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Best Backpacking Boots Reviewed & Rated for Performance

last updated Dec 05, 2018

Depending on the place you are visiting, you may require certain things from your footwear. If you're in a place that has a lot of rain, or if you will be hiking through damp forests, then you are going to want to make sure that your footwear is waterproof. If you've opted for a warm, dry location then waterproof options are going to be far less important than having a pair which is breathable and lightweight. Those who want to hike mountains will prefer products with intense traction, while others who are just exploring cities will want a shoe that is well cushioned.

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By AndrewDJ:

Our most recent update takes a fresh look at the best 10 backpacking boots available on the market today. We strive to always keep our lists the most current and relevant so that you have the best information available when you're looking for a great backpacking boot. Each of these boots will serve you well in the outdoors and there is something here for everyone! Happy backpacking!

Sorting Options
Weight Water Resistance Traction Effectiveness Durability By Default
Rank
PictureProduct
Name
Rating
Shops
1
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
89
Weight
90%
Water Resistance
80%
Traction
95%
Effectiveness
85%
Durability
95%
Price Comparison Last Updated (11.12.18)
$107.49
2
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
89
Weight
90%
Water Resistance
94%
Traction
89%
Effectiveness
90%
Durability
82%
Price Comparison Last Updated (11.12.18)
$179.95
3
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
88
Weight
80%
Water Resistance
95%
Traction
90%
Effectiveness
90%
Durability
85%
Price Comparison Last Updated (11.12.18)
$164.95
4
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
88
Weight
90%
Water Resistance
75%
Traction
95%
Effectiveness
90%
Durability
90%
Price Comparison Last Updated (11.12.18)
$174.95
5
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
86.4
Weight
77%
Water Resistance
95%
Traction
88%
Effectiveness
82%
Durability
90%
Price Comparison Last Updated (11.12.18)
$144.95
6
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
83.4
Weight
70%
Water Resistance
95%
Traction
82%
Effectiveness
85%
Durability
85%
Price Comparison Last Updated (11.12.18)
$86.90
7
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
82.6
Weight
70%
Water Resistance
95%
Traction
80%
Effectiveness
83%
Durability
85%
Price Comparison Last Updated (11.12.18)
$88.72
8
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
82.2
Weight
84%
Water Resistance
87%
Traction
80%
Effectiveness
80%
Durability
80%
Price Comparison Last Updated (11.12.18)
$239.95
9
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
79.4
Weight
90%
Water Resistance
70%
Traction
82%
Effectiveness
80%
Durability
75%
Price Comparison Last Updated (11.12.18)
10
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
78.2
Weight
80%
Water Resistance
70%
Traction
83%
Effectiveness
78%
Durability
80%
Price Comparison Last Updated (11.12.18)
$130.00
In Depth Review Top 10
  • ATAC 8" by 5.11
  • KEEN Durand Mid
  • Salomon X Ultra Mid 3
  • Chippewa Rugged Lace-Up
  • Teva Ahnu Sugarpine II
  • Timberland Flume
  • Timberland Euro
  • Lowa Renegade II GTX
  • DailyShoes Military
  • Under Armour Valsetz RTS 1.5
Table of contents
  • Criteria Used for Evaluation
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Sources

10 Best Backpacking Boots

1. ATAC 8" by 5.11

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
89
ATAC 8" by 5.11
Weight
90
Water Resistance
80
Traction
95
Effectiveness
85
Durability
95
best offer for today
$107.49
Pros:

Enhanced Speed And Traction

Open Cell Foam Cushion

Ortholite Insole

Hypertext Lasting Board

Oil And Slip Resistant Outsole

Heel And Toe Reinforcements

Shock Mitigation System

Cons:

Scuffs Easily

Long Break-in Period

For those who take their boots very seriously, this is a boot that is sure to exceed your expectations. Originally engineered for the army, law enforcement, and other tactile units, this boot is the ultimate in military style. With an 8 inch lace up front, these are a higher boot that offers incredible security and stability. Longer backpacking trips and those that include deserts or other very rugged terrains will benefit greatly from this boot. These are very high-performance boots that will last you a very long time and are sure to give you everything you need to have a great backpacking experience. Even with all the military-style features, these boots remain comfortable and breathable.

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Shock Mitigation System
Designed by 5.11, this shock mitigation system will serve you well while you are climbing and hiking across rugged terrains. It is comprised of 6 separate components that come to together to create a supportive and dynamic system for any high impact activity. Approved by police and firefighters alike, these are boots that can withstand any kind of activity and offer a superior performance that you will be more than impressed by. It is lightweight and has fantastic compression and rebound, giving you more speed, comfort, and stability.

Odor Control Lining
These boots have a moisture-wicking interior so that your feet stay dry and cool regardless of the weather or terrain. As stated previously, these are exceptional for areas that are desert-like, and even in the intense heat, your feet should remain comfortable. The lining inside the boot also controls odor by preventing the growth of any bacteria. This will allow you to wear them all day long and not worry about them smelling when you take them off.

Cost and Value
These are some intense boots, that are made for professionals, so you would expect the price on these to be almost outrageous. Instead, these boots are about as middle of the road as you can get on this list, and they are unbelievably well priced for what you are getting. With such a durable and high performing boot, these are must-haves for people who love to take on difficult terrains. You will have superior traction as well as comfort and coolness that will make you fall in love with these boots over and over again.

2. KEEN Durand Mid

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
89
KEEN Durand Mid
Weight
90
Water Resistance
94
Traction
89
Effectiveness
90
Durability
82
best offer for today
$179.95
Pros:

Breathable Membrane

Fully Waterproof

Leather And Mesh Upper

Heel Lock And Cushion

Metatomical Footbed

Stability Shank

Cons:

Runs Small

One important factor when looking at shoes for your backpacking trip is making sure they are going to last your journey. Unlike regular footwear, backpacking shoes need to be able to stand up to long hours of use, day after day, for weeks or even months at a time. This is a lot of mileage being put on a shoe, so opting for something like the Keen Durand Mid is going to give you the peace of mind you need. Extremely durable, this is an ankle high boot that is designed to last, and the quality materials will ensure that your boot doesn't fall apart during your trek. The waterproof leather upper will keep your foot dry and protected, regardless of the weather or conditions that you choose to backpack through. Great shock absorption and a contoured heel lock mean your foot will stay comfortable day after day.

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Waterproof and Breathable
Designed in Portland, a place known for its rain, this shoe has been made with rainy weather in mind. Fully waterproof, you will be able to trek through damp forests, rain-soaked towns, and mountain streams without your foot getting soggy and wet. This shoe is amazing at keeping moisture out, but it's also great for ensuring that moisture doesn't build up inside as well. Their patented Keen. The dry membrane allows moisture to escape the shoe, giving you a breathable and dry interior. Your feet should feel sweat and heat free, even after long days of walking with your heavy backpack.

Removable Footbed
Besides just being durable, you're going to want a boot that is extremely comfortable on your foot as this is what is going to carry you to every place you visit. Even short durations in an uncomfortable shoe can be very unpleasant, so when you're on your feet for an entire day you want to make sure your foot has the support and cushioning it needs. This boot boasts a metatomical footbed that will properly contour to your foot's shape. Your arch will get the proper amount of support, while the rest of your foot will find cushioning in the areas that need it most.

Cost and Value
These boots are by no means cheap. While you can sometimes find them on sale, you're still going to be paying a fair amount for them. So are they worth the price tag? Absolutely. KEEN is a great brand that specializes in this type of footwear, so you know you're getting a boot that is durable, long lasting, and well made. Even at full price, you will get your money worth with a pair of these, and as these are your means of transportation it's worth spending the extra dollars to ensure you have quality boots.

3. Salomon X Ultra Mid 3

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
88
Salomon X Ultra Mid 3
Weight
80
Water Resistance
95
Traction
90
Effectiveness
90
Durability
85
best offer for today
$164.95
Pros:

Gore Tex Waterproof Layer

Breathable And Well Ventilated

Good Ankle Support

Heel Is Padded And Protected

Ortholite Footbed

Does Not Cause Blistering

Cons:

Runs Small

Laces Come Undone Easily

The Salomon X Ultra Mid 3 is the successor to the Mid 2 and is one of the ideal backpacking boots for a lot of different reasons. Low profile, light, waterproof, and comfortable, there is little else you could want in a boot that is going to go on a journey with you. As anyone who spends long hours on their feet knows all too well, having heavy footwear makes a significant difference and at the end of the day the lighter the boot the less sore and tired your feet will be.

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Hybrid Footwear
Choosing between a hiking boot and a trail running shoe can be a difficult choice, especially for backpackers who need a little of both when it comes to footwear. The Salomon X Ultra Mid 3 takes the best of both worlds, bringing together the lightness and agility of a running shoe with the support and durability of a hiking boot. Designed for people who like to be on the move, this shoe will easily carry you across all types of terrain, while still offering up a secure lug pattern for traction and a stiff upper for ankle support.

Gore-Tex Protection
Time and time again we are seeing boots that have Gore-Tex featured on this list, and there is a good reason for that. Gore-Tex allows for a boot to stay waterproof while also remaining breathable and well-ventilated. Keeping rain out while also allowing for moisture to escape means you will have dry, cool feet all day long. Other materials on the market offer similar properties, but Gore-Tex is one of the best available and its beloved status is due to the fact that it is genuinely effective.

Cost and Value
This is most certainly not the cheapest boot, even though it is completely worth the price tag. With features such as waterproofing, strong ankle support and a padded heel, your feet will be thanking you for spending the extra dollars! Think about all the money you'll save on Advil or Tylenol after a long day of backpacking.

4. Chippewa Rugged Lace-Up

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
88
Chippewa Rugged Lace-Up
Weight
90
Water Resistance
75
Traction
95
Effectiveness
90
Durability
90
best offer for today
$174.95
Pros:

Leather Material

Contrast Midsole

Removable Cushioned Insole

Vibram Outsole

Slip Resistant In Cold Weather

Premium Raw Materials

Cons:

Scuffs Easily

Long Break-in Period

This lace up style boot from Chippewa is massive, which some people may find a bit too heavy or clunky for backpacking through cities or other more leisurely activities. For those backpackers who want to push themselves and explore more rugged terrains, however, these boots will be an absolute blessing. Since 1901 Chippewa has been making boots that are designed for tough, hard-working people. Originally crafted with loggers in mind, these boots will stand up to the toughest of terrains, and give you intense traction and stability in any condition. With a 6 inch lace up front, these boots can be tightened to your exact preference, and you can be sure that they will stay securely bound to your feet as you hike and climb your way to the top of any mountain.

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Vibram Stockbridge Outsole
The outsole on this shoe is made from a synthetic compound that offers up a lot of great benefits. Similar to rubber, it is incredibly slip-resistant, and will also last a long time without wearing down. What makes it different from rubber, however, is that it is about half the weight which is important for a boot like this which is already massive in size. This has allowed for a huge outsole that has traction in any condition, without adding on a ton of extra weight to your boot. Even the most rugged terrains should have little effect on the outsole, ensuring that it doesn't wear down while you're traveling.

Handcrafted in the USA
This company is proudly American, and they have ensured that their boots are made right in the USA with materials that are premium and durable. Everything about this boot is thoughtfully made and put together, giving you a product that is the result of hard work and superior craftsmanship. Chippewa takes a lot of pride in their boots, and you will feel that every time you put a pair of these on. The bottom of the laces is embellished with an American flag pin, which lets you represent the USA while you travel abroad.

Cost and Value
These boots aren't the cheapest on our list, and realistically they are a bit expensive for some budgets. With that said, value wise it's unlikely that you will find another pair of boots that will hold up as well as these do. This is a pair that will last you for years, if not a lifetime, depending on how many mileage you put on them.

5. Teva Ahnu Sugarpine II

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
86.4
Teva Ahnu Sugarpine II
Weight
77
Water Resistance
95
Traction
88
Effectiveness
82
Durability
90
best offer for today
$144.95
Pros:

Leather and Textile

Fully Waterproof

Padded Gusseted Tongue

Stability Heel Clip

Rubber Toe Protector

Cons:

Runs Small

May Run Narrow

The Teva Ahnu Sugarpine II is an effective and stylish boot that are functional in many terrains and weather conditions. For those who are really going to be putting some mileage into their boots, these are going to stand up well over time and provide your foot with comfort and support that will be much appreciated. Waterproof and lightweight, these are an excellent choice for anyone.

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Numentum Technology
Numentum technology is one of the best features of these boots, and what it means is that they are designed based on the biomechanics of how a foot should naturally move. With every step you take, these boots will ensure that your foot is properly aligned and it will help center you so that you are getting a more balanced, efficient stride. This technology holds up well on a variety of terrains, so you can take these boots through the streets as well as off the beaten path.

Breathable and Waterproof
Having boots that are waterproof is always a blessing because you never know when the weather might change and you could end up soaked in the rain. Trekking around with wet, soggy feet is beyond unpleasant, so these boots are sure to keep you happy in even the wettest of conditions. Not only are they fully waterproof, but the membrane is also extremely breathable allowing for air flow so that you don't get hot and sweaty feet. The nylon lining will wick away any moisture, so you can be confident taking these boots off and not worrying about any odor.

Cost and Value
A great value for the money, you are going to find that these are perfect for backpacking and are versatile enough that you can adventure around without worry. Given that they can hold up against most terrains and weather conditions, you are getting an all-around fantastic boot for a total bargain.

6. Timberland Flume

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
83.4
Timberland Flume
Weight
70
Water Resistance
95
Traction
82
Effectiveness
85
Durability
85
best offer for today
$86.90
Pros:

Seam Sealed

Waterproof

Full Grain Leather

Fully Gusseted Tongue

Eva Midsole And Footbed

Solid Rubber Outsole

Cons:

Soles May Wear Quickly

As a well known and reputable brand, Timberland has been making their products for many decades with a lot of success. These made it into the number two spot for a couple reasons, and these are a fantastic choice for anyone who is embarking on a backpacking trip. A waterproof boot, the Timberland Flume is a durable hiking option crafted from fully waterproof leather. With a seam-sealed construction, you can feel confident in knowing that your feet will stay dry regardless of the weather or the moist terrain you are moving through. The tongue is fully gusseted so that debris stays out, and you won't have the annoyance of dirt or rocks poking at your feet. Great ankle support and an EVA footbed and midsole, means you will be comfortable all day long and should have no foot fatigue at the end of the day.

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Silver Rated Tannery
For those who take into consideration environmental concerns when making a purchase, these boots will have the added bonus of being crafted from leather that was sourced from a silver-rated tannery. This means that an independent environmental audit was done on the tannery, and they were rated based on energy use, waste production, and water treatment. The tannery then scored a silver medal, ensuring that they are meeting and/or exceeding environmental standards.

Seam Sealed
This method of making boots waterproof has the advantage of keeping them lightweight. The leather material is attached to rubber and then heat is used to seal it against the bottom of the boot. This makes sure that no water can get inside the boot, and the lack of additional stitching or other membranes means the weight of the boot is kept low. This technique also helps keep the boot breathable, so your foot shouldn't get hot and sweaty while you're wearing it.

Cost and Value
These are relatively inexpensive and are over 50% less expensive than the number one option on this list. The price, combined with the superior construction, means you are getting a great deal. With such a reputable brand behind these, you can be confident that even with a lowered price these are still great shoes that will hold up over the duration of your journey.

7. Timberland Euro

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
82.6
Timberland Euro
Weight
70
Water Resistance
95
Traction
80
Effectiveness
83
Durability
85
best offer for today
$88.72
Pros:

Full Grain Leather Exterior

Rugged Cordura Fabric

Cushioned Eva Midsole

Great Shock Absoprtion

Steel Shank For Arch Support

Waterproof

Cons:

Stiff

Runs Narrow

The second pair of Timberlands on the list, the Euro is a fantastic choice for both the low key and more rugged backpacker. Lightweight and durable, these boots will hold up no matter how far you walk, and your secure ankle will ensure that you are comfortable and stable the whole time. Made from premium grade leather, these boots are waterproof and rugged, while also looking amazing on. They have an attractive profile, and they are versatile in the sense that you can use them for backpacking as well as just nights out on the town. With a comfortable midsole, and an interior spacious enough to house any custom insoles, these are sure to make your feet feel and look amazing on your travels.

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EVA Midsole
The midsole on this boot is thick and well cushioned, giving you a luxurious feel when you walk. If you're backpacking for long periods of time, you want to make sure that your boots are supportive and comfortable, as having blisters or foot fatigue will put a damper on your trip quickly. The cushiony feeling of the midsole is great for all-day comfort and it provides a good amount of shock absorption as well. Light and soft, these are midsoles that you are going to want to have in every pair of shoes you wear.

Trail Grip Outsole
Planning on traveling across different types of terrains? These boots have a fantastic outsole that offers great traction and grip. No matter what kind of surface you are walking across, you will be impressed by how well these shoes grip and give you full stability and security. For those who love to hike, this boot will be a great choice as you can use it for backpacking, hiking, and general everyday wear.

Cost and Value
With such a versatile and well-performing shoe you would expect the price tag to be fairly hefty, but surprisingly these are on the lower end of the price list. Completely worth every penny, this product should easily fall within most backpackers price ranges and that makes them well worth checking out. With the ability to be worn for a variety of occasions, for the low price you may want to pick up a couple pairs!

8. Lowa Renegade II GTX

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
82.2
Lowa Renegade II GTX
Weight
84
Water Resistance
87
Traction
80
Effectiveness
80
Durability
80
best offer for today
$239.95
Pros:

Speed Lacing Hardware

Padded Tongue and Collar

Climate Control Footbed

Moisture-wicking

Gore-Tex Waterproof Lining

Cons:

Runs Small

All-terrain and fully waterproof, these are a backpackers' dream boot. Made from nubuck leather, these boots will securely lace up to your feet and give you excellent stability and traction, whether you are going uphill or down. A lightweight Vibram outsole ensures excellent and long-lasting traction, while the non-slip lug pattern supports you on any type of terrain. To ensure these boots aren't too heavy, they have used a monowrap frame which reduces overall weight making them comfortable for long bouts of walking. The tongue and collar are both padded, so you shouldn't have any problems with excessive rubbing or friction which can be uncomfortable and problematic over time.

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Climate Control Footbed
One downside to a lot of boots is that they are so rugged that they aren't very breathable. While the footbed is moisture wicking, so there should be no build-up of sweat or odor, you may get warm in them quickly. Fatigue and friction are not a problem, making these great for long-distance backpackers, but only in colder climates.

Waterproof Gore-Tex
The Gore-Tex lining makes sure that no moisture gets into your boot, and it is smooth enough to prevent any hot spots or pain from friction. You can confidently hike in the sun or rain with these boots, and know that they will stand up well in both conditions.

Cost and Value
Similar to most of the boots on this list, these boots are a bit of an investment to get a pair for yourself. With that said, this is pretty standard when it comes to all-terrain boots and you will find that at lower price points you just aren't getting as much value. Since these work best in cold climates, you might want to consider another pair if you plan on trekking across a desert.

9. DailyShoes Military

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
79.4
DailyShoes Military
Weight
90
Water Resistance
70
Traction
82
Effectiveness
80
Durability
75
best offer for today
Pros:

Synthetic Materials

Zippered Storage Pocket

Padded Insole Cushions

Decorative Buckling

Durable Zipper

Cons:
  • Not Waterproof
  • Runs Large

Super comfortable and extra cute, these military style lace up boots are sure to make any travel outfit look great. While these aren't recommended for rough or rugged terrains, these will serve you well if you're backpacking through city streets and exploring rustic neighborhoods and areas. They are very lightweight and are made from synthetic materials, while still including a sturdy rubber sole to keep your feet comfortable as you walk down the streets. These are also best suited for warmer and drier climates, as they will not hold up well in rain or other wet conditions.

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Built-in Storage Pocket
One of the best and most unique features of this boot is the built-in storage pocket included on the side. With a secure zipper, this is an amazingly handy thing to have for backpackers as any extra storage space can be a lifesaver. Hide your money and other small valuables inside the pocket, and have no fear of losing it along your way. The zipper is very durable, and will not wear out after constant use, so you don't need to worry about it accidentally sliding down.

Comfort Assured
Since you are going to be putting some serious walking mileage on to these boots, it is important that they offer up ultimate comfort. The padded insole cushions will give you a pillow like feel for your foot to rest on and will help prevent any foot fatigue as well as any aches or pains. With a full lace-up front, you have full control over the tightness of the fit and you can secure them to match your personal preference; this gives you more controlled ankle support as well.

Cost and Value
These boots are very cheap, but in a way, you do get what you pay for. Unlike the other boots on our list, these are not going to last you for very long, especially if you are using them for backpacking. Even with casual use, these tend to wear down quickly, so you will likely only get one trip out of them. With that said, if you are only seeking a pair of boots for your upcoming trip and don't need them to last longer than that, then these are an absolute steal.

10. Under Armour Valsetz RTS 1.5

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
78.2
Under Armour Valsetz RTS 1.5
Weight
80
Water Resistance
70
Traction
83
Effectiveness
78
Durability
80
best offer for today
$130.00
Pros:

Synthetic Rubber Sole

Synthetic Leather Upper

Lightweight TPU Shank

Ultralight Micro G EVA Midsole

Cons:

Does Not Breathe

Now we've looked at a lot of footwear so far that is designed for the more rugged and adventurous type, but this product by Under Armour takes us in a bit of a different direction. More lightweight than what we've been seeing so far, this shoe will be great for those who are going long distances, but aren't intending to climb mountains or take on unexplored terrains. Planning on backpacking around Europe? Want to see the country, stay in hostels, and meet new people along the way? Under Armor made sure that their shoe will give you cushioned support while still remaining light enough that you don't feel weighed down.

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UA ClutchFit
This is one of Under Armour's coolest technologies, and it's based on the science of how your body moves. Made up of individual, hourglass-shaped cells, this web will flex when stretched giving you a bit more flexibility for your ankle and foots natural movements to occur. The ClutchFit web is wrapped around the ankle, so you will get maximum levels of support and comfort, as well as having a boot that will move with you so that you don't hurt your ankle at any point. For long-distance walking, heavy and rigid footwear can become tiresome on your feet and ankles, but these will erase that issue making them a great choice for backpackers.

Micro G Foam
Since it was mentioned that these boots are best suited for long-distance walkers, one technology we have to bring up is the full-length Micro G foam. This platform at the bottom of your shoe is going to give you a much more comfortable and cushioned gait, as it is very responsive. Lighter and around 30% thinner than standard foams, this Micro G layer brings the total weight of this boot down so that you don't end up with tired, sore feet every day. The thickness of the cushioning also gives you a soft landing and the bounciness of the foam then gives you a much more explosive takeoff.

Cost and Value
The main thing you will find with these is that they are not going to hold up if you're putting rugged terrain miles on them. These boots are best suited for long-distance city backpackers who want to explore without going off the beaten path. If that's the kind of trip you're planning, these boots are going to be a great choice for you, and value wise you are going to find that they give you just what you're looking for.

Criteria Used for Evaluation

Weight

The number one key feature that backpackers commented on was the amount each foot ended up weighing overall. Everyone knows that a product made for traveling and exploring is going to be heavier than a running shoe or sandal, but does the weight between different options make that much of a difference?

Well, the answer is, absolutely yes. A couple ounces here and a couple ounces there really will make a significant difference over time and your feet are going to thank you if you purchase a pair of lightweight boots. Many manufacturers will claim their products to be lightweight, but it's important that you take the time to check what the actual weight is. While a 15oz shoe is completely in the lightweight category, a 33oz option may also be listed as such, and that's a significant difference between the two.

Backpackers come in all different forms, and not every adventurer is going to be planning for the same type of trip; traveling through London is going to be extraordinarily different than exploring the Himalayas. Weight will play an important role depending on where you are going, so it is important to make that distinction.

Water Resistance

As we discussed when looking at weight, different backpackers are going to have vastly different requirements when it comes to what they need in footwear depending on the location as well as the weather they will encounter. If you're somewhere hot and dry, this section won't be as relevant, but for anyone who thinks that may encounter rain, streams, puddles, or rivers, or damp forest floors then you will certainly want to continue to read on.

Every option on our list was looked at for their waterproof or water resistant qualities. The majority featured claim to be waterproof, but like with all things in life, some are better than others at fulfilling that promise. Light rain isn't going to require anything fully waterproof. You can easily get away with water resistance or a simple hydrophobic lining.

For anything more than light rain, a fully waterproof product is going to be your best bet, as there is nothing worse than having wet, soggy feet all day long. Blisters, bacteria, fungus, and other unpleasant things can occur in moist, damp, dark environments; so keeping your feet completely dry is a very important aspect of this criteria.

Gore-Tex wrapped products are a very common choice, and this has a lot to do with their ability to be fully waterproof while also allowing heat and moisture to still escape through their lining. Heat and sweat building up inside your footwear is no more enjoyable than rain soaking in, so having an upper that can do both is the sweet spot that you want to aim for.

Another thing to consider that often gets overlooked is how quickly a shoe will dry after it gets wet. If you are submerging your feet in rivers and streams while you trek, your shoes are going to get wet and the dry time is going to be vitally important. Giving a check to see if a shoe is quick drying may save you some hassle on your trip, and is a small thing to keep in mind that could end up making a big difference down the road.

Traction

This is one of those factors that will be important regardless of the weather and location, so it's important for every backpacker to take into consideration. While the amount may be different for each person, traction and grip are required to keep your feet moving safely over whatever terrain you're on. From city streets to uncharted mountain trails, the last thing you want is to be slipping and sliding while carrying heavy backpacks on your shoulders.

For people who want more traction and grip, you should look for products that have lugs on the outsoles, as these will do a better job of catching on to more uneven terrain and slippery slopes. Wider set lugs are going to give you the most grip on uneven surfaces, whereas close-knit lugs tend to do better on wet and slippery surfaces.

For slick streets and well-paved roads, a good tread pattern is going to be your ideal, and this means that the tread should be multidirectional and grippy enough that it makes a difference. Reviews are always going to give you a good idea of how good the grip and traction is, so utilize those resources when you can. Some outsoles have what is referred to as a sticky grip on the bottom, and while some people find this extremely useful, others say it isn't as effective. The best thing to opt for is a sturdy rubber sole with a good tread pattern that has the positive reviews to match.

Slipping, sliding, and falling can lead to serious injury, especially for those who are in more remote locations. The last thing you want is to slip down the side of a ravine or down into a bush where you have little cell reception or support. One of the best things you can do in regards to footwear in order to help keep you safe is to opt for a pair that is genuinely going to give you support. Being so back heavy, due to what you are carrying, traction and grip is a major factor in selecting the right pair for you.

Effectiveness

To evaluate the performance or effectiveness of your backpacking boot, it is important to define what terrain you will be covering, and in which weather condition.

For backpackers who are doing city centered trips in warm/hot locations:
This is the group who are going to want the lightest weight possible. If you are walking for hours in a city that's hot, the number one thing that is going to kill your feet first is the sweat and heat. Once moisture starts building up and your feet overheat, you are going to need to stop, take those sweaty shoes off, and put your feet up. This may give you a chance to relax and take in your scenery, but you aren't going to want to do this every 20 minutes. Generally, the lighter the shoe, the lighter the upper, and this is going to be your ideal choice every time. City streets require far less durability and ruggedness from your footwear, so you can really focus on light and airy.

For backpackers who are doing city centered trips in cold/rainy locations:
If you fall into this category you have a bit of freedom to play with weight. As long as your footwear of choice is going to give you enough warmth, protection, and dryness you can still go for a more lightweight option. Any kind of insulation will add weight, but unless you're in freezing conditions you should be fine with a warm pair of socks and some light insulation. A full mesh upper may not be your best bet, but you can still opt for one of the lighter pairs on the market. City slickin' is more about duration over durability, and you want your feet to be free from the aches, pains, and fatigue that heavier these products often cause.

For backpackers who are doing rough terrain in warm/hot conditions:
The simple rule of thumb is that the more rugged your trek, the more rugged the shoe needs to be. Hiking mountain trails, exploring off the beaten path, and tackling dense and uneven terrain means you need footwear that can take a beating and still keep going. Rugged options weigh more, that's just a fact, often because they are made with leather or other more durable uppers. An important distinction though is if you are heading to a warm/hot location, you can forego any insulation, shaving a bit of weight off. Here you want a shoe that's going to protect your foot, but also allow heat and moisture to escape. Synthetic and Gore-Tex uppers are great choices.

For backpackers who are doing rough terrain in cold/rainy conditions:
Anyone who is tackling this kind of trip is probably going to be one of the most prepared backpackers. You know that you're going to encounter harsh conditions, you'll be damp and cold, and you will need to walk for long hours in tough terrains. Out of all backpackers you are going to be the one who wants the heaviest shoe, something that can walk through mud, over fallen trees, and up the side of a mountain with ease. Insulation is going to be an important factor, as is an option that is genuinely waterproof. Leather uppers, while heavier, are going to be the most common one seen in a shoe for this style of travel. The heavier option may cause your feet to become sore and tired, but it will also protect your feet and ankles from sprains, injuries, slipping, and falling.

While your needs might be different than the next reader, we assessed overall effectiveness of the backpacking boot for all terrains and needs.

Durability

From back packing through Europe to trekking through the desert, a pair of shoes that fit well and are comfortable are number one, but the way they will wear and the amount of time they will last can make or break whether a pair of shoes is worth buying or not.

Although you may put your shoes through the ringer, a quality pair should last a decent amount of time, depending on the exertion your place on them. If they are being worn out and destroyed sooner than that, it is important to look at what they are being used as. If you are backpacking through rough terrain, then a flimsy pair of slip-on shoes are not going to hold up. Determining what needs a pair of shoes must provide and pairing them accordingly is essential.

Any white or light colored shoe is going to get scuffed up and dirty very fast, so buying those as an every-terrain backpacking shoe doesn’t make much sense. Darker shoes that have a thicker rubber sole are perfect for backpacking; stains will show up much less, and they will grip the ground well. When deciding on a pair of shoes, take a look at if they are machine washable or not, this can make a huge difference in the durability and long lasting appearance of the shoe. Not only are the shells important, but so are tough soles. Consider the entire shoe!

Expert Interviews & Opinions

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Your Socks Can Play A Big Part In Comfort!

Depending on the type of backpacking or trekking you plan to do, it's not just your boots that play a big part in protection and comfort. Your socks can too! Thicker socks will help keep your feet warmer, and several trekking specific socks will give breathability and warmth so your feet don't sweat during activity. If you plan to be on your feet for a while, make sure to fit your boots with the socks you plan on wearing. Sometimes having thicker socks means you need to size up!

Get Out and Explore

Not all backpacking involves the necessity of a hiking boot, or even one that is waterproof. With so many advancements in architecture around the world, such as Dubai, Hong Kong, Singapore, and others, you can have an urban adventure that doesn't require roughing it.
If you're looking for a new adventure, try backpacking in the city, exploring the culture of a new town, and the bustling energy of the urban streets.

Frequently Asked Questions

q: Are hiking-specific options the best?
a:

While many do fall into the hiking category, not every backpacker is going to need the stability and support offered from a shoe specifically made for hiking. Lightweight options, as well as more casual products, are a great match. This includes trail running shoes, hiking shoes, regular running shoes, and even sandals. The category of footwear isn't nearly as important as the footwear itself, and as long as it has the aspects that will meet your needs then it will be a good traveling shoe for you.

q: How easy is it to find steel toe options?
a:

The majority of these shoes do not feature a steel toe component, as this tends to be unnecessary and only serves to add extra weight to the shoe itself. Instead, many will feature a rubber toe cap which is great protection on trails as well as streets, while still remaining light enough to not weigh your feet down over time.

q: Do you need a specific style of footwear?
a:

While some people may opt for a different type of footwear, these specific styles of product are the ideal choice overall. They may not be as stylish or as fashionable as some other options, but the main focus is on performance, durability, and support. When you are spending such long hours on your feet, you need footwear that will be able to keep up with you. Soles that don't wear down quickly, ankle support to prevent injury, traction and grip and waterproof properties are all going to come in to play as you travel. Ensuring you have proper footwear will mean less hassle and stress for you, and you will be more comfortable and happy as you take on this adventure.

q: How should i choose my shoes?
a:

Using lists like the one featured above are great places to start, as this gives you a wide range of items that are available that have been reviewed, tested, and loved by fellow backpackers. Before you begin to read about the topic, however, you want to always start by really focusing in on where you are going and what your environment will be like. Knowing these types of conditions beforehand can make your search for the right footwear far easier, as then you can zero in on reviews that match the specifications you in particular need.

q: If I pay more, won't I get the best pair on the market?
a:

In some ways, this is true. However, you may not need the alpine Salomon if you're journeying through valleys and forests. In fact, such a high tech pair would become rather uncomfortable in the damper, muddier terrain in lower elevations. Rather than focusing on price, focus on the requirements you have of the product. Ask yourself what you need in a pair of shoes for where you plan to go. Traveling through a desert region for example rarely requires a waterproofing but does require a closed-toe option that can deal with sand and grit.

Sources

  1. lonely planet, Best Shoes For Backpacking?, Forum,
  2. Backpacker, Gear: Choosing the Right Pair of Hiking Boots, Web Article,
  3. REI, How to Choose Hiking Boots, Webpage, Oct 19, 2018
  4. Jessica Sanders, 5 Tips for Choosing Hiking Boots, Webpage, Oct 11, 2018