Whether you’re hitting up local trails or embarking on a weekend backpacking trip, the last thing you want are blistered, aching feet to distract you from the great outdoors. The best hiking shoes will ensure that you start your adventure on the right foot.
There’s no shortage of options when it comes to buying the right hiking shoes. Outdoor footwear comes in a range of proprietary materials that make the most of what technology has to offer, from incredibly durable construction that helps you stay light on your feet, to form-fitting silhouettes designed to withstand the wilderness.
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Foot fatigue is a given since you’re putting prolonged pressure on your steppers, which is why it’s important to choose shoes that offers adequate support and protection. Keep reading to find out the factors you’ll want to consider when shopping for hiking shoes.
What Are the Best Hiking Shoes?
Not all hiking shoes are designed with the same activities or support level in mind. In addition to the types of trails and treks, you’ll also want to consider the weather and terrain of your destination. Your shoes should be able to stand up to the elements, so whether you plan on crossing creeks or stepping into dry sand, waterproof footwear is a safe and versatile bet.
And if you have pre-existing foot conditions, you may need custom or ready-made orthopedic inserts to help relieve pressure and properly redistribute weight. A few examples include flat-footedness, which causes issues like overpronation and shin splints; and high arches, which can result in problems such as metatarsalgia, plantar fasciitis, and foot and ankle stability. It’s best to consult with a podiatrist who can properly diagnose and treat any foot pain.
Here are the types of hiking footwear you should consider:
Hiking shoes: Typically designed for short treks and defined trails, hiking shoes tend to be lighter and more flexible. They don’t offer as much support when compared to boots, which is why many seasoned hikers often wear this type of shoe if they’ve already got a good amount of their own strength built up in their legs, ankles, and feet. They’re meant to be worn with light or medium-thickness socks, depending on the activity.
Hiking boots: If you’re hiking on rough terrain or long distances, carrying a moderate amount of gear, or are a beginning hiker who needs good support in your legs, ankles, or feet, then hiking boots are a good option. They typically offer better ankle support and overall protection and are thus heavier than hiking shoes. Hiking boots are also meant to be worn with heavyweight hiking socks with or without a liner.
Backpacking boots: Taller and more supportive than hiking shoes and boots, backpacking boots are the best footwear for those multi-day hikes that require carrying a full supply of gear. Meant to be worn with thick hiking socks, they’re usually more protective and offer better support and balance, which means they’re going to be heavier than other outdoor footwear. That being said, keep in mind that you’ll need to wear them for at least two weeks to break them in before your adventure.
Another thing to consider is the difference between women’s and men’s hiking shoes. Generally speaking, men’s shoes are designed for wider feet and narrow heels, while women’s footwear tends to be narrower and made for people with less muscle mass. That’s why women’s shoes are designed to have different support in the midsole or heel. It’s worth keeping these things in mind, especially if you have a wider or more narrow foot shape regardless of your gender.
Below, we’ve rounded up a range of women’s and men’s hiking shoes to suit a variety of activities — read on for our top picks that’ll help you get the most out of your al fresco journey.
1. Danner Trailcomber Women’s Hiking Shoes
We like these Trailcomber hiking shoes by Danner for their everyday wearability. Weighing just 8.8 ounces per shoe, this lightweight pair is great for warm weather, thanks to its breathable lining and footbed. If comfort is your priority, you’ll appreciate the quick-drying midsole and three-layer footbed, which both offer great support, shock absorption, and underfoot cushioning.
These women’s hiking shoes are also made for resilience and versatility. They feature a Vibram outsole that offers strong grip on wet and dry terrain, while the abrasion-resistant Cordura knit fabric helps extend the life of these shoes. The EXO Lite heel system and DT6 last work in tandem to offer heel-to-toe stability and security without adding extra weight to the shoe.
2. Danner Trail 2650 GTX Men’s Waterproof Hiking Shoes
These waterproof men’s hiking shoes feature Gore-Tex material and breathable mesh lining to keep your feet dry and cool. You can expect plenty of support, great tread and traction, and stability on even the rockiest terrain, thanks to this footwear’s Trailguard platform, reinforced heel counter, and Vibram sole.
The OrthoLite footbed and flexible EVA midsole offer all-day comfort and shock absorption, while the suede and textile upper make this pair lightweight and durable. Each shoe weighs 12 ounces, so they’re great lightweight options for hiking and backpacking.
3. Merrell Altalight Women’s Waterproof Hiking Shoes
If you expect some splashing on your trails, these vegan-friendly waterproof hiking shoes are a great option. Designed for wet and dry conditions, these women’s shoes feature tear-resistant nylon ripstop upper and a barrier that keeps your feet dry while allowing much-needed moisture.
A contoured removable insole and cushioned foam midsole offer excellent arch support and comfort, and the air cushion heel absorbs shock and while adding stability. The shoe’s mountain-grade rubber outsole means you’ll have plenty of support and grip in rugged environments. And at just 12.4 ounces per shoe, these sturdy shoes are fairly lightweight, too.
4. Merrell Moab 2 Vent Men’s Hiking Shoes
These men’s hiking shoes by Merrell are constructed with a suede and leather exterior and interior mesh lining, so they’re durable and breathable in dry and hot environments. Ideal for camping and casual hikes, they feature a contoured footbed that offers dynamic foot support and a nylon arch shank for added stability in steep or narrow terrain.
The Vibram rubber outsole is great for handling smooth and wet rock surfaces, and the closed-cell foam tongue helps to keep out debris and moisture. Each shoe weighs about a pound, and this pair is a good choice for anyone looking for a sturdy and flexible fit.
5. Merrell Alverstone Mid Waterproof Women’s Hiking Boots
Those looking for good ankle support and stability on those rougher trails will want to step into these Merrell women’s hiking boots. The suede leather and mesh upper and rubber toe cap guards keep your feet protected from debris and the elements, while the waterproof membrane keeps water and moisture out.
These mid-profile hiking boots are as comfortable as they are sturdy, thanks to the molded nylon arch shank, removable contoured insoles, and the compression-molded flexible EVA midsole. The company’s air cushion technology helps to absorb shock in the heels, and the outsoles feature a 5mm lug depth that allows the shoes to grip onto a range of smooth and rugged surfaces. The bellows tongue also helps to keep out dirt and rocks.
The heel pull tabs make it fairly easy to step into this pair, and each shoe weighs 13 ounces. Bonus: these shoes also feature an anti-microbial interior to cut down on odors.
6. Keen Targhee III Mid Waterproof Men’s Hiking Boots
For all-terrain adventures, these Keen men’s hiking boots will help you traverse nearly any trail. They feature a long-lasting leather exterior and a waterproof, breathable membrane to keep your feet dry and protected from the elements. The anti-microbial mesh lining makes this footwear odor-resistant and breathable, too.
The mid-profile boots offer plenty of ankle support as well as a rubber sole with multi-directional lugs that offer great traction and security on even the most roughest ground. Rounding out the sturdy construction is the internal shank and heel counter for added stability.
7. Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX Women’s and Men’s Backpacking Boots
Inspired by the brand’s best-selling trail running shoes, Salomon’s rugged yet lightweight backpacking boots are for hikers seeking comfort and protection in the toughest environments. Available in both women’s and men’s sizing, these hiking boots are made with an abrasion-resistant and waterproof synthetic upper as well as a breathable Gore-Tex membrane.
In addition to shielding your feet from the elements, these shoes offer excellent support and stability. The Contragrip outsole grips to a variety of surfaces, and the 4D advanced chassis gives the flexibility and balance you need when facing different types of ground. This pair is also built with a moisture-wicking Ortholite footbed and lining and a flexible dual-density EVA midsole for added support and comfort.
Other great features include the pressure-relieving gusseted tongue that also keeps rocks and dirt out, and each boot is fairly light for a backpacking shoe at under 1.5 pounds.
8. Adidas Terrex AX3 Gore-Tex Hiking Shoe
Yes, Adidas makes hiking shoes and they’re pretty slick too. Their popular Terrex silhouette provides the support you need in a hiking boot, with the look and feel of a sneaker.
The lightweight shoes feature a cushioned insole, breathable construction, and a Gore-Tex fabric that seals out the elements to keep you warm and dry. The rubber sole is super grippy, and a “Torsion bar” adds enhanced stability, especially when stepping out on uneven surfaces. We like the minimalist design of the Terrex, which is finished off with a subtle nod to the Adidas three-stripe logo on the sides.
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