When you’re moving through the wilderness, having the right gear helps keep your mind and body free to experience nature without unnecessary distractions. As the foundation of your gear, a comfortable, technically sound pair of hiking boots can set you up for an experience to remember.
Our team has years of experience hiking and backpacking through a wide range of landscapes, and we’ve become quite picky when it comes to finding the best hiking boots. We’re especially keen on boots that maximize comfort while meeting technical requirements to help keep your mind on the objective at hand.
Through the testing process, we primarily focused on comfort, traction, support, and durability. Secondary factors included value, style, and weight. After years of hiking and months of testing the newest options out there, we’ve compiled a list of what we truly believe to be the best hiking boots for men and women.
Because all feet are unique, there’s no single boot that works for every hiker. We’ve divided this list into categories to help you find the best boot for you. For more help choosing the right boot, we’ve included a complete buyer’s guide along with a handy comparison table and FAQ.
The Best Hiking Boots of 2023
- Best Overall Hiking Boots: Salomon X Ultra 4 Mid GTX
- Best Budget Hiking Boots: Merrell Moab 3 Mid Waterproof
- Runner-Up Best Hiking Boots: SCARPA Rush 2 Mid GTX
- Best Hiking Boots for Backpacking: Salomon Quest 4 GORE-TEX
- Best Fast and Light Hiking Boots: HOKA Speedgoat 5 Mid GTX
- Weight 1 lb. 14.4 oz. (pair)
- Waterproofing Yes
- Upper material Polyurethane-coated leather/textile
- Width Standard
- Minimal break-in time
- Stable and supportive
- Narrow toebox may restrict those with wider feet
- Somewhat easy for lace to come out of shallow hook eyelet while bushwhacking
- Weight 2 lbs. 0.7 oz.
- Waterproofing Yes
- Upper material Pigskin leather/mesh
- Width Standard or wide options
- Wide fit doesn’t work for narrow feet
- Weight 1 lb. 13.2 oz.
- Waterproofing Yes
- Upper material Recycled mesh/recycled microfiber
- Width Standard to narrow
- Reinforced toebox adds long-term durability
- Lightweight and nimble
- Outsole is especially grippy on boulders and slabs
- Narrow toebox may not suit hikers with wide feet
- Runs small
- Highly supportive
- Ideal for backpacking with heavy loads
- Requires a significant break-in period
- Too bulky for easy and moderate hiking
- Great traction and grip (5mm lugs)
- Not the most breathable
- Some found issues with sizing; try a pair on first
- Comfortable out of the box
- Good value, affordable compared to similar options
- Supportive and stable without feeling clunky
- Not well-suited to narrow feet
- KEEN’s waterproofing is not as effective as other options
- Not ideal for rugged off-trail use
- Tunable lacing
- Conserves energy
- Rockered profile takes some wear to get used to
- Weight 1 lb., 14 oz.
- Waterproofing No, but they are water-resistant
- Upper material Synthetic
- Width Wide, extra wide in the toebox
- Accommodating toebox
- Sheds mud
- Not as much rock protection as some shoes
- Due to lightweight design, not as durable as more traditional hikers
- Lightweight but durable
- Agressive lug pattern
- Uses sustainable materials
- Difficult to fine-tune-adjust the ankle
- Exceptionally sturdy and stable
- Easy to break in compared to other heavy-duty boots
- Long-lasting durability
- Insulation can sometimes feel inadequate in cold conditions
- Requires care and maintenance to preserve leather upper
- Breathability from underfoot
- Superb braking lugs
- Not ideal for narrow feet
- Out-of-box comfort
- Roomy toebox
- High arches may not fit all foot shapes
- Not ideal for narrow feet
- Weight 4 lbs. 2 oz.
- Waterproofing Yes
- Upper material Leather
- Width Standard (break-in period makes them feel a bit narrow at first)
- Super durable
- Laces rarely need to be replaced
- Slow break-in process
- Some users report delamination of the outsole
- Super aggressive lug pattern offers stellar traction
- Grippy Contagrip rubber boosts adhesion to rocky surfaces
- A little difficult to fine-tune fit because of lace system
- Large lugs make walking on road or concrete a little clunky
- Weight 2 lbs. 7 oz. (pair)
- Waterproofing Yes
- Upper material Nubuck Leather/CORDURA
- Width Standard
- Rugged and durable
- Waterproof but breathable
- Stiff – Not ideal for slick rock
- A bit bulky
- Weight 2 lbs., 4 oz.
- Waterproofing Yes
- Upper material Waterproof Nubuck leather
- Width Standard
- Sustainably made
- Sticky Vibram Megagrip outsole with self-cleaning lug pattern
- Comfortable achilles cushion
- Runs a bit large
- Swallowtail heel can snag on roots and rocks
Hiking Boot Comparison Chart
|Hiking Boot||Price||Weight||Waterproof||Upper Material||Width|
|Salomon X Ultra 4 Mid GTX||$175||1 lb., 14.4 oz.||Yes||Polyurethane-coated leather/textile||Standard|
|Merrell Moab 3||$150||2 lbs., 0.7 oz.||Yes||Pigskin leather/mesh||Standard or wide|
|SCARPA Rush 2 Mid GTX||$219||1 lb., 13.2 oz.||Yes||Recycled mesh/recycled microfiber||Standard to narrow|
|Salomon Quest 4||$230||2 lbs., 14.4 oz.||Yes||Leather and synthetic||Standard|
|HOKA Speedgoat 5 Mid||$180||1 lb., 8.8 oz.||Yes||Synthetic||Standard|
|KEEN Targhee III||$165||2 lbs., 2.8 oz.||Yes||Leather||Standard or wide|
|North Face VECTIV Exploris 2 |
|$179||1 lb., 13.6 oz.||Yes||Synthetic||Standard|
|Altra Lone Peak All-Weather Mid 2||$190||1 lb., 14 oz.||No, but are water-resistant||Synthetic||Wide, extra wide in the toebox|
|Salewa Pedroc Pro Mid PTX Boots||$200||1 lb., 11 oz.||Yes||Synthetic||Standard|
|Crispi Nevada GTX Hunting Boot||$440||3 lbs., 14.4 oz.||Yes||Leather||Standard|
|La Sportiva Nucleo High 2 GTX||$239||2 lb., 1 oz.||Yes||Leather||Standard|
|Teva Grandview GORE-TEX||$175||2 lbs., 2 oz.||Yes||Leather||Standard or wide|
|Asolo TPS 52 GV EVO||$360||4 lbs., 2 oz.||Yes||Leather||Standard|
|Salomon Cross Hike 2 Mid GTX||$190||1 lb., 13.2 oz.||Yes||Synthetic||Standard|
|Lowa Renegade GTX Mid||$255||2 lbs., 7 oz.||Yes||Nubuck Leather/CORDURA||Standard|
|Hoka Anacapa 2 Mid GTX||$195||2 lbs., 4 oz.||Yes||Waterproof Nubuck leather||Standard|
Why You Should Trust Us
The GearJunkie team has tested hundreds of pairs of hiking boots. We’ve hiked along gradual city park paths and backpacked through rugged alpine terrain on our search for the best hiking footwear on the market. The recommended boots on this list are the result of our thorough and never-ending field testing.
Chris Carter, one of the authors of this guide, has thru-hiked the Triple Crown of long trails in America: the Pacific Crest Trail, the Continental Divide Trail, and the Appalachian Trail. He knows the importance of properly fitting, comfortable boots for long backpacking trips, and is extremely particular about the footwear he depends on in the wild.
When we assess a boot for its durability, we wear it regularly and keep a close eye on long-term performance. When we test a boot for support and stability, we trudge through rough terrain and pay extra attention to ground feel and roll resistance. Our waterproofing testing involves exposure to puddles, precipitation, and other elements that you’re likely to encounter on the trail.
Our recommendations are not fixed in time. As new hiking boots hit the market, we’ll be waiting to put them to the test. If they’re exceptional, we’ll be sure to add them to this list of the best hiking boots on the market.
Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Pair of Hiking Boots
Choosing the optimal hiking boot is an ever-complicated and personal endeavor. We all have unique foot shapes and needs on the trail, so research and testing are often critical in finding boots with that perfect blend of fit and function.
Boots built for durability and stability tend to be less forgiving than most footwear. And because you’re often wearing them for hours on end, they require a more precise fit. Here are a few things that can help you find the best boot for your foot.
Hiking Boot Components: Uppers, Midsoles, and Outsoles
A hiking boot’s upper is the outer material on the top and sides of the boot. There are a handful of materials commonly used in hiking boot uppers, but generally, uppers are either leather or synthetic.
Leather uppers are more traditional-looking, and they tend to be highly durable and abrasion-resistant. However, they sometimes require long-term care to prevent cracking and unsightly aging. A perfect example would be the burly, age-defying Crispi Nevada GTX.
Synthetic uppers tend to be lighter than leather. They also tend to dry faster and generally cost less. An example of a synthetic upper would be The North Face VECTIV Exploris 2 Mid FUTURELIGHT.
Typically, synthetic uppers are not as durable as leather, but modern advances seem to be closing the gap. For those who prefer not to use animal products, synthetic uppers are obviously the way to go.
A midsole provides underfoot cushioning and adds structural stability to the entire boot. Stiff boots likely come with a thick and stiff midsole, and most often require a break-in period.
Stiffer midsoles provide the most durability, but because they have less give, can also be harder on the feet. Stiff midsoles are ideal for providing traction on highly technical terrain where foot movement isn’t ideal, such as mountaineering, ice climbing, and movement over variable terrain like talus fields.
Soft and flexible hiking shoes are built with thinner, more pliable midsoles. Stiff boots can prevent your feet from becoming tired and sore, but flexible boots may be more comfortable and nimble for fast and light hiking, and they tend to prevent blisters.
Modern hikers engaging in long-distance pursuits are finding that softer midsoles provide the balance of technical performance and comfort they need for extended use, turning to boots like the Altra Lone Peak All-Weather Mid for their long-distance endeavors.
Midsoles are generally made from EVA or polyurethane. EVA is lightweight and soft, while polyurethane is firmer and more durable. If you plan to hike long distances with a heavy pack, either is a viable option, but it really depends on your personal needs.
If you have weaker arches and require support, stiffer midsoles can prevent unnecessary soreness over long distances. If you’re already used to more minimal, flexible footwear, softer midsoles allow the muscles in your feet to function more as nature intended. PCT hikers, for example, are trending toward softer midsoles that limit blistering and strengthen the feet over time.
The outsoles of hiking boots are made of rubber with varying grades of stiffness and grip. Harder outsoles on stiff boots sometimes include additives such as carbon to reduce weight. While extra-stiff outsoles are durable and good for carrying heavy loads, they can feel slick when hiking off-trail.
Stiff outsoles are ideal for scrambling on steep rock or other situations where traction is integral to safety. Softer outsoles are ideal for packed, heavily trafficked trails where technical terrain is less frequent. A boot that bridges this gap quite well is the La Sportiva Nucleo High 2 GTX.
All outsoles include a lug pattern designed to increase traction and grip. Widely spaced lugs are less likely to accumulate mud, while shallow lugs are better for hiking over rocky surfaces.
Some lug patterns are symmetrical, while others have a degree of asymmetry that’s primarily integrated to reflect the natural contours of the feet through the footfall. Both have varying degrees of stiffness, so choosing the right lug pattern tends to be a personal preference.
Some outsoles include a heel brake, which can reduce your chances of sliding while descending steep slopes. Most modern hiking boots integrate a heel brake to some degree, as do most running/hiking hybrid shoes.
Take this into consideration if your backcountry travels are going to take you up and over high-altitude passes or on trails that are particularly steep.
A pair of hiking boots can weigh anywhere from 1.5 pounds to well over 4 pounds. The weight of your boots will depend on their structure and materials.
Generally, more robust boots with leather uppers and stiff soles will be heavier (such as the Vasque Breeze AT Mid GTX), while hybrid synthetic models will be lighter (such as the Altra Lone Peak All-Weather Mid 2).
There is always a give and take with weight. So, heavier boots often prove to have higher degrees of waterproofness and long-term durability, though they may not be the most comfortable options.
Synthetic boots with flexible soles will be lighter and perform more like running shoes. Carrying heavy boots on your feet on long hikes can cause fatigue, but heavy boots also tend to offer more support. As we’ve previously stated, it’s important to know your personal needs and shop accordingly.
In the summer months, it’s not uncommon to see people hiking in rugged lugged sandals. Most often, however, it’s not their first rodeo, and they’ve long developed the foot strength to strip weight and transfer more work to the muscles of the feet.
Support & Stability
If you’re hiking with a heavy load, you’ll most often want some stable and supportive hiking boots. A stiff outsole and midsole in a boot like the La Sportiva Trango Tech GTX add support underfoot. And a nice firm ankle collar supports the ankle joint when missteps over loose ground are a possibility.
Heavier boots tend to have rigid ankle support, whereas lighter hybrid options tend to have more of a sock-like fit around the ankle. Our ankles are intended to have a certain degree of flex, and some have more stable ankles than others. This is another important factor to consider when choosing the best boot for your feet.
Arch support is another key factor to consider, and also depends on your personal preference and foot shape. Some people have higher, active arches and can use shoes without arch support (like the Altra Lone Peak) over long distances without issue.
Most manufacturers limit the amount of arch support they include in the footbed to accommodate a variety of foot shapes out of the box. If you know you need arch support but don’t necessarily need orthotics, more traditional, rigid boots like the Lowa Renegade tend to offer more built-in support underfoot.
Different lug patterns are designed for different kinds of terrain. Although some boot companies make their own outsoles, Vibram soles are still the standard for high-quality outsoles and maximum traction. Vibram makes a wide variety of soles, from extremely stiff soles for mountaineering and scrambling to more flexible soles for running and hiking on packed trails.
Some boots include a smooth section of rubber under the toes for smearing on slabs of rock. Other boots have deep lugs built for soft or muddy trails. Most lug patterns work for a variety of terrain, but if you will be hiking in extreme conditions, look for something more aggressive with larger or pointier lugs.
On steep and loose terrain, a heel brake is a handy feature. This is the defined spot on the heel that helps prevent slippage when walking downhill.
The HOKA TenNine running shoe takes a heel brake to the next level, but most hiking boots are much more subtle. These days, anything intended for heavy use on- and off-trail will have some sort of heel brake, but they’re integrated to varying degrees.
If you’ll be wearing your boots when it’s rainy, snowy, or cold, get a waterproof and breathable pair. They’ll keep moisture out, which will keep your feet comfortable regardless of how many miles you’re ticking off.
The trade-off between impermeability and breathability is evident in heavier boots, so consider something lighter weight if your feet will be getting wet but not soaked. Generally, the more waterproof a boot is the heavier and less breathable it will be.
There are a few exceptions, however, and modern advances in venting seem to be improving this age-old dilemma, hence our rave reviews of the SCARPA Rush 2 Mid GTX.
If you’re hiking primarily or exclusively in hot, dry conditions, don’t get a waterproof boot. A membrane-free boot will keep your feet cool and dry, and the release of moisture can help prevent blisters. If you live in the high desert surrounded by mountains, you’ll probably need a summer boot and a shoulder season boot for when moisture adds more variability to the trails.
As mentioned above, breathability and waterproofness are tied together, for better or worse. The more waterproof a boot is the less breathable it will be, and vice versa. If you’re hiking in hot, humid environments where you don’t expect to encounter water, a lightweight, ultra-breathable boot is ideal (the regular version of the Altra Lone Peak All-Weather Mid 2, for instance).
When your feet don’t air out, you enhance the risk of blisters, callouses, and more serious injuries like trench foot (way more common in older, less advanced boots). Breathability not only means that air can move through and out of the shoe, but it also lets water vapor escape. Dry feet stay warmer in colder temperatures as well.
GORE-TEX and other waterproof proprietary membranes (such as the FUTURELIGHT membrane on North Face’s VECTIV Exploris 2) are breathable to a certain degree, but can quickly feel stuffy and sweaty in dry, desert climates. If you’ll primarily be trekking through dry areas, aim for more breathable “water-resistant” liners, like Altra Lone Peak All-Weather Mid 2‘s eVent material.
All modern manufacturers take this into account when designing the best hiking boots, so some element of breathability will be built in. Still, it’s an important consideration for your unique feet (sweaty vs. dry), as swampy/cold feet can truly make or break an outing.
Not all hiking boot insoles will be a good fit for every foot. Depending on the shape of your foot, you may need to purchase insoles separately. If you have a high arch, look for insoles that cater to this trait specifically.
Other insoles promote a flatter, more natural footfall, while others can increase the amount of heel-to-toe drop. If your insoles are wearing out faster in a specific spot, it’s a good sign that you should explore a different option.
For hikers who have feet with toes that splay out more than others, or just naturally wide feet, shoes with narrow toeboxes can be uncomfortable over long distances. As the miles stack up on a long journey, your feet will also swell quite a bit, exacerbating the issue. This can lead to blisters, plantar fasciitis, or other foot issues.
If you feel like your toes are playing a game of sardines in every hiking boot you try, it may be time to give wide-width shoes a shot, or models that have enlarged toeboxes. Altra is the king of ultra-wide toebox clown shoes, and though they may look silly, they afford you some of the most natural feeling strides of any boot we tested.
Zero-drop, with plenty of space for your toes to breathe with each step, Altra boots leave very little to be desired. We tested the Lone Peak All-Weather Mid 2 for this guide, but every Altra shoe boasts this roomy feature.
If you plan to do some major winter hiking or mountaineering, you’ll need boots that work well with crampons. These traction devices are critical for extreme conditions, and they provide traction when crossing steep snow or ice. In general, heavier, stiffer boots are more compatible with crampons.
The La Sportiva Trango Tech GTX Boot is a perfect example of a lighter-weight crampon-compatible boot. Micro-spikes are becoming increasingly popular for thru-hikers who prefer to carry less weight while ultralight backpacking, and they tend to work well over more flexible, lighter boots like the Salomon X Ultra 4 Mid GTX.
The most comfortable hiking boots are ones that feel good when you put them on before your hike — and that still feel good when you take them off at the end of your hike.
A very soft boot might feel great to slide into at home, but it might not have enough support or protection to leave you feeling great after a long day on the trail.
The best lightweight hiking boots are the ones that fit your foot. Check out Altra’s Lone Peak All-Weather Mid 2. We loved them for their feather weight, superb support, and their roomy toebox. If you don’t need a waterproof boot, choose one without a membrane.
Whether you hike in shoes or boots is a personal preference. Hiking boots give more ankle support, so if you’re carrying a heavy load backpacking, they’re a great choice. But many thru-hikers wear hiking shoes for big adventures, like the Appalachian Trail.
Structure underfoot matters as much as how high the boot is. Choose a boot or shoe that feels good to wear and gives you confidence when you’re hiking.
If you plan to regularly hike in wet and cold environments, it may be wise to get waterproof hiking boots. You may not plan on getting wet, but it’s always a possibility in the outdoors. Waterproof boots make sure you’re prepared for anything. Depending on the weather and season, you may want a pair of winter hiking boots.
That said, waterproof boots tend to be hotter and less breathable. So, if you plan to hike in warm and dry conditions such as the desert, waterproof boots are not the best choice.