When the weather changes the trails start calling. How loudly they’re calling will dictate the type of shoe you need. If you’re traveling light and fast in the mountains or just need something to walk the local trail system, you can skip a full-fledged hiking boot in favor of a hiking shoe. These are typically lighter in weight, lower-cut, more breathable and flexible, and less expensive than hiking boots, while still offering the protection and structure to tackle a variety of trails. These five make the top of our list for this year’s nice-weather awakening of outdoor fervor.
Best Classically Styled Hiking Shoe: The Banks is a rugged low-top inspired by old-school hiking boots and designed with summer trails in mind. Breathable canvas complements the sturdy leather and moisture-wicking mesh on the upper. The sole’s lug pattern is not so aggressive that you’ll look out of place grabbing a beer after a day on the trail, but with a cushy EVA midsole and serious nylon shank, rest assured the Banks can handle anything from city pavement to desert red rock.
Keen Madison Low CNX
Best Minimalist Hiking Shoe: Demonstrating the “less is more” school of thought, Keen’s CNX lineup is serious about cutting materials and frills without compromising comfort and durability. The Madison features a very thin polyurethane midsole that allows the shoe to flex with your foot’s natural motion. Multidirectional lugs complement it well, sticking to any trail or road you come across.
Wolverine Terrain II ICS
Best Hiking Shoe for Long Distance: Wolverine incorporated their Individual Comfort System (ICS) into the new Terrain II hiking shoes for the ultimate in customizable support and comfort. Four settings on the midsole’s rotating gel pad compensate for varying arch support and cushioning, letting you dial it in for different hikes. A hybrid mesh and ArmorTek upper keep your foot locked in and cool even in the worst summer heat.
Most Comfortable Hiking Shoe: The Trailscope features a minimal upper with just enough of a wicking liner around the heel and midfoot for stability and mesh everywhere else to maximize breathability and comfort. The EcoTread rubber on the outsole grips on even the muddiest days without looking or feeling too overbuilt, while the LUVSEAT footbed is as near as you can get to perfection in a hiking shoe. For a casual day of meadow-hopping or exploring new trails, these shoes will keep your feet the happiest.
Salomon XA Pro 3D MID LTR GTX
Editor’s Pick: Taking design cues from best-in-class trail running shoes and serious backpacking boots, the new XA Pros are light and nimble but pack some serious support. Their mid-level height provides a little extra security for your ankles on technical scrambles, and the dual-density midsoles will keep you comfortable for extra miles an epic days. Throw in a Gore-Tex liner and Salomon’s speed lace system, and you’ve got yourself a round trip ticket above the treeline.