If you want to explore nature safely and efficiently, you need the right equipment. Comfortable footwear can help you keep going even when you’re feeling exhausted. And once you find the best hiking boots for your hiking style, you can avoid the sprains and blisters that can ruin a vacation.
But there are many different models out there, and some of them aren’t adequate for all-day treks. Do you want lightweight boots or heavyweight ones? How do you choose the most durable hiking boots? I’ve prepared a selection that can help you get started. There’s also a brief shopping guide that can answer some questions you might have about hiking boots.
These hiking boots are actually unisex. They’re made from suede leather and are extremely comfortable. Even more importantly, they give you a sure footing on the trail. Putting on a pair of these boots is a good way to protect yourself from slips and other common injuries that can ruin a hike.
Top 5 Hiking Boots
|Name||Best Features||Upper Materials||Price|
|Merrell Men’s Moab 2 Mid Waterproof||Versatile, comfortable, stable||Suede leather and mesh||Check Price|
|KEEN Men’s Targhee II Mid Waterproof||Stable, with heel locking||Nubuck leather and mesh||Check Price|
|Zamberlan Men’s 996 Vioz GT||Durable, breathable||Handcrafted Italian leather||Check Price|
|Columbia Women’s Newton Ridge Plus||Lightweight, comfortable||PU-coated leather and mesh||Check Price|
|Ariat Men’s Terrain H2O||Lightweight, versatile||Leather||Check Price|
1. Best Overall Hiking Boot
Merrell Men's Moab 2 Mid Waterproof Hiking Boot
Here’s a mid-height option with excellent stability. These hiking boots weigh around 36 ounces and they have a synthetic sole.
The uppers are made from suede leather and mesh. This makes them breathable and pleasant to wear. There is also a molded nylon arch shank, which helps distribute the pressure more evenly.
If you’re looking for comfort, these could be the best hiking boots for you. The midsoles are made from EVA foam and they come with built-in arch and heel support.
You also won’t have to worry about moisture or gravel getting into your boots, as there is a closed-cell foam tongue. The suede will keep rain and mud out.
While the soles are synthetic, they come with 5-millimeter lugs on the Vibram outsoles for excellent traction across any kind of terrain. Vibram outsoles are all the rage these days for their grip and non-slip properties. Additionally, the boots come with a protective toecap that can keep you safe from injury.
Pros and Cons
- Shock-absorbing heel
- Comfortable footbed and midsole
- High-quality Vibram outsole
- Breathable suede and mesh
- Not too high-maintenance
- Sizing issues are possible
- D-width might be too narrow for male feet (E and 2E are available)
2. Best Men's Hiking Boot
KEEN Men's Targhee II Mid Waterproof Hiking Boot
The uppers of these hiking boots are made from high-quality Nubuck leather. This makes them fairly lightweight for their bulk, at 34.8 ounces for the pair. They are completely waterproof and have sturdy rubber outsoles.
There is a water-repellent mesh section too. The KEEN Men’s Targhee II boots are a good choice for all-day treks, even in high summer. You won’t have to worry about excessive perspiration.
Putting these boots on is a quick and easy task, as the lacing is fairly simple. They’re also designed with comfort in mind. They have a solid midsole and there’s padding around the tongue.
But most importantly, you can be sure that these hiking boots will give you a solid footing on any terrain. They have 4-millimeter lugs on the outsoles, so you can easily use them for rock-climbing. They also offer extra ankle support and a contoured heel lock. Although they’re sold as men’s boots, anyone can wear them.
Pros and Cons
- Secure on any terrain
- Completely waterproof
- The sizing is confusing, you should get these boots half a size larger than your usual shoe size
3. Best Waterproof Hiking Boot
Zamberlan Men's 996 Vioz GT Hiking Boot
These hiking boots are made from handcrafted full-grain Italian leather for the uppers. This means you have to take good care of them all year round.
The design is minimalist but very striking. Although they are relatively expensive, the quality makes up for the price.
The outsoles are Vibram rubber. There are wide lugs that add to the traction. Cleaning these outsoles is very simple, and you can resole the boots if necessary.
If you want flexibility in your hiking boots, these are a good option for you. You can easily flex your foot without compromising stability. This makes them a great choice for uneven terrain and exhausting hikes.
You also won’t have to worry about durability. There’s Gore-Tex lining the leather, which makes it fully waterproof.
At the same time, these are breathable hiking boots. You get a leather collar around the ankle area, which wicks away any perspiration. The weight can be a downside for some hikers. Depending on your preferred size, the weight of these boots goes over 48 ounces.
Pros and Cons
- Great traction
- Sizing variety, including wide models
- Long breaking-in period
4. Best Women's Lightweight Hiking Boot
Columbia Women's Newton Ridge Plus Hiking Boot
If your feet are too high or too narrow for most hiking boots, you might want to go for a women’s model. The Columbia Women’s Newton Ridge Plus is a sturdy pair of hiking boots that comes in elegant dark colors. Anyone can wear them, though this model only comes in B width.
The uppers are made from waterproof full-grain leather. They’re coated in a layer of Omnishield, which is a polyurethane material that keeps them safe from staining and also keeps the water out. But there are mesh elements as well, so you won’t have to worry about too much moisture.
There’s a detailed sizing chart that you can use to determine the right pair for you. These boots weigh 32.6 ounces (for size 7), so they’re fairly lightweight for mid-height boots. You can wear them all day without getting tired.
But how do they perform across rough terrain? The rubber outsoles have a fairly good grip, but they’re not the best option for slippery conditions.
Pros and Cons
- Accurate sizing
- EVA midsoles provide extra comfort
- May not be safe over slippery terrain
- Not a good choice for cold conditions
5. Best Budget Option
Ariat Men's Terrain H2O Hiking Boot Copper
These elegant leather hiking boots are designed for any terrain and they’re a good choice for urban hiking. The rubber outsoles are slip resistant and self-cleaning, so you won’t have to interrupt your hike to clear away the mud.
Since Ariat designs equestrian boots, they care about keeping things lightweight. Although these hiking boots are very sturdy and made from full-grain leather, they weigh around 40 ounces for the pair.
The collar is padded and there is also a high-quality footbed with gel padding. This provides shock absorption as well as a sure footing. There is extra ankle protection as well.
One downside is that the leather is high-maintenance. Your feet might also feel cold in very low temperatures.
Pros and Cons
- A good balance of protection and lightweight design
- Comfortable insoles
- Elegant design
- Water-resistant but not waterproof
- Not very breathable
How Do You Choose the Best Hiking Boots for You?
Here are a few questions you need to ask before you invest in a pair.
Are the Hiking Boots Durable Enough?
Since hiking boots are a considerable investment, you want to go for a pair that will last. Which materials are the most durable?
If you take care of them, full-grain leather hiking boots are the most long-lasting. They can be fully water-resistant and they can handle any kind of terrain. But they have downsides too, such as the weight.
Suede boots are softer and lighter, but they’re not as sturdy as full-grain leather. You can go for Nubuck leather too. Nubuck or suede boots are easier to maintain.
But how do you take care of leather and suede hiking boots?
- Because leather cracks easily, you need to keep your hiking boots clean. You need to buy a cleaner solution that matches the material of your boots. Soap-based cleaners can damage the leather.
- Make sure to use soft brushes when you’re cleaning your hiking boots, as you don’t want to damage the surface. It’s also a good idea to place the boots directly under running water.
- If you have full-grain leather boots, you need to treat them with conditioner too. You should apply the conditioner when the hiking boots are fully soaked in water. This step isn’t necessary for suede boots.
- All hiking boots need to be treated with a DWR finish too. DWR stands for Durable Water Repellant. Without this finish, rainwater will become a problem over time.
- It’s important to let your leather boots dry naturally. You can use a fan to dry them off quicker, but don’t place them near a heater.
- Your hiking boots need to be stored in room temperature. The glue keeping your boot together can crack in cold conditions.
It’s a good idea to choose hiking boots that come with clear maintenance instructions, especially if you’re going for a heavyweight model.
But if all of this sounds daunting, you can go for synthetic nylon hiking boots instead. They come with mesh elements too, and they are considerably lighter than the other options.
However, you won’t get any durability out of all-nylon hiking boots. They aren’t a comfortable choice for very intensive hiking or wet conditions.
An Additional Consideration: Gore-Tex waterproofing makes hiking boots particularly resistant to mud and rain. This special membrane makes them easier to maintain too.
Are the Hiking Boots Breathable?
Here’s another consideration you should factor in.
Full-grain leather isn’t breathable. While it keeps your foot safe from the rain, it doesn’t wick away the perspiration at all. Low breathability makes blisters more likely.
Suede or Nubuck boots are more breathable than that, and they usually come with mesh that helps wick away the moisture. Nylon hiking boots are the airiest option you have.
Some models have nylon additions that help wick away the sweat.
How Much Do the Hiking Boots Weigh?
This is one of the most important considerations.
The heaviest leather hiking boots weigh over three pounds, and wearing them can be exhausting. However, they offer stability and a sure footing. If you’re carrying a heavy backpack across rough terrain, this is the best option for you.
For backpackers aiming for long backpacking trips across even terrain, mid-height boots are the best choice.
If you’re a lightweight backpacker or you’re on a day-hike without much equipment, it makes sense to go for a lightweight pair of low-height hiking boots, such as synthetic nylon ones. They will let you move quicker and feel less exhausted at the end of the day. Additionally, lighter boots put less strain on your knees and hips.
How Stiff Are the Hiking Boots?
Like in the case of weight, the flexibility of your hiking boots should match the kind of terrain you’re expecting to cross.
You need a great deal of ankle support for mountain-climbing and bushwhacking. Also, heavy backpacks are easier to carry when your hiking boots hold your ankles firmly. Good ankle support keeps you safe from injury as well.
But the stability has a downside. Stiff hiking boots can be uncomfortable and annoying to wear. So if you’re planning to explore gentler trails, you can go for a softer pair of boots.
How Long Is the Break-In Period?
Whatever kind of hiking boots you decide to go for, you will have to spend some time breaking them in. Even if the hiking boots seem comfortable when you try them on, you need to spend some time shaping your new boots to your feet. Skipping the break-in period increases your risk of developing blisters.
But the break-in period isn’t the same for every model. Heavier and stiffer boots need more time to get broken in.
But how do you break in your new hiking boots?
- Start with wearing them around the house. If you feel any discomfort, you may be able to exchange them for a different pair.
- After a few days, you can start wearing your hiking boots outside. Put them on whenever you need to go on a quick errand.
- Make sure to lace them up fully when you’re breaking them in.
- Wear cushioned socks to protect your feet. Remember that moisture leads to blisters, so your socks need to have perspiration-wicking properties too.
- Many people stop going on hikes in late autumn and winter. If that is the case for you, you should still keep using your boots when you go on walks around your neighborhood. You want to make sure the leather stays in top condition.
Are the Hiking Boots the Right Size?
Always make sure to select the right size. Even if you have feet of an unusual shape, it’s important to search for a pair that fits perfectly.
It’s obvious that hiking boots can cause pain and discomfort when they’re too small. When you’re shopping for a new pair of hiking boots, keep in mind that your feet might swell by the end of a long hike. This is why it’s better to try on hiking boots at the end of the day, when your feet are swollen to some degree.
Make sure there is enough space to wriggle your toes and never buy a model that’s too narrow or too low.
On the other hand, you should also avoid going for models that are too large for you. If your foot can slide forward and back in your boot, you are risking blisters and skin abrasions. Always make sure to study sizing charts carefully.
Do Women Need a Different Kind of Hiking Boot?
Four of my top five choices are labeled as men’s hiking boots but they work well as unisex models. Most female hikers can use these boots without having to worry, but only if your feet are wide enough for D-width shoes (regular women’s shoe width is B).
However, research shows that male and female feet are different in a few significant ways:
- Men have longer feet on average.
- Men’s feet are wider at the ball, the instep, and the heel.
- Women’s feet are higher in every part.
So some women need to stick to women’s models, as these boots are generally taller and narrower. Men with high arches can use them too, but again, if you can find the right width.
Which Midsoles and Insoles Are the Most Comfortable?
When you go on all-day treks, you want footwear that will evenly distribute the pressure under your feet.
Shock absorption is another important factor. Studies show that shock-absorbing insoles can help reduce your risk of stress-related injuries in the lower extremities. These injuries are usually micro-fractures and can lead to serious health issues down the line.
You also need good midsoles to keep you safe from accidents. They can isolate your feet and protect them from sharp rocks. But which midsoles should you choose?
Thinner EVA midsoles are more flexible and more comfortable. If the midsoles are made from polyurethane, they are stiffer and less comfortable. However, stiff midsoles are better if your first priority is to protect your feet from cuts.
You also need quality insoles that fit your foot exactly. It is easier to get these separately after you have bought your hiking shoes. Some stock options can be too thin for comfort.
What About Traction?
If you’re a rock-climbing enthusiast or you like going off the beaten path, you need good traction to keep you from slipping. Some hiking boots are better for dry conditions, while others are designed to give you sure footing on inclines or muddy ground.
What type of outsoles do your hiking boots need for treks across unsafe terrain?
Hiking boot outsoles are generally made out of rubber. They all have deep grooves that improve traction.
If you want hiking boots that can handle particularly rough terrain, look for designs that come with lugs. Lugs are bumps on the surface of your outsole, and they improve traction considerably.
Will the Hiking Boots Keep Your Feet Warm?
Full-grain leather is the best option for water-proofing. Models that come with a Gore-Tex lining can further prevent your feet from getting soaked. But heat insulation is another important factor.
If you expect to go on winter or autumn hikes, you might want to look for models that come with built-in insulation. This means an extra woolen or synthetic layer inside your hiking boot. But this isn’t a frequent feature in domestic hiking boots, so you may need to go for a Canadian model instead.
Pros and Cons of Hiking Boots
What are the benefits of hiking boots? Are they better than hiking shoes and trail-running shoes?
Here is what hiking boots have to offer:
- Protection: They keep your ankle in place, decreasing your risk of sprains. Hiking boots have very good traction, making them a good choice for hiking or climbing across slippery surfaces. They also have firm toeboxes, which keep your feet safe from impact.
- Waterproofing: If your hiking trail crosses streams or goes into lakes or swampy terrain, hiking boots are your best bet. Additionally, they keep your feet warmer than hiking shoes.
- Resilience: These boots are a long-lasting option. If you like the idea of staying with the same pair of footwear for years on end, hiking boots are the best option for you.
But they also have some significant downsides:
- Weight: Some models go over three pounds. This makes hiking more exhausting, and trail running becomes much more difficult.
- Perspiration: Hiking shoes are generally much better than boots at wicking away moisture.
- Maintenance: There’s more work involved in maintaining your boots.
- Practicality: Lacing up your hiking boots requires some time and effort. If you like to get up and leave your campsite immediately, you might find hiking boots a nuisance.
What about the price? Most hiking boots are on the expensive side, but they’re also long-lasting. They might be more cost-effective that hiking shoes in the long run.
Some buyers prefer to avoid leather and worry about finding vegan hiking boots. But it’s easy to find hiking boots designed without any leather or wool. Some manufacturers make hiking boots specifically with vegans in mind.
It’s up to you to decide whether hiking boots are a good choice for you. If you prefer simple and safe trails, you might find hiking boots to be overkill.
But some hiking boots are almost as lightweight as hiking shoes. You can choose from many different models, designed with different hiking styles in mind.
It’s important to keep an open mind. After all, adventure is at the core of every hike. Finding your personal best hiking boots can inspire you to start exploring new trails.