Hiking boot selection is a critical component of any outdoor gear setup. After all, it’s our feet that carry us to stunning natural places, so we should treat them right. Wearing poor-quality boots over uneven terrain can lead to hot spots, blisters, and bruises. Getting the best hiking boots can help protect your feet and keep you hiking for longer.
Thankfully, there’s no shortage of options available today. Notable bootmakers have made leaps and bounds in the last few decades, creating line after line of admirable hiking boots. Get ready to tackle your next hike with one of the pairs from our shortlist below.
My Review Process
I’ve been hiking for nearly three decades and have gone through a lot of hiking boots. For several years I was going through two boots a season. Partly to minimize foot pain and partly to find a boot that could keep up with me, I set about evaluating the best hiking boots available today.
An ideal hiking boot is sturdy, lightweight, breathable, water resistant, and comfortable. It also shouldn't break the bank. The selections reviewed here check most, if not all, of the essential hiking boot criteria. Not all of them are perfect for each outdoor adventure, but between them, you shouldn’t have any problems finding a selection to power you through the next epic hike.
My choice for the best overall hiking boot of 2023 is the Salomon X Ultra 4 Mid GTX. These lightweight hiking boots are supportive and comfortable and offer reliable traction, rain or shine. They are also fairly priced and can handle heavy loads, steep trails, and rugged terrain.
On the downside, the soles are a bit thin. Over time, you’ll end up feeling a lot more uneven terrain under your feet than with other options. Adding custom inserts helps alleviate this issue, but without them, it's noticeable. However, the comfort, traction, and surprisingly comprehensive no-slip lacing system puts these lightweight boots at the top of the heap.
The Salomon X Ultras are a solid choice in most outdoor situations and also come in a women’s version.
The Solomon Quest 4 GTX boots are my pick for the best hiking boots for men. These burly hiking boots offer grippy, aggressive traction on rocky trails, a comfortable fit, and durability across a variety of rough terrains. These are also waterproof boots, so you can handle stream crossings, melting snow, or boggy areas.
These are heavier boots and may be overkill for casual trail hiking. The boots are also not breathable enough for hot and dry environments like deserts. However, for summer mountain objectives and under the heavy load of a backpacking pack, you can rely on the Salomon Quest 4 GTX waterproof boots.
These fantastic boots are my pick for the best hiking boots for women. La Sportiva has been around for a long time, and they know what it takes to make awesome outdoor gear. The Ultra Raptor II Mid Gtxs are lightweight boots that offer superb traction and come with great ankle support when moving across uneven terrain or rocky trails.
La Sportiva boots are generally narrower in profile, which is a problem for wide-footed folks. Additionally, the boot is amazing but much too burly for a casual day hiker. However, the grippy soles, durable design, reliable off-trail, and uneven terrain performance make it a top candidate for outdoor adventurers.
The Scarpa Rush 2 Mid GTX boots are my pick for the best lightweight hiking boots. These breathable and lightweight boots make hiking on rough trails seem easy. They also offer excellent traction for off-trail excursions and come with ample and effective cushioning for a comfortable fit.
Scarpa boots tend to run small, so make sure to size up before buying. These are serious hiking shoes, but they trade ankle support for a lightweight profile. If you need strong ankle support to carry heavy loads, these may not be the best. However, for the light and fast hikers out there, these tried and tested boots are favorites of mine and can handle a variety of rough terrain.
If you’re interested in more lightweight hiking boots options, check out our article on the best lightweight hiking boots.
The Keen Targhee III mid-WPs are the best boots for wide feet. This midweight hiking boot has a wide and accommodating toe box and is comfortable right out of the box. These waterproof boots also feature reliable traction and generally fit true to size.
On the negative side, there isn't much arch support with the Keen Targhee III. So, for wide feet, it’s a welcome addition. However, if you also have flat arches, I recommend getting insoles or you'll risk hot spots and blisters. All in all, with a wider profile, waterproof rating, and reliable traction, the Keen Targhee IIIs are a solid choice for wide-footed hikers.
This hybrid La Sportiva boot is a great cross between a hiking boot and a mountaineering boot. They're incredibly burly with superb traction and come with above-average ankle support. You can also easily pair crampons with the Trango for more committing adventures.
While superior to many boots in what it can handle, the Trango is also quite expensive. If you want a pair for quick strolls on the trails, I would opt for something a little lighter and more breathable. However, for serious adventures and mountaineers, this is an exceptionally well-made pair of hiking boots.
Another solid La Sportiva entry, the Nucleo High GTX, is my pick for the best hiking boots with ankle support. While many low and midweight hiking boots are great for various outdoor activities, the lower height of the boot means less support for your ankles. In contrast, the Nucleo High GTX boots sport ergonomic ankle support, great traction, and good breathability.
La Sportiva's have a thinner profile, and people with wide feet or splayed toes may find them uncomfortable. However, if you have narrower feet, the comfortable, lightweight, and durable design of these boots are welcome highlights. The rugged and durable build makes them great off-trail or backpacking boots.
The Lowa Renegade GTX Mid is my choice for the best beginner hiking boots. They have a classic hiking boot design, are stable and supportive, and provide impressive durability. All of these things make them great introductory boots. These traditional hiking boots are a fantastic benchmark from which to hone your boot preferences.
The biggest knock against Lowas comes from their classic boot profile. While perfect for demanding day hikes over rough terrain, if you’re interested in lightweight backpacking boots, the size, and weight can be a bit cumbersome. However, for beginners, this is a great day hiking machine that can handle it all while offering solid water resistance, ankle support, and durability.
If you’re interested in more options like these, check out our best hiking shoes for beginners article.
Comfort becomes one of the most important foot factors on long trails. You’ll be muscling through day after day, and a heavy, unwieldy hiking boot that increases foot fatigue just isn't going to cut it. Due to its comfort, cushioning, and great traction, I chose the Hoka One One Anacapa Lows as the best hiking boots for long trails.
These hiking boots do have a few downsides, including relatively poor performance on ice. They are also not waterproof. However, if you’re tackling a long trail in late spring or summer, and want a sustainably made, comfortable hiking boot, these are great options.
The Merrell Moab 3 Mid WPs are my choice for best value hiking boots. These delightful lightweight hiking boots are comfortable and supportive and offer grippy traction when dry. They’re easy to slip on and generally fit true to size.
However, if the boots get wet during muddy day hikes, the traction suffers. Additionally, the lace layout doesn’t feel like it gets as tight as other boots. But if you need lightweight boots for day hiking that have quality traction when dry and provide decent ankle support, I’d recommend the Moab 3. I have a pair that I use for rock scrambling and love them.
Used vs. New Hiking Boots
You can find incredible deals on used hiking shoes and traditional hiking boots, but I would exercise extreme caution if you choose to do this. While the deals may be great, be aware of the downsides of buying used boots.
- Used boots may not be in the right size. Incorrectly sized boots can cause bruising, blisters, and general discomfort.
- Used boots may have less tread and traction than a new pair. This will impact your ability to scramble rocks or navigate complex off-trail environments.
- The laces on used boots may break faster since they’ve already been used.
- Used boots could also have a lot of unseen wear and tear.
- Even if the used boots are marked as waterproof boots, you won't know if the waterproof membrane is still working until after you buy them.
It’s much better to get a brand new pair of boots that you know are factory fresh and can handle what you need them to. With used hiking shoes and boots, you just don’t know what they’ve been through and how well (or poorly) they performed. After all, the previous owner found a reason to give them back.
How Do I Break In New Hiking Boots?
The best way to break in hiking shoes and boots is to spend time walking around in them. New hiking boots are stiff and need a bit of time to loosen up and mold to your feet. During the first week after buying them, take some time to walk around in the boots before taking them on outdoor adventures. I’d recommend starting with half an hour a day and working up to about an hour.
How Do I Care For New Hiking Boots?
Proper hiking boot care will increase the life of your footwear. When you’re finished hiking in a pair of boots, make sure to loosen your laces before pulling your foot out. Then, put the laces back into the shoe to stop them from dragging and fraying on the ground.
When stepping into your hiking shoes, undo the laces and pull the tongue back, do not shove your foot in and pull the back up around it. This will cause the back of the shoe to fail much faster, and any heel support the boots had will disappear quickly.
Make sure to store your hiking boots in a well-ventilated, dry place. If they get wet after a hike, use a ski boot heater or the sun to dry them out. Damp hiking boots can start to smell really bad really fast and will give you blisters twice as fast.
Hiking Boots Buying Guide
Careful boot selection will set you up for years of success. Check out the criteria below before settling on a new pair of hiking boots.
A good pair of hiking boots can cost anywhere from $50-500. Budget-conscious hikers can find great deals between $50-150. The average cost for hikers is usually between $200-250. The top end of the scale has boots built with high-quality materials whose exceptional durability gives them an edge over the competition. However, they are going to be a lot more expensive.
Salomon, Scarpa, and La Sportiva make top-of-the-line options that can handle just about any type of uneven terrain. Keens, Merrels, and Lowas offer consistent performance and styles that cater to beginner and intermediate hikers. Hoka One is a fairly new entrant into the hiking boots space but has carved out a nice niche in the long trails department.
Other brands that aren't mentioned in the article but still have decent hikers include Oboz, Vasque, Columbia, and Danner.
Breathability & Waterproofing
Good breathability is going to be very important if you want the support of a full hiking boot without swampy feet. Breathable boots usually come at the expense of waterproofing, but that’s not always the case. A good hiking boot can be both breathable and have above-average water resistance.
Truly waterproof boots have a waterproof membrane that keeps moisture out. However, that waterproof membrane also keeps moisture in which can lead to sweaty feet, hot spots, and blisters. Waterproof boots are fantastic for big mountains, wet weather, and slushy snow. However, they won't be ideal for very warm and dry climates where you want your feet to be able to breathe.
Hiking boots generally come in three categories, low, mid, and high-volume cuts. These generally correspond with lightweight boots, midweight boots, and heavyweight boots. There are exceptions to the rule, like the Moab IIIs, which are mid-volume but on the lightweight side.
High cuts and heavyweight hiking boots extend above your ankles and usually have the best ankle and foot support, they also weigh the most. Midweight hiking boots can also have sturdy support but less than high-volume heavyweight boots. If you've had previous ankle injuries, it's worth getting a durable pair of mid to high-volume boots with more ankle stability.
Low-volume hikers are great for ultralight and speedy hikers, but if you have any foot issues like pronation, collapsed arches, or flat feet, you’ll want something with more support. Check out our article on the best hiking boots for plantar fasciitis if you need extra support from your hikers.
Thick rubber soles will help blunt the impact of sharp objects underfoot. Comfort, padding, and durable toe boxes also help reduce the likelihood of stubbing your toes. Each hiking boot in this article has some measure of foot protection. However, the Hoka One Ones and the Salomon X Ultra trade a bit of protection for weight savings and better comfort.
If you plan on spending time off-trail or mountaineering, a durable pair of hikers with extra protection will be key. Hiking boots made from thin material will appeal to trail runners and the lightweight backpacking crowd but won’t have the same foot protection as heavier models. Additionally, a pair of hiking boots with an arched or soft sole will help prevent foot fatigue.
Not all hiking boots come with the same lacing system. Salomon’s, La Sportiva’s, and Scarpas have progressive lacing systems that produce a tighter fit than others. However, they tend to cost more.
Merrel’s, Keens, and Lowa’s have traditional lacing systems. These are easy to figure out and tie but can, depending on how rugged the terrain is, come undone.
For long day hikes or multi-day hikes on marked trails, traction is an important factor but not always mission-critical. Once you start getting into off-trail bushwhacking, rock scrambling, or mountaineering, traction takes center stage.
Most hiking boots have rubber soles with inset grooves and patterns to help create grip. Superb traction allows you to scale rocky terrain or navigate through dense downfall without losing grip. Over time, however, even quality traction will start to wear down.
Hiking Shoes vs. Hiking Boots
Traditional hiking boots are burly with deep traction and a mid to high-volume size. Waterproof boots make use of leather or a waterproof membrane. The higher the ankle collar, the deeper the streams are that you can cross without getting wet.
Hiking shoes and trail runners, by contrast, are usually low-volume, lightweight hiking boots resembling sneakers. This category covers trail running shoes, approach boots, and lightweight footwear. If you're a day hiker who values the light and fast approach, these will appeal to you. However, they are usually not waterproof and have minimal ankle support and foot protection.
The best overall hiking boots for 2023 are the Salomon X Ultra midweight hiking boots. If you plan to hike through rugged terrain and do a bit of mountaineering, I recommend the La Sportiva Trango GTX Boots.
Beginners should gravitate toward the Lowa Renegades for their traditional hiking boot profile and solid performance. And budget-conscious hikers will love the Merrell Moab 3, a solid choice with excellent traction and an attractive price tag.
*The information on this site is based on research and first-hand experience but should not be treated as medical advice. Before beginning any new activity, we recommend consulting with a physician, nutritionist or other relevant professional healthcare provider.