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Versatile Hiking Boots/ Desert Hiking Mainly

Hi there! I had been meaning to go to REI to get a new pair of hiking boots/ shoes and then the  weekend I decided to go, all the stores closed. 😞 Anyways, I have been using a Brooks trail shoe for my daily hikes in Phoenix and they have finally bit the dust. The tread is gone and it makes scrambling up rocks more difficult. I was debating between a shoe and a boot, but I felt like a mid level boot rather than a trail runner would be better? I hike in the city  (Phoenix)  for the most part, but I do get up north and travel to the Northwest quite a lot. I have a pair of Merrell Moab, waterproof shoes, but they get VERY warm and I actually get blisters on my MTP joint area when doing vigorous hiking. My foot comes down on top of the seam at that joint and it almost folds over? If that makes sense. I move at a fast pace and sometimes even jog a little. I have been eyeing the Solomon's, the Ultra 3 Mid because I have heard great things about their shoes. I like the idea of it being lightweight, but with the support of a boot. I need something that is going to holdup to rocks, but not be as bulky as my Merrell's. 

I would love some suggestions to see if I am even on the right path here. I don't want to buy a bunch online if I can help it. THANK YOU!

4 Replies

Hi @AliBrown!

Thanks for sharing about your adventures in the desert and the rainy NW!

If you are fast-hiking, running in your shoes occasionally, and accustomed to the trail-runner fit of a Brooks shoe while hiking, it might be best to stick with a light hiking boot, or even another trail runner. The pros of light hiking boots/trail runners include, well, their lightweight nature, the versatility to choose a waterproof or non-waterproof version, and a comfortable fit right out of the box with little break-in time. Because these boots and shoes are built for lightness, however, they will wear out more quickly than a traditional boot. Check out this Expert Advice article for more about the choices between traditional boots and trail runners. 

I'd also say that if the majority of your hiking miles are being done in the desert, you probably don't need a full waterproof boot, unless your miles in the NW are generally very rainy or snowy. You always have options to change your socks during a hike, bring blister care products, or use sockliners in case of precipitation. 

With that said, there are a few light boots that offer a trail runner fit with a hiking boot feel or construction. The Salomon X-Ultra 3 Mid Aero is a lightweight, non-waterproof boot, but hikes and feels more like a traditional hiking boot because it is stiff underneath due to the inclusion of a hard plastic chassis in the midsole to increase stability and diffuse shock from rock strikes. 

If you want a boot that really feels like a trail runner, I would check out the Altra Lone Peak 4 Mid Mesh. The boot, built on the same last as the Altra Lone Peak 4 running shoe, was designed for those who love the feel of the running shoe, but wanted a little more height on the ankle cuff. 

Finally, there are trail running shoes that are slightly stiffer for more technical terrain, making them great choices as a hiking boot substitute. Check out the La Sportiva Wildcat if your feet have a more normal-to-narrow profile, or the Salomon XA Pro 3D V8, which has a feel underfoot nearly identical to the X-Ultra boot. 

Whatever you decide, make sure that you're checking the size and fit against the socks you plan to use out on the trail, and your insoles, if you use them. 

I hope I've given you some solid ideas as you consider your next shoe purchase. Come back and let us know what you decide!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

That is very helpful! Thank you @REI-PearlD . Ok so if I wanted to start adding in some light backpacking or longer hikes, as well as my quick hikes, would you still recommend those? One thing I love about my Merrells is that I feel super stable on slick, dusty, rocks. I feel confident that I will not slip and with a trail runner I feel that I miss that. I have long legs and like to go for more unstable footing and like being comfortable with a more risky step/foot placement, if that makes sense? But I am definitely intrigued by the Altra Lone Peak 4 Mid Mesh. My Northwest hikes are mostly in the summer 🙂



Hey @AliBrown

The Lone Peak Mid would definitely be appropriate for your longer hikes. The outsole, or bottom of the shoe features Altra's proprietary grippy rubber, called MaxTrac, and a multi-directional lug design under the metatarsals called TrailClaw. Those should give you the stability you need on more challenging terrain.

The Lone Peak series of footwear, in both the shoe and boot versions, is one of the most popular choices of footwear on thru-hikes. On long-distance trails like the Pacific Crest, hikers will wear two pairs at least, so I think you should get plenty of wear out of them. I found this fun review from Outside Magazine about the waterproof version if you're interested in how they handle compared to a very traditional-feeling boot. 

If you're new to Altra, you might find the fit to feel different, as the boot is based on a balanced cushioning, zero-drop platform, meaning that the amount of cushioning at the ball and at the heel is the same. The toebox is also foot-shaped to allow natural foot splay. Some customers report feeling a slight change in their center of gravity/weight distribution when standing, like they're rooted more in the heel, and much more space in the toebox. 

Hope this helps you make an informed decision!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

Thanks @REI-PearlD  I am going to try the Lone Peak! I'll let you know what I think. Thank you for your help!