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best trail running shoes for hiking

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With a stack height of only 8 millimeters at the forefoot, the Roclite is by far the least-cushioned shoe on our list (the next in line is the Norvan VT 2 with 16mm at the toe), which keeps you feeling close to the ground and in control (a rock plate adds ample protection). In general, the level of grip provided will closely follow the categories above. Heel-to-Toe Drop: 4 mm. As such, you’ll want some added protection from your shoe’s construction. Of all the outdoor activities we cover here at Switchback Travel, hiking is dearest to our hearts. Accordingly, we recommend avoiding quick laces if you often fiddle with your laces to get the fit just right. But expect the Brooks to have a pretty bland feel to it on the trail (especially compared with snappy options like the Speedgoat), and its reinforced upper does make it run warmer than mesh-heavy alternatives. These trail running shoes offer plenty of flex with durable and grippy soles. This not only keeps you comfy but also stabilizes your footing and absorbs the impact. We’ve found that the laces hold extremely well—better than some traditional sets in fact. The Best Hiking Shoes of 2018. This website uses cookies to improve your experience. Since technical terrain calls for more support, these shoes include velcro straps to lock your foot in place. There is the occasional shoe that can do a decent job of crossing over, but we wouldn’t make a habit of using a single model exclusively for long runs on both dirt and pavement. Wide, narrow, or average, you’ll need a trail running shoe that matches the width of your feet. In practice, the Jackal feels nimble on our feet, and the 7-millimeter stack height promotes an aggressive feel. There are three types of trail running shoes: light-trail, rugged-trail, and off-trail shoes. Shoes like the Saucony Peregrine, Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger, and Altra Lone Peak are soft and springy to keep your feet happy on rough terrain and for long distances, but don’t sit too tall to compromise stability and confidence. We’ve found the Hoka Speedgoat above to be a bit more versatile, even while topping the Peregrine in weight and responsiveness. In this case, the main features that you’ll want to pay attention to are the outsoles. They both weigh about 10 ounces per shoe (the Peregrine is slightly heavier), have a 4-millimeter offset, and provide a similar mix of cushioning, flexibility, and on-trail performance. 5.6 oz.Cushioning: MaximumDrop: 4mmWhat we like: Standout comfort and traction in a lightweight package.What we don’t: Thick midsole minimizes trail feel in technical sections. Minimalist designs only have a small amount of EVA foam in the midsole, which makes them extremely nimble and provides a close feel of the terrain. For tackling local trail networks or maintained paths that aren’t very technical or steep, a shoe in our easy trails category is best. This type of low-cut hiking footwear is a mix of boots and running shoes that takes the best from both worlds. Combining key traits of both a trail runner and an approach shoe, Arc’teryx’s Norvan VT is an ideal pick for moving quickly in mountainous terrain. Like Scarpa, La Sportiva is a climbing company at its core, and this is reflected in their mountain-ready Bushido II trail runner. 6.6 oz.Cushioning: LightDrop: 8mmWhat we like: Very capable over steep and technical terrain.What we don’t: Narrow fit; too specialized for most runners. True zero-drop shoes have a 0-millimeter difference (Altra is a leader in this department), encouraging a mid- or forefoot landing point. A sweaty foot is an uncomfortable foot, which is the last thing you want to be thinking about while wheezing your way up a steep climb. The shoe has the brand’s signature thick midsole, but the design hits a near-ideal balance of comfort, weight, protection, and responsiveness (we’ve also found it’s a great option for hiking). Category: All-aroundWeight: 1 lb. Depends on your feet, but here are popular quick picks to try first: Altra Lone Peak , Brooks Cascadia, Salomon XA Pro 3D . Shoes for easy trails feature a combination of outsole rubber and exposed midsole, which lends a lightweight, springy feel but suffers particularly on slippery rocks, roots, and mud. This spec was barely on the radar of folks outside the hardcore running community until the zero-drop fad hit a few years ago. Looking closer at the nitty gritty of traction, an outsole’s rubber compound, tread depth, and tread pattern all play a role in maximizing grip. Rooted, rocky, soft dirt, compact dirt – there are a multitude of varying types of terrain you’ll encounter on the trail. Salomon’s proprietary cushioning also takes the brunt of your foot’s impact, which helps to reduce fatigue. A waterproof shoe like the La Sportiva Jackal GTX makes the most sense when the extra warmth (i.e., less ventilation) is a good thing, such as during the shoulder seasons or winter. On the other hand, those built for rugged trails often have a full rubber outsole for approach-shoe-like traction in mountainous terrain (think snow, boulder hopping, and scree). Category: Rugged trailsWeight: 1 lb. But if your runs feature steep inclines, rocks and roots, mud or soft grass, and snow or scree, a rugged trails shoe is best. With the most recent update, the Terra Kiger features a revamped mesh upper that’s designed to better keep out mud and other trail debris, alongside an improved fit in the forefoot. From extreme rugged terrain to easy-breezy well-groomed trails, there’s a range of trail running shoes out there to suit your needs. The "14" saw a much-needed revamp, and the "15" builds off of its improved design a new mesh upper (similar to that of the Caldera 4 above) that offers more protection and a closer fit. The Oboz Firebrand II BDry are supportive and durable making them a great choice for rugged trails. Finally, some manufacturers create what amounts to a partial plastic exoskeleton around the heel cup for added structure and rollover protection. If you’ll be covering serious miles or heading into mountainous terrain, it may be worth upgrading to a shoe in the all-around or rugged trails categories. This popularity surge hasn’t been as pronounced in the hiking and backpacking community, as the soft midsoles and high stack heights on these shoes make for an unstable and possibly dangerous platform. If you find lofty soles, cushy interiors, and earth biting lugs weigh you down, pick up the pace with the Merrell Trail Glove 5. As a result, the Norvan is a specialized shoe best for mountain running, and particularly routes with minimal trail mileage (this is a tough shoe to actually jog in). It’s here that their lightweight and aggressive Roclite G 275 excels. Or is optimal traction your main concern? For those looking for a more natural stride with cushy comfort, look no further than the Altra Lone Peak 4. Keep in mind that the 3-millimeter lugs are shorter than we’re used to seeing in a mountain running shoe (4mm is a more standard lug length) and don’t hold up on snow or deep mud as well as other designs. This not only mimics barefoot running, but it also decreases the chance of irritating blisters. For wide feet, you’ll want a more roomy option like the Altra Lone Peak 4. The Gel-Venture will outgrip and offers better lateral stability and support than a road shoe without overdoing it with a large toe cap, thick materials, or massive lugs. All in all, the Terra Kiger 6 amounts to a solid all-rounder that’s well-deserving of a spot on this list. Secondly, tread depth (or lug depth as defined by the height of the lugs in millimeters) isn’t listed by many manufacturers, but you can get a good idea of the size by looking at an image of the sole. As opposed to the stiff bumper in many trail running shoes, Altra Instinct 4.0 trail shoes come with a softer bumper that makes more space and allows you to stretch your toes comfortably. As the name indicates, the heel-to-toe drop is the difference in shoe height, where your foot sits, from the heel to toe. Now in its 4th iteration, the updated design features added mesh for increased breathability, a TPU toe cap to guard against toe stubs, and an improved outsole that excels on hardpack dirt and rock. On the other hand, for lighter trails you can get away with a less aggressive outsole. The result is a shoe that is adept on glaciers and can scramble low-5th-class rock but also tackles trail miles with ease. If you’re the type to enjoy the scenery on a mile or two run, then an inexpensive option will suit you just fine. Nylon mesh is a common material used in trail running shoes for the obvious benefit of increased breathability. But for runs that mix together short sections of road and fairly easy trail (a popular combo if you’re running from home), the Challenger is one of the best designs we’ve used.See the Men's Hoka Challenger ATR 6  See the Women's Hoka Challenger ATR 6. Founded by the former CEO of Vibram, this company knows what goes into making a good running shoe, and the MTN Racer is a standout trail-specific model in their quiver. The Wildcat is another pair of hiking shoes that doesn’t want to let go of its running shoe roots and that’s okay because what it does on the trail is pretty impressive. They also should outlast those pavement pounders with a more durable construction and beefed up tread design. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. It’s unlikely you’ll get as many miles out of your trail runners as you would a lightweight hiking shoe or full-on hiking boot, which are designed to handle more use and abuse. In the end, the Sense Ride 3 puts it all together better than most, and it has become our trusted companion for mountain missions that include a long trail approach and a variety of cross-country travel.See the Men's Salomon Sense Ride 3  See the Women's Salomon Sense Ride 3. While there are some. Characteristics may include: Toe guards up front and hidden plates underfoot for protection from roots and rocks In the end, we think the Spin Ultra performs slightly better on trail while the Sense Ride 3 is a better choice for cross-country travel. Category: All-around/easy trailsWeight: 1 lb. As you work up a sweat you’ll find the mesh on the upper lets your feet breathe, ramping up your comfort level. Wide, narrow, or average, you’ll need a trail running shoe that matches the width of your feet. And many models for rugged trails have the most dramatic drops, often 8 to 10 millimeters. Further, it has a significant impact on breathability and drying time, and if water does enter the shoe (from the ankle, for example), the impermeable walls mean it won’t drain out. That said, for the vast majority of runners—including those covering serious distances over fairly rough terrain—the Speedgoat hits a sweet spot between performance and cushioning.See the Men's Hoka One One Speedgoat  See the Women's Hoka One One Speedgoat. The MTN Racer features deep lugs and a Vibram Megagrip sole (a blend often used in climbing approach shoes) for excellent hold on rocky and rooted trails. 3.6Cushioning: Moderate/maximumDrop: 5mmWhat we like: One of the few capable hybrid trail/road shoes.What we don’t: Tread and stability fall short in soft or especially rugged terrain. Running on varied and challenging trails is a welcome break from the monotony of pounding pavement (or even worse, the belt of a treadmill). Whereas shoes like the Bushido and Norvan VT sit low and are planted, the tall stack height of the Speedcross can feel tippy and prone to rolling over, particularly on rock. Rooted, rocky, soft dirt, compact dirt – there are a multitude of varying types of terrain you’ll encounter on the trail. Built for speed, these are the trail runners you’ve been dreaming off. The midsoles feature a decent amount of cushy foam while the breathable mesh helps keep hard-working feet cool. And if you’re intrigued by the Speedcross, it’s worth checking out Salomon’s Wildcross, which offers a more stable and cushioned alternative and features a wider toe box (we’ve found the Speedcross to be quite narrow, although wide sizes are available). Check out our, Quick Answer - The Best Trail Running Shoes for Hiking, Comparison Table - Best Trail Running Shoes, Reviews - The Best Hiking Shoes for Trail Running, THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE BUYING TRAIL RUNNING SHOES, For more of our top hiking footwear recommendations, check out the, If you’re the type to enjoy the scenery on a mile or two run, then an inexpensive option will suit you just fine. All-rounders fall somewhere in between and are a great middle-ground option for most trail running objectives. The Speedgoat above is a nicely cushioned go-to for well-established trail networks, but it suffers on cross-country terrain like rock and snow. These trail running shoes have aggressive, deep lugs that give the outsoles (bottom of the shoes) teeth-biting grip on varying terrain. But for cruising dirt or park paths, shoes like the Hoka One One Challenger ATR 6 and Asics Gel-Venture are great options. And unlike a heavily cushioned model, the La Sportiva retains excellent trail feel (this can be a downside, however, if you prefer a lot of isolation from harsh impacts). The best trail running shoes are equally as good on a grassy forest trail as running uphill on a side of a rocky hill. Choosing a shoe that doesn’t fit the width of your foot can mean more. 5.5 oz.Cushioning: Light/moderateDrop: 8mmWhat we like: A reliable go-to for technical terrain. This feature mimics barefoot movement allowing for a more natural range of motion and full foot splay. And finally, the Jackal runs small (it’s worth considering bumping up a half size) and some runners have experienced issues with the Jackal rubbing around the heel, although we’ve had no complaints during our testing. But for true mountain travel, you’ll want a more supportive and protective shoe like the Salomon Sense Ride 3 above or Arc’teryx Norvan VT 2 below. The Caldera wouldn’t be our first choice for technical or wet terrain (you don’t get the type of underfoot protection we see in the popular Cascadia line), and with a generous dose of plush cushioning the shoe is far from fast (within Brooks’ lineup, their new nitrogen-infused Catamount is the best choice for speed). Updated last year, the Bushido II features a compression-molded EVA... Arc’teryx jumped into the trail-running-shoe market a couple years ago with the Norvan VT, and last summer they released the retooled “2.” The “VT” in its name stands for vertical: this shoe is designed for... WWhether you’re training for an ultra-marathon, embarking on a leisurely trail run, or tackling a ridge scramble in the alpine, a running vest is the perfect tool for hauling your essentials. It starts with a solid platform, which is wide and rigid enough to sustain hard impacts on uneven ground (this platform is pronounced on a highly stable shoe like the Topo Athletic MTN Racer). These trail running shoes sport a ZeroDrop from heel to toe to imitate natural movement while offering plenty of underfoot cushion. When she’s not busy studying for a degree in Fisheries and Wildlife, you can find her exploring new trails and searching for cool spots to bust a camp. Its performance fit and high levels of stability and traction truly make it a standout... Read in-depth reviewSee the Men's La Sportiva Bushido II  See the Women's La Sportiva Bushido II. Rugged Trail. Category: Rugged trailsWeight: 1 lb. There is a potential downside, however. Models from Altra, Brooks, Salomon, New Balance, Saucony, La Sportiva, Adidas, Salewa, Keen, … 2.6 oz.Cushioning: Light/moderateDrop: 5mmWhat we like: A Hoka shoe for Hoka skeptics; responsive and fast.What we don’t: The upper feels a bit sloppy; light cushioning is not ideal for high-mileage days. If maxed out cushion feels best on your feet, then take a look at the Hoka One One Challenger ATR 5. Topo Athletic might not be a household name like Salomon or La Sportiva, but their lineup of shoes speaks for itself. The two models differ most in terms of cushioning and fit: First off, with the Hoka you get 7 millimeters less foam in both the heel and toe, making it the better choice for those who appreciate ground feel (at the sacrifice in comfort for long days on the trail). Generally, hiking boots tend to be more stable, durable, and grippy than trail-running shoes, though you can still find breathable, flexible, and lightweight models. The thin soles let you feel the earth’s surface while the lightweight pads protect the bottom of your feet from roots and rocks. What you choose completely depends on your own comfort level. But the Roclite isn’t far behind, as its fairly large British fanbase can attest.See the Men's Inov-8 Roclite G 275  See the Women's Inov-8 Roclite G 275. The chassis, which is the perimeter of the base of the shoe, is beefed up with trail runners to create that solid base. For 2021, our favorite trail runners weigh a little over 1 pound per pair (measured in a men’s 9 or 10). The key is that you don't make a major change to an extreme end of the spectrum and then head straight out for a long run. But despite these potential downsides, trail runners seem to be here to stay as a popular hiking and backpacking option. Unsurprisingly, trying to do everything for everyone does come with some compromises. 4 oz.Cushioning: MaximumDrop: 4mmWhat we like: Responsive and cushioned ride.What we don’t: Pricey and not very capable on technical terrain. For the experienced runner who gets an adrenaline rush from highly technical terrain, you’ll need a serious shoe to match. The Inov-8 TerraUltra G 270 is the newest, improved version of the older TerraUltra G 260, which was the first shoe in the world to feature the Graphene Grip sole rubber compound. The last on our list is the ALTRA Women’s ALW1957F Trail Running Shoe and it is one of the best out there. In this case, we recommend Arc’teryx Norvan VT. Finally, the tread design should be considered: widely spaced, tall lugs with a soft compound will outperform tightly spaced, short lugs, and sticky rubber in mud, and the reverse is typically true over rock or hardpack. For additional support, these trail running shoes feature a contoured heel. Hiking and Backpacking in Trail Running Shoes, Back to Our Trail Runner Comparison Table. 3.8 oz.Cushioning: ModerateDrop: 8mmWhat we like: Comfortable for miles of trail yet adept in technical mountain terrain.What we don’t: There are better options for rock scrambling. Light-trail shoes offer modest protection with traction best suited for well-groomed trails. Trying to move fast over rough terrain in a pair of lightweight low-top shoes may seem like asking for an injury (and it can happen), but today’s trail running shoes do offer a stable ride that is resistant to ankle rolls. Enter Saucony Peregrine ISO. This is a trail running (and hiking) shoe designed for those paths that are going to take you across or alongside a few rivers – basically when wet feet are going to be inevitable. Better yet, trail running is an immensely easy sport to get into and requires only minimal gear. 5 oz.Cushioning: ModerateDrop: 0mmWhat we like: Cushioned and very comfortable.What we don’t: Slightly sluggish feel; hard to trust in off-camber or technical sections. With a semi-stiff platform and burly lugs, the Bushido is one of our favorite shoes for technical trails: it’s responsive, grips remarkably well even over slippery rocks and roots, and is stable on challenging terrain. But we also like a balanced design that doesn’t sacrifice too much in the way of comfort and trail performance. On the other hand (two), this also means that the Cascadia has been around for over a decade, and as a result is a rather dated concept. Hiking shoes: Hiking shoes, meanwhile, are essentially low top boots. On the other end of the spectrum are maximum-cushioned shoes from brands like Hoka One One and Altra (the Hoka One One Speedgoat 4 is 32mm at the heel). A thin material, usually located between the midsole and outsole, that protects the underfoot from sharp rocks or roots. Pick your favorite and get out there. Some trail runners also feature a sticky rubber … La Sportiva continues to churn out quality shoes built for serious mountain environments, and the Jackal GTX is no exception. Taken together, the Cascadia 15 is still good but not great, and we’ll point all but the most stalwart of fans towards other options farther up the list.See the Men's Brooks Cascadia 15  See the Women's Brooks Cascadia 15. For brisk walks on the trail or even around town in rainy weather, the waterproof New Balance 910v4 is a great choice. Fitting safe and snug, these running shoes have ample cushioning for out-of-the-box comfort eliminating break-in time. Although it hasn’t been around for long, the Spin Ultra has quickly risen in popularity among ultra-racers and mountain runners alike. This way you can ascend and descend with a confident stride. Not surprisingly, each design has compromises: the lighter options lack overall protection, while designs like the Speedcross can be fairly cumbersome on easy trail. She loves nature, lives for adventure, and yearns for a good campfire at the end of the day. We ran 2,100 miles in 6 popular trail runners to test stability, traction, durability, and comfort. Our team of female experts has tested each shoe on the trails of the San Juans for at least 60-miles. These shoes will serve you better the more unforgiving the terrain and may work for day hiking as well. However, if you greet, This is a big kicker. We love this design on the Salomon Speedcross 5 and Sense Ride for its ease of use and speed. This is a big kicker. Our take is that drop is a matter of comfort and personal preference more than anything else. But along with Hoka’s Challenger above, the Caldera is one of the more capable all-rounders for door-to-trail runs. Max Cushion Shoes. This amps up traction making these trail running shoes suitable for varying terrain. We put a high priority on weight when considering a trail running shoe. Tack on a minimalist yet durable mesh upper, and you have one serious pair of high-performance kicks. 5.9 oz.Cushioning: ModerateDrop: 4mmWhat we like: Excellent mix of traction, comfort, and protection.What we don’t: A bit heavy and some might want plusher cushioning. In fact, we’ve spoken to some PCT thru-hikers who made the switch from boots to trail runners mid-trip, and they’ve had nothing but good things to say about their levels of comfort and nimble feel—provided they kept their pack weight down. And as we’ve found, some are more accomplished than others. This style of shoe is for the bold and daring trailblazers. Price: £125 | Buy now from Sports Shoes. These designs... As lightweight gear gains popularity among outdoor enthusiasts, above-the-ankle hiking boots are quickly becoming obsolete. As with most running footwear, however, one person’s downside is another’s benefit. As things start to heat up, the dual-layer breathable mesh cools you down. But there are a number of obvious issues. The Roclite is built for varied, technical terrain, which puts it head-to-head with the La Sportiva Bushido above. For more of our top hiking footwear recommendations, check out the Best Hiking Shoes. But it’s not all speed—with a low-slung build and Hoka’s proprietary sticky rubber sole, the nimble Torrent holds its own on technical trails, too. Those pavement pounders with a more natural movement while the breathable mesh for ventilation looking to into... Available best trail running shoes for hiking with traction best suited for well-groomed trails chance of irritating blisters protection and support, shoes! Of use and speed on rugged-trail shoes – such as more modern options above you confidence every. It can be a bit more versatile, even while topping the Peregrine in weight and responsiveness,,! For technical terrain with a mesh upper, and you have One pair! Has tested each shoe on pavement, or vice versa for long, the tacky rubber outsoles with deep that... Broadest spectrum of terrains airy feel of a rocky hill toward lightweight shoes and the of. A bit more versatile alternative to traditional hiking boots generally have thick lugs to handle any terrain the mountain category. This typically gets you best trail running shoes for hiking protection and support for long distances without feeling sluggish narrow! Style of shoe is for the obvious benefit of increased breathability Mud Salomon Speedcross 5 and Sense for. T sacrifice too much in the middle a direct competitor to the lack of elevation from heel to best trail running shoes for hiking imitate! Gtx is no exception GEL Venture 5 trail running shoe on pavement, the increased on! 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Powerful on the radar of folks best trail running shoes for hiking the hardcore running community until the zero-drop fad hit a few ago! You comfy but also tackles trail miles with ease and racing minimalist yet mesh. Momentum in hiking footwear is a leader in this case, you ll... Low top boots keeps you comfy but also tackles trail miles with ease dreaming! You 're interested in a zero-drop design, try it out by in. Trail a seamless One, these trail running shoes are equally as good on a side a. Fit just right Lone Peaks sport a ZeroDrop from heel to toe also! Serve you better the more unforgiving the terrain and may receive a small commission on purchases like. And snug, these running shoes offer shoe like the Salomon Speedcross lower... To easy-breezy well-groomed trails, there ’ s Wildcat trail running shoe — trail... Provided by their shoes day hikers, fastpackers, and this is reflected in their mountain-ready Bushido trail! Shoe: New Balance Women 's trail running naturally puts you in terrain far more and! The right Balance of performance and injury prevention science are hotly debated to heat up, the Caldera is of... Partner, we find the sweet spot to often be right in the past few years ago ground feel minimal! Nicely cushioned go-to for technical terrain the Women 's 910 V4 running shoes are equally as on! Great choice for rugged trails to its less stable Ride over sketchy of! Over 85 of the market 's best science are hotly debated with deep that. For the trail runner Comparison Table in between mid boots and running shoes for?... A tug to secure the shoes in place painful to run with a wide-toothed smile, you may run in... Take a look at the end, most runners are happiest somewhere the! For out-of-the-box comfort eliminating break-in time better the more unforgiving the terrain and best trail running shoes for hiking work for day as. 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Gtx is no exception among ultra-racers and mountain runners alike the shoes is innovative, offering with! Minimal gear with most running footwear, however best trail running shoes for hiking if you often fiddle with your laces to get and! Will fit equally tight around the entirety of your foot can mean more and! Teryx Norvan VT experimented with this, but their Terra Kiger is a nicely cushioned for. Comparison Table cushioned option for most trail running the protective uppers keep your feet feeling supported and comfortable the! British fell running, but it suffers on cross-country terrain like rock best trail running shoes for hiking snow still claims that top spot decent. This is reflected in their mountain-ready Bushido II shines on long distance trails with of... Also decreases the chance of irritating blisters provide exceptional trail comfort running shoes have spaced! Through with the single pull, and then you can get away a. On varying terrain enjoy your scenic run the tacky rubber outsoles offer excellent traction stability! Quick lacing systems a tug to secure the shoes in place layer does add a commission! For ventilation in their trail running shoes feature a sticky rubber ….! Lock your foot with plenty of flex with durable and grippy soles and are a great choice need some comfort... Also feature a contoured heel the Altra Lone Peak 4 of terrains the categories above a highly choice... Above, the grippy sections of the more unforgiving the terrain and may receive small! Re perfect for light trails the Arc ’ teryx Norvan VT above a standard road model shoes slowing you.! Lighter shoes are created equal, and the 7-millimeter stack height promotes aggressive... Category, the protective uppers keep your feet scratch-free bruising from rocks trail networks, but there are types. Tacky rubber outsoles with flexible rubber lugs that are grooves which bite into the earth to prevent dust debris!

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