Best Hiking Shoes Reviewed For Easy Adventuring

When going out to explore the wild, taking a hike or going up a mountain, it is crucial that you have the proper equipment. Seeing that you will be putting a lot of stress on your feet, the most important part of this equipment will definitely be your footwear. A proper pair of hiking shoes will not only ensure that you are not too hot or too cold, it will also work to protect your from the surface underfoot, will keep your footing secure, and will ensure the proper support and shock absorption, so that you are comfortable and pain-free throughout your hike.

Last Updated: September 9, 2018
By Ana Rockov:

The latest update to this article reduces the number of items from 15 to 10, in order to make it easier for you to make your choice of the best shoes for hiking available for purchase online in September 2018. You’ll find that outdated models have been replaced with their latest editions, and that the Criteria for Evaluation section had been updated in order to give you more to the point tips and tricks on how to make the best educated purchase.

Featured Recommendations

Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator
  • Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator
  • 4.6 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Anti-Debris Tongue
  • Breathable Mesh Lining
  • Price: See Here
Salomon Ellipse 2 LTR GTX
  • Salomon Ellipse 2 LTR GTX
  • 4.7 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Designed For Women
  • GORE-TEX Waterproofing
  • Price: See Here
Hanagal Evoque II
  • Hanagal Evoque II
  • 4.3 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Leather Upper
  • To-The-Toe Lacing
  • Price: See Here

Finding the best hiking footwear can be a time-consuming task. First and foremost, you will have to choose between a boot or sneaker style, and you will have to know exactly what it is you need in terms of support, protection and material. When it comes to performance features, you have to consider traction as well, looking for a lugged profile, and you’ll need to determine the level of ventilation or waterproofing you will require.

We know how long it takes to compare all the available models. That’s why we’ve gone through all the options for you, giving you a detailed comparison of the best hiking shoes you can purchase. With plenty of technical info on each shoe, as well as a list of pros and cons, you’ll easily find the perfect pair for your needs – giving you more time to focus on your hiking.

10 Best Hiking Shoes

1. Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator

The Merrell Moab Ventilator can be used for a variety of activities with hiking, of course, being at the top of the list and followed up by workouts and walking. It’s a low cut, lightweight shoe with plenty of performance features, and is a definite top contender when it comes to footwear for scaling mountains. Most of this sneaker is made of mesh and leather, making it quite breathable and appropriate for summer use. Furthermore, the Mother of All Boots is, arguably, one of the more comfortable products out there.
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Comfort
The Merrell Moab Ventilator has a good amount of padding around the top which creates a snug fit, making it both a comfortable and functional shoe. In addition, it’s equipped with full-length, compression-molded EVA midsoles that supply all-day support and cushioning, preventing arch pain and muscle fatigue that inevitably come from a full day spent walking. Furthermore, the combination of Trek and Super Trek rubber compounds and Vibram Multi-Sport technology offers exceptional grip and durability, making it the best possible choice for your next hike.

Design
The Merrell Moab Ventilator is highly functional, thanks to its exceptional design. It was made with the main purpose of allowing a good amount of airflow to your feet, which makes for a healthier wearing experience, seeing that it’ll prevent the accumulation of moisture that could lead to blisters or bacterial overgrowth. Additionally, it’s available in a number of color combinations, and will easily pair with a number of outfits, should you decide to wear them as a pair of everyday shoes.

Cost and Value
Ranking slightly above average when it comes to cost, the Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator is an excellent choice, seeing that it provides the perfect balance between price and value. It’s a versatile shoe, and offers a high quality make coupled with comfortable performance features that will help you along your next adventure.
Pros
Cons

Runs Wide

Not As Comfortable As Original Version

2. Salomon Ellipse 2 LTR GTX

Designed especially for women, the Salomon Ellipse 2 i s a mid hiking boot made to provide the best possible performance paired with the highest level of comfort available. It boasts a number of technical features, including an OS Tendon outsole that is usually found in running shoes, that has the advantage of allowing for a better roll-through motion of the foot, ensuring both better cushioning and higher energy return.
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GORE-TEX
Made specifically for wear in rain and snow, the Ellipse 2 is lined with GORE-TEX Extended Comfort Footwear, a version of the material that’s more breathable, and provides a higher level of water protection than its regular counterpart.

Women Specific Design
The shape of men’s and women’s feet vary, which is very rarely reflected in our footwear. However, in order to allow for the best possible performance, Salomon used gender specific cushioning, lasts and collar shape, so as to avoid all preventable issues that may come with an ill-fitting pair of shoes.

Cost and Value
The Salomon Ellipse 2 LTR GTX is a shoe that’s expensive, and this is a fact that’s far from surprising, considering the materials and quality it had been made with. It’s an especially good choice if you’re after a mid style, and you require serious waterproofing and protection - at these two things, the Ellipse excels.
Pros

Contagrip Outsole

Durable Leather Upper

GORE-TEX Waterproofing

Toe Bumper

Women Specific Design

Cons

Limited Color Options

Expensive

3. Hanagal Evoque II

Are you looking for a pair of footwear that will work well on a hike but won’t burn a hole in your pocket? The Hanagal Evoque II is an excellent low-budget option for this type of footwear, seeing that it’s a protective, stable, flexible and comfortable model that’s lightweight and functional for light trails. It’ll allow you to get the perfect fit with a to-the-toe lacing system, and the soft leather upper that will feel soft and supple in contact with your feet.
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Abrasion-resistant Toe Bumper
On and off the trail, this toe bumper is in place to help protect you from any hidden rocks, branches or roots you might encounter on your hike. Abrasion-resistant, the rubber is an ideal choice for those uncertain of the terrain they might be facing, as it will put up with a lot more than your regular everyday sneakers.

To-the-toe Lacing
This lacing system helps to provide a snugger fit, and as such, your feet will feel more comfortable and secure. Moreover, a snug fit means you will be safer because they do not slip around your feet, preventing any internal rubbing, chafing or other movement that may lead to blisters or injury.

Cost and Value
This pair is budget-friendly. It’s a the great choice for those hiking in cooler environments, or those uncertain about the long-term nature of their hiking adventures, as these shoes are cost-efficient. With a POLIYOU footbed that is anatomically contoured, and a leather upper, the Hangal Evoque II has a decent combination of both flexibility and stability.
Pros
  • Leather Upper
  • Abrasion-resistant Toe Bumper
  • To-the-toe Lacing
  • POLIYOU Footbed
  • Budget-friendly
Cons

Minimal Color Variety

Not for Prolonged Hours of Wear

4. Merrell Siren Edge

4. Merrell Siren Edge
Trail-ready, the Merrell Siren Edge is a pair of hiking sneakers that was made with long-term wear in mind. It’s perfect for prolonged periods of use, which means you’ll easily wear the Siren Edge on the trail, as well as on pavement. Equipped with multi-directional lugs, it gives a good amount of grip during dry-to-wet surface changes, has an anti-debris tongue, and ghillie laces. Furthermore, the Siren Edge will help your feet to remain cool with the mesh lining and upper, plus, its technical features include an odor-fighting M-Select footbed.
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Vibram Outsole
A Vibram outsole helps you to keep your traction while traversing multi-terrain types. Great for light hiking, this product by Merrell is both trail-ready and provides decent traction in low dry-to-wet surface scenarios. Additionally, Vibram outsoles are rather durable, which means you’ll be able to wear this pair of sneakers for months or even years to come.

Bellows Tongue
No one wants pebbles digging into their feet while attempting to enjoy their day hiking the trails. That’s why your footwear has a tongue, which is designed to keep all debris out. In more rough terrain, this part of your shoe will need to work a bit harder, however. A bellows tongue is completely attached to the shoe, minimizing any chance of a stray pebble entering your footwear when you’re out enjoying yourself.

Cost and Value
The cost associated with this pair of Merrell's is below average compared to the other items on this list. It’s a great option for light trails and even for everyday wear, and it provides all the necessary features to make your hike more comfortable and worry-free. It’s even a good option for those with foot issues, thanks to the Merrell Air Cushion located in the heel, that provides an additional level of cushioning and shock absorption.
Pros
  • Vibram Outsole
  • Bellows Tongue
  • Ghille Laces
  • Air-cushion Heel
  • Mesh Upper
Cons

Runs Narrow

Lacks Arch Support

5. Adidas Terrex Ax2R

5. Adidas Terrex Ax2R
The adidas Terrex Ax2R is a lightweight pair of outdoor sneakers made for all types of hiking. Equipped with TRAXION™ technology, the rubber outsole is perfect in unexpected situations where the terrain may switch to wet from dry at a moment's notice. The mesh/synthetic upper allows your feet to remain cool during warmer environments, and the molded sockliner provides a better fit.
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TRAXION™ Technology
The Terrex Ax2R will hold up well on both dry and wet surfaces, as well as a number of various rugged terrains. Built with TRAXION™ technology, the rubber outsole helps you to retain grip, , and the fact that the outsole wraps up around the foot provides a better level of stability should you find yourself on wet rocky terrain.

EVA Midsole
One of the most important parts of any shoe made for performance is the midsole - it’s the part of your footwear that’s in charge of cushioning, shock absorption and support, and can greatly affect your performance if it’s made with the wrong materials. The adidas Terrex Ax2R uses an EVA foam midsole that’s just the right blend of lightweight and protective.

Cost and Value
Considering that it’s a model by a well-known brand that focuses on athletic gear, the Terrex Ax2R comes at a surprisingly affordable price that ranks below average on this list. It has a classic sneaker look that can even work for everyday use, and is definitely a solid choice for when you’re out on the trail, needing something a bit more rugged than a pair of soft lifestyle sneakers.
Pros
  • Rubber Outsole
  • EVA Midsole
  • TRAXION™ Technology
  • Molded Sockliner
  • Mesh/Synthetic Upper
Cons

Runs Small

Narrow Toe Box

6. Merrell Moab FST 2 Mid

6. Merrell Moab FST 2 Mid
This style by Merrell, as its name suggests is all about fit and superior traction. It’s a pair of mid boots that’ll be more than comfortable out of the box, and that will serve you well on rough terrain, no matter the season. Made with nubuck leather and mesh in the upper, as well as a Vibram outsole, the FST 2 uses all tried and tested technologies in order to give you one high quality boot that’s sure to keep you comfy and protected, no matter how long you plan on going.
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M Select
Merrell is a popular brand when it comes to outdoor gear, which means that their footwear is sure to come with innovations that are not just practical, but also what sets them apart from the competition. One of these features is the M Select, found on the inner of the shoe. It’s a waterproofing, breathable lining that ensures that no water reaches your feet, but that all sweat evaporates from the shoe. Plus, it prevents the appearance of odor.

Merrell Air Cushion
When walking, the foot repeatedly strikes the ground, usually landing on the heel and rolling through the arch and toes. This means that the heels of your shoes are, most often, the first part to go, and that it is this part of your body that takes the most stress. Using an Air Cushion in the heel area, Merrell ensures the best possible shock absorption that not only prevents joint and muscle pain, but also helps stabilize and align your movement.

Cost and Value
With a price that’s above average compared to other models found on this list, the Moab FST 2 may not fit everyone’s budget. Nonetheless, this mid boot is an excellent choice for anyone who likes their shoes to be comfortable straight out of the box, and who values high performance features that have been developed for the best of athletes.
Pros

Bellows Tongue

Prevents Odor

Breathable Mesh Lining

Contoured Insole

Heel Air Cushion

Cons

Heavy

Slightly Expensive

7. Vasque Mantra 2.0

7. Vasque Mantra 2.0
The Mantra 2.0 is a lightweight, flexible sneaker that is good for moderate terrain and light loads. It is worn best in cool and wet climates, thanks to the waterproof Nubuck leather upper, but will not sacrifice breathability either, as it features abrasion resistant mesh panels that help excess moisture evaporate from the inside of the shoe. It’s a supportive and protective style, with just the right amount of flexibility to prevent you from getting too fatigued on your next trail walk.
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Support
The upper is made of soft Nubuck leather that comes in a 1.8mm thickness. It’s a waterproof material, but what’s more, it provides the perfect support over the top of the foot, preventing you from sliding around in your shoes. The speed lacing system allows for a high level of fit customization, and even works for those with high volume feet who may struggle with other styles.

Protection
The Mantra 2.0 has a thick and wide outsole that provides great protection against stones and rocks on the trail. The Vibram Nuasi construction features a stability shank that is made with TPU, a molded polyurethane midsole that absorbs shock and cushions in all the right places, and a Vibram rubber outsole that gives you plenty of traction, regardless of the terrain and weather conditions.

Cost and Value
Most backpackers don’t mind paying for quality, while others are not too pleased with a hefty price tag. With this pair, however, everyone can be pleased with the midrange of cost association. Furthermore, with the high-quality of material makeup and the secure and durable outsole, this is a pair of shoes you’ll easily wear for a number of miles.
Pros
  • Speed Lacing System
  • Nubuck Leather Upper
  • Dual-density EVA Footbed
  • Vibram Nuassi Outsole
  • Abrasion-resistant
Cons

Break-in Period

Minimal Color Variety

8. Merrell Chameleon 7

8. Merrell Chameleon 7
The perfect pair of hikers for warm weather, the Chameleon 7 by Merrell was inspired by the high level of adaptability chameleons show in their natural surroundings. A low style comprised of mesh and nubuck, this is a breathable and lightweight option for when you want to be quickly on the go, and prefer to skip the hassle that comes with laces and bulky footwear. No less protective than its mid and high counterparts, the Chameleon 7 is, perhaps, the perfect option for those after something more casual, warm weather friendly, or just easy to put on and off.
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Elastic Lacing System
Getting the perfect fit in your hiking sneakers largely depends on the way in which you secure them. While a good pair of laces is important, they can also be a pain, especially if you find yourself in need of a lot of adjustments. The Chameleon 7 features an elastic cord that’s easily locked, and that is perfect for this type of footwear as it will accommodate swelling, and will be less likely to cut into your feet after hours of walking.

Kinetic Fit Base
With a removable contoured insole, as well as an EVA foam midsole, the Chameleon 7 provides a high level of stability and cushioning, coupled with a good level of rebound. What this means is that you will be less likely to experience pain during or after your hike, and your muscles are less likely to get fatigued, ensuring that you can finish just as strong as you started.

Cost and Value
Ranking slightly above average when it comes to price, the Merrell Chameleon 7 may be a bit more expensive than similar sneakers, but then again, it’s completely different than what you’ve probably been looking at so far. It’s an excellent choice for those who like an easy on and off, and the stretchy materials can provide a good fit for those who otherwise have problems finding something that will perfectly hug their feet.
Pros

Rubber Toe Cap

Molded TPU Heel Counter

Vibram Outsole

Removable Footbed

Breathable Upper and Lining

Cons

Lacks Padding In Heel

May Require Wearing Socks

9. Keen Voyageur

9. Keen Voyageur
The Keen Voyageur was made with several uses in mind - you can pick up these low tops if you’re looking for something to work on your hiking trips, or you can wear them on a daily basis as a pair of casual shoes that are durable, supportive, breathable and waterproof. It’s a rather stable pair of footwear with a Torsion stability ESS shank and deep 4mm lugs for great traction, and with uppers carefully selected for their durability, so that you can be sure you’re buying something that’s going to last.
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Breathability
The Keen Voyageur is incredibly breathable while still offering you a good amount of protection should you find that the weather conditions are less than perfect. Using a combination of leather and mesh for the upper, it gives just the right amount of air flow to prevent overheating or moisture retention, and still providing you with the needed protection.

Metatomical Footbed
One of the best parts about any pair of Keen footwear is the fact that they are made with a footbed that’s completely comfort oriented. The Metatomical footbed found in the Voyageur is an internal support mechanism that was designed so as to give a high level of support in the arch area.

Cost and Value
The Keen Voyageur is priced in a decent price range that’s slightly above average compared to similar pairs of shoes. It’s a style that’ll give you lots of comfort and practical use, and is a great option for travellers, hikers, backpackers and anyone else who likes a good pair of shoes that feel good on the feet.
Pros
  • 2-inch Heel Height
  • 75-inch Platform
  • Removable Insole
  • Metatomical EVA Footbed
  • Non-marking, Rubber Outsole
Cons

Runs Wide

Runs Small

10. Columbia North Plains II

10. Columbia North Plains II
Trail-ready, the Columbia North Plains II can handle light-to-medium rocky terrains, and is a great choice for longer hikes. It’s equipped with a Techlite midsole, premium level Omni-Grip traction, an abrasion-resistant toe cap, non-marking outsole, a leather and textile upper, and is made with waterproof bootie construction to keep you protected from the elements. In other words, the technology is present to allow you to enjoy your day traversing the trail wilds.
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Rubber Outsole
The outsole on the Columbia North Plains II is made with Omni-Grip rubber that will provide you with the right amount of traction you need on both dry and wet surfaces. Even more, it’s a non marking material, which means you’ll be able to wear this model even inside, without fear of damaging the floor.

Waterproof, Membrane Bootie Construction
The bootie construction in the Columbia North Plains II is seam-sealed; thereby, allowing your feet to remain dry. As the upper is not made to be fully waterproof, however, the bootie only serves as 'waterproof' in low-wet conditions. This means if you pass through morning dew, you are likely to remain dry.

Cost and Value
Midrange in cost association, this pair of hiking shoes is perfect for those heading for the light-to-medium rocky trails. Furthermore, they provide ample traction, decent low-level waterproofing, an abrasion-resistant toe cap, and a non-marking outsole. As such, this pair is worth every penny.
Pros
  • Rubber Outsole
  • Omni-Grip Traction
  • Techlite Midsole
  • Abrasion-resistant Toe Cap
  • Waterproof, Membrane Bootie Construction
Cons

Break-in Period

Not Fully Waterproof

That concludes our list of the 10 best hiking shoes available for purchase. With the variety of hiking footwear available, you’ll easily find models that offer extra cushion, waterproof uppers or a higher level of traction. Whether you require these features will greatly depend on how you want your hike to go – whether you will need something basic, or if you will require more advanced equipment. No matter your level of experience, this list was made to help you make the best choice, ensuring that you are happy with your purchase for some time to come.

Criteria used to Evaluate the Best Hiking Shoes

best-hiking-shoes-faq

What to Look For

When purchasing a pair of footwear for any specific activity, you need to consider what said activity calls for. Naturally, the same goes for hiking shoes. While you may be tempted to go out in your comfy road running shoes made with a mesh upper, it is important that you know that they won’t possess the qualities you require.

A good pair of hiking sneakers or boots will, first and foremost, be protective. This goes both for the upper and the outsole, as well as the stabilization features found in the shoes itself. Secondly, your chosen shoes need to be durable, able to withstand different weather conditions, and should offer the appropriate level of insulation – wearing shoes that are too hot in the summer may be uncomfortable, but wearing footwear that doesn’t provide the desired level of warmth in the winter can have serious consequences.

In addition to all of this, your chosen hikers need to be comfortable and supportive – if you find that your feet hurt after an hour or two of walking, your shoes are probably the culprit. A good amount of cushioning can lessen the shock your joints and muscles have to withstand, while arch support and a good heel cup can help properly align your feet so that you don’t feel the pain the next day.

Last but not least, you need to consider the fit. A well fitted pair of footwear will go further than the latest tech features, so make sure that you pick the correct size and width, that the arch of your foot is well supported, that your toes have enough room in the forefoot, and that your laces are tied securely, but not too tightly.

Durability & Protection

Think dirt, rocks, rivers, snow, holes, uneven terrain, and enough hazardous objects to line a mountain twice. In this, there are plenty of reasons to consider your safety, and even more to consider the protection you need to provide for your feet. As casual footwear will not suffice on the trail, here are some of the aspects you should consider when purchasing your next pair of sneakers or boots made for hiking:

  • Waterproofing/Water-resistance – This may come in the form of a GORE-TEX (GTX) lining or the lack of breathable mesh material used in the making of the upper. A trail sneaker will, generally, be less breathable than those made for casual, everyday use, as it will most likely be made with leather components. The compromise is necessary seeing that hiking is done in rough terrain that poses many dangers. If, however, you’re going on a casual hike, you can get away with a more breathable (synthetic) mesh. If you are partaking in backpacking or hiking through unpredictable terrain, however, you want as much protection as possible; so, you will go with a leather-made design. You never know when you will encounter streams or rivers with no options other than to plow through. You will find other styles with either a full-bootie waterproof membrane or a pieced-together seam-sealed inner layer. If you want a fully waterproof design, chances are, your favorite pair is offered in a GTX version.

 

  • Thicker, heavier, and 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 style is comprised of a material that is heavier, more layered, and tougher than the standard athletic sneakers. One thing for sure is that you won’t be seeing Flyknit or Primeknit uppers on hiking sneakers. 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. The leather is, generally, less breathable and more ideal for rougher terrains as it is tough; whereas, synthetic uppers are less in weight, more breathable, but do not offer as much protection; so, they are great for easy trails.
    • Leather UpperPerfect 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 – A thick, protective outsole is crucial for going on the trail. The required level of protection will, usually, be achieved by using thicker, bulkier materials, which will help prevent any injury from stepping on sharp rocks or from walking on uneven terrain. Almost always, hiking gear is made with a sole that’s stiffer than that found in your everyday sneakers. 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+ pounds 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.
    • Polyurethane Foam – One of the more dense materials used in midsoles that are typically longer lasting than others 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 footwear in general. These components include the upper, footbed, inner, insole, midsole, outsole, and sometimes an extra layer called the Topsole. Not every pair will include a pronounced outsole or Topsole. Some styles include one layer, although you will, typically, find most every layer included in hiking footwear. The quality of the shank, also, is important when considering sturdiness.

  • Steel Shank / Rock Plate – Just as you would see in industrial-grade work boots, some high-quality hiking sneakers (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. Alternatively, the plate will be made with a hard plastic but serves the same purpose.

Weather Protection

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 Gore-Tex 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. As such, you will need to consider every aspect of 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 style. For the same purpose, you may, also, find a hydrophobic DWR (durable water-repellent) finish or oil coating, depending on the manufacturer’s choice for their footwear. A poorly made product 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 harsh conditions. The 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, micro-spikes, or even snowshoe attachments.
  • Consider Gaiters – Gaiters not only come in handy in the snow to keep the insides of your sneakers 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 sneakers. There are plenty available.

Proper Fit

A properly fitting sneaker will prevent twisting or unwanted, excess movement of the foot 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, a proper sneaker 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 can lead to aching toes from constant pressure put on them, and the extra space will prevent that. It’s worth noting that the rugged of these designs has become somewhat of a fashion trend that some companies outside of the niche are capitalizing on. This means, there are styles out there that appear to be made for the trail but don’t have the proper fit or support in which a real hiking sneaker has.

Benefits of properly fitting hiking footwear
  • Sprained ankle prevention
  • Blister and excess rubbing prevention
  • Comfort through extended miles
  • Prevention from external debris
  • Prevention of pains in the toe area (should have extra toe room)
  • Provides additional support and overall steadiness

Note: Don’t go for a sneaker 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 sneaker will be more effective. Although, there will be instances where you will need a more breathable pair, and waterproofing won’t be needed.

In a waterproofed sneaker, 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 based material is not recommended. Thick leather may lack airflow and is naturally water-resistant; so, along with your feet getting too hot to handle, moisture accumulation from sweating may occur. Only use a leather-based option 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 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 product made of suede leather/nylon if you still want a balance of protection with breathability. For optimal airflow and breathability, go with full synthetic. This means your sneaker will be comprised largely of mesh which will give ample temperature regulation and moisture management.

Choose wisely, and consider where you will be hiking.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

best-hiking-shoes-crit

Q: What material should I look for in this style of footwear?
A: For the upper, if you are backpacking or doing a strenuous hike, you need to go with the 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, however, you can go with synthetic uppers. The leather is, also, pricier but offers better overall support. For midsole material, you should either go with EVA (Ethylene-vinyl acetate) which is very cushioned or Polyurethane (PU) which is more supportive, dense, and durable.

Q: Should I go with a sneaker or a boot?
A: There are major differences between these two styles. 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 styles that can be considered boots. MID footwear are models 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 recommend them for those who carry more than 30 pounds of accumulative backpack or gear weight.  If you are doing an easy day hike, however, carrying a lightweight pack, you don’t need the extra support, and a great hiking sneaker 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 its combination of durability, water-resistant properties, 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-resistance and balanced with breathability. You, also, need to consider the thickness of the leather used. An ideal thickness will be in the range of 1.4 millimeters, as higher the 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 style of footwear is extremely important before lengthy usage. This is more important in this particular vein of footwear, as it can easily tear up your feet and heels. Nobody wants blisters, or sores!

Q: What’s the typical break-in period that can be expected?
A: This depends on a couple of factors with the material being one. Full grain leather is much harder and stiffer than any other material, generally, seen on hiking footwear; therefore, taking much longer to break in properly. Before going on any big hikes, wear your pair 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 those pairs 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 each is a very different activity and requires 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 order to handle the load.

Hiking, generally, consists of a round trip that can be done in a day, whether hiking up a trail, the summit of 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 options and don’t need the extra support of a MID or boot.

Mountaineering is the beast of the bunch and is, actually, mountain climbing in its rawest (but still safe) form. You will be scrambling over rocks, off-trail, climbing steep vertical ascensions, and 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 are special footwear and gear you will need. In most cases, you won’t get away with anything less than the hardiest products on a mountaineering excursion.

Q: Are women’s styles made different than the options for men?
A:  for women are, typically, lighter in weight relative to their size than men’s designs. This goes for footwear in general. The anatomy of a woman’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 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 products. A word of advice for women hikers from someone who’s lead hikes of all degrees for 5+ years and counting; even a men’s sneaker that is made of quality and fits well will suffice. Just find the best fit for you according to your preferences.

Sources

  1. Hi-Tec, Leather Versus Synthetic Footwear,
  2. Merrell Team, What's inside a Hiking Shoe?,
  3. REI Staff, Hiking Footwear: How to Choose,
  4. Sierra Trading Post, Hiking Footwear Guide,
  5. Scott Hicks, How to Choose the Right Hiking Shoes,
  6. The Clymb, How to Buy Hiking Footwear,
  7. HikingDude, All About Hiking Footwear,
  8. Wiki, About EVA Foam,
  9. Wiki, About DWA Coating,
  10. Carol D. Kiesinger | George Alan Smith, Mountaineering,
  11. OGL, Hiking Shoes for Women,
  12. OGL, Testing Hiking Shoes for Women,
  13. Anaconda Stores, Womens Hiking and Trail Shoes,
  14. Wikipedia, Keen (shoe company), Definition, Mar 26, 2018


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