Lightweight Trail Shoes
Salomon Synapse Mid
$140, 1 lb. 11 oz. (men’s 9)
Sizes: Men’s 7.5-12, women’s 6.5-10
I wanted a pair of lightweight mid-cut boots for a grueling, very rugged, 19-mile dayhike the length of the Carter Range in New Hampshire’s White Mountains—tagging a half dozen summits and climbing and descending some 7,000 feet, a traverse with some absurdly steep sections that is arguably harder than a one-day, 20-mile “death march” of the full Presidential Range. So I looked for mid-cut instead of low-cut shoes to protect my ankles on those notoriously rocky trails. I needed a shoe with enough cushion and support underfoot for a hike that guaranteed a lot of pounding. I prefer non-waterproof footwear for hot dayhikes where breathability is paramount. And I wanted all of that in a boot that’s light and allows me to move fast. The Synapse Mid delivered on all counts. Surprisingly, given the nature of the hike, I finished that day without my feet feeling very fatigued.
The well-cushioned EVA midsole provides a wide base, and a plastic rib cage integrated with the laces snugs the shoe smoothly around your foot. Aggressive flex, a pronounced rocker, and a springy toe-off give it the feel of a trail-running shoe. I also wore these boots on other dayhikes and trail runs in Idaho’s City of Rocks National Reserve—they’re certainly not made primarily for trail running, but they are light and nimble enough for the task in a pinch. Breathability is better than any boot with a waterproof-breathable membrane, but not on par with the airiest low-cuts because the uppers aren’t all mesh, and the ample ankle padding naturally traps heat more than a low-cut. The one-hand lacing system is fast and convenient but doesn’t allow much leeway for varying tightness between the forefoot and ankle. The only demerit: The outsoles are a bit slippery on wet rock. Still, they’re a great choice for dayhiking, ultralight backpacking, and thru-hiking.
NOTE: I’ve been testing gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See all of my reviews by clicking on the Gear Reviews category at left or in the main menu.