Testing waterproof hiking boots during a stream crossing in Colorado. Photo credit: Abigail LaFleur-Shaffer

The Best Hiking Boots of 2021

Whether you need a budget-friendly day hiker or a backcountry-ready option, we’ve found the best hiking boots to keep you happy and comfortable on the trail.

A good pair of hiking boots can set the foundation for your time on the trail. Our team has years of experience hiking and backpacking, and we’re especially fanatic about finding the right footwear.

While testing, 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 found the best hiking boots for men and women.

Since 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. And for more help choosing the right boot, we’ve included a complete buying guide.

We also know a lot of people don’t use a full hiking boot. If you’re looking for a low-cut, lighter trail shoe, check out our guides on the Best Hiking Shoes and the Best Trail Running Shoes.

The Best Hiking Boots of 2021

Best Overall: Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX — Men’s & Women’s

salomon x ultra 3 mid gtx

The Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX ($165) is a very comfortable, fairly light, waterproof boot. It fits many hikers’ feet well right out of the box. Our testing, both on and off the trail, left us looking forward to more miles in these boots.

Thanks to its burly Contagrip outsole, it has provided good traction. We used it on trails and even steep, muddy roads while turkey hunting where trucks had gotten stuck. They kept the tester on his feet.

The GORE-TEX liner provides good waterproofness and reasonable breathability for cold through temperately warm weather. And at just under a pound per boot (1 pound 15.6 ounces per pair), these are quite light for a supportive, midheight hiker.

And we’re not alone in loving this boot. Check out the 425 reviews resulting in a 4.25-star rating at REI. And read our full review here.

  • Weight: 1 lb. 15.6 oz. (pair)
  • Waterproofing: Yes
Pros
  • Minimal break-in time
  • Lightweight
  • Stable and supportive
Cons
  • Not quite supportive enough for hiking with heavy loads
  • Narrow toebox may restrict those with wider feet
  • Low-cut ankle height allows water in while hiking through puddles or shallow streams

Check Men’s Price at REICheck Women’s Price at REI

Runner-Up: Scarpa Rush Mid GTX Shoe — Men’s & Women’s

Scarpa Rush Mid GTX Shoe

With a traditional feel and a modern look, the Scarpa Rush Mid GTX ($179) might look light duty. However, it has the support and protection of a mid-height, waterproof hiker, with astronomical levels of cushioning.

The magic in the shoe comes from SCARPA’s traction-enhancing, shock-absorbing concave impact zones that compress and absorb energy as you walk. As soon as we weighted the shoe, the impact zones flexed so that the boot’s secondary lugs could bite into the trail for increased traction.

The Rush’s synthetic mesh upper had supportive welded overlays with an overpadded, softly lined collar for lightweight, dynamic ankle support. Its GORE-TEX Extended Comfort lining was dry and breathable.

We wore this boot for speed hikes with and without a pack, and for overnight trips with a pack. It’s versatile and confidence-inspiring, with a traditional feel made with lighter materials than we’ve seen in other SCARPA hikers. It runs small.

  • Weight: 1 lb. 8 oz.
  • Waterproofing: Yes
Pros
  • Reinforced toebox adds long-term durability
  • Lightweight and nimble
  • Outsole is especially grippy on boulders and slabs
Cons
  • Narrow toebox may not suit hikers with wide feet
  • Runs small

Check Men’s Price at REICheck Women’s Price at REI

Best Budget Hiking Boot: Merrell Moab 2 Mid Waterproof — Men’s & Women’s

Merrell Moab 2 Mid Waterproof

“These hiking boots are made for folks with high arches, and they’re so comfy the first time you put them on,” said one day hiker, who took the pair up gullies, through meadows, and across many streams to treeline.

At 32 ounces for the pair, the Moab 2 ($135) features a zonal arch and heel support, in addition to its EVA footbed, for comfort and security. The breathable mesh upper is reinforced by a suede leather overlay. And despite the mesh, the shoes proved completely waterproof through eight river crossings.

The boots are simple and durable. And we also like that they are super easy to lace up and tighten down. They’re a perennial favorite and one of the best boots you can get for less than $150.

  • Weight: 2 lbs.
  • Waterproofing: Yes
Pros:
  • Affordable
  • Waterproof
  • Comfortable
Cons:
  • Wide fit doesn’t work for narrow feet
  • Bulky

Check Men’s Price at REICheck Women’s Price at REI

Best for Rough Terrain: La Sportiva Trango Tech GTX Boot — Men’s & Women’s

La Sportiva Trango Tech GTX Boot

Developed in collaboration with legendary climber Steve House, the La Sportiva Trango Tech GTX ($269) is a very advanced hiking boot. And, in all honesty, it’s also a pretty capable mountaineering boot.

But we’ve put it to the test on multiday hikes spanning dozens of miles in extremely tough alpine terrain and found it to be a stellar performer, both on and off the trail.

While the Trango Tech GTX has features suitable for mountaineering like a “climbing zone” with a sticky rubber edge on the front of the sole and “to-the-toe” lacing, it’s light enough at 21.8 ounces for long miles on the trail.

This boot has a GORE-TEX liner to ensure waterproofness. Having slogged through running streams and mud for miles, we can attest that it lives up to its waterproof claim. It uses rugged, durable fabrics for the upper that maintains good breathability even in fairly warm weather.

Our tests saw temps up to the 80s Fahrenheit. And while our feet did get warm, they were never unbearably hot — impressive for such a burly boot.

Other things we love about the boot: the gusset-free tongue, the 3D Flex system for precise support on rough terrain, and the low-profile but grippy outsole/midsole.

Overall, this is a great boot if your trails take you to high, remote places beyond the end of the trail. Read our full review here.

  • Weight: 2 lbs. 11.7 oz.
  • Waterproofing: Yes
Pros
  • Good on various terrain including rock, trail, and steep snow
  • Compatible with crampons
  • Lightweight for a mountaineering boot
Cons
  • Not as durable as some mountaineering boots
  • Not quite supportive or stable enough for technical ice travel
  • Lacks a toe welt

Check Men’s Price at REICheck Women’s Price at REI

Hiking Boots: Best of the Rest

KEEN Targhee III Waterproof Mid — Men’s & Women’s

KEEN Targhee III Waterproof Mid

The Targhee III ($150) is the most current version of a KEEN mainstay that has been in its lineup for a very long time. And it’s been around for a good reason: It’s a great hiking boot for a lot of people.

It’s reasonably light, at a little over 2 pounds per pair. It’s waterproof, using KEEN’s proprietary KEEN.DRY membrane. And it’s very comfortable right out of the box.

Our first test was on a hike of about 12 miles round trip over rocky, sometimes muddy trail. And it performed perfectly with no blisters, happy feet, and great traction.

The Targhee III is a direct competitor to the Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX. It has a similar level of support, weight, and even appearance. But it seems to fit those with a wider foot a little better.

They’re both excellent boots that will hold up for years of hiking. The Targhee III is particularly impressive in its lightweight performance at a very reasonable price for a good boot.

  • Weight: 2 lbs. 2.8 oz.
  • Waterproofing: Yes
Pros
  • Comfortable out of the box
  • Good value and affordable compared to similar options
  • Supportive and stable without feeling clunky
Cons
  • Not well suited to narrow feet
  • KEEN’s waterproofing is not as effective as other options
  • Not ideal for rugged off-trail use

Check Men’s Price at REICheck Women’s Price at REI

The North Face VECTIV Exploris Mid FUTURELIGHT — Men’s & Women’s

North Face VECTIV Exploris Mid Futurelight

If you’ve ever felt like you run out of energy mid-hike, this could be the shoe for you. The North Face’s VECTIV Exploris Mid FUTURELIGHT ($169) hiker literally rolls you into your next step, helping to keep you moving and conserving your energy as you stride along the trail.

The energetic feel of this shoe comes from a rockered midsole that propels you forward with each step. It’s paired with a 3D plate between the midsole and sole that wraps up the sides of the boot for lateral stability. It also protected my feet from rocks and uneven trails.

Although the VECTIV Exploris is rockered, we felt stable and confident in this shoe. Plenty of hiking shoes and boots have protective plates in the midsole. By extending that plate up the shoe’s sidewalls and also wrapping it around the heel, we never feared rolling our ankles.

The VECTIV Exploris’s Y-shaped lugs had zonal traction. Harder lugs on the perimeter of the forefoot gave this boot extra bite when conditions were soft or rocky.

The heel had aggressive braking lugs that helped us control the descent. The sole is anatomically scored, which made rolling through each footstep fluid.

The VECTIV Exploris’s meshy upper is lined with The North Face’s FUTURELIGHT waterproof, breathable fabric, which kept my feet dry and comfortable even on warm days.

The boot’s lacing doesn’t look like anything special. But the lace guides lock in the laces every time they cross the tongue of the boot, making the lacing zonal.

  • Weight:1 lb. 11.3 oz.
  • Waterproofing: Yes
Pros:
  • Stable
  • Tunable lacing
  • Conserves energy
Cons:
  • Rockered profile takes some wear to get used to

Check Men’s Price at REICheck Women’s Price at REI

Altra Lone Peak All-Weather Mid — Men’s & Women’s

Altra Lone Peak All-Weather Mid

At 12 ounces, this is one of the lightest hiking boots you can buy. It’s nimble and fast, more like a running shoe with mid-height ankle support.

Altra’s signature ultrawide toebox leaves feet plenty of space to spread out. That helped us hike longer miles without foot pain.

When we wore this hiker in cooler temps, it also helped our toes stay warm because they weren’t restricted and there was space for warm air inside the shoe.

The Lone Peak All-Weather Mid ($170) uses an eVent waterproof bootie to keep feet dry. It blocked puddles and rain from seeping into this shoe. The membrane truly breathes, making this one of the least sweaty waterproof shoes we’ve worn.

The Lone Peak All-Weather Mid has a springy insole that gives the boots a running shoe feel and will put some spring in your step. And the sole’s directional V-shaped lugs were grippy on rocks and roots but didn’t get packed with mud.

The sole extends slightly longer than the body of the boot in the back, which made rolling through each step feel natural and smooth. A gusseted tongue kept water out when I misjudged the depth of a puddle. It also kept out fir needles, leafy debris, sand, shale, and everything else that tried to creep in on various hikes.

The 25mm stack height felt lower in the heel than others we tested, which was super comfortable over many days and miles of wearing them.

  • Weight: 1 lb. 14 oz.
  • Waterproofing: Yes
Pros:
  • Light
  • Fast
  • Supportive
  • Sheds mud
Cons:
  • Not as much rock protection as some shoes

Check Men’s Price at REICheck Women’s Price at REI

HOKA ONE ONE Speedgoat 2 Mid GORE-TEX — Men’s & Women’s

HOKA ONE ONE Speedgoat 2 Mid GORE-TEX

Half trail runner, half boot, HOKA’s Speedgoat 2 Mid ($170) is one of our favorite fast hikers. HOKA took the design of its popular, grippy trail runner — the Speedgoat — and upgraded it with more cushion, more ankle support, and a waterproof GORE-TEX membrane to protect you on the trail.

At 11.3 ounces per pair, these hiking boots are a great choice for backpacking and other fast hiking endeavors. And while it’s definitely on pace to function as a trail runner (with a little extra protection), it functions great as a hiker too.

In terms of a hiking boot, the Speedgoat Mid has everything you could want: ankle support, cushion, good traction, and a lighter-weight, flexible design that moves with your feet as you go. A GORE-TEX membrane bootie wraps the shoe, keeping you protected from water, mud, and any other wet-weather terrain.

Our testers loved the fit and noticed the boot wasn’t too stiff upon breaking in. It’s also perfect for varied, multisurface terrain. It’s also ideal for trails that involve more technical elements, like hiking through boulder fields, scrambling, or making small stream crossings. The HOKA Speedgoat Mid can handle most everything.

If you are looking for a less traditional “boot,” and more of a shoe that will work for trail running and hiking and anything in between, the HOKA Speedgoat 2 Mid is a great option.

  • Weight: 1 lb. 10.5 oz.
  • Waterproofing: Yes
Pros:
  • Lightweight
  • Waterproof
  • Great traction and grip (5mm lugs)
  • Versatile
Cons:
  • Not the most breathable
  • Some found issues with sizing

Check Men’s Price at REICheck Women’s Price at REI

SCARPA Maverick Mid GTX — Men’s & Women’s

SCARPA Maverick Mid GTX

Lighter and more breathable than its cousin, the Zodiac Plus GTX, SCARPA’s new Maverick GTX ($169) offers up a more agile, athletic hiking boot. Synthetic leather and polyester combine with a GORE-TEX layer to provide waterproofing. It’s amply breathable, though not remarkably so; on hot hikes, you’ll still have some lightly damp socks.

But SCARPA swung for immediate flexibility and comfort, and it definitely reduced the break-in period of its traditionally rugged-but-reluctant hikers. This was not the most stable boot we tested, though it kept feet acceptably secure.

And while the lug pattern isn’t the most aggressive SCARPA offers, it has a fast profile with enough bite to keep pushing. Plus, at $169, it’s a value compared to SCARPA’s other offerings.

  • Weight: 1 lb. 0.2 oz.
  • Waterproofing: Yes
Pros:
  • Light
  • Breathable
  • Agile
Cons:
  • Less stable than some options
  • Less aggressive lug pattern

Check Men’s Price at BackcountryCheck Women’s Price at Backcountry

Vasque Breeze AT Mid GTX — Men’s & Women’s

Vasque Breeze AT Mid GTX

For stability and ultimate protection against jagged rocks, sharp sticks, and deceptively deep puddles, the Vasque Breeze AT Mid GTX is one heck of a go-to. We’ll be honest, after several weeks of testing, we’re still breaking them into that sweet spot, but these boots are great for more gnarly hikes.

These are not lightweight boots, mind you. At 1 pound 5.5 ounces per boot — with the protective PU shank — you really feel the boot as you step.

But Vasque mitigates overheating with mesh hits dotting the Nubuck leather upper. Still, with the GORE-TEX liner adding a layer of waterproofing, these boots do retain heat more than others we tested.

But if protection is first on your list when shopping for hiking boots, these merit consideration.

  • Weight: 2 lbs. 11 oz.
  • Waterproofing: Yes
Pros
  • Very supportive for a hiking boot
  • Reliable Vibram outsole holds traction on various surfaces
  • Comfortable for various foot shapes
Cons
  • Waterproof liner limits airflow and feels sweaty in warm conditions
  • Burly and heavy, not well suited to fast and light hiking
  • Lacing system tends to lose tension

Check Men’s Price at REICheck Women’s Price at REI

Crispi Nevada GTX Hunting Boot

Crispi Nevada GTX Hunting Boot

 

Available in either an uninsulated or insulated (200g) model for $20 more, the Crispi Nevada GTX ($419) is a longstanding favorite in the hunting community.

The ankle bone support structure (ABSS) is touted as top-notch by hunters with ankles prone to rolling. And reviewers say that this boot is “out-of-the-box comfortable” on repeat.

The Nevada series does have some flex, making it a great all-around boot for hiking, backpacking, long days on your feet, and hitting the trail with a load of meat in your pack. The boot can be re-soled, meaning that once it’s yours, it’s yours for a dang long time.

And for the price of two midlevel hunting boots, you’ll save cash in the long run with this investment. Read our contributor’s full review of the Crispi Nevada GTX here.

  • Weight: 3.9 lbs. (pair, size 10)
  • Waterproofing: Yes
Pros
  • Exceptionally sturdy and stable
  • East to break in compared to other heavy-duty boots
  • Long-lasting durability
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Insulation can sometimes feel inadequate in cold conditions
  • Requires care and maintenance to preserve leather upper

Check Price at Black Ovis

KEEN Tempo Flex Mid — Men’s & Women’s

KEEN Tempo Flex Mid

Made for light hiking, KEEN’s Tempo Flex ($159) makes walking easier with loads of heel cushioning, a soft collar, and ridged bellows at the forefoot flex zone. Because of its low-key look and all-day comfort, this is a boot we often grab for running errands or walking the dog.

The new technology in the Tempo Flex is a soft, ridged plastic zone between the bottom of the lacing and the toe of the boot. Called Bellows Flex, KEEN says it takes 60% less energy to bend than other boots, which also cuts down on break-in and prevents the boot from cracking.

The flex zone was comfortable and didn’t press down on our toes. It did feel more flexy walking than other boots. However, we quickly got used to it and forgot about it, which is the highest form of compliment in shoe comfort. A paper-thin TPU rand around the toe, sides, and lacing of this boot reduced wear and tear.

Directional grip in the sticky soles, ridged toe and heel gripping, and braking zones helped us stay in control while negotiating a technical stretch of Vermont’s Long Trail. Mini lugs in the arch gripped a slippery-looking log.

And on a steep descent off Mt. Mansfield, the heel brakes gave excellent grip when the trail descended steeply. A stability shank inside also prevented pokey rocks from bruising our feet.

The Tempo Flex has a beefy and squishy midsole that’s thickest under the boot’s heel. This took the bite out of hardpacked trails, but it didn’t stride quite as naturally as some other boots.

With the Tempo Flex, KEEN modernizes their look with a less blocky toebox that still left plenty of room to let our foot spread. They also treated this partially recycled boot with an eco-friendly anti-stink treatment to keep them from offending your tentmates.

Does the Tempo Flex solve a pressing problem? I haven’t had a boot crack in the toe in years, and I’m not sure that more flex in the forefoot helped me hike further or faster. But this is still a great boot for light-duty missions.

  • Weight: Unknown
  • Waterproofing: Yes
Pros
  • Highly breathable for waterproof boots
  • Lightweight and comfortable
  • Unique combination of flex and stability
Cons
  • Cumbersome heel
  • Not ideal for heavy-duty missions

Check Men’s Price at REICheck Women’s Price at REI

La Sportiva Nucleo High 2 GTX Hiking Boots — Men’s & Women’s

La Sportiva Nucleo High 2 GTX

A more traditional backpacking boot, the high-cut Nucleo High 2 GTX ($199) is big news for La Sportiva because it’s the first hiking boot they’ve made for wider feet. The leather boot was protective in the way that only a leather boot can be. It is also waterproof thanks to a GORE-TEX liner.

The breathability of the Nucleo High II GTX is enhanced by microvents under mesh from the arch of the foot to the ankle along the line of the sole, GORE’s Surround system. A Vibram rubber rand and toecap deflected scuffs and rocks.

And the Vibram sole had steady grip climbing, braking traction on descents, and a slightly rockered shape that made it easier to heel into a step and toe out of it.

Well-padded fabric at the Achilles gave us plenty of pressure-free range-of-ankle movement on steep descents. On rocky trails, a polypropylene stiffener in the midsole protected my feet from bruising.

If you truly have wide feet, this boot will likely be too narrow. While this one is wide for La Sportiva — and it welcomes more hikers than ever to wear the company’s classic European hiking boots — they’re more of a wideish-medium cut.

If you’re lamenting the change of last because you have narrow feet and have always loved how La Sportiva fits, don’t stress. They still offer the Nucleo High in a “normal fit” too.

  • Weight: 1 lb. 6 oz.
  • Waterproofing: Yes
Pros
  • Breathability from underfoot
  • Superb braking lugs
  • Lightweight
Cons
  • Not ideal for narrow feet

Check Men’s Price at REICheck Women’s Price at REI

Teva Grandview GORE-TEX — Men’s & Women’s

Teva Grandview GORE-TEX

Looking for a hiking boot that easily transitions from mountaintop to coffee shop? Then it’s time you met the Teva Grandview GORE-TEX ($175) Grandview ($175). This pick offers modern retro styling in a boot that performs impressively well on the trail.

These boots proved comfortable from the very first wear. The wider toebox gave us plenty of room for toes to wiggle and splay out naturally. One narrow-footed tester found them too roomy, so keep in mind your particular foot shape.

We had adequate traction even on wet rocks during a stream crossing. And the GORE-TEX liner kept our feet dry through it all. Even on warmer spring hikes, we didn’t have a problem with our feet overheating.

The Heel Lock strap did provide subtle, yet helpful, additional foot support. Teva claims it helps lock your foot in place and decrease toe pressure on descents. We were pleasantly surprised to find it truly did help.

This boot may not have enough support or traction for technical rocky terrain or extended backpacking trips, but for day hikes and around-town jaunts, it’s our new favorite hiker.

  • Weight: 1 lb. 11 oz.
  • Waterproofing: Yes
Pros
  • Stylish
  • Out-of-box comfort
  • Roomy toebox
Cons
  • High arches may not fit all foot shapes
  • Not ideal for narrow feet

Check Men’s Price at REICheck Women’s Price at REI

Asolo TPS 520 GV EVO — Men’s & Women’s

Asolo TPS 520 GV EVO

The Asolo TPS 520 GV EVO ($340) boots have lasted our tester nearly 10 years. She’s taken them on numerous backpacking trips throughout the West, including the Tetons, Wind Rivers, Glacier, and Sawtooths. They’ve proved comfortable, durable, and supportive throughout.

They are a stiffer boot and require a break-in period. But once they’re broken in, the Asolo TPS 520 feels like an extension of your body.

The deeply channeled outsoles provide excellent traction and reduce the buildup of debris. And the padded ankle collar is comfortable and useful at keeping rocks out.

We have read some complaints of the sole coming off, but have never experienced this ourselves. And in doing some research, it seems that most complaints of sole failure are from boots that are 10-plus years old. It’s worth noting that these boots can be resoled, which generally costs around $100.

  • Weight: 1 lb. 10 oz. (per shoe)
  • Waterproofing: Yes
Pros
  • Super durable
  • Laces rarely need to be replaced
Cons
  • Slow break-in process
  • Some users report delamination of the outsole

Check Men’s Price at REICheck Women’s Price at REI

Salomon Outback 500 GTX — Men’s & Women’s

Salomon Outback 500 GTX

The Salomon Outback 500 GTX ($210) excels at being featherlight yet durable. The pair weighs only 28.2 ounces due to a unique CORDURA textile upper. Although mid-height, the cuff’s sculpted collars rise a tad higher above the ankle compared to other boots in that category, our testers found.

“The mix between the deep lugs, thick outsole, and toe protection really contrasts with the feeling of a malleable textile upper. But once I hiked in them and they took river crossings, mud, and rocks like a champ, I realized these Salomon boots are really protective and durable for long days on trail and a heavy pack,” said our tester.

The midsole features EnergyCell foam, but overall, the shoes feel stiffer and more supportive than other pairs tested. 

  • Weight: 14.1 oz. (per shoe)
  • Waterproofing: Yes
Pros
  • Supportive
  • Light and nimble
Cons
  • Slow to break in
  • Not the most sensitive for technical hiking and scrambling

Check Men’s Price at REICheck Women’s Price at Backcountry

Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Pair of Hiking Boots

Choosing hiking footwear is an ever-complicated and personal endeavor. Boots built for durability and stability tend to be less forgiving than most footwear, and 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

Upper

A hiking boot’s upper is the outer material on the top and sides of the boot. There are a handful of materials that are commonly used in hiking boot uppers, but generally, uppers are either leather and synthetic. Leather uppers are more traditional-looking, and they tend to be highly durable and abrasion-resistant.

Synthetic uppers tend to be lighter than leather. They also dry faster and usually cost less. Typically, synthetic uppers are not as durable as leather.

Midsoles

A midsole provides underfoot cushioning and adds structural stability to the entire boot. Stiff boots likely come with a thick and stiff midsole.

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.

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, you’ll want a boot with a stiff midsole.

Outsoles

The outsoles of hiking boots are made of rubber. Harder outsoles on stiff boots sometimes include additives including carbon. While extra stiff outsoles are durable and good for carrying heavy loads, they can feel slick when hiking off-trail.

All outsoles include a lug pattern that is 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 outsoles include a heel brake, which can reduce your chances of slides while descending down steep slopes.

Weight

A pair of hiking boots can weigh anywhere between 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.

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.

Support & Stability

If you’re hiking with a heavy load, you’ll want some stable and supportive hiking boots. A stiff outsole and midsole add support underfoot, and a nice firm ankle collar supports the ankle joint.

Traction

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.

Some boots include a smooth section of rubber under the toes for smearing on slabs of rock. Other boots have deep lugs for soft or muddy trails. On steep and loose terrain, a heel brake is a handy feature.

Waterproofing

If you’ll be wearing your boots when it’s rainy, snowy, cold, or in variable conditions, get a waterproof and breathable boot. It will keep moisture out, which will keep your feet comfortable regardless of how many miles you’re ticking off.

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.

Winter Hiking Boots
If you hike regularly in rain and snow, you may want a waterproof hiking boot. Photo credit: Woven Productions

Insoles

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.

Durability

Good hiking boots will hold up to the standard wear and tear of hiking. Still, some boots are harder than others, and the lifespan of your boots will also depend on the frequency of use and your preferred terrain type.

Generally, hiking boots with leather uppers and stiffer soles will be more durable than synthetic boots with soft and flexible soles.

Price

On this list, we have included hiking boots that vary in price from just over $100 to well over $400. Hiking boots are an investment, and if you are willing to pay for a quality pair, they should last a long time.

There is no one price that works best for everyone. It helps to consider your use and personal preference.

If you’re just dipping your toe into hiking, it makes sense to go with a boot on the cheaper end of the spectrum. Our budget pick is still very comfortable and will serve most hikers well.

Another important thing to think about is your foot shape and support level needed. Perhaps you need a more structured boot or will find the most comfort by adding an aftermarket insole. Though this can be a more expensive option, it may serve you better in the long run.

Hiking boots with name-brand features like Vibram soles and GORE-TEX linings tend to be more expensive. Also, leather boots are commonly more expensive than synthetic ones.

At the end of the day, you want to spend the necessary amount to find comfort and happiness on the trail.

FAQ

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.

What Are the Best Lightweight Hiking Boots?

The best lightweight hiking boots are the ones that fit your foot. Check out Altra’s Lone Peak All-Weather Mid. We loved them for their featherweight, superb support and their roomy toebox. If you don’t need a waterproof boot, choose one without a membrane.

Hiking Boots vs. Hiking Shoes: Which Do I Need?

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 that gives you confidence when you’re hiking.

Should I Get Waterproof Hiking Boots?

If you plan to regularly hike in wet and cold environments, it may be wise to get waterproof hiking boots. Of course, 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.

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.


Testing trekking poles while hiking near Moab.
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