Hiking is an activity with a low barrier to entry. All one really needs to head out for a day in the woods is a pair of sturdy shoes and a mindset for walking uphill.
Both are equally important, but one is far easier to come by. And while it may be tempting to head out for a summit bid in a pair of well-worn running shoes, we strongly suggest you shod yourself with the appropriate footwear.
Unlike concrete sidewalks and gravel paths, the trail calls for hardened and supportive footwear to combat dirt, mud, jagged rocks and streams. The answer is hiking boots, and the ones below are the best available.
Best Overall Hiking Boot
Salomon’s mid-weight X Ultra 3 is a best-seller among the company’s stock of hiking boots, mainly because it’s well-rounded for all types of use. The boot features a Contagrip rubber sole with an aggressive lug pattern that provides grip through varying surfaces and conditions and a Gore-Tex-lined synthetic upper.
The X Ultra 3 Mid has a mid-height cuff that provides ample ankle support and stability, but note that it isn’t as tall as some of the other hiking boots on this list that might be preferable for long treks. In a way, that helps this boot to be more versatile — it wouldn’t be out of place walking around town or worn daily as a go-to shoe.
Weight: 15.8 ounces
Waterproofing: Gore-Tex Performance Comfort
Sole: High Traction Contagrip
Best Upgrade Hiking Boot
The Forge is the first hiking boot from ski boot manufacturer Tecnica, and it’s also the first hiking boot that’s fully customizable. Every piece of the Forge is designed for customization, most notably the upper, which is available in both synthetic ripstop and nubuck leather. In addition, Tecnica equipped the Forge with all the indications of a solid hiking boot, including a Gore-Tex liner and Vibram rubber sole.
Because the Forge is a full-custom boot, buying options are limited to the brick-and-mortar stores that keep it and its boot-fitting robot in stock (you can purchase the boot online and then bring it to one of these stores for molding after). The typical fit process that involves trying on multiple pairs of boots and walking up and down a ramp covered in fake rock doesn’t apply here because the boot feels remarkably different before and after molding. That process takes 20 to 30 minutes and involves two rounds of heating and molding, one for the Forge’s insoles and another for the uppers.
The result is about as good a fit as a hiking boot can achieve, and it doesn’t come with a rigorous break-in period either. That alone should make the Forge an attractive choice for many, but it’s not the only feature that makes it a great hiking boot. The Vibram sole is appropriately rugged, the wrap-around cuff is comfortable and supportive, and the upper is waterproof but breathable. For its first foray into a new category, Tecnica hit the mark.
Weight: 20.9 ounces (leather) 20.6 ounces (synthetic)
Waterproofing: Gore-Tex Extended Comfort
Upper: Nubuck leather or synthetic
Sole: Vibram Megagrip
Best Budget Hiking Boot
The Targhee is one of Keen’s best-selling hiking boots and also one of the most versatile and budget-friendly available. Recently, Keen widened the Targhee offering with the Vent, a non-waterproof boot that features windows of mesh paneling for increased breathability in warmer weather. The rest of the boot is much like the original: water-resistant oiled nubuck leather, a supportive footbed design and a grippy rubber outsole with deep lugs are the key points.
The Targhee Vent Mid follows its predecessor in that it offers a slightly wider fit that’s felt most in the toe box, which has ample room for movement. Heel hold is still exceptional, and the boot is very supportive, even before using an aftermarket insole. That the cuff isn’t too tall makes the Targhee a great everyday boot, too.
We chose the Vent version for our list because waterproofing in hiking boots isn’t altogether necessary. If you’re hiking in a situation where your feet are going to get wet, such as a downpour or on a trail with river crossings, chances are they’ll get wet regardless of what boots you’re wearing. Additionally, waterproof linings can be excessively hot, causing your feet to sweat and get soggy anyway. The Vent accomplishes the goal of preventing this by providing breathability, even when you're wearing them around town.
Weight: 16.6 ounces
Upper: Leather and synthetic
Sole: Keen All-Terrain rubber
Best Speed Hiker
Calling to mind a high-top version of some of the upstart Swiss brand’s gorgeous running shoes, there’s much more to this boot than meets the eye. It’s packed with patented technology and innovation to keep your footfalls light and quick. A Missiongrip rubber outsole with deep lugs provides traction and bite on uneven surfaces, Zero-Gravity CloudTec cushions every step, and the FlexLock lacing system lets you tighten up with a single pull or tighten the top and bottom individually.
We’re also impressed with the upper, which boats a durable wind- and waterproof membrane, a high, padded collar and tongue and two types of mesh geared toward support and comfort. Even with all these features, the Cloudrock is remarkably light at less than a pound. The low weight combined with the propulsive Speedboard insole ensure you'll be virtually flying over the trails.
Weight: 15.7 ounces
Waterproofing: Hydrophilic polyurethane membrane
Upper: Synthetic mesh
Sole: Missiongrip rubber
Best Town-to Trail Boot
With a design that fuses Danner’s classic outdoor silhouette with modern materials, the Mountain 600 is Danner’s city-to-mountain hiking boot. It’s lightweight and comfortable out of the box thanks to a leather upper and a cushiony Vibram outsole.
One of our testers spent a lot of time in the leather version of the Mountain 600 — essentially, he wore it into the ground — because, as he says, "It’s lightweight and elegant enough to wear in town but has plenty of grip and support for trail use too." It's supportive but not so stiff that it'll be a pain to walk around town in for the day. Inn that way, it's the best of both worlds and is a great option for those who don’t go on super long-distance hikes (there are better choices for backpacking trips) or carry a lot of weight in their packs, or simply don't want multiple pairs of boots for different settings.
One thing we recommend is that if you are going to buy the Mountain 600, supplement it with an aftermarket insole. Also, size down half a size for the best fit.
Weight: 2 pounds 5 ounces
Waterproofing: Danner Dry waterproofing
Sole: Vibram Fuga with MegaGrip
Another lighter and more versatile hiking boot to consider is Oboz's Sypes Mid. Visually, it's a little less technical than some of the others here, which makes it ideal for town wear and travel too. But the main reason to love this boot is comfort. Rather than stiff and in need of breaking in, the Sypes feels good fresh out of the box, largely thanks to its O Fit insole. Oboz is sort of known for these, and it's more similar to an aftermarket one than the thin throw-away types that so often come included with hiking boots (since you won't have to buy one of those, you can think of this as a $50 savings too).
Beyond that, there's the waterproof leather upper to consider. It rises just below or at the ankle depending on your feet and has a TPU support in the heel for great support without too much bulk. There's also a nylon shank for stability through the midfoot. All of this is to say that despite its comfort and low-tech looks, the Sypes is fully capable of long day hikes and shorter, lower-weight backpacking too. (For longer trips, opt for a boot with full ankle support.)
Weight: 2 pounds 1 ounce
Waterproofing: Oboz BDry waterproofing
Upper: nubuck leather and Cordura synthetic fabric
Sole: Bend rubber outsole with directional lugs
The first thing you'll notice about Hoka One One's TenNine Hike GTX is its strange protruding heel. Hoka calls it Hubble, and the idea is that it absorbs more shock while rolling the foot from heel to toe during a stride. It works, though our testers did notice that it also wedged itself into tight foot placements, though infrequently.
Heel or no heel, the TenNine Hike GTX is a great hiking boot. It's one of the largest boots on this list, but it's also relatively lightweight at 17.8 ounces per boot. That's thanks to the light-but-durable rubber compound that Hoka used to build its sole plus Vibram's grippy Litebase tread, as well as a waterproof mesh upper that's minimal, like that of a running shoe, but wholly supportive. If you're looking for a hiking boot with similar features but without the oversized heel, check out Hoka's Kaha GTX ($220).
Weight: 17.8 ounces
Sole: Vibram Litebase, Megagrip
Best Long-Distance Boot
The Breeze AT Mid GTX builds upon the successes of Vasque's best-selling Breeze III and is part of the company's wholesale update to the Breeze collection. The AT comes with increased durability through its nubuck and abrasion-resistant mesh upper and a Vibram Contact Grip outsole that's exclusive to Vasque hiking boots. It also comes with a bouncy EVA midsole that's reinforced with a full-length TPU shank for stability, and it has a Gore-Tex liner for waterproofing.
A full-featured hiking boot built for long-distance trekking implies a prolonged break-in period, but that's not the case with the Breeze AT. The boot is remarkably comfortable right out of the box, and though some reviewers have noted it takes longer to break in than its predecessor, the Breeze III, it's still an easy process. On the subject of comfort, the upper has a significant amount of cushioning, which helps prevent pressure points from lacing, while the cuff and tongue are supportive and flexible. Those looking for the most support might lean toward an even heftier boot, but you certainly won't be unhappy in the Breeze AT.
Weight: 27 ounces (pair)
Upper: nubuck leather and mesh
Sole: Vibram Contact Grip Megagrip
Best Mountaineering Style Boot
Scarpa’s Zodiac Plus GTX has found its way onto many “best of” lists and is recommended by professional mountain climbers — and rightly so. The boot is a tough and versatile option that’s suitable for both the trail behind your house and high-elevation climbs and approaches. The Zodiac Plus GTX is constructed with a suede upper and a heavy-duty Vibram sole.
Scarpa brought the Zodiac as close as it could to a mountaineering boot without crossing the line, and the result is a hiking boot packed with versatility. The boot is comfortable and cushioned right out of the box and very supportive. The laces extend further down the boot for precision fitting, and Scarpa has also added a pair of lace hooks on the top of the foot, which is lower than most companies place this type of hardware. Not only does this allow for easier in and out of the boot, but I found that it made controlling overall lace pressure more straightforward too.
The Zodiac may be sturdier than what more casual hikers are looking for but still manages to provide enough flex for low-angle and less-technical walking. If you do plan on getting into different types of terrain and potentially the rock or snow encountered at higher altitudes — even if just once a year — then it’s an awesome boot well-suited to the task.
Weight: 19.2 ounces
Waterproofing: Gore-Tex Performance Comfort
Sole: Vibram Drumlin
Best Urban Hiker
The Terrex Free Hiker is Adidas’s first hiking boot to use the energy-returning Boost foam that’s present in many of its best-selling running shoes (like the Ultraboost). In those shoes, it serves as a comfortable platform but also rebounds to keep you moving without wasting energy. That’s precisely what it does in the Free Hiker, but that’s not the only technical feature that Adidas adapted from running in this hiking boot — there’s also a Primeknit upper for a close and breathable fit.
Comfort is the first thing to talk about in regards to the Free Hiker, as this is one of the most comfortable boots that we’ve tested yet. But this boot is unique in other ways too; for one, there’s a streetwear/sneaker style element that’s not present in other models. In many ways, the Free Hiker fits and walks more like a sneaker than a typical hiking boot, but it still provides plenty of traction (thanks to a lugged Continental rubber outsole) and more support than you’d expect from a knit upper. That said, the Free Hiker certainly isn’t the most supportive hiking boot on this list, but it wins points for being incredibly lightweight, which makes it a solid choice for those who prefer to move quickly. It also doesn’t look like a typical hiking boot, which makes it perfect for trips that include equal time exploring cities and trails.
Note: Like with the Danner boot, we had to size down by half a size to get the right fit.
Weight: 13.5 ounces
Upper: Primeknit textile upper with abrasion-resistant weldings
Sole: Continental Rubber
What to Consider Before You Buy Hiking Boots
This guide is designed to be a resource that can help you find the best hiking boots available. Hours of research and wear-testing were undertaken to make sure that the hiking boots and shoes found here are actually pieces of high-quality footwear.
That being said, every person’s needs and walking habits are different, and more importantly, every person’s feet are different. What works for us may not work for you, and while we’ve provided as much variety here as we can, a review isn’t a substitute for trying a shoe on and making sure that it fits and feels comfortable. If you can, go to an outdoor gear retailer and try a few on.
Hiking Boots vs. Hiking Shoes
There are two types of footwear made for logging trail miles: hiking boots and hiking shoes. Hiking boots are full-sized footwear made with stability and support in mind. When you’re backpacking, or you’re just taking on black diamond terrain during a day hike, hiking boots are there to lend more ankle support and reinforced protection.
Hiking shoes don’t offer the same level of ankle support that a cuff provides; they’re designed to be lightweight for nimble mobility. Most hiking shoes still give more support than a running shoe, plus a durable rubber sole with lugs that will maintain grip through varying terrain. Hiking shoes are a good option for those who prefer short walks and don’t need the extra support, and they’re a great option for travel too.
Should You Buy an Aftermarket Insole?
The short answer is yes. Almost every hiking boot and hiking shoe comes with a foam insole that will wear out after very few uses. Some are better than others, and most will feel comfortable straight out of the box, but none will provide the long-term support of an aftermarket insole.
Superfeet makes a variety of affordable insoles that offer different volumes and levels of support. As with the boots themselves, it’s best to try these on at a store to find the most comfortable and best-fitting option. Bring your boots with you, because insoles can change the amount of space inside your shoe and affect the overall feel of its fit.