A good pair of hiking boots will make your days on the trail much more enjoyable. Your feet can experience a variety of maladies while hiking, but a nice pair of boots will mesh with your feet and result in mile after mile flowing by effortlessly. The best hiking boots are lightweight, durable, and highly breathable.
Our list of the 10 Best Hiking Boots includes a host of options from industry-leading brands. This list will give you a great place to start your search, and our comprehensive Buyer’s Guide gives you a list of factors to consider when choosing which of these options will be best suited to your unique wants and needs.
1. Salomon X Ultra 3
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The Salomon X Ultra 3 are made of a combination of leather and synthetic materials. This combination makes them both durable and lightweight. These attributes make these hiking boots an ideal selection for everything from casual day hikes to thru-hikes like the John Muir or Appalachian Trails.
These are outfited with an Advanced Chassis that connects directly to the sole of the boot in order to stabilize the heel and keep your foot comfortable and in place, especially when hiking downhill. It also features two distinct types of rubber on the sole. A specially patterned area on the heel of the boot grabs terrain more aggressively for improved control and stability. Lastly, these hiking boots include a protective heel cap and an EVA-shaped (1) footbed sock liner.
2. Columbia Newton Ridge Plus II
These fit the lightweight and durable model we’re always looking for. In addition, they offer improved waterproof capability and breathability. Using a combination of full-grain leather and suede, these boots achieve a lightweight, comfortable design that will keep you stable in even the most treacherous weather events on the trail.
The Columbia Newton Ridge Plus II feature a Techlite lightweight midsole that’s designed for comfort, superior cushioning, and better energy return. They also include an Omni-Grip advanced traction rubber sole to improve traction and a lace-up closure for an adjustable, secure fit.
3. Crispi Dakota GTX
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The Crispi Dakota GTX are designed for superior traction on any terrain. Designed for long trips or extended expeditions, these are constructed with a waterproof Gore-Tex® lining and a Vibram® sole complete with a polyurethane, shock-absorbing CCF (2) midsole.
The upper portion of these boots also contains water-repellent Nubuk and high-resistance Cordura fabrics. They feature a removable, CRISPI® Air Mesh footbed for outstanding breathability and anti-perspiration and anti-odor properties. These boots also include an ABSS (3) ankle support system and lock-down laces for a customizable fit and feel.
4. Merrell Moab 2
The Merrell Moab 2 are one of the most popular waterproof boots out there. While their name undoubtedly stirs up images of the town that goes by the same name, Moab, in this case, actually stands for ‘Mother-Of-All-Boots’. Made of durable leathers and containing a supportive footbed and Vibram® traction, these versatile boots are perfect for a variety of wilderness adventures.
These Merrell are made of 100% suede leather with mesh sections to ensure maximum breathability. An air cushion insert in the heel absorbs shock and adds stability while the boots’ EVA midsole provides added comfort for those long days on the trail. Additionally, these hiking boots feature Merrell’s M Selection FIT.ECO+ blended EVA contoured footbed with added zonal arch and heel support. A protective rubber toe cap keeps your toes healthy even when those unexpected rocks or roots catch you off guard.
5. Adidas Terrex Fast Mid GTX
These are great hiking footwear from Adidas, and are designed to be a lightweight option that’s best for fast, technical trail adventures. They boast Adidas Stealth technology for superior friction and shock absorption over a variety of surfaces, as well as a Gore-Tex® lining that makes these boots fully waterproof and highly breathable.
The Adidas Terrex Fast Mid GTX hiking boots are made of textile material and feature a mid-cut design that provides extra ankle stability on uneven terrain. They also include Traxion and Continental rubber in the outsole for excellent grip and traction, even in wet conditions. Finally, these feature speed-lacing construction for fast and snug lacing, as well as a molded Ortholite (4) sock liner.
6. Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX
The Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX offer a softer, more flexible version of the excellent Scarpa boots more traditionally designed for backcountry touring and serious mountaineering. These fully waterproof and breathable boots are great for moderate mountain terrain and maintain excellent performance even when the weather turns unexpectedly.
These are made of a combination of textile and leather materials. They boast Gore-Tex® Performance Comfort technology to keep your feet dry and an asymmetric lace system to provide a precise, custom fit. They also feature sock-fit DV (5) construction that reduces bulk and three densities of EVA foam in the midsole to optimize weight and performance.
7. Vasque Breeze III Mid GTX
Constructed from an optimized combination of leather, Mesh, and Nubuck, these hiking boots are designed to provide the perfect trail experience for its wearers. They boast 2-millimeter waterproof Nubuck leather and an air mesh upper section to guarantee breathability in even the warmest conditions.
The third-generation of the Vasque Breeze Mid GTX boast a dual-density EVA footbed and an all-terrain cushioning midsole complete with EVA cushioning pods for superior comfort. They also feature Vasque’s exclusive VibramAr® Contact Grip outsole with Megagrip compound. Finally, they include a lace-up closure to ensure a comfortable, custom fit.
8. Lowa Renegade GTX Mid
Climbers, mountaineers, and all types of outdoor enthusiasts have trusted the Lowa name for almost 90 years. These hiking footwear stay true to the quality that underlies that name with leather/synthetic construction and Gore-Tex® lining for variable climate comfort and waterproof protection.
The Lowa Renegade GTX Mids boast speed lacing hardware and a padded tongue and collar for a comfortable, snug fit. They are designed with a polyurethane Monowrap frame at the midsole and a full-length nylon shank for superior durability. Additionally, they feature a Vibram Evo® outsole for excellent grip and traction on rugged terrain.
9. Danner Mountain 600 EnduroWeave
The Danner Mountain 600 EnduroWeave are made of a combination of leather and textile materials to provide a supremely comfortable and functional boot. Designed to hold up against the summer climate and terrain of the Pacific Northwest, they combine a carbon-washed textile upper and an air mesh liner for improved breathability in warmer temperatures.
These boots also feature a Vibram SPE® midsole and Danner’s Fuga outsole that deliver unparalleled grip on both wet and dry surfaces while also providing superior cushioning without adding a bunch of unnecessary weight. Additionally, these boots boast a TPU heel frame to enhance support and stability, as well as an open-cell PU OrthoLite footbed for extra cushioning and comfort.
10. Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX
The last set of hiking footwear in our list is another fine selection from Salomon. These boots are constructed with a combination of leather and synthetic materials. They are designed to provide the ultimate in walking comfort in order to reduce fatigue over the duration of long treks.
The Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX feature Salomon’s 4D Advanced Chassis that guides the foot on the roughest terrain and reduces impact and fatigue. This chassis also enables increased forefoot flexion for smoother journeys on your favorite trails. In addition, they boast an improved outsole with new lug design for better grip on all terrain surfaces.
To choose the best hiking boots you can, you need to consider your unique needs. Understanding the type of adventures you like to go on and the varying terrain you like to explore will help you choose boots that fit those needs. In this Buyer’s Guide, we will focus on the important characteristics you should consider when narrowing down your options.
Low, Mid, or High?
Ankle support is incredibly important when hiking on uneven terrain. Among experienced hikers, however, there are those that prefer lighter, lower hiking boots and those that opt for the most ankle support they can possibly find. Choosing the right boots for you requires considering the degree of ankle support you’re comfortable with.
A lot of ultralight thru-hikers actually prefer hiking boots with low ankle support because they are lighter and, therefore, allow them to move faster over longer distances. These hikers are typically traveling over well-worn trails throughout most of their adventures. As a result, the need for ankle support is slightly less than for those that frequently travel off-trail.
If you will primarily be using your new boots for summiting high mountain peaks or traveling off-trail and over incredibly rough terrain, you’ll certainly want additional ankle support. Additionally, if you have any history of injury to your ankles or knees, you’ll want more support to account for any lingering effects of these injuries.
These are the three main parts of hiking boot construction and they are the major terms that you should be aware of when selecting between different pairs of boots. These parts can be made from a variety of materials that, depending on the manufacturer’s choice, combine to give the boot its unique characteristics.
The upper section of a hiking boot, in its most basic sense, is the portion of the boot that protects the top and sides of your foot from the external environment. This is the section in which there is the greatest material variety amongst different hiking footwear. Some examples of materials used in hiking boot uppers include leather (full-grain, split-grain, and Nubuck), synthetics (polyester, nylon, and ‘synthetic leather’), waterproof membranes (Gore-Tex®, etc), and synthetic insulation (commonly included in mountaineering boots).
The midsole section of hiking boots provides cushioning and protects the feet from shock. The midsole of a boot plays a large role in that boot’s overall stiffness. Stiffer boots provide greater comfort and stability, but they can take more time to break-in. Softer boots may, initially, feel more comfortable on the feet, but they won’t provide as much protection from roots, rocks, and other external surfaces.
The most common materials used in hiking boot midsoles are ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) and polyurethane. EVA has become very common because, in general, it is lighter, cheaper, and provides more cushioning. In a given midsole, EVA can vary in density in different sections of the boot to offer more support where the foot needs it most.
Polyurethane is considered firmer and more durable than EVA. Boots that are designed for long backpacking trips and mountaineering generally tend to opt for polyurethane in the midsole over EVA.
Hiking boots exclusively employ rubber in their outsoles. Sometimes, materials such as carbon are added to the rubber to improve hardness in backpacking or mountaineering boots. Generally, harder outsoles are more durable, but they can also become slicker when traveling off-trail or on wet terrain. There are two common terms to be familiar with when evaluation a hiking boot’s outsoles. Those terms are lug pattern and heel brake.
A boot’s lug pattern is defined as the “bumps” on the boot’s outsole that provide traction. A deeper, thicker lug pattern will provide increased grip, which is why a lot of mountaineering boots include this type of pattern. However, more widely spaced lugs can be better for wetter climates because they still provide good traction but also retain the ability to shed dirt and mud more easily as you walk.
The term ‘heel brake’ refers to zone on all hiking boots that clearly differs from the forefoot and the arch. The traction pattern on a boot’s heel brake plays a large role in reducing the chance of sliding while descending on steep, uneven terrain.
Understanding Internal Supports
When we speak about internal support in hiking boots, we need to understand two basic terms: shanks and plates. These are the most common types of internal supports used in the best hiking boots on the market today.
Shanks are inserts that are sandwiched between a boot’s midsole and the outsole. These inserts are typically between 3 and 5 millimeters thick and they function to add load-bearing stiffness to the midsole. Depending on the boots, shanks will vary in length. Some will cover the entire length of the boot’s midsole and others only cover half.
Plates are thinner, semi-flexible inserts that are placed between the midsole and the outsole of the boot. If the boot already contains shanks as well, plates will be placed below them. These plates help to protect the feet from bruising that might result from stepping on hard objects on the trail.
Ensuring a Good Fit
When it all comes down to it, you want to find a pair of boots that feel good on your feet. If this isn’t your first pair of hiking boots, you probably know your size. Keep in mind, however, that sizes can differ slightly depending on the brand and exact manufacture of the boots you’re interested in.
When trying on boots, you should always try to do so at the end of the day. This is because our feet tend to swell during a normal day’s activities, so you want to make sure the boots you choose will remain comfortable when your feet are at their largest.
You should also make sure to try boots on with appropriate socks. If you’ve just come from the office, you don’t want to try boots on with dress socks. Make sure you bring your thicker hiking socks along to recreate the situation you’ll experience on the trail as closely as possible.
Lastly, if you’ve relied on a specific brand of orthotics in your everyday shoes or past pairs of hiking boots, make sure you bring these orthotics along when trying on a new pair of boots. Insert these boots, snug them up, and spend some time walking around the store to make sure they’re really going to be comfortable when you wear them all day on the trail.
Frequently Asked Questions
In addition to finding the right pair of hiking boots for your upcoming adventures, there is much to know about caring for and maintaining a good pair of hiking boots. This section will answer some of the most Frequently Asked Questions about hiking boots, their fit, and their care.
How can I avoid blisters with my new hiking boots?
While ensuring that your boots are a proper fit before you ever leave the store is the first place to start, blisters can still happen if you didn’t get things perfectly right. If they do, however, this is not an immediate cause to take your boots back to the store.
Start by changing over to synthetic socks if you’re not already using them. This type of socks will wick away perspiration from the feet and toes that causes unnecessary friction and, as a result, increases the likelihood of blisters developing.
Additionally, many hikers don’t utilize that last shoelace hole at the top of their boots when lacing up. Lacing through these holes helps to keep the ankle and heel firmly in place, thus reducing rubbing and excessive foot movement within your boot. There are also a variety of cunning lacing techniques (6) that can help you ensure a snug fit and reduce blisters.
Can I waterproof boots that don’t come with that feature?
Yes, all hiking boots can be waterproofed with the right supplies. While most leather boots are considered to be “waterproof out of the box,” they can be additionally coated to make the leather softer and more comfortable. If you choose to purchase boots that are 100% synthetic or that feature a synthetic combination material, you might also consider adding waterproof linings to your gear list.
What is the best way to break in my new boots?
It’s important to know that even boots that feel great in the store will take some time to fully break in on the trail. While the simple solution is to spend time walking in them, there are a few tricks you can use to speed up the process of breaking in a new pair of hiking boots.
The first tip goes back to our last question. As we mentioned, waterproofing will stretch leather boots, thereby making them more supper and comfortable. If you do buy leather boots, of course, you can also use a leather softener to speed up the break-in process.
Make sure you also avoid the urge to “bite off more than you can chew” when breaking in new boots. Start off with manageable day hikes and shorter outings to get some preliminary mileage on your boots before attempting a thru-hike or multi-day expedition.
How can I extend the life of my new pair of hiking boots?
Generally, there are four major exercises you can do to extend the life of your hiking boots. Regular cleaning, drying, and waterproofing are the first three. The fourth is the use of a boot tree that lessens gravity’s impact on your boots over time when they’re not in use.
When cleaning leather boots, make sure to do so with water only. Washing leather boots with soap can remove many of the protective oils that are naturally occurring in leather. Synthetic materials, on the other hand, can and should be washed with soap and water, and then rinsed well. Whether your boots are leather or synthetic, make sure you air drying them rather than tossing them in the dryer.
Comfort on the trail starts from the ground up. The right pair of hiking boots will keep your feet dry and healthy throughout your wilderness adventures. We hope you’ve enjoyed this list of the best hiking boots, as well as our tips for buying the right pair of boots to meet your needs. Check out our article on tactical boots if you are looking for something more rugged. We wish you the best of luck in choosing our next pair of hiking boots and we will see you on the trail.