The Best Hiking Shoes Tested & Reviewed
Every person that has been hiking before knows that without a great pair of hiking boots, you are not going to get very far. Hiking boots might be the most important piece of hiking gear that you bring with you when you start that journey uphill on your next adventure as it protects your feet and they are your main mode of transportation to get you up that mountain. However, not every situation calls for the often heavier, clunkier, and bigger version of trail footwear. Rather, instead of reaching for a pair of hiking boots for a nice spring or summer trek, give hiking shoes a chance. As an active outdoors enthusiast, and with ever-changing weather and adventure landscapes, it can never hurt to have a few diverse options on the shoe rack.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 15 hrs of research
Great general performance
Versatile and wonderful for many situations
Good options for warmer weather
- Oboz Traverse Low
- Salewa Wildfire GTX
- Keen Targhee 2
- Lowa Renegade II GTX Lo
- Merrell Moab Ventilator
- Salomon X Ultra Prime
- Vasque Juxt Multi-Sport
- KEEN Newport H2
- Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX
- Adidas Outdoor Ax 2
- Criteria Used for Evaluation
- Other Factors to Consider
- Frequently Asked Questions
Top 10 Picks
1. Oboz Traverse Low
Great general performance
Versatile and wonderful for many situations
Good options for warmer weather
The Oboz Traverse Low Hiking Shoe is a fantastic balance of breathability, lightness, and durability. These hikers continue to shine as reviewers and testers alike rave about these shoe's comfort and cushioning. Many opt to wear these hiking shoes for backpacking trips, travel, and light hikes.Read more
The Oboz Traverse Low Hikers offer you full-on comfort, and this is due to the cushioning within. As well as this, the tongue and collar are padded to make sure your feet feel happy and pleasant on hikes. You don't need to worry about your feet sweating in these hikers, as they are made with a breathable fabric that allows sweat to escape and air to circulate.
The bottom of these shoes is made of durable rubber that is textured so that you are stable in any terrain. The bottoms are made to grip and will keep you balanced as you wander over dirt, rocks, and gravel.
In order to ensure that these hikers are durable and will last for many hikes to come, they are outfitted with an abrasion resistant upper.
In short, if you are looking for a pair of hikers for a spring or spring, fall, or summer day hike, or if you need a pair of shoes to travel in, these Oboz shoes should fit the bill. These 2.1-ounce shoes are light, durable, well ventilated, and offer you the comfort knowing that so many testers and reviewers have thoroughly enjoyed them.
2. Salewa Wildfire GTX
Traction on rocks is second-to-none
Excellent lacing system
Very lightweight design
A bit lacking in support
Loses grip in muddy situations
The Salewa Wildfire GTX is the king of rocks. Out of all of the shoes in this guide, the Wildfire clung to rock faces the best, even in wet conditions. The shoe itself is lightweight and low-profile and is designed to give you maximum control during climbs. This means added sensitivity at the expense of some sole support, unfortunately, but we found that wasn’t too big of an issue here. This isn’t the best climbing shoe out there in the wild, and while it isn’t the best hiking shoe, but it’s certainly a great one for all-around use.Read more
Again, the Wildfire doesn’t have too much in the way of bulk or support. It’s a narrower fitting shoe, and although it did perform well on relatively long jaunts with a pack, it offers little in the way of true cushioning under your feet. If you’re looking for a padded experience, this might not be the best fit for you. All the same, we really had no major complaints about the support on offer for general hiking.
The lacing system that the Wildfire uses is quite unique and really serves to give this shoe an incredible fit that feels more secure than most of the others in this guide. The primary reason for this is the top eyelet, which employs a mesh webbing that extends around the ankle. This allows for some fantastic control over the tightness of the shoes, and just generally looks great as well.
The traction of this shoe is the area where the Wildfire really shines. Frustratingly, however, it’s also an area where the shoes fall short, depending on what type of terrain you are navigating them through. For instance; on solid, wet granite rock, the sticky Vibram Tech Approach Evo feels like glue. Testers were incredibly impressed with the performance here, but when it came time to test things out in muddy conditions, things soured quickly. The shoes also can’t compete with the general versatility of, say, the Ultra 109 when it comes to traction. They can, however, give them a run for their money in just about any climbing situation.
This won’t be the most durable shoe you’ll ever own in your life, but for how light and minimal the design is, the durability proved to be plenty impressive. There’s a silverized antibacterial treatment applied to each of these shoes, which helps to fight odors and other issues on the inside, and most of the outer shell is made of rubber and mesh. If you’re someone who values control over fortitude, the Salewa Wildfire GTX might be exactly what you’re looking for. All the same, if you are looking for a pair of shoes that will support you on treacherous terrain with the most luxurious comfort around, you’d be best served elsewhere.
The Salewa Wildfire GTX is on the lighter end of things at 2.2 pounds. The minimized, low-profile design really comes in handy here, and the lack of thick cushioning only serves to make this pair that much quicker on your feet. Many testers commented that the added control for 4th class climbing and backpacking was well worth the decrease in overall support.
3. Keen Targhee 2
Versatile performance that won’t break the bank
Very comfortable overall design
Heel-cinching mechanism is completely novel
The Keen Targhee 2 represented a difficult choice for us when constructing this guide. It’s a shoe that has been well-loved for years now, and for good reason; the Targhee 2 is lightweight, durable, and more comfortable than just about any other shoe in this guide to boot. We found the decision to give our top spots to the North Face Ultra 109 GTX and the Salewa Wildfire GTX, respectively, to be a very difficult one. On the surface, the Targhee 2 does many things just as good, if not better than these other models, so why didn’t it take an award? The easiest answer is that while the Targhee 2 provides versatile and powerful performance, it couldn’t compete with the support on offer from the Ultra 109, nor the traction and fit of the Wildfire. This is one of the most affordable shoes on this list, though, so there’s some incredible value to be had here for the right person.Read more
The Targhee 2 is a bit of a brute on the outside, with its clunky design and heavy fabrics. On the inside, however, it’s a whole new world of comfort. The arch support is the only bit that seems a tad lacking, but it wasn’t so extreme that it caused an issue. We found that the Targhee 2 was especially comfortable for those with wider feet; something that can be difficult to come across in this category.
The lacing system in the Targhee 2 relies on a 4 eyelet design that works very well for keeping the shoe secure, even across great distances. The upper webbing actually allows for you to cinch your heel to the cup, keeping it firmly in place. This is one of the most popular features on this shoe, and reviewers and customers alike have shared praises about it.
In the traction department, the Keen Targhee 2’s performed better than some, and worse than others. While the wet grip, in particular, was impressive, testers found that loose gravel and uneven terrain presented a bit of a challenge, which is notable considering the competition above. The lug pattern seemed to have some trouble with accumulating gravel underfoot, which is an issue that wasn’t shared with both the Ultra 109 and the Wildfire.
There is one area on the Targhee 2 that serves as the Achilles heel of sorts in terms of durability; the seams where the leather is stitched to the mesh. This area is particularly vulnerable to wear and tear, and need a bit of extra attention if your goal is to make these last for the long haul. That’s not to say that these aren’t constructed with quality in mind; quite the opposite, really. Still, it doesn’t hurt to take extra care to this area when in periods of heavy use.
In the water resistance department, Keen implemented their own, proprietary KEEN.Dry technology to admittedly mixed fanfare. When stacked up against GORE-TEX, KEEN. Dry simply didn’t live up to expectations. This is definitely a shoe that will need periodic treatment to keep the coating healthy and effective. It did a good enough job at keeping water out during tests, but we worry about the longevity of the protection after putting these things through the ringer.
At 2.25 pounds, these shoes are right in the middle of the road. This was actually a bit surprising for us, considering the bulky, sturdy design these shoes utilize. The added bulk on these shoes will probably not be a big issue for most, because many of the features that give it its weight are vital to the shoe’s overall construction quality. All told, these feel great, and we think that most people would enjoy hiking and backpacking in them highly.
4. Lowa Renegade II GTX Lo
Great heavy lifters that work just as well around town as they do on the trail
Impressive out-of-the-box comfort
The most durable shoe in this guide
Bulky and heavy
A bit too warm for some areas
The Lowa Renegade II GTX Lo is perhaps the closest shoe to a regular mid hiking boot that we’ve included in this guide. This is a serious shoe made for serious people, and its burly design is reflected in its higher price point. The Renegade II features some surprising comfort and support, even right out of the box. If you’re looking for a heavy duty shoe that also works as a good “around-the-town” shoe, you might have found your match. The only drawback here for some is that these are some pretty heavy shoes. If you’re doing tons of walking in town, you might want something that keeps you a bit lighter on your feet.Read more
The Renegade II has a bit of a reputation for its surprising, out-of-the-box comfort. All of the extra material and support really shows here, and it’s sure to impress even the most demanding of individuals in this department. The only shoe that we can say with any confidence is more comfortable is the La Sportiva FC ECO 2.0, which took our Runner-Up award above.
The lacing on this shoe fits the theme; it’s a sturdy, pulley-type system that makes getting in and out of the shoes a breeze. The issue we found, here, however, is that there really isn’t a tremendous amount of versatility in terms of adjusting the fit. We would have a preferred a system that is a bit more adaptable, like the one found on the Salewa Wildfire GTX.
Another key thing to keep in mind here is that due to the heavy-duty, thick construction, the Lowa Renegade II GTX Lo truthfully doesn’t breathe very well at all. It is certainly more well-suited for a colder environment, and if you’re one to get warm easily, or take hikes in a warmer area, this might be a standout flaw for you to consider before making a purchase.
We were very impressed with the overall traction performance on the Renegade II. Many testers had nothing but great things to say, but some holdouts voiced concerns about solid granite traction during wet situations. The lug design is impressive and seems to hold its own quite well in just about any other type of terrain.
The Lowa Renegade II GTX Lo is, without a doubt, the most durable hiking shoe in this guide. The extra cost actually reflects in the craftsmanship here, and we have no doubt that you can be hiking in these things for years to come. Testers had zero significant wear and tear to report, even after extensive field testing, which is something that isn’t the case for most other hiking shoes in this guide (and in general!).
2.73 pounds of sheer force make up these hiking shoes, and the bulky design is sure to put some off. Others, though, will appreciate the hardiness and extra support, and might even find this to be the killer app they’ve been searching for. With the industry shifting rapidly towards ultralight gear and breathability, there’s a very real gap out there for those looking for heavy equipment that expressly tries to accentuate fortitude over everything else. If that’s what you’re looking for, then you can end your search right here.
5. Merrell Moab Ventilator
Great traction from the vibram sole
Mesh upper/leather is water resistant
Protective toe cap made from durable rubber
Some runners asked about a wider choice of colors
This lightweight shoe has great breathability - spot on for hiking trails.Read more
Designed into the shoe for the prevention of moisture and sweat build up are antimicrobial qualities which work to prevent the existence of shoe odor caused by microbes. The upper for these shoes give excellent breathing ability, nice wickability, and solid comfort through the built-in leather and mesh system. A highly protective rubberized toe protector and well-designed heel counter, extensive design thought has gone into providing comfort and protection.
These shoes also feature an excellent high-performance vibram sole, a creative and well designed built-in molded EVA foot frame with compression qualities, and for even more comfort an air cushion midsole. The cushioned heel has very good shock absorbance and the vibram sole offers grip in even extreme muddy conditions.
The shoe is light on the foot which is a factor which is very appreciated on a long hike. The weight of the shoe is listed as 1.15-ounces but we are unsure if that is for the pair or just one shoe.
The lug layout is all about serious traction and real stability, you retain flexibility as the lugs are not built into the shoe arch and these shoes will hold in very challenging situations.
6. Salomon X Ultra Prime
Upper-Durable synthetic mesh with support overlays
Lace up system gives more fit and stability
Very good grip/traction
Some runners commented on the minimal toe cap
Another very good light shoe from a company which can show many years of experience at providing top-rated shoes, this model is great for hiking.
The construction is solid and protective, the majority of the shoe has a mesh construction and a very secure skeleton lace-up system which lends a lot towards full foot support.
Protection and stability through a very well built shoe featuring a mesh upper system which enables great breath-factor, and a lace-up system which works in conjunction with the build of the shoes to ensure stability. There is also a built-in vamp for the coupling which is reinforced and gives great foot protection from sharp stones and heavy rocks. Stability is provided with great cushioning that comes from the reliable Midsole (EVA), ensuring very good motion control and note the high performance molded EVA insole.
The upgraded shoe chassis tech gives much more stability and added momentum on challenging surfaces. Your foot will be securely cradled through SensiFit lacing which provides a more focused foot-hold and support for shoe stability. The insole is Ortholite with nice breath-ability and for durability, the shoe is constructed from synthetics. You can depend on durable performance from the solid rubber sole, enjoy and trust the performance for traction from the ContaGrip outsole.
A final word on the thoughtful features built into the shoe, the shoe is designed with a low cutout on each side for the ankle bones, this ensures comfort, especially for those with pronounced ankle bones.
Nice weight at 12.7 ounces, this shoe is built for durability, comfort, performance, protection, grip/traction, breath-ability.
The materials of the shoe itself have shown to be very durable and well-received. However, multiple reviewers have had issues with the eyelets and shoelaces.
7. Vasque Juxt Multi-Sport
Suede uppers give a level of water protection
Very good grip/traction
Secure adjustable and supportive lace system
Some hikers ask about a higher water proof level
When you glance at the Vasque you might think it's a climbing shoe and the shoe probably can fill that role. Think about where you want to go and it is likely that this shoe will fit the needs when it is used appropriately.
However, this is a high-performance hiking shoe giving serious traction and top-notch protection, great for those rugged surfaces which hikers will encounter.
We need to note and accept these sturdy comfortable shoes which offer good protection, are not known for waterproofing, the aim and design of the shoes are more focused on other features. For weekend hikes on relatively challenging trails, hiking in the canyon and even climbing, these shoes can and do perform but keep out of deep puddles. They give really good traction for surfaces which throw up challenges and when you need that grip factor, it's there for you.
These shoes weigh slightly over 2-pounds. This isn’t too heavy but also isn’t the lightest option on our list.
Suede leather built into the shoe gives strength and stability and a degree of water protection. They also feature a really durable synthetic sole which offers great performance in most conditions which the hiker will meet.
8. KEEN Newport H2
Stitching could be stronger
These hiking shoes are one to check out! You have probably seen them on your travels as they are quite popular and provide excellent comfort. If you are looking to get away from the bulkiness of hiking boots, then these hiking shoes from Keen are one to take a closer look at.Read more
These hiking shoes are built with comfort and support in mind. They are open based which allow the shoe to be waterproof and also do not confined your feet, but rather let your feet breath while hiking. They also have a thicker rubber sole which provides comfort and cushion from the ground below.
These hiking shoes are lightweight and due to their style feel light while you hike.
The traction provided by these hiking shoes is fantastic as the sole has a multi-directional lug pattern for increased traction. The sole is also quite thick which provides a cushion to the feet. All of these features, along with the material of the shoe gives it good durability.
9. Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX
Not very breathable
Quicklace system takes getting used to
This new addition to the Salomon X Ultra line was just introduced in late 2017, and is already one of our favorite options. With a variety of uses, from day hikes to backpacking trips, this updated version of a great shoe are definitely improved and deserve a closer look.Read more
These shoes are lightweight, flexible, and offer a good amount of padding in the collar and tongue. The sculpted insole gives your feet a nice cushion right out of the box.
These shoes are a little thinner than others on the list, like the Merrell Moab or Keen Targhee, but they should still be comfortable and not lack in support. Some say they feel like a trail runner but have an added support of hiking-specific shoes.
This shoe is built with durability, protection, comfort, water defense, breath-ability, traction/grip and stability for performance in the majority of hiking environments.
These shoes weigh .83 pounds each.
10. Adidas Outdoor Ax 2
Durable rubber sole
Light EVA MidSole
OutSole-High traction Rubber
Lugs-5mm-High Grip Factor
Not overly wide
Adidas has finally made its way onto our list with a very nicely styled shoe with excellent tread for serious surfaces while out hiking. This shoe performs really well in hot weather for breathability and comfort. The structure of the shoe has been designed to give great support along with solid durability and performance. The shoe is light and internally you will find very good arch support.Read more
Economically and in terms of performance, this shoe is a very good choice for hikers looking to hike in warm weather places. You get a good quality integrated sock liner system up to Adidas quality standards, so comfortable that you could do away with wearing socks.
The lining made from comfortable textile really does seem to mold and adjust to comfortably hug your foot, an air mesh system keeps your feet really cool if you hit very wet weather the dry out time for the shoe is quick.
The designed in tread system is positively aggressive where grip/traction is concerned, take on those challenging surfaces with great confidence, muddy wet surfaces are not a problem, your chances of slipping are rather low.
The shoe construction is all synthetic materials and this is where you get the water protection, great breathability, durability, comfort, structural stability in the shoes and very good fit and quite durable.
Much lighter than most but not all other competing brands, they only come in at 10 ounces, this means we can look at it as an ideal light-weight hiking shoe.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
It doesn't take much convincing to make you understand that the comfort of your hiking shoes is one of the most important factors to consider. For this, it is important to look into the materials and fit of the shoe to determine its flexibility, breathability, and overall comfort.
The majority of hiking shoes feature mesh made from nylon. This material offers more breathability but is less weather and water resistant. Depending on the climate that you will be in, this could be great or terrible. If you will be hiking in a colder environment, a shoe such as the Renegade II may be a better choice for you. Its thick construction makes it very durable, but unfortunately, not very breathable. This particular shoe is made from 100% leather.
Next, you will want to investigate the cushioning of the shoe. Some manufacturers refer to this as "shock absorption" but it is exactly the same. Even if every review raves about walking on clouds, this is specific to each person. Before committing to a shoe for a 2-week trek, it is best to break them in around the house and see how the cushioning works for you.
The lacing of the shoes also plays a roll in the overall comfort of the shoe. A few on our list feature traditional thick laces that you can adjust, while others feature more of a bungee system that allows for more flexibility.
While well worth it, hiking shoes can be an investment. For this reason, you want to make sure that they are durable. The durability is derived from the construction, materials, and frequency of use. Hiking shoes with leather uppers tend to last longer but don't necessarily comply with all weather conditions. Shoes with nylon mesh uppers aren't quite as durable but offer breathability and wetness protection. On our list, we mostly included hiking shoes from well-known companies that offer reliable products and some even offer warranties. If you are an avid hiker, having a couple different pairs in your wardrobe will help to keep you comfortable and hiking for many years to come.
Another important factor to look into is the weight of the shoe. Most likely, you will already be loaded up with quite a few pounds on your back and any extra weight is just a hassle. Our list features options from under one pound to over two pounds. Obviously, the leather versions will be heavier but feel sturdier and last longer. On the other hand, if you are looking for a dependable pair of lightweight shoes, the Salomon X UL may be a great option for you.
If you are hiking to a campsite (or around a foreign country) and then to short distances, you may end up attaching your shoes to your backpack. Knowing the weight of your shoes will help you decide what to pack and if the shoes will be a good option for you.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
The best time of the day to try on your hiking shoes is at the end of the day. After you have been vertical for most of the day, your feet are slightly larger than when you first wake up. This will help to give you a true fit. It is also recommended to try the shoes on with the socks that you will be wearing while hiking.
If you opt for a leather pair of hiking shoes, make sure that you buy them in advance so that you have plenty of time to break them in. Leather can be much stiffer than synthetic fabrics and usually take about three weeks of use to loosen up a bit.
Other Factors to Consider
Hiking shoes have been around for quite a while now, and many outdoors lovers never even consider getting a heavy-duty boot. Why is this? Many hikers tend to enjoy a more relaxed pace through well-maintained trails. In this scenario, it’s likely that you won’t need anything other than the essentials to be successful, and it is in these areas that hiking shoes shine. On the flip side, hiking boots would come into play on longer, more treacherous backpacking trips that require a bit more preparation and physical fortitude than a simple day hike. Some ultralight hikers might even still opt for a hiking shoe for a longer journey if they are trying to move quickly and efficiently along the trail.
Dayhiking usually involves a simpler, flatter trail, but there are exceptions to every rule here. A day hike is really any hike that you start and finish in the same day, unlike a multi-day backpacking expedition. In a typical day hiking scenario, you might only need to bring a bottle of water and a light pack filled with basic supplies and a camera. For these days, a hiking shoe will come in handy, allowing you to move quickly through the hike and stay comfortable while doing so. The North Face Ultra 109 GTX, our Top Pick winner above, would be an example of a shoe that’d perform extremely well for a hike such as this, but in all actuality, any of the models we’ve included above would work well here.
While the name might fool you, fast hiking doesn’t necessarily mean you’re jogging through the trails for the entire day; it simply means that you set out to cover a slightly larger distance than you would if you were taking things slowly. In these situations, being light on your feet is extremely essential, for obvious reasons. Here, something like the La Sportiva FC ECO 2.0 might be a grand choice to keep you moving comfortably throughout the day. We find that as hikers gain experience and familiarity with an area, they naturally tend to begin fast hiking, with the hope being to discover rewarding new vistas or trail features along the way. In this case, hiking shoes would be a winner for you as well.
Finally, we’ve arrived at thru-hiking. Thru-hiking involves longer, more extreme multi-day hikes that require determination, endurance, and smart preparation. For many hikers, these are the situations that call for a heavier duty boot, but many still, especially in the “Ultralight” community, prefer to use a quality hiking shoe in order to cover ground effectively while steering clear of weight and bulk-based fatigue. Ultimately, it’s going to come down to what you feel will be the best for you in the end. Hiking is an activity that takes a bit of trial and error before you arrive at your preferential gear setup.
Frequently Asked Questions
This is one of the questions we get asked quite often when it comes to hiking and backpacking: “What’s better for me, boots or shoes?” The answer, as always, depends highly on your intended usage. However, factors like your personal health, strength, and desired level of comfort play a part here as well when trying to determine which route to go. For instance, let’s break it down; maybe you’re looking to do some casual hiking on a smooth and easy trail with some friends. In this case, shoes will likely serve you just fine, as the extra support and protection probably aren’t more important than being light on your feet.
On average, boots weigh a few ounces more than most of the shoes on the list above, so that should always be taken into account when you are making your first purchase. That being said, let’s say that you’re looking for something to see you through an arduous, multi-day hike into the mountains. In this scenario, it would likely be worthwhile to have the extra ankle support and protection that a boot can offer you, versus the shoe. Boots also tend to be easier to keep water out of in streams and rivers, and the increased support reduces the likelihood of a leg based injury. (Something you definitely don’t want to deal with while out on the trail)
Deciding which option is best for you might simply come down to a matter of preference. That being said, let’s take a look at a few scenarios where hiking shoes might be the best pick for you.
As mentioned earlier, there are various hikes and situations that hiking shoes are best suited for. However, it is always a personal choice when choosing what footwear works best for you. With this in mind, and without repeating too much of the aforementioned information, some of the best scenarios to wear hiking shoes in are day hikes, travel, and light backpacking. Not to mention, a good pair of hiking shoes is also worth considering if you are an avid camper. Nothing beats a solid pair of shoes to brave the outdoors in. Even if you aren’t planning on long treks, you will most likely be doing some exploring around the site.
As you may have noticed with the various shoes on our list, there are many different options of shoes to choose from. Some are water resistant and some are not. So how is water resistance created in a good pair of hiking shoes? Water resistance is achieved in two basic ways. One being an inner membrane that doesn’t allow water into the shoes, and the second is a chemical treatment that is resistant to moisture. Gore-Tex is an example of a material that is both waterproof and breathable in active gear. The short form of Gore-Tex is GTX, and it can be found in the name of many hiking shoes.
When looking at investing in a pair of hiking shoes, do not think the more expensive the pair of hiking shoes the more durable or better quality it will be as that just is not the case. The best thing to do when looking for a durable pair of hiking shoes to last you years to come, is to look at the material and also the reviews to see how the shoes have held up for other consumers that have put them to the test. Do not solely be swayed by price as you may end up with an expensive pair of hiking shoes that will not hold up, make an educated purchase and do the research before buying.
Hiking shoes are low cut shoes that usually have flexible mid-soles and are usually great for day hiking as they give your foot and ankle support without having the bulkiness and weight that hiking boots provide. They are great for day trips as they are lightweight but give you great support. If you are going on a day trip in medium terrain, a great pair of hiking shoes is recommended.