Hiking is one of the purest ways to have freedom in nature. The ability to get far out of civilization is a privilege that to many is the key to staying sane in this crazy world. And with a good pair of hiking boots, that freedom comes with comfort and efficiency, ready for whatever conditions Mother Nature throws our way.
The following guide will help you choose the best hiking boots for your budget, style, and intended purpose. Each pair listed here has gone through our rigorous testing process, coming from a crew of passionate hikers devoted to exploring the world’s best mountains and trails. We have been testing these 2023 boots since the spring, making sure that we break the boots in properly and give them plenty of time to show the world what they are made of. We hold no allegiance to any particular brand, seeking to provide you, our readers, with the most up-to-date and comprehensive review of the best hiking boots available today.
To see how the boots stack up against one another, check out our Comparison Table and Ratings Chart below. And for some more tips on buying the perfect pair for your style of getting out there, go to our Buyer’s Guide section. For women’s-specific styles, check out our guide to the Best Hiking Boots for Women. And, if you need the perfect accessory to round out your hiking experience, see below for our Hiking Accessories Guide.
The Best Hiking Boots of 2023
Best All-Around Hiking Boots: Lowa Renegade Mid GTX
Runner Up, Best All-Around: Scarpa Kailash Trek GTX
Best Budget Hiking Boots: Merrell Moab 3 Mid WP
Best Women’s Hiking Boots: La Sportiva TX Hike Mid GTX Hiking Boots
Best Lightweight Hiking Boots: Xero Ridgeway
Best Winter Hiking Boots: Merrell Thermo Rogue 4 GTX
Best All-Around Hiking Boots
Weight: 19.5 oz
Upper Material: Nublock Leather
Outsole: Vibram Evo Rubber
Pros: Excellent quality and durability, great value
Cons: Large soles feel like they should have stronger upper material to match
Lowa is a German company that has been making boots for 100 years. The Germans take pride in quality and these hiking boots fit that description well. What’s surprising though is just how well-made these boots are for the price, which was enough of a factor for us to give them the “Best All-Around” award. They are durable, supportive, and will last a very long time. With Vibram outsoles and GORE-TEX waterproofing and breathability, these boots will perform well and keep you pushing well past your daily limit.
The laces are easy to tie up and hold well despite trying our best to get them to find fault. There isn’t much we can say that would hold us back from getting more pairs, only that, if you’re not into serious hiking with a pack, this might be too much boot for general day-hiking use. But if you want a pair of hiking boots that will keep you upright, handle miles upon miles of rough terrain, and stay dry no matter the weather, then you’ll be happy in a pair of Lowa’s Renegade Mid GTX.
Runner Up: Best All-Around Hiking Boots
Weight: 21.5 oz
Upper Material: Suede and Nylon
Outsole: Vibram Biometric / XS Trek
Pros: Reinforced toe cap for added durability, steel hardware makes for a tight fit that lasts
Cons: Thick midsole gives a higher center of gravity
This boot was not far off the top nod for “Best All-Around,” with the great price of the Lowa being the standout difference. For someone who wants a do-all, go-anywhere boot, you can’t go wrong with the Scarpa Kailash Trek GTX. Hordes of devoted fans agree, and it’s Scarpa’s best-selling hiking boot for many years over. This is nothing to shake one’s head at, either. Being from Italy where hiking is a religion and the competition among quality hiking boots is as stiff as it gets, the Scarpa designers have come close to perfection with this boot.
The GORE-TEX waterproofing never failed, no matter how hard we tried to get water inside. The boots felt great right out of the box and handled an 11-mile hike in Idaho’s Sawtooth mountains without any soreness afterward. With reinforced toe and heel pieces, this boot plays like a much more burly pair of hikers but still allows one to be nimble and agile, with or without a pack. Being from Italy, Scarpa uses Euro sizing which can be a bit confusing if you’re used to the North American sizes. So if you’ve never had a pair and are unsure of the sizing it’s wise to try on a pair first before buying to be totally sure.
Best Budget Hiking Boots
Weight: 16.5 oz
Upper Material: Pigskin/Mesh
Lining: Waterproof Membrane
Outsole: Vibram TC5+
Pros: Great value for price/quality, minimal break-in period
Cons: On the warmer side, waterproofing isn’t GORE-TEX
Merrell has been a staple in outdoor footwear since they started in 1983, and the Moab 3 is just the latest in the “Mother Of All Boots” (MOAB) line. As Daniel Zweier said of the low-top version in his review of The Best Hiking Shoes it’s “the dad shoe of hiking.” Dads around the world will appreciate its versatility as well as reasonable price being the deciding factor. The idea is that you can wear this boot for a wide variety of applications, be it hiking, yardwork, or simply needing some extra support under your feet. Each iteration of this boot seems to be a quality advancement on the next.
These boots felt great right out of the box. The upper is thicker than other boots tested, which adds points on the comfort scale, yet felt a bit warm in the hot sun. If ventilation is a more important factor than waterproofing, they do offer a more ventilated option but you’ll have to sacrifice waterproofing for that.
It’s not an extremely technical boot, however we’d venture to guess that the majority of people looking for a budget pair of hiking boots aren’t looking to crush any records on the Appalachain Trail. Unless you’re in need of a top-tier technical boot, then you can’t really go wrong with the Merrell Moab 3 which will give you a solid pair of hiking boots for a great price.
Best Women’s Hiking Boots
Weight: 14.2 oz
Upper Material: Recycled air mesh
Outsole: Vibram Ecostep Evo
Pros: Comfortable, break-in period is minimal
Cons: Wide fit may not be ideal for narrow feet
While a lot of high-quality hiking boots have a hefty break-in period, the La Sportiva X Hike Mid GTX Hiking Boots are comfortable right out of the gates. Like any boots, they felt a little stiff on our first hike, but didn’t present any issues and keep getting more comfortable with each use.
The TX Hike Mid GTX boots are incredibly eco-friendly: they sport a recycled collar lining, recycled and Bluesign certified GORE-TEX lining, recycled laces and nylon webbing, 15% recycled EVA Midsole, 100% PFC-free leather treatment, and a Vibram Ecostep Evo Outsole with 30% recycled content. The GORE-TEX linings ensure these boots are waterproof while remaining breathable.
Inspired by trail running shoes, these boots have lightweight yet durable mesh on the uppers. The Vibram Ecostep EVO outsoles with Impact Brake System offer reliable traction on both wet and dry surfaces. Our female tester has narrow feet and the TX Hike Mid GTX Boots boast a wide, comfort fit, so she was nervous they wouldn’t work, but found the boots cinched down for a great, fit and performance on the trail. Supportive, comfortable, and durable, it’s safe to say we’re fans of the La Sportiva X Hike Mid GTX Hiking Boots. Read the full review here.
Best Lightweight Hiking Boots
Weight: 13 oz
Upper Material: Suede/Polyester textile
Lining: Polyester textile
Outsole: FeelTrue Rubber
Pros: Lightweight, wide toe box, great price
Cons: Laces get sticky when loosening and tightening
These boots are brand new this year from Xero, a shoe company with legions of loyal followers who have given the brand and almost cult-like status. Their hiking boot offering, the Ridgeway, is built from scratch to give bigger hiking boots (both in size and status) a run for their money. It’s incredibly lightweight, and sports a wide toe box that really allows the foot to stretch as you go about your day. It’s also waterproof, with their own proprietary lining keeping the moisture out as we traversed through stream crossings and muddy puddles galore.
The main issue we found was in the laces – they are a pain to loosen up, especially if you’ve been on a dusty trail. Similarly it takes much longer than other hiking boots to lace up, so we recommend swapping out for some round laces to make the experience more enjoyable.
The outsole is plenty durable (Xero offers a 5,000 mile warranty) yet remains thin enough to allow the bottom of the foot to respond to the ground underneath. The result? A more mindful step in nature that pays dividends through the whole body to the brain, and right back down again, giving the mind-body connection a very satisfying feedback loop.
Zero drop or “barefoot” shoes and boots have no “drop” between the heel and the toe – traditional footwear often lifts the heel several millimeters above the toes, which advocates of zero-drop shoes claim throw off body alignment. We won’t make any claims for or against here, but if you’ve been curious, or are a fan of zero-drop footwear, it’s worth seeing how it feels.
Best Winter Hiking Boots
Weight: 20 oz
Upper Material: Ballistic Nylon and TPU
Lining: GORE-TEX, PrimaLoft
Outsole: Vibram ArcticGrip
Pros: Super comfortable, warm but not overly warm
Cons: Design may seem too flashy for some
Insulated boots can be problematic. When it’s cold out, we are stoked when we first put them on but as soon as the blood gets flowing, it can quickly become too warm. Not so with Merrell’s Thermo Rogue 4 GTX which provided adequate warmth on cold mornings and in the snowy alpine, but never too much to become a sweat bucket. With 200g PrimaLoft insulation, the boots trapped just enough heat to keep us comfortable. Add in a GORE-TEX upper to keep you dry, and these hiking boots are equipped for some seriously fun adventures in any climate.
Did we mention how comfortable they are? Because whatever Merrell has done with the footbed needs special recognition. The boots felt excellent from the first lace-up and have been going strong for many a mile after. Add in the Vibram Arctic Grip specialized winter rubber compound underneath, and we are confident that you’ll find these an ideal choice for making hiking adventures a year-round pursuit. Read the full review here.
Best of the Rest
Weight: 15.7 oz
Upper Material: Suede
Outsole: Vibram Pepe megagrip
Pros: Comfortable, Great traction, Excellent waterproofing
Cons: Needs a bit of break-in for optimal fit
Italian bootmaker Zamberlan’s Salathe GTX RR felt great right out of the box, although with a bit of mileage the fit only improved. Suede isn’t always used on hiking boots due to the fact that heavy use will wear it out faster than other materials. They also need a bit more care and attention to waterproofing, where you’ll need to make sure that you’re keeping on top of treating it under consistent use. That said, we submerged these in a river, and they worked great. How long that protection will last, though, depends on how much you abuse your shoes, and if you plan on applying waterproof treatments down the line.
However, the ability to have solid boots that don’t need a huge break-in to feel comfortable just may be enough motivation for some to prefer these boots over others. For a great combination of comfort and fit, and the ability to move quickly through the mountains, these boots are an excellent option. If you are into big expeditions with a larger pack and tend to put your hiking boots though the wringer, you probably want something a bit burlier.
Weight: 15 oz
Upper Material: Synthetic / Microfiber
Outsole: Vibram Megagrip
Pros: Speed laces provide tight fit
Cons: Colorway might be too flashy for some
Aku is not a brand that we’ve had a ton of prior experience with, but their Rocket Mid GTX is a boot we quickly fell in love with. Not only is this boot one of the lightest we tested, it also had a nice fit right out the gate. And despite all that lightweight comfort, the boot is solidly waterproof with a GORE-TEX lining. Even on top where the boot has traditional lace tightening, we were able to fully submerge the boots and socks still came out dry on the other side. It was also the only model in this test with the quick-pull speed lace system that ended up holding tight, even on long hikes.
These boots had an incredible fit, and yes we realize that “fit” is a very subjective metric. But when it comes to these boots, the great fit is also a testament to the design of the upper boot being just flexible enough to form a nice fit for a wide variety of feet and ankles, while still providing the support of a true hiking boot.
Some people may find the boot too “flashy” with its contrasting colors so style points had to suffer there. But performance -wise, you can’t go wrong with the Rocket Mid GTX.
Weight: 14.8 oz
Upper Material: Oiled leather/nylon
Lining: Proprietary Waterproofing
Outsole: Winter Traction
Pros: Stylish, lightweight, and comfortable, zero-drop sole design
Cons: Not GORE-TEX, harder to clean when muddy/dirty
If you want a do-all and go-anywhere boot, then look no further. The design on these boots means lends itself to more than just big hikes. Lems has created a winner with a zero-drop hiking boot that is rugged enough to tackle big hikes, yet stylish enough to wear out on the town. Performance-wise we found that the boot handled well in all conditions, from steep embankments to wet rocks and a muddy forest floor. Speaking of mud, that was the main issue with these boots – they seemed to attract the mud a decent bit, at least in the grey nylon construction that we tested. The boot is also available in brown leather. The lacing also isn’t super tight, and takes a bit to get a snug fit without loosening up when tying. For that reason we consider this as more of a casual boot than a serious hiking boot for big treks.
That said, the look and feel made up for it. If you are the type of person who wants to have the same pair of footwear that can work well in the mountains or the city, this might be the right pair for you. While other boots have a distinct look and feel to them, the Lems Boulder Summit will surprise anyone in your party when they realize that you can in fact look dapper while also getting wild in the mountains.
These are another pair of zero-drop shoes, which proponents claim to be a more natural way to experience the world. Does that translate to a better time on the trail? Ultimately it depends on how one’s foot responds to the ground. Some love it, some wish for a bit more underneath their foot – we did find these to have excellent comfort underneath, although on the looser side on top.
Weight: 16.5 oz
Upper Material: Nublock Leather
Outsole: Vibram Nano Xs-Trek
Pros: Excellent support and traction
Cons: Top half of the boot felt loose
For the price of these boots, you will be hard-pressed to find something that checks so many boxes for being lightweight, supportive, waterproof, and comfortable.
The soles had plenty of cushion to feel excellent on the downhill, ensuring a comfortable ride down even considering our tester mentioning the upper part felt a bit loose. For someone who might have a better fit, This could the boot of choice for bigger days where support is essential, but without sacrificing lightweight comfort.
Utilizing both GORE-TEX and La Sportiva’s proprietary Nanocell tech, it’s a remarkably waterproof and breathable boot that was one of the lightest models we tested. For those who have a bit more to spend but don’t want to break the bank, the Nucleo High II GTX could be the ideal boot to cover all the bases.
Weight: 16.5 oz
Upper Material: Airmesh/Microfiber
Outsole: Frixion XF 2.0
Pros: Synthetic materials made them feel lighter than they are
Cons: Not as supportive at the ankle as other models tested
Although this boot isn’t the lightest model tested, it felt as though it was. That is likely to the fact that most of the weight seems to be in the sole, where it’s needed most. As such, we found La Sportiva’s Ultra Raptor II Mid to be an excellent choice for moving quickly over rough terrain.
With a GORE-TEX lining and a nylon airmesh upper, the boot handled well in mud and creek crossings. For a lighter, flexible boot, the thick sole helped to stay above most of the muck anyway.
This boot would suit someone who likes to move fast most of the time, but every so often wants to do a few overnights without needing a separate boot. Either way, we found these boots to be comfortable, maneuverable, and capable of withstanding most everything in its path.
Weight: 22 oz
Upper Material: Synthetic fabric
Outsole: Vibram Rock Trac Sense
Pros: Excellent fit that stayed snug throughout many hikes
Cons: Pricey, if you add a footbed it may feel too tight
Of all the boots we tried, the Trek Evo Mid from Lowa had the best fit, and that is saying a lot. Of course, fit is a subjective category, but we found that the boot seemed to wrap around and mold to the foot in ways that might happen with other boots but take much, much longer to wear in. These felt great on the first go, which is likely due to the all-synthetic makeup of the boots.
Lowa wanted a boot that can be fast and nimble, yet also be durable enough to wear a decent sized pack and take on a multiday challenge if need be. With premium components that one would expect on a premium price such as GORE-TEX and Vibram outsoles, this is a great boot that punches well above its weight class. Those worried about the price may be happy to know that the boots can be resoled, thus prolonging the life by a long shot. It was also the only pair of boots that had a stud on the tongue, a feature Lowa calls X-Lacing. Essentially it works to prevent the laces from loosening from excess movement. It seemed to work pretty well! So if you want a lightweight boot for setting personal bests both on uphill and downhill, yet be supportive enough to carry a big pack, this is a fine choice.Check Price on Amazon
Weight: 23.2 oz
Upper Material: Textile/Leather
Outsole: Contragrip TD
Pros: Lightweight for an expedition-style boot
Cons: Sole wasn’t as grippy as others in its class
The Salomon Quest 4 is a beast. We found the sizing to be the largest amongst all boots tested, so sizing down at least a half a size would help for a more snug fit.
Despite the high-top coming up above the calf, the Quest 4 GTX was breathable enough to not feel as though the foot would overheat. While the sole felt springy and responsive, we found it to slip more than other models with similar tread patterns, so had to dock a few points in the traction department.
If you need a good overnight boot that is responsive and pain-free, but don’t have a huge budget for some of the other boots, this might be for you. But if you go out regularly and want something to last more than a few years, it might be worth investing in some expedition boots at a higher price point.
Weight: 15.7 oz
Upper Material: Oiled Nublock Leather/CORDURA fabric mesh
Lining: B-Dry Membrane
Outsole: True Tread Rubber
Pros: Low price point, great support
Cons: Laces can stick when lacing up/loosening
Oboz is based in Bozeman, Montana, where one couldn’t avoid nature if they tried. The company is built upon the fundamentals of caring for the planet as much as enjoying it. They are a B-certified corporation, meaning their efforts are recognized for benefitting society as a whole, not just to make shareholders a pile of money. This is all great, but what about making a good product? Thankfully, they also excel here.
Their Sawtooth X Mid is a solid hiking boot that felt great right out of the box, and held up well on the trail. The sole is thick enough to withstand anything that comes to it, and although not GORE-TEX like many in its class, their proprietary B-Dry lining held up well throughout the testing process. The only issue was that it was a bit more difficult to lace up than others, but the tightness lasted throughout the day without worry. But for one of the lowest price points on the list, these boots had incredible value and are a great option for someone who wants to vote with their wallet to help good companies do good things with their money while also getting a solid hiking boot that can handle a heavy pack.
Weight: 22.8 oz
Upper Material: Leather/fabric
Lining: ReBOTL recycled plastic
Outsole: EVA blend using 65% bio based materials
Pros: Over 50% sustainable materials throughout, super comfortable
Cons: Not very breathable
Timberland is known for quality and style, and their new release checks both those boxes with the added bonus of using primarily sustainable materials. The Greenstride is aptly-named due to the efforts they have made to make a boot using more sustainable materials. While not exactly perfect, it’s certainly a “stride” in the right direction. With comfort being the main draw here, they also perform well on the trail. The biggest downside we found was that, while waterproof, the breathability is no GORE-TEX and you could feel that on longer hikes. As such it might not be the best boot for hot summer days.
The lugs underneath have plenty of tread, but don’t have any special patterns to channel water and mud as in most other specialized hiking boots. That said, we didn’t find ourselves slipping out or anything, but the pattern didn’t exactly make for extra efficiency in the mud.
These boots are noticeably larger than others we tested, even compared to other Timberland models. We recommend sizing down a half size or so for a better fit.
|Lowa Renegade Mid GTX||$255||9||19.5 oz||Vibram||Norwalk Leather||GORE-TEX|
|Scarpa Kailash Trek GTX||$319||8.8||21 oz||Vibram Biometric/ XS Trek||Suede and Nylon||GORE-TEX|
|Merrell Moab 3 Mid||$150||8||17 oz||Vibram TC5+||Pigskin/Mesh||Waterproof Membrane|
|La Sportiva X Hike Mid GTX Hiking Boots||$189||8.8||14.2 oz.||Vibram Ecostep EVO||Recycled air mesh and no-sew upper, nylon webbing, welded TPU overlays||GORE-TEX|
|Xero Ridgeway||$140||8.0||13 oz||Feeltrue Rubber||Suede/Polyester||3L Construction with Hydroguard 50 membrane|
|Merrell Thermo Rogue 4 GTX||$260||8.6||20 oz||Vibram Arctic Grip||Ballistic Nylon, TPU||GORE-TEX|
|Aku Rocket Mid GTX||$185||8.2||15 oz||Vibram Megagrip||Synthetic Fabric/Microfiber||GORE-TEX|
|La Sportiva Nucleo High II GTX||$239||8.2||16.5 oz||Vibram Nano XS-Trek||Nublock Leather||GORE-TEX|
|La Sportiva Ultra Raptor II GTX||$199||8.2||16.5 oz||FriXion XF 2.0||Airmesh/Microfiber||GORE-TEX|
|Lems Boulder Summit||$185||8||14.8 oz||Winter Traction Outsole||Oiled Leather/Nylon||Proprietary|
|Zamberlan Salathe GTX RR||$295||8.6||15.7 oz||Vibram Pepe Megagrip||Suede Leather||GORE-TEX|
|Lowa Trek Evo Mid GTX||$255||8.6||22 oz||Vibram Rock Track||Synthetic||GORE-TEX|
|Salomon Quest 4 GTX||$230||7||23.2 oz||Contragrip TD||Leather/Textile||GORE-TEX|
|Timberland Greenstride Motion 6 Mid||$160||22.8 oz||ReBOTL Recycled plastic||Leather/Fabric||TimberDry|
|Oboz Sawtooth X Mid||$175||8.2||15.7 oz||True Tread Rubber||Oiled Nublock Leather||B-Dry|
How We Tested The Best Hiking Boots
Testing out hiking boots requires a lot of… you guessed it… hiking. But that’s not it. We went on hikes of all shapes and sizes, from one-hour jaunts to multi-day, overnight treks out in the wilderness. Since hiking boots often have a break-in period, we aimed to put in as many miles as we could on each pair of boots until they felt as though they were properly broken in. With such a wide range of boots tested it made sense to save the heavier boots for the bigger excursions, and the lighter ones for the sessions without a pack. When possible, we would take several pairs so that we could compare them as closely as possible, strengthening the back with a few pounds’ worth of extra boots in tow just to be safe.
Waterproofing was also tested, making sure we submerged each pair for at least a minute to see whether they were indeed waterproof. Thankfully, every pair listed here passed that test, with dry socks underneath and, for the most part, no water coming in through the top when the boots were properly done up. Speaking of doing up boots, lacing up was a key factor in the ratings, mostly fitting in the comfort and support scores. Here’s how we broke down the scores:
Durability: How well do the boots hold up after logging in miles all summer? Do they show signs of wear or look/feel great after putting them throught the ringer?
Support: Do the boots feel stable in uneven terrain, and with a pack? Note: we gave some leeway with lighter boots when holding a heavy pack since they are not intended for massive overnight treks.
Traction: Can the boots stay put on wet rocks, roots, and through mud?
Comfort: Are the feet and ankles as happy throughout the hike or does soreness creep in the more miles you log? Note: Some of the boots require a break-in period and we did our best to factor this in, as long as they did eventually break in after 20 or so miles underfoot.
Style: Yes, style points do matter, although we tried to not let this be a major determining factor compared to other criteria.
For the terrain, we compared the boots in a variety of environments, from the coastal granite of the PNW to the dusty inland trails of the Sawtooth mountains, making sure the traction held up. All weather conditions were important, of course, so these boots have been in mud, rain, blistering heat, and underwater, just to make sure the claims of waterproofing and weather resistance actually hold up. Then we did it over and over again to see how they last after continued abuse. If it wasn’t up to snuff, it didn’t make this list, and there were plenty that didn’t get a recommendation.
Brand names don’t matter, either. Plenty of boots had siblings from the same brand that we did like and listed here, but we didn’t include for one reason or another, so don’t think we are listing anything simply out of some loyalty. This is as objective as we could make it, absent of hiking with a blindfold.
|Lowa Renegade Mid GTX||9||9||10||9||9||8|
|Scarpa Kailash Trek GTX||8.8||9||9||10||8||8|
|Merrell Moab 3 Mid||8||7||8||9||9||7|
|La Sportiva X Hike Mid GTX Hiking Boots||8.8||9||9||9||9||8|
|Merrell Thermo Rogue 4 GTX||8.6||8||9||10||9||7|
|Lowa Trek Evo Mid GTX||8.6||8||9||9||9||8|
|Zamberlan Salathe GTX RR||8.4||7||8||9||8||9|
|La Sportiva Ultra Raptor II GTX||8.2||7||8||9||9||8|
|Aku Rocket Mid GTX||8.2||7||8||9||10||7|
|La Sportiva Nucleo High II GTX||8.2||8||9||9||7||8|
|Timberland Greenstride Motion 6 Mid||8.2||8||8||8||8||9|
|Oboz Sawtooth X Mid||8.2||8||8||8||9||8|
|Lems Boulder Summit||7.8||7||7||7||9||9|
|Salomon Quest 4 GTX||7||7||8||7||6||7|
How We Rated The Best Hiking Boots
Just piling all these products into an overarching category of “Hiking Boots” is a bit of a tall order. In reality, there are as many hiking boots as there are hiking styles, which is vast. So to just rate all these models across the board isn’t doing anyone any favors, here. So for all the ratings we tried to base them on their intended use. Some of the rating categories were more objective, such as traction, durability, and support. But when it comes to fit, there’s really nothing more subjective than that. We did our best to describe how well the boots fit (or didn’t) in relation to average sized feet, ankles and calves, which is worth taking into account in making your purchasing decision. If you run smaller or larger in those areas, it would be worth taking that into account.
The boots reviewed fit into three main categories: Mid Hiking Shoes, Light Hiking Boots, and Trekking Boots. Mid Hiking Shoes are hiking shoes with a “mid” cut rather than a low cut. They should feel nimble and fast, yet still provide adequate traction. They will have support, but are designed to feel light rather than being specifically designed to carry a big load. Light Hiking Boots will have a bit of a thicker sole and more ankle support to help with said bigger load, yet still have enough lightness to move quickly should you want it. Finally, Trekking Boots are designed for the long haul, with thick soles and enough support to allow stability while carrying a heavy pack.
By and large most of what we tested fell into the first two categories, as we tried to match the demand of the general population. Most people want something that is supportive yet light underfoot, is waterproof, and has a strong enough sole where carrying a load won’t feel like a massive burden.
In another article we tested a wide range of hiking shoes, which are worth checking out for casual day hikes up to longer, ultralight backpack missions. If you are looking for something even more casual, try our guide to the best hiking sandals. We’ve also taken a look at women’s-specific hikers in our Best Hiking Boots for Women, and Best Hiking Shoes for Women articles.
Hiking Boots Buyer’s Guide
As seen by the massive range of hiking boots we’ve listed, there are more than a few options out there to consider for what to buy. The idea of hiking boots is a broad category, so knowing your style and needs will go a long way towards buying the ideal hiking boot.
Fit: This is the most important factor. Even the best hiking boots won’t serve you well if they don’t fit properly. Make sure there’s enough room for your toes to move, but not too much that your feet slide inside the boots. When trying the boots you want to make sure that toes aren’t pressed too tight to the front, otherwise your downhill descents will be painful. On the other side, make sure your heel doesn’t lift when on the ascent or your day will end with massive blisters.
Material: Materials can largely determine the boot’s durability, breathability, and water resistance. Full-grain leather offers excellent durability and abrasion resistance but is usually less breathable. Synthetic materials like nylon and polyester are lightweight, breathable, and break in quickly, but are less durable.
Waterproofing: If you plan to hike in wet conditions or cross streams, waterproof boots are essential. However, they tend to be less breathable. GORE-TEX is the gold standard for the right combination of waterproofing and breathability, and it’s hard to find anything that matches it.
Breathability: Breathable boots are great for dry, hot environments. They help to dispel the sweat, keeping your feet dry and reducing the risk of blisters. However, breathability and waterproofing tend to cut against each other.
Weight: Lighter boots are easier to move in, but they may offer less support and cushioning. Heavier boots can provide more support and durability but may tire you out more quickly. It’s important to factor in the type of hiking you do before honing in on whether to get a lightweight hiking boot or a more rugged pair.
Traction: Check the boot’s outsoles. Deep, thick lugs help in muddy conditions, while a heel brake can reduce the chance of sliding during steep descents. Vibram has been a leader for over 80 years, and as far as outsoles go is the leading brand name that people look for.
Lugs and lug pattern: The tread on the bottom of hiking boots are called lugs. This helps with traction and to move mud, etc. out of the way. Deeper and more widely spaced lugs are ideal for muddy and uneven terrain. Shallower and closely spaced lugs are better for hard-packed terrain.
Durability: This is determined by the materials and the construction of the boot. Boots with fewer seams and high-quality materials tend to last longer. Also look for extra reinforcement around the toe and heel, the common wear-out points. This will help extend the lifespan of the boot, especially if you’re hard on your gear.
If you just go out on a hike wearing nothing but boots, you might get a few awkward glances. Not only that, but your precious skin might succumb to the elements and things might get a bit uncomfortable. There is no shortage of quality accessories you can buy to accompany a good hike, but here are a few of our favorites to keep the rest of your body happy for the duration of a hike.
Poles: TSL Connect ($135)
Trekking poles will help keep you upright on uneven terrain, especially with a heavy pack. But it’s not something you need all the time, so having said poles may end up being a burden. But with the Connect Carbon poles from TSL, you can easily fold them up and stow them away when not in use. Weighing only one pound for the pair, You won’t notice them when stowed away but will be happy when pulling them out to help extend your time out on the trail. These poles also cross over to winter, allowing you to use them when ski touring, split boarding, or snowshoeing as well, giving them year round accessibility whenever the need arises.
Rain Gear: The Orange Jacket by Houdini ($300)
Spending enough time out on the trails will inevitably lead to some bad weather once in a while. But packing extra rain gear can be a burden, especially if it only rains once in a while. With The Orange Jacket by Houdini, it’s so light and packable you won’t regret packing it and taking it out when needed. Named so because when packed it’s roughly the size of an orange, but gives full 20k waterproof protection to keep you from getting soaked. It’s one of those things where you’ll be happy you have it when you need it the most.
Shirt: Kuhl AirKuhl Hoody ($79)
No matter the season, we can almost guarantee that you’ll sweat on a hike. But a wet shirt can easily ruin one’s day. So it’s important to have a good shirt that can wick moisture when your body needs to cool off. The AirKuhl hoody does its job quite well, while also being comfortable to the touch even with a pack on. The shirt also boasts UPF 50+ sun protection, so you can wear it midday to keep harmful UV rays out while still allowing for good ventilation throughout the hike. It’s our choice for great sun protection and moisture wicking while also feeling comfortable and looking great.
When spending long days on the trail, every ounce counts and any extra weight means more fatigue in the long run. Lightweight clothing can make a huge difference. The Prelight Shorts by Jack Wolfskin were like wearing nothing at all, without the embarrassment. With deep zipper pockets to keep some snacks and your phone at bay, the rest of the shorts are a dry-wicking, smooth-feeling Bluesign approved material that’s incredibly comfortable. It was our top choice for big days out without feeling any extra holdups.
To have a pair of pants that is lightweight, breathable, yet super durable sounds too good to be true. But the Ecotrek Trail Pants from LIVSN does not only that, but is also made from 75% ocean waste, primarily coming from old buoys. So to have a pair of pants that allow freedom to roam yet still hold up through the rigors of being out on the trail, is a dream come true. After hiking around in these for the past few months, the verdict is that it really does hold its own as being breathable enough to not be a sweat box, but durable enough to take a few falls. Plus it’s good for much more than hiking – really any good outdoor adventure from biking to climbing and more, yet is stylish enough to wear out on a date. Plus you’d probably score points with said imaginary date if you can discuss how wearing these pants helps put ocean flotsam to better use.
Insoles: SOLE ($59)
Extra support under the foot goes a long way to add extra miles to any hike. While the boots listed are all great in support and comfort, we found these heat-moldable footbeds by SOLE to go an extra step further in helping us stay on our feet longer, especially with a heavy pack. Using eco-friendly cork based material, these footbeds help keep the foot in place which can help prevent worrisome injuries from consistent pressure underneath. A few miles on the trail was all we needed to notice a huge difference in both comfort and support. It’s especially true for those over 30 when tissue is not as resilient as in younger bodies.
Editor’s Note: For more gear reviews and features on The Inertia, click here.