They're literally made for walking.
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Backpacking on the Appalachian Trail in southwest Virginia
Credit: Joel Carillet

When I bought my KEEN Terradora II Waterproof Hiking Boots for a research trip that included dusty trails and light trekking, I chose them expressly because they were the lesser of the aesthetic evils. (I know, I know. Cue Carly Simon's "You're So Vain.") But in this specific case, the old judging-a-book-by-its-cover thing actually worked out in my favor.

Nota bene: In case my choosing boots based on their sartorial value didn't tip you off, please note that this recommendation is coming from a nature-loving amateur and not a professional hiker. If you're looking for something specific for an intense outdoor adventure, kindly consult the good people at your local outfitters. They'll point you in the right direction. But if you're also an amateur outdoorsperson looking for a comfortable pair of shoes for your next summer day hike, read on.

Back to why I love my KEEN boots:

For starters, they've got great ankle and arch support. The mid-height style offers greater ankle support than a lower-cut style without the restriction of a higher shaft, and the arch support is substantial. The narrower heel helps ensure a secure fit too, which I love. It also makes them feel less clunky. The mesh body of the shoe is waterproof and relatively breathable (read: lightweight!), and the footbeds have odor-fighting probiotics woven right in (I don't know how this works, but I'll take KEEN's word for it). And as I've mentioned already, they're pretty good-looking hiking boots, particularly when you compare them to a lot of their counterparts. (BUY THEM: from $117;

Keen Terradora Waterproof Hiking Boots
Credit: KEEN

While I'm not someone who hikes every single weekend, the boots have held up extremely well in the years I've owned them. They've accompanied me on adventures through Canada's alpine meadows, under Utah's red-rock arches, and along North Carolina's tree-shaded trails. I've never once gotten a blister (even when I was first breaking them in) or suffered from soggy socks and wet feet (which I can be a real day ruin-er). And unlike a number of my prettier shoes, they have yet to let me down.

The KEEN Terradora II Waterproof Hiking Boots are my pick for a wilderness romp, but if you prefer chasing waterfalls to walks in the woods, Chaco's Z/Cloud X2 Sandal is a sturdy, open-toed alternative. (BUY THEM: from $62; It's a little heavier than your average sandal, but that's what makes it a winner for off-road adventures. Plus, the sandals strap on snugly so there's no chance you'll lose them mid-river float, which is my preferred way to spend a hot Alabama afternoon.

So, wherever your outdoor explorations take you this summer, be sure to invest in proper footwear. When you're out on the trail, you're only as good as your shoes.

WATCH: Virtually Hike the Appalachian Trail With This App

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