Scarpa's "mountain minimal" design helped the Spark win this tight category. A synthetic upper keeps it light, and a slick lacing system snugly anchors all foot types. The platform is wide, stable, and features a 6mm heel-to-toe drop. A compression molded EVA midsole makes for long-lasting shock absorption. And stretched fabric serves as a forefoot plate to ward off sharp objects. The Spark excelled at short and long strides on all trail surfaces.
Tester's take: "This shoe can do it all. Gives you confidence on varying terrain." Swami gripe: Less than perfect breathability. Swami like: Even minimal fans need protection. Scarpa delivers just enough without over-engineering. Best usage: A one-shoe quiver. 1 lb, 3 oz (pair men's size 9); $115; scarpa.com
From the Summer 2012 issue. Subscribe today, get the Gallery 2013 issue at the iTunes store, or find Mountain at Whole Foods, Barnes & Noble, Gander Mountain, and other natural foods and outdoor stores.