If you're heading out for a hiking trip, make sure your footwear can handle the terrain of the trail as well as keep your feet protected, dry and comfortable. You don't want blisters or discomfort to force you to stop half-way through, and if you wear the wrong shoes, over time, you run the increased risk of injury.
"When looking for the perfect hiking boot, fit is the most important thing to consider," says Jared Friday, performance outdoor footwear expert for Zappos.com. "Each style and brand fit differently, so you'll want to ensure you have a secure fit with no pain points or loose areas."
Also keep in mind the technical needs for where you're hiking, so you can take on whatever elements you face along the trail. "If you are carrying a lot of weight, make sure to have ankle support. If you're going to be in sandy or muddy areas, look for an outsole with larger lugs," Friday says. And if you might be hiking in the rain or on wet terrain, make sure to get a waterproof boot.
As for the best options, here are several to choose from, sorted into different categories to suit any hiking situation.
Best Overall Hiking Boots: Salomon Shelter CS WP
These shoes are at the top of the list because of their versatility. "The ankle height can take you from an urban trek to a more serious climb and give you enough support," says Dana Canuso, MD, a podiatric surgeon.
"Also, the materials used to make this shoe allow it to be worn 'out of the box' without much need to break them in," she says. The moderate price point is nice, as well, making them pretty affordable for most budgets!
Best Waterproof Hiking Boots: Merrell Moab 2 Mid Waterproof
The ventilation on these is top-notch. "The Moab 2 Mid Waterproof provides all of the comfort and support of the ventilated version, but with the M-Select waterproof membrane to keep you dry," says Friday. There's also some good, moderate arch support, as well, and they fit true to size.
Best for Steep Trails: Lowa Renegade GTX Mid
When it comes to the ability to hold heavy weight and handle depth in surface on the trail, this shoe fits the bill. "This all-weather hiking boot is a great traditional hiking boot with lots of support and great if you are carrying a heavy pack," says Friday.
There's also GORE-TEX lining for cold-weather comfort and some waterproof protection if it begins to rain. You can also go with Zamberlan Vioz Lux GTX RR Hiking Boots.
Best for Longer Hikes: Vasque Saga GTX
For endurance hikes when you're going for hours and need something sturdy and supportive on your feet, opt for this shoe. "The Saga is a great hiking boot for long distances and multiple overlays to protect your ankle," says Friday. It's also waterproof and has an abrasion-resistant air mesh upper for durability.
Best for Muddy Trails: Vasque St. Elias GTX Hiking Boots
If your hikes involve a lot of slogging through the mud, give this pair a try. They're incredibly easy wipe down. "Made with GORE-TEX, this pick is not only waterproof but also easy to clean because of the full-grain leather and molded rubber toe cap," Canuso says. The laces are simple to remove and are machine washable, and the shoe can be cleaned with just water, so you can do it anytime, anywhere.
Best for Colder Hikes: Oboz Bridger 7" BDry Insulated Winter Boots
Choose this pair for its wool-topped footbeds and outsoles with winter rubber. "Waterproof, breathable and warm, they lace up over the ankle which is great for support and unstable ground, plus the price is on the more reasonable side," says Canuso. "I also like the winterized sole to help prevent slipping on icy terrain."
Best for Uneven Terrain: KEEN Men's Durand II Mid Waterproof Hiking Boots
These will keep your feet happy on any trail. "This versatile boot has a cushioned dual density EVA footbed with arch support, but the key here is that it is easily removable," says Canuso. "This is optimal for those who wish to place their over-the-counter or custom-made insoles into their hiking boots," she says. You'll feel extra comfortable and avoid overuse or injury.