The most important piece of hiking gear you have is your boots. A solid pair of hiking boots can make the difference between an amazing day out in the hills and a slow, painful, slog back to the car.
Investing in a pair of well-fitting boots is the best decision you’ll make in your hiking career, but it’s easy to be overwhelmed by all of your options.
To help you in your search, we’ve analysed the best hiking boots on the market and assessed them against a range of important criteria including fit, materials (including waterproofing) and durability.
Use the reviews and comparisons below to find the best hiking boots for your needs.
If you’re looking for women specific boots check out our article on women’s hiking boots.
Our top pick: Merrell Moab 3 Mid Gore-Tex Hiking Boot
Upper: Suede + Mesh
Pros: Gore-Tex waterproof liner, vibram rubber outsole, 5mm traction lugs, very breathable
Cons: Upper mesh is more prone to rips than leather
The Moab 3 is Merrell’s most recent version of their classic mid-top hiking boot.
This is one of the best selling hiking boots of all time, with more than 25 million pairs sold across previous versions.
Despite being named after the famous desert town of Moab, Utah, USA, these boots can handle whatever wet and dry conditions you throw at them.
Built with a suede leather and mesh upper with a Gore-Tex membrane, the Moab 3s combine breathability and waterproofing for ultimate comfort.
Despite the nylon underfoot arch shank, they’re incredibly flexible, which is great for hikers who can’t stand a stiff boot.
And, the premium Vibram TC5 rubber outsole with a 5mm lug depth gives these boots amazing traction on everything from desert slickrock to muddy trails.
Hikers who value flexibility and comfort in their hiking boots could really enjoy the Merrell Moab 3s. Although they’re a bit on the heavier side for a non-leather boot, their superior breathability can make them feel light and airy on the trail.
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.
Great for Rough Terrain: Scarpa Kailash GTX Hiking Boot
Upper: Suede + Nylon
Pros: Differential padding for ‘glove-like’ fit, gore-tex waterproof liner, Vibram outsole
The Kailash is a more flexible alternative to the Scarpa Terra (found later on our list). While both are Italian-made and constructed from leather, the Kailash uses a modern multi-piece suede leather construction, which can be more comfortable for some hikers.
Best for use on long, rugged trails with rough terrain, the Kailash has a quick and easy break-in period and differentiated padding around the foot to create a glove-like fit.
Flex and stability in the midsole provide support while you move and a rubber toe rand protects the boot from rocks on the trail. The shock absorbing heel cup helps keep hikers comfortable on the downhill, especially with large packs.
Hikers who enjoy strenuous adventures with a heavy backpack, steep uphills and downhills, and the harshest conditions might prefer the Kailash. These boots are a bit heavy, so they might be overkill for a day hike, but could be great for a serious hiker.
Best Lightweight Boots: Salomon X Ultra 4 Gore-Tex Hiking Boots
Pros: Very light, Gore-Tex waterproof liner, protective toe caps, great motion control and stability
Cons: Textile upper can tear
The X Ultra 4 is the latest offering from the Salomon’s popular X Ultra range. These hiking boots feature a couple of key updates including a sleeker upper, a new lacing system and a larger toe box. The design is protective, supportive and lightweight making these perfect for trails.
Weighing only 425g and featuring a low cut design, these hiking boots are designed to be more agile than the previous X Ultra models. Although they are lightweight, these boots still provide plenty of support and feature the ADV-C Chassis for improved stability.
Plus, a protective toe cap keep your toes happy amongst rocks and tree roots on the trail. If that wasn’t enough, the ContraGrip outsole provides great traction even in the muddiest terrain.
The mid-height design is best for hikers who don’t carry a lot of weight, so if you enjoy speeding up the trail on hikes or if you prefer to carry a light rucksack while backpacking, the X Ultra 4s might be the boot for you.
RELATED: Merrell Vs Salomon
Minimalist and Rockered: The North Face Men’s VECTIV Exploris Mid FUTURELIGHT
Pros: Comfortable snug fit, good for most conditions, responsive feel
Cons: Rockered shape may not be for everyone
The North Face Vectiv Exploris boots have a design inspired by trail running. In some ways they are similar to the Moab 2s, but are slightly lighter at 830g. These hiking shoes feel much more nimble than previous similar models.
One of the unique features of the Vectiv Exploris is the shape. They are rockered so curve up at the front to help with forward propulsion and to maximise energy. This shape may feel a bit strange at first, especially when on flat ground, but the real benefits are felt out on the trails.
Although Gore-Tex is the number one choice for waterproofing, and is used in many of the boots we have reviewed, the Vectiv Exploris use The North Face’s own Futurelight membrane. The Futurelight membrane is waterproof and lightweight but some argue not quite as breathable as Gore-Tex.
One of the key features of this boot is the Vectiv carbon footplate, which offers the wearer support. The Surface Control outsole is grippy even in wet conditions.
These innovative boots are a step up from a trail running shoe and are well suited to fast-and-light hiking.
Great Value: Keen Targhee III Waterproof Hiking Boots
Pros: Affordable, comfortable, waterproof
Cons: Wide fit not best for slimmer feet
The Targhee III are the newest version of the Targhee collection and, if you’re familiar with the previous shoes you won’t be disappointed as the III remain an affordable, sturdy boot for moderate hiking.
These boots are comfortable straight out of the box and they have a removable footbed that is high quality and feels good underfoot.
The Targhee III offer a wide fit and the toe box is spacious too, although they are not as wide as the Targhee II.
Compared to many other hiking boots on this list, the Targhee III may not be as supportive so are not the best choice for rugged hikes but they offer enough traction for easier trails. As these boots have mesh rather than a leather upper, they are lightweight, weighing 486g, but are likely not as durable.
The waterproofing technology used on these boots is Keen.Dry which is more affordable than Gore-Tex but still keeps water out efficiently.
Also great: Salomon Quest 4 Gore-Tex
Upper: Nubuck Leather
Pros: Excellent performance in challenging conditions, waterproof membrane, comfortable fit, good ankle support
Cons: More expensive than other options
The Salomon Quest 4 are high performance hiking boots that have taken on the best of the previous Quest models and added some new technology to make them better than ever.
The upgrade has not only resulted in a better all-around boot but has also reduced the weight to 1.31kg.
The Ortholite Sockliner makes sure these hiking boots fit well with minimal pressure points or sore spots. This sockliner also helps them be comfortable straight from the box.
The high cut style is supportive around the ankle and the laces can be wrapped up past the ankle. The Quest 4s also feature Active Support Wings, something not seen on the earlier models. These help to create a better fit. The Contagrip rubber outsole is durable and offers great grip for demanding trails.
On top of all of the other benefits, the Salomon Quest 4 boots use a Gore-Tex membrane that makes them waterproof while still breathable. These are some of the best hiking boots to choose if you are walking in wet conditions.
Most Durable: Scarpa Terra GTX Unisex Hiking Boot
Pros: Gore-Tex waterproof liner, durable, Vibram outsole provides great traction, handmade for quality, great for rough terrain
Cons: Heavy, not as breathable as alternatives
The Scarpa Terra is an absolute beast of a hiking boot. Hand-made in Italy with a traditional oiled full-grain leather construction, the Terra is incredibly durable.
Although it’s made of leather, the Terra is also surprisingly flexible and comfortable, even right out of the box, so there is little need for a break-in period, which is often necessary for full leather boots.
Scarpa’s midsole design here is flexible, which feels great as you transition from step to step on any terrain. Plus, the Terra uses Scarpa’s bi-directional ankle flex technology, which allows for comfortable walking and great support.
The Terra’s amazing Vibram outsole also provides superior traction on the slipperiest of terrain.
This boot could be a great option for backpackers and trekkers who need a boot that can support them and a heavy rucksack on any terrain. If durability, stability, and waterproofing are your ultimate priorities when you’re on trail, the Scarpa Terra might be the hiking boot for you.
Lightweight Option: On Cloudrock Waterproof Mens Boots
Waterproofing: Waterproof + Windproof Membrane
Pros: Lightweight, stable, great traction
Cons: Thick ankle padding can take a few wears to get used to
Swiss running brand On have entered the hiking market with the innovative, lightweight Cloudrock boots. On already has a strong reputation for producing high-quality footwear and these boots make a great choice for hiking. They feature a lot of high tech features to give you a great experience on trails.
The stand-out features include the mission grip sole, Cloudtec midsole and the flex lock lace system. The Speedboard adds stabilisation that helps to keep you steady when hiking over uneven terrain.
These boots have a high collar and thick ankle padding to provide additional support. One of the most impressive things about the Cloudrocks is their weight, at just 445g they are one of the lightest options on our list.
Great for Stability: Lowa Renegade GTX Mid Hiking Boot
Upper: Nubuck Leather
Pros: Stable, good support around the ankle, versatile
Cons: Not as breathable as fabric options
The Renegade GTX is Lowa’s signature hiking boot. This mid boot offers enough support and durability for backpacking trips and day hikes.
Although one of the heaviest hiking boots on our list, the Renegade is a solid boot that remains comfortable. Its a great choice if you need support and stability from your boots. But if you’re looking for a lightweight option, the X Ultra 4 are going to be a better bet.
These boots have a Vibram Evo sole giving plenty of traction ideal for everything from mud to rocky terrain. As these waterproof boots are made from leather they may not the most breathable but they do feature a climate control footbed to help counter this issue.
Highly Durable: Vasque St. Elias FG GTX Mens Hiking Boots
Pros: GTX waterproof lining, improved flexibility, great value
The Vasque St. Elias hiking boots for men have been updated to make them more comfortable straight out of the box, removing the breaking in period.
The midsole and outsole have also been improved to make the boot more flexible. The midsole is an All Terrain Compound that combines Eva foam with PU making it cushioned, flexible and long-lasting.
These boots provide full ankle support and have a moulded rubber toe cap to protect your toes while hiking. The GTX waterproof membrane will keep your feet dry and the height of the boots mean you can walk through deep puddles without water getting in.
One of the things that is immediately clear to see is that the St. Elias boots are built to last. The uppers are made from full-grain leather. This premium material is not only incredibly durable but it looks and feels great.
These boots are reasonably breathable and are abrasion and water resistant. They are heavy duty and are great for tackling challenging trails.
Most Technical: La Sportiva TXS Hiking Boot
Upper: Mesh + Vibram Rubber Rands
Pros: Excellent traction, high level of protection, differential lacing system
Cons: Thin padding isn’t as comfortable as alternatives, better for difficult terrains
The TXS is the latest in the TX series and offers a good blend of technical features and comfort.
Although comfortable, these boots do not offer the same level of padding as many of the other boots listed. The 4mm Ortholite insole is particularly thin and firm compared to, for example, the comfort of the Salomon Quest 4s. Don’t worry though, these boots excel in many areas including grip, protection and support.
We particularly like the lacing system as the hooks at the top let you easily adjust the tension to suit your preference.
As you may expect from La Sportiva, the TXS boots have plenty of technical touches that give a nod towards rock climbing.
This includes the Vibram Megagrip outsole that features an impact brake system and differentiated lug pattern to give you bite and stability on any surface.
In addition to the Vibram Megagrip, another standout feature is the level of protection these boots provide.
They have Vibram rubber rands, a toe guard and the tongue is integrated with the cuff to stop debris from getting in.
Overall, the TXS boots are well suited to tricky terrains that benefit from the technical features but are not as comfortable for longer hikes or backpacking trips.
Great Value: Hoka One One Anacapa Mid GTX Hiking Boot
Upper: Nubuck Leather
Pros: Sustainable, well cushioned, effective lacing system, low cost
Cons: The heel dips make the shoe more awkward to put on
The Hoka One One Anacapa is versatile and offers the same depth and responsiveness of the Hoka running shoes but in a hiking boot. The Anacapa is also sustainably made with recycled textile, 50% soy-based sockliner and Leather Working Group Gold-rated leather.
These boots are well-cushioned with thick ankle padding and a snug fit. They also have a similar lacing design to the TXS boots with three locking hooks at the top.
The shape of these boots is unique as they dip behind the heel making them higher at the front than the back. This can make pulling the boots of a bit more awkward but there is a pull tab to help with this.
These light boots also use a Vibram Megagrip outsole, the same as the TXS, although the lugs aren’t quite as deep on these shoes so they are better for an easy-moderate trail than more technical terrain.
These boots are best suited to fast hiking and they offer excellent value for money with high quality features and sustainable materials.
Hiking Boot Comparison Table
|Merrell Moab 3
|Our Top Pick
|Suede + Mesh
|Great for Rough Terrain
|Suede + Nylon
|Salomon X Ultra 4
|Best Lightweight Boots
|The North Face VECTIV Exploris
|Minimalist and Rockered
|Keen Targhee III
|Salomon Quest 4
|Nubuck Leather + Textile
|Vibram Energy II
|Waterproof + windproof membrane
|Great for Stability
|Vasque St. Elias
|Vibram XS Trek
|La Sportiva TXS
|Mesh + Vibram Rubber Rands
|Hoka One One Anacapa
Hiking Boots Buying Guide
Finding the best hiking boots for you and your intended use makes all the difference to your overall hiking experience.
A good pair of supportive boots are critically important but how do you know if one boot is going to better than another?
Fortunately, there are a few key factors to consider that make choosing new boots much easier.
We’ve listed the most important considerations below:
When buying hiking boots, the number one thing you should look for is a perfect fit. Even the best boot in the world won’t do you any good if it causes gigantic blisters or painful Achilles tendonitis.
We highly recommend trying on boots before you take them on a hike. The best time to try on boots is in the afternoon, as your feet naturally swell throughout the day.
Bring hiking socks and your own orthotics (if applicable) when you try on boots. Although it’s impossible to replicate what it feels like to hike in boots, this will ensure that you try on boots in somewhat similar conditions to what you’d use them in.
Make sure to thoroughly test the boots before hiking. Go up and down stairs and find an inclined surface to walk on. Note any potential problem areas – especially with heel rubbing and jamming toes.
We can assure you that these problems only get worse after 20 km of walking.
Walking boots can be mid-rise or high-rise, the best option depends on how much support you need and the types of hikes you plan to go on:
A mid-rise boot comes up to your ankle offering protection and support. They are well suited to day hikes and time on well-walked trails such as maintained national park paths.
A high-rise boot comes over your ankle and offers more ankle support than mid-rise options. The higher cut is more supportive so is better for rugged terrain but is not as flexible as a mid-rise option. Therefore, you’re essentially trading the flexibility for improved ankle support.
If you’re mostly a day hiker, you can probably get away with a mid-top boot that doesn’t provide too much foot stability. Backpackers, on the other hand, will almost always prefer a bit of a beefier boot that can support their ankles under heavy loads over rough ground.
However, there’s often a trade-off here, when it comes to weight and flexibility – while the best day hiking boots are light and flexible, most backpacking boots are sturdy, yet heavy.
Of course, if you prefer a more flexible boot for backpacking and a sturdier boot for day hikes, then go with what feels best. Some hikers might prefer a mid-range boot that mixes support, flexibility, and a moderate weight to use on any trail.
No one enjoys water in their boots. Plus, walking around with a puddle in your boots is a sure-fire way to develop blisters, mould, and odour.
Most modern boots come with a waterproof liner, either Gore-Tex or a brand’s proprietary waterproofing system. While these liners are all waterproof, Gore-Tex tends to be the most breathable of the bunch.
In addition to a waterproof liner, boots are made of a variety of materials. Full-grain leather is a classic boot material that combines durability with water resistance but is generally heavy and not flexible.
Meanwhile, synthetic materials tend to be lighter, breathable, and quick-drying, but aren’t nearly as durable as a traditional leather boot. Choosing between these materials is one of the key decisions when buying new boots.
Fabric Vs Leather Upper
Fabric walking boots are lightweight, breathable and cost-effective. They tend to be more comfortable straight out of the box as they don’t need as much breaking in as leather boots.
However, fabric walking boots are not as protective or durable and they can be harder to clean and maintain.
Leather walking boots are tougher, more durable and easy to care for. However, they also tend to be more expensive and less breathable than fabric option. Leather can either be split grain, full grain or nubuck leather:
- Split Grain – This is a low cost option that is more like reinforced mesh than leather. The split grain is made up of leftover leather scraps that is usually supplemented with synthetic components.
- Full Grain – This is the traditional material for hiking boots and is a robust option. These boots are great for situations where you need support, protection and stability. Full grain leather is 100% leather so tends to be heavy and is not very breathable.
- Nubuck – Another common material is nubuck leather, this is a scuff resistant option that has a softer texture than full-grain.
As you can see all options have pros and cons so it really comes down to personal preference.
EVA Vs Polyurethane Midsole
The midsole is essentially the cushioning of the boot and it is usually either EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) or Polyurethane.
An EVA midsole is more popular as it is lightweight, cost effective and comfortable.
Polyurethane tends to be firm and longer lasting so hard-wearing boots such as mountaineering and boots designed for multi-day hikes are more likely to have a Polyurethane midsole rather than an EVA midsole.
A light pair of walking boots tend to be best for day hiking and casual trails. These boots weigh 400 – 500g and while they keep the weight down they aren’t as durable mid or heavyweight options.
The lightweight hiking boot tends to have a low-cut collar.
Midweight boots weigh between 500 – 900g and offer a balance between durability and weight.
They are a good choice for hikers who don’t need technical features or the additional protection that heavyweight boots provide.
Midweight boots are the traditional hiking boot and provide stability with strong midsoles and higher ankle collars.
Heavyweight boots weigh 800g+ and the additional weight means more durability great for tricky ground and sharp rocks.
Heavyweight boots are great for long hikes and for hiking with heavier loads as they are supportive and tend to be more water resistant too.
Key Parts of a Hiking Boot
The outsole of a walking boot is usually rubber or thermoplastic rubber with many popular boots using Vibram soles.
Vibram uses a blend of rubber, silicone and carbon to produce a denser sole than other types of rubber.
Vibram soles have earned a strong reputation for providing fantastic grip, which is one of they main reasons they have become such a popular option.
The upper material varies but is usually either made of a fabric mesh or leather/ suede.
A leather upper is durable but less breathable while mesh is more breathable but less protective and more likely to rip.
The insole, also known as the footbed, is the inner part of the shoe that sits underneath your foot. The insole is usually removable.
The layer in between the inner and outer soles is the midsole. This is usually where the shock absorption is so foam is commonly used.
1. Toe & Heel Protection
Additional protection on the toes and heel of the boots not only helps protect your toes or heels but also protects the boots from common wear and tear.
A padded tongue is important for comfort and helps to provide protection from the laces. On a hiking boot the tongue is usually connected to the upper as this helps to prevent debris from getting into the shoe. A thick, connected tongue also provides a layer of protection against the pressure of the laces.
3. Padded Ankle Collar
When you look at the boot you will notice the ankle area of the shoe has a thicker collar. This additional padding provides support for your ankles and helps to make hiking longer distances more comfortable.
The amount of padding and overall firmness of the ankle collar varies depending on the boot so make sure it suits your needs, particularly if you are planning long multi-day hiking trips or time on a more difficult trail.
Walking Boot Care & Maintenance
A good pair of walking boots will last longer with care and maintenance. It doesn’t take much to keep them as good as new.
- Remove mud and debris with a soft brush and then wipe them down to keep boots clean
- Nourish when boot material looks dry
- Allow shoes to dry naturally
- If using paper to help dry the inside, don’t overstuff the shoes
- Re-proof and condition them as needed
- Store them in a dry place
The best hiking boots for you are the ones that best meet your needs, so it’s important to have a good idea of what you want from your boot.