Best Hiking Shoes: Stay Comfortable As You Explore
Put a spring in your step on the trail with the best hiking shoes
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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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Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to 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
- 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.