Space and speed
Likes: Comfortable, stable, tactile and fast shoe that worked as well for trail running as for regular hiking. The forefoot is so unusually wide, roomy and toe-friendly that it makes the other three test shoes look skinny. The low-profile sole and cushy but thin footbed give it a superb feel. The shoe touts a design called TRS that is supposed to "roll" you forward fast. I thought this was marketing hype, but the design works; I found myself pushing it from hiking to speed hiking to running — and liking it. Hard rubberized toe guard and heel cap watch your back — and front. Weighs 15 ounces in size 9.
Price: $125 (mid-cut with same features is $135). http://www.tecnicausa.com
Columbia Shastalavista Mid Omni-Tech: Athletic, burly-lugged, mid-cut boot with a waterproof yet breathable mesh-and-leather upper that is designed to hike, bike and run.
Likes: Feels like a luxurious, armor-plated SUV — comfy and nimble but solid, no matter what activity you do. A great hiker and a surprisingly good runner for a 19-ounce shoe (size 9). Includes reinforced rubber toe and heel. A lot of boot for the price.
Price: $110. (800) MA-Boyle; http://www.columbia.com
Garmont TXT Tactical CrossTrainer: An all-terrain shoe targeted at military and law enforcement that is designed for 80% road usage and 20% off-road.
Likes: Good protection, with a hard plastic midsole plate to stop rocks and a big shock-absorbing unit in the rear for heel strikers. A standout feature is a practical tongue pocket that can hold credit cards, spare money or keys.
Dislikes: Confusing. It's got a midsole plate for protection but is far less stable on trails than the other shoes. Heavy for a street running shoe at 15 ounces. Also, too narrow for my D-width toes.
Price: $119.95. (800) 943-4453; http://www.garmontusa.com
Hi-Tec V-Lite Altitude Ultra: Waterproof leather mid-cut hiker with prestigious Vibram sole and all-metal lace hardware.
Likes: It's loaded. Classic leather boot looks, a Vibram sole and hiking boot heft (21 ounces in size 9), but with the heart of an athletic shoe. It's a fine hiker and decent runner despite the weight and stiffness (stiffer than the Columbia). Ultimately, it looks so good that you don't want to mess it up. It touts a new nano-technology called " ion mask" that supposedly makes any fabric, even paper, waterproof and yet breathable.
Price: $135. (800) 521-1698; http://www.HI-TEC.com
Wallack is the author of "Run for Life: The Breakthrough Plan for Fast Times, Fewer Injuries, and Spectacular Lifelong Fitness. firstname.lastname@example.org