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GREAT GEAR by s t ephen regenold

Brave New Shoes

In the woods or the mountains, you can’t go wrong with footgear that fits your piggies perfectly.

LACE UP A MODERN shoe made for the

outdoors and you might be surprised to see what’s on your foot. Gone is the monopoly of the stout leather boot. Here to stay are hybrid shoes for water and land, trail-runners that weigh scant ounces, and “gloves” for your feet.

Indeed, the scope of footwear has

spun on its heels in recent years. Look down as hikers tromp past on any given trail. Shoes—not boots—are by far the most popular today in the outdoors, even on long-distance hikes. Laces have been subbed out for Kevlar straps. Anatomical mapping of

a wearer’s foot trumps boots that need to be “broken in.” Ouch. Behold! The brave new world of

outdoors footwear eschews blisters and stiff soles. Flex and a “barefoot” feel are now more common. These five represent a new sphere of footwear for the woods and the mountains.¿

STEPHEN REGENOLDwrites “The Gear

Junkie,” a syndicated newspaper column on outdoors equipment. He’s also the founder and editor of gearjunkie.com.

INOV-8 ROCLITE 312 GTX

$130, INOV-8.COM

A lightweight hiking and trail running shoe with excellent cushioning is the work of Inov-8, a U.K.-based maker of footwear for on- or off-trail pursuits. The “GTX” in the Roclite 312’s eponym stands for GORE-TEX—a thin membrane of the stuff provides a waterproof barrier while keeping the boot breathable. And the “312” refers to the weight, in grams, of each shoe—the equivalent of about 11 ounces. A sticky-rubber sole for grip and minimal midsole cushioning round out this shoe.

KEEN OBSIDIAN WP

$125, KEENFOOTWEAR.COM

The WP stands for waterproof. And with its latest “light hiker”—read: shoe-meets-hiking boot—KEEN has built a solid foot-protection system for trails as rough as they come. A “torsion stability” shank, extra heel support, and a plate in the footbed adds shock- absorption, protection, and stability. The Obsidians are bona fide stand-ins for a boot. They are capable on long hikes where you shoulder a heavy pack, plodding miles with feet unburdened on down the trail.

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