We hiked many on- and off-trail miles while wearing each of the hiking shoes tested. These products saw the summits of mountains in the Colorado Rockies, traveled across the rough trail approaches to rock climbing crags, and cruised around town and the local foothills' trail system. We ran a little in each pair, spent a lot of time covering miles with light packs, and tried each with a heavier pack to push their support limits.
Testing the traction of the Wildfire and North Face Ultra 109 side by side. Both have excellent traction on granite slabs.
We independently weighed each pair, devised scenarios to test traction on various surfaces, studied the stock insole, and scrutinized and fiddled with the lacing systems. Finally, we surveyed friends and colleagues to find out their favorites, what types of hikes they love them for, and what type of wear and tear eventually sends their shoes to the hiking trails in the sky.
Each model received an overall score based on our evaluations of weight, comfort, support, traction, versatility, water resistance, and durability.