Types of Hiking Boots
Most hiking and backpacking boots have high-cut uppers that provide plenty of ankle support, plus a stiff sole for foot protection and some degree of waterproofing in the upper. Boots like this provide enough support for hauling heavy packs on long expeditions, but some people also wear them for day hiking over rough terrain. Historically, this type of boot was made from leather, could weigh up to four pounds each, and could easily last for a decade or more than a thousand miles on the trail. However, today's boots show a trend toward lighter-weight materials that offer the same support and feel more agile underfoot. The tradeoff is that lightweight boots don't last as long as leather boots, and they usually can't be repaired; so you'll have to replace them more frequently.
Waterproof Hiking Boots
Waterproof hiking boots (and shoes) have a waterproof/breathable membrane built into the construction of the footwear, designed to keep water, mud and melted snow out while still letting perspiration escape. The best waterproofing comes when that membrane is molded into a bootie that wraps completely around your foot, so there are fewer seams that become weak spots for dirt, dust -- and ultimately, water -- to work their way in through the waterproofing.
Women's Hiking Boots
Women tend to have narrower heels, wider forefeet and longer arches than men with feet of the same size. As a result, the boots most popular with women are usually shaped specifically to fit a woman's foot, as opposed to just being smaller versions of men's boots. In every other aspect, women's boots come with the same array of features you'd see in men's boots; so women should never be afraid to try on boots that are labeled for men, and vice versa. Sometimes that's all it takes to find the perfect fit.
Some hikers eschew heavy-duty hiking boots in favor of low-cut shoes with lightweight, flexible soles; the lightest models usually weigh less than two pounds per pair. That light build means less support and protection for your feet, but hikers carrying light loads, taking short hikes, or traversing mild to moderate terrain may appreciate the extra agility, flexibility and no-break-in comfort you get from this type of footwear. There are even some long-distance trekkers who will hike thousands of miles in trail shoes. Be advised, though, this type of footwear is only appropriate if you have strong ankles and feet that don't need extra support from your footwear.
What else do you need?
Once you've secured your hiking footwear, don't forget the ten essentials that you need to be prepared on the trail. We have separate
reports that can help you select the best headlamp for your trail
adventure as well as effective insect repellents to protect you from bites. And,
although they might not be a survival tool, the right binoculars can greatly improve the enjoyment
of your hike. Some hikers also like using fitness trackers to help track
metrics like speed, distance, calories burned and even altitude gained while
out on the trail.
Finding The Best Hiking Boots
"The Best Hiking Boots for Men of 2018"
"The 12 Best Hiking Boots and Shoes of 2018"
"The Best All-Purpose Hiking Boots for Men"
dozens of expert reviews and thousands of owner posts to evaluate the comfort,
fit, performance and durability of hiking boots and shoes for both men and
women. The best expert reviews resulted from extensive hands-on use from crews
of testers with sites like OutdoorGearLab, Backpacker magazine, Outside Online, Switchback Travel, Gear Institute,
Wirecutter and Active Junky.
informative were hundreds -- sometimes thousands -- of user reviews posted at
REI and Amazon. There, outdoors-savvy readers offer blunt assessments of how
their hiking shoes and boots performed during extensive use on all sorts of
terrain and in varied conditions.
recently, heavy-duty leather hiking boots were the footwear of choice for
serious hikers. But for the second year in a row, the top pick in this report
is a lightweight hiking boot. The (Est. $240) is an updated version of last year's top pick, the Salomon Quest
4D 2 GTX, which is now discontinued. Like its predecessor, the Salomon Quest 4D
3 strikes a great balance between toughness and nimble agility, with a roomy
toebox that won't pinch your toes on downhill slopes.
Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX is already a hit after hands-on testing from Switchback
Travel, and users praise it for all the same qualities that made its
predecessor so popular: The nimble feel, underfoot agility and comfort of a
running shoe, paired with the support and sturdiness of a more substantial
boot. The Quest 4D 3 GTX also has more aggressive outsole lugs for better
traction, better cushioning against the ground, and improved padding around the
This remains the
most flexible boot we evaluated in this category, with a good part of its
appeal coming from the lightweight, twist-resistant midsole it's built on. Many
reviewers say it's reminiscent of the trail running shoes Salomon is known for,
but still plenty sturdy enough for carrying a full backpacking pack. It draws a
lot of praise for its out of the box comfort, excellent ankle support and
updated plush ankle padding, and users say its waterproofing is very good.
feature is a locking middle eyelet that lets you fine-tune lace tension in the
upper and lower sections of the boot, making it easy to really lock your heel
in place. The Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX's traction is as good as or better than
the competition, and at 2 pounds, 5 ounces for an average men's pair it's a few
ounces lighter than its predecessor.
version of this boot, the Salomon Quest 4D 2 GTX, drew only a few real
criticisms: Users said it wasn't always the best choice for flat feet, and
there were occasional quality control issues with the rubber eyelets at the top
of the boot and the waterproofing around the toe. So far we haven't seen any of
those complaints about the newly revamped version; users can't stop talking
about how stable, nimble and supportive it feels underfoot, even after long
hikes with up to 40 pounds of weight.
A good pair of
heavy-duty hiking boots can easily cost $300, and lighter boots like the
Salomon Quest 4D 2 GTX might need to be replaced every year or two if you
subject them to a lot of heavy use. If you're on a tight budget, you can get
very good performance at a great price from our budget pick, the (Est. $180).
Like the Salomon
Quest, this lightweight, flexible boot is comfortable straight out of the box,
and it weighs just 2 pounds, 8 ounces for a typical men's pair. Hikers
especially love the Durand's roomy toe box, and it draws expert praise for a
proprietary polyurethane midsole that barely compresses over heavy use. Another
high point is the grippy, dual-rubber outsole that users say performs well on
all sorts of terrain.
The Keen Durand
Mid WP is meant to be waterproof, and users say that the Keen.Dry membrane
generally works great -- but we do see a notable number of complaints about
boots that leaked right away -- perhaps an ongoing quality control issue -- and
the editors at Switchback Travel warn that this boot is a little lacking in
breathability too. Either way, a light boot like this won't stand up to long
periods of heavy use; but most users say it's a great value and that they'll
happily buy a second pair when the first one wears out.
negative fit notes we see are that some users are disappointed by the lack of
arch support, and the Keen Durand tends to run about a half-size small. The
mid-cut ankles also aren't quite as tall as more serious boots like the Salomon
Quest 4D GTX, but the Durand is available in wide sizes, and the ample toebox
is often a good fit for users with bunions.
extremely popular budget pick, consider the (Est. $135), which draws Best Buy awards from OutdoorGearLab and Gizmodo, is
also the most popular women's boot we evaluated (you can read more in our
separate section on the best women's hiking boots). It's not quite as
technical or durable as the Keen Durand Mid WP -- most users say they have to
replace the Targhee IIs after a season of heavy use -- but this style is still
resoundingly popular with both men and women that want a sturdy, comfortable all-around
boot at a great price.
The Keen Targhee
II's traction is excellent, and the very reasonable price means users often
don't mind having to buy a replacement. High points include that great
out-of-the-box comfort, a wide toebox that accommodates many foot types, and
lacing eyelets that also draw the heel of the boot in toward your foot, helping
lock it in place. A typical men's pair weigh just 2 pounds, 2 ounces.
The one thing to
be aware of with this boot is quality control, especially with the soles and
the waterproof/breathable membrane. But as a general rule, if your Keen Targhee
IIs survive the first immersion, they should survive you for a season of
regular use on the trail. They also run a half-size to a full size small.
introduced an updated version of this boot, the (Est. $145), but don't let the name fool you: While the Targhee III
has a very similar fit and set of features as the Targhee II, it's such a
different boot that Keen plans to keep both models in production. Key
differences to look out for include a heel capture system for more stability,
and more sensitive "groundfeel," which early expert reports interpret
as more flexibility.
The first round
of feedback on the Targhee III is positive, with OutdoorGearLab ranking the
women's version as a Best Buy, although their male testers wonder if this boot
is a little less stable than the Targhee II. For now we're standing pat with
our recommendation of the Targhee II as a proven, beloved model that remains
the favorite of many a loyal user; but we'll also keen an eye on the Targhee
III to see how it performs over time.
Speaking of old
favorites, an updated version of a perennial favorite from past years, the
Vasque Breeze boot, has popped up on our radar again. The (Est. $180) was only recently released but is already piling up an
impressive resume of positive reviews, including praise from Backpacker
magazine's notoriously picky testers and a "best women's boot" pick
from Active Junky.
At 2 pounds, 10
ounces for the average men's pair, this was once considered a lightweight boot;
but with the ongoing trend toward ever-lighter footwear, it now falls in the
middleweight category. Nonetheless users still praise it for its lighter,
nimble feel underfoot, perhaps due in part to the removal of the previous
version's beefy toecap.
experts alike agree that this boot is stable, supportive and comfortable right
out of the box, with testers from Backpacker attributing much of its underfoot
comfort to EVA cushion pods in the midsole. The Vasque Breeze III does a good
job of locking narrow heels in and is available in wide versions for both men
and women. A number of users report that they ended up buying a half-size up
from their normal shoe size, and if you need arch support, be prepared to add
support and a soft, grippy outsole are further high points, but like most
grippy soles the rubber wears out quickly, and we notice a number of complaints
about laces that pop out of the eyelets and a thinly padded tongue, which means
the laces press down on the top of your arch. Still, if you want a supportive,
waterproof boot that feels light underfoot, this is a good option. A
non-Gore-Tex version is available if you plan to hike in hot, dry climates.
are still useful
are usually heavier than their synthetic-material brethren but, in exchange for
that extra weight and some break-in time, you get a tough boot that breathes
well, can be treated for water-resistance, molds to your foot and wears like
iron. Leather boots are usually easier to resole and repair too, which helps
offset a price tag that runs a little higher than many of today's light boots.
So, if you're
looking to buck the trend toward lightweight footwear and go leather instead,
consider the (Est. $300), the epitome of a
great leather boot. This was our top pick overall until the Salomon Quest line
took its place.
At almost two
pounds each (29.3 ounces), the Asolo TPS 520 GV is not a lightweight boot --
but they're still a constant favorite with both male and female hikers who
traverse rough terrain or lug heavy loads. All that foot support comes from a
fairly stiff sole, but it's still comfortable to walk in thanks to its
rockered, or curved, construction.
Traction on wet
surfaces tends to be the Achilles heel for heavy-duty boots, and the Asolo TPS
520 GV gets somewhat mixed reviews in this regard, but ultimately it does better
than most of its competitors. It has a waterproof/breathable Gore-Tex membrane
that reviewers say performs brilliantly, and a wicking nylon lining to help
keep your feet dry inside the boots. The dual-density midsole and extra padding
provide excellent shock absorption, and an ankle collar and gusseted tongue
help keep debris out of the boot.
Once these boots
mold to your feet, you can expect a comfortable hike and stellar ankle support
that'll easily last for 10 years or more than a thousand miles on the trail. We
did find occasional complaints about the sole quickly delaminating as the
adhesive that holds it in place gives way, but Asolo's two-year warranty offers
some reassurance against that.
can be a double-edged sword
hiking boots are always a trade-off; you give up some breathability in exchange
for keeping water out of your boots. The same membrane that keeps water from
seeping in also keeps it from escaping once your feet do get wet, and it slows
the drying process too. So, waterproofing is great... until you go hiking in
weather so hot that your feet and boots end up soaked in sweat, or until you
step into water that's higher than the top of your boot's waterproofing.
That means waterproofing isn't necessarily ideal in every
single climate or terrain, but it does come in handy if you do a lot of hiking
through shallow water or in generally wet conditions. Although all of our top-reviewed
hiking boots have excellent waterproofing, we also found sporadic complaints about
quality control that were usually related to the waterproofing. So we've chosen
the (Est. $230), a lightweight throwback to the classic
leather backpacking boots of years past, as the best boot when reliable
waterproofing is your highest priority.
Renegade GTX Mid weighs just under two and a half pounds for a men's pair, and
because it's lightweight for a leather boot, it requires very little breaking
in before you're ready to hit the trail. The Renegade is available in normal,
wide and narrow widths for both men and women; reviewers say it's especially
good for locking in a narrow heel. Users also rave about its great ankle
support, which is unusual for a mid-cut boot.
Renegade's stellar waterproofing comes from a seamless Gore-Tex liner. Quite a
few users say these boots kept their feet drier than higher-end models, and the
Renegade receives top marks for water resistance from Outdoor Gear Lab, along
with one of the highest scores for traction.
Reviews of this
boot's durability are mixed, due mainly to complaints about the sole
delaminating. Some users say a single pair lasts them for more than ten years,
while others say they've worn through a pair of the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid in
just one season of frequent use with heavy loads. Recently, we also started
seeing complaints that Lowa's customer service doesn't do a good job of backing
their one-year warranty against defects. But most users are so happy with other
aspects of the boot's performance that they don't mind turning around and
buying another pair.
boots in this report that perform very well include our top-reviewed boot
overall, the light, agile (Est. $240); the reliable and affordable (Est. $180); the heavy-duty (Est. $300), which remains a perennial favorite for those who like
leather boots; and the sturdy but surprisingly lightweight women's (Est. $235) -- long a popular favorite with female