self-cleaning Vibram Jabba outsole, VETTA puts a guide-worthy package within reach of weekend warriors.
BOGS JAMISON BOOTS
Dance through rain, mud and highly variable conditions found in the U.S. and beyond (and well past spring). Traditional boots with membrane technology defy some conditions but can be hard to maintain.
BOGS turns the relentless waterproof-ness of a fly-fishing wader into an all-conditions mudder of a boot. Testers put the well-heeled JAMISON mid-top model to work as snow turned to slush – and vocational obligations meant working under the fluorescents without changing footwear. Of special note is the dirt-shedding sole pattern that travels across icy trails and streets with confidence. In addition, OrthoLite performance insoles keep feet traveling in solid comfort. Complete with built-in heel wedges to aid removal, JAMISON gets props for finding a new path in the footwear forest (or swamp, in some cases). For women, the BRIDGEPORT is a slick way to get started with BOGS in a low-cut, slip-on style.
Earn cash back on the Bogs Jamison Boots (Search "Bogs Jamison" for this boot)
WOLVERINE TERRAIN MID BOOT
Adjust a boot’s fit or comfort for the full spectrum of conditions. Fast packing or standing in line on Mount Whitney are worlds apart from click off sections of the Appalachian Trail or dragging your buddies to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Then there’s a quick day hike that’s more about fresh air than miles before dark.
Sometimes, Active Junky testers get thrown a brush-back pitch from a company looking to get some attention. When the TERRAIN boots arrived with a label inside the box taking about CUSTOMIZED COMFORT, the warning lights started flashing. With Wolverine’s reputation connected with sensible work boots, skeptics circled for the kill. Not so, as the synthetic heel disk created four distinct walking sensations with the “firm” setting the all-around preference. Surrounded by a rugged, waterproof boot with intelligent structure and fit, this one’s no gimmick. The lower-profile OUTLANDER is a lighter, more agile model that still carries classic Wolverine quality and, based upon our experience, the promise of happier trails ahead.
WENGER CANYONEER BOOT
Weed through the mid-distance hiking options, making sense about claims of load bearing performance, total comfort, water resistance and traction. The weight of each pair furthers confounds the outdoor athlete, with trimmed down models pushing high on pricing but shaving ounces that truly made add up over the course of a trip.
Wenger is the Swiss Army Knife company that’s out to win in the footwear and timepiece categories. Their CANYONEER, tested in brown, carries the OutDry technology forward into an easy-fitting structure. Of greatest note was the almost-shocking traction the boot attained across fractured and unstable surfaces. The flipside is the effort needed to clean the HyperGrip soles after each use. With quality materials and construction, CANYONEER is best suited to wider feet and stronger ankles with plush but moderately supportive uppers. For women (and men), the XPEDITION is a parallel choice with similar strengths, most notably the boot’s traction. One last time, now. Traction is where this one wins.
Earn cash back on the Wenger Canyoneer Boot (Search "Wenger Canyoneer" for this boot)
LOWA RENEGADE GTX MID BOOT
Mid-range hiking boots that have some chops on real trails – or where the path is a matter of improvisation. The predominance of lookalike hikers is unfortunate, as the boots Active Junky considers to be the real thing become harder to spot in heaps of GoreTex laminated, Vibram-soled models with divergent levels of wilderness performance.
Active Junky exists to make the adventure bigger, longer, better and safer. This boot is, based upon tester’s absolute and relative standards, one of the purest examples of unapologetic performance currently on the market. Powered by construction methods than turn quality components into an integrated system, RENEGADE steps it up. Available in several widths, this Lowa model responds to terrain while generating uphill power and downhill traction. Lacing, like on other models, is a strength, as is adequate comfort to ensure all-week (not simply all-day) wearability. A tongue-in-check warning to the gear fanatics out there: This is a case where the buyer gets that for which they pay. Be ready to spend and smile with the RENEGADE.