Heavy hiking boots are a thing of the past for any informed outdoors wanderer. Indeed, the clunky boots of yore — some weighing more than 3 pounds apiece — have been cast aside by most every footwear company now in favor of lightweight shoes and low-top hikers.
The Jannu Lo, a premium $140 shoe-boot from Lowa (www.lowaboots.com), exemplifies this trend. Essentially a scaled-down and streamlined mountain boot, the Jannu Lo is rigid and strong, with a sturdy outsole, waterproof uppers, and a handcrafted leather lining that is soft and comfy on the foot.
They’re the kind of shoes made for lacing tight and hiking off into the rocky hills for miles, cradling and protecting the foot from roots and jagged stones. But the Jannu Lo’s are also relatively lightweight, at about 18 ounces apiece.
A more modern spin on the shoe-boot mold comes from Timberland (www.timberland.com), which debuted its $120 Vaporate Low this year. Weighing less than the Jannu Lo, at about 15 ounces apiece, the Vaporate Lows incorporate mesh, plastic plates, rubbery membranes, and a twist-lock lacing system that eliminates the need to ever again tie a bow.
Taking its cues more from trail-running shoes than hiking boots, the Vaporate Lows have more flex than the Jannu Lo’s. But they still wrap and protect the foot fine, resulting in a supportive shoe I’d trust for a day on the trail with a heavy pack.
The Vaporate Lows are not totally waterproof; running water that hits the tongue area will seep through. However, for warm weather they breathe better and might keep the foot less clammy than a shoe like the Jannu Lo.
Both shoe-boot models tested here performed fine on the trail, hiking clean and fast over the rivers and through the woods on my outings early this spring. But I thought both seemed also quite pricey. Hiking shoes from companies like Vasque and Garmont at a third less or even half the cost are common finds at the retailers I frequent.
However, if you’re going to splurge, Lowa and Timberland offer features unavailable from many other companies.
Timberland’s lacing system of choice for the Vaporate Low, which is made by Boa Technology, is the same type of ratcheting setup found on the likes of snowboarding boots. It’s a nice system, letting you get in and out of the shoes fast, and providing a level of micro-adjustment hard to obtain with some lace-ups.
The Jannu Lo’s main niceties derive from their craftsmanship, with fine leather contouring and overall classic good looks. Out of the box these shoes fit well, too, and they seem tough enough to last for years.
(Stephen Regenold writes The Gear Junkie column for eight U.S. newspapers; see http://www.THEGEARJUNKIE.com for video gear reviews, a daily blog, and an archive of Regenold’s work.)