Few things are more rewarding than traversing a mountain or exploring a remote trail on your own two feet. Hiking seems underrated in its simplicity, but to get the most out of it, there's a crucial component: hiking boots. They're the cornerstone of an experience being good or bad and should be the foundation which flashier items like down jackets, backpacks or trail running kits are built upon.
What to Look for in a Hiking Boot
There are myriad features that determine which type of boot is best for a specific type of terrain and a specific type of hiker. Do you live in a rainy climate? You'll want to look for an option that comes with a Gore-Tex lining or membrane, which will protect your feet from moisture and weather. Do you typically hike in rockier terrain? Go for a boot with maximum ankle support and minimal flexibility, as well as multi-directional lugs that will provide traction and grip. Live in a desert climate? Lace up a pair of boots with a breathable mesh liner and upper to maximize airflow.
Best Overall Women's Hiking BootVasque Breeze Read More
Best Upgrade Hiking BootsLowa Renegade GTX Mid Read More
BEST AFFORDABLE HIKING BOOTSMerrell Moab 3 Mid Hiking Boot Read More
BEST FOR TECHNICAL TRAILSScarpa Kailash Trek GTX Hiking Boot Read More
Best Backpacking BootSalomon X Ultra 4 Mid GTX Read More
Below, I've outlined the top options for anyone who likes to lace up and get out there: technical alpine trekkers, city-to-mountain kickers and best-all-around hikers.
How We Tested
I tested these boots in a variety of climates and conditions: on the picturesque trails of the Pacific Northwest, by the seaside at Point Reyes National Seashore, on snowy trails in Telluride and in random downpours in San Diego. I considered four factors while testing: fit, grip, price and out-of-the-box comfort. Cumulatively, the boots on this list have walked over 250 miles. They've each been put to the test and have come out on top.
- Materials: Recycled mesh, suede
- Weight: 1 pound, 8 ounces
- Waterproof? Yes
The one boot to rule them all. If you're in the market for a capable and cushioned hiker, Vasque's beloved Breeze line checks all the right boxes.
One of the most popular boots on the trail in the last two decades, the Breeze was updated for 2023 with some pretty key features, including an increased amount of sustainable materials like VasqueDry, which delivers excellent waterproofing using 25 percent recycled materials. The features included in the Breeze will appeal whether you're a casual hiker or preparing for your next multi-week backpacking trip. The Vibram outsole with Megragrip compound grips a variety of surfaces with ease, while the new mesh upper is more breathable and comfortable than ever before and makes use of 70 percent recycled materials.
Aside from its sustainable updates and comfort right out of the box, I liked this boot for its ability to take on trails and a day in town, thanks to its lightweight, neutral colorways and unobtrusive silhouette. The laces could be a little longer, in my opinion — I found myself coming up short unless I majorly cinched them down, which wasn't always comfortable or desired. Vasques tend to show their wear and tear a little more easily than a Danner Mountain Light or Lowa Renegade (more on those below), and while some may see that as a drawback, I look at it as accumulated character.
Lowa Renegade GTX Mid WS
- Materials: Nubuck leather; Gore-Tex lining; Vibram outsole
- Weight: .97 pounds per shoe
- Waterproof? Yes
Supple and superior materials define this hiker. It was love at first sight when I opened up the box my pair came in. What struck me right off the bat was the outer material: the nubuck leather has a premium feel that only gets better with use.
Looks aren't everything though — how does the Renegade hold up when it comes to performance? The fit, feel and support of the boot helped it become one of my fast favorites, and details like the Durapu Monowrap frame construction, Vibram Evo outsole and Gore-Tex lining put it over the top.
On the first wear, I did a three-hour hike in these babies and didn't feel a hot spot or discomfort anywhere in the boot. The saying goes that if something seems too good to be true, it is; I'd say the one drawback to this boot is the high price tag, but if you're willing to spend a little more upfront, you're going to be walking home with one of the best boots on this list.
Merrell Moab 3 Mid
- Materials: Pig suede leather and breathable mesh upper; recycled laces and webbing
- Weight: 1 pound, 12.2 ounces
- Waterproof? No
If you're looking for an affordable boot that's packed with premium features, check out Merrell. The brand was founded in 1981, and for decades has been one of the most popular boot brands on the market.
I like the Moab 3 Mid for its value, but the slightly lower cost does have a drawback — I don't find this boot to be nearly as comfortable as some of its pricier counterparts. It does come with plenty of features, though: a Vibram outsole, breathable mesh lining and Merrell Air Cushion in the heel all contribute to the shoe's performance. For less than $150, there's no way you're going to beat the number of features Merrell fits into this casual hiker.
Scarpa Kailash Trek GTX
- Materials: Suede ad nylon fabric upper; Gore-Tex lining
- Weight: 1 pound, 2.9 ounces
- Waterproof? Yes
There aren't any other boots on the market that feel like Scarpa. Although they may not have the high-cushion comfort that earns the praise of "no break-in required," they do have supportive stiffness, a nimble feel and just enough flexibility for long hikes.
Made with a suede leather upper protected by Gore-Tex, the Kailash is a multi-season trail boot that also happens to be one of Scarpa's best sellers. Other protective features include the TPU toe cap, as well as a lightweight PU midsole that offers durability and comfort on longer hikes.
Constructed in Italy, the Kailash also features a Gore-Tex performance lining that keeps your feet cool, minimizing the risk of blisters. Scarpa's boot isn't the most lifestyle appropriate and looks more at home on the trail than running errands, but that's the point: this boot was made for hiking, and that's just what it'll do.
Salomon X Ultra 4 GTX
Materials: PU-coated leather; textile
Weight: 1 pound 12 ounces
- Waterproof? Yes
A versatile and cushioned everyday hiker, the X Ultra 4 GTX takes ultra-technical details and brings them together in an aesthetic and comfortable package. The X Ultra 4 GTX has just enough cushioning without feeling too squishy or weighed down by its own materials. The collar is substantial enough where I could feel its support on inclines and through more technical sections of the trail, but it didn't rub or provide friction on longer treks.
Salomon's hiking boot weighs 1 pound, 12 ounces per pair, but on the foot, it feels heavier than its claimed weight. I didn't necessarily feel weighed down by the boots, but I was surprised to learn they were much lighter than I thought. I hiked 10 miles in mine at a time and didn't get fatigued, but if you're just getting into boots and are hesitant about the extra weight, go for a lighter pair.
Read our full review of the U Ultra 4 GTX versus the Tecnica Forge S GTX.
Arc'teryx Acrux TR GTX Boot
- Materials: PFC-free woven polyester; Gore-Tex membrane
- Weight: 2.125 pounds
- Waterproof? Yes
In my mind, Arc'teryx and the products it develops are really the perfect marriage of form and function. The Acrux TR GTX Boot continues this tradition, combining freedom, comfort and support into one good-looking boot. The Acrux caught my attention first and foremost thanks to its neutral colorways; too often in women's outdoor gear, the axiom of "shrink it and pink it" applies, but thankfully the Aerios is one of the few women's specific boots on the market that comes in a refreshingly subtle, utilitarian black.
The Aerios is made with a 3D-molded Ultralon collar that moves with your ankle while maintaining protection and integrates with the tongue to minimize movement in the boot. Thanks to the Gore-Tex liner, the Aerios is waterproof, wind-proof and breathable, and the Vibram outsole is built to simultaneously shed mud and maintain grip. A few pain points worth mentioning: the laces have a habit of coming untied, which can be annoying at best, and dangerous at worst. Grabbing yourself a pair of aftermarket laces should solve that issue, but after shelling out $250 for the boot itself, that's not always an appealing option. These boots fit narrow feet best, so if you've got wider feet or you experience swelling at higher altitudes, I suggest going for a boot that can accommodate your footshape — it may not be as beautiful as Arc'teryx's option, but as they say, comfort is king.
Danner Mountain Light
- Materials: Full-grain leather upper, fiberglass shank, Gore-Tex liners
- Weight: 3 pounds
- Waterproof? Yes
The classics never go out of style. A leather jacket, straight leg jeans and the perfect white tee will always be fresh, no matter the decade. The same principle can be applied to hiking boots, as well, and no one does the classics better than Danner.
Take one look at the Mountain Light, and you'll see what I'm talking about. The full-grain leather upper only looks better with the patina that age and use bring, and the red laces and black rubber outsole add to the classic vibe of the trekker. Don't let the nostalgic design convince you this boot is trapped in the past, though; it's got thoroughly modern features like Vibram Kletterlift outsoles and waterproof Gore-Tex liners. I found testing my pair that these are well-constructed and durable, and I hiked in Joshua Tree during winter without any temperature or utility issues.
In my testing, I found that the two major drawbacks to these boots are their weight and stiffness: at three pounds, they're twice as heavy as most of their competitors, and the leather upper absolutely requires a break-in period. I wouldn't recommend wearing these right out of the box for more than a mile or two while you're breaking them in — I took mine out for five the first time, and developed blisters on my ankle as a result.
Thesus The Weekend Boot
- Materials: 95 percent recycled and natural materials
- Weight: 3 pounds (per pair)
- Waterproof? No
Some of us want an ultra-rugged, aggressive hiking boot that will take us to the tallest peaks and back down to ground in comfort, while others of us are looking to add some campy vibes into our day-to-day adventures.
New brand on the block Thesus has a selection of boots that hearken back to the beginnings of hiking culture when style was high, silhouettes were a little chunkier and colors skewed towards neutrals and primaries. I'm kind of obsessed with the Weekend Boot — not only are these boots the cutest ones we put on but the footbed is so squishy.
Like many other top-tier boots, the Weekend Boot is made with over 95 percent natural and recycled materials and is handmade in a family-run factory in Portugal. It's water-resistant and has an anti-slip lug sole and a temperature-control lining — while I hiked, my feet stayed cool and didn't develop any hot spots, right out of the box. One thing I didn't love was that it's on the heavy side, but for a brunch with friends or a short hike, I hardly noticed.
Keen Targhee III Waterproof Mid Hiking Boots
- Materials: Oiled nubuck leather, EVA midsole, rubber outsole
- Weight: 1 pound, 12.4 ounces
- Waterproof? Yes
Keen knows a thing or two about making capable footwear — for 17 years, it's been crafting tough and rugged shoes and boots for outdoor enthusiasts. The latest version of the Targhee is our favorite for the kinds of trails that beat boots up: exposed roots, rocks and shale and washed-out sand traps are no match for what Keen throws their way.
Our tester loved the no-nonsense aesthetic of the boot, and appreciated functional features like toe and mud guards, Keen.Dry waterproofing and ethically-sourced nubuck leather on the uppers. However, she didn't appreciate the longer break-in period these required to finally feel comfortable. If you have a little patience and you're looking for a boot that looks better the more you wear it in, try the Targhee on for size.
Altra Lone Peak Hiker 2 Hiking Boots
- Materials: Mesh, Altra EGO foam, DuraTread rubber
- Weight: 1 pound, 3.8 ounces
- Waterproof? No
The Lone Peak makes use of Altra's proprietary foot box shape and delivers long-lasting comfort both on the trail and in town. By prioritizing correct toe splay, Altra's lightweight hiking boot offers performance and foot health in one cute package. The Lone Peak isn't waterproof and lacks the technical features of a more rugged boot. Built for the casual hiker who likes to run straight from the trail to brunch, the Lone Peak is comfortable, but shouldn't be your go-to for more challenging trails.
If you've got wide feet or just can't stand to squish your toes, this is the pair for you.
New and Upcoming Releases
While our recommendations are based on the current market and real-world testing, there are always new hiking boots being released out into the world. Here are a few significant releases we're looking forward to testing and considering for future updates of this guide.
Adidas Terrex WMN Hiker Mid Rain.Rdy: Released on March 28, 2023, adidas Terrex's brand-new boot has been designed by women, for women. Utilizing in-depth feedback from female hikers and thousands of foot scans, the new hikers are designed specifically for the female foot anatomy; functional details include a female-specific last, a stretchy, padded collar for ankle protection and a super-durable outsole for enhanced grip.
Timberland Greenstride Motion 6: Released in March 2023, these new hikers from Timberland lean into eco-friendliness, thanks to included materials like recycled PET, regenerative leather, sugar cane and natural rubber. Right along with sustainability, functional features like Ortholite soles elevate comfort as well.
Zamberlan Circe Low GTX: Third generation, Italian boot maker Zamberlan came out with a few new styles for Spring/Summer 2023, and we've been testing the Circe Low GTX for a few months now. Its stable ride, agility and durability have made us fast fans: the Gore-Tex comfort lining and chunky Vibram outsole kept us comfortable and ready to roll for miles on end. Expect an update to this guide with our full thoughts and opinions in the coming months.