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Ask Me: What Boots Do You Recommend For Ankle Support and Breathability?

Ask Me: What Boots Do You Recommend For Ankle Support and Breathability?

Michael,

We just returned from a weeklong camping trip in Acadia National Park. We did a ton of hiking, and my older Keen Targhee IIs have finally bit the dust. So I’m in the market for new boots. I read all your articles and reviews on boots, but most of the reviews were for mid-cut boots, which usually don’t give me enough ankle support. Over the past few years I’ve sprained both ankles twice (never while hiking). I am deathly afraid of rolling an ankle again, so I wear ankle supports on both ankles whenever I’m hiking anything other than solid, relatively flat trails. The problem is the supports make the heat inside the boot almost unbearable; I have to take off the boots constantly to cool my feet.

I’m looking for a midweight boot that goes higher up on my ankle and still breathes as much as possible. But the most important factor for me is ankle support; I’ll deal with a little more heat as long as I can ditch the ankle supports.

I will generally do day hikes in places like Acadia, the Whites, or rocky trails in Connecticut and New York. My backpacking is primarily around 30 pounds of pack weight, with an occasional weekend over that amount. Any suggestions you have would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks

Graham
Oakville, CT

Hi Graham,

Thanks for writing. I’ve hiked quite a bit in Acadia, the White Mountains, and all over New England, so I’m familiar with trails in those places. I’ve gotten your question from other readers, too.

Oboz Scapegoat Mid

Oboz Scapegoat Mid

It’s hard to find very supportive, above-the-ankle boots that are highly breathable because most boots in that category come with a waterproof-breathable membrane (largely based on consumer demand)—which, even with the best membranes, naturally makes a boot less breathable than one that lacks a membrane.

I recently reviewed the new Oboz Scapegoat Mid after wearing them backpacking with under 30 pounds in the Panamint Range of Death Valley National Park. They’re lightweight at just over two pounds per pair, yet supportive enough for light backpacking, and do not have a membrane, so they’re quite breathable. They may be just what you’re looking for. See my review.

Salewa Alp Flow Mid GTX

Salewa Alp Flow Mid GTX

That said, the new Gore-Tex Surround technology is, from my experience, more breathable than any previous Gore-Tex membrane. I found Surround to be very breathable in the Salewa Alp Flow Mid GTX, an excellent, all-around, midweight boot with solid support, and my top recommendation to you. I also found Surround very breathable in the lightweight La Sportiva Core High GTX boots, which you may want to look at for dayhiking, although they lack enough midsole support for me to backpack in them.

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The Oboz Bridger Mid BDry, Scarpa Tech Ascent GTX and the Salomon Conquest GTX are a bit lighter and more flexible as a crossover boot for dayhiking and backpacking, while still giving you the support and protection for backpacking in wet or snowy conditions. You may also want to consider a boot that’s even lighter and more flexible but has support for backpacking with a moderate load, the La Sportiva Hyper Mid GTX. I’ve reviewed other boots that would give you the support you want, but may be warmer than you want. I think the Salomon Quest 4D 2 GTX has better-than-average support and protection from the earth and the elements for a midweight. The Scarpa R-evolution GTX comes above the ankle and is a super boot in many ways. The Asolo Triumph Gv GTX is excellent, too. But again, they’re all warm.

 

Jeff Wilhelm backpacking above Arrowhead Lake in Idaho's Sawtooth Mountains.

Jeff Wilhelm backpacking above Arrowhead Lake in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains.

You should also check out the Arc’teryx Bora2 Mid boots. I haven’t tested them, but I did test and review the low-cut footwear from the same line, the Arc’teryx Acrux2 FL GTX and Acrux FL, and liked them.

I hope that’s helpful. You’re trying to find footwear that fits into a narrow niche, where there are few options, so it’s a challenge. Let me know whether you have any more questions and what you end up doing, I’d be curious to hear how it works out for you.

See my “Pro Tips For Buying the Right Boots” and my stories:

Why and When to Spend More on Gear: Part 2, Rain Jackets, Boots, and Sleeping Bags
The Simple Equation of Ultralight Backpacking: Less Weight = More Fun
Buying Gear? Read This First
5 Tips For Spending Less on Hiking and Backpacking Gear
Ask Me: How Do We Begin Lightening Up Our Backpacking Gear?

Best,
Michael

Thanks, Michael.

Graham

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About The Author

Michael Lanza

A former field editor for Backpacker Magazine, Michael Lanza created The Big Outside to share stories and images from his many backpacking, hiking, and other outdoor adventures, as well as expert tips and gear reviews to help readers plan and pull off their own great adventures.

7 Comments

  1. Avatar

    I’m going to toss my vote in for the Vasque St. Elias GTX. Outdoor Gear Lab’s Editors Choice for Best Hiking Boot and, in my opinion, for good reason. Stable, waterproof (needs occasional treatment) and remarkably breathable, particularly for an all leather boot. I’ve also found them rock solid for both backpacking and day hiking despite their 3 lb weight.

    Reply
  2. Avatar

    Graham and Michael,

    I would steer away from the Salomon Quest 4D for rocky trails in the NE. I used them on a 4 day hike of the Pemi Loop a couple years back with a ~40 lb pack and was footsore by the end of day 1.

    That said, I would highly recommend the Scarpa Zanskar GTX. Tons of ankle support, very good traction on all sorts of terrain, and surprisingly cool in hot humid weather. I took them on a 5 day hike in the Colombian jungle last summer with lots of mud, tree roots, and stream crossings, and was amazed at how well they performed. Not sure how they stack up against the R-evolution, but if it’s ankle support you’re after, the Zanskar delivers (at only 1 oz more per boot).

    Cheers,
    Max

    Reply
  3. Avatar

    Graham and Michael,

    I have used the Bora2 extensively. They are great boots with good support, but I do not have the ankle issue that Graham has. They are warm with the Goretex liner but dry out much more quickly than traditional boots. My hiking and backpacking is in the Pacific Northwest with many rugged, Rocky, wet, muddy trails. I have used them with pack weights of up to 40 lbs. I also used them last year on a 25 day trek in the Himalaya with a pack weight of ~20-25lbs and elevations of 17,500 ft in all types of conditions including snow.

    They are expensive $350 and Arc’teryx is having a bit of an issue with the adhesive for the soles.

    Reply
    • Avatar

      Possibly the quest’s were just a poor match to their foot? I found them narrower than several other brands through the mid foot, enough that you feet cramped within a half hour (toe got and heels were fine, just the middle was too narrow).

      Reply

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