If you ask any hiker what the most important piece of gear they have is, they’ll almost certainly tell you that it’s their boots.
When you’re out on a hike, well-fitting boots can make the difference between a joyous adventure and a painful, blister-filled excursion.
Boots keep your feet dry, protected, and supported every step of the way, but how do you choose the right pair?
Today’s markets are overflowing with different boot designs, each of which professes to change the way you hike. To help you decide what to choose, we’ve compiled this comprehensive buying guide and review of six great hiking boots.
After the reviews below, we discuss the key things to look out for when choosing your boots.
Our top pick: Merrell Moab 3 Mid Gore-Tex Hiking Boot
Pros: Very comfortable, Gore-Tex waterproof liner, leather and mesh upper, Moulded nylon arch shank underfoot, Vibram rubber outsole with 5mm lug depth
Cons: Mesh upper less durable than full leather
The Moab 3 is the latest in Merrell’s very popular line of hiking boots. In fact, the Merrell Moab is the bestselling hiking boot in the world.
The Moab 3 features a GORE-TEX waterproof membrane and a VIBRAM rubber outsole for exceptional traction. It provides out-of-the-box comfort thanks to the lightweight EVA foam midsole which also helps provide stability while you’re out on the trail.
It features a breathable and waterproof pigskin leather and mesh upper, protective toe cap, removable contoured insole, reinforced heel cushioning, and a moulded nylon arch shank.
What’s changed from the previous version? The Moab 3 features a new insole design that provides more support, a more cushioned midsole (EVA foam), a more grippy outsole (VIBRAM), and is now made from partially recycled fabrics.
Best Lightweight Boots: Salomon X Ultra 4 Hiking Boots
Pros: Very light, Gore-Tex waterproof liner, protective toe caps, great motion control and stability
Cons: Textile upper can tear
The Salomon X Ultra 4 hiking boots are the latest addition to the brand’s popular X Ultra range. The latest version features a sleeker upper, a new lacing system, and a larger toe box than previous models. The design is protective, supportive, and lightweight.
Each boot weighs just 370g, and they have a low-cut design that’s better for agility than previous X Ultra models. They’re still lightweight but provide plenty of support and stability through the use of the ADV-C chassis—a unique set of components that work together to ensure stability on all kinds of surfaces.
A rubber toe cap and ContraGrip outsole will keep your feet protected while you’re on the trail.
Great For Rough Terrain: Scarpa Kailash Women’s Hiking Boot
Pros: Durable suede + nylon upper, Differential padding for ‘glove-like’ fit, gore-tex waterproof liner, Vibram outsole
Cons: Heavy, expensive
The Kailash is best suited for long, rugged trails with rough terrain. The boot has a quick and easy break-in period, so you can get out on the trail right away. It also features differentiated padding to create a glove-like fit.
The midsole is flexible and stable, providing hikers with support as they move.
The rubber toe rand protects the boot from rocks on the trail, while a shock-absorbing heel cup helps keep hikers comfortable on the downhill, especially with large packs.
As with most high-quality hiking boots, the Kailash features a GORE-TEX waterproof and breathable lining along with a Vibram outsole for maximum traction and durability.
Minimalist And Rockered: The North Face Women’s VECTIV Exploris
Pros: Comfortable snug fit, lightweight, good for most conditions, responsive feel
Cons: Rockered shape may not be for everyone, no Gore-Tex
The North Face Vectiv Exploris boots are inspired by trail running. The most unique feature is their shape—they’re rockered, meaning they rise up at the front to help with forward propulsion and energy maximisation.
This makes these hiking boots feel more nimble than past models and means they are best suited to fast-and-light hiking
Vectiv’s Exploris boots use The North Face’s own Futurelight membrane, which is waterproof and lightweight but it doesn’t have the track record of Gore-Tex which is known for its breathability.
The Vectiv carbon footplate in this boot provides support, and the Surface Control outsole is grippy even in wet conditions.
Most versatile: Scarpa Moraine Plus Mid GTX
Pros: Low cut and lightweight, Vibram Dynatech 3 rubber outsole, Gusseted tongue, Full-grain nubuck leather, Gore-Tex
Cons: Less protection, Low-top design can allow water in more easily
The Scarpa Moraine is our only true low-cut hiking boot in this review. While not truly a hiking shoe, nor a full-fledged boot, the Moraine is a low-cut boot that is light and sensitive to your movements.
The full-grain nubuck leather construction feels like suede but has the toughness of leather, so it’s quite durable for rocky walks.
The Moraine’s Vibram Dynatech 3 rubber outsole is known for providing great traction and being incredibly durable. The gusseted tongue is a nice addition to this low-cut boot as it helps keep out rocks and dirt as you hike.
A protective toe rand rounds out the Moraine’s impressive list of features and is great for long-term boot durability.
If you’re a hiker who values versatility in their boots, the Moraine might be the hiking boot for you. We’d recommend the Scarpa Moraine for hikers who want a lightweight boot with plenty of ankle support.
Author’s note: In some circles, the Scarpa Moraine might be considered an ‘approach’ shoe, which means it’s also great for rock climbers looking for a light boot to get them to the crag before they switch into a pair of dedicated climbing shoes. However, it’s sort of a shoe/boot cross-over and is a great option for someone who wants the support of a boot but the feel of a shoe while hiking.
Best Value: Keen Targhee III Women’s Hiking Boots
Pros: Premium leather upper, waterproof membrane, stability shank, affordable, good for wider feet
Cons: Not Gore-Tex
Keen hiking boots are great, affordable options for people with wide feet as they come with a naturally wide toe box and last. The Targhee III is yet another fantastic boot in the Keen Targhee lineup, which is known for its comfort and durability.
The Targhee III upper is made a premium leather upper, which combines comfort and durability into one great package. The KEEN.Dry waterproof liner helps keep feet dry in wet conditions while the outerstability shank provides good underfoot stability.
Plus, Keen’s special footbed provides arch support and cradles the contours of the foot. The Targhee III is a great lightweight hiking boot for people with wider feet. If you enjoy day hikes and moderate backpacking trips, the Targhee III might be the boot for you.
Women’s Hiking Boots Buying Guide
Before you choose your next pair of hiking boots, it’s important to know what to look for.
There are many different designs on the market, so it’s best to create a list of the types of features you’d prefer in your boot and the things you certainly don’t want.
This will help narrow down your choices for an easier decision-making process.
Hands down, the number one most important thing to look for in a pair of hiking boots is a great fit.
If you choose a pair of boots based on their features or style over their fit, you could end up with some rather uncomfortable blisters or toe-jamming while you hike.
We can assure you that this problem does not get better after 20km of walking. Trust us on this.
Be sure to try on your boots before you take them on a 50km epic. Try them on with your own hiking socks and your own shoe insoles (if applicable). Walk up and down stairs and find an incline to test them on. Note any excessive heel lift or potential problem spots and decide if the boots are for you.
Men’s vs Women’s Boots
While most people think the main difference between men’s and women’s boots is the shoe size, companies actually design their boots with different ‘lasts’, or shapes.
Men’s hiking boots are often wider along the length of the shoe, but particularly in the heel and midfoot. Meanwhile, women’s boots are often narrower in the heel and wider in the forefoot.
Plus, men tend to have longer toes, and shorter arches, so men’s and women’s boots often have different flex points during a stride.
Although there is no rule that men must buy men’s shoes, nor vice versa, many women find that they better fit a women’s last.
But, if you have larger feet, a wider foot, or you just find men’s shoes more comfortable, it might be best for you to investigate those boot options, too.
Not all boots are created equal and while one boot might be best for a short day hike, others are built to withstand the trials of a 30-day expedition.
Choosing a boot that best meets your intended use will help ensure that you have enough support to carry a heavy rucksack or that you’re not wearing a much-too-heavy boot for a half-day jaunt.
Boot Design and Features
These days, boots come with so many different features and special designs that it can be hard to tell what’s helpful and what’s mildly unnecessary for your needs. Here are a few things to look for in your boots:
High Top v. Mid Top
Some boots rise high above the ankle, while others just barely reach past the top of your foot.
- High top boots are often preferred by backpackers who want the extra ankle support for carrying heavy loads, but people with ankle stability issues often enjoy them, too.
- Mid-top boots are generally lighter and more flexible than their high-top cousins but come with a slight decrease in stability and support.
No one enjoys having water in their boots, so most boots come with a waterproof liner.
Most companies use Gore-Tex or eVent, but some use a proprietary waterproofing system. They’re nearly all equal in their waterproof qualities, but Gore-Tex and eVent tend to breathe better.
Waterproofness is always a trade-off with breathability, so this is important to keep in mind.
Most boots are either a mixture of full-grain or nubuck leather and some assortment of textiles and mesh.
The leathers are durable and abrasion-resistant but don’t breathe nearly as well. Meanwhile, the mesh and textiles are prone to tears, but breathe quite well. Leather also tends to be heavier.
While there’s no substitute for the support offered by a solid pair of hiking boots, many hikers opt for lighter-weight options such as:
At the end of the day, you can only wear one pair of boots at a time, so you’ve got to choose the set that’s best for you. In this review, the Merrell Moab 3 takes our top spot for its incredible durability and impressive support system.
The Merrell Moabs are made with some of the best materials on the market and with impeccable attention to detail, so they’re a great hiking boot for the harshest of trails.
Ultimately, the most important thing is finding a pair of boots that meet your needs. From lightweight hikers to durable backpacking boots, there’s a pair out there for you. Happy trails!