Going for a hike? Preparation is key to success and an enjoyable trip. A critical step in being well prepared is having the right gear for your trip. Arguably the most important piece of is a trusty set of hiking boots. The goal of this article is to assist you in selecting the best hiking boots for you. So put your best foot forward, and check out our comprehensive guide on hiking footwear.
Amadillo has split up hiking boots into five general categories. Many experienced hikers will have multiple pairs that they use depending on their selected hiking trip. Veterans may even have a few pairs in each category. If you are likely to stick to one type of hiking such as medium length day trips, one solid pair of hiking boots should suit you just fine. Obviously your selection will depend on how often and what types of hiking trips you are planning to take—everyone’s hiking style is unique!
Hiking Shoes: These lightweight hiking shoes are built for shorter day trips. Typically you will want to use these when the weather is fair and the ground is firm or you may fall victim to debris invasion. Hiking shoes are an excellent choice for lighter loads and well-kept trails.
Hiking Boots (aka Trail Hikers): Trail Hikers are generally waterproof, with a higher or medium cut. These boots obviously provide more protection against protruding rocks and other unfriendly obstacles than a hiking shoe. They will also provide the wearer with more ankle support than lower cut shoes. While you may sacrifice a bit of comfort if you’re planning on hiking steeper inclines and/or muddy paths you will want to opt for these rather than a shoe.
Backpacking Boots: For overnight and multi-day extended trips, backpacking boots are likely your best bet. Backpacking boots are designed for heavier loads, they won’t flex as easy as hiking boots, but they are resilient and supportive. Great for hiking trips deep into the backcountry. Some of the backpacking boots fall into the ideal boots for “fast packing” category.
Mountaineering Boots: Extremely sturdy boots with stiff soles, designed for robust ankle support and protection as you climb through challenging terrain. Some of these boots allow you to attach crampons for better grip in hiking in icy conditions such as glaciers or hard packed snow. If you’re planning on being a part-time mountain climbing badass you’ll need a pair of these.
Approach Shoes: A hybrid shoe assuming some characteristics of both mountain climbing shoes and hiking boots. These types of shoes typically have a special sticky, rubber surface on the bottom for optimal grip. They are designed for steeper grades but not extreme terrain where more specialized footwear is appropriate.
Things to look for when finding the right Hiking Boot
- The fit is paramount to the dedicated hiker. You can do some serious damage to your feet doing some hardcore hiking in ill-fitting boots. We cannot stress this enough. It doesn’t matter if they look pretty and have everything else right if they lack comfort they are a no go. Take care of your feet, and they will get you to where you want to go.
- Hiking boots come in a variety of materials (and consequently prices too!). Full grain and split grain leather, synthetics, and waterproof materials are a few of the most popular options featured in hiking boots.
- Boot Cut. This one is pretty straightforward. Low-cut, mid-cut, and high-cut boots all serve a different purpose for the wearer.
- Sole Design. Midsole, shank, plate, and outsole materials should also be considered when purchasing hiking footwear. Often overlooked, this part of the shoe has the most weight in deciding your overall comfort level.
- Toe Cap. For additional toe protection in extra rugged conditions, you may want to find a pair of boots with toe caps.
- Crampon Connectors. Crampons improve mobility in cold weather conditions.
- Another straightforward design element. This is the part that goes underneath the laces and covers the top of the foot.
- Gore-Tex. What’s this Gore-Tex stuff everyone is talking about? It is a breathable, waterproof fabric membrane that was developed by W.L. Gore and Associates. It’s actually been around for quite some time, and the material possesses the ability to resist liquid water while simultaneously allowing water vapor to pass through. A great lightweight material that can be used for any type of weather conditions.
- The heaviness of the shoe is going to have an impact on foot fatigue. While walking back in forth in one pair of boots will be no problem, hiking on an extended trip is a whole different story. Even a pair of boots that is slightly heavier will make a huge difference as this effect is greatly multiplied by every step you take.
Best Hiking Boots
We have chosen the best all-around hiking boots for both men and women. We looked at each shoe from all the angles, comfort, weight, support, traction, water resistance, durability, and versatility before making our selection. These boots are best for your average hiker who typically does a day or multi-day hiking trips on the less traveled road.
Best Hiking Boots for Women
The Renegade GTX has it all, looks and functionality. Our clear winner in comfort, it is so light and comfortable it feels like you’re wearing a lightweight running shoe. It has a multitude of styles to choose (11 colors total) from and is composed of high-quality materials. No matter what the shape of your foot, Lowa has a boot for you: it is available in narrow, wide, and regular widths. A climate control footbed, PU mono wrap frame midsole, Vibram Evo Sole, GoreTex waterproof technology, and Nubuck leather upper makes this boot a force to be reckoned with. The Renegade GTX is perhaps the all-around top pair of boots in the day hiking boots category. Even though the Renegades are classified as a light hiker, they can also be used for light backpacking as well due to their exceptional stability.
The Gypsum features a flexible and lightweight design. If you tend to have problems with heel pain after long treks KEEN has implemented a S3 Heel Support technology into the Gypsum. The S3 stands for Stabillity, Shock, and Suspension. Not only does this support the heel upon impact and prevent troublesome heel aches, it also will help prevent ankle injuries. The bottom of the boot is loaded with 4mm multidirectional lugs that fight back against any challenging terrain. Like the Renegade, the Gypsum mid boot is a well-balanced boot that works exceptionally well for day hikers.
If you’re not a fan of KEEN or Lowa, Scarpa also makes a sturdy mid. Scarpa doesn’t skimp on any of the materials: Vibram Hi-Trail Lite soles, Gore-Tex lining, bi-directional ankle flex, and protective toe rands. These boots are a little heavier than the other 2 options. They are burly enough to handle weeklong backpacking trips but light enough to still function okay as dayhikers. A great versatile boot, the Kalish GTX effectively balances the needs of both casual and hardcore hikers.
If you are looking for a water resistant option, The Bullet GTX will shield your feet with style. The water resistant suede upper has been treated with high performance grease. The outer sole is composed of rubber-eva which Asolo has dubbed the Power Lite Sole. This outer shell, coupled with Gore-Tex performance lining eliminates any and all wet feet problems. A sturdier boot than the two options above, the Bullet is a bit heavier and taller. It provides a bit more stability with the VIbram sole with Pebax inserts and is built for rougher terrain. This boot is an excellent option for backpackers carrying heavier loads, and is certainly one of the best backpacking boots available.
Vasque has designed these boots to handle winter conditions. They market them as “UltraDry” because of the membranes used to construct this boot. They do a superb job of blocking rain and snow from seeping in, preventing the winter wonderland from getting inside your boots. You won’t want to hike around in warmer conditions in this pair, the Faux fur linings are backed with 400g Thinsulate ultra polyester fiber insulation. The high cut also facilitates protection from the winter elements. The message is clear, get the Pow Pows if your trips are taking you into icy territory.
Best Hiking Boots for Men
What was Salomon’s goal when designing this boot? Bring trail running technology to a fully functionally backpacking boot. And boy did they execute this mission brilliantly. Renowned for their comfort Salomon’s top boot has variable tension lace technology that distributes two levels of tension; one along the foot and the other running up the ankle. The 4D GTX are a light boot with a high cut giving you the best of both worlds. Textile materials keep the boot lightweight, while the Gore Tex technology will keep your feet dry inside and out. The boot is rounded out with a padded tongue giving your feet extra comfort by reducing lace pressure for those extra brutal hikes.
Vasque broke ground with their first Breeze boot back in 2003. The successor is better than ever, with a remastered boot that is firing on all cylinders. Vasque’s Breeze 2.0 Boot is designed for breathability. If you have trouble keeping your feet dry and are a chronic sufferer of the drenched feet syndrome, you may want to give these guys a go. Large swaths of mesh can be found along the tongue, sides, heels, and toes. Combine this with Ultra Dry Lining, and you have a force to be reckoned with. Another upside? They look cool, so you’ll be hiking in style at all times. Vasque is also the creator of the widely popular St Elias GTX which is a great alternative to the Breeze.
One of the most popular mid cut hiking boots out there, and for good reason. The KEEN soles in the boot are seriously best in class. They are dual compression molded, dual density soles that cradle your soles and eliminate achy feet. They’ll prevent blisters and cup your heel to help reduce slippage. 4mm Lugs help you travel the beaten path with ease. Super breathable eVent technology facilitate dry feet. The lacing technology allows you to tighten near the heel while keeping the toe box relaxed, giving you a balance of comfort and traction that’s prepared for the fastest of fastpackers.
Classic full grain leather, Gore Tex water proof material, Asolo’s Patented Lite 2 Footbed and Triple Power Structure Mid-Sole.. what’s not to love about this high tech boot. Superior craftsmanship went into this boot. It is built for performance, and excels in the roughest conditions. The Shock absorbent TPS (triple power structure) technology incorporates 3 shock absorbent that correspond to the three impact points of the foot that receive the most stress during activity. While perhaps not as breathable as the Vasque Breeze and Salomon, they make up for it in durability. Mud, water, sand, rock, you name any type of debris, the TPS 520 is up to the task.
Lowa’s most award winning boot, enter the Renegade GTX mid. This sexy boot is comfortable right out of the box. We know, all the hiking boot manufacturers make this claim, but the Renegade actually walks the walk. It is beloved for its comfortable fit from day one. A combination of leather and textiles, this pair of boots comes in over 10 styles. For the super stylish, that’s more than enough colors to make sure you get a pair that matches the rest of your hiking wear. Of course it comes with the gold standard gore tex material. One thing to remember is that this boot runs small, so if this pair of boots has managed to successfully woo you, make sure to order ½ size up.
Best Hiking Shoes
While perhaps not as versatile as a quality pair of hiking boots, hiking shoes perform extremely well in less rugged conditions. For the added comfort and reduced cost, hiking shoes are a great choice for individuals looking to supplement their hiking footwear collection or those of us who are more casual day hikers who stick to the beaten path.
Best Hiking Shoes for Women
Salomon makes one of the most comfortable hiking shoes on the market in the Ellipse GTX. Heck, you can even use these daily for tasks such as walking the dogs. The Ellipse sports a very technical design, proficiently balancing weight, comfort, traction, and support. They are versatile enough to be used both by faster paced agility hikers as well as light back packers. They also excel in the water resistant category, with rubber soles and waterproof linings. The Ellispe GTX is an attractive, durable, and comfortable shoe that excels in many distinct applications.
KEEN stacked the Voyageur with 4mm multi-directional lugs making these a solid choice for extended clomping trips. The platform measures approximately 1.25”, so these are a bit more heavy duty than the Salomon’s Ellipse. Given the durable construction, you’d think you would have to give up a lot in comfort. The interesting thing is the Voyageur is still a very flexible shoe. The design includes leather webbing and a mesh upper with ventilation windows and woven textile lining. This helps keep your feet comfortable and just the right temp throughout your hiking experiences.
This shoe by Merrell has a completely different look than the other two shoes in our best hiking shoe section. The 2.5mm lug depth gives you an idea of how high off the ground your feet will rest. Merrell calls these lugs the M-Select GRIP technology, which essentially equates to you feeling the ground a bit more and gives the shoe a more responsive feel. It is a multi-purpose shoe that can be used for more than just hiking, featuring Stratefuse breathable leather. The Proterra is a ideal everyday shoe that also works great for shorter hikes.
Best Hiking Shoes for Men
We had to include this one. Merrell’s Moab Ventilator is one of the most popular hiking shoes of all time. The bottom line is that the ventilation system in this shoe is hands down the best out there. Coupled with the M-Select DRY and FRESH technologies, you have a moisture and odor system that stomps the competition. If you’re looking for a summer shoe for hiking or biking trails, look no further.
Patagonia has made an awesome hiking shoe that is extremely comfortable and requires minimal break in. The only downside to this shoe is it is a bit heavy for a hiking shoe, but if that doesn’t phase you then read on. One of the best things about Patagonia’s shoe is that it has the highest composition of recycled materials out of any shoe or boot in our list. If you care about our environment, we think Patagonia’s shoe is the best way to keep your carbon footprint in check.
KEEN has done it again, with their most popular line, the Targhee II. This shoe also includes the S3 heel (shock, stability, suspension) support technology that has earned the Targhee so many raving followers. The rugged Targhee II is an ideal hiking companion, even for the tougher paths. It has 4mm multi-directional lugs and a Keen Dry waterproof membrane. The footbed, midsole, and heel have all been well-thought out and executed in this shoe, culminating in a sustainable comfort even over the long haul. Keen’s Targhee II is an awesome shoe with a no nonsense look, great for day hiking and light backpacking trips.