10 Best Outdoor Shoes Reviewed and Tested for Comfort

Outdoor activities can get to be dangerous, or at the very least hazardous to your feet. The great outdoors, whether camping, backpacking, trekking, or casual hiking is far from being a gentle hobby. As every hiker or outdoor enthusiast knows, two things will determine the outcome of your trips. The first one is experience, which you can only get by getting out there and It’s understandable to lack it, as we are all beginners at some point but there’s no reason you should ever lack the knowledge. Always do the prep work, and make sure you have the proper gear as that goes hand in hand with knowing what you’re getting yourself into.

Best-Outdoor-Shoes camp fire at night in the wilderness

Proper equipment and gear is critical, to say the least. Nothing screams “rookie” as much as someone who goes hiking with casual shoes, or someone trail running with slipping soles. In fact, not only will casual shoes make you look like a rookie; chances are they’ll leave you injured as well.

Last Updated: May 26, 2017
by Sergio Bettiol :

The latest update includes the best and highest rated outdoor shoes of 2017, including the highly commended Merrell MOAB 2. Other notable shoes include Keen’s Targhee II, and Salomon’s X Ultra Mid 2. Additional updates include our criteria used in evaluation, info on how to choose the best outdoor shoes, and the most frequently asked questions on shoes made for the great outdoors.

Featured Recommendations

Merrel MOAB 2 Mid WP
  • Merrel MOAB 2 Mid WP
  • 5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • FIT.ECO+ Countoured Footbed
  • Price: See Here
Merrel MOAB 2 Ventilator
  • Merrel MOAB 2 Ventilator
  • 5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Vibram TC5+ Outsole
  • Price: See Here
Salomon X Ultra Prime
  • Salomon X Ultra Prime
  • 4.5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Advanced Chassis™
  • Price: See Here

One of the most important pieces of outdoor equipment is arguably your shoes. Depending on the circumstances, it might be the only piece of equipment that you just can’t get wrong. We’ve done some research and tests to determine what makes a good outdoor shoe. Based on the results, we’ve compiled a list of the best ten outdoor shoes on the market in 2017.

 

10 Best Outdoor Shoes

 

1. Merrel MOAB 2 Ventilator

The Moab Ventilator is Merrel’s most popular outdoor footwear product. These shoes are the combination of protection, comfort, water resistance, and weight that should be on every outdoor boot. The tough grip will keep your feet steady in place getting a solid hold of almost any terrain. Merrel’s Moab Ventilators help you step outside the box, and into the wild.


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Serious Grip
The DURABLE Vibram TC5+ Rubber Outsole brings a reinforced grip for the most extreme of outdoor adventures. A combination of rubber technology and a carefully designed outsole pattern takes efficiency to another level.

Contoured Footbeds
Merrell M-Select FIT.ECO+ blended EVA Contoured Footbeds resemble the anatomic shape of feet for a comfortable wear. Thanks to the natural form of the insoles, the fitting experience is enhanced.

Cost
The MOAB Ventilator is one of the lowest prices of this list while being the number one spot for efficiency. No outdoor shoe on the market can beat this performance-to-cost ratio.
Pros
  • Water resistant
  • Comfortable fabric
  • Contoured footbed
  • Excellent grip
Cons
  • Not waterproof

2. Merrel MOAB 2 Mid WP

Merrel has proved to be the leading outdoor shoe manufacturer with the MOAB 2 series. Their appearance in our two best spots is no coincidence, as their effectiveness goes unmatched. The MOAB mid 2 Waterproof shares all of the features as the Ventilator. The only exceptions are the complete waterproof protection and the mid cut.
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Waterproof Design
The Mid Waterproof protects your feet against all kind of liquids and humidity (rivers, rain, ponds, etc.). This shoe has been quality tested for leakage, and the results confirmed their waterproofing is flawless.

MOAB 2 Features
This shoe counts with all the features of the MOAB 2 series. These include Premium fabrics, M-Select FIT.ECO+ blended EVA contoured footbeds and the DURABLE Vibram TC5+ Rubber Outsole.

Cost

Obviously more costly than lower-cut shoes. However, this boot holds one of the fairest price tags for such a quality design. Merrel once again blended optimal performance with accessible costs.
Pros
  • Waterproof
  • Breathable build
  • Contoured footbeds
  • Efficient Outsole
Cons
  • Fit is tight during first uses

3. Keen Targhee II

The Targhee II is properly equipped for off-road adventures. The waterproofing not only prevents water from going in, but also from damaging the shoe and decreasing durability. The lugged outsole improves traction and grip, making this shoe an optimal choice for outdoor activities. The waterproof build and materials are resistant and utterly breathable. It looks like a boot, while still being a shoe.
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KEEN.DRY Waterproofing
A waterproof nubuck leather upper build works in combination with KEEN.DRY waterproofing to create both protection and breathability. This combination allows vapor to exit the shoe while preventing water from breaking into it.

Metatomical Footbed Design
An anatomically designed inner support is delivers enhanced arch support and works as a frame to provide a natural fit. This cradle makes the shoe more comfortable and the fit more efficient.

Cost
This shoe is considerably cheaper than the average outdoor pair. It’s a highly recommended purchase, as their performance is unquestionable over average. The shoe also has a long durability.
Pros
  • Waterproof
  • Highly breathable
  • Decent arch support
  • Good price

 

Cons
  • Not for narrow feet

4. Salomon X Ultra Mid 2

4. Salomon X Ultra Mid 2
The X Ultra 2 is arguably one of the best outdoor boots. Breathability is the main feature of its design, as it counts with mesh panels on the upper and sides. The quality waterproof lining makes sure that the inner stays dry and warm. A gusseted tongue prevents rubbles and small rocks from getting into the shoe for a more comfortable wear.

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GORE-TEX Waterproof Lining
The design is completely waterproof and breathable at the same time thanks to GORE-TEX lining. It also contributed to a quicker dry on the outer build.

Sensifit™
Sensifit technology acts as a cradle for the foot and ankle up to the lacing system. It delivers a more efficient, tight, and comfortable fit while hiking or performing outdoor activities.

Cost
Salomon’s X Ultra 2 is not the most affordable product out there, but its quality stands up to the value. If you can afford to spend an extra buck, this is a good choice.
Pros
  • Waterproof
  • Breathable mesh build
  • Gusseted tongue
  • Speed-hook lacing hardware

 

Cons
  • Runs narrow during first uses

5. Vasque Juxt MultiSport

5. Vasque Juxt MultiSport
Vasque’s Juxt is an all-around efficient outdoor piece. They support pretty much anything you put them up to due to its multi-sport design. Midsole and outsole technology work in amalgamation to increase grip, comfort, stability, and performance. This pair can endure hiking on rough surfaces, trail running on uneven terrains and trekking for long distances. Comfortable materials provide a smooth experience throughout the whole day.
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Midsole Stability
Outdoor shoes have never been this stable before. A Molded EVA functions along a TPU Plate to make every step firm and stable. No matter where you’re stepping, you can do it confidently.

Rubber Outsole
Vasque Off the Grid outsole is far from a general rubber one. The VOG outsole breaks the limits of grip, comfort, and durability. Venture into the mountains, treks, and rivers without any concerns.

Cost
This pair was costly during the release. Though, there are loads of sales on it as of the date of this publication. Considering it’s a multi-sport shoe, it could save you from buying two different pairs.
Pros
  • Comfortable pair
  • Stable midsole
  • Solid grip and outsole
  • Durable quality
Cons
  • Not waterproof
  • Insole could be better

6. Adidas Terrex Swift R

6. Adidas Terrex Swift R
The Terrex Swift R are probably Adidas’ best outdoor pair of shoes. Built for outdoor performance on rugged surfaces with lightweight, durable and abrasion-resistant design. Flawless waterproofing lining and shock absorption technology place this shoe on our top ten list. This build is not only lightweight but also highly comfortable. These shoes have a great combination of outdoor elements.
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Full Protection
ADIPRENE technology under the heel improves shock absorption, allowing users to go a day long outdoors without any issue. The molded rubber toe cap runs an extra layer of protection.

Unique Traction
The TRAXION outsole technology allows omnidirectional grip and traction. Along the Superhigh-Traction rubber outsole, this feature allows you to grip even to moist, wet, and slippery surfaces.

Cost
Terrex Swifts are costly in comparison to other outdoor shoes. This pair is packed with technology and features that secure a durable wear. If you can make the investment, you won’t be needing another pair for a long while.
Pros
  • Lightweight approach
  • Outstanding traction
  • Protects your feet
  • Waterproof
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Retains some internal heat

7. Lowa Renegade Mid GTX

7. Lowa Renegade Mid GTX
The Renegade GTX is made for any circumstances, outdoor activities, and weathers. The Vibram outsole will grip onto anything it encounters, and the midsole features protective and durable materials. An adaptive footbed responds to all weathers with responsive climate-control technology. The padded tongue and collar offer superior comfort and stop debris from getting into the shoe.
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Climate-Control Footbed
Climate-adaptive technology on the footbed responds to different climatic circumstances. By retaining heat or releasing it, the Renegade can adapt your feet to both winter and summer situations.

Midsole & Outsole Protection
The Vibram EVO outsole has an excellent grip on all kind of surfaces and terrains. The rubber compound protects your heel and guarantees a durable use. A polyurethane MONOWRAP frame on the midsole delivers even more, durability, shock control, and comfort.

Cost

Lowa’s Renegade is nowhere near cheap. The shoe is considerably expensive in comparison to other items in this list, while not being the best one. Though, this pair is efficient in many kinds of weather and circumstances.
Pros
  • Waterproof
  • Climate-adaptive
  • High protection
  • Premium materials
Cons
  • Considerably expensive
  • Some internet purchases have been defective

8. Salomon X Ultra Prime

8. Salomon X Ultra Prime
Don’t let the classic style of the Ultra Prime fool you. This shoe is not packed with external technical looks, but it doesn’t lack performance by any means. The Prime is a highly functional blending of technology and classic design. The precision build features flexibility, durability, grip, and every other feature that composes a fitting outdoor shoe.
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Advanced Chassis™
A lightweight frame is located between the midsole and the outsole the optimize motion management and energy administration. The Advanced Chassis also provides protection, stability, and support.

Cushioned Insole
The Ultra Prime includes an OrthoLite cushioned insole that augments comfort and avoids heel soreness. The insole also protects your feet from humidity and odors.

Cost
The price of this shoe is a bit above standard. Not cheap, but not that expensive either. Taking into consideration its outdoor performance, the price of this pair is worth it.
Pros
  • Comfortable materials
  • Cushioned Insole
  • Contragrip traction
  • Stable
Cons
  • The bottom laces are sewed, making a bit of pressure
  • Runs narrow for wide feet

9. The North Face Ultra 109 GTX

9. The North Face Ultra 109 GTX
Hiking, climbing, and trail running are no obstacles when wearing a pair of these. The Ultra 109 delivers quality outdoor performance with its multifunctional build. Waterproof protection keeps your feet dry on rivers, ponds, and rain. Protection is a priority when performing outdoor activities, which is why this shoe has a protective TPU toe cap. The materials of this build are comfortable, lightweight, and durable.
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Breathable Waterproof Technology
GORETEX Waterproof not only keeps water away from your feet but also heat. A breathable membrane stops the waterproof lining from sealing the heat inside the shoe. Instead, it allows vapor to go out and to allow air to move in.

Rubber Sole
An UltrATAC rubber sole delivers every element required for an optimal outdoor implementation. They go from running stability to a sturdy grip that supports all kind of terrains. When you’re at the mountain, the Ultra 109 GTX make sure you stay on the mountain.

Cost
This pair is considerably more expensive than some other shoes in this list. But, this doesn’t mean they aren’t worth their quality. The Ultra 109 GTX delivers professional performance; you can’t get pro for cheap.
Pros
  • Breathable waterproof technology
  • UltrATAC rubber sole
  • Adequate Fit
Cons
  • Not as sturdy as previous products
  • Expensive shoes

10. Hoka One One Tor Summit

10. Hoka One One Tor Summit
This is one of the most good looking pairs in our list. Their completely waterproof design supports any outdoor action; though they perform the best while hiking. The materials are durable, and a dynamic midsole gives enough responsiveness and cushioning for going as fast as you need. The Tor Summit includes outsole technology that optimizes grip and traction like never before.
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Rubber Outsole
A sticky rubber outsole equipped with omnidirectional lugs guarantee a reliable contact on any surface. Additionally, RMAT is applied in the Dynamic Midfoot Transition Zone for a smoother execution.

RMAT Midsole
A responsive RMAT midsole combines lightweightness with responsiveness and cushioning to increment running and hiking comfort. The midsole works along the outsole to compress and diminish any heel impact while doing outdoor sports.

Cost
These shoes are undoubtedly expensive, the most costly of the list. However, the upper build features very useful materials, and the sole is made from quality, durable rubber. This pair keeps a fancy design without sacrificing performance or durability.
Pros

 

  • Breathable waterproof technology
  • Fashionable design
  • Durable build

 

Cons
  • High heel drop
  • Pretty expensive

The quality of your shoes will have a considerable impact on both performance and safety. When it comes to safety, outdoor activities are a delicate practice. A professional outsole makes the difference between a secure grip and an injury due to slipping. The surfaces and terrains of outdoor sports are different from regular sports wear, thus you need different shoes.

Sport shoes may good like a good option at first sight – but they’re not. A running shoe has a completely different build than an outdoor one; from the upper frame, to the midsole and the outsole. Sport shoes generally target surfaces such as pavement or grass, which is not the case of trail running or hiking. Depending on the circumstances, the lack of an outdoor-specific outsole can result in serious injury. As you can guess, that outsole is not something you find in a running shoe.

Leaving security aside, performance and durability are also affected if not wearing the adequate shoes. For instance, the materials of running shoes won’t necessarily survive in outdoor conditions. Outdoor shoes on the other hand, are specifically made to resist the toughest of environments – while maintaining comfort and performance at maximum.

 

Criteria Used in Evaluation of the Best Outdoor Footwear

 

Outsole

The outsole is one of the most important parts of an outdoor shoe. Unlike ordinary sports shoes, outdoor activities require a particular kind of outsole. Hiking shoes must have a thick rubber outsole to obtain a decent performance in off-road terrains. Other materials that aren’t rubber (or derivate) are not recommended for hiking shoes.

The truth is, conventional rubber just won’t cut it. The best hiking shoes have an adherent or “sticky” rubber component that maximized contact between the outsole and any surface. This kind of technology is what you should be looking for in an outdoor shoe. No other sports shoe offers this technology, as they’re just not made for these activities.

There’s an abysmal difference between the grip of a running shoe’s outsole and a hiking shoe’s outsole. For starters, the quality of the grip on the best hiking shoes is much, much superior. A running shoe not only will cause uncomforting when used on outdoor terrains, but also inefficient. The outsole of an outdoor shoe must be able to grip to rocks, uneven surfaces, mud, dirt, and more. When going hiking, you want to make sure you can completely rely on your outsole. At the end of the day, the outsole grip is what determines the outcome of each step.

The main factors that define the quality of an outsole are its materials, the grip, the stability, and responsiveness. Poor materials will result in an entirely degraded outsole in one month. A weak grip is something you just can’t have in your shoe; it’s a 100% you’ll-fall-guarantee. The sole can’t be too high, as stability would decrease. If you want stability, you can’t float in 8cm of sole. Lastly, a responsive outsole protects you from having smashed heels after hiking or trail running for 30 minutes.

 

Durability

There’s a little bit of a (huge) difference when it comes to the durability of an average shoe vs. an outdoor shoe. The main difference is that you can use your outdoor wear as walking shoes – and look good at it. But it doesn’t work like that the other way around. Using your casual walking wear will make you look more like a newbie (an injured one probably). Not to mention that those shoes are going to get totally squashed.

It’s as simple as this: regular shoes can’t endure outdoor activities. You need materials that resist rocks, scratches, water, and heavy duty. Think of it as placing a big motor in a small car, and the other way around. The small car still works with a larger engine, but the big one can’t run with a smaller one.

When going for outdoor adventures, you’ll encounter roots, mud, dirt, water, debris, rocks, and another bunch of obstacles. The matter is not what you encounter, what is important is that your shoes are prepared for it. We know outdoor shoes are not cheap, which is why we gathered a list of durable shoes that feature resistant builds. Nobody likes throwing money down the drain, just like nobody likes having to replace shoes after one month.

You have to options when it comes to durable materials: leathers and synthetics. The toughest one is unquestionably reverse full-grain leather. However, other factors such as weight, waterproofing, and versatility play a role when choosing materials.

In general, leathers are the most resistant and durable option. We recommend builds that include nubuck leather, full grain leather and reverse full grain leather. This doesn’t mean synthetics are worse than leathers. In fact, the best outdoor build is a combination of both synthetics and leather.

 

Protection

Trekking, hiking, and trail running are unquestionably rough activities. This goes for both our feet and our shoes. It’s important that the materials are sturdy enough to protect the pump from degrading. However, it’s even more important to protect our feet. Multiple factors have an impact on the protection the shoe provides to our feet.

There are three kinds of outdoor shoes: low cut, mid cut, and high cut. The most protective of them all is unquestionably the high cut. It covers up to the shin, offering maximum protection. Though the cut you need depends on the activity you’re looking to perform. For something versatile like trail running, high boots are the last option on the list. For something like backpack trekking or hiking, consider taking mid or high cuts.

Waterproofing is one of the most important factors that affect protection. Depending on the activity and the surroundings, waterproof protection might or might not be essential. However, if there are any chances you’ll have to deal with water, waterproof shoes make a huge difference. Water has a chain of effects on the performance if you’re not prepared for it. For starters, it will soak your feet affecting comfort, fit, and stability in every motion. The boot will also become significantly heavier if the materials absorb water instead of repelling it.

Some outdoor shoes have a distinctive tongue design that prevents debris from going into the shoe. We highly recommend looking for shoes with this feature. Anyone who’s hiked before knows how annoying it is to remove the boot because of debris in it. This is especially annoying when wearing high boots and a backpack. But aside from being annoying, no protection on the inside prevents you from stepping on small rocks and edgy remains.

There are other forms of protection that are not directly related to the feet, but to safety as a whole. The outsole plays a massive role here. The grip is involved with protection, as it’s the only thing that keeps you on the ground. We’ll give you further insight about this below.

 

Grip

The grip is the most important element of the outsole, and probably the whole shoe. The grip determines the quality of the contact between the shoe and the surface. If the grip is loose and there is no traction, the shoe slips. When doing outdoor activities, shoes should have as much traction as you can get. Multiple sub-factors contribute to the value of the grip.

For a better grip, we encourage the use of your natural feet and toe strength along with proper technique. However, technologies such as heel brakes make it easier by reducing the chances of the outsole slipping or sliding. Never rely on such technology as the base of your grip – it works as assistance. Other contributing elements are lug patterns on the outsole. Lug patterns dig into the surface (mud, rocks, grass, dirt), helping your feet make each motion smoother.

The deeper the lugs are, the better traction the shoe will have. But, you should always consider the kind of activity you’re going to perform. For trail running, deep lugs are not the ideal choice, as they’ll dig too deep into the ground. This would decrease the running performance, as each gait would require more effort and running would be difficult.

As things get tougher, you’ll need more grip. For instance, the grip is the number one priority when hiking steep elevations (or descents). When doing heavy activities, your shoe must be able to grip to any surface you encounter. Each step needs to be confident and firm, and that can’t happen if you can’t get a good grasp of the surface.

 

Comfort

This is underrated in all kind of performance shoes. We can’t say it enough; uncomforting shoes will never let you reach optimal performance. Some people make the mistake of forcing themselves into uncomforting shoes. If a shoe feels uncomfortable, it means there’s something wrong. Uncomfortable shoes are not an option for outdoor activities. Off-road events alone are harsh for our feet, imagine adding hours of unpleasant experience on top of that.

Comfort is directly related to your technique. The more comfortable you are, the best you’ll do. Various things mark the level of comfortability in a shoe. Cushioning is the first one. An outdoor shoe must have enough cushioning to support comfortable motions; especially trail running ones. Most shoe brands apply their own cushioning and shock absorption technologies on their designs. For instance, Merrel’s Air Cushioning Midsole diminishes impact, increases comfort and offers more stability.

The materials are another factor. If the shoe materials are completely stiff, any motion becomes uncomfortable. Don’t get us wrong – outdoor boots must be firm. However, there’s a difference between firm and inflexible. Flexibility is a must to execute motions in a natural manner. A shoe should never become an obstacle to your motions. The best outdoor shoes will flex as your feet require it, resembling their movement as naturally as possible.

Depending on the location and weather, you should be looking for a breathable shoe or one that retains heat. A breathable shoe is the last thing you want in winter. Look for something that seals your feet away from the cold, as it’s important to keep them warm. On hot locations it’s the whole opposite; heat should not accumulate on the inner shoe.

No matter where you are, one thing is for sure; you’ll need waterproofing. Wet shoes (and feet) will become an uncomfortable obstacle anywhere, anytime.

 

Breathability

Everyone knows the sensation of having their feet in a microwave. We’ve all made the unfortunate mistake of buying completely sealed shoes at some point. Breathability is one of the features you can’t lack on any shoe, not to mention outdoor ones. Luckily for us, almost all shoes feature breathable materials nowadays.

Having a consistent flow of air through the shoe is important. Some waterproofing technologies make the mistake of sealing the upper entirely. Waterproof protection is important, yeah, but not at the cost of breathability. Technologies such as GORETEX offer absolute waterproof protection while still maintaining a decent breathability. This is due to a breathable membrane that allows vapor to leave the shoe without allowing water to breach into it.

The upper side of an outdoor shoe must always use breathable materials. The best shoes apply materials such as mesh in combination with strong leathers. The places where heat concentrates the most are the sides of the shoe, the toe box, and beneath the tongue. Mesh panels are often applied strategically around those areas to prevent overheating without using too much mesh. The issue with breathable materials is that they’re much thinner, thus more delicate. Due to this, they must work in combination with tougher fabrics.

The lack of breathable materials in a shoe will result in overheated feet. It’s especially important to have breathable shoes on hot environments, as they contribute to heat accumulation. Overheating can get to a point where you’re no longer able to perform due to extreme uncomforting. In fact, it goes beyond discomfort; the concentration of heat will irritate your feet.

Our extremities, such and hands, and feet, are the parts of the body that release the most heat during exercise. Think of closed shoes as sealed leather gloves; nobody wears them on a sunny day. If this heat is sealed inside the shoe, you’ll boil your feet with their vapor.

 

FAQ

Q: What are outdoor shoes?
A:
Its footwear specifically meant for outdoor activities. These off-road activities comprise hiking, trekking, trail running, and climbing. Due to this, they require a different approach.

Q: Can I walk with outdoor boots?
A: Not as an aerobic practice. You can use them for regular wear though; some of them are very fashionable.

Q: Where to buy outdoor shoes?
A:
The best deals are found on the internet arguably. Amazon’s return policies have made it a popular choice. But, some people prefer buying at retail stores so they can try the shoe.

Q: Should I buy a low shoe or a boot?
A:
Depends on the use you’ll give them. For versatile activities, low shoes are the best option. For hiking, go for a middle shoe or a boot instead.

Q: How do I clean hiking shoes?
A:
Most of the products on our list are easily washable with cold water. Depending on the materials, it might be a different procedure.

Q: Do these shoes degrade with water?
A:
No. Outdoor shoes are intended to get wet. Even those without waterproof protection endure some water and are easy to dry.

Q: How to lace hiking shoes?
A:
Hiking shoe laces must be tied firm and tight. If the tongue isn’t properly compressed, water might leak in through the gaps.

Q: Do they have good arch support?
A:
 Not necessarily. It’s hard to make an arch that fits everyone as it depends on your type of feet. We recommend getting custom insoles to make sure every shoe fits your arch perfectly.

Q: Are they good on wet surfaces?
A:
Yes. Outdoor activities involve moist and wet surfaces, thus the shoes’ traction support wet surfaces.

Sources

  1. LinkedIn, Polyurethane in the Footwear Industry, Online Publication, Feb 19, 2015
  2. Hi-Tec, Hiking Boots; Leather vs Synthetics, Online Publication,
  3. Merrel, What's Inside an Outdoor Shoe?, Manufacturer Information, Mar 31, 2015
  4. Trails, Type of Outdoor Boots, Online Publication,
  5. Nora Shoe, Outsole Materials, Manufacturer Sales Information,