LAST UPDATED: October 12, 2019
Best Hiking Shoes: Stay Comfortable As You Explore
Put a spring in your step on the trail with the best hiking shoes
The Review Team
How We Decided
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PUBLISHED ON October 12, 2019
Have you been thinking of going for a hike? Or, maybe you hike regularly and you need a new pair of shoes. Whether you’re a hiking amateur or a pro, one thing for sure is you need the best gear for tackling the trails. We’ve researched many pairs of hiking shoes and have included three of the best in this buying guide.
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All of our reviews are based on market research, expert input, or practical experience with most products we include. This way, we offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
Benefits of Hiking Shoes
- Lightweight. Lightweight hiking shoes reduce the strain on your legs and back over long days of hiking and backpacking trips. This makes them ideal for hiking long distances by reducing fatigue.
- Stability and Support. Trekking in the wilderness has you walking over uneven surfaces such as branches, rocks, and tree roots. Hiking shoes support your feet and help prevent twisted ankles and sore arches.
- Protection. The right boots will protect your feet from sharp objects and water as well as weather conditions such as heat and cold. Coatings on the toes protect your feet from moisture, and venting in the top keeps your feet dry.
Types of Hiking Shoes
These shoes are a cross between sneakers and hiking boots. They’re lighter than hiking boots but have stiff rubber soles and stiff uppers that feature leather and mesh. You’ll see rubber toe caps and solid midsoles. This provides you with increased support that you wouldn’t get from sneakers. You’ll be able to break hiking shoes in easier than boots.
Trail Running Shoes
These are the most lightweight shoes and allow you to be more nimble while traversing the trails. They tend to look more like a sneaker than a hiking boot. They’re low cut just under your ankle, so you do sacrifice some ankle support. But this allows you to bend and flex over more challenging terrain. The bottoms of trail runners still have grip to give you traction.
This type of shoe has a specific focus for those who like to hike and climb over steep, rocky terrain. They aren’t true climbing shoes, so many climbers wear them on their way to their climbing spot, hence the name approach shoe. They are unique, with a large amount of sticky, grippy rubber over the toe and sole. While the tread works well on rocks, it isn’t the best for muddy hiking trails.
Founded by Randy Merrell, Clark Matis, and John Schweizer, this American hiking footwear company began making high-performance hiking boots in 1981. In 1997, it was acquired by Wolverine World Wide, Inc. Today, it boasts sales of clothing and footwear that is in the range of $500 million. Merrell hiking shoes can be found in 151 countries. The Merrell Men’s Moab Edge Hiking Shoe is a perfect example of the company’s commitment to excellence.
Founded in 2003 in Portland, Ore., this American footwear and accessories company creates high-quality gear for those who love the outdoors. Its founders, Martin Keen and Rory Fuerst, wanted to create the best hiking boots on the market by combining comfort, durability, versatility, and design. The company’s no-compromise approach ensures that each pair of boots embodies the latest technology and quality build that won’t let you down. The Keen Men’s Voyager Hiking Shoe will deliver impressive support, protection, and performance.
Columbia Sportwear Company
This is one outdoor sporting goods company that most people are familiar with. Its impressive history began in 1938, and for more than 80 years, outdoor enthusiasts have trusted and depended on its innovative gear. Based in Portland, Ore., its no-nonsense approach to apparel and footwear gives the company a solid hold on the sporting goods industry. The Columbia Men’s Redmond V2 Waterproof Hiking Shoe is the embodiment of no-nonsense, reliable performance.
You may not be familiar with this footwear company. Founded in France in 1947, it eventually became a part of the Adidas label in the late 1990s. Then in 2005, it was bought by the Amer Sports Group from Finland. Today, you can find Salomon hiking shoes in 45 countries. The company focuses on creating multi-season, multi-sport, and multi-product lineups. The Salomon Women’s Pathfinder GTX Hiking Shoes will provide you with the performance you need in a variety of hiking conditions.
Hiking Shoes Pricing
- $50 to $80: Hiking footwear in this range will have basic features and provide you with the required amount of support and stability.
- $80 to $180: As you get higher in this range, you’ll find shoes with advanced materials, features, and technology. They’ll have more adjustability to customize your fit.
You need to balance comfort and functionality when it comes to choosing a material for your hiking shoes. A leather upper is the most durable and abrasion-resistant but also the least breathable. Some people may find leather uncomfortable no matter how much they try to break the shoes in. Another option is synthetic mesh and nylon synthetic uppers. These materials are not as durable but excel at cutting weight and increasing breathability. You’ll find many hiking shoes that use a combination of these materials.
Depending on where and when you hike, you may not need waterproofing. Waterproofing comes in handy if you come across a creek you need to cross, a bit of snowfall during season changes, or a surprise rain shower. Keep mind that waterproofing adds an extra layer of material, which translates to more weight. It’s also smart to read reviews on a shoe’s success rate at keeping water out; some shoes are more successful than others.
Hiking shoes won’t be as durable as hiking boots. The sacrifice in durability is considered acceptable by many because it means an increase in functionality and performance. Hiking shoes can weigh half as much as hiking boots. The weight reduction also means lighter materials, more mesh, and great breathability. There are also different levels of durability with the quality of materials that get used for the shoe.
Unfortunately, you need to decide what’s more important: waterproofing or breathability. Shoes that are more waterproof tend to be less breathable. The materials used to keep the water out also prevent moisture on your feet from being wicked away. Waterproof hiking shoes come in different levels of ventilation. Look for thinner fabric and more mesh for more breathability. Keep in mind that the more mesh your shoes have, the less durable they’ll be.
- Traction. It’s important that the bottom of your hiking shoes have a non-slip surface. One slip in the wrong place, and you could have a fracture or strain that ends your day of hiking. You need shoes that give you grip and help you make that climb.
- Weight. The lighter your shoes are, the further you’ll be able to hike with less strain. You don’t want to feel like you have cement blocks or anchors on your feet. Extra weight will zap your energy faster.
- Lacing System. The last thing you want is your laces to create a hazard on your feet. Your shoes should create a secure fit on your feet while maintaining your laces to keep them tucked up and out of the way.
Best Hiking Shoes Reviews & Recommendations 2020
These classic hiking shoes have the features to elevate your hiking to an expert level. Your feet will have support through the heel, and your toes will be wrapped in a strong layer of protection. The upper rises higher to give your ankles a bit more support. The outsole provides traction with Vibram TC5+ rubber and an aggressive lug pattern. The midsole is made of EVA foam.
The tough rubber of the outsole will provide you with increased traction in the roughest of terrain and the harshest of weather. Your feet will appreciate the layer of Gore-Tex and mesh that improve circulation and keep your feet dry.
There is quite a bit of cushioning in these shoes. It could end up pushing your heel back and pressing your Achilles tendon against the back of the shoe. This could cause you strain or injury. The rubber outsole isn’t the best when it comes to providing traction in muddy terrain. The design of the shoe also prevents you from lacing the shoe tightly onto your foot.
The Dakota Drifters are the perfect women’s shoes for someone who is looking for a multi-purpose shoe. They can transition well from casual walks to rough terrain hiking. This can give you more use out of your hiking shoes. They have waterproofing to keep your feet protected from ice, snow, and rain. The outsole has Omni-Grip technology with a deep lug pattern for providing excellent traction.
These hiking shoes use a wide variety of materials to balance durability, protection, and breathability. They feature leather, rubber, suede, and mesh. Your foot will feel comfortable on long hikes thanks to the Techlite midsole and solid toe box. Both will keep your foot secure and in the proper place.
These aren’t the most cushioned hiking shoes, though. If you’re a serious hiker, you may find that these won’t be able to keep up with you on longer hikes. They also have a lower cut along the top, which leaves your ankles with less support, making them more susceptible to rolls.
These shoes have a design that makes them easy to take on and off. They use leather for a majority of the upper and rubber for the outsole and toe protection. They work well for a variety of hiking conditions. They also keep your feet dry and odor-free with Cleansport NXT technology.
These shoes offer increased comfort with features designed specifically for long-term hiking. This includes a contoured heel lock, padded tongue, and hydrophobic mesh lining. The midsole offers the ultimate in support with dual density compression molding. You’ll also have increased protection from injury with the aggressive molding of the outsole, which provides excellent traction.
Because a large amount of leather is used in the upper, these shoes will take a while to break in. In the meantime, they may initially make your feet hurt or ache. Unfortunately, the latest version of these shoes isn’t as carefully manufactured as previous versions. This makes them more prone to coming apart quicker with regular use.
The Salomon Speedcross shoes are made for running, but they are also ideal for walking, cycling, mountain biking, and hiking. They are made from 100 percent synthetic and have a rubber sole, which means they ensure comfort and durability.
The thing that makes these shoes ideal for hiking is an aggressive grip. They create high traction on soft ground, allowing you to develop more speed and walk and run with confidence. Better yet, these shoes are lightweight and extra-cushioned. They are super soft and comfortable for the feet.
A lot of buyers noticed that the shoes run a little tight, though. If you're buying them for running and hiking, you'll need some extra space. Therefore, you might want to order a size up just in case. Also, this model is quite narrow, so if you have wide feet, it might not be the best option for you.
These are sporty shoes designed for all kinds of outdoor activities, from walking to hiking. They are made to ensure you have more stability and comfort when outside, and are of excellent quality. Furthermore, these classic shoes complement every gear.
The thing that makes these shoes highly popular is a quality sole. Thanks to the TPU plate and EVA midsole, these are low profile and offer excellent stability. The suede upper part of the shoe has a molded rubber toe cap, which makes these shoes ideal for high-abrasion areas. Additionally, a lot of buyers love the easy-to-use lace system. It allows for quick adjustments on the go.
However, keep in mind that these shoes might not be a perfect option for wet conditions. A lot of buyers complained about them being too slippery on rainy days. You also might experience a little discomfort at first, as it takes time to break them in.
If you're looking for a perfect mix of sturdy construction and lightweight design, these shoes might be perfect for you. Merrell offers a high-quality model designed to provide comfort and security when hiking. With them, you'll enjoy outdoor adventures to the fullest.
The Merrell shoes feature 100 percent mesh material that ensures more comfort on extended use, especially during the summer. The material is highly breathable, keeps the feet cool, and ensures ultimate comfort. These shoes also have Vibram soles, which means they can withstand rough conditions. Therefore, you'll be able to go over all kinds of terrains with them. As if that isn't enough, these shoes have a quality and convenient lacing system. You'll be able to put them on and take them off in a breeze.
One thing to keep in mind with these shoes is the fact that the sizing might not be quite accurate. Some buyers complained about the shoes being too large, while others had issues with tight toe boxes. Another minor issue might be breaking in these shoes. They tend to be a little uncomfortable at first, so you'll probably want to try them around the house before hiking.
Adidas is well-known for producing high-quality shoes for all kinds of sports and outdoor activities. This particular model is specially designed for hiking and proves to be quite reliable. Along with a secure grip, you'll also experience ultimate comfort while wearing them.
With these shoes, you can go hiking over all kinds of terrain. Thanks to the durable rubber outsole, these offer a sure-footed grip on all surfaces. Still, they are quite lightweight and feel incredibly comfortable. The synthetic and mesh materials are very breathable, so you'll find these shoes ideal for summer. Additionally, the lace closure is quite convenient and offers hassle-free use.
The main drawback of these shoes is the awkward sizing. Some buyers noticed that the toe box is a little tight and that the heel feels somewhat loose. Another issue is the lack of padding in the arch area. The shoes might become uncomfortable after they get worn out from frequent use.
Columbia shoes are one of those models that are super inexpensive yet perfect for all kinds of outdoor activities. The thing that makes them special is their quality construction and unique design. These shoes are very durable and also quite stylish, so you'll be able to wear them with all kinds of outfits.
The shoes are made of leather, textile, and webbing. They have a rubber sole and prove to be very comfortable on extended use. You can wear them when going over both wet and dry terrains because these shoes offer an excellent grip. Additionally, they are breathable and able to keep your feet cool in hot weather, while also being waterproof and ideal for rainy days. Thanks to the simple lace-up closure, you can also put them on and take them off with ease.
Still, keep in mind that these take time to break in. They are long yet narrow and tight, so you might feel a little discomfort. Also, some buyers complained about the tongue not being thick enough to protect against the laces digging into the feet. This will probably get resolved after some time of wear as well, but still might cause discomfort at first.
Here is another high-quality pair of shoes from Salomon. They are very fashionable, made of quality materials, and prove to be suitable for all types of terrain. Therefore, you'll be able to take them on your hiking adventures and be safe and comfortable all the time.
These shoes are made of 100 percent synthetic and have a rubber sole. They are reinforced for optimal use and durability. With them, you'll feel secure and stable wherever you go. Thanks to the two different types of rubber, the sole is of excellent quality and ensures a firm grip. Furthermore, the heel area is specially designed to dig into the terrain, giving you more stability while walking and running. The inner padding is also there to provide superior comfort. All in all, these are designed to last. They even come with a two-year warranty.
However, these shoes do tend to run a little tight and short. Several buyers complained about the toe box being quite short and even causing bruises on extended use. Also, the lacing system doesn't seem to provide enough room for adjustments and may wear out rather quickly.
Last but not least, these Nortiv 8 shoes are also worthy of your attention. They are perfect not only for hiking, but also backpacking, cycling, and other fun and demanding outdoor activities. Because of the lightweight construction, you'll find yourself wearing them whenever you hit the road.
These shoes are waterproof and feature microfiber and heat-reflective lining. That means you can wear them in both dry and wet conditions and stay comfortable all the time. Another great thing is that these shoes have a durable rubber outsole. They provide a secure grip and will last for quite a while. Additionally, you can pick the perfect pair from four different colors so you can complement your gear and outfit.
One of the things to keep in mind with these shoes is the fact that the laces are of low quality. They tend to tear rather quickly, so you'll probably have to replace them frequently.
- Because leather is highly prone to shrinking, it is wise to purchase shoes that are about a half size bigger. That way, you can be sure they will fit at all times.
- When fitting hiking shoes, make sure you’re wearing hiking socks that fit perfectly. Since you will probably wear hiking socks on your hikes, they can affect the shoes’ comfort.
- If you hike regularly on different terrains, you need shoes with adequate cushioning. These types of shoes offer good traction on difficult terrain and help you to avoid any possible injuries.
Q: How do I clean leather hiking shoes?
A: Leather hiking shoes hide dirt well—this is one of their biggest strengths. However, after a while, you will need to clean them. Use leather cleaner and conditioner for that purpose.
Q: How do I know the size I need for hiking shoes?
A: While wearing your hiking socks, place your foot on the ground. Use a ruler to measure your foot from the back of your heel to the longest toe. Next, measure your foot across the widest part. This will help you determine the shoe size.
Q: Should I get hiking shoes or hiking boots?
A: If you don’t plan on carrying heavy loads when hiking, hiking shoes are a great option. However, if you’ll be carrying a load over 30 pounds, you should get boots as they offer more ankle support.
We recommend the Merrell Moab 2 Vent Hiking Shoe for hikers of all levels. They provide heel support and toe protection, and also protect against harsh weather conditions.
We also love the budget-friendly Columbia Women's Dakota Drifter for their comfort, practicality, and style.