Best Outdoor Shoes Reviewed and Tested for Comfort
The great outdoors. Mother Nature. It goes by many different names, but it all encompasses one thing. It is a place of exploration, new discoveries, adventure, fun, and even a challenge if you’re running the trails. Whether you’re hiking a mountain, crossing a creek in a forest, traveling on a sand dune, or any other number of things, the choices are virtually endless.
However, it’s critically important that you are equipped with the proper equipment before embarking on any journey in the wild. Between varying weather conditions, strong winds, hard rocks, fallen branches, and so much more, there’s a wide assortment of possible dangers you need to keep in mind when going on any sort of adventure outside. One of the most important factors you need to consider when venturing into the great outdoors is the type of shoes you will be wearing.
From hot sand, sharp rocks, grassy trails, and watery river banks, the outdoors is filled with a great variety of different surfaces and conditions that you will come into contact with. Because of this, it is critically important that you are equipped with the best outdoor shoes possible for the task at hand. Because of how expansive and different nature is, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to outdoor shoes.
Each shoe is tailored to a specific situation or activity, so in this list we will help break down some of the best rated options that are currently available. some of the things that we’ll be looking at are comfort, durability and quality of construction, and even the versatility and flexibility of use. So let’s get into it, and take a look at what we have come up with!
Our Top 3 Picks
1. New Balance 510v3 Tech Ride
The lightweight comfort and fit are mostly due to the midsole, which is made of IM ethylene vinyl acetate, as well as New Balance's Memory top comfort inserts. These breath pretty well through the mesh upper. Also, the uppers are constructed with stitched overlays for support and a secure fit, as well as plenty of toe protection to get you safely over the rougher trails.
As far as performance goes, the AT tread on the outsole is rugged enough for solid traction and movement on over more technical terrain, but still isn't too aggressive for the road. According to many customer reviews, it may be a good idea to order a half size larger that what you would normally wear. One of best things about New Balance, is that they offer footwear that, may not have the extra fancy enhancements, but will perform perfectly for a price point that most can afford, and are willing to pay.
- Breathable mesh
- Comfortable due to the midsole made of IM ethylene vinyl acetate
- Great price
2. Salomon Speedcross 4
The midsole comfort is provided by a combination of injected EVA, Molded EVA and Lightweight Muscle. As far as the outsole is concerned, the tread on these is obviously aggressive in appearance, with Salomon's Wet Traction Contagrip. Though these perform exceptionally well on light to technical trails, they probably are not the best choice for the road. The Speedcross isn't exactly a cheap shoe, but it is one that is designed for a specific task, which it does really well.
- Breathable rip-stop mesh
- Stylish design
- Not the best choice for long road trails
3. Merell Trail Glove 3
Since these are of a minimalistic design, there isn't a huge amount of cushioning, as that would defeat the whole purpose of this type of shoe. That's not to say that this is uncomfortable footwear. Comfort is due in part to the shoe's MBound midsole as well as a TrailProtect insole.
The Trail Glove's upper is constructed of a very breathable mesh with welded overlays to aid in a more secure fit. As for the sole, although not aggressive, the vibram outsole performs extremely well over most any terrain, even the road.
- Minimalistic design
- Great for hiking and demanding roads
- Not enough cushioning
4. KEEN Targhee II
To kick this review off, let's talk about how the shoe is designed. To contribute to a shoe that not only looks stylish, but is also incredibly durable, KEEN has used a combination of both leather and fabric throughout the build of this shoe. The shaft has a measurement of about 3 inches from the arch, and the sole (as you probably expect) is made out of rubber. There are 7 total color options to choose from, with each design looking relatively neutral with a nice splash of vibrant colors to help make them stand out.
Looks are one thing, but features are easily the most important aspect when dealing with hiking shoes. Thankfully, the KEEN Women's Targhee II Hiking Shoe delivers quite strongly in this department as well. To kick things off, the shoes feature a waterproofing technology so they won't wear away when coming into contact with water. We certainly don't recommend submerging these shoes in the water for long periods of time, but you'll be covered if you're crossing a stream or if you get caught in a rainstorm. Also found here are aggressive lugs, a collar with very ample cushioning, and a mesh tongue that's been made to be quite breathable. Combine all of this with the KEEN.DRY waterproof membrane and a removable insole, and it becomes quite clear that KEEN packed in the kitchen sink and more with their Women's Targhee II Hiking Shoe.
With all of those features taken into consideration, you might be expecting that the KEEN Women's Targhee II Hiking Shoe boasts a relatively steep price. If you thought this, you'd be right. The final price will be dependent on the exact size and color you select, but we still feel that any price in that range is well justified for the KEEN Women's Targhee II.
- Great for hiking
5. Adidas AX 2
For this review, let's start off by talking about some of the standout features that are packed into the AX 2. For starters, the AX 2 comes equipped with a pretty awesome sockliner. The sockliner that is used here helps to promote a much nicer fit and enhanced comfort when compared to other shoes in its class. Another point worth mentioning here is the Midsole. The midsole is constructed out of a lightweight EVA material that not only offers excellent cushioning for your feet, but cushioning that will also last you a long while throughout even the most intense sessions of physical activity while donning these shoes. And, finally, we need to talk about the Outsole. The outsole is made out of, you guessed it, rubber. However, the rubber that is used here is rated to provide superb traction no matter what surfaces you come into contact with - even ones that are wet! Being able to rest easy knowing that you'll have a steady and secure grip on any surface you come into contact with is a big selling point for a multipurpose outdoor shoe like this, so it's always awesome to see it included with any shoe in this category.
Now, about that design. The overall look here is actually quite similar to that of a sneaker. Between the lacing system, synthetic upper material, and grippy rubber found on the bottom, it could be very easy to mix the Adidas AX 2 Women's Shoe up with any average pair of tennis shoes. However, as we just learned, these definitely have a lot more going on that your basic pair of sneakers. With that said, one nice area that the AX 2 shares with its sneaker cousin is in the color options department. There are a total of 11 different selections to choose from, with each option changing up nearly every section of the shoe. Each of the color options look quite nice, and we think you'll be very happy if you're someone who likes to add a nice bit of flash to your shoes.
Although these tend to run a bit expensive, just keep in mind the various situations in which these are intended to perform. Additionally, the majority of reviews on Amazon rate these as one of the best options around. Between the lightweight construction, excellent grip, superb comfort, and everything else we talked about, it starts to become easier to see that the AX 2 is very deserving of its higher price tag.
- Great for keeping your feet warm
- Fragile construction
6. Altra Lone Peak 2.5
Let's start by taking a look at this shoe's upper, which is constructed of a breathable mesh material with a couple of stitched overlays over the toes and around the heel. These help with protection, as well as a more secure fit. The toe box is designed with a "foot shape" to allow appropriate foot splay.
As far as comfort and stability are concerned, the dual layer foam midsole with A-bound and the zero drop platform work pretty well. Also, the sole of this shoe is fairly aggressive with Altra's Trailclaw tread. And for one more bonus, although this may not be a necessary option for many, there is also a strapless gaiter attachment on the back for those more unforgiving environments. When compared to some of the other choice on this list, the Lone Peak 2.5 runs slightly above the middle, as far as price goes.
- Breathable mesh material
- Stitched overlays over the toes and around the heel
- Offer protection and a good fit
- Not as suitable for trail running
7. Adidas Kanadia 7 TR
Let's talk about some of what these have to offer, starting with the overall comfort and fit. These stay pretty breathable with the upper mesh construction, while maintaining protection, support and a secure fit with synthetic overlays. In addition to the lightweight cushioned midsole, these also have a mudguard to help keep out water, mud as well as other debris from the trail. And then, of course, the most obvious attribute. The Kanadia 7 keeps you stable and upright with Adidas' moderately aggressive TRAXION outsole, which provides secure, multidirectional grip.
- Suitable for multiple environments
- You could get wet eventually if you catch a bad rainy weather
8. Inov-8 Terraclaw 250
Let's get into the features that land this one on our list. For starters, the tongue is diagonally sewn in to help prevent debris from getting in while tackling rougher environments, where there may be more loose rocks and dirt. Next, the upper is constructed of lightweight, breathable mesh which is reinforced with synthetic overlays to aid in a secure fit, as well as increased durability. When you take a look at the toe, you'll see that there is a double stitched toe cap for extra protection from larger rocks and any other obstacles in your path.
Finally, we come to the sole of these trail runners. Just by looking at them, you can immediately tell that these are not meant for normal road use. Inov-8 has built the Terraclaw on top of an outsole which has an off-road tread triangular lugs that have been sparsely placed to allow mud and other debris to release, not to hinder the shoe's grip. These are definitely ideal for outdoor activities, especially those that require that extra bit of traction. They would have made it a little higher on this list, however they are really only suitable for trail use, and not so much the road, making them a slightly less versatile than some of the other choices here.
- Not bulky at all
- Breathable mesh
- Not suitable to talk on trails
9. Saucony Cohesion TR9
Let's dig a little deeper, and check out the key features. Similar to a lot of the others on this list, these also possess an upper made of lightweight, breathable mesh with stitched overlays for added support and durability. The comfort and stability come partly from the added arch support, but also the stabilizing grid system in shoe's heel.
With an outsole designed with trail-specific traction, these have been classified by Saucony as a technical trail runner. However, when comparing the amount of traction offered by the tread on these, they are probably going to perform much better on the lighter trails. The treading may not be aggressive enough for the more "hardcore" environments. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. This allows the Cohesion to be used on a wider range of surfaces, making them perfect for general outdoor use.
- Great for hiking and running
- Breathable mesh
- Sizes are smaller
10. Merrell Annex Ventilator
These were really intended as off-road walking shoes, but their low profile, sportier design makes them suitable for faster paced activities as well.
Some of the key comfort features that you'll find in these include a memory foam footbed as well as Merrell's Air Cushioning insole to get you through long activities. They also have the M Select FRESH Treatment. When we take a look at the shoe's Vibram outsole, you'll notice that they do have a fairly tread, clearly designed for increased traction, however they are still really suitable for the hard top as well. As mentioned before, these are not running shoes, but they deserve their place in this review as a more casual option. One for the times when a trail runner may be a bit to sporty for that particular occasion.
- A more breathable version of the Annex
- Less bulky that most hiking boots
- A little heavier than the regular Annex shoe