Outdoor Footwear Buyer’s Guide
Winter’s cold is just a forgotten memory. The grass is green, flowers are in full bloom and the forest trails are crying out for explorers to return. Footwear makers have also been busy expanding their collections for 2011 to offer hikers more choices than ever before, making it easier for you to find the right socks and shoes or boots. Here’s just a small sample of what’s to come for active outdoor men and women.
Built to stand up to difficult terrain and heavy loads, the Gorgeous is the midweight hiker from Columbia built with an injection-molded insole and metal shank for rigidity and support. The Nubuck leather upper is fortified with Omni-Tech waterproof-breathable technology for ultimate protection from the elements. A memory-foam collar and tongue provide step-in comfort that requires no breaking in, and the contoured footbed with anti-odor treatment keeps them feeling great and smelling fresh over the long haul. A non-marking Vibram outsole provides a no-slip grip on rocky trail surfaces. $130. Columbia: 800/622-6953; columbia.com.
The Hi-Tec Altitude IV Enviro WP exemplifies the company’s efforts to reduce the environmental impact of its boot construction. Altitude’s IV Enviro WP is made with vegetan leather, a recycled metal shank for foot support, a 50 percent, post-consumer recycled nylon liner and a recycled rubber outsole. Waterproof vegetan used in the full-grain leather upper reduces the amount of chemicals used in the tanning process. A moisture-wicking lining and Hi-Tec’s Ion-Mask technology keep the boots dry and comfortable in wet conditions. $135. Hi-Tec: 209/545-1111; www.hi-tec.com.
Keen, famous for its sandals, is making some fabulous trail shoes and among them is the Alamosa. Made from waterproof Nubuck leather with a breathable mesh upper, the shoe features a removable metatomical dual-density EVA footbed, torsion-stability TPU shank, dual-density, compression-molded EVA and PU midsole, and 4mm multidirectional lugs. Rugged and nimble, the Alamosa is built light to go fast.
The men’s version comes in dark shadow/ochre, slate black/rust, and black olive/picante; the women’s style is available in dark shadow/living coral, coriander/ochre and shitake/Aruba blue. The Alamosa is also available with the KEEN.DRY waterproof breathable membrane. Men’s, $110; Women’s, $100. Keen: 866/676-5336; keenfootwear.com.
The best-selling Renegade family of Lowa boots is joined in 2011 by new leather-lined (LL) versions and an array of new colors. All LOWA ATC boots are produced in Europe in LOWA-owned factories and adhere to strict European environmental standards. The Renegade GTX Mid boot features LOWA’s proprietary Monowrap frame midsole construction that wraps around the lower part of the boot’s upper for stability and support, while the PU midsole ensures shock absorption and rebound. Other features include a Nubuck leather upper, Vibram EVO outsole, waterproof and breathable GORE-TEX lining. Women’s boots are all specially lasted, featuring narrower heels and specially contoured padded tongues. $185. Lowa: 888/335-5692; lowaboots.com.
The Mountain Masochist Mid GTX is designed as a lightweight and responsive midweight hiker, with lateral and medial support for trail stability. Its mid-height articulated Neoprene collar and gusseted tongue keep trail debris from interfering with your trekking; and the webbing and strap-closure system ensures a proper fit and comfort on the trail. A GORE-TEX lining adds protection from rainy weather and wet conditions. The highly breathable hydrophobic mesh enhances the performance of the GORE-TEX bootie construction. $135. Montrail: 800/826-1598; montrail.com.
The North Face
The Hedgehog Tall III GTX XCR gives hikers a protective, waterproof and breathable GORE-TEX upper paired with a lightweight and responsive bottom with Vibram rubber. Inside, you’ll find a Northotic Pro upgraded EVA footbed with a Poron ReSource heel and forefoot cushioning pads and ESS Heal Cradle Pro support. The base of the Hedgehog uses an X-2 dual-density, compression-molded EVA midsole with Heal Cradle Pro rear foot support system. It also features an injection-molded TPU shank plate, and an exclusive lightweight Vibram rubber outsole. $130. The North Face: 888/863-1968; thenorthface.com.
A team of Timberland designers and engineers spent time on Mount Washington, the highest peak in New England, to research construction features of the Washington Summit Hiker. The result is a hiking boot designed to insulate, protect and stand tough against the elements. Its feature set includes premium full-grain waterproof leather, rustproof hardware with double-rivet lace hooks, a double padded scree collar, fully gusseted padded tongue and an anatomical contoured last with removable OrthoLite footbed. The Vibram EcoStep outsole is made from 30 percent recycled material. By using the scrap left over from cutting soles, Vibram reduces landfill waste and limits toxins. The sticky rubber outsole is incredibly durable. $140. Timberland: 888/802-9947; timberland.com.
The Scree collection offers mid- and low-height, high-performance, light hiking footwear with Vasque’s proprietary waterproofing and Stealth Rubber outsole. Stealth Rubber is considered the stickiest rubber compound available, for confident footing on uncertain terrain. A multi-density midsole offers supple heel and footbed cushioning. Gender-specific models ensure a precise and comfortable fit.
The Taku GTX boot features classic styling in a lightweight design with oiled natural leather and color. Built upon an Arc Tempo last, with a women’s-specific last in women’s sizing, dual-density EVA footbed, molded rubber toe bumper and new Vibram outsole, the Taku GTX will keep feet happy on long days. Scree, $120-$140; Taku GTX, $165. Vasque: 800/224-4453; vasque.com.
The Hatch is a low-cut trail hiker that’s lightweight and flexible. It’s outfitted with a suede and mesh upper to provide breathable stability and structure. A removable molded full-cushion OrthoLite footbed allows for additional air circulation and helps to reduce odors. Equipped with the proprietary Wolverine iCS (individual comfort system) technology, wearers can dial in personal comfort to help them stay on their feet longer. By adjusting the gel disc in the shoe’s heel, users can customize their comfort setting based on their individual needs. Offered with a 30-Day Comfort Guarantee, the Hatch is available in charcoal/kiwi, gunsmoke/scarlet and cement/royal. $125. Wolverine: 866/699-7369; wolverine.com.
Today’s hiking boots are made for all-day comfort. Waterproof, breathable materials keep your feet dry in wet and muddy spring conditions. But don’t overlook the importance of a well-constructed pair of technical socks to keep your feet comfortable and blister free on that Sunday morning push to the summit of your favorite trailhead. Blending fine, natural wools with synthetic fibers such as nylon and Spandex delivers socks that offer moisture management, temperature and odor control and ultimately let you focus on the natural world around you rather than your feet screaming for relief.
Eddie Bauer First Ascent
First Ascent is a line of expedition gear created by Eddie Bauer with input from some of the best mountain guides in the world. Made by Point 6 for Eddie Bauer, the Super Heavyweight Summit Socks offer maximum cushioning for protection and comfort during serious expeditions. Finer, stronger and more compact-spun merino wool yarns in the sock result in greater moisture management, temperature control, softness and durability. $22.50. Eddie Bauer First Ascent: 800/426-8020; eddiebauer.com/firstascent.
Featuring Injinji’s podiatrist-recommended design, the Midweight Toesock offers restriction-free movement of the five toes and eliminates skin-on-skin friction to prevent blisters and hot spots. The five-toe-sleeve design uses 360-degree cushioned knit construction in the heel and sole to provide added shock absorption and protection for sensitive feet. CoolMax freshFX fabric handles moisture management and odor control. The Toesock is available in black/charcoal and gray/white in a mini-crew length. $16. Injinji: 888/465-4654; injinji.com.
Lorpen is an international company that specializes in technical socks. In the Basque language, “lorpen” means achievement. The Hiker features three layers of yarn knit together to create a midweight hiking sock that is comfortable, durable and keeps feet dry. The first layer, closest to the skin, is made of CoolMax, a synthetic fiber that is designed to move moisture away from the skin. The middle layer is made of Tencel, a natural fiber able to hold significant amounts of moisture once it has passed through the CoolMax layer. The third layer, made of nylon, is highly durable, making the sock resilient and long lasting. The nylon fibers are concentrated in the toe, heel and shin, where the sock endures the most abrasion. $18. Lorpen: 416/335-8200; lorpen.com.
Kids should have the same choices as adults when it comes to hiking socks. The Kids Hiking Tech socks from Point6 are spun from merino wool, cushioning the foot and leg to soften the impact of rocks, offering moisture and temperature control, reducing friction and preventing blisters that can ruin a child’s fun. Merino wool is a naturally sustainable, earth-friendly fiber, too. $12. Point 6: 877/949-9665; point6.com.
The company’s Light Hiking sock features a soft underfoot, a flat knit toe seam for comfort, and a durable yet flexible heel design. It also features Dahlgren’s new patented network of
rings and channels designed to improve wicking, keeping you dry and comfortable by moving moisture up and out. The socks are an ultra-comfortable blend of alpaca, merino wool and ECO-Dri
synthetic. $17.50. Dahlgren: 888/870-1156; dahlgrenfootwear.com.
Made in the United States, the Outdoor Tech Lite is a merino wool, high-performance sock that incorporates the Goodhew Fit System for extra support in the ankle, arch and instep, and mesh zones along the foot for breathability. The fit system ensures that your sock will be bunch-free, slip-free and always stays in place. Y-Heel Construction creates a slightly deeper heel pocket, making the sock shape more anatomically correct and reducing sock slippage into the shoe. Other features include flat-toe seams and ring-toe cushioning. Available in crew and quarter styles. $20. Goodhew: 423/643-0821; goodhew.us.com.
Smartwool offers dozens of sock styles to match hiker’s technical applications and fashion aspirations. The performance characteristics of Smartwool’s Hiking Ultra Light socks make them well-suited for warm-weather use. Lightweight cushioning in the sole improves temperature and moisture management to prevent blisters and offers all-day comfort and season-long durability. Smartwool’s soft feel comes from New Zealand merino wool, a sustainable, renewable resource. Offered in mini and crew styles. Crew, $16. Smartwool: 888/879-9665; smartwool.com.