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We reviewed a large number of hiking shoes to give you our favorite picks for trails and trail running.

Hiking shoes provide most of what we love about hiking boots in a lightweight and comfortable package. Photo: Pippa Baker-Rabe

The Inertia

Whether it’s the spitting image of perfect weather or getting soaked to the bone for a chance to be in nature, hiking is always a worthwhile adventure. And in either case, you’ll need a proper pair of hiking shoes. And depending on your local weather, geography, and particular brand of outdoor recreation, you may need a casual hiking shoe that’ll also waltz into work or a technical juggernaut made for alpine ascents.

It’s a wide gamut — how is one to decide what are the best hiking shoes? We’re here to help you make the call with top picks for technical ascents, all-day comfort, lightweight speed, and more. Read on to learn more about each option, and for more detailed information, check out our Comparison Table and Buyer’s Guide. If you’re looking specifically for women’s shoes, check out our guide to the Best Women’s Hiking Shoes of 2023, and if you came here looking for hiking boots, here’s our guide to the Best Hiking Boots of 2023.

The Best Hiking Shoes of 2023

Best All Around Hiking Shoe: Danner Trail 2650
Best Budget Hiking Shoe: Merrell Moab 3
Best Women’s Hiking Shoe: Altra Olympus 5 Hike Low GTX
Best Technical Hiking Shoe: Salomon X Ultra 4 GTX
Best Ultralight Hiking Shoe: Hoka Speedgoat 5

Best All Around Hiking Shoe

Danner Trail 2650 ($170)

Danner 2650 hiking shoes

Available In: Men’s, Women’s
Category: All Around
Weight: 9 oz per shoe
Heel-toe Drop: 8 mm
Versions: Campo, GTX, Trail Mesh, Mid

Pros: Incredible all-around performance paired with solid looks
Cons: On the narrower side

Fit: Very snug, but loosens up with time. Available in wide versions as well.

It’s hard to make a dent with a hiking shoe, yet Danner has done it with the Trail 2650. Sure, Danner is well known as a premium boot manufacturer (and somewhat of a style guru for outdoorsy rugged types), but a hiking shoe?

2650 stands for the number of miles on the Pacific Crest Trail, which means that Danner built it for the real “hikers” out there. And we think they succeeded. We gave it the “best all around” moniker because it really does excel in all categories. It’s light enough to feel quick on the feet, yet rugged enough with a TPU rockplate and thick leather exterior to fend off rough trail. The fit is very snug, though that loosens up with use.

The Danner Trail 2650 were comfortable immediately, and offered a mix of plush midsole comfort and solid outsole support. They are a bit on the narrow side, so be aware as you size. The Danner Trail 2650 are also very supportive shoes: we would have no qualms backpacking with them, and they ensconce the feet quit well. Traction felt excellent in the Trail 2650, especially on dirt and gravel. It doesn’t have the lug depth as some others on this list, so it may start to struggle in scree.

The Trail 2650 feel quite durable, especially the leather outers. We don’t see any of the parts failing, or even that scuffed, with use. However, the leather is the kind that absorbs an awful lot of dirt, so they do look perpetually dusty. Our tester tested the Gore-Tex version, and his partner tested the regular version. They are both decent at water resistance, with the Gore-Tex version being a truly water resistant shoe. During testing, they would wade shallow creeks in these if necessary, though they recommend being careful to make sure the water didn’t get up too far, as they sit pretty low on the feet.

Our tester was most surprised by the midsole, which is a minimal (for Danner) with an 8 mm heel-to-toe drop and very cushioned experience. It felt good right away, and has not let up. They’re also fairly stylish for hiking shoes, so most people won’t mind wearing them around town. Our tester even threw them on for a day of yard work, and they did great.

An all-rounder for the books? We think so.

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Best Budget Hiking Shoe

Merrell Moab 3 ($140)

best budget hiking shoe - Merrell moab 3 womens

Available In: Men’s, Women’s
Heavy Duty Hiker
Weight: 11.6 oz per shoe
Heel-toe Drop: 11.5 mm
Versions: Waterproof, GORE-TEX, Ventilator, Mid

Pros: Classic and well-priced hikers that fit great and have hung around for a reason
Cons: Lacks modern features

Fit: The Merrell Moab really does fit most people. They do run a little wide in general, as opposed to narrow.

In the world of hiking shoes, there is perhaps no shoe more “classic” than the Merrell Moab 3. This is the “dad shoe” of hiking — the one that helped to define a category. Because of this, they are definitely of the old-school variety, with a large heel-to-toe drop, a burly appearance, and all the classic hiking shoe features, like leather uppers, thick laces, extra-large toe rand, and a clompy outsole.

That said, they’re a classic for a reason. Our tester wore a pair of Merrell Moabs as his sole shoe for a 6-week travel backpacking in Southeast Asia, through jungles, smoky cities, and a heap-full of trails, and he had no issues. A decade-plus later, they are still sold, almost unchanged, in every REI in the U.S. and fit most people.

When compared with more plush models, the Moab is just not as comfortable. That said, they are heavy-duty enough to take backpacking. The old-school design was all about stability. Moabs are good for backpacking, good for solid-footed hiking, and they will keep your ankle in place. A classic Vibram outsole gives the Moabs decent traction. It’s not the best on this list, but we wouldn’t worry about slipping or skidding out on most trails.

As the years go on, the durability of these classic models can decrease. We’ve seen it happen across the board, and while the Moabs are not a long-lost relic of lasting quality, they don’t have quite the staying power of older generations. we know this more from industry experience than personal testing of this pair, but we know that they may not last past a few seasons. We did not test the “waterproof” version, and yet they are rugged enough to provide some resistance. That said, the waterproof version is recommended if you plan to backpack or live in wet environments.

If you want a classic hiking shoe, especially one that is not of the “very expensive” variety (but is not exactly cheap), and like your feet ensconced in rugged materials, this is a good pick. It has less finesse than other models but gets the job done.

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Best Women’s Hiking Shoe

Altra Olympus 5 Hike Low GTX ($200)

altra hiking shoe

Available In: Men’s, Women’s
Category: Heavy-duty hiker
Weight: 13.25 oz per shoe
Heel-toe Drop: 0 mm
Versions: Low GTX, Mid GTX, and Olympus 5

Pros: Zero-drop shoes with plenty of comfort and support
Cons: Wide toe-box

Fit: A wider fit with extra room in the toe box.

While traditionally a trail running brand, Altra has expanded into the hiking scene. And they have been doing a good job of it too. The Altra Olympus 5 Hike Low GTX was the top pick in our Best Women’s Hiking Shoes of 2023 review.

Designed with comfort and performance in mind, the Altra Olympus 5 Hike Low GTX features Altra’s trademark “Balanced Cushioning,” which helps position your heel and forefoot at equal distance from the ground, which works to promote better alignment and form while hiking. Like all of Altra’s shoes, the Low GTX has a zero-drop design and a wide toe box that allows your toes to spread out naturally.

In terms of comfort, there are some pros and cons to the Hike Low GTX. If you’ve never worn a zero-drop shoe before, your calves are going to be sore. It’s best to start off by wearing your Altras on short walks and build up to longer hikes to give your calves some time to adjust. As an avid runner and hiker, our women’s tester didn’t have any issues and found these shoes to be really comfortable. However, those with narrow feet might find the wide toe box takes some getting used to.

These shoes have a lot of cushioning underfoot, providing plenty of support on rough and rocky terrain. If you’re used to more barefoot or minimalistic style shoes it may be too much for you, but as someone who is injury prone, our tester enjoyed having the extra cushion.

Just like a pair of running shoes, these hikers delivered plenty of reliable traction thanks to the Vibram Megagrip and canted lugs on the outsoles. In terms of waterproofing, the Low Hike GTX sports GORE-TEX waterproofing technology that ensures your feet stay dry, just so long as you don’t submerge past the ankle. Read the full review here.

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Best Technical Hiking Shoe

Salomon X Ultra 4 GTX ($160)

our pick for best technical hiking shoe - salomon x ultra 4 GTX

Available In: Men’s, Women’s
Category: Heavy-Duty Hiker
Weight: 13.75 oz per shoe
Heel-toe Drop: 11 mm
Versions: Mid

Pros: High-tech features provide top-tier hiking shoe performance
Cons: Narrow fit, not the most stylish

Fit: Fit is subjective, but Salomon runs very, very narrow. I had to test the “wide” version, and they are still a tad snug. Otherwise, the sizing runs true.

The Salomon X Ultra 4 GTX hiking shoes are beasts. There’s just no other way to put it. The shoe is relatively lightweight, looks and feels burly when worn, has many features unique to Salomon, and is built to last a long time. It’s often ranked as a top hiking shoe for a reason, and when we put it on the trails, it proved excellent in all categories, specifically grip and durability.

Of particular note, the QuickLace system works very well. Instead of tying laces like some traditional shoe-wearing person, you can just pull on the QuickLaces, lock the drawstring, tuck them in the included tongue bed, and know your shoes will fit snugly for your entire hike.

This is a more traditional, heavy-duty hiking shoe, so you get a much less springy feel than a trail runner, but the comfort remains solid. It’s built to carry large weights and has a firm step. The X Ultra 4 GTX also has an orthopedic insert and thick foam tongue, which adds to the overall feel. For a hiking shoe at this weight, the support is unmatched. Each step is surefooted, the shoe is slim and hugs well to the foot, and the stiffer sole is built to carry heavier loads. Outside of a boot, we can’t imagine a sturdier hiking shoe.

The Contragrip outsole has a reputation that precedes it, and my wife and I were both blown away by the traction, especially in muddy wet ground and river rock hopping. It’ll be hard to slip in these. Even after mud, water, and rocky traverses, the X Ultra 4 GTX are holding up very well. The exterior is a synthetic material that’s very tough to the touch, and the outsole has zero signs of degradation or snagging after hiking on rocks. Each feature of the X Ultra 4 GTX feels like it was made to last.

Salomon knows how to build a shoe with a waterproof lining. The X Ultra 4 GTX have “GTX” in the name because they use GORE-TEX waterproofing, which is still industry-standard as the best around for both water protection and breathability. The X Ultra 4 GTX did feel much warmer to wear than the Speedgoat 5, for instance, but they still managed to breathe on hot days. Even after river crossings, socks stayed dry.

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Best Ultralight Hiking Shoe

Hoka Speedgoat 5 ($155)

best ultralight hiking shoe - the hoka speedgoat 5

Available In: Men’s, Women’s
Category: Light Hiker
Weight: 10.3 oz per shoe
Heel-toe Drop: 4 mm
Versions: Low, GTX Low, GTX Mid, GTX Spike

Pros: Extremely lightweight with great support and agility.
Cons: Not extremely durable.

Fit: Somehow the Speedgoats managed to fit our tester’s wide feet (which sometimes require buying the wide model) and his wife’s very narrow feet. We think it’s due to the upper, which is very flexible and can stretch out comfortably if your feet require it.

The Hoka Speedgoat 5 is a now-famous trail running shoe that has trod its way into the hearts of day hikers, lightweight and ultralight backpackers, and people that love giant midsoles and flashy shoes. Like most Hokas, the Speedgoat 5 is all about cushion and provides ample midsole between the ground and your foot. But it has a serious outsole with Vibram Megagrip and thick lugs, which provide a surprising amount of traction for such a light shoe.

Hoka is known for comfort. The Speedgoats don’t have quite the ultra-plush feel of a Hoka Clifton, but then again, trail shoes are meant to give you a bit of road feel so you can push against the ground. We would not use these for backpacking, but anything outside of carrying 25-pounds plus and your feet will sing their praises.

It’s a light hiker that weighs under 11 ounces — support is not what it’s meant to do. That said, because of the robust midsole and solid traction, it gives you a lot more support than a traditional trail runner. Our tester wore the Speedgoats on wet, dirty, hilly hikes and was impressed with their traction. For such a light shoe, the outsole is comparable with much burlier models, and the deep lugs give you great grip.

The mesh is beautiful and intricately woven but very thin and easily gets scuffed up. If you find yourself in a sticky situation, your beautiful shoes may get a little torn up, and the seemingly endless comfort of the springy midsole does have a very real end. Most running shoes are built to last around 200-500 miles, which is much less than burly hiking shoes. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the opportunity to test waterproof models, but Hoka sells GTX versions (men’s, women’s).

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Best of the Rest

Hoka Anacapa Low GTX ($136)

our pick for most comfortable hiking shoe - hoka anacapa low gtx

Available In: Men’s, Women’s
Category: Heavy Duty Hiker
Weight: 14 oz per shoe
Heel-toe Drop: 6 mm
Versions: Breeze, Mid

Pros: Stable and supportive soles with great traction
Cons: On the heavier side, and require some breaking in, Anacapa 1 has been replaced by the Anacapa 2 which reportedly has some sizing issues

Fit: The fit, in general, is great but a little less “out of the box” than other hiking shoes. Because the Anacapa upper is much stiffer than their running shoe companions, the fit is less adaptable immediately. You have to wear these in a bit like you would a traditional hiking boot.

Hoka is known as a running shoe company, but that certainly hasn’t stopped them from creating a heavy-duty hiking shoe. The Hoka Anacapa Low GTX — also offered in a Mid — is one of the first knockout hiking shoes from a running company.

The uniqueness of Hoka has always been the oversized midsole with obscene amounts of cushion, and they mostly kept this intact for the Anacapa. However, where the traditional Hoka midsole, which can be found in the Speedgoat, is very springy, the Anacapa has a firmer feel.

The uppers, then, are quite different from the classic Hoka. You’ll notice the rather bland sand color, a first for Hoka, who usually leans ’60s psychedelic in their designs. But it’s more than that — the company uses nubuck leather in the upper, which adds a considerable amount of heft to the shoes, and a robust heel rand and protective tongue. All of these are a departure from the ultra-minimal uppers of the Hoka we know.

If peak comfort is the squishiest, cloud-like walk you can imagine, the Anacapa Low comes in just under that. They aren’t an immediate knock out of the park, especially for day hikes, because they have that heavy-duty feel and step to them. However, once you add a bit of weight and wear them in, the Hoka comfort starts to shine. As far as stability is concerned, for a low-cut shoe from a running company, we were quite impressed. Hoka managed to get a beefy sturdiness in the Anacapa we weren’t expecting, and we would have no issue backpacking in these shoes. The combination of the ultra-thick midsole and supportive, semi-stiff upper provides great support.

Vibram Megragrip is industry excellence for a reason, and the lug pattern on the Anacapa does not disappoint. It’s still not the best on the market for scrambling, but for most users on lighter trails, these will do wonders. All-around build quality is top-notch. The addition of leather, a beefier outsole, and the extended heel pull design means that abusing these shoes shouldn’t be an issue. Hoka uses industry-standard GORE-TEX to waterproof these shoes. They aren’t quite as bulletproof as other shoes on this list, but for most water scenarios, they will handle just fine.

Editor’s Note: Unfortunately, the well-loved Anacapa Low GTX has been replaced by the Anacapa 2 Low GTX, which has received mixed reviews on sizing. The first version (now mostly out of stock) was listed as our top pick for comfort, and we’ll be updating this review with our own take on the new version as we test the Anacapa 2. 

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Lems Primal Pursuit ($130)

best zero drop hiking shoe for daily life - lems primal pursuit

Available In: Men’s, Women’s
Category: Light Hiker
Weight: 10.3 oz per shoe
Heel-toe Drop: 4 mm
Versions: Low, GTX Low, GTX Mid, GTX Spike

Pros: Lightweight with barefoot feel and great styling
Cons: Don’t have the ruggedness required for longer, tougher hikes

Fit: These shoes are on the wider side, especially in the toe box. Lems has a great track record of saying exactly how their shoes fit, down to the colors, so trust the website when you’re looking for sizing.

The Lems Primal Pursuit is an interesting blend of stylish design and minimalism built into an all-around hiking shoe. They fit squarely in the “casual” category, and while they did fine on easy day hikes, the shoes are not built for anything too rough and tumble. They are extremely lightweight, and due to the zero drop stack height, they actually do a very good job of living up to the “barefoot” concept they were designed after (and which the entire Lems brand was designed around).

Our lead testers has personally have never fallen in love with a zero-drop shoe — something about the way it affects his calves and gait — but that’s a personal thing, more than an individual shoe thing. The Primal Pursuit shoes have a very on-trail feeling, meaning the cushion is not hefty.

The Lems Primal Pursuit is the middle of the road for comfort. One could argue that comfort is relative here, but when put against some of the other very large, squishy midsoles of other shoes in this guide, they just don’t provide as much luxury cushion. Likewise, the Primal Pursuits are much more built for a lightweight hike than a backpacking trek. They weigh very little and offer medium support for trekking.

We found the traction to be quite good for the depth of the lugs and the lack of a beefed-up outsole. They held grip on the same muddy trails as other shoes, but we’d be hesitant to take them on extended wet hikes with rocks or shale. The breathability on the Primal Pursuit is outstanding, which typically means the durability is somewhat questionable. The thin mesh that comprises most of the upper feels like it could scuff easily, but the vegan-leather parts of the upper are well-built. This is not a waterproof-lined shoe, so waterproofness was minimal.

Finally, they are indeed brewery-worthy. You could take them to a co-working space, a mid-day hike with the dog, and a dinner at the end of the day. Granted, our tester’s feet and calves were a little tired, but for those who love zero drop, these are a real winner.

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Altra Lone Peak 7 ($150)

a great hiking shoe is the altra loan peak

Available In: Men’s, Women’s
Category: Light Hiker
Weight: 11 oz per shoe
Heel-toe Drop: 0 mm
Versions: All-WTHR Low, All-WTHR Mid, Hiker, Alpine

Pros: Lots of cushion for a barefoot shoe, lightweight/breathable
Cons: Rough on the calves

The Altra Lone Peak 7 is known as the zero-drop thru-hiker shoe. Jargon, sorry. They are known as the main shoe of those who love to hike “barefoot” for thousands of miles on the PCT, AT, and CDT. Why?

They have a lot of cushion for a barefoot shoe, remain lightweight and breathable, and are actually quite durable for trail runners. The Altra Lone Peaks were our tester’s first foray into zero drop many moons ago, and while they performed admirably on another trip to Southeast Asia, his calves couldn’t hang. Zero drop is definitely a style to get used to.

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Oboz Sawtooth Low ($160)

oboz sawtooth low hiking shoe

Available In: Men’s, Women’s
Category: Heavy Duty Hiker
Weight: 15.6 oz per shoe
Heel-toe Drop: Not Listed
Versions: Waterproof, Mid

Pros: Incredibly durable
Cons: Heavy

Oboz hails from Montana and is one of the new-classic outdoor shoe companies. They make heavy-duty boots for serious outdoor trekking, and the Sawtooth Low is their beastly design trimmed down (a bit) into a hiker. The outsole is a serious design feat, and the durability is unmatched. Get ready to feel the weight with every step.

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Keen Targhee III Waterproof ($155)

the Keen Targhee III makes a great option for a hiking shoe

Available In: Men’s, Women’s
Category: Heavy Duty Hiker
Weight: 16.12 oz per shoe
Heel-toe Drop: Not Listed
Versions: Mid, Vent

Pros: Provide solid support, durable
Cons: Runs slightly narrow

Another universal classic, the Keen Targhee, goes head to head every year with the Merrell Moab for “dad shoe.” Keen really started as that rugged water-sandal company, but the Targhee has climbed its way into most outdoor outfitters for a reason. They are well made, durable, comfortable, and fit a lot of people, though they do run on the slightly narrow side. They’re another heavy-duty hiker that will ensconce your foot and provide serious support, and moderate comfort, for many miles.

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Comparison Table

Shoe Price Category Weight (per shoe) Heel-Toe Drop Versions
Danner Trail 2650 $170 All Around 9 oz 8 mm Campo, GTX, Trail Mesh, Mid
Altra Olympus 5 Hike Low GTX $200 Heavy-duty hiker 13.25 oz. 0 mm Low GTX, Mid GTX, and Olympus 5
Salomon X Ultra 4 GTX $160 Light Hiker 13.75 oz 11 mm MidLow, GTX Low, GTX Mid, GTX Spike
Hoka Speedgoat 5 $155 Heavy Duty Hiker 10.3 oz 4 mm Low, GTX Low, GTX Mid, GTX Spike
Hoka Anacapa Low GTX $136 Heavy Duty Hiker 14.0 oz 6 mm Breeze, Mid
Merrell Moab 3 $140 Heavy Duty Hiker 11.6 oz 11.5 mm Waterproof, GORE-TEX, Ventilator, Mid
Lems Primal Pursuit $130 Light Hiker 10.3 oz 4 mm Low, GTX Low, GTX Mid, GTX Spike
Altra Lone Peak 7 $150 Light Hiker 11 oz 0 mm All-WTHR Low, All-WTHR Mid, Hiker, Alpine
Oboz Sawtooth Low $160 Heavy Duty Hiker 15.6 oz N/A Waterproof, Mid
Keen Targhee III Waterproof $155 Heavy Duty Hiker 16.12 oz N/A Mid, Vent

We reviewed the best hiking shoes on the market to help you decide.

There are a ton of options out there when it comes to hiking shoes. We tested the best of them in the wild to help you make the best decision for what to buy. Photo: Pippa Baker-Rabe

How We Tested the Best Men’s and Women’s Hiking Shoes

Our testing team, led by Daniel Zweier and Rebecca Parsons brings decades of combined experience in the “sport” of hiking, with backgrounds in backpacking and trail running.

For this guide, we combined real-time testing on the glorious trails of backcountry southern California (think Sespe Wilderness), the rugged verticality of the Hawaiian island of Oahu, a long-standing knowledge of all hiking shoe models and their development, and the mass of reviews that readily exist (and which you’ve surely perused) on all these models. We got our hands on all the shoes listed here in the review, as well as many that didn’t make the cut, and have spent our fair share of miles in every shoe featured here.

This article was first published in the spring of 2023. After publishing our Best Hiking Shoes for Women later in the season, we updated this article with some top picks for women’s hiking shoes, and this fall we added a rating table, some pros and cons, and updated the position of the Hoka Anacapa Low GTX, which has been replaced by the Hoka Anacapa 2.

Ratings Table

Hiking Shoe Overall Score Comfort Support Traction Durability Water Resistance
Danner Trail 2650 4.4 5 5 4 4 4
Altra Olympus 5 Hike Low GTX 4.3 4.5 4 4.5 4.5 4
Salomon X Ultra 4 GTX 4.8 4 5 5 5 5
Hoka Speedgoat 5 2.8 5 3 4 2 0
Hoka Anacapa Low GTX 4.1 4.5 4 4 4 4
Merrell Moab 3 3.2 3 4 4 3 2
Lems Primal Pursuit 2.6 3 3 4 3 0
Altra Lone Peak 7  2.6 3 3 4 3 0
Oboz Sawtooth Low  4.2 2 5 5 5 4
Keen Targhee III Waterproof  3.4 3 4 4 3 3

Buyer’s Guide

What Is a Hiking Shoe?

People throw the term hiking shoe around all the time, and they don’t always mean the same thing. For the purposes of this guide, hiking shoes are low-topped footwear built for hiking on trails. The hike you’re on could be a simple day hike, a gnarly 15-plus-mile full day, or a backpacking trip, but a dirt or rock trail is key. For this guide, we’re talking about hiking shoes that are “low cut.” Specifically, not hiking boots, which we covered in The Best Hiking Boots of 2023 and The Best Hiking Boots for Women in 2023. This subset of gear can occasionally include trail running shoes, urban hiking shoes, and other varieties, so long as you wear them on a trail and they provide adequate comfort when doing the extreme activity of walking outdoors on dirt.

What Hiking Shoes Should I Get?

This is the question most people start with, and the one you inevitably ask the hip, outdoorsy staff at REI when you head to the great wall of shoes. The answer is as facetious as it is simple: get the hiking shoes you will actually wear for the activity you actually do. Too often, we see burly, heavy, overly rugged shoes lusted after by people who mostly go on walks on that paved trail by the river through the center of town. Yes, it’s fun to wear a fancy, technically capable pair of hiking shoes. But it’s not always the right thing, and oftentimes the most rugged doesn’t equate to the most comfortable (despite the marketing material). We tend to split hiking shoes into three main categories: Light Hiking ShoesHeavy Duty Hiking Shoes, and Crossover Hiking Shoes. 

Light Hiking Shoes

Light hiking shoes typically refer to the materials used in the upper, the weight of the shoe, and how aggressive the outsole is. These could be trail running shoes like the Hoka Speedgoat 5 or Altra Lone Peak 7 or just lightweight classic hiking shoes like the Topo Athletic Ultraventure Pro. They are excellent for day hikes, breathability, and speed and will keep a spring in your step. However, they’re not always ideal for really rough terrain or long distances with a heavy backpack.

Heavy Duty Hiking Shoes

Heavy duty hiking shoes are beefed-up shoes and typically what’s recommended to folks who want a “hiking shoe.” They often have leather uppers for enhanced durability, aggressive outsoles with thick lugs and large toe rands, come in waterproof models, rock plates to protect your feet against rocky trail, and are built to last many years. Very capable of any kind of hiking and backpacking, though if you prefer ankle support with a heavy pack, a hiking boot may be better.

Crossover Hiking Shoes

Crossover hiking shoes are more casual in nature, both in how they look and their technical capability. They are billed as the shoes that go “from trail to brewery” and can serve as your everyday shoe if you like wearing hiking shoes all the time. Our top pick in this category (and overall) was the Danner Trail 2650.

In order to pick a hiking shoe, we always recommend identifying the type of activity you would do with said shoes from the list above. Pick the most common activity — if you go on 1-2 mile hikes every week and backpacking once every couple of years, you’re probably fine with a light hiking shoe. But if you backpack frequently or need a pair for a long trip where the miles and terrain will be tough, get a shoe that can handle the journey.

our favorite lightweight trail running shoes for men and women was the Hoka Speedgoat

The men’s and women’s versions of the Hoka Speedgoat look good and perform even better. Photo: Pippa Baker-Rabe

What’s the Deal with Stack Height and “Heel to Toe” Drop?

In recent years, the actual construction of hiking shoes has come into more mainstream conversation. This is partly marketing jargon, but it’s also due to trail running shoes and the running shoe industry generally making a big splash in the “outdoor” shoe realm.

Stack height is the literal height of the midsole of your shoe — how many millimeters the shoe brings your foot off the ground. This corresponds to how much cushion you feel and how much your feet actually feel the ground.

Heel-to-toe drop is the slant of the shoe — how many millimeters the shoe angles your foot from your heel to your toe. This corresponds to the arch of your foot and the motion of your gait. A higher heel-to-toe drop means your gait is heavily assisted, while a zero heel-to-toe drop means your shoes mimic the design of your foot, which doesn’t slant at all.

The “barefoot” shoe movement has taken off since Born to Run, and many runners, hikers, and even backpackers swear by minimal, zero-drop shoes that provide basic protection, maybe some cushion, but mostly let your feet walk hundreds (if not thousands) of miles without much assistance. If you have never felt like traditional hiking boots or shoes felt very good or like they really altered your gait, consider a lower-drop shoe.

Running shoe brands, like Hoka or Altra, often make shoes with a lower heel-to-toe drop, and traditional hiking boot brands, like Merrell and Oboz, have a large drop. It’s a little like IBU and ABV numbers for beer — for the discerning individual who wants a precise taste and level of intoxication, the numbers are illuminating. For those who just want to throw back a cold one — whatever cold one — the numbers mean a lot less.

We tested and reviewed the best hiking and trail running shoes in a variety of categories.

The Hoka Speedgoat 5 took our pick for the best ultralight trail running shoe. Photo: Pippa Baker-Rabe

Waterproof or Nah?

Most shoes on this list, and most hiking shoes in the world, come in regular models and waterproof models. “Waterproof” is technically a misnomer — it’s not like the shoes are wrapped in plastic that can’t be penetrated by moisture. Waterproof means there is a special liner on the shoe —  sometimes on the very outside, sometimes between the exterior layer and interior shoe lining — that is filled with small pores that are built to let air escape while disallowing moisture inside.

It’s a lot of tech inside your sneaker, but it does work. Waterproof hiking shoes do repel water, and the best of them will keep your socks and feet dry, but they are also typically hotter, heavier, and more expensive. They also repel water to a degree. Hiking in a light drizzle is very different than hiking through a long downpour or wading through a river. No shoe is going to protect you from that. Many hikers who prefer the lightweight variety of hiking shoes also prefer those without waterproof membranes because they breathe much better.

Best All Around Hiking Shoe
Best All Around Hiking Shoe

Offering out of the box comfort, the Danner Trail 2650 is lightweight yet rugged, comfortable, supportive, offer reliable traction, and are stylish to boot.

Price: ($170)

Check Price on REI

Ode to Heavy Duty Hikers

Listen, there are hundreds of hiking shoes on the market. No guide can name them all. Even this guide, which we toiled over and tested rigorously, left out a lot of excellent brands that produce excellent heavy-duty hiking shoes. Shoes are best when tried on. Even if you order multiple pairs online and then keep the ones that feel best, you do need to try them on to really understand.

And the thing about hiking shoes is that almost every hiking boot is also a hiking shoe. So LOWA, La Sportiva, The North Face, Arc’teryx, Vasque, and Topo Athletic are all worth considering if they feel good to you.

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Editor’s Note: For more gear reviews and features on The Inertia, click here.

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