Home > Fitness & Sports > Hiking Boots > Hiking Boots

Best Hiking Boots

By: Lisa Maloney on April 11, 2017

Editor's note:
Lightweight hiking boots and shoes climb to the top in this update. The Salomon Quest 4D 2 GTX and Hoka One One Tor Ultra Hi boast a running shoe chassis with the support and protection of a boot. Longtime favorite, the Keen Targhee II Mid, has finally claimed a top spot as well as our Best Reviewed women's hiking boot.

Salomon Quest 4D 2 GTX Review
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Avg. Weight (men): 2 lbs., 7 oz. Avg. Weight (women): 2 lbs., 4 oz. Ankle Height: High

Best hiking boot

Reviewers say the Salomon Quest 4D 2 GTX feels as nimble as a running shoe underfoot, but still provides the protection and support you'd expect out of a much heavier boot. It garners an impressive number of first-place finishes from expert reviewers that praise its plush ankle padding, waterproofing, and foot and ankle support. Another favorite feature is a locking middle eyelet that lets you fine-tune lace tension in different sections of the boot.

Buy for $229.95
Lowa Renegade GTX Mid Review
Runners Up
Specs that Matter Avg. Weight (men): 2 lbs., 7 oz. Avg. Weight (women): 2 lbs., 2 oz. Ankle Height: Mid

Best waterproof boot

The Lowa Renegade GTX Mid's soft leather uppers require very little break-in time, but this boot really stands out for the excellent waterproofing from its seamless GoreTex liner. Users also like the Renegade because it's very light for a leather boot -- just under 2 pounds, 8 ounces per pair -- yet supportive enough for typical backpacking loads. These boots also offer excellent traction on mud and snow, and better traction on wet rock than you usually find in this category.

Buy for $229.95
Keen Targhee II Mid Review
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Avg. Weight (men): 2 lbs., 2 oz. Avg. Weight (women): 1 lb., 14 oz. Ankle Height: Mid

Best women's hiking boot

The Keen Targhee II Mid is a landslide winner with female hikers, but it's actually a perennial favorite with both genders. Users say this boot is comfortable straight out of the box, with surprisingly stable, supportive soles that grip almost any terrain very well. The roomy toebox accommodates most foot types and won't pinch your toes on descents, and reviewers love lacing eyelets that help snug the heel of the boot forward, locking your foot in place.

Buy for $134.75
Oboz Sawtooth Low BDry Review
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Avg. Weight (men): 2 lbs., 1.4 oz. Avg. Weight (women): 1 lb., 11.6 oz. Ankle Height: Low

Best hiking shoes

The Oboz Sawtooth Low BDry hiking shoe comes very close to offering the same support and protection you'd get from a hiking boot in a low-cut package, although it does require a short break-in period to be at its best. Reviewers love its traction, waterproofing, arch support, padding, and deep heel notch. An unusual molded heel counter gives it great lateral stability, and the Sawtooth doesn't suffer from the quality control problems that plague some of its competitors.

Buy for $140.00
Merrell Moab Ventilator Review
Runners Up
Specs that Matter Avg. Weight (men): 1 lb., 14 oz. Avg. Weight (women): 13 oz. Ankle Height: Low

Best cheap hiking shoe

The Merrell Moab Ventilator is a perennial favorite with users for its light weight, grippy traction, forgiving fit and out-of-the-box comfort. A waterproof version is available, but many hikers love the vented version, which lets water flow in, then out, so the shoe and your foot dry out quickly. Traction is excellent, and although these aren't the most durable shoes on the market, the price is low enough that owners typically don't mind shopping for a replacement.

Buy for $100.00
Hoka One One Tor Ultra Hi Review
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Avg. Weight (men): 2 lbs., 2 oz. Avg. Weight (women): 1 lb., 13 oz. Ankle Height: Mid

Best lightweight boots

The Hoka One One Tor Ultra Hi is a mid-cut boot built on the same plush, supportive chassis that made Hoka One One's running shoes famous. The result is a well-cushioned ride that's shockingly light -- just 2 pounds, 2 ounces for an average men's pair -- with great traction on almost any surface, especially wet rocks. The Tor Ultra Hi's waterproof/breathable eVent liner is also excellent, and the rockered sole creates a natural-feeling stride, even with all that cushioning underfoot.

Buy for $230.00

Types of Hiking Boots

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 show 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 as 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.

Hiking Shoes

Some hikers eschew heavy-duty hiking boots in favor of low-cut shoes with lightweight, flexible soles; the lightest models weigh in at 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 that swear by hiking thousands of miles in trail shoes, although this type of footwear is only appropriate if you have strong ankles and feet that don't need extra support from your footwear. In this report we cover hiking shoes, if you're a trail runner see our separate report on trail running shoes.

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 their metrics -- like speed, distance, calories burned and even altitude gained -- while out on the trail.

Finding The Best Hiking Boots
Our Sources
"The Best Hiking Boots for Men Review"
"The 14 Best Hiking Boots and Shoes of 2017"
"The Best All-Purpose Hiking Boots for Men"

We analyzed 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.com, Backpacker.com, OutsideOnline.com and SwitchbackTravel.com. Also extremely informative were hundreds -- sometimes thousands -- of user reviews posted at REI.com and Amazon.com, where outdoorsy-savvy readers reported how hiking shoes and boots performed after extensive use on all sorts of terrain and in varied conditions.

The best hiking boots

Until recently, heavy-duty leather hiking boots were the footwear of choice for serious hikers. But for the first time in recent memory, the top pick in this report is a lightweight hiking boot. The Salomon Quest 4D 2 GTX (Est. $230) strikes the perfect balance between toughness and nimble agility, with a roomy toebox that won't pinch your toes on downhill slopes. It garners an impressive number of first-place finishes after hands-on testing from sources like OutdoorGearLab.com, SwitchbackTravel.com, GearInstitute.com and Gizmodo.com.

This is the most flexible boot we evaluated in this category, and a good part of its appeal comes 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. It also draws a lot of praise for its excellent ankle support, "plush" ankle padding, and very good waterproofing.

Another favorite 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 2 GTX's traction is also as good as or better than the competition. An average men's pair weighs just 2 pounds, 7 ounces.

The only real criticisms we find of this boot are that it's not always the best choice for flat feet, and there are occasional quality control issues with the rubber eyelets at the top of the boot and the waterproofing around the toe. But that's not enough to deter users who rave about how comfortable the Salomon Quest 4D 2 GTX is right out of the box and how stable, nimble and protective 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 Keen Durand Mid WP (Est. $150).

Like the Salomon Quest, this lightweight, flexible boot is comfortable straight out of the box, and it weighs just 2 pounds, 8 ounces per 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.

Other high notes include a grippy, dual-rubber outsole and the Keen.Dry membrane that testers say generally provides great waterproofing, although the editors at SwitchbackTravel.com warn that it's somewhat lacking in breathability. We did find a few complaints of shoes that leaked right away -- perhaps a quality control issue? -- and 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.

The only 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 seems to be a particularly good fit for users with bunions.

For another extremely popular budget pick, consider the Keen Targhee II Mid (Est. $135), which is also the most popular women's boot we evaluated. 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 was a sturdy, comfortable all-around boot at a great price.

The Keen Targhee II's traction is also 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 full size small.

Leather boots are still useful

Leather boots are 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. If you're looking to buck the trend toward lightweight footwear, consider the Asolo TPS 520 GV (Est. $300), which was our top pick overall until the Salomon Quest 4D 2 GTX took its place.

The Asolo TPS 520 GV is the epitome of a great leather boot. At almost two pounds each (29.3 ounces), these are not lightweight boots -- but they're still a constant favorite with both male and female hikers who are traversing rough terrain or lugging  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 does better than most. 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 delaminating as the adhesive that holds it in place gives way.

Waterproofing can be a double-edged sword

Waterproof 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 Lowa Renegade GTX Mid (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.

The Lowa 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 and wide widths for men, and normal, wide and narrow for women; reviewers say it's especially good for locking in a narrow heel.

The Lowa Renegade's stellar waterproofing comes from a seamless Gore-Tex liner, and it receives top marks for water resistance from OutdoorGearLab.com, along with one of the highest scores for traction.

Reviews of this boot's durability are mixed; 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. But they're usually so happy with other aspects of the boot's performance that they don't mind turning around and buying another pair.

Other waterproof boots in this report that perform very well include our top-reviewed boot overall, the light, agile Salomon Quest 4D 2 GTX (Est. $230); the reliable and affordable Keen Durand Mid WP (Est. $150); the heavy-duty Asolo TPS 520 GV (Est. $300), which remains a perennial favorite for those who like leather boots; and the sturdy but surprisingly lightweight women's Asolo Stynger GTX (Est. $235) -- long a popular favorite with female reviewers.

Elsewhere In This Report
Recently Updated
Hiking Boots buying guide

What every best Hiking Boots has:

  • Feel light on your feet.
  • Provide a pinch-free fit.
  • Offer comfort, yet support.

Read More »

Learn More »