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The 12 Best Hiking Shoes for Keeping It Light on the Trail

Trade full ankle support for lightness and agility to help you move quickly out past the pavement.

collage of three hiking shoes

Why should you buy hiking shoes instead of hiking boots? Because if you aren't traveling over seriously rugged terrain or carrying a heavily loaded pack, you might not need the full-size version.

Hiking shoes are lighter and more nimble than boots, but they still come kitted out with features like Gore-Tex waterproofing, grippy rubber tread and supportive, durable uppers. As a bonus, many of them are sleek enough to pass as everyday footwear around town.

What Are Hiking Shoes?

A hiking shoe is a low-cut shoe with flexible midsoles and grippy, multi-directional lugs that provide both protection and speed on the trail. Similar to a hiking boot, hiking shoes are built to withstand obstacles on the trail, while maintaining a nimbleness a boot can't provide.


There are varying types of tread on hiking shoes, each designed for a specific type of terrain. There are soles for steep and slippery hikes, for easy, moderate and advanced terrain and multi-purpose tread that can help you navigate different types of trails.


Most hiking shoes these days come with an element of waterproofing — whether that's in the form of a tightly-woven upper that naturally repels water or a membrane like Gore-Tex that protects are against wind, weather and water. Waterproof models generally run warmer than their more porous, breathable counterparts, but the difference oftentimes is negligible, and a little warmth is generally worth it for the value waterproofing provides.

How to Choose the Right Hiking Shoes

Choosing the right hiking shoe is entirely dependent on the terrain you'll be hiking and of course, the shape of your foot. This definitive guide provides information on the best hiking shoes you can buy. In it, we break down each model's key features, such as support, material, weight and more.

How We Tested

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collage of hiking boots
Hayley Helms

Hiking shoes are designed to be worn in myriad environments, so we tested them in a variety of conditions to truly test these shoes' capabilities. We crossed streams in them, hiked up leaf and rock-strewn trails, navigated our way down steep and slippery inclines and powered through washed-out, dried up river beds. On our journeys, we kept in mind fit and feel, waterproofing, weight and traction. At the end of the day, the best hiking shoe for you will be the style that fits the best.

Best Overall Hiking Shoe
Danner Trail 2650
Best Sustainable Hiking Shoe
Veja Fitz Roy
Best Town-to-Trail Shoe
Hoka Anacapa Low GORE-TEX
Merrell Moab Speed
Most Bombproof Hiking Shoe
Naglev Unico Hiker
The North Face Vectiv Fastpack Futurelight
Best Mid-Height Hiking Shoe
Salomon Predict Hike Mid GTX Shoe
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Best Minimalist Hiking Shoe
Arc'teryx Konseal FL 2 Shoe
Merrell Chameleon 8 Stretch
Best Use of Recycled Materials
Vasque Breeze LT Low NTX
Best Stiff Hiking Shoe
Tecnica Magma 2.0 S Hiking Shoes
Best Approach-Style Hiking Shoe
Salewa Dropline
Best for Climbers
La Sportiva TX4 Approach Shoe
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