Hiking footwear comparison table :
Best Overall Lightweight Shoes
- Super lightweight
- Incredibly durable
- Great gripp
- Fits runs a bit narrow
Weighing a mere 1 pounds, the Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX is the top super lightweight hiking shoe of 2019 you could actually put your money on today. This shoe seamlessly combines a sense of feathery feel and great performance. The tread also is well built; it comes with an outstanding grip, making it the best choice for all conditions. The chassis also is another great thing about the shoe. It is super stable and the cushioned interior will see that you enjoy wearing Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX all day long.
- Great price
If you are out there looking for a lightweight hiking shoe and durable, I recommend you check out the Merrel Moab 2 Ventilator Low. Other than this shoe being extremely lightweight, the designers have in a number of ways managed to nail comfort. It fits so well and the tongue is soft and feels so nice. As seen as an effort to improve its breathability, this shoe does come equipped with suede leather and mesh. This will ensure your foot breathes fairly well. Plus, this feature also brings a sense of protection and durability as well.
Best Budget Hiking Shoes
- Very comfortable
- Not suitable for technical terrain
- Not waterproof
The Merrell Moab 2 Vent might not be the best option for long and technical hikes, but there is a lot going on with this shoe. Other than coming with great price, this shoe is super comfortable and quite attractive. Unlike some of the previous versions from the same company, this Merrell Moab 2 Vent has seen a lot of updates go into it. The shoe now comes with an incredibly durable upper and better cushioning.
Top-Rated Hiking Boots
- Quality Build
- Quite heavy
There is no denying the fact that Lowa Renegade GTX Mid is quite popular among both men and women. It offers incredible stability, as well as, better protection. A lot has gone into the making of the upper collar; it offers a great level of support and feels so comfortable. The lining is also worth mentioning. It is a gore-tex liner and that alone will ensure your feet are kept dry at all times.
- Well built
- Great lacing
- 3-season shoe
- Takes time to dry
The Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX is another outstanding hiking boot. It comes equipped with chassis of a running shoe, making it a very comfortable boot you could buy today. This shoe is becoming quite popular among avid hikers because of a number of reasons. First, there is a lot you could do with it. It is a 3 season shoe, meaning you can actually do winter hiking, technical terrain and also off-trail.
Additionally, for great traction, the sole comes with an aggressive lug pattern. The interior is also well designed. It comes equipped with gore-tex lining, making sure your feet are kept dry in muddy or wet conditions.
Which Hiking Footwear Should You go For?
One big headache you will have to deal with is whether to go for boots or shoes. To help you decide, here is a quick insight into these two main designs.
– HIKING BOOTS
Hiking boots offer much better support and protection compared to hiking shoes. They are basically higher cut versions of hiking shoes, but equipped with a lightly stiffer build; a feature that offers the much-needed support.
- Where and when to use hiking boots
They are quite practical in those long hikes in rough and dangerous terrains. Boots also come in handy if you are going to carry a lot of weight on your back. Also, they could make sense if you are looking for a great level of support and impeccable protection from accidents.
Boots are quite heavy, making them a worse choice for long trails. There are also quite expensive.
– HIKING SHOES
Compared to hiking boots, hiking shoes are more flexible and most importantly super lightweight. They are also cheaper than boots.
- Where and when to use hiking shoes
Hiking shoes are great if you are going to do the following;
You will not be carrying a lot of weight during your hiking activities. You are going to only stick to very short trails and defined routes. If you are a seasoned hiker who is not prone to minor accidents.
They come with one major issue though; they offer less support. They also tend to wear out quickly.
– LIGHTWEIGHT HIKING SHOES
For durability, great support, and most importantly proper protection, light hiker shoes are an amazing choice.
They are incredibly light. This option also offers outstanding traction, stability and a very tiff sole in one super-light package.
- Where and When To Wear Light Hikers Shoes
Because of its lightweight, this shoe is the best if you are looking for more traction, as well as, durability without necessarily having to deal with the bulk of those traditional hiking shoes we see on the market today.
– TRAIL RUNNING SHOES
From a distance, you would easily mistake trail runners hiking shoes for some running shoes. There share quite a number of striking similarities, but a closer look will tell you otherwise.
Compared to running shoes, trail runners come with a very distinctive design. Unlike running shoes, this type of running shoes comes with aggressive tread patterns to give you the much-needed support and stiffer midsole.
- Where and when to wear trail runners
As the names suggest, these are the best shoes if you know your hiking will involve some running. There are incredibly lightweight and that alone allows you to maneuver through those tough terrains quickly and with so much ease.
They are also the best for longer hikes. They are super comfortable and are less likely to give you blisters.
They are not as stiff as most serious hikers would want them to be. With that, you will not get the much-needed protection from those harsh elements as much as possible.
– MOUNTAINEERING BOOTS
These boots are all about stiffness, great support and most importantly amazing protection from any kind of element. It is true mountaineering boots come with some extra weight and bulk, but the amount of protection you can get from them makes them worthwhile. The stiff sole is for better protection.
- Where and When To Wear These Boots
As the name suggests, these boots are the best for mountain hiking. They come equipped with insulation, making this option the best for extremely cold weather. You can actually take them for your next hike during winter or even when climbing to extremely high altitudes where temperatures are extremely low.
These boots are ridiculously expensive, making them fall on the higher end of the price range. Additionally, it is not an amazing choice if you are just looking for some hiking shoes not primarily for mountaineering.
– HEAVY BACKPACKING BOOTS
These are bigger and beefier hiking shoes. The outsole is a complete standout; it is huge and well built just to be able to carry that additional weight. The cut will also leave you feeling very excited; this feature is said to provide the much needed ankle stability. Plus, the heavy sole has been designed to handle those rugged terrains.
- Where and when to wear
When you know you are going to carry a lot of things in your backpack. These shoes have been built to offer the much needed protection as you carry those huge loads in the wilderness.
As the names say; this type of shoes are quite heavy. It can be a problem if you are going to trek for days.
– APPROACH SHOES
These hiking shoes come fully equipped with a stiffer midsole; sticky rubber outsole and an amazing lacing system that flawlessly extends to the toe area, giving you a much-secured fit.
- Where and when to use
Although approach hiking shoes are super light, they excel well when it comes to technical hiking. These are made specifically for hiking rocks and those areas that are quite tricky to step to. It is an amazing option for scrambling up rocks or steep ascent trails.
They are not waterproof; during wet condition or even muddy terrain, the outsole is not going to give you the needed grip. Additionally, lack of waterproofing features and the low-cut will also allow water to get right into the top of your shoes.
Features To Look For When Buying Your Hiking Shoes
This is one industry that has continued to witness new cutting edge technology being introduced, if you go out today shopping, you will be surprised by the number of materials and features you will see. To help you make a wise choice, here are some of the most commonly used materials and what makes each and every one of them useful.
Hiking boots come in a number of cuts, and this is actually tailored to meet different hiking needs. So before you go out shopping, you may want to know the kind of cut that perfectly meets your needs. This is important for a wrong choice could lead to a rolled ankle, or even rock getting into your shoe. There are three main cuts.
- Low cut
They are lightweight, making it the best for longer trekking. On the other hand, they are so casual that they can leave you vulnerable to ankle injuries. Boots that come with this type of cut are ideal for well maintained trails and hiking routes. Always keep that in mind.
For better ankle support, mid-cut shoes is what you should be going for next. This type of cut is said to give great ankle balance and support. It also offers improved buffer from debris and stone along the trails.
- High Cut
This is an excellent choice for adventurous hikers. It offers optimal balance and superb ankle support. If you know you are going to traverse those potentially dangerous terrains and treks, a high-cut is all you ever wanted. It will not disappoint you in any way.
Most hiking shoes soles come fully made from one material; rubber. However, what is that material that wraps around the foot? Well, this part in most cases comes made of different types of materials.
Why the used material is so important?
What has gone into the construction of the upper side will determine a number of things; breathability, water-resistance, lightweight and durability of your hiking shoes.
- Full grain leather
With this material, we are talking about durability, abrasion resistance, and great waterproofing features.
This is one of the heaviest and less breathable materials you could lay your hands on today. It is also less flexible.
As the names suggest, this is basically a combination of different materials. In most cases, it could be nylon, polyester or even polyurethane all coming in a number of thicknesses, as well as, densities. This material may mimic properties of leather. They are also quite lightweight and super breathable. It is also less expensive, making it the best for shoppers operating under a very tight budget.
It comes with its own share of issues though; compared to leather, it is less durable and less water-resistant. So if durability and waterproofing feature is what you are shopping for, you might want to stay away from hiking shoes made from this material.
This is basically buffed leather. It is very much soft and more flexible far more than full-grain leather.
One major issue with this material is that it is less durable and its waterproofing capabilities are way below the par.
- Waterproof breathable membranes
Technically, a good number of synthetics and leather come with incredible water resistance. However, in order to make them more waterproof, a wide variety of hiking boots come fully equipped with a water resistance membrane found in between the outer and inner layers of the upper. This move alone does not only make your hiking shoe waterproof but also breathable. Some of the most popular technologies used today include eVent and GORE-TEX.
Mesh is another great material that brings a sense of breathability to your hiking boots. It is the best choice for hot areas.
Often coming fully made of rubber; this is that part that normally makes direct contact with the ground. It often comes in different densities based largely on different needs.
For instance, if you are looking for a design that will grip onto the surface with so much ease, a softer rubber is the best choice. However, remember this design will wear quickly. For durability, a harder outsole is what you need.
In most cases; we have seen designers come up with special features like ‘Climbing zone’ right on the toe. This feature is said to help provide better precision for rock or technical climbing.
Additionally, when it comes to outsoles, go for a design that offers the much-needed traction and most importantly support for your activities.
These normally come made from any of these two materials; polyurethane and ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) and each one of them comes with different properties.
EVA is said to feel very soft. They are comfortable but the form will break quickly. Polyurethane, on the other hand, is durable. It is long-lasting and normally found in mountaineering and backpacking boots.
Always go for polyurethane midsoles. They come with great support and durability.
Most insoles that our shoes come with from the factory are made from molded EVA foam. It gives the interior of your hiking shoe a clean finish and a sort of cushioning.
Factory insoles, at times, don’t offer the much-needed arch support and for this reason; you may want to buy customized aftermarket insoles. For instance, insoles like Superfeet may give you a perfect fit.
How It Fit
Getting the right fit is more important. After all, a tight fit might leave you with blisters. Do not ignore these important points when buying your hiking shoes.
- Know your right size: The kind of shoes you pick must have a lot of room to move your toes. Ideally, the toes should not in any way touch the front of the shoes, especially when it is laced up.
- Try hiking socks: If you do some test run with ordinary socks, you may not get the right fit.
- To prevent shoe bites, always break your hiking boots right before you head out.
This is the material on the inside. It comes in direct contact with your foot. For that, a breathable and moisture lacing lining will make sense.
The lining normally helps transport sweat and moisture from your socks to the outside. Additionally, a great lining also comes in handy when it comes to water resistance and insulation.
The lining is usually exposed to a lot of friction and abrasion. And while this part may come made in a variety of materials, a nylon lining would be more practical and safe. It can resist pilling effectively.
Lacing and Tongue
These two features allow you to seamlessly adjust the shoe for a great fit. The tongue often comes made from highly breathable materials like nylon. It is also padded just to offer much-needed comfort and soft feel. Just like the lacing, the tongue does also help transport moisture from your sock to the outside.
So when choosing your lacing and tongue, quality is what you need to look out for. This is important; quality lacing will ensure your foot is securely and comfortably kept in the inside all the time.
One of the main reasons we buy hiking shoes is for protection. That nature walks and trails means dealing with rocks, loose surface and roots as well. It is because of this you need to go for a shoe that offers maximum protection from all these elements.
What to look out for, for great protection
When it comes to protection, the footwear you choose must come equipped with a reinforced rubber toe to help protect the front part of your foot. The heel protector and side protection should also be there. Without this protection, chances of you getting injured are relatively high.
Additionally, most of these reinforcements can also offer great support to your foot. This will come in handy when you are hiking up slopes.
What is that you really need? There are a couple of things that will come into play when buying a pair of hiking shoes. Here some of the factors to put under great consideration at all times.
Where will you be hiking?
Where exactly will you be hiking? What kind of terrains will you be forced to deal with? Will you be traveling through defined routes or muddy trails? The terrain will dictate the kind of hiking shoe you are going to for. It is as simple as that.
How location affects your choice
If you are going to walk on concrete surfaces like on the road for a considerable length of time, chances of your sole wearing out are relatively high. For this, you may want to go for a trail running shoe.
In other cases, if you are going to maneuver those muddy trails filled with stones and grass, hiking shoes might not be the best choice as they can easily wear out, and hiking boots will be your best. Hiking boots come with an amazing design that stops water seeping into your shoes and also help stop friction that often leads to blisters.
How Much Time Are The Shoes/boots Going To Be On Your Feet
The longer time you are going to spend hiking, the great demand and pressure on the body. For that, you need great support from your hiking shoes. They will provide much-needed support and comfort all through.
Additionally, those long hikes and treks mean carrying a lot of essentials on your backpack, meaning you need boot support. For practicality, there is no way you would go wrong if you go for a pair of hiking shoes that offer a much stiff midsole and the ankle area must be able to offer great heel support.
Also note, moving around in those super lightweight hiking shoes, in most cases, can help you save up to 200 grams every time you move your foot. With that, you will save a lot of energy during the entire day. It won’t hurt to carry both boots and shoes for longer hikes.
The kind of weather you are likely to experience is als0 going to dictate the kind of shoes you are going to go with. Will it be dry, wet, hot, or icy cold? These weather conditions determine if you need a waterproof or breathable boot.
For a waterproof hiking boot or shoe, a design that comes with a breathable and waterproof liner, like Gore-Tex will come in handy. This technology will not only help with waterproofing but also add warmth.
Hiking footwear that comes with a great sense of safety is more practical when hiking. For that, there are some of the safety criteria to allow you to make a great choice.
When it comes to hiking shoes, good support is essential. At any given time, the choice you make must adapt well to your foot. Ensure it comes with a high stem as that will help support the articulation of your ankle and the bottom of the tibia.
- Outsole’s Grip
The kind of grip your shoes/boots come with largely depends on the material used. Practically, a very soft rubber offers the best grip on the rock. However, this will come at a cost: It wears quickly.
On the other hand, hard rubber will be more resistant. You may want to take a comprise when it comes to grip. For example, go for a softer soft sole when climbing rocks and harder sole when doing road hiking.
This can be quite tricky; thankfully, where you are going to hike can dictate what to buy. For example, if you plan to trek across lots of rivers on in the rains, a waterproof shoe or boot will be more practical.
However, know this can get really miserable when the weather is a bit warm and humid at the same time. The waterproof membrane will in a way trap moisture and air around your feet. This can lead to the formation of blisters, or even breaking of your skin.
If you are going for longer trails, going with both waterproof and non-waterproof will make sense. Weather can change any time and it is good to be prepared at all times.
Questions To Help You Choose The Right Hiking Shoe/Boots
Here is a list of questions that will help you make a great choice.
- What are the best boots for beginners?
If you are a beginner, chances are you are going to do shorter hikes and travel mostly on well-groomed trails. A pair of standard hiking shoes and not those heavy boots will be more practical.
- Should you go for a hiking boot or low cut hiking shoes?
Most hikers go for low cut hiking shoes. They are super light and offer great stability found in mid-cut hiking shoes. High cut boots come with a little more ankle stability, but they won’t necessarily keep you from rolling your ankle.
- What are some of the things I should look for in an outsole?
Turn your boot over and take a quick examination on the treads. If you know you will travel through rough or steep terrains, go for a deeply aggressive and well-defined heel brake. This will dig into the hiking surface and will prevent you from slipping.
- Do you really need a waterproof boot?
Hiking shoes or boots that come with great water resistance capabilities are quite popular. They shield your feet from puddles and raindrops. However, this shoe will not be as breathable as a non-laminated one. So you will have to deal with very hot and sweaty feet most of your time. Waterproof hiking shoes or boots are the best choices for winter hiking or even early season hike.
At the end of it all; knowing what you want and what to look out for when buying your hiking shoes or boots can help you make a great choice. It is true this type of hiking gear can be quite expensive, but it is crucial to invest your money in high-quality shoes or boots.
If you go for something cheap today, just because you want to save on some money, you might be forced to get a new pair again sooner or later. Cheap footwear tends to wear real fast. Plus, cheap boots or shoes tend to come with very poor fabric that will rip and allow water to get into your shoe.
Updated on January 23, 2021 by Ben