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Columbia Sportswear markets the Master of Faster as a trail-runner-multi-sport hybrid. And it is, kind of. Just don't plan on running long distances. The shoe is ideal for the hiker who runs occasionally – you know, those moments when you're getting chased by a stray dog or you want to get back to your car before a thunderstorm hits.
The Master of Faster is too stiff for the average person to enjoy running in, which is precisely why it makes an amazing hiking shoe. Don't be deterred by the low cut profile – thanks to an extended lacing system, the shoe is actually snug around the ankles and discourages dust and rocks from making their way inside. Taller socks help and prevent the top of the rigid tongue from rubbing your skin.
The shoe requires a dozen-or-so hours of hiking to really feel broken in, and even then it retains its stiffness (in a supportive, comfortable kind of way). The three-part Techlite midsole and sturdy heel cup provide cushioning, lateral support and a secure overall fit. The breathable closed mesh upper, welded seams and waterproof liner keep your feet cool and dry in most conditions.
At only 9.5 ounces, the Master of Faster won't slow you down as you tackle steep uphills or technical downhills. The high-traction soles are decked out with 70 knobby lugs that offer stability on uneven terrain and never trap rocks underfoot.
From the rugged slopes of the Jemez mountains to the slick rocks surrounding Abiquiu Reservoir, to Santa Fe's dusty Dale Ball trails, the Columbia Sportswear Master of Faster performed gracefully and dutifully. This is one hiker you'll want to add to your collection – where it will quickly become a favorite for long summer day-hikes. (MSRP $110)
After graduating from the University of Virginia in 2005, Whitney Dreier spent two years living out a Harry Potter-esque fantasy – teaching history and coaching lacrosse at a boarding school in England. She finally realized she couldn't survive another British winter or face the thought of having potatoes served at every meal, so she ventured to the Midwest to earn a master's degree in journalism at the University of Missouri.
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