Hiking is the ultimate experience for the mind and body. While you can eke out a successful trek without a top-of-the-line water bottle or t-shirt, your footwear is not a place to compromise, especially if you’re concerned about your ankles.
A single misstep could bring your day to a dramatic end if you’re wearing improper shoes. What started as a playful hop onto a wet rock could land you on crutches for the foreseeable future, quickly leaving your plans for a summer of hiking in ruins.
The best hiking boots with ankle support will keep you trailblazing all year long. Below, you’ll find my personal favorites, as well as a buying guide in case you want to dive a bit deeper into the specs of a solid pair of hiking boots.
My Review Process
I am a lifelong hiker of areas with rugged terrain, harsh temperatures, and slippery surfaces. I love challenging myself to high-speed, steep-incline hikes, and I rely on my footwear to perform exactly as it should so I can achieve these goals.
I’ve slipped into Crocs for a thru-hike after buying boots that didn’t let my feet breathe on a whim. I’ve had friends deliver my 10-year-old boots to me mid-trail because I knew that even in their worn-out state, they gave me the support and traction I needed.
Sealing the deal on a pair of boots is a nerve-wracking investment; you hope they’re going to be the ones for years to come. In my experience, the best hiking boots provide adequate support, stability, breathability, comfort, traction, and splashability. Below are the boots that I feel excel most in these areas.
These boots are my number one choice for hitting the trail with confidence and stability. The Lowa Renegade GTX Mid hiking boots are extremely comfortable, waterproof, and exceptionally supportive. With a tall, moderately stiff cuff and lacing to the top, these rugged hiking boots provide the perfect combo of stability and mobility.
They are slightly heavier than the average lightweight hiking boot due to a full leather upper. But what they lack in weight, they make up for tenfold in durability. With a breathable GORE-TEX lining, feel free to splash through a stream or trudge through wet snow. The soles are built for stability and traction, so they’re armed for rain or shine. Don’t worry, the women’s model is equally as capable.
The most up-to-date version of the tried and true Merrell Moab 3s are certainly the best budget-friendly pair of hiking boots on the market. These boots are comfortable out of the box, breathable, and versatile. Cross streams with nothing but peace of mind with the waterproof model.
Despite the shorter ankle cuff, you'll feel secure and supported as you cross rough terrain. The boot is equipped with a nylon arch shank and additional stabilizing features, ensuring sure-footedness on uneven terrain. The cherry on top is that this model, as well as the women’s version, is their most environmentally-friendly version ever, using recycled materials to construct the boot.
With its durability, stabilizing footbed, and protective rubber toe cap, the Merrell Moab 3 Mid will take you the distance.
You’re going to feel invincible when you lace up a pair of Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX hiking boots. With their high ankle cuff and lacing system, they feel ultra supportive, giving you the freedom to scramble on rocky terrain or brave snowy trails.
Some have mentioned that the lacing system is a bit annoying to deal with, but its asymmetric design secures the boots well. With an emphasis on traction and stability, this option is a bit stiff, offering slightly less comfort than a luxury, plush boot.
If you’re seeking adventure in its peak form, these will keep your feet dry and locked in, encouraging you to take on anything in your path.
If you’re trailblazing with ultimate comfort in mind, Hoka Kaha 2 GTX boots provide top-tier cushioning, as well as excellent ankle support. The high-performance grip design will have you cruising nimbly over rough terrain.
The SwallowTail technology extends the outsole of the shoe beyond the heel. This, combined with a relatively rigid ankle cuff, provides maximum stability, especially for those who experience weak ankles.
The biggest downfall of the Kaha 2 is its breathability. You may find your toes a bit toasty on a warm day, but this highly waterproof hiking boot will keep your foot completely dry. Additionally, some report a short break-in period. This is common with a high-quality hiking boot and totally worth the sacrifice for the comfort you’ll experience soon after.
If walking on pillows sounds like a dream to you, you’ll struggle to find a more cushioning boot for women than the Hoka Kaha 2 GTX.
Built for rugged trails and speedy hiking, the La Sportiva Ultra Raptor II Mid GTX boots are one of the lightest pairs on the market. Even so, they feature a higher ankle collar than most, providing top of the line stability on uneven terrain and rocky surfaces.
They boast impressive traction with a unique lug pattern, and they’re well-suited for stream crossings with a breathable GORE-TEX lining. Despite being made of synthetic materials, these boots are extremely durable.
These do tend to run a bit narrow, which may lead to mild discomfort, especially in the toe box. Fortunately, they offer a wide fit version, and ordering a half-size up from your normal size can help reduce discomfort. These are also offered in women’s sizes.
The Ultra Raptor II boots excel in all types of terrain and are perfect for quickly stacking up the miles behind you.
If you’re hitting a long trail over several days, the Nucleo High II GTX hiking boots might become your best friend — especially if there’s a possibility of encountering wet conditions. The top-tier waterproofing and bellows tongue will keep your feet dry. You can find the women’s version here.
Sacrificing a bit of weight for a durable, supportive leather upper, these boots will have you feelin’ sturdy and confident. They have padded ankle cuffs that provide a perfect balance of stability and mobility. They also provide excellent grip, so you can cross streams with ease. If you’re on the hunt for a new pair of boots for your next backpacking trip, these will rock your world.
If you’ve recently recovered from a sprain or you have bad ankles, you’ll have a hard time finding an option that offers more stability and support than this. The durable upper is composed of both leather and mesh, and the gusseted tongue keeps debris out. The Quest 4 offers padded rigidity in the ankle cuff, which extends to the bottom of the calf. Ladies, grab your pair here.
In addition to ankle support, it also provides maximum under-foot stability — you couldn’t roll your ankle if you tried. These boots are also quite comfortable, durable, and grippy. If you’re itching to get on the trail, but are concerned about injury, lace these up, and put your mind at ease.
If your ankles are comfortable in a true mid-top boot, the X Ultra 4 Mid GTX is a great lightweight option that provides solid traction and premium comfort. With a slightly lower cut, your ankles will have a bit more mobility than in the higher-top boots above. However, they still provide an adequate level of stability with strong foot support.
The molded insole offers comfort straight out of the box, and the GORE-TEX membrane will keep your feet dry, as long as they don’t overflow. The rubber toe cap will protect your piggies from rocks and roots. Fret not, Salomon makes these in women’s sizes as well.
For those looking to hike fast with a bit more flexibility, this is the best boot you’ll find.
Why Not Just Wear Trail Runners?
Ah, the never ending debate. Bottom line: you should wear the shoe that is most comfortable. That said, hiking boots are more durable, and they will provide more stability and ankle protection 100% of the time. Here are three ways they do so.
- Mid to high top hiking boots will limit ankle mobility, reducing the chance of a sprain or other injury
- The soles of hiking boots provide more stability and traction than a trail running shoe, as well as protection from rocks and roots
- If you hike or backpack with a cumbersome pack, a hiking boot will help reduce the instability that the added weight creates
HIkers must contemplate numerous factors when choosing hiking boots, especially those with bad ankles. Should you sacrifice a high ankle cuff for weight? Comfort for cost? Consider these factors before buying to help narrow down your options.
Hiking boots can cost anywhere from $80 to $350. Generally, the higher the price, the more technical the boot is. Bearing this in mind, you can find high-quality, durable boots at a price that won’t break the bank.
You may find that some brands build shoes that run narrow, while others run short. Some tend to be more chic, and others sacrifice all style for function.
If you find a brand that makes a boot that you really like, I recommend sticking to that brand. You’ll find similar patterns in the construction of their shoes, and the sizing will be more consistent.
When seeking hiking boots for ankle support, you’ll want at least a mid top boot. Some of the mid tops I discussed above have higher-than-average ankle cuffs, and these will be best for weak ankles. Low top hiking shoes allow for significant freedom of the ankle, increasing your chance of injury.
If you’ve heard the saying, “One pound on your feet equals five pounds on your back,” then you know that the weight of your hiking boot is a crucial factor. It’s (roughly) true, by the way — a 1984 study by the U.S. Army Research Institute reported that carrying a specific amount of weight on one’s feet requires 4.7–6.4 times as much energy as it does to carry it on the back.
Regardless, if your boots weigh more than three pounds, you should look into getting a lighter pair of hiking boots. You’ll be expending more energy to walk the same distance in heavier boots.
Ultimately, you just want to be comfortable on the trail. It’s important to remember that many hiking boots require a break-in period to become comfortable. During this period, you should be wearing your boots around the house and on short walks or hikes. Increase the lengths of your hikes over time until your boots are broken in.
If you are hiking highly technical trails, you may end up sacrificing some comfort for stiffness and stability. Otherwise, your foot should feel cushioned, and you should have a small amount of wiggle room for your toes.
The material of your boot should be breathable. If your feet get too sweaty while you’re hiking, you’re creating a breeding ground for blisters. Materials like GORE-TEX keep water from coming into your boot and do an excellent job of allowing moisture to exit your boot as well. You should also invest in a good pair of hiking socks.
The rubber outsole of your boots should have an effective lug pattern. Deep, thick lugs and widely-spaced lugs will improve traction. A well-defined heel brake will also aid with grip on steep downward slopes.
The midsole of your boot should provide both cushion and stiffness. Stiffness will help prevent foot fatigue. Both EVA and PU midsoles are effective, although boots using EVA technology tend to be less rigid. Shanks and plates are also found in the midsole. These are inserts that aid in sole stiffness.
Some lacing systems are more complex than others. You’ll want laces that don’t slow you down should you need to re-tie on the trail.
Waterproof boots are awesome because you don’t think twice about forging into the stream ahead. You’re not concerned about developing sopping socks in wet weather.
That said, some waterproof boots lack breathability. Ensure that your boots use a breathable waterproof membrane (like GORE-TEX) to prevent your feet from overheating or becoming too sweaty. Your boots should be comfortable in most weather conditions — cold and rainy or hot and dry.
The Lowa Renegade GTX Mid does it all with unbeatable comfort and stability. The classic, dependable Merrell Moab 3 Mid is also an excellent choice if you’d like to be kinder to your wallet. And if you’re particularly concerned about weak ankles, the Salomon Quest 4 Gore-Tex will keep you on the trail all day long.
Hiking on rough or rocky terrain can be trying for your ankles. In addition to wearing hiking boots with adequate ankle support, ankle mobility exercises can aid in healthy ankles on the trail.
If you want to hike with weak ankles there are a few things that can help. Perform some ankle-strengthening exercises, wear boots with excellent ankle support, and consider wearing a brace for extra protection.
Hiking boots should be comfortably snug around the ankle. If they are too loose, they can not provide enough support. If they are too tight, they will cause discomfort.
Wearing boots that reduce ankle mobility will aid in decreasing ankle pain. Ensure adequate rest between hikes and during your hikes for ankle recovery. Ankle-strengthening and mobility exercises can also help with weak ankles.
The main reason hiking boots sag at the ankle is because they are too loose. Your boots should be snug, so consider tightening the laces on your boot or adding padding around the ankle if necessary.
*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.