Do I Need Hiking Boots To Hike
Hiking boots are an essential part of your outdoor trekking, hiking and adventuring experience and will help you get the most out of your time on the trail. A solid hiking or backpacking boot will allow you to walk comfortably for miles over varied terrain, with either a day pack or overnight pack. Hiking boots will keep your feet supported, stable and dry on the trail.
We chose to review light hiking boots vs. a full mountaineering boot because they are a great introduction for beginner or day hikers who dont want a lot of extra weight on their feet and want to start using them right out of the box with little or no break-in period. Light hiking boots are also a great option for experienced hikers who want versatility in their hiking gear for when they are doing less technical trails or carrying a lighter pack. Lightweight boots can often double as backpacking boots, too, if your load is light.
If youre interested in a more sturdy hiking boot than we cover in this article, see our Best Hiking Boots story.
Or if youre looking for a hiking shoe , see our Best Hiking Shoe story.
Or if you want something for a fast and light adventure, see our Best Trail Running Shoes story.
Not sure which shoe is the best for you? Read our story on How to Make a Hiking Footwear Decision.
The Best Hiking Shoes For Fastpacking
Reasons to avoid
If youre looking for a high-performing hiking shoe that looks more like a sporty trainer, then the Swift R3s have got your name written all over them. Available in six different colorways, ranging from the frankly lurid acid mint and solar yellow option through to the far more discreet and street-friendly black version, these shoes are armed with a formidable set of features that make them very trail capable while still having the appearance of shoe you could happily kick a football around in.
The Continental outsole has a set of terrain-hugging 4.5mm lugs, cleverly designed and positioned to provide push-off traction from the toe and braking capability on the tapered heel when youre descending, with reverse chevrons dishing up good levels of control. Despite their sleek appearance, there is a substantial toecap and heel cup, and a rand that encircles the shoe. They also have a protection plate in the outsole, to stop sharp sticks and stones sticking through and hurting your feet.
The EVA midsole supply cushioning but the Swift R3s are surprisingly rigid, courtesy of the chunky pro-moderator feature in the midfoot, designed to improve lateral stability and prevent arch fatigue on bigger walks. Some hikers will love this feature, especially those who tend to do longer walks and tackle rocky and sometimes technical terrain, while those who do more casual walks might prefer more flex.
Reasons to avoid
Reasons to avoid
Reasons to avoid
Reasons to avoid
Vasque Clarion 88 Hiking Boots
Another way to mix style and performance is to grab the throwback, Vasque Clarion 88 Hiking Booots. Using colorways found in Vasques 1988 catalog, these hikers have old-school cool written all over them so you can wear them without shame when you stop by the coffee shop on your way through town. But youll feel good at the trailhead too, knowing theres a Vibram outsole under your feet and GORE-TEX over the top helping you enjoy your time outdoors too.
Designed For: Style
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Other Versions Of The Salomon X Ultra 4
We put the mens low-top, Gore-Tex variation of the X Ultra 4 through its paces for this review, and that style is also offered in a womens equivalent that costs the same and has a nearly identical construction. The womens X Ultra 4 GTX is sold in different colorways than the mens variation, but you can expect similar performance across the board review). If you hike mostly in mild weather or prioritize breathability, opting for the non-waterproof X Ultra 4 will save you $30 and 2.1 ounces. And finally, Salomon offers a mid-height Gore-Tex model, which provides additional protection and coverage at a higher weight and cost . For a breakdown of that model, see our in-depth X Ultra 4 Mid review.
What Are Hiking Shoes
In the simplest of terms, hiking shoes are actually a modern spinoff of the good-old boots. A modern hiking shoe is a versatile piece of hiking footwear and often resembles sneakers used by athletes. However, these provide better protection, cushioning, and traction hiking in them is both safe and comfortable.
The best hiking shoes, or trail runners, are made out of premium materials that make them more flexible and lighter than your standard hiking boot. These perks do not compromise their efficiency on the trail, however. Some of the high-performance features found on a modern trail running shoe include a sock-like bootie, a waterproof coating, a high-grip lug pattern, a protective upper material, and similar hiking-specific components.
In short, hiking shoes or trail runners are nimbler, lighter, easier to pack, and also easier to break in. In addition, theyre the best trekking buddies for those who often hike in warm weather. When its hot outside, moving in trail runners is much easier, and your feet will stay dry and cool.
As expected, the biggest disadvantage of trail runners is their durability. In other words, an average pair of trail runners will have to be swapped for a new one after some five hundred miles of use. Of course, this number totally depends on the wearers definition of this shoe cant be used anymore. Well talk more about the differences between hiking shoes vs hiking boots in terms of durability later on.
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Other Versions Of The Merrell Moab
For this review, we tested the mens version of the Moab 2 Ventilator Low, but Merrell also makes the shoe in a waterproof model, which adds about 2 ounces per pair and costs $25 more. For hikers who want added support and protection, the line includes a Moab 2 Mid boot in both non-waterproof Ventilator and waterproof models . As we touched on above, you also can upgrade to a premium Gore-Tex waterproof membrane for $145 or $155 . And all of the aforementioned options are made in womens-specific versions in different colorways. Finally, Merrell offers the Moab 2 Prime with an all-leather upper, as well as work and tactical variations for more specialized activities. What they all share in common, however, is a high level of comfort and good price points for what you get.
Best Looking: Adidas Terrex Free Hiker
Pros: They look great, and theyre lightweight and comfortable.
Cons: The material is quite thin, and they are not great for hiking uphill.
There is a lot to like about these shoes, particularly in how versatile they are. You can wear them on the street as well as on the trail. They are comfy, flexible, and tight around the ankle so that no debris get inside the shoe. But although Adidas markets them as a hiking boot, in the strictest sense they dont fit that description.
Let me explain. Hiking boots usually give you a strong lace pattern and tough material that will keep your feet secured against the sole so that you dont get blisters or injure your toes. Hiking uphill in these shoes does not provide such support, and as for tough material, the top is one step above a wool sock.
So while these have my favorite aesthetic of any hiking shoe and would be awesome for casual hiking on smooth terrain, I wouldnt recommend them as a bushwhacking shoe. As a side note, they are not waterproof, but there is another pair of Terrexes that comes with a waterproof option.
You can buy a pair now on !
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Why You Should Trust Us
For the first iteration of this guide, which we published in 2018, writer Ebony Roberts spent 25 hours researching popular boots and working to understand how foot shape and hiking style might affect your boot choice. She interviewed experts including Beth Henkes, sales lead for footwear at the REI store in Alderwood, Washington, and residency-trained podiatrist and former Wirecutter writer Jim McDannald. She also chatted with Mike Armstrong, head of operations for Outward Bound Hong Kong.
In 2020, writer Jenni Gritters scoured the scene for new boots. Jenni has worked as a journalist for nearly a decade and has edited dozens of Wirecutter guides for the outdoor, travel, sleep, and babies/kids sections. She has also written for the New York Times, Outside, and Gear Patrol. She spent dozens of hours reading through editorial boot reviews from sites like GearLab and Outside Online, as well as reviews on REIs site, after which she tested a set of new boots in the Pacific Northwest. In 2021, Jenni updated this guide again after extensive research this time around, she took updated boots to the high deserts of Utah and Oregon. She has also been long-term testing several of our picks throughout the fall, winter, and spring months while carrying a 30-pound kid on her back.
Best Overall Hiking Boots
The Salomon Quest 4 Gore-Tex is the real deal and we consider it to be the epitome of what a hiking boot should be. In this total package, you are treated with cushioned comfort, excellent stability, and the best waterproof credentials in the business. This boot is for hikers who want to do long and demanding backpacking trips in difficult terrain, carrying heavier packs, or both. With the tallest ankle cuff height of any boot in our review and an innovative support structure, we feel these are the most stable backpacking boots out there, and that height also gives them an advantage in water resistance.
We wholeheartedly recommend this boot as the best overall option if you want the ultimate in performance. It excels on long hikes thanks to a customizable fit that adapts to the shape of your foot, it has the support you need when carrying an overnight backpacking kit, and its traction ensures that you won’t be caught slipping. It weighs more than many in this review, though that weight is worth such a performance upgrade in our opinion. The only aspect where this boot doesn’t excel is dumping heat and excess perspiration on hikes in hot and arid climates. We have been thoroughly impressed with previous iterations of this boot, and we can confidently say that Salomon has once again created a world-class hiker in the Quest 4 Gore-Tex.
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Try On Your Boots To Make Sure Theyre Comfortable
Once youve decided on the right type of boot, take the time to try the chosen model while youre in the store . This way, youll be able to establish the overall comfort of the shoes and check the following points:
The size of your shoes: with the laces loosened and push your foot forward until your toes touch the front of the boot. There should be enough room to place your index finger behind your heel.
Foot support: with the laces tight, you should be able to walk in the boot without your heel slipping. If your heel moves, the boot will rub against your skin and you might get blisters . As for your toes, they should be able to move freely.
You also need to pay attention to any pain points or seams that dont match the shape of your foot. The cuff, regardless of height, should not interfere with your ankle bone either.
If possible, compare several pairs of boots that are made for your style of hiking and go with the one that feels best.
Minimalist Hiking Shoes For Kids
I personally tend to prefer more minimalist-style shoes for myself and my children. This means I look for shoes with flexible soles and a foot bed that is more neutral than a typical sneaker.
There are many companies that make minimalist shoes for younger children, but these are harder to find as kids get older and harder on footwear. I have found shoes that are still flexible for young feet, while offering the protection and and traction necessary for technical terrain.
> > > Looking for more hiking gear recommendations? Check out this post!< < <
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On Shoes Cloudventure Waterproof
Like the Cloudrock boots, the Cloudventure shoes feature the unique curving sole with deep lugs making the shoes as supportive, stable and comfortable as their boot siblings. They have a more modern, style-led design than many other walking shoes on the market which makes them ideal for those of you who want an all-day trail shoe that you won’t feel the need to change out of when you get to the pub at the end of your hike — as long as they’re not too caked in mud.
They’re fully waterproof and their low weight means they’re just as well-suited for trail running as they are to fast-paced hikes.
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The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.
Timberland Chocorua Trail Waterproof Boots
Senior editor Jessica Puckett learned the hard way that sneakers don’t stand up to all hiking trails, especially the sloppy, muddy ones of Hawaii. I took my first-ever serious hike on vacation a couple of years ago through a lush jungle on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. Even though it was only an intermediate hike on designated trails, let’s just say I was a little less than prepared gear-wise. By the end of the jungle trek, my humble sneakers were completely coated in mud, and even after scrubbing them in a nearby creek, I had to throw them out. She’s now a fan of Timberland’s Chocorua Trail Waterproof Hiking Boots. The sturdy, all-terrain shoe has a thick rubber sole and a soft cushioned collar that she says requires no breaking in . The best part is the shoe’s outer layer, which is coated in Gore-Tex, meaning absolutely no water or mud will seep through.
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Cheap Hiking Boot Buying Guide
These are some key areas that you should consider while purchasing the best budget hiking boot, otherwise, you may spend your hard-earned money on the worst product. Here, we have considered the below metrics to sort the best cheap hiking boots. Comfort, traction, stability, water resistance, protection, weight, breathability, and durability are the metrics.
Comfort: It is the most important factor while choosing the best inexpensive hiking boots for men or women. Hikers always prefer to choose boots that deliver comfort to the upper and underfoot. Fit is another important key. You wouldnt want to wear an ill-fitted hiking boot during a long hike.
Traction: You may have to face any type of obstacle like loose rocks, slippery boulders, or muddy paths. A good hiking boot with solid traction can be the savior in such cases. It gives hikers more confidence to hike any tough trails.
Water Resistance: A good cheap hiking boot will keep your feet dry and it is very important to keep your feet warm when hiking in the winter or rainy season. Waterproof hiking shoes can withstand a moderate amount of water and you can easily cross creeks and snow-filled areas.
Protection: We have also looked upon the reviews if these hiking boots provide solid protection for your toe, ankle, and underfoot. Most hiking boots offer more protection from various obstacles than cheap hiking shoes.
Merrell Moab 2 Mid Hiking Boot
Considered by many hikers to be the best of the best, the Moab 2 Mid is built to handle the roughest of terrains. Unparalleled grip, a waterproof yet breathable upper, and stellar ankle support make it a consistent best seller among novice and advanced hikers alike. The mix of synthetic materials and natural leather land the Moab smack in between the rugged heritage of an old-school alpine boot and the advanced modernism of a do-it-all trail shoe. That is to say: its looks are lovably granola.
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What You Really Need In Hiking Footwear
When youre picking hiking footwear, these are the factors that are important:
- They should protect your feet. That means no cuts or damage to your feet from the elements.
- They should be comfortable. You should be able to use them without getting blisters.
- They should be lightweight. You will step thousands of times when you hike. Every ounce saved on lifting your feet is more energy to hike farther.
How And Where We Tested
In 2018, we tested 26 pairs of boots. In 2020, we tested 10 more, and in 2021, we tested seven additional pairs plus an update of our runner-up pick. To get multiple opinions, we handed them out to 26 testers, both male and female, plus the guide authors. We asked each of our testers to hike at least 30 miles totaland they went for it, hiking in 13 states and three provinces. They tackled loose gravel, groomed trails, and brush. They schlepped through mud, splashed in water, scampered up steep inclines, slid on snow, and even wore the boots into town and around the block. They hiked during the spring, summer, fall, and winter months.
Our testers hiked for over 1,200 miles, taking more than 2 million steps across 13 states, three provinces, and four countries.
And while they hiked, they tracked their steps and distance using fitness trackers. They also recorded information about the hike and the weight of their packs. And they took notes about the terrain and climate, in addition to recording their thoughts on the boots and the break-in time required for each pair. Some hiked with kids, while pregnant, and with dogs and friends. In the end, during 2018, 2020, and 2021, our testers hiked for over 1,200 miles, taking more than 2 million steps.
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