La Sportiva’s Nucleo High II GTX is a quintessential modern boot: light and nimble but with enough support for day hiking and most backpacking trips. Its most notable features are the Gore-Tex Surround liner and Nano-Cell technology. In short, Gore-Tex Surround breathes not only out of the top of the foot like a traditional waterproof design, but also through the bottom of the footbed and out the sides. La Sportiva’s Nano-Cell tech is the web-like mesh you see along the sides of the foot. While they give the boot a distinctive look, these cutouts only seem to have a modest impact on breathability.
Where the Nucleo truly differentiates itself from other 2-pound models is durability: The boot has large swaths of leather rather than mesh for scrambling and hiking over rough terrain. You get moderate flexibility from its mid-height design, so it doesn’t require an extensive break-in, and traction is excellent over rock and mud. All told, the Nucleo a nice upgrade in performance and build quality from a boot like the Merrell Moab 2 above, albeit at a higher price. Keep in mind that this boot has a slightly narrow fit, although the good news is that wide sizes are available for both men and women.