Non-GTX hiking boots

The Best Hiking Shoes of 2019

Stay comfortable and agile on the trail with the best lightweight hiking shoes. From day trips to thru-hikes, we’ve got you covered.

Summer means long days, warm temps, and miles on the trail. And while we love a good pair of hiking boots, a hiking shoe is best for many trail adventures. They’re light, easy to move in, and keep feet cool. You’ll give up a bit of ankle support with a shoe, but such comfort and performance are worth the trade-off.

Hiking in to Cohab Canyon
Hiking in to Cohab Canyon, Capitol Reef, Utah

In search of the best, we spent months on the trail testing out hiking shoes. From the dry Arizona desert to the hot and humid Appalachian Trail, we’ve logged a lot of miles. And while we know many people use trail running shoes for hiking, we’ve focused this article on hiking shoes and approach shoes. If trail running shoes are what you’re after, check out our No Bull Guide to Choosing Trail Running Shoes and the Best Trail Running Shoes for Women of 2019.

Hiking Shoes vs. Boots

One of the main differences between hiking shoes and boots is the height. Whereas shoes have a below-the-ankle height, hiking boots offer full ankle support and high-top construction. What you give up in ankle support you make up for in weight savings and out-of-the-box comfort.

Hiking shoes are great for day hikes, smooth trails, and anytime you want to go fast-and-light. For bigger backpacking trips with a heavier pack, you may want to consider a full hiking boot. But we know thru-hikers who swear by lightweight hiking shoes and day-trippers who won’t head out without their boots. So, at the end of the day, it’s really a matter of personal preference. And while there isn’t a single best trail shoe for everyone out there, we’ve broken down this list into categories to help find the best hiking shoe for you. If you need help deciding, refer to our buyer’s guide for tips on choosing the best hiking shoes.

Best Overall Hiking Shoes

Salomon X Ultra Low Aero — Men’s & Women’s: $120

Salomon X Ultra Low Aero Hiking Shoe

These shoes check all the important boxes: breathable, grippy, and comfortable. If you’re looking for a warm-weather, summer hiking shoe, this is it. The polyester mesh panels help keep feet cool. And at about 1.5 pounds for the pair, these won’t weigh you down. With the mud guards and extended toe cap, we never had any problems with rocks or sticks jabbing our feet. And the lugs proved plenty burly even for technical trails.

The sole is surprisingly flexible, which our testers enjoyed. But if you’re looking for something stiff, you may want to choose a different shoe. Another feature that you’ll either love or hate is the Quicklace system. Pull the lace, and it locks into the desired tightness. We’ve found it works well and doesn’t need re-tightening throughout the day. However, it can limit how specific you get on tightening your shoe.

All in all, these shoes offer traction and comfort while keeping feet cool. With this Salomon offering, you get a lot of do-all shoe for $120. The women’s version seems to run a bit large, so we recommend going down a half size.

Weight: 1 pound 6.4 ounces
Material: 
Nylon mesh 
Best use:
Summer hiking and technical trails
Top attribute: Breathable and light, with plenty of grip

Best Travel Hiking Shoes

Lems Trailhead Hiking Shoe — Men’s & Women’s: $130

Lems Trailhead Hiking Shoes

Anyone looking for a single summer shoe will love the Trailhead. With plenty of comfort and style, it can easily transition from travel to trail to a night on the town. Known for making the ultra-packable Boulder Boot, the Trailhead, new for 2019, is sure to become a fan favorite. Built for the trail but styled for the city, it’s the perfect go-to for adventure travel.

We’ve worn it during long days at the airport, hiking in the Rocky Mountains, and exploring in the hills of northern Georgia. Through it all, it’s offered plenty of comfort and support. The 4mm drop encourages a more natural foot strike, without going into extreme minimalist territory. And the wider toe box gives your feet plenty of room to wiggle.

The firm EVA midsole can seem a bit stiff at first, but you’ll reach maximum comfort after a few wears. The firmer foam molds nicely to feet while providing needed support. And anyone looking for a leather-free shoe can rest easy wearing this vegan-friendly option. If you have any summer travel plans that involve hiking, biking, sightseeing, or general adventuring, this is the shoe for you.

Weight: 1 pound 7.4 ounces
Material: 
Microfiber and mesh 
Best use:
 Adventure travel
Top attribute: Style and performance

Best Budget Pick

Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator Low — Men’s & Women’s: $74-220

Merrell Moab Low Lightweight Hiking Shoe

It’s no surprise these are one of the top-selling hiking shoes on Amazon. The side ventilation keeps feet cool during warm-weather hikes, and the leather and mesh hold up well through rocky scrambles, long day hikes, and multiday adventures. We like that they provide some of the stability and traction generally found in a hiking boot with the low-top freedom of a shoe.

The toe box was wide enough that our testers didn’t experience any uncomfortable rubbing. But they are a bit stiffer, and we would recommend slowly amping up your mileage. Give them time to break in and you could have a great hiking shoe for seasons to come.

These aren’t the lightest hiking shoes available. And on technical or wet terrain, they didn’t perform as well as shoes like the Salomon X Ultra or the SCARPA Rapid, but these are winners for day hikes on regular trails. They retail for $100 but can often be found for less (we’ve seen them as low as $74 depending on the size and color). They’re also available in a waterproof version.

Weight: 1 pound 15 ounces
Material: 
Suede leather and mesh
Best use: Day hikes
Top attribute: Durable, solid value

Best Water Hiking Shoes

Astral TR1 Water Hiking Shoe — Men’s & Women’s: $125

Astral TR1 Water Hiking Shoe

If you like exploring slot canyons or trekking through tropical rain forests, a good pair of quick-drying hiking shoes is essential. North Carolina-based Astral is known for making bomber life jackets. And it’s bringing this same water-centric focus to shoes. Whether you’re a paddler who also plans to hike or a hiker who happens to be near water, the TR1 shoes will keep your feet happy.

We like how light they feel on our feet and how easily they shed water. With holes at the front and back, they easily drain water, and the mesh dries quickly. Plus, they help feet breathe and stay cool even on dry trails.

The sticky rubber soles provided plenty of traction even when rock-hopping along the river’s edge. And we like that the wider toe-box design gave our feet room to spread out. And the Polygiene-treated insole makes stinky shoes a thing of the past. This is an all-around great shoe for moderate hiking, tropical adventures, and all manner of watersports.

Weight: 1 pound 5.2 ounces
Material: 
Ripstop 2-denier mesh with TPU overlays
Best use: Desert canyons, tropical trails, and trails with water crossings.
Top attribute: Easy-draining and quick-drying

Best Hiking Shoes for Women

Vasque Grand Traverse Hiking Shoe: $108-130

Vasque Grand Traverse Hiking Shoe for Women

Grab your daypack and hit the trail in this grippy and light hiking shoe. Whether you’re tackling the approach before a big multipitch climb or enjoying a weekend hike, these shoes provide plenty of traction and comfort. The suede leather upper makes these super durable, and the mesh helped keep our feet cool. We also like that they’re tough enough for a strenuous approach but light enough to easily clip to your harness.

These are best for narrow feet and do tend to run small, so we recommend going up a half size. But if you generally struggle with finding hiking shoes that fit your narrow feet or don’t gap at the ankles, you’ll love the Grand Traverse. The sticky rubber on the toe and Vibram Ibex sole provide plenty of grip on approach or descent. Toe jams are no problem, and we didn’t slip, even on wet rocks. This isn’t the most technical shoe available, but it’s one of our favorites for low-grade climbing, all-day hiking, and general adventuring.

Weight: 1 pound 6 ounces
Material: 
Suede leather and mesh
Best use: Tackling the approach before a multipitch climb
Top attribute: Grippy and comfortable for narrow feet

See the women’s Vasque Grand Traverse Hiking Shoe

Best of the Rest

Oboz Sawtooth Low — Women’s & Men’s: $110

Oboz Sawtooth hiking boot

Low but not slow or soft, the under-2-pound Sawtooth slices through harsh terrain better than most midheight hiking boots. The leather-and-textile hybrid upper defies abrasion, and the outsole design has enough rocker to make walking easier on rollers and steeps.

This model runs about a half size large, comes out of the box ready to hike, and promotes more foot freedom with a wider toe box and a heel cup that combats shifting even on daunting descents. Call it a solid choice for anything except strolling through paved pathways.

Weight: 1 pound 15 ounces
Material: 
Nubuck leather
Best use: Mid- to high-mileage backpacking journeys with loads up to 50 pounds
Top attribute: Versatility

Arc’teryx Acrux SL — Men’s & Women’s: $77-199

Arc'teryx Acrux hiking shoe

Higher and drier is where this hiking boot model lives: anywhere in the world agility and support is needed. Testers loved it for mid distances and moderate weights, with the only concern being the pair’s low upper height.

Experienced and athletic trekkers are the best bet for a water-repelling pair that breathes well considering the PU-coated nylon yarns used. The Adaptive Fit Lite construction gives the Acrux a more slipper-like feel that resists the incursion of dust and debris. And the fit runs fairly true in this nimble, durable style.

Weight: 1 pound 7.4 ounces
Material: 
Microfiber and mesh
Best use: Multisport and international travel combined with technical day trips
Top attribute: Versatility

adidas Terrex Swift R2 — Men’s & Women’s: $112-140

adidas Terrex Swift R2 hiking shoe

The Continental’s outsole tips the hand early for this pair as one hiking boot in the evolving Terrex line. Never mistaken for a running shoe, Swift R2 excels in nasty conditions including moving across sidehill seeps and slick rock. Feet are protected like few other models under test with a toecap crafted for apocalyptic rock falls and narrow canyons.

Tensioned speed lacing allows fast on-trail adjustment even as the padded collar minimizes Achilles trauma. Not for bouncing along tourist paths, this hiker craves bigger challenges and carries the load in multiday backpacking scenarios. Tight mesh uppers keep abrasion resistance high but can’t undo the weight of the Traxion outsoles at over 27.2 ounces per pair.

Weight: 1 pound 11.2 ounces
Material: 
Ripstop mesh with TPU
Best use: High mileage on marginal trails
Top attribute: Long-term value

SCARPA Rapid — Women’sMen’s: $100-120

SCARPA Rapid hiking shoe

This model skirts the line between hiker and trail runner, with a solid build to deliver the former (hiker) and not quite enough rocker to excel at the latter (trail runner). Here’s where the warm-weather hiker wins toes-down with a fluid, multisport approach to a low-cut design. Suede and a recycled polyester mesh upper hold together well across mixed terrain with a weight-trimming notched outsole.

Sufficient torsional stability prevents ankle twists. Normal feet (if they even exist) will like the heel cup and the moderate toe box volume that turns quickly and tightly around corners. SCARPA’s lacing system again proves to be a favorite over a tongue that doesn’t bunch or pinch. And the weight is surprisingly refreshing at 22 ounces per pair.

Weight: 1 pound 6 ounces
Material: 
Suede and recycled polyester mesh
Best use: Low-to-moderate mileage with lighter packs, scrambling across technical terrain
Top attribute: Fast, secure fit out of the box.

Helly Hansen Loke Dash — Men’s & Women’s: $140-150

Helly Hansen Loke Dash hiking shoe

Almost like a Flyknit upper shoe, the Loke Dash sprints where others saunter and accelerates when others drop back. These shoes are more for warm weather and moderate terrain than alpine extremes. The Loke plays tricks on the feet of hikers with superior lacing tension, a debris-shedding ankle cuff, and outsoles that give gravel and pebbles nowhere to hide.

Those with more sensitive feet will struggle with the lack of a stone guard plate. Another model that travels well between trail and train station, the Loke takes international and adventure travel in stride. A removable EVA footbed is a bonus that saves $30 or more in a pair that walks tall in less demanding conditions.

Weight: 1 pound 15 ounces
Material: 
Engineered knit
Best use: Frequent, short hiking outings with light loads when powered by athletic wearers
Top attribute: Fast, secure fit out of the box

How to Choose the Best Hiking Shoes

There isn’t a single hiking shoe that works for everyone, but with a little forethought, we can find the best hiking shoe for you. Before reading the buyer’s guide, take a few minutes to consider what’s most important to you. Can’t stand a heavy shoe? Hate it when your hiking shoes wear out after just one season? This will help identify the right shoe.

Next, consider how you’ll use the shoe — muddy trails, mountain trails, on the beach, between paddle sessions, or traveling abroad? There’s a hiking shoe for every adventure, but it helps to be clear on the type of hiking you like.

1. Fast, Secure Fit Out of the Box

Synthetic uppers allow an instant read on a hiking shoe’s ability to shape to the foot. Leather, with some ability to stretch, can conform over time and may require more miles to adapt to individual foot shapes.

The combination of both synthetics and leather, found in many of the models we tested, balances immediate comfort against long-term durability.

Peter Reese hiking in the desert
Hiking in the Arizona desert.

2. Protection Against Sharp Surfaces and Impact

Abrasion of hiking shoe uppers in rocky or tight, wooded terrain is one challenge. Guarding against sole bruising over scree, gravel, and sharp outcroppings is another.

A hiker’s outsole and midsole build determine how well bruising is avoided and feet stay guarded over the miles ahead. In general, more impact resistance comes with either heavier materials or a stiffer build.

3. Walkability on the Trail

Some hiking shoe styles travel well over flat, fast, and unobstructed trails. Others perform best when scrambling becomes a part of the mix. A select subset proves capable on a wider range of path, trail, and off-trail conditions.

Consider what type of trails you plan to hike. Will it be slippery, rocky, or steep? If so a more technical shoe may be required.

Hiking in the Desolation Wilderness - photo by Mallory Paige
Testing gear in the Desolation Wilderness

4. Long-Term Value

Far from disposable, the women’s and men’s hiking shoe models under test were explored for the potential to travel 250 miles or more before showing appreciable signs of wear.

While each hiker’s weight, stride, and carried load is unique, no low or mid hiker should threaten failure in the near-term.

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5. Versatility Beyond the Moment

Footwear and apparel are often purchased with an objective or specific trip in mind. Testers took a look at each selection’s capability to either (a) take on varied trail conditions or (b) step into everyday (even urban) settings.

If local trail conditions indicate one pair is most ideal, that’s a solid starting point. Should regional, national, or international hiking beckon, a hiking shoe adaptable to a mix of scenarios is a wise choice. Or consider purchasing multiple styles when possible.


Have a favorite hiking shoe we didn’t include? Let us know in the comments for future updates to this article.


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