Hiking is one of the most fun and immersive ways to re-establish contact with nature. There is something very valuable in sacrificing internet connection, public transport, and the same old apartment to experience a slightly harsher, more primal environment.
However, if you don’t have the proper equipment, hiking can be a risky exercise, especially since you don’t have access to professional healthcare at a moment’s notice. A good set of hiking footwear can go a long way, so here we will examine what goes into the best hiking boots and compare some top-end products for both men and women. Finally, we’re addressing waterproof feature – one of the crucial elements of a quality boots. We’ll announce the best waterproof boots as well, for both men and women.
Men's Hiking Boots
GORE-TEX waterproof protection
M Select DRY
GORE-TEX with Extended Comfort Technology
The Lightweight Strongman
Waterproof Gore-Tex lining reduces hot spots
The King of Comfort
B-Dry waterproof membrane
The Reliable Friend
Breathable leather lining
The Low Maintenance Choice
Lightweight and durable
Women's Hiking Boots
GORE-TEX Performance Comfort membrane
Comfort, Comfort, Comfort
Waterproof and breathable Gore-Tex membrane
High-quality leather boots, ideal for winter
Breathable waterproof membrane
Waterproof, Ultradry waterproofing system
Comfort at Your Disposal
B-DRY waterproof membrane
Modern Waterproof Boots
**Below, you'll see more detailed reviews, but you can also click the links above to see current prices and read customer's reviews on Amazon.
Best Hiking Boots for Wide Feet
Choosing hiking boots is all about personal preference. But if you have wide feet, then your options are limited. You have to find boots that fit, while still giving you enough comfort, protection, and traction. These three things should never be compromised.
As an important reminder, always pay attention to the size of the boots. Do not ever buy hiking footwear that is too loose or too small for you. It becomes painful to use, which will eventually ruin your trekking experience.
For people with wider feet, this could be a problem. Luckily, there are boots specifically made for wide feet.
1. Salomon Men's Quest 4D 2 GTX Hiking Boot – The All-Rounder
A great all-around purchase. This midweight boot offers a ton of water protection thanks to its Gore-Tex insulation and a mixture of leather and textile lining. The patented Salomon 4D chassis brings a lot of stability to the mix without sacrificing too much comfort. The laces are surprisingly durable and stay tied during the toughest climbs and pushes.
The dual-density EVA midsole is stiffer than a lot of midweight competitors, so your feet are supported in the harshest conditions. The rubber blend outsole provides amazing traction, which can be a literal lifesaver in a pinch if you’re climbing a terrifying rock face. The Salomon 4D boot is tall enough to protect your ankle.
The upper is made out of suede leather and nylon, ensuring a good bit of ventilation while retaining the durability leather is known for. However, due to its stiffness, it’s a bit hard to break in, especially for people with wide feet. If the boot fits, however, it is one of the most comfortable choices on the market. A pair weighs in at just under 3 pounds, but it feels much lighter than that, almost like it’s a lightweight pair of boots.
A potential downside here is that the sole is pretty thin overall, and you will feel every inch of the trail on your foot as you walk. It’s not a huge problem, but it does mean the boot has a different feel to many other competitors. These boots also get a bit hot during the summer, as the waterproof lining tends to keep a lot of that heat in.
- Feels very light, especially for a midweight boot. You don’t have to spend a lot of energy to move around.
- The combination of nylon woven mesh and suede leather resists abrasion extremely well.
- Water resistant, as you’d expect from the Gore-Tex lining.
- Excellent ankle support thanks to the boot’s height, which reduces the risk of injury and keeps you going for much longer.
- The thin outsole can make the shoes uncomfortable for some.
- The boots aren’t that easy to break in.
- Some hikers claim this model is too aggressive for their needs.
2. Merrell Men's Moab Mid Waterproof Hiking Boot - Budget-Friendly
One unique attribute of this hiking boot is that it has dual layers for its uppers—textile and leather. Coupled with its waterproofing feature, this shoes is perfect for the cold and wet environment.
The soles are made of EVA. Thus, you can expect that this boot is comfortable and is flexible. Instead of actual lugs, the shoe sports lug patterns. The removal of lugs increases the flexibility of the shoe and maximizes comfort.
The uppers feature breathable mesh that allows moisture from the feet to escape while preventing water from entering the shoes. Nonetheless, moisture does not escape efficiently. In addition, it locks in heat, so your feet feel warm. We don’t recommend this boot for hiking in summer or hot areas.
3. Vasque Men's Breeze 2.0 Gore-Tex Waterproof Hiking Boot – The Lightweight Strongman
The first real lightweight boot to feature on this list, this model offers qualities that might seem like they belong on a much heavier pair. It has a relatively thick and stiff sole but also gives enough cushioning to keep you comfy on the trail. Much like the Salomon 4D, it’s tall enough to offer good ankle support and protects your toes from problems like stubbing.
Ever had an in-grown toenail? It’s the worst, and there is no risk of that happening with this pair. Gore-Tex comes through once again, bringing solid water resistance to keep your feet nice and safe from wrinkling as you blaze across the wilds.
The combination of Nubuck leather and nylon mesh ensures you have some space for ventilation and the boot is flexible enough to bend itself into the shape of your foot, meaning you don’t have to spend too much time breaking these boots in. The Vibram rubber outsole provides adequate traction in almost any environment (snowy areas are a bit iffy), and the boot as a whole resists abrasion quite nicely.
Now since it’s still a lightweight boot, there are downsides. While it resists water, it’s not fully waterproof, so try not to swim in these boots. The model is also heavy compared to other lightweight designs, so it takes a bit more horsepower to use. It shouldn’t matter on short trips, but you will feel slightly more tired wearing these over a long period than you would with other light models. The price is also as steep as the hills you’ll be climbing, so make sure these are your ideal pick before committing.
- Very comfortable thanks to the EVA midsole cushioning and a flexible upper that follows the shape of your foot.
- The model boasts solid ankle support that reduces a lot of stress you’d normally suffer from hiking.
- Nice and breathable, so you don’t feel like your feet are in an oven.
- These boots are very easy to break in and take almost zero adjustments on your part.
- Heavy compared to other lightweight choices.
- Relatively pricey.
- Not fully waterproof, so don’t go too crazy in the swamp or anything like that.
- Traction is a bit worse on ice.
4. Lowa Men's Renegade GTX Mid Hiking Boot – The King of Comfort
Another midweight choice, these boots have a special feature that helps them stand out above the rest – a climate-controlled footbed. While there is a lot of boring science behind this, the bottom line is that these boots keep your feet dry better than almost any other model, and actually adapt a part of that moisture resistance to the weather.
That sounds like some sci-fi stuff, doesn’t it? Avoiding blisters is a very important task while hiking and this feature combined with solid breathability make sure your foot is no worse for wear when you’re finished adventuring.
The Vibram outsole brings good grip into the mix, and with a Nubuck leather upper construction, you can take these babies out nearly anywhere, and the only hitch can occur if you get lost and need a ride back home. The lacing system, although bulky for some people, actually holds up rather well over time, and there is a lot of customization possible for adjusting the fit. Speaking of how it fits, the break-in period is at an all-time low, so you can use them quickly after your purchase, making them a good short-notice pick as well.
There are problems, however. Minor ones, but problems nonetheless. While this boot is extremely comfortable, it’s not as durable as we’d like. The pair wears out just a smidgeon faster than some other competitors here, which is only a problem if you go on hikes constantly and need to replace the boots now and then. The replacement is an issue because these boots cost a good bit, so they’re not a mindless purchase in any way.
- Very comfortable
- The climate-controlled footbed offers a lot of relief from unpleasant moisture inside the boot. It also helps regulate the sweat a bit too.
- More than adequate traction
- The price is nothing to sneeze at. Think real hard about what you want out of your hiking boots before buying these
- Not as durable as some other models, though it still lasts a long time
- Not 100% waterproof. Don’t go diving in any lakes now
5. KEEN Men's Targhee II Mid WP Hiking Boot – The Low Maintenance Choice
Another midweight-ish choice, this boot offers a lot of comfort and traction to its user, ensuring that even the most slippery surfaces will be in your grasp as you hike. It’s one of very few models that offer solid waterproofing without losing all of the breathability in the process. It comes with really convenient protection for the toes, so you never have to worry about stubbing or any other such incident.
The traction really cannot be overstated. If Spiderman were ever revealed to use hiking boots, these would probably be the pair for him. The upper section sports a combination of Nubuck leather and nylon mesh, a tried and true compromise that achieves reasonable durability without going too heavy.
The Targhee II is also very comfortable out of the box. You don’t have to spend a ton of time getting used to this footwear, or put in tedious effort to break them in. Also, cleaning them is extremely easy, and is doable with soap water or other similar low-budget options. A big selling point is also the asking price. It’s one of the cheapest boots on the market that offers this kind of quality. With all these positives, it’s no wonder that KEEN has a devoted following.
The downside here is that this model isn’t as durable as one would hope. While it can still keep you covered for a long time, be prepared to see minor problems pop up especially if you go on really demanding hikes.
- Completely waterproof while still offering some breathability. Your feet won’t get boiled alive in these boots.
- EVA midsole offers comfortable cushioning, making the Targhee II one of the comfiest designs on this list.
- Cleaning these boots is a breeze and doesn’t require expensive specialized products.
- The boots are very affordable, so you don’t have to break your budget or your back to be able to enjoy nature’s splendor.
- Not as stable or durable as more conventional midweight models.
- While there is some breathability, it doesn’t compare to proper lightweight footwear.
6. Oboz Men's Bridger BDRY Hiking Boot – The Reliable Friend
Remember when there wasn’t a huge science to everything we wear? This manufacturer seems to remember, as these boots are easier to secure than most others, so you don’t need to pretend to be a sailor to get things done. A lot of effort went into ease of use, and as a result, this pair also very easy to break in and performs well across all kinds of terrain.
The waterproofing isn’t Gore-Tex, surprisingly, but you probably won’t be able to tell the difference given how well it works. The upper is mostly Nubuck-leather and needs only some spray and elbow grease once in a while to keep the boots in tip-top shape.
When maintained properly, the Bridger BDRY boots are super-durable for their weight category, so they should last long enough for you to have interesting stories about nature to tell to your friends and family members.
The main downside is the price. While the boots are easy to wear and keep in good shape, the purchase is not easy to make. However, this model is so versatile that buying it lets you hike anywhere with little to no problems, so once you’ve committed, you have an excellent pair of boots to rely on.
The only other issue we found was slightly reduced breathability, but this is normal when you consider the waterproofing part of the design. Some people have complained about bulk, but as we’ve explained, bulk is not necessarily a bad thing, as long as the materials are put to good use. And in this case, they are.
- Easy to use (especially when it comes to the laces) and maintain
- Durable and made to last in any environment aside from volcanoes and pits of acid (try not to fight supervillains in these boots)
- Fully waterproof
- Expensive enough to be a scary choice
- Lacks the breathability of some of its counterparts
7. Hi-Tec Men's Altitude V I Waterproof Hiking Boot– Lightweight & Durable
The Hi-Tec Men's Altitude IV Waterproof Hiking Boot may not be a popular choice, but it's more than adequate for almost anyone who wishes to go hiking.
With a great price value, you would be surprised at how many useful features it sports. It high-quality nubuck leather keeps the entire shoe protected against abrasion and water. Also, it is a very lightweight boot, so it doesn't add much pressure from carrying heavy gear while you are trekking.
The boot's amazing level of comfort comes from thick cushioning and padding on its midsole, making it an excellent wear. It also doesn't itch like some other boot models tend to.
Perhaps the greatest edge of the Altitude IV is its stability. The midsole is relatively stiff, and the thickness of the outsole improves traction. It also provides a lot of support to the ankle although the collar has a lower cut.
Furthermore, various rubbers are used in the upper construction so that this footwear can enhance lateral support to your feet. Luckily, the boot is still flexible on top of all this.
8. Salomon Women's X Ultra Mid 2 GTX Hiking Shoe – Comfort, Comfort, Comfort!
Coming from a reputable brand, the X Ultra Mid line of products enjoys high praise in the hiking circles. The Ultra Mid 2 GTX Hiking Shoe is a staple of comfort, especially out of the box. When we talk about these shoes, the impression of comfort is the biggest factor in forming the opinion about them. We can tell that Solomon’s engineers have worked hard to please women hikers around the globe.
The design of these shoes is modern and next to the five robust stripes that come in several colors (gray, blue, pink, and red), the breathable Gore-Tex material and four big metal buckets for laces catch a discerning customer’s eye.
This material enables superb comfort and protection from elements while retaining breathability. This does seem fabulous, but we can’t help but notice a bulky tongue, which might add to the sweating and potential discomfort on the long hikes.
The sole of all Solomon boots is made from multiple layers, each made of its own technology and processes, patented with manufacturers. Ultra Mid 2 GTX features an EVA midsole, TPU chassis in the middle, and a hard rubber outsole for a precise, robust, and very stable build. Furthermore, the manufacturer’s Contragrip technology is used on a compound density and lug geometry to improve the grip of these shoes and ensure fantastic traction regardless of the surface.
On the inner side of the sole, the most important part for women’s boots, the OrthoLite feature has been developed to ensure superb comfort. Salomon uses recycled rubber and polyurethane to manufacture these insoles and keeps the formula a secret. There’s also a SensFit system, responsible for a secure and precise fitting of the shoe.
Is there something wrong with this shoe, you might ask. Well, since there’s no perfect hiking boot, X Ultra Mid 2 GTX comes with some flaws. First of all, the shoe is narrow, so if you have a wider foot, you might have problems fitting in. Loosening the laces helps, but that brings instability and the loose shoe is not good for hiking. Overall, for this price, Solomon offers a remarkable deal with this model.
- Superb comfort
- Great grip
- Completely waterproof while retaining breathability
- Bulky tongue
- Not the best if you have a wider foot
9. Lowa Women's Renegade GTX Mid Hiking Boot – High-quality Leather Boots, ideal for Winter
Lowa Boots is a renowned name on the market, and their products distinct themselves by design, ruggedness, and a plethora of features. The GTX Mid hiking boot for women is a very popular model; the manufacturer included 16 different color combinations to match any girl hiker’s style. The availability of the color combinations definitely stands out. Women love colors, so this definitely scores some points for the Lowa Boots model.
The first impression these boots make can be summarized in three words: bulky, stable, and rugged. The materials used and the quality of the build eliminate any possibility of slippage or loose ends. Leather-made boots are a bit stiffer out of the box, but when the time for setting in passes, they become super-comfortable.
On the other hand, nubuck leather used in the making provides a tight hold on foot, enabling superb stability on the rough and unstable terrain. Scoring from zero to ten, these boots would earn at least nine. Then again, the tip of the shoe is narrow and brings issues to girls with wider feet. The leather can cause problems for women with high arches as well, because it does make marks on your feet when bending while walking. On the positive side, the stabilizing shanks, the lacing system, and the GORE-TEX lining provide unparalleled protection from elements, especially in the winter.
The sole of these boots is fantastic; Vibram outsole with thick rubber lugs will make the hiker stable and secure on (almost) all surfaces. The multi-layered insole is made from both polyurethane, plastic, and rubber. We can’t complain about the comfort much, but we’ve done our homework – getting the right size and fit will require effort and might make you change your mind. Have that in mind when considering these boots.
For the price they’re sold at, these boots bring excellent protection and very high stability, but might be tough while breaking in and setting up. Don’t expect superb comfort right out of the box. If you’re a beginner, these boots aren’t a good option. If you have many miles behind you, you can consider these for winter adventures without problems.
- Very high stability, ruggedness, and durability
- Superb protection from the elements, especially water
- Sizing issues – be extra careful when picking
- People with wide feet issues
- Require substantial break in time, expect some discomfort
10. Vasque Women’s Monolith Hiking Boot – Comfort at Your Disposal
Being the choice of many hiking enthusiasts, we had to get our hands on these boots from Vasque. We selected a few important notes that you should consider if this pair caught your eye.
With their overall quality, these boots offer a great value for the asking price. Being so affordable, they make a great choice in their category due to the durability and comfort. Our first hike took more than a couple of hours, and we took the risk on ourselves to try and complete the entire route without breaking them first.
Most of the boots require many hikes to break in, but these were just fine and comfortable from the start. We did notice that some of us who have little wider feet didn’t have that much room, even though we ordered a wider model.
With their shorter ankle shaft than some other hiking boots, you might think they don’t provide much in support. Their lack in height they make up for in padding. We usually prefer higher boots, but these provided enough support, and there’s much more flexibility and ankle movement possible.
Having such a simple design, they were pretty effective at keeping us on the ground. We tested them on dry dirt and wet surfaces, and they proved to have enough traction. What they lack, however, is a little bit of grip. The rubber is not as sticky as it could be, and the tread pattern is not that aggressive.
After numerous boasts about superior waterproofing technology, these boots had to be put to the test and get wet as soon as possible. So we did just that. All of our feet remained dry at all times during the hike. The leather on top kept the water out, and yet it allowed our feet to breathe unhindered.
Women’s Monolith boots are lightweight, comfortable and usable in any terrain you choose. They don’t feel heavy on the feet after a long hike, they felt good while we went up and down the hill with our backpacks on our back, they handled the weight pretty well.
- Comfortable and easy to break in
- They allow the feet to breathe
- Excellent value for the price
- They could be too tight for some people
- Not so great traction
11. KEEN Women's Targhee II Mid WP Hiking Boot – Budget-Friendly Option
Keen is a known brand for its all-around hiking boots; this model is a good candidate for the best value boots out there. When we received the package, we were surprised by its light weight; these boots are one of the lightest we got to try. They didn’t feel heavy even after a long day of hiking, and the support they provide on the ground is top notch.
The soles of the boots are stiff, and the rubber on top is an excellent protection for toes. The protection in the toe box and the heel is something that they should be praised for, they do, however, lack in support of the ankle. While we’re sure you won’t be disappointed with the bottom protection, we think the ankle part could use some improving.
If you are a lightweight day hiker, Targhee II will be a good choice for you. The heel lock provides secure support, and it prevents your feet from moving around inside the shoe. These boots are wide in the toe area, so that gives an extra feeling of comfort and eases the break-in period.
The traction of these boots has been great on the uneven and slippery terrain. The design and sturdiness of the rubber give them the ability to hold traction wherever you tread. The depth of the lugs allowed us to walk through any muddy terrain we came across.
While we put to the test their water resistance potential, at first, we tried them out in a narrow stream, and they successfully passed the test. But, we didn’t stop there, even in a few inches of water our feet remained dry. However, due to their ankle height, they won’t protect your feet from soaking in deep water or heavy rain.
As for durability, our worries were directed at the mesh portions of the boots. While they allow your feet to breathe, they can wear out more quickly. The rest of the boots are made of rubber and leather, so there are no worries about those parts.
Overall these boots are a great choice for first-time hikers, they are not expensive and are easy to break in. For the ladies with wider feet, Targhee II is a good option due to their roomy toe box. The toe cap is designed to protect you from injuries, so if you plan on hiking through rocky terrain, you will be all set.
- Quite lightweight
- Wide toe box
- Rubber toe protection
- Good traction
- Great value for money
- Ankle support could be better
- Not the best choice for hiking in the rain
12. Oboz Women's Bridger B-DRY Hiking Boot – Modern Waterproof Boots
Oboz Footwear is a brand on the rise, gaining more and more customers and followers because of their dedication and futuristic design of their products, besides the quality. We particularly like their tree planting program (for every purchase they plant a tree). Their woman program features a single, yet high-quality shoe, designed to conquer all terrains and provide the biggest level of comfort and stability while keeping your feet dry and safe.
The shoe is made from leather and rubber, and the design is definitely the first feature you’ll notice; the shape dominated by the futuristic sole, and the tip is slightly rounded, providing the optimal shape for hiking.
With this shape, your feet won’t get tired quickly. The combination of Nubuck leather and high-quality rubber ensures durability and superb protection from elements.
Putting them to the test, these materials performed like expected – no leaks or water breaking happened, which is amazing. Still, breaking in is required, and make no mistake - you will feel it. These boots come quite stiff out of the box but are extremely comfortable when the breaking period passes.
A good feature on the upper section of the shoe is that despite being made from leather, they provide breathability to some extent. It’s simple – you can’t expect breathability from leather and rubber.
Next, the sole of these boots is amazing – the tooth-like lugs are great both visually and performance-wise. You simply can’t expect to slip anywhere while wearing these. Furthermore, the shoes are enhanced with TPU chassis, and the insole features EVA foam, something you have to experience to understand this dimension of comfort. This thing is so good that it equalizes the upper part’s rigidness during the break in time.
Speaking of overall value, these boots bring superb waterproofing, incredible durability, but are stiff and might give you issues especially with sizing and breaking in.
- Highly waterproof – there’s almost no chance your foot will get wet in these
- Very high durability of both upper part and the sole (except the big teeth-like lugs, which is expected)
- Modern-looking, optimized for less strain on your feet
- Sizing issues – take extra care when choosing the size
- Breaking in discomfort is expected, especially in the ankle area and around the toes
Best Hiking Boots for Men
Whether you want to conquer a mountain or brave the nearest swamp, these boots are the optimal choice. We’ve listed products that cover anything you would need hiking boots for, so pick according to your preference and your needs. These boots are tailored for men, but we will be covering women’s boots later on in the article.
Can we resist putting the famous Highlander quote here? Probably, but you just thought of it anyway. For men, the winner is the Salomon Men's Quest 4D 2 GTX Hiking Boot, for one simple reason: It just works. You don’t need to worry about where you’re going, as long as it isn’t across road spikes. They are like the Bridger model, but with improved breathability at the small cost of more maintenance. If you can handle that duty (and honestly, it sounds like a bigger chore than it is), these will serve you well, and serve you for a long time.
Best Hiking Boots for Women
When we talk about hiking boots, women shouldn’t be set aside. Since the average woman’s foot is smaller and more fragile on average than a man’s foot, the factor of comfort and protection is even more important. Above are some of the most popular women’s hiking boots available and how they cope with our tests.
Finding the best hiking boots for a woman takes a bit more effort and comparison than with men’s boots. Still, on today’s market, there’s an abundance of products advertised to provide the best possible set of features. From the woman hiker standpoint, the Salomon Women's X Ultra Mid 2 GTX Hiking Shoe takes the gold medal. These shoes bridge the gap between hiking’s tiring experience with superb comfort and breathability. Followed by great waterproof features and a robust, stable sole, these shoes bring everything a woman hiker wants.
Best Waterproof Hiking Boots
Let’s say you specifically want to cross rivers and travel through swamps and other watery places. Why would you need a super durable pair of mountain-climbing hiker boots if you’re not going to use them for that? For swamps and similar locations, the first thing you need to look at is how waterproof your boots are.
For this reason, we’ve made a separate verdict, with the intention of separating the best hiking boots for both men and women, that also specializes in keeping out the moisture. If your boots are going to be exposed to a lot of water, prioritize these picks over anything else.
For men, the clear winners are Salomon Men's Quest 4D 2 GTX Hiking Boot and Oboz Men's Bridger BDRY Hiking Boot. The Salomon is the overall winner as well, so you can pick it without worrying. Both pairs can also perform well in other environments, so if you ever want a change of pace (and place), you can still rely on them.
Speaking from the women’s perspective, the waterproof feature is as important as all others, if not even more important. Waterproof boots will ensure quality time while hiking; with waterproof boots, you’ll be able to experience some fantastic moments in nature (like walking near the waterfall) or avoid any potentially risky situations where you may end wet and ruin your hike.
Based on the waterproof feature only, the Oboz Women's Bridger B-DRY Hiking Boot definitely wins first place. They are designed to repel the water, and they perform fantastically on wet sections of the road.
Standing in the ankle-deep water in these babies won’t be an issue at all. Besides that, the overall value they bring isn’t on par with the winner of the roundup, since they might require quite a time for breaking in. Otherwise, if you’re aiming to be absolutely safe from water, these are your best bet.
Best Hiking Boots 2019 - Buyer’s Guide
While personal preference and comfort are powerful factors, not everything about footwear is subjective. One of the best decisions you can make as a consumer is reading up on specs and potential pitfalls early enough to make an educated decision. One size doesn’t fit all in this case, both literally and figuratively. To help you out, we’ve collected all the information you will need to make a smart choice, so read on and let’s explore what goes into quality hiking footwear.
Very few things are as frustrating as having your feet get soaked in a surprise rainstorm, especially when you’re far from home, in a rough environment, and alone. A huge majority of hiking boots come with waterproof features for this reason. Most commonly (especially with Gore-Tex models – a name you will surely notice many times if you go exploring for hiking boots), you will encounter boasts about a special bootie inserted between the outer layer of the boot and the interior. Anything beyond this is a welcome and convenient bonus. Keep an eye out for a special kind of coating some models sport, that helps shed away most of the raindrops that gather on the boot surface. Also, pay attention to the weather forecast!
While complete waterproofing seems like the perfect solution, it’s not quite as simple as that. Have you ever come home from work, tired and with sore feet, only to take off one of your shoes and feel like you boiled your foot alive in a leather oven? Of course, you have, everyone has. Now imagine that instead of work, you went on a grueling trip over a bunch of hills or even a mountain.
If that sounds potentially extremely uncomfortable, that’s because it is. Make sure your pair of hiking boots offers enough air circulation to avoid all that discomfort, or your enthusiasm for the wilds might peter out prematurely. Certain materials like nylon mesh help provide good breathability, so keep an eye out for them.
When people usually discuss shoes (regular shoes, not specialized footwear), stiffness isn’t exactly considered a good quality. It’s associated with discomfort and blisters, but when you need proper protection, it gets the job done more efficiently than flexible boots can guarantee. Stiff means stable in the world of hiking, and stable is what you want, most of the time.
This stability is often achieved by putting a firm piece of plastic (known as a shank) in between the midsole (the part of the shoe that provides shock absorption) and outsole (the part of the shoe that touches the ground). One of the benefits you get from using a stiff boot is reduced stress on your calves, which helps you endure long treks.
Quick tip: Before using them for a demanding hike, take your boots for a spin around the block a couple of times. Use them to do groceries and other similar chores, so your feet can get adjusted to them.
Construction of the Upper
Without a proper context, this title sounds like nonsense, doesn’t it? Let’s quickly explain: Any part of the boot that is above the sole is considered the upper. When you compare shoes’ looks in a store, you’re basically looking at the upper. Depending on how heavy-duty your boot is, you can expect to see different materials used for the upper.
More than most other factors, your choice of material needs to reflect how you intend to use these boots. Don’t just pick the sturdiest, thickest leather you can get your hands on, as it may not fit your needs. Here are some notable materials:
Nylon and Mesh
The usual choice for lighter boots, woven nylon or mesh designs offer significantly increased breathability. The moisture inside the boot also gets absorbed more efficiently, meaning your foot won’t get an unwanted sauna treatment quite as easily as it would with heftier uppers. The obvious downside is that your footwear won’t be as durable or stable, which can break the deal if you’re into heavy luggage and long trips. Some models, however, sport a type of thick, tight weave that is almost comparable to that of Nubuck leathers in terms of durability.
Possibly the complete opposite to woven nylon, full-grain leather is sturdy, durable and completely waterproof. However, it’s also heavy and cumbersome and requires maintenance. The support these heavy-duty uppers provide is unparalleled, but you may not need it for easier treks or light backpacks. There are several things you can do to keep your leather in good shape. Remove the laces before cleaning and apply lukewarm soap water (if your boot is extremely dirty, you’ll need specialized cleaning products). Be warned that without proper polishing, the pores in the leather will absorb a ton of that water. Don’t try to wear them again immediately.
Nubuck and Suede Leather
This type of leather is the middle ground between nylon and full-grain leather. While full-grain leather is still used here, the construction is thinner which makes the boot more flexible and lighter overall. However, it’s still more durable and stable than nylon designs, and you can actually see a lot of Nubuck leather and nylon combinations on mid-range boots. Compared to heavy full-grain boots, Nubuck models show fewer signs of wear N tear, so you don’t have to worry about your boots looking like you deflected Jason Voorhees’ machete with them.
The Midsole Material
A lot of the stiffness and protection in a hiking boot comes from its midsole. Depending on which material is used, you can have a very flexible midsole, or you can pick a boot that protects you from serious impact. Seriously consider the amount of gear you will be carrying, as heavy backpacks put a lot of stress on your feet and therefore require stiffer midsoles. There are two main types of midsole you will run into, and it’s important to know the difference.
Ethyl Vinyl Acetate (EVA)
EVA midsoles are typically used in light or midweight boots. They often provide a lot of cushioning to avoid major discomfort, though you don’t always want too much cushioning. The problem is that overly soft and spongy midsoles degrade much more quickly over time, so you’ll have to invest roughly the same amount of maintenance as you’d use for heavier full-grain boots. The stiffer variants are a touch more expensive, but they offer more support and stability, so they are the superior choice for more taxing hikes.
Polyurethane midsoles are used for more hardcore products. They’re more durable, less prone to compression and provide significantly more stability at the cost of some cushioning and comfort. Chances are, if you run into a really heavyweight pair of hiking boots, the midsole is polyurethane, although its presence has been noted in lighter models as well. The heavier your load is, the more you need one of these midsoles, so if you’re doing some difficult hikes, don’t be afraid to splurge a little and afford the best possible protection. Think of it this way: the money can either go towards protection or towards dealing with issues that pop up on your legs or back.
Two important features that need to be present in the shoes are the shanks and the plates.
This part of the shoe can either cover half or the entire length of the midsole and is responsible for adding stiffness to the midsole. This does not only improve the durability of the shoes, but it also increases the ability of the midsoles to absorb impact.
Hiking exposes your feet to rough and uneven terrains. Often, you will have to trek paths that are filled with rough stones, poking roots or thick twigs. The inclusion of the plates between the midsole and the outsole ensure that your feet are protected from being punctured and bruised by these things when hiking.
Of course, even with all these components, hiking boots should never be bulky. It is still important to have lightweight footwear so that you can have superior performance when trekking.
The Three Types of Hiking Boot
By now, you’ve surely noticed words like “heavyweight” or “lightweight,” and now we will further elaborate. Depending on what kind of trip you’re tackling, you won’t always want the same boots. Some are made for more casual, easier hikes and provide a lot of comfort so you can feel at home in a natural environment. Others are more focused on protection and carrying heavy loads, so you can take your hobby to the next level without worrying about injury or long-term back problems. Let’s get into it:
As the name would suggest, these are often very light and flexible. They can endure a day or so of travel without any issues, though they’re not made for big survivalist adventures. Almost all the models you’ll find are waterproof, though typically not using the best possible (read: Gore-Tex) lining. This makes them cheaper, however, especially when combined with the usage of nylon and mesh over full leather coverage. If you’re not carrying heavy luggage with you, these are more than enough to keep your feet healthy despite the more compact shank but don’t expect them to last as long as heavier models.
Life is all about compromises, and these boots can offer the best of both worlds, being more flexible and breathable than heavyweight boots while providing more support than lighter models. You can carry heavier loads without sacrificing all your comfort, though the heaviest bags are not recommended. Midweight boots are growing in popularity these days, and are in demand with both serious hikers and casual backpackers. You will spot a lot more Nubuck leather designs (or even full-grain leather), and the overall quality of the materials bumps up the price a bit. However, this price increase also includes Gore-Tex water-lining, so you don’t have to worry about bad weather.
These are basically bricks you can put on your feet. They’re very stiff and incredibly durable, able to withstand the harshest conditions humans can hike through. Before the midweight popularity explosion, the most sought after boots were in this category. If you have any ankle or foot problems, heavyweight designs help out the most, as their support is unrivaled.
A downside you may notice is that with all the hardcore protection and Gore-Tex water-lining, these boots are not breathable and the heat will creep up on you over longer trips in the summer months. Also, be sure to wear them around the neighborhood a bunch of times to break them in. Not being used to these boots can lead to big discomfort, but if you can handle it, they’ll be your hiking partner for years.
Assess Your Trip – Additional Advice
Knowing the materials and how your hiking boots are structured is definitely crucial, but without contextual information, you can still easily trick yourself into picking the wrong pair. Beginners can fall into the trap of thinking “I need all the durability that has ever existed in the universe” or “I need to be more flexible than Mr. Fantastic” without knowing what kind of hikes they’ll be tackling. Don’t be that beginner. Use these tips to make a wiser decision.
Type of Terrain
Where will you go? Different environments can put different kinds of strain on your footwear, so planning in advance is necessary to ensure your boots won’t see a sudden drop in performance. Will you be walking down already established roads or climbing rock faces or ice slopes? Do you intend to slog through a swamp or cross a river? You can see how stronger waterproofing is essential for that kind of adventure. Every obstacle can be overcome with proper equipment, but no pair of hiking boots can offer you enough tools to deal with anything and everything. So consider your future trips carefully.
The longer you plan on spending in the great outdoors, the more durable your footwear has to be to keep up with the pressure. Consider full-grain leather with as much stiffness as you can tolerate if you plan on spending over two days in any environment, especially if you’re carrying a heavy bag. The weight of your back contributes a lot to how demanding the trip is for your hiking boots, so be safe and get the heavy-duty stuff if you have a lot of gear you like to haul around. The stiffer midsole construction and extra ankle support will keep you covered. Otherwise, you want to avoid using more energy than you need, and lightweight hiking boots are perfect for this.
Climate and Weather Conditions
As a rule of thumb, the harsher the weather conditions you expect to see, the more support and protection you want from your boots. If the weather is in your favor and the terrain isn’t too horrifying, a simple, lightweight hiking shoe may be all you need to keep comfortable during the hike. On the other hand, if you want to walk through snow or storms, you want to go a bit heavier just in case. Lightweight ventilation is nice and all, but getting your feet soaked isn’t.
Finding the Perfect Fit
Finding a pair of hiking boots that fit your feet is much more difficult than what you’d normally do in your sportswear store. Because of how taxing hiking can be, you can’t afford to have uncomfortable bumps anywhere on the insole or have your toes in an overly cramped space. Measure your feet multiple times, preferably in the presence of a shoemaker or footwear specialist. Be sure to let the seller know if you feel any discomfort on any part of your foot.
Choosing a brand can be difficult at first, but it actually becomes a lot easier when you find one good pair. If you ever have to replace that pair, you can pick something from the same brand as they tend to stick to the same foot model, so you will probably feel comfortable in those boots. Not all brands offer shoe sizes for wide feet. Therefore, brands like Salomon, Merrell, Vasque, Timberland and Columbia are some of your options.
When trying new boots, pick socks that are the perfect thickness for wherever you want to go. That way, you can test the boots in close-to-realistic circumstances, and quickly eliminate otherwise tempting but risky choices. After purchasing, spend time wearing them whenever you go out (and if you aren’t obligated to wear anything else) to break the boots in.
Going on a hike without a proper pair of hiking shoes won’t be the experience you’re hoping for. A right pair of hiking shoes will make your hike much more pleasant and enjoyable. With our buying guide, you won’t make a mistake choosing the right pair for yourself.
Both women and men models are covered, and our winners really earn the right to be called “the best” but moreover, we provided the best waterproof boots for men and women as well. This way any hiking environment or trail won’t be a problem for you. We wish you good luck on your next hike!
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Read this article if you are finding a pair of hiking sandals for the next hiking trips.