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Best Hiking Boots

By: Lisa Maloney on April 11, 2018

Editor's note:
Lightweight hiking boots on a running shoe chassis continue to dominate this report. This update includes new versions like the Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX and the Keen Targhee III. Other favorites include our best reviewed light boot, the Hoka One One Tor Ultra Hi, and the promising La Sportiva Nucleo High GTX.

Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX Review
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Avg. Weight (men): 2 lbs., 13.2 oz. Avg. Weight (women): 2 lbs., 5 oz. Ankle Height: High

Best hiking boot

Reviewers say the Salomon Quest 4D 3 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. Users and experts alike love its out-of-the-box comfort, waterproofing, ankle support, newly plush ankle padding and an updated outsole that's even more aggressive than the previous version. 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
Also Consider
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 Gore-Tex liner. Users also like the Renegade because it's very light for a leather boot -- just 2 pounds, 7 ounces for a typical men's 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 $229.53
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. Reviewers also love the lacing eyelets that help snug the heel of the boot forward, locking your foot in place.

Buy for $135.00
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.

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Merrell Moab 2 Vent Review
Also Consider
Specs that Matter Avg. Weight (men): 1 lb., 15 oz. Avg. Weight (women): 1 lb., 12 oz. Ankle Height: Low

Best cheap hiking shoe

The Merrell Moab 2 Vent 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.

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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.

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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 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.

Hiking Shoes

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
Our Sources
"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"

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, Backpacker magazine, Outside Online, Switchback Travel, Gear Institute, Wirecutter and Active Junky.

Also extremely 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.

The best hiking boots

Until 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 Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX (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.

The updated 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 ankle.

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.

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 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.

The previous 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 Keen Durand Mid WP (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.

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 the ample toebox is often a good fit for users with bunions.

For another extremely popular budget pick, consider the Keen Targhee II Mid (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.

Keen recently introduced an updated version of this boot, the Keen Targhee III Mid (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 Vasque Breeze III GTX (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.

Users and 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 inserts.

Superior ankle 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.

Leather boots are still useful

Leather boots 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 Asolo TPS 520 GV (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.

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, 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.

The Lowa 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.

Other waterproof boots in this report that perform very well include our top-reviewed boot overall, the light, agile Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX (Est. $240); the reliable and affordable Keen Durand Mid WP (Est. $180); 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
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Hiking Boots buying guide

What every best Hiking Boots has:

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

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