www.kahtoola.com, 12.7 ounces (medium size)
Aside from the “basic” of hiking (boots, back pack, poles, etc.) I would highly recommend and encourage others to carry a sturdy pair of micro-spikes. I live and hike extensively in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and from September to June there are a staple of my hiking equipment. I wish I had a dollar for everyone that I’ve met on the trails that have encountered icy conditions and were in need of a pair of micro-spikes. I have even had offers of cash and equipment trades on the trail for them. They are an invaluable aid to hiking, trekking, and climbing on ice-covered rocky conditions, and have saved me from many, many falls. They size between XS to XL, with corresponding shoe-size designations—and they fit like a dream. Just stretch them over your shoe or boot, and you’ve got instant, secure traction on snow, ice, and scree.
-Jeffrey W. Shutak
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www.kahtoola.com, 12.7 ounces (medium size)
Retro is in, and there’s no style that harks back to the groovy ’70s like Moon Boots. Designed 41 years ago as a tribute to man’s ability to walk on the moon, the boots are a colorful celebration of the footwear those early space pioneers wore. While these boots aren’t designed for hiking or technical performance (there’s no left or right and they are designed to fit loosely) they do keep your feet warm. On the outside is colorful nylon; inside is insulating polyurethane foam. Our tester, a 12-year-old alpine ski racer who logs 100-plus days a year on the slopes, loves them for post and après wear. They are easy to don and doff, and provide the comfort of bedroom slippers while carrying gear from car to lodge, or sitting by the fire after an afternoon of ice skating. While the soles are flat, the footbed is thick and spongy, adding about an inch to anyone’s height.
When the Exhales arrived on our doorstep, we weren’t sure what to make of their puffy profile. The upper has ribbed baffles like a puffy down coat. Inside is a lamb-soft fleece. “Are they slippers or shoes?” we asked. The answer is both. A soft ripstop-nylon encases mega-warm synthetic insulation; on the inside is a fluffy synthetic fleece. After we got past the somewhat dorky appearance and convinced ourselves that we were space-aged trendsetters, these shoes became our go-to après ski and camp shoes. Our testers wore them in sub-digit temps and reported warm toes every time. The rubber outsole is durable enough to hike and stroll the town in—but the best use for these shoes is hanging out in a hut, tent, or campside, resting your dogs after a long day in less-kind footwear. A suede rand protects the toes and forefoot in high-wear areas. The upper has a water-resistant DWR coating, so if you’re sipping morning Joe and feel compelled to fetch the paper, snow squalls and occasional puddle crossings won’t impede your progress. Sole makes some of the best after-market footbeds on the planet. They’ve used their proprietary footbed for the Exhales—plus added a Polygiene finish (which helps to combat foot odor). As you wear the shoes, the footbed molds to the peculiarities of your foot. Bonus feature: The heel is designed to fold down, so you can wear these kicks as backless slippers (think super-soft clogs), and the pack wonderfully well.
If your favorite pair of sneakers joined forces with a pair of winter mountaineering boots, the Chesterman Chukkas would likely be their talented offspring. The look is decidedly skate-punk, with a chunky sole, loose lacing, and mid-ankle height. But what looks like corduroy on the upper part of the shoe is actually burly, soft-to-the-touch textured leather that’s highly weather-resistant. Inside, an insulated felt lining keeps your toes warm enough to endure snow-stomping in single digits. The treaded outsole offers solid purchase on slush, snow, and ice, and a padded insole adds the precise measure of comfort needed for the long haul from hotel to après spot, airport to shuttle, or lift line to parked car.
www.fiveten.com, 13 ounces
For a first impression, the brawny 5.10 Dome was likeable right out of the box, an awesome-looking outdoor multisport shoe. But at first sight I was convinced that the fit would be too wide for my feet. That this relationship simply wasn’t going to work. Ah, young love, so much insecurity. I slipped on the shoes, cinching them to perfect snugness with the darling of all lacing systems. No kidding, the laces slip effortlessly through the eyelets, which are metal-trimmed webbing loops, as smoothly as if the shoe designer was tasked to distil butter into a lacing system. The system functions so well because the wide-set eyelets allow laces to span pressure over a greater area, providing superb fit and comfort. For a first date, the Domes and I bounded out the door for a quick jaunt up some nearby mountain switchbacks. No discernible heel slippage. No sliding. Yes to ankle support. The first kiss…wait for it…didn’t happen, but the affair was beginning to simmer! It blossomed over miles and miles of easy and difficult terrain, which makes it a real relationship. Five Ten calls the durable Dome “a hiking shoe on a trail-running last.” Sure, but it’s not too bad as a light mountaineer, either, or in a pub crunching peanut shells. The supple all-leather/Nubuck upper is breathable and supportive, and a compression-molded EVA midsole sits underneath to keep things light and cushioned. From where I sit, with the Dome next to me on my desk, I’ve gotta look beyond the mud and wear to see this light shoe’s inner beauty. It’s there, hiding in comfort. The Stealth S1 rubber outsole may hold sticky proprietary secrets, but for the wearer the secrets translate to comfort over miles of varied terrain and grip on rocky surfaces, with the thick midsole adding to the overall pleasures that are still revealing themselves.