Photo: Danner

It’s a battle that continues to wage: hiking boots or trail runners? For many hikers, low-cut hiking boots are the happy middle ground, offering a solution that pleases most people. They are lighter that bulkier backpacking boots, but they offer more support than traditional trail running shoes. But now that you’ve decided on a low-cut hikers, how do you know which pair to get? Check out the list below for some of our favorites. Maybe you’ll find your next purchase in the group.

Salomon Outline GTX

The Salomon Outline GTX weighs only 1.5 pounds, but offers plenty of support as well as Salomon’s Contagrip for serious traction.
Graphic: Shep McAllister

At 1 lb. 8 ounces, the new Outline is built like a trail runner with a low cut and sleek design. Support is admirable; I easily handled a four-day trek with a 20-pound pack in Arizona’s Canyon de Chelly and the shoe never felt too squishy. Thanks to Salomon’s Contagrip, traction was top shelf, allowing me to walk up a trail of nearly-vertical sandstone rock.

Garmont Sticky Stone GTX

The Garmont Sticky Stone GTX utilizes a Vibram Megagrip outsole for, well, a mega grip on any terrain.
Graphic: Shep McAllister

Maybe hiking Italy’s Alta Via 4 with a torn ACL was a bad idea, but you know what it? It worked out, in large thanks to these shoes. The traction on these shoes is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced (and obviously where they get there name). The Vibram Megagrip outsole sticks to virtually anything, and I had zero issues scrambling up and down scree, rock faces, and iron ladders throughout Italy.

Merrell MQM Flex Hiker

Merrell MQM Flex Hiker doesn’t offer as much support as some of our other picks, but at 1 lb. 3 oz., they’re light enough to use as trail runners in a pinch.
Graphic: Shep McAllister

If you are a firm believer in hiking in trail runners, the MQM Flex may be your jam. Thin cushion means you don’t have a lot of rebound or support, but these are incredibly light underfoot and as nimble as a your standard runners. At just 1 lb. 3 oz, they weigh about the same as runners too. Thankfully, a solid heel cup holds the foot in place, minimizing ankle rolls.

Danner Trail 2650

What Danner’s Trail 2650 lacks in waterproofing, it makes up for with a breathable and perforated upper to keep your feet cool and dry during long days on the trail.
Graphic: Shep McAllister

Go big or go home: that’s why Danner decided to target the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail in the name of their new hiker. I tested these bad boys on three days of Peru’s Salkantay Trek and was shockingly impressed by their agility and durability. They look like a trail runner but have beefier technical chops, in large thanks to the TPU shank and EVA midsole that adds just the right amount of cushion. They aren’t waterproof which means air freely flows throughout the shoe. See you later, sweaty feet.

Tecnica Plasma S GTX

The Tecnica Plasma S GTX offers Custom Adaptive Shape uppers and footbeds, the same “technology behind heat-moldable ski-boot shells to hiking boots.” 20 minutes in-store will result in a shoe that’s perfectly molded to your foot.
Graphic: Shep McAllister

We’re willing to bet you’ve never seen anything like the Plasma, and that’s because there really isn’t anything like it. The shoe itself is lightweight and flexible (although burlier than others on this list), but it shines with Tecnica’s custom-fit technology. In 20 minutes, consumers can heat mold the upper and footbed to their specific foot, completely eliminating the need for orthotics. If you’ve got finicky feet, the Plasma is going to be tough to beat.

Lems Trailhead

The Lems Trailhead is undoubtedly the best looking shoe of the bunch, but still holds its own on the trails.
Graphic: Shep McAllister

The fashion-focused crowd will love these urban chic minimalist hikers. The Trailheads look comfortable on a subway or an airplane but have the technical chops to hold their own on California San Jacinto peak (because they did, twice). The microfiber and mesh upper breathes well and the rubber outsole does a passable job of gripping rocky terrain (but tends to get slipping on gravel and loose grit).