If you haven’t read my treatise on why boots are the vastly, inarguably superior option over trail runners, maybe start there (or listen, here). This will be a decidedly trail runner free zone. At least this month, until I try a pair of Brooks Altra Merrell Featherlight Trail Runner 3000s and declare those to be the finest trail-eating option out there and that I’ll never go back to boots again. But for now, boot and boot-ish hikers are the go-tos.
The best I’ve tried recently, and my preferred option for general, non-super technical hiking, is the new Salewa Pedroc Pro Powertex, ($200) which is a confusing, alliterative mouthful of a name for a fantastic hiking boot. And “boot” here really means a shoe with ankle covering and a wee bit more stiffness than a low-cut running shoe. The Salewa is the softest boot-style shoe I’d wear while backpacking, but, to my feet, it offers the advanced level of confidence and protection a trail runner never can.
It’s a very lightweight boot, at 13.7 ounces per shoe for a mens size 9.5. My size 12 is no doubt a smidge heavier, but these are easily the lightest ankle-covered shoes in my closet. They’re waterproof, with, thankfully, a PFC-free membrane. The outsole is a POMOCA brand multi-directional lug that are as grippy as you’d like, which makes sense because POMOCA is mostly known for its climbing skins. The uppers are ripstop that indeed cannot be abraded, and there are even kevlar cables adding stiffness and protection beneath the upper fabric material.
My feet are size 12, standard width, with minimal arches, and these are terrifically comfortable. Nice thick midsole with plenty of rebound, but not the squishy feeling I despise in typical foam-soled train runners. These don’t have the absolute burliness of leather boots (duh), nor the middleweight stoutness of the next boot on this list, but I can’t imagine hiking in anything else anytime soon. I’m smitten.
Unless I’m carrying a heavy pack or getting into some dicey scrambling in which case I’m going with my beloved Scarpa Zodiacs ($329). These are mountaineering boot meets lightweight hiking boot and they are near-perfect. Much stiffer than the Salewa, with a classic mountaineering boot lacing system and terrific underfoot support, these are the boots I wear when hiking starts to feel a little more like mountaineering. All-granite affairs with scrambling, or if I don’t really know what to expect but I know I’m at altitude, far from any help; any situation in which comfort is enhanced by ultra capable, technical shoes, this is what I wear. The uppers are a tough suede material that shrug off sharp rocks, brush, marmot teeth, etc.
They’re a touch heavier at 19 ounces per boot, but still much lighter than traditional plodders. You absolutely can’t go wrong with these, and they’re by far the best all-round hiking boots I’ve ever had. Really. But if I think I can get away with something just a little softer, I go with the Salewas.
Thing is, like most outdoor gear these days, pretty much any boot you can buy at your local mountain shop will work just fine. It’s all about picking the proper footwear for the mission. Choose wisely.
Words by Justin Housman