PeakFreak Low OutDry
PeakFreak Low OutDry

The Top 6 Adventure Shoes for 2012 | Columbia PeakFreak Low OutDry

PeakFreak Low OutDry

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Best For: Trails
It’s “the perfect fourteener shoe,” one Colorado-based tester proclaimed, which is perhaps the best compliment a running-hiking hybrid like the PeakFreak can receive. Though designed on a trail-running chassis, it had just enough guts (midfoot shank, forefoot rock guard) to protect feet on mixed terrain (snow, ice, dirt, gravel) during wet, all-day hiking in the Tenmile Range. The other cool thing about this shoe is how well it fends off moisture: because its OutDry waterproof-breathable membrane is adhered to the outermost layer of the shoe, water can’t penetrate. 12.5 oz

The Top 6 Adventure Shoes for 2012 | Vasque Rift

Best For: Travel
With its to-the-toe lacing, reinforced toe rand, and outsole made from some of Vibram’s stickiest rubber, the Rift has the DNA of a classic approach shoe. And while the sturdy all-leather Rift impressed testers scrambling around on technical trails and ridges (the hard-edged outsole is great for smearing on small ledges), you don’t have to be a climber to appreciate it. Its sturdy platform and lightly lugged outsole roll just as well over mellow trails. Plus, its low-key styling (it comes in five colors, from muted to retro bright) won’t blow your cover at the bar later. For these reasons, several testers deemed it the perfect travel shoe, especially if your trip will involve a little bit of everything. 14.1 oz

The Top 6 Adventure Shoes for 2012 | Timberland Pathrock Low with Gore-Tex

Best For: Doing It All
As with the Rift, the Pathrock has a bit of climbing shoe in its lineage. It cinches up like an approach shoe with almost-to-the-toe lacing for a precise fit and can handle being jammed into rocky crevices. What’s different? It’s waterproof, a bit sturdier and heavier (with a full TPU shank), and slightly chunkier in the outsole for better grip on scree and loose-packed trails. In other words, it’s up for anything. Which is why one tester said: “Whether heading out for ten-mile hike-runs on rocky single-track or just riding my cruiser bike around town, I always found myself lacing up the Pathrocks.” 15.8 oz

The Top 6 Adventure Shoes for 2012 | Teva Bomber Flip

Best For: Casual Outings
Growing up in the Caribbean, I always wanted a sandal that could do more than just flop around. Turns out, so did the guys and gals at Teva who wear flip-flops to work. The result of their longing is the new Bomber Flip, which Teva deems a “performance flip-flop.” You probably won’t run in these, but you can do everything short of that, from hiking rooty jungle trails to traversing sharp rocks in search of killer waves. The adjustable strap keeps the shoes glued in place, and the tough, über-grippy sole protects you from menaces like sea urchins. Tip: stow the strap through a loop above the toe post and—voilà!—a traditional flip-flop. 9.8 oz

The Top 6 Adventure Shoes for 2012 | The North Face Havoc Mid GTX XCR

Best For: Backpacking
It may look like an overdeveloped basketball shoe (and may be just as agile), but the Havoc Mid GTX XCR is as sturdy a hiking boot as the brown suede cinder blocks of the eighties. Building on the tried-and-true low-cut version, the mid adds more ankle support while preserving its best qualities: a wraparound mudguard and waterproof but breathable Gore-Tex membrane. At 2.1 pounds per pair, the Havoc is lighter than a traditional backpacker, but even with a 35-pound load on my back it saved my chronically weak ankle when I lost my footing on a muddy technical trail high above Breckenridge. Runs a bit wide. 1.1

The Top 6 Adventure Shoes for 2012 | Merrell WaterPro Manistee

Best For: Watersports
While a water shoe is for tromping around in the drink and little else, a watersports shoe is designed to do more, from running through cobblestone creek beds to scrambling over craggy coastline. The Manistee is the latter. Even after prolonged submersions in Colorado’s mountain-chilly creeks, the shoe drained in seconds—and, thanks to the siped outsole, it received top marks for grippiness when wet. We also loved the adjustable lacing system: webbing attached to the laces cradles the foot, giving the shoe “snug purchase,” as one tester put it, even when completely soaked. 10.6 oz