Updated: Feb 28, 2019
There is no substitute for trying on shoes. And there is no substitute for wearing shoes for a full day before selecting shoes. But, having worn hundred of pairs you get a feel for what you like, and we like these.
So every trip that I have taken leads me to an adventure that I had not expected or planned for in advance of leaving. On the trails I will get a surprise rain, un-expected mud, rocky trails, etc. So now I wear shoes that can handle it all - sort of a Swiss Army Knife of shoes. For me, that shoe is the Salomon XA Pro trail runner.
The shoe has four great features; (1) is it very comfortable *, (2) it has non-break shoe laces for getting in and out of them quickly, (3) it has a great toe-bump so walking, hiking, and trail running can all be done with the same shoe, (4) it has quick drying breathable mesh ** which is important for those with stinky feet, and (5) there is no break-in period, you can wear them right out of the box.
Let's talk about the downsides; (1) the shoe runs narrow. I had to go with a wide and a full size larger than my foot size (which you should do anyway if your foot swells at the end of the like mine does), (2) the breathable mesh doesn't help in the rain (go with the GoreTex water proof if this is important to you), (3) it is not a light shoe (which is why I go with the trail runners vs boots), and it is not a traditional trail runner in that it is very stiff.
I think the most important aspect for me is that they are the best go anywhere and do anything shoe that I have found. I don't need to travel with three pairs of shoes to be ready for everything that I might face, I go with one pair of do it all shoes which for me is the Salomon XA Pro.
There is almost nothing that I cannot do in these shoes - from the gym, to running, to the trail, to dinner, these are my shoe of choice.
Note 1: The Salomon XA Pro is a very comfortable shoe but I had to go larger and wider to get that comfort. They feel a little short and very narrow on my first pair which I ended up returning. The second pair, a size large and wider, was great. ** If you are going to a wet area or want to plan in advance for wet climates, go with the GoreTex water proof version of the same shoe.
Note 2: Your feet will swell the more you hike. Both longer (a little) and wider (a lot). So how your shoes feel when you start and when they end will be different. Size your shoes for the end of the hike which usually means going a full size larger than you think.
Note 3: Some shoes are ready to wear out of the box. Others require a break in period. My favorite pair before these took 3 months of wearing them around the house before they were ready to hike. Know your shoe before you head out.