While nearly every boot in this report is available in women's sizing, only a few are designed specifically to fit a woman's foot. The female foot tends to be wider in the forefoot, narrower in the heel and longer in the arch than a man's, so a smaller version of a man's boot doesn't always provide the best fit.
Our best reviewed women's hiking boot, the Asolo Stynger GTX (Est. $235), is a perennial favorite that has long been beloved of female hikers. They say it provides a comfortable, secure fit right out of the box and can handle just about anything you throw at it, including 40-plus-pound backpacking loads. Interestingly, reviewers with both wide and narrow feet tend to rave about this boot's fit, probably because of the roomy toe box and smaller ankle/heel design that's made to fit a woman's foot.
Reviewers say this boot is supportive, surprisingly breathable, and grips just about any surface well. It has a waterproof/breathable GoreTex liner that does a good job of waterproofing up to about ankle level, and a solid, protective sole that's fairly rigid. A rubber toe and reinforced heel protect you from trail obstacles like and tree roots, and the upper wears very well. The sole wears moderately well, with recent reviews indicating that you can reasonably expect at least five years of regular use from the Asolo Stynger GTX.
Another Asolo model, our overall best-reviewed Asolo TPS 520 GV (Est. $300), is also very popular with female hikers. Just keep in mind that this heavy-duty leather backpacking boot will require some break-in time before you hit the trail, and it doesn't have the narrowest heel out there. Still, if you're going to be carrying heavy loads or taking long, challenging hikes in loose, off-trail terrain, it's one of the most supportive boots you can buy and also offers top-notch ankle support.
A heavy leather boot will almost always outlast a light synthetic boot, and the Asolo TPS 520 is no exception; you can easily expect it to last for ten years or more than a thousand miles of heavy hiking. Its only real weak point is traction on wet surfaces, a typical problem for this sort of stiff, heavy-duty boot -- although it does better than most. There are occasional complaints that its sole delaminates, but customers say Asolo is good about fixing the problem.
A very common complaint from female hikers is that their heels slide around in boots that otherwise fit well. If this sounds like you, try the Salomon Quest 4D 2 GTX (Est. $200), which has lace eyelets set far enough back to lock your heel in. This lightweight, agile boot feels almost like a running shoe, reviewers say. The average women's pair weighs just 2 pounds, 4 ounces, is good for loads of up to 40 pounds, and has a roomy toe box that won't pinch your toes on downhills.
Our best-reviewed waterproof boot, the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid (Est. $200), is also very popular with female hikers. The average women's pair weighs just 2 pounds, 2 ounces and is available in three widths: narrow, normal and wide. The Renegade GTX Mid also has a seamless GoreTex liner and Nubuck leather uppers that require almost no break-in period. The laces do a good job of locking in a narrow heel. The Renegade GTX Mid also draws top expert scores for support, comfort and traction, even on mud and snow. Its durability does suffer somewhat because of the light construction, but many hikers love this boot so much that they're happy to buy a new pair every year.
The lightest women's boot in this report is the La Sportiva FC 3.2 (Est. $175), which weighs just under one pound per boot. The hardcore reviewers at OutdoorGearLab.com give this boot's predecessor, the FC 3.0, very high scores for support, traction, comfort and water resistance. The FC 3.2 is friendly to narrow feet -- especially narrow heels -- and draws lots of great feedback on its stability and traction while off-trail on rough terrain. Its durability is only so-so, though; be ready to buy a new pair after a year of heavy use. A hard-to-find Eco version features recycled materials in most of its nylon content, including all of the laces and the nylon mesh in the upper, plus 40 percent of the wicking lining.