Best Hiking Boots (Buying Guide)
To any outdoor adventurer, hiking boots are a critical piece of equipment. They can make the difference between the perfect hike and a backcountry nightmare, so it’s important you get the right pair. The best hiking boots will protect your feet while offering additional support, and prevent blisters and other injuries. On the other hand, an ill-chosen pair of hiking boots can leave you in pain after a hike, and make adventures in the backcountry much less enjoyable. Hiking boot sare different to trail runners, although they share many of the same features. Read our comparison of hiking boots and shoes to confirm that hiking boots are the right choice for you.
It can be tempting to set off for a hike wearing your trusty old Adidas sneakers, after all, they’ve never let you down before. Unfortunately, the trail calls for more specialized footwear, which leaves a hiker better equipped to handle muddy pathways, rocky scrambles, and other adverse conditions. With so much to consider when investing in a pair of boots, finding the perfect equipment can be a struggle. The best hiking boots need to be lightweight but sturdy, waterproof but breathable, comfortable, and functional. To help you make sure the very best pair of hiking boots find their way to your feet, we’ve put together this buying guide with everything you need to know.
Best Hiking Boots – Overview
1. Merrell Moab 2 Mid Waterproof Hiking Boot
- M Select DRY seals out water and lets moisture escape so you stay dry when you're on the move
The Merrell Moab 2’s are a comfortable and durable pair of hiking boots, they’re an ideal backcountry companion. A supportive footbed and mid-rise shoe height give plenty of protection to your foot, ensuring many miles of pleasant hiking. Water-resistance is an important element with hiking boots and Merrelluses well-designed technology to keep your feet dry. A system called M Select Dry seals out rain, puddles, and other outside water, while simultaneously letting sweat and other moisture escape. This ensures your feet will remain dry and comfortable throughout your entire hike, preventing uncomfortable blisters and potential danger in low temperatures.
The sole of this hiking boot is made from high-performance rubber, offering unparalleled durability and stability. The VIBRAM upper sole is also slip-resistant, a handy feature when hiking in rocky terrain. Extra cushioning is also installed in the sole for optimum comfort, with an air cushion located at the heel to reduce stress on your feet. With all these comfort-increasing features, you’ll be able to hike all day while keeping your feet happy. Another comfort-increasing feature of these hiking boots is their weight, at 2lbs 4oz they’re very lightweight when worn. This makes a big difference when it comes to hiking, as heavy boots can become an encumbrance once you’re a few miles in.
The Merrell Moab 2’s are a great pair of boots for hikers with smaller budgets, starting at $100 on Amazon their value is unmatched. You can even upgrade the waterproof membrane to Gore-Tex, for extra high-tech weatherproofing. For backpackers carrying heavier loads, the Moab 2’s may not be appropriate, for these purposes we recommend a shoe with more support. Additionally, the price point of these boots reflects the quality of the materials used. Don’t get us wrong, Merrel produces a high-quality boot, but it’s unlikely to last you a lifetime. We recommend the Merrell Moab 2’s to any casual hiker, as a choice for weekends you can’t go wrong. However, for serious long-distance backpackers and mountaineers, a more durable and supportive shoe might be required.
- Lightweight, less than 3lbs
- Good value for money
- Not suited for serious expeditions
- More ankle support needed
2. Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX Backpacking Boots
- The fourth generation of our legendary Speedcross lug pattern is an even hungrier monster for eating up soft, technical trails
For the more serious hiker, consider the Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTXbackpacking boots. These ultra-comfortable hiking boots are made with long-distance backpackers in mind, designed to remain wearable no matter how long you’re trekking for. Designed to be light and cushioned like a running shoe(or trail running shoe) whilst remaining supportive enough for backpacking, the Salomon Quest 4D’s pack a serious backcountry punch.
One key feature of these boots is the Gore-Tex(GTX) membrane, a technical fabric that keeps hiking boots waterproof while maintaining breathability for the comfort of your feet. These hiking boots have great traction in wet terrain, using premium Contagrip technology, and they also feature an advanced chassis on the boot sole for increased comfort and cushioning. Weighing just under 3lbs, these hiking boots provide a lot of support and are very hard-wearing. However, for most casual hikers these would be too heavy, they’re only really necessary for serious expeditions.
Serious hikers will find a hardy, sturdy, and reliable hiking boot in the Salomon Quest 4D’s, they’re the ideal choice for backpacking and strenuous day hikes. The tough support these boots provide can feel a bit stiff and cumbersome, so make sure you really need this high level of protection. If you prefer to move faster and keep it lightweight, then this option for the best hiking boots isn’t right for you.
- Serious protection
- Lots of support and stability
- Gore-Tex membrane gives excellent waterproofing
- Overkill for the casual hiker
3. Keen TargheeIII Waterproof Mid Leather Hiking Boot
- WATERPROOF HIKER: Protected by KEEN.Dry waterproof, breathable membrane; Made with waterproof leather and performance mesh upper and breathable mesh lining
The Keen Targhee3’s are an excellent boot when it comes to out-of-the-box comfort and affordability. With a dual-density compression-molded EVA midsole, comfort on the trail has never been better. An internal shank is a great added feature, providing additional support while remaining lightweight. The boots measure at 2lbs 2.8oz, making them fit comfortably into the lightweight category. A durable leather upper and toe cap make these boots surprisingly hardy, as a lightweight boot, they have a great level of protection, upgraded from the Targhee II’s.
The rubber outsole has 4mm multi-directional lugs that ensure you have a good grip and a high level of traction, which is a great feature for hikers and mountaineers. The rise of these hiking boots is just high enough on the ankle to provide some rollover protection, without becoming an admittedly more protective and much bulkier boot. We love this hiking boot for its durable leather construction and high level of comfort, however, breathability takes a hit with this pair.
We’d love to see a Gore-Tex membrane or similar technology implemented in this hiking shoe, as the materials used in its construction can be hot and sweaty. Leather is a durable and well-waterproofed material for hiking boots, but a waterproof membrane or more low-tech mesh panel would make a great improvement regarding breathability. However, as a budget boot the Keen Targheedoes well, so if you don’t need the pricey high-tech features of other hiking footwear then we think it’s a great choice.
- Internal shank adds support
- Good stability
- Durable leather upper
- Not breathable
- More support necessary for rougher trails
4. Danner Mountain 600 Hiking Boot
- Danner Dry waterproof protection. Cushioning open-cell OrthoLite footbed.
More fashion-conscious hikers will find a welcome change in the DannerMountain 600, a hiking boot that doesn’t compromise on style. Waterproof suede and full-grain leather upper make this hiking boot both visually appealing and weather resistant. The suede material is water-resistant enough to protect from mud and wet grass, but these are no snow boots. Fortunately, hikers aren’t limited to the factory waterproofing that’s applied to hiking shoes, they can add their own weatherproof layer easily. Read our article on how to waterproof hiking boots for plenty of useful information on the subject.
This attractive boot uses special technology to increase comfort and flexibility. The Mountain 600 features the VibramSpecialized Performance Elastomer midsole, which improves cushioning and durability of the shoes, without adding to the weight. The Vibram Fuga outsole is also featured on Danner’s hiking boot, which aims to achieve the perfect balance between flexibility and traction. With a lug pattern that has a multi-directional grip, rocky scrambles are a breeze. The suede upper leather material also has great abrasion resistant properties, to keep your hiking boots looking fresh.
With a stylish retro design and high-quality leather appearance, these boots are a good choice for day hikers. These boots aren’t intended for strenuous hiking, so for multi-day treks, you’ll need a more hardcore pair. The Danner Mountain 600’s have a higher price point than other higher-tech lightweight hiking boots, which is down to the fashion-focused design. Even so, they’re a surprisingly flexible and well-functioning boot, a good choice for casual hikers who care about aesthetics.
- Fashion-forward design
- Lightweight and flexible
- Vibramboot sole
- For casual hiking only
- Paying for looks rather than function
5. Vasque St. Elias FG Mid GTX Boot
If you need a mid-weight boot with good waterproofing, consider this durable model from Vasquefeaturing a Gore-Tex membrane. Promising all-day comfort from the first wear, there’s no break-in time for these Vasque boots. With a specially designed midsole and outsole, the St. Elias provides athletic flexibility and continuing comfort throughout the duration of even long-distance hikes. The boot upper is made from waterproof nubuck (suede) leather, and with a Gore-Tex membrane, you’ll never have to worry about wet feet in rainy or stormy conditions.
These hiking boots have a Vibram sole, a tried and trusted name so you won’t have to worry about comfort or traction. The St. Elias hiking boots feature more than one high-tech element, as this pair of boots also uses a Gore-Tex membrane. This membrane blocks moisture from entering the boot from the outside while using special design to allow water inside to evaporate. This fantastic feature means sweat vapor will pass right through the boot, making sure your feet are dry and comfortable at all times. Hiking with damp feet can be extremely uncomfortable and is one big cause of troublesome blisters. Additionally, having wet feet in cold temperatures can be dangerous, we love that these boots do a great job preventing that.
Weighing 2lbs and 15oz, these midweight boots are sturdy and durable. They offer increased protection in comparison to lighter options, made using strong materials. The Vasque St. Elias FG GTXhiking boot offers a good balance of comfort and support. The EVA midsole and supportive shank give great stability while keeping the boot comfortable for long distances. Still, the boot remains flexible and highly wearable for day hikes, offering good value for money. These boots can feel clunky if you aren’t used to a heavier shoe, for example in comparison to hiking boots like the Salomon Quest 4D3’s, that take design elements from trail running shoes. In conclusion, these are a great all-round pair of boots, so long as you can take the weight. Unless you’re passing over some seriously challenging terrain, or encounter particularly bad weather, these Vasqueboots will serve you well.
- Good balance of comfort and support
- Durable materials
- Great waterproofing and breathability from Gore-Tex membrane
- Bulky and heavy
- Not protective enough for extreme conditions
6. La Sportiva Nucleo High GTX Hiking Shoe
- Innovative Nano-Cell Technology upper wraps the foot in protection while allowing maximum breathability and waterproof protection
Weighing only 16.8oz, the La Sportiva Nucleo is made to be a light and fast hiking shoe. Perfect for hikers who like a challenge, this pair of boots is appropriate for rugged terrains. These boots use innovative Nano-Cell technology in the boot upper to wrap around the foot, offering great protection while maintaining breathability, and remaining waterproof. A VibramNano sole with an Impact Brake System means you’ll never have to worry about slipping, this hiking booth as excellent grip and traction.
This high-rise boot protects your ankle and helps prevent roll-overs, but uses 3D Flex so you’ll still have good movement. The boot upper is made from durable nubuck leather, a material that also has great waterproof properties. This boot is light and nimble while still providing a good level of protection and support, a great choice for most hikers and backpackers. The Gore-TexSurround liner means these boots are breathable from the sides as well as the top, and even though the bottom of the footbed. This adds immeasurable breathability to the boot, a comfortable choice for even long-distance hikes.
The large panels of leather give this boot an upper hand over lightweight models, making them more durable for scrambling over abrasive terrain. A good compromise between flexibility and support combined with little break-in time makes these hiking boots tough to beat. As all-around hiking and backpacking boots, we recommend the La Sportiva Nucleo.
- Good breathability
- Durable and abrasion-resistant
- Protective design
- Comfortable throughout your whole hike
- More protection needed for activities like mountaineering
7. Columbia Newton Ridge Plus 2 Waterproof Hiking Boot
- ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY: This Columbia Men's Newton Ridge Plus II Waterproof hiking boot features Techlite lightweight midsole for long lasting comfort, superior cushioning, and high energy return as well...
Designed in the style of classic mountaineering boots, the ColumbiaNewton Ridge hiking boots are a seriously hard-wearing pair. The toe and heel barriers are reinforced for rugged and long-lasting wear. Made for traversing uneven trails and rocky pathways, the Techlite midsole offers great cushioning and protection, to prevent tiring or hurting your feet on the uneven ground. Constructed using durable leather and breathable mesh, this boot aims to be both comfortable and versatile.
We all know how important waterproofing is in hiking boots, which is why Columbia uses a seam-sealed construction. Materials like PU coated leather, suede, and mesh, are all great at keeping your feet safe and dry. The traction is advanced for three-season use, using Omni-grip rubber on the outsole for superior grip. The only issue with these boots is that they lack a Gore-Tex membrane or any similar technology, so breathability could stand some improvement. Furthermore, ankle support could also be improved with these boots, especially for backpackers carrying a heavy pack.
These boots are a bargain for casual hikers. Starting at $65 on Amazon, the price point is highly competitive for a supportive and waterproof hiking boot. The ColumbiaNewton Ridge Plus 2’s are a great choice for casual day hikers and occasional trekkers. For the price, you won’t get better quality materials or any higher level of protection. However, for extended hikes and multi-day treks, the lack of breathability could make this boot rather uncomfortable. If you need a pair for more strenuous and longer-lasting hiking trails, choose one with more breathable materials.
- Great value
- Comfortable and stable
- Good foot protection
- Not breathable enough
- More support needed for backpacking
When it comes to hiking boots, there’s a lot to consider. With so much variation in materials and support, right down to tiny details like the lacing system, choosing a new pair of hiking boots is a hard job. Whether you’re going on long term backpacking trips, or just like to go on a casual hike at the weekends, every hiker needs reliable and appropriate footwear.
Our top pick for the best hiking boots is the La Sportiva Nucleo, they’re a great investment as a pair of comfortable, durable, and waterproof boots. With good all-around breathability using the Gore-TexSurround membrane, and a high rise design offering good ankle support, we highly recommend these hiking boots. A Vibram outsole gives good traction and impact protection, so even after a long day of hiking, your feet will still be happy. Unless you need some serious winter boots for mountaineering in snowy conditions, the La Sportiva Nucleo hiking boots are a great choice.
Bonus tip: Watch this video to find out more about the La Sportiva hiking line!