There’s no one-size-fits-all hiking boot. You need to take into account the terrain, the weather, and your own feet. Choose wrong and you’ll end up with aching toes, sore arches, and, worst of all, blisters.
“There are a variety of hiking boots out there designed for a wide array of conditions, and you should tailor your selection to what you think will be needed,” says Alyson Stone, a manager at Neptune Mountaineering.
If you are going to be hiking somewhere where it rains a lot, a pair of waterproof boots that have a tread designed for muddy trails will be needed. But, if you are headed somewhere where you’re going to be fjording a ton of streams (such as in Alaska) you will want boots that let the water out, because waterproof boots act as a tub once they fill with water. Cold weather or a history of weak ankles call for a larger boot that comes up over your ankle to offers extra protection.
Then there are trail running shoes. They have quickly become the favorite for thru-hikers that routinely head out for weeks at a time. It’s no wonder: They are extremely lightweight and offer many of the technical aspects of bigger boots. But there are some drawbacks, she cautions. Due to their minimal footbed support, they can lead to aching feet if you are carrying large loads on your back or have a history of arch issues or ankle injuries. Plus, they don’t have a long shelf life.
Once you know what type of boot you want then you can focus on the most important aspect of a great boot: the fit. Hiking boots should fit your feet snugly, but not have any gaps where your foot is continually rubbing, because that’s how blisters are made. Crucially, plan ahead. Buy your boots at least a month before hitting the trail so you can break them in. Based on the criteria above, here are the ones we recommend.
The shoe is made of supple leather, and has mesh panels with a B-DRY membrane that make the hiking shoe breathable without letting water in.
Pros: If foot sweat is an issue for you, this is your shoe. It keeps your feet dry, while letting sweat escape out, thanks to its waterproofing system. Add to that stability the Hoka sole which provides protection for the ball of your foot and big lugs for traction on bare rock it also rolls with each step, giving you a little extra bounce.
Cons: It’s not light, by any means, and even if it looks like a shoe, it weighs like a boot.
These Adidas shoes provide an outstanding grip in wet and rocky conditions.
Pros: These Adidas shoes are lightweight, but provide ample cushioning. They’re especially well-suited for wet and rocky conditions. You also get lug soles and a rubber outsole to give you solid grip, so no slipping and sliding.
Cons: The laces tend to break, so have an extra pair handy.
This is a high performance, trail running shoe for those with narrow feet.
Pros: This is a solid all-around trail shoe that’s ideal for steep climbs, long hikes, trail runs and backcountry treks. The AirMesh fabric keep your feet cool on hot days, controls moisture and prevent blisters. The shoe has vibram soles, to give you high tread grip. And there’s ankle support, to boot.
Cons: They tend to run really small, so order at least one size up.
A lightweight trail runner that is designed for all types of weather. It offers the traction of a bigger boot, but the will keep your foot dry in rainy conditions.
Pros: It has a larger toe box that keeps your toes from bunching up on both uphill climbs and descents. There is a strapless gaiter attachment to offer more protection from the elements when needed. Its outsole has a great system of lugs to ensure traction on show and mud.
Cons: The upper is made with the brand’s eVent fabric that is waterproof, great in rainy conditions, but not the best if you are crossing streams where water will flow into the shoe.
From one of the better-known running shoe companies out, here's the Peregrine lightweight trail runner that also is a favorite of hikers.
Pros: They are super-comfortable right out of the box, while offering great traction and a solid base under your feet. There is lots of room in the toe box and a soft foot bed that is a treat for your feet. They are fully breathable and dry out quickly if you get them wet.
Cons: They are basically souped-up running shoes and won’t last forever. Good for one or two seasons of use depending on how much you hike.
This is a top-selling and popular barefoot shoe, which gives your feet the ability to engage naturally with the terrain and keeps your feet in a neutral position.
Pros: These barefoot hiking terrain shoes give you a more natural connection with the ground, and helps place you in a more natural alignment, which can lead to better posture and less strain on your joints.
Cons: These are little too much padding for some hard-core barefoot shoe aficionados.
This boot features a Techlite lightweight midsole for long lasting comfort, plus an Omni-Grip rubber sole for traction.
Pros: You get the best of both worlds with these hiking boots. By that, we mean waterproof full-grain leather and suede lightweight construction, plus a breathable mesh tongue. Oh, and they look great, too.
Cons: They’re not quite as waterproof as advertised, so don’t wear them if you plan on walking through very wet areas.
You get extra shock absorption and stability in the heel thanks to this hiking boot's air cushioning.
Pros: These truly are waterproof, and the traction is almost incomparable. The hiking boot also boasts a contoured footbed with a zonal arch and heel support, as well as a protective rubber toe cap.
Cons: They tend to run small, so order a half-size up.
As one of the most popular trail running shoes out, there the Speedcross offers superior traction, great support, and a super-snug fit. This year’s version is even lighter than its predecessors.
Pros: The tread on this shoe can handle the muddiest of conditions easily, with lugs right off the toes for climbing power on steep trails. It utilizes a speed lace system so slipping it on and off is easy, plus it has an Ortholite footbed for comfort.
Cons: It offers minimal protection from water and if the temps drop your toes might get chilly. Best for day hikes only.
This is a well-designed shoe that is great for trail running and approach hikes to local crags. It’s one of the most breathable shoes on the market, so it's perfect for dry climates.
Pros: Due to its venting system, this hiking boot will quickly dry out if you have to cross a creek or stream. The soles are made from super-grippy FriXion XF material and will stick to rocks like glue. Its narrow design means that it offers a stable platform and there is a steel shank underfoot to protect your soles.
Cons: Its narrow design means stability, but also can mean discomfort for people with wider feet.
Known as some of the most comfortable hiking boots out there, these low-cut boots from Obōz will keep you comfortable during a long day on the trail, and when you are sitting around the campfire
Pros: The rugged outer sole will keep your feet safe when you are hiking, regardless the terrain. Made with waterproof Nubuck leather, these hiking boots will keep your toes dry, yet if you happen to step into a creek they will dry out easily. A hefty toecap and heel counter provide extra protection when needed.
Cons: They are low-cut boots and should be avoided if you have any history of ankle injuries.
A great-looking all leather boot that can withstand the rigors of the trail and still look good when you wear them out to your local watering hole.
Pros: Serious cushioning means that your feet will be well-supported and solid underfoot when on the trail. These are excellent hiking boots for people who pronate or supinate when they walk. Plus it offers comfortable space for your toes to move and breath.
Cons: These tend to run large, so order half a size smaller than usual.
This is the ideal hiking boot for hunters and others who spend long hours in the rugged backcountry. Its leather construction can withstand abuse, and the super-comfy Ortholite footbed means that your feet will be snug as a bug in a rug.
Pros: These hiking boots feature nylon eyelets to ensure that there’s no snagging, which means no tripping on passing brambles and bushes. It has a Vibram sole offering excellent traction, plus a 3F system and flex collar to ensure your foot stays in one spot and does not shift.
Cons: This hiking boot is an update to the brand’s popular Mountain Trainer Mid and this is the first year it is on the market, so it’s something of a new quantity.
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