Hi. I recently came to the sad conclusion that it is time to replace my 12 year old Merrell Phaser Peak boots, and to the even sadder realization that they are no longer made. I am looking for something that is comparable-- waterproof, sneaker-like comfort and equally functional on everything from short, easy dayhikes to epic backpacking trips carrying a 35-40lb pack. I recently tried on a pair of Salomon Ultra 3 Mid GTX boots, which felt very comfortable but I wasn't convinced they would do well carrying a big pack for long days. Also tried the Lowa Renegade GTX and they felt pretty good (although would probably need some breaking in), but also thought they might be overkill for easier dayhikes, not to mention the hefty price tag. I generally dayhike 2-3 days per month, then do 1 "epic" multiday backpacking trip per year and 1-2 easier weekend backpacking trips per year and would like a boot that I can wear for all of it. My old Merrells were perfect. Any recommendations for something that would be a good balance for all types of hiking and backpacking? Thanks
I encourage you to try the hoka one one stinson atr 5, they are sturdy as heck, great toe box, unbelievable cushioning. I got these after the the soles of my hoka mafate's finally went smooth, at the bottom of the grand canyon, took them to Iceland and Bridger wilderness - wow! I love them! And with REI's return policy, you can't go wrong.
It is hard to recommend hiking boots since it is mostly about the fit and there is a lot of personal preference. If they fit you right, the Salomon Ultra 3 Mid GTX boots are well regarded and will probably be fine unless your backpacking is all off trail and very rugged. The Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX is another one to try if you feel you need a full boot.
The current fashion is to use trail runners, particularly if your backpacking is mostly on trail. They are lighter and supposedly you will hike farther, faster and more comfortably. Altra Lone Peaks are probably the most popular shoe for this. They do wear out much more quickly though. For winter and rough terrain boots are still generally preferred. Waterproof shoes/boots are only preferred for shoulder and winter use. People like non waterproof shoes/boots for shoulder/summer because they dry much faster if they get wet inside and you can't always take off your boots for water crossings.
However trail runners can be a bit of a leap if you carry a heavy pack depending what that means to you. Could be just a confidence thing and hiking poles might cure that if you don't use them already.
Personally I still use full waterproof Salomon Quest 4D 2 GTX boots (discontinued) for backpacking because I bought them and they happen to work for me. No blisters and comfortable but I think they do slow me down and make my feet tired more quickly than trail runners would... I have a pair of Altra Lone Peaks but found them a bit too "squishy" and decided not to backpack with them last year...I may give them another go at some point. I also have some Brooks Cascadias to try. They are a bit firmer. I have used Cascadias for trail running in the past but I haven't had the opportunity to take them out with a backpack yet.
@CHUCKR0174 thanks for reaching out, and sorry to hear your favorite boots have finally succumbed to so many years of hiking! As several others have mentioned, it is difficult to make specific footwear recommendations over the internet without seeing your feet; we definitely recommend a fit appointment at your local REI, if possible. With that said, knowing you really enjoyed your Merrell boots, you might consider one of the following boots as a replacement:
Hope this helps!
Also tried the Lowa Renegade GTX and they felt pretty good (although would probably need some breaking in), but also thought they might be overkill for easier dayhikes, not to mention the hefty price tag. I generally dayhike 2-3 days per month, then do 1 "epic" multiday backpacking trip per year and 1-2 easier weekend backpacking trips per year and would like a boot that I can wear for all of it.
In my experience the Renegades don't need break-in.
As for what's best, it really depends on the terrain and to a lesser extent on the weather. I like the ankle support that mid-length boots provide on rocky, uneven or mountainous terrain. I also prefer the higher boots in wet weather or on muddy trails. But the other posters are right that they're overkill on dry, maintained forest trails. One more issue with sneakers is that they're more likely to get stones inside. You solve that by wearing short gaiters, but I find that solution awkward.
Footwear is the most critical gear you'll need for hiking/backpacking. It's worth spending "whatever it takes" to get the solution that best meets your needs. Instead of trying to do it all with one pair of shoes/boots I'd suggest considering two pairs, (1) approach shoes ("sneakers") for dayhikes and other relatively undemanding needs, and (2) boots for more demanding hikes and backpacking trips as well as in bad weather. That's what I do. It's worked well for me over several decades. But this is an individual decision, so I'm just sharing my experience.
BTW bonuses with this shoe/boot solution:
1. You can replace them individually as they wear out. If you do a more lighter hiking then you may go through two or three pairs of shoes for every pair of boots.
2. Mid range boots can also be used in the winter in light snow. In fact I wear an old pair of Renegades with snowshoes and gaiters. I pair of thick wool socks provides all the insulation I need.