This sprawling review (co-written with Jakob Schiller) evaluated 2019’s new hiking footwear to select the five best models—including “Gear of the Year.”
Vasque Breeze LT Mid GTX, $170
Sometimes more really is more. In a trail shoe, plush cushioning, ample armor, and sturdy support add up to maximum comfort. But the cumulative weight of all those foot-pampering features can quite literally be a drag. So when Vasque announced that it had shaved a full pound from its trail-softening Breeze—with no decline in wearability or performance—we expected big things. And the Breeze LT certainly delivers. Even devotees of low-cut trail runners flocked to this mid-height boot, which is comparably snug while offering superior traction and stability.
The advantage comes from Vibram’s new Litebase outsole, which incorporates a pliable but durable textile layer into the rubber for a base that’s up to 50 percent thinner and 30 percent lighter than those made from other compounds. The resulting shoe doesn’t qualify as a true ultralight, but it comes close, while still offering enough underfoot support to carry decidedly un-ultralight cargo; its springy insole and dual-density EVA midsole make this the all-arounder that most weekend backpackers need. “It’s super comfortable, stable, and supportive,” said a tester after off-trail hiking and scrambling in Colorado’s southern San Juan Mountains. The grip proved dependable on wet surfaces and even ice. The thin, meshy upper helped it breathe better than many waterproof boots. And the shock-absorbing construction let hikers carry 40-pound loads over nine-hour days—and still have happy feet come evening. 14 oz (men’s) / 9 oz (women’s)