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Hiking Boots: Expert and User Reviews

By: Lisa Maloney on April 11, 2018

In this report

Women's Hiking Boots Hiking Shoes Our Sources

Hiking Boots: Ratings of Sources

Ryan Huetter and Ross Robinson, March 30, 2018

OutdoorGearLab really puts hiking boots through the wringer, putting each pair through at least six months of hands-on testing in a variety of terrain and conditions. They assign comparative ratings in several categories, which makes it easy to compare performance across multiple criteria, and their written analysis offers very useful insights into how each set of boots performed, and why. Elsewhere on the site, they also maintain separate lists for the best hiking shoes and women's versions of both boots and shoes.

Heather Balogh Rochfort, March 19, 2018

Backpacker magazine maintains an extensive library of hiking footwear reviews, and their exhaustive hands-on testing is some of the most thorough in the industry. Although Backpacker doesn't disclose the specs on this round of testing, last year's roundup, which is still available elsewhere on the site, involved 22 testers hiking more than 4,700 miles. Each featured boot or shoe receives a summary review that includes tester comments on performance.

Switchback Travel Staff, March 9, 2018

An unidentified crew of testers with Switchback Travel subject a number of hiking boots to hands-on testing. This round-up identifies the best picks for lightweight, midweight and heavyweight boots, with a few runners-up included in the mix, and links to more in-depth reviews for each model. The analysis is insightful, and accompanied by a comparison chart, buyer's guide, and astute observations on the trend toward lightweight footwear. Elsewhere on the site, they publish a similar roundup of the best lightweight hiking shoes for 2018.

Editors of Gear Institute, As of April 2018

The editors of Gear Institute divide boots into six classes -- backpacking boots, light boots and insulated winter boots -- for both men and women. They then rank the boots in five categories of performance and assign each a comparative rating out of 100 points possible. This, combined with comments from hands-on testers, makes it easy to quickly sort through the picks in terms of performance characteristics. Standout models were reviewed in 2016 or more and excellent notably in at least one performance characteristic.

Ebony Roberts, Dec. 5, 2017

Wirecutter offers thoughtful commentary after hands-on testing from nearly 30 different hikers. The testing wasn't as intensive as at other sites -- 26 pairs of boots were subjected to a total of 900 miles in all -- but they cast a wide net in terms of terrain, conditions, footwear and testers, and bring it all together in a series of ranking tiers combined with clear explanations of why each model did (or didn't) make the cut.

Contributors to Outside Online, As of April 2018

Reviews of hiking boots and shoes posted to Outside Online -- the web presence for Outside magazine -- tend to be short, but they're almost always based on substantial hands-on testing. Individual reviews don't receive comparative ratings, but are frequently included in thematic round-ups -- for example, best all-terrain or winter hikers -- that help establish a rough order of ranking. With that said, Outside seems to have greatly reduced its coverage of footwear in recent years, so we're not sure how long this source will stick around.

Bruce Steever, Sept. 24, 2015

The outdoors arm of Gizmodo subjected a number of hiking boots to extensive testing through hiking and outdoor field work, in a variety of terrain types and weather conditions. They provide a brief but thorough review for each of their top picks in both men's and women's categories. Although no comparative ratings are assigned, each top pick receives a designation for what it's best at -- for example, the best boot for picky feet.

Amelia Mayer, March 16, 2017

The author offers her top picks for hiking boots that fit a woman's feet, based on her experience in the mountains and recommendations from other avid female hikers. We appreciate that her recommendations are women-specific, they're all the result of extensive hands-on use, and she highlights boots that are suitable for specific foot types, e.g., narrow feet, flat feet, and the like.

Drew Zieff and Melanie Ott, April 20, 2017

The author and a crew of testers subject a range of hiking boots to two weeks of hands-on testing designed to evaluate traction, waterproofing and comfort. Each top pick receives a short, easy to digest summary followed by an in-depth review of its performance, and the whole thing is prefaced by a useful buying guide that discusses tips for finding the right boot for you.

Contributors to REI, As of April 2018

REI is one of the best sources for user reviews of hiking boots and shoes, both in terms of variety and volume. Reviewers are often well-educated and enthusiastic about outdoors gear, so their comments tend to have lots of relevant information. REI has unfortunately started reposting some user reviews from manufacturer websites, but at least they're clearly labeled.

Contributors to Amazon, As of April 2018

Amazon offers hundreds of hiking boots and shoes to choose from. Although the shoppers that post reviews here don't always use the footwear for its intended purpose -- for example, hiking boots are often purchased for use as work boots, and hiking shoes are bought for daily walking in town -- they still provide a good cross-section of real-world data.

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