The Santa Monicas. The San Gabriels. The Santa Anas. Los Angeles and Orange counties are loaded with mountains and mountain trails that are begging to be hiked, run and biked. You could conceivably do these activities in tennis or running shoes, but those shoes lack the burly pedigree of the stable, protective and fast breed known as "lightweight hikers," cross-trainers designed to help you do it all.
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