Ask Me: What Boots Do You Recommend For Ankle Support and Breathability?
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.
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.
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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I recently wore the new Oboz Scapegoat Mid 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. I’ll likely review them later.
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.
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?”
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NOTE: I tested 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 Gear Reviews at The Big Outside.
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