Best Outdoor Shoes for Camping and Exploration Reviewed
Outdoor activities can 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. It’s understandable to lack experience, as we are all beginners at some point but there’s no reason you should ever lack knowledge. Always do the prep work, and make sure you have the proper gear as that goes hand in hand with having a safe experience in the outdoors.
Proper equipment and gear is critical, to say the least. Nothing screams “rookie” as much as someone who goes hiking with casual shoes, trail running with slipping soles, or camping with non-waterproof sandals. In fact, not only will the wrong shoes make you look like a rookie; chances are they’ll leave you injured or highly disappointed as well.
- Crocs Swiftwater
- Toe protection
- Lowa Renegade Mid GTX
- Salomon X Ultra Prime
- Advanced Chassis™
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 2018.
10 Best Outdoor Shoes
1. Crocs Swiftwater
One of the things that make Crocs so comfortable is the use of their Croslite material to build their shoes. Spongey, cushioned, and responsive, this is great material for those who want a more comfortable and relaxed shoe. While this may not be great for intense hiking or climbing adventures, the more casual outdoors person should find this shoe to be ideal.
Made for the Water
Are you planning your next camping trip near a lake, beach, stream or ocean? If so, then the Swiftwater sandal is going to be perfect footwear for your daily fun. Protective enough to wear on rocky beaches or murky lake bottoms, this shoe is made to be worn in and around the water. Your foot will stay protected, while the shoe will dry quickly and easily as soon as you're back on land.
Cost and Value
As one of the cheaper options on our list, this is a great choice for those who are more relaxed when it comes to their outdoor activities. Intense hikers or trail runners will not find the support they need in this shoe, but casual hikers, nature walkers, and campers will love how comfortable and durable this shoe really is. For such a low price, these are perfect to throw in your bag before heading outdoors.
- Roomy Interior
- Croslite Material
- Water Friendly
- Adjustable Strap
- Toe Protection
- Not for Extreme Activities
2. Lowa Renegade Mid GTX
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.
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.
- High protection
- Premium materials
3. North Face Ultra 109 GTX
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.
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.
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.
- Breathable waterproof technology
- UltrATAC rubber sole
- Adequate Fit
- Not as sturdy as previous versions
4. Hoka One One Tor Summit
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.
A responsive RMAT midsole combines lightweight materials 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.
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.
- Waterproof technology
- Fashionable design
- Durable build
- High heel drop
5. Salomon X Ultra Mid 2
The design is completely waterproof and breathable at the same time thanks to the GORE-TEX lining. It also contributed to a quicker dry on the outer build.
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.
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.
- Breathable mesh build
- Gusseted tongue
- Speed-hook lacing hardware
- Runs narrow
6. Merrel MOAB 2 Vent
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.
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.
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.
- Water resistant
- Comfortable fabric
- Contoured footbed
- Excellent grip
- Not waterproof
7. Merrel MOAB 2 Mid WP
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.
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.
- Breathable build
- Contoured footbeds
- Efficient Outsole
- Fit is narrow
8. Vasque Juxt MultiSport
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.
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, trees, and rivers without any concerns.
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.
- Comfortable pair
- Stable midsole
- Solid grip and outsole
- Durable quality
- Not waterproof
- Insole could be better
9. Salomon X Ultra Prime
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.
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.
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.
- Comfortable materials
- Cushioned Insole
- Contragrip traction
- The bottom laces are sewn
- Runs narrow
10. Atika M107
While we have featured other sandals on our list, what makes the Atika M107 stand out is that fact that it offers up better toe protection. When you're walking through rivers or climbing trails, you want to ensure your toes aren't hurt by rocks, sticks, or other debris. With 3 layers of added protection, your toes are safe from any environmental matter that they encounter.
Fully synthetic the upper portion of this shoe is great in the water and dries quickly and easily. The material is crafted to be very durable, so your sandal won't break down after use, and you can feel confident that you can wear these on a multitude of outdoor trips. These are also very easy to clean, so if you walk through mud or drop anything on them you don't need to worry about stains or marks.
Cost and Value
Because these aren't the most heavy duty shoes listed, they end up being one of the cheapest pairs on our list. It also helps that they are from a smaller brand name, which always means that the pricer will be lower than higher end name brand footwear. Don't let the low price fool you, however, as these shoes are still great outdoor choices and will hold up well for casual fun.
- 3 Layer Toe Protection
- Rubber Guard
- Fully Synthetic Upper
- Elastic Cord Lacing
- Multi Directional Lugs
- Not for Intense Activity
The quality of your shoes will have a considerable impact on both performance and safety. When it comes to safety, outdoor activities demand attention to safety. A quality outsole makes the difference between a secure grip and an injury due to slipping. The surfaces and terrain involved in outdoor sports are different from regular sports wear, thus you need different shoes.
Regular shoes may seem like a good option at first – but they’re not. A basic running shoe has a completely different build than an outdoor one; from the upper frame to the midsole and the outsole. Sports shoes are generally designed for 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, an outdoor outsole is not something you find in all running shoes.
Leaving security aside, performance and durability are also affected if not wearing the adequate shoes. For instance, the materials of some 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 the maximum. This is also true for sandals and camping related shoes, while they may not need to be as durable, you are going to look for very specific materials and styles.
Criteria Used in Evaluation of the Best Outdoor Shoes
The outsole is one of the most important parts of an outdoor shoe, especially for hiking. Unlike ordinary shoes, many outdoor activities require a particular kind of outsole. Hiking shoes must have a thick rubber outsole to for decent performance in off-road terrains. Materials other than rubber (or derivate) are not recommended for hiking shoes.
The best hiking shoes have an adherent or “sticky” rubber component that maximizes contact between the outsole and any surface. This kind of technology is what you should be looking for in an outdoor shoe.
There’s a significant difference between the grip of a basic 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. 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 an 8cm sole. Lastly, a responsive outsole protects you from having smashed heels after hiking or trail running for 30 minutes.
There’s a little bit of a 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 while doing so. But it doesn’t work like that the other way around. Using your casual walking wear will make you look more like a newbie, not to mention that those shoes are going to get totally wrecked.
It’s as simple as this: regular shoes can’t endure outdoor activities. You need materials that resist rocks, scratches, water, and heavy duty usage. 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 on outdoor adventures, you’ll encounter roots, mud, dirt, water, debris, rocks, and another bunch of obstacles. The issue 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 two 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. For camping and other light outdoor activities, rubber shoes are also a great choice, along with mesh uppers as these will remain breathable as well as offering waterproof or quick drying properties.
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.
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.
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. In 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.
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 in 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.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What are outdoor shoes?
A: Its footwear specifically meant for outdoor activities. These off-road activities comprise hiking, trekking, trail running, and climbing, camping, and nature walking. 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 shoelaces 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.