The La Sportiva Synthesis Mid GTX offers a great blend of fit, performance, and fashionable styling. It’s only possible limitations are that it is not the cushiest or widest shoe of the bunch, depending on your load and personal preferences.
The GoLite XT80 is a highly flexible minimalist shoe that has a sticky sole and a low heel. The minimalist low-heel might not work for everyone but it’s reminiscent of “barefoot sport shoes,” albeit with better traction and protection.
The Rift’s low profile, supportive construction and sticky rubber sole put it close to the approach shoe class, especially when slabs and Class 3 or 4 scrambles are involved. It is a fine day hiker as well, but it really shines on more complex terrain.
The Wolverine Pulsar is a fairly burly but comfortable hiking shoe suitable for rough conditions and moderate pack loads. The customization from the gel-disc heel insert is more effective in addressing mild pronation or supination than changing the overall firmness of the sole, and it adds weight and cost.
The Mantra 2.0 is best for comfort-minded hikers in cool and wet climes, but only short forays in the rough stuff: the soft-flexing construction doesn’t provide enough support when the going gets tough.