10 Best Hiking Shoes Reviewed & Tested
Whether you just want to explore the wild, take a walk through the trails or be a lot more adventurous and conquer a mountain, one thing that remains constant is the fact you will need the proper equipment. Not just any will cut it. You can go with a hiking boot, and there’s no problem with that. But, perhaps you want something more flexible and lightweight. That’s where hiking shoes come in.
Finding the best hiking shoes can be a time-consuming task. You need to make sure that the shoe offers support, protection, are durable, and provide comfort, especially for those taking on strenuous hikes and need that much more underfoot cushion to ease the inevitable aches.
Traction, of course, is also very important. You will be on a trail which means that the terrain will be dirt, and similar rather than asphalt. A great shoe needs a lugged profile rather than being flat, as you will not need to generate friction for traction. You need to bite the ground to get it. Ventilation is great too, but some are willing to compromise on it a little bit for a waterproofed lining. Consider your terrain, and let us do the rest.
We know how long it takes to compare all the data and shoes in order to make your selection. We’ve made it simple, and have done the hours of strenuous research for you, so you only need to focus on the hiking. Based on each critical metric, we’ve comprised the top rated, highest commended and guaranteed best shoes for hiking based on wear-tester feedback and overall consensus.
10 Best Hiking Shoes
1. Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator
The Merrell Moab Ventilator has a good amount of padding around the tops of the shoes that creates a snug fit and a lines the tongue, making this a very comfortable and functional pair of hiking shoes, with full-length, compression-molded EVA midsoles that supply all-day support and cushioning. The combination of Trek and Super Trek rubber compounds and Vibram Multi-Sport sole offers exceptional grip and durability. They are perfect for a day hike.
The Merrell Moab Ventilator are a very functional shoe. You can hike off into warmer climates with these comfortable, supportive Merrell shoes in a variety of their rugged color combinations. The outer appearance makes them an even better pick for hiking a trail, with its mid-height dura leather/nylon ventilator mesh that looks good with a casual pair of jeans or any casual gear. Great to wear on a normal day-to-day basis.
Cost and Value
Based on the official Merrell website they come in around $120, so they are pretty affordable. For the price tag you are getting a decent pair of hiking shoes. They are priced fairly.
Lightweight and flexible
Great toe protection due to its rubber toe bumpers
Breathable mesh lining
tongue keeps debris out
Reported too loose in the heel
2. Keen Presidio
If you like a hiking shoe that doesn’t look like an actual hiking shoe than you’ll love a pair of the Keen Presidio Shoes. They are very sporty with touches of stitching accents. It definitely gives you a chance to wear a more versatile shoe that goes with just about anything. From yoga pants, khakis or jeans.
Keen Presidio shoes have something called a metatomical footbed for contoured support. The best thing about this feature is that it is removable and provides great arch support, naturally hugging the contours of the foot.
Cost and Value
According to the Keen Footwear website, these babies are priced just above $100 no more than $120. Not bad for the quality of the shoe and compared to other hiking shoes, these are considered to be reasonable.
Very stylish and versatile
Water-resistant leather upper
Non-marking rubber outsole
Very wide toe box
Very little heel rise
3. Adidas Terrex Ax2
You just can’t beat a shoe that is very stylish. At first glance they look like a basic running shoe, but when you look closer they are every bit a hiking shoe and of course with the brand’s signature stripes. Plus, they come in different styles.
Because they look like sneakers one could definitely agree that they are just as comfortable. The shoe fits great on feet and are very easy to put on.
Cost and Value
Adidas sure knows how to keep their prices in check. According to their official website, the Adidas Terrex Ax2 are priced under $100 making these hiking shoes a must-have and unbeatable when it comes to finding a lower priced great hiking shoe.
Heel and arch support
Sizing is a bit off
4. Adidas Terrex Swift R GTX
The Adidas Terrex Swift R GTS comes in tons of colors and styles to match just about anything. Of course, the shoe comes with Adidas’ signature three stripe logo that you can’t miss even though it is subtle. You can choose from bright to more natural hues depending on your preference, but for the most part they are good with any outdoor or casual gear.
Yes, comfort and style is something one should always look for in hiking shoes, but the one thing that is just as important is support. Luckily, this trail shoe has a support system that is awesome. The stiff sole does wonders for hikers by providing an excellent torsional support. Even with the heaviest of backpacks, the Adidas Terrex Swift R GTS provides a great deal of support with every step.
Cost and Value
Adidas is usually good when it comes to keeping price at a reasonable range and but these are a pretty penny, priced above $130. However, taking into consideration all that these shoes have to offer, they are worth every penny.
Super lightweight, athletic upper
Doesn’t absorb water
Extremely durable and long-lasting
Lacks support for long distance, much better for medium loads
5. Keen Targhee II
These hiking shoes are surprisingly comfortable and protects well in rough terrain. It is definitely not the most stylish hiking shoe as it is a bit on the bulky side so they’re not versatile. Plus, the heaviness of the shoe doesn’t allow them to be. Overall, they get the job done.
These shoes are designed to be lightweight which makes it easier to hike up the most difficult treks. The Keen Targhee II are the shoe version of the award-winning boot, so of course, they had to live up to its name with style and versatility.
Cost and Value
The Keen Targhee II are priced just above $110, but not bad at all for a great pair of hiking shoes.
Extra toe protection
Nice lacing system
Wide toe box
A bit wide, not good for narrow feet
6. Ahnu Sugarpine Air Mesh
The fact that the Sugarpine have a very breathable upper it’s great because it prevents the foot from overheating and from getting sweaty. The foot remains dry. No more worry about feet odor.
The Sugarpine Air Mesh has an EVA midsole that offers cushioning and the integrated nylon shank provides a bit of assistance on the arch. The incredible plate underneath the forefoot protects against stones and rocks, keeping your foot well-protected.
Cost and Value
Ahnu Sugarpine Air Mesh are worth every penny. They are priced just above $100, which places these hiking shoes in the reasonably priced range. They are very sleek and sporty so not bad at all if you are looking for a versatile, low-priced hiking shoe.
Comes in a variety of colors and styles
Protects against rocky terrain
Very breathable upper
Reasonably priced so you get more for your money
Wide in the toe-box
7. Vasque Mantra 2.0
The upper is made of soft leather, along with a flexible sole. All of these components make the Mantra 2.0 very comfortable. However, they lack support on uneven terrain based on these two features, causing feet to roll around a bit within the shoes. But if your feet are higher in volume the fit might feel a bit more secure, which is a good thing.
The Mantra 2.0 has a thick and wide sole. Along with a mostly leather upper that protects the entire foot. Great for protection against stones and rocks on the trail. Something that backpackers look for in a good pair of hiking shoes.
Cost and Value
For the most part, the Mantra 2.0 are priced around $140 which puts this particular hiking shoe at a high-priced level. Most backpackers don’t mind paying for quality, while others are not too pleased with the hefty price tag. Depending on preference in the buyer, the Mantra 2.0 are still top-rated as one of the best hiking shoes around.
Good arch support
Good protection from rocks
A bit stiff
8. Ahnu Sugarpine
These shoes have a relatively stiff sole and are ankle shaft height, made for a supportive feel on an all- day trail. Plus, the shock dispersal plate in the forefoot along with the integrated nylon shank provides support to the bottom of the foot as well as protecting the soles from bruising caused from rocks.
The Ahnu Sugarpine are good to use in dry and less wet conditions. The tread pattern on the bottom was designed to handle most terrain. Not bad for an ideal hiking shoe.
Cost and Value
These hiking shoes are highly priced based on most websites that they are sold. They are priced around $140. Most backpackers love the style and fit of these hiking shoes, especially the quality, so the price is not really an issue to most.
Stylish and fashionable
Good ankle support
Extremely hardy sole
9. Keen Voyageur
The Keen Voyageur is a very breathable shoe and a waterproof one. It is good to wear in hot and dry weather conditions, but won’t fail you if used in wet conditions. The waterproof material stands up to its repertoire.
For the most part, they have a protective rubber toe-box that just happens to be cut on the wide side, so if you have a wider foot they would be perfect. These Keen Voyageur just might be the right pair for you.
Cost and Value
The Keen Voyageurs are priced in a decent price range, right above $100. For such great style and comfort, many backpackers love them, so they are a pretty good price.
Heel and arch support
Sizing is a bit off
10. Salomon Ellipse GTX
These shoes are not great on support because the arch is slightly flat. However, many just lace up the shoe to prevent the foot from slipping and to keep it more secure. It’s best if the laces are tightened from the bottom up.
Salomon always uses their Contagrip rubber soles. These soles are designed with multi-directional lugs great for traveling in mud and rocks. The rubber is a little bit sticky, but the toe is flexible so they help to prevent slipping.
Cost and Value
Salomon Ellipse GTX are priced just around $120. A basic price that most other hiking shoe brands are selling their shoes for. The price is a considerably reasonable price.
Trail running design
Very rugged feel to them
Need more insight on Hiking Footwear?
With the variety of hiking footwear available; hiking shoes with extra cushion, waterproof uppers, extra support and high traction, your experience on the trail becomes more ideal but your prep work more difficult. We created this review to provide insight on the very best hiking shoes to help you avoid a headache so you can get out there with the best on your feet.
If you’re still at a loss as to which shoe to choose, here’s a guide on how to choose the best shoes for hiking.
Criteria for Evaluation of the Best Hiking Shoes
What to Look For
When looking for the best footwear for the outdoors, as is where hiking occurs, of course, you need to consider how durable the shoe is, it’s ability to withstand water as you will be running by plenty of streams or rivers, even snow, and how it performs in rugged settings. Yes, that is a vague statement, and there is much more to consider in specifics, such as weight, protection, the comfort factor, and much more. In short, hiking can be grueling, or casual depending on your level, so you need to consider every aspect before getting out there, and to be sure you have the perfect shoe, you need to choose accordingly. Here’s how.
Durability & Protection
Think; dirt, rocks, rivers, maybe snow, holes, uneven terrain and enough hazardous objects to line a mountain twice. There’s plenty of reasons to consider your safety, and even more to consider the protection in which yo provide for your feet. That’s one of the main reasons casual footwear will not suffice on the trail. You need protection from the elements, whatever the season may be. Mother nature is unforgiving; make sure your feet are prepared as they will be what get’s you in and out.
Aspects that contribute to the Durability & Protection include:
Waterproofing/ Water Resistance – This may come in the form of a Gore-tex (GTX) lining, or the lack of breathable mesh material of the upper; meaning that a trail shoe will be generally less breathable than those made for casual, everyday use, as seen with those comprised mainly of leather. The compromise is necessary as you can expect to be hiking through rougher terrain than you will usually see. Keep in mind, there are hiking shoes of every degree, so if you are doing casual, easy hiking, you can find yourself a shoe that is comprised of extremely breathable (synthetic) mesh and get away with it. If you are partaking in backpacking or hiking through unpredictable terrain, you want as much protection as possible, so you will go with a leather-made shoe. You never know when you will encounter streams or rivers with no options than to plow through. You will find shoes with either a full-bootie waterproof membrane or a pieced-together seam-sealed inner layer. If you want a fully waterproof shoe, chances are, your favorite shoe is offered in a GTX version.
Thicker, heavier, layered upper material – If you want lightweight, you are looking in the wrong direction. Hiking footwear is made to withstand constant impact with rocks, corrosion that comes with moisture retention, and long miles through dust and dirt. This means you will typically find the proper shoes comprised of material that is heavier, more layered and tougher than the standard shoe. One thing for sure is that you won’t be seeing flyknit or primeknit uppers on hiking shoes. You will find either synthetic or leather. The leather that you will find on hiking footwear will generally be cowhide, as it has the best balance of durability and flexibility. Synthetic uppers do not contain animal products, but rather are either composed of durable nylon or polyester, or a combination of both. Leather is generally less breathable, and more ideal for rougher trekking as it is tough, while synthetic uppers are less in weight, more breathable but do not offer as much protection so are great for easy trails.
- Leather Upper – Perfect for taking a beating and for rougher environments. Although, it is relatively heavy. Great for snow, or rocky terrain.
- Synthetic Upper – Lightweight and breathable, but may tear easily if snagged on bushes or rubbed on rocks consistently. Great for hot weather.
Stiffer Sole / Thicker Sole – There are also hiking footwear that is better for speed hiking, which have less stiff, more flexible soles, but most are generally more stiff and durable than your regular shoes’ soles. This not only adds to the longevity of the sole but gives more stability for carrying your hiking equipment and backpack as most hikers will carry from 30 to 40lbs depending on the duration of the trip. If you’re a backpacker and have 40+ lbs on your back, we recommend as stiff of a sole as they come. You will need the extra support and protection for the weight and long miles. You will still find compounds such as Vibram’s material in the midsole composition of most hiking shoes, but the added layers of material provide extra protection, making even this generally flexible material stiff.
Other sole material you may encounter
- Polyurethane Foam – One of the more dense materials used in midsoles that’s typically longer lasting than other’s but much less of a cushion.
- Ethylene Vinyl Acetate – Arguably the most popular of midsole materials. EVA is extremely soft and cushioning, fairly durable (not as durable as PU) but much more pleasant to walk on.
Note: There are multiple components that make up a shoe. These components include the upper, footbed, midsole, and outsole (sometimes an extra layer called the topsole). Not every shoe will include a pronounced outsole or topsole. Some shoes include one layer, although you will typically find every layer included in hiking footwear.
Steel Shank / Rock Plate – Just as you would see in industrial grade work boots, some high-quality hiking shoes (and boots) have steel shanks integrated into them. With work boots, they protect against the penetration of external objects such as nails, and with hiking footwear, they do the same, except the protection will be against sharp rocks (mainly) and other ground hazards as there are many. This feature is not always needed, but better safe than sorry, and it’s certainly a prevention measure you may end up happy to have taken. Alternatively, the plate will be of a hard plastic but serves the same purpose.
Weather protection is particular and needs to be covered in its own, although it goes hand-in-hand with the overall protection of proper hiking footwear. Generally, footwear for the outdoors includes protection from harsh weather from the main components they may feature, such as Goretex linings or other waterproofing material, and thicker layers to accommodate for extreme conditions if that’s what you may find yourself in. But, there’s much more to weather protection than just the basics. In fact, there are too many different types of weather conditions for one type of solution to fit all. You need to consider every aspect for every specific situation or season you will be hiking in.
Additional weatherproofing may come in the form of wax coatings on full-grain leather for the purpose of waterproofing if a GTX option isn’t available for that particular shoe. For the same purpose, you may also find a hydrophobic DWR (durable water repellent) finish or oil coating depending on the manufacturers choice for their footwear. If quality, all methods suffice, although a poorly made shoe with any weatherproofing method will still leak, so you need to make sure to only obtain footwear from trusted, reputable brands, which we have listed.
Additional Points of Weather Protection to consider
- Dealing with the elements – Skip synthetic for cold, rockier and generally harsh conditions. Leather is much more protective and durable. In scolding heat, Synthetic will be your best friend as you will need the airflow and breathability it provides.
- Waterproofing is only one form of weather protection – Waterproofing comes in handy if you’re in a wet setting saturated with streams, or find yourself in rain, although it is just one form of protection from the weather.
- Consider if you will encounter snow on your hike (Usually more prevalent at higher altitudes) – In snow, waterproofing is needed (go with leather), but you will also need extra insulation. In addition to more insulation, you want to consider crampons, microspikes or even snowshoe attachments.
- Consider Gaiters – Gaiters not only come in handy in the snow, to keep the insides of your shoe snow free, but they also keep everything else out. They are a worthy investment and a smart addition to your hiking gear.
- Hot weather / Hiking in the heat – Cut down on the waterproofing material and go with a synthetic/mesh upper which will allow much more effective temperature regulation. Also, go with a low cut collared hiking shoe. There are plenty available.
A properly fitting shoe will prevent twisting or unwanted, excess movement of the foot inside the shoe that can lead to a sprained ankle, chafing, or blisters. Although you will get much more support for the ankles in a full-fledged boot, or even an MID hiking boot, a proper shoe for hiking should still provide ample support. Additionally, the form of the collar should fit in a way that debris isn’t allowed inside. You also want more room in the toe box as hiking generally leads to aching toes from constant pressure put on them, and the extra space will prevent that. It’s worth noting that the rugged look of hiking shoes has become somewhat of a fashion trend that some non-hiking shoe companies are capitalizing on. This means, there are shoes out there that appear to be made for the trail but don’t have the proper fit or support in which a real hiking shoe has.
Benefits of properly fitting hiking footwear
- Sprained ankle prevention
- Blister and excess rubbing prevention
- Comfort through extended miles
- Prevention from External Debris entering shoe
- Prevention of pains in the toe area (should have extra toe room)
- Provides additional support and overall steadiness
Note: Don’t go for a shoe just because it looks like it’s made for the outdoors. Make sure the specifications and features are up to par and provide what’s needed for the trails.
Breathability / Temperature Regulation / Air-Flow
Breathability is important, but it’s also a contradiction to some situations where a completely sealed hiking shoe will be more effective. Although, there will be instances where you will need a more breathable shoe, and waterproofing won’t be needed.
In a waterproofed shoe, airflow will be at an all-time low, and temperature regulation will be minimal. Because of this, your feet will heat up quickly, which is why in hotter weather, a leather shoe is not recommended. Leather lacks air-flow and is naturally water-resistant, so, along with your feet heating up more easily in a leather shoe, moisture accumulation from sweating will occur. Only use a leather shoe in hotter weather if you must. This means a strenuous hike where you will need the extra protection that it offers. The same goes for Gore-tex materials. There is no need for a GTX hiking shoe if you don’t plan on walking through streams, or hiking through snow. On another note, Gore-tex is fairly breathable (for a water-resistant material at least), but not relatively.
On a hot day where you won’t need full protection and can compromise a little bit, go with a shoe made of suede leather/nylon if you still want a balance of protection with breathability. For optimal air-flow and breathability, go with full synthetic. This means your shoe will be comprised largely of mesh which will give ample temperature regulation and moisture management.
Choose wisely, and consider where you will be hiking.
Q: What material should I look for in hiking footwear?
A: For the upper, If you are backpacking or doing a strenuous hike you need to go with leather as it is much more durable and water-resistant than any other. If you prefer lightweight with optimum breathability and don’t need the extra protection leather offers, you can go with synthetic uppers. Leather is also more pricey but offers better overall support. For midsole material, you should either go with Eva (Ethylene-vinyl acetate) wich is very cushioned, or Polyurethane (PU) which is more supportive, dense and durable.
Q: Should I go with a hiking boot or a hiking shoe?
A: There are major differences between a boot made for hiking and a shoe for hiking. The most notable difference is the ankle support you will get from a boot, and the heavier weight the added material will provide. You should also be aware of MID shoes, that can also be considered boots. MID footwear are generally shoes that have a raised rim to provide that extra support, and typically come in a low version. Boots are much better for backpacking and extended trips on the trail, and we reccomend them for those who carry more than 30 lbs of accumulative backpack or gear weight. If you are doing an easy day hike, carrying a lightweight pack, you dont need the extra support, and a great hiking shoe will suffice.
Q: What types of leather can be seen on hiking footwear other than the common cowhide?
A: Although cowhide leather is common because of it’s combination of durability, water resitancy and relative flexibility you will see footwear composed of leather manufactured through different curing methods. This includes full-grain leather which is very strong and holds a great rating in water resistancy balanced with breathability. You also need to consider the thickness of th leather incorporated into the shoe. An ideal thickness will be in the range of 1.4 millimeters, as the higher thickness, the more supportive the footwear will be. You may also see Nubuck leather, which is very similar to suede. It’s just as water resistant to full grain, but much more flexible, although compromises in durability.
Q: Is a break in period necessary?
A: Yes! Breaking in any type of shoe is extremely important before lengthy use of it. This is more important in hiking footwear as the strenuous pressure you put on your feet our there will lead to damage with a stiff shoe that is not broken in.
Q: What’s the typical break in period for hiking shoes?
A: This depends on a couple factors, the material being one. Full grain leather is much harder, and stiff than any other material generally seen on hiking footwear, therefore taking much longer to break in properly. Before going on any big hikes, wear the shoes regularly for three days or so (or a few small hikes) if they are full grain leather to break them in. Nubuck may take a wear or two to properly break in, but split grain and synthetic footwear require minimal time as they are naturally flexible. It’s arguable that shoes comprised of split grain or synthetic don’t need to be broken in at all.
Q: Is there a difference between hiking, backpacking, and mountaineering?
A: Yes! They all include the great outdoors, but are each very different activities, and require different gear. Backpacking consists of long miles where you will be bringing all your camping gear with you, and be sleeping under the stars for multiple nights at a time. This means, you will be carrying a heavy load and will need more support in your shoes in order to handle the load. A Mid hiking shoe or full-fledged hiking boot is ideal.
Hiking generally consists of a round trip that can be done in a day, whether hiking up a trail to summit your favorite mountain, or hiking through your favorite county, state or national park. Because hiking is typically done on maintained trails, and beaten paths, carrying only the essentials rather than a full load that includes a tent, you can get away with lighter hiking shoes, and don’t need the extra support of an MID or boot.
Mountaineering is the beast of the bunch and is actually mountain climbing in it’s rawest (but still safe) form. You will be scrambling over rocks, off-trail, climbing steep vertical ascensions, trying to reach summits not accessible by casual hikers and usually where you will get no help if you find yourself in trouble. Mountaineering equipment is extremely expensive, and there’s special footwear and gear you will need. In most cases, you won’t get away with the typical hiking shoes on a mountaineering excursion.
Q: Are women’s hiking shoes made different than hiking shoes for men?
A: Hiking shoes for women are typically lighter in weight relative to their size than men’s hiking shoes. This goes for footwear in general. The anatomy of a women’s foot compared to men’s is significantly different, so there are some companies who make the women’s version tailored to her foot. Most shoe models are just lighter in weight and don’t provide specific features for the women’s version, unfortunately. But, as competition rises between companies, we are starting to see more men and women specific shoes. A word of advice for women hikers from someone who’s lead hike’s of all degrees for 5+ years and counting; even a men’s shoe that is made quality and fits suffices. Just find the best shoe for you according to your preferences, and get the women’s version.
- Leather Versus Synthetic Footwear, ,
- What's inside a Hiking Shoe?, ,
- Hiking Footwear: How to Choose, ,
- Hiking Footwear Guide, ,
- How to Choose the Right Hiking Shoes, ,
- How to Buy Hiking Footwear, ,
- All About Hiking Footwear, ,
- About EVA Foam, ,
- About DWA Coating, ,
- Mountaineering, ,
- Hiking Shoes for Women, ,
- Testing Hiking Shoes for Women, ,
- Womens Hiking and Trail Shoes, ,