Hiking is the perfect way to get outside, move your body and take in some amazing views. That is, unless you stumble upon a blister, foot cramp or, worst-case scenario, injury. Once that happens, good luck thinking about anything else.
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So before you hit the trail, make sure you have your feet covered. To help you find the best hiking shoes for your trail habits, foot type and needs, check out these expert reviews and buying tips.
Manufacturers typically market boots according to gender, so we have listed both women's and men's picks below. However, the main difference between most men's and women's shoes lies in the shoe width and size. In some cases, men's shoes are built to support greater weights. So people with bigger bodies may want to opt for men's versions, whereas people with smaller bodies may prefer women's versions.
1. Best Overall: Salomon X Ultra 4 Mid GTX
These boots check all the major boxes: They have durable tread on the bottom, are lightweight and keep you agile on uneven terrain. Plus, they're mid-level height, giving your ankle the support it needs.
"The ankle height can take you from an urban trek to a more serious climb and give you enough support," says New Jersey-based podiatric surgeon Dana Canuso, MD.
This pair is waterproof, too, making it a safe choice for any kind of weather, says Washington-based physical therapist Melissa Garcia, DPT, CSCS.
2. Best for Rainy Weather: Merrell Moab 2 Mid Waterproof
Built with performance suede and mesh, this pick from Merrell is the best waterproof hiking boot, according to our experts.. This pair even has a closed tongue, so you won't have to worry about any rocks or twigs making their way into your shoes.
"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," Friday says. It has some good arch support (best for mid-level arches) as well, and fit true to size.
Although they're durable, these shoes are heavier than some other options. So keep that in mind for long, hard hikes, Garcia says.
3. Best for Uneven Terrain: Lowa Renegade GTX Mid
Lowa's best-selling model, the Renegade boots have a higher ankle for superior support and stability. They also have a hard plate under the foot, also known as a stabilizer. This structure helps you stay more balanced as you hike over rocky, unpredictable terrain.
Bonus: "The weight is moderate, making it a good option for those longer and more intense hikes," Garcia says.
4. Best for Longer Hikes: Vasque St. Elias GTX
"A full leather shoe may take some time to break in, but it's worth it once it is," Garcia says. "With the higher ankle, this is a shoe that's well-suited for long hikes."
Despite the added break-in time, Vasque's hiking boots are among the most durable, with rubber toe caps to help provide foot protection and increased durability during your extra-long treks.
On a long-distance hike, the last thing you want is to carry too much extra weight. That makes this lightweight pair a perfect pick.
5. Best for Muddy Trails: La Sportiva Pyramid GTX
Thanks to their waterproof GORE-TEX protection, La Sportiva's Pyramid boots are perfect for muddy, wet and slippery trails. And the boots' rubber heel brake provides the traction you need on the most unstable hikes, according to Garcia.
These boots are also built with a high-rise ankle. So if you stumble or fall on the trail, they'll help protect your feet and ankles from injury.
6. Best for Cold-Weather Hikes: Danner Inquire Mid Winter
When it comes to cold weather, these are the best hiking boots for women, thanks to their insulation, waterproof fabric and durable cushion. "[They have] all the qualities of a comfortable and durable boot with the added bonus of warmth," Garcia says.
Despite the added cushion insulation system, they're extremely lightweight, perfect when you're walking through snow. And the adaptive traction on the bottom work to keep you stable and controlled as you cross slushy or icy terrains.
This specific pair is only made in women's sizes but for cold weather, Danner's best boots for men are the Arctic 600, which meets all the same winter-weather criteria.
Buy it: REI.com; Price: $179.95
7. Best Vegan Pick: Inov8 Roclite G 345 GTX
A hybrid boot and shoe, the Inov8's Roclite is one of the best vegan hiking boots on the market. Weighing just over a pound, it's also a super-light option compared to others on the market.
"This shoe has good support through the ankle with the added bonus of waterproof material," Garcia says. "It has improved shock absorption, which would be good for a more efficient energy return on long hikes."
These hiking shoes are more flexible than other boots, making them nice and easy on your feet. And with the weather-proof rubber outsole, they are game for all kinds of weather.
8. Best for Steep Trails: KEEN Targhee III Waterproof Mid
The rubber outsole on these mid-weight shoes give you all the grip you need on steep trails.
"Their waterproof membrane also allows for sweat to leave the shoe without letting moisture enter," Garcia says. So, you don't have to worry about slipping and sliding in your boots as you walk on an extreme incline or decline.
5 Tips for Buying the Best Hiking Boots
Hiking can be an intense and, in some cases, risky activity. So, you want to give your feet and ankles the absolute best protection possible. While you're shopping for your best pair of hiking boots, there are a tips to keep in mind.
1. Prioritize Comfort
"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."
So make sure that any hiking shoes you buy online have a generous lenient return policy that lets you return your boots post-hike if you're not totally happy with the fit and feel. "Don't be afraid to take them out for a short hike to test them out," Garcia says. "It's hard to predict how the various inclines and declines will affect the feet." (Most outdoor retailer and specialty stores are more than cool with post-hike returns.)
2. Look for Durability
You want a pair of boots that hold up no matter how many rocks or twigs you may scrape and bump. So, look for builds and materials that are tough and durable without packing on too much weight, Garcia says.
Look for durable upper materials like full-grain or split-grain leather, according to REI. These materials are pretty damage-resistant and will offer good water protection, too. Synthetic fabrics, like polyester and nylon, are also a good choice if you're looking for a pair of light boots.
3. Consider Your Climate
Think about the type of weather you're most likely to encounter when you buy your boots.
Winter hikers may want a pair of insulated, fleece covered boots, while people living in rainy places will want to look for waterproof materials.
4. Choose Your Ideal Ankle Height
The best ankle height for your hiking boots depends a lot on how long you plan to trek and the terrain you're crossing, according to Garcia.
"Lower-cut hiking shoes tend to be lighter and more appropriate for short hikes or long [and easy] trail walks," she says. "Mid- to higher-cut boots provide increased support around the ankle. If you tend to have difficulty maintaining your footing [on uneven land] in addition to unstable ankles, this is a great option."
5. Find Good Traction
Whenever you walk up or down a steep hill, having good traction is helpful. Add some boulders, rain or mud and good traction becomes crucial.
You can find rubber on the outsole of nearly each and every hiking boot, according to REI. But you also want to flip your boots and look for deep and widely-spaced rubber ridges on the bottom. Also known as a lug pattern, this provides traction as you climb. Finding boots with a little heel brake also helps minimize your risk of slipping as you climb down steep hills.