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The Best Hiking Boots for Men, Women, and Children

from Outdoor Equipment Report

What to Look For in Hiking Boots and Hiking Shoes


Men's Hiking Shoes

Merrell Men's World Legend Loafer

Review Excerpts:

... very comfortable and durable. ... I can get just about a year of daily use out of them ... I have bought these Merrell shoes year after year, ...

- steve_oakland, on Amazon.com

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Men's Hiking Sandals

KEEN Men's Arroyo II Sandal

Review Excerpts:

... extremely positive experience with these shoes. ... I hike every summer in the Cascade Mountains and have not found a better pair of hiking shoes than these. ... you will not regret this purchase, guaranteed.

- Richard, on Amazon.com

... These are just great, durable, lasting shoes. They go the distance. I've had two pair of them myself over the past several years.

- ShoeLovr, on Amazon.com

... I have not taken these sandals off since they arrived. Keen is flat out the best shoes I have ever worn. ... comfort and durability. These are the only shoes I would ever recommend to a long distance hiker ...

- fuzzball, on Amazon.com

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Men's Day-Hiking Boots

Salomon Men's Quest 4D GTX Hiking Boot

Review Excerpts:

... These boots did the job all around ... walk through a fair amount of water and mud and the boots never soaked through. ... I covered roughly 45 miles in rough terrain in 4 separate days of hiking carrying roughly 30 lbs. of gear ... They are a good boot for 4th class rock climbing ...

- JTR, on Amazon.com

... These boots have been amazing. ... The Salomon's are the best boots I have ever worn. A++

- ppbmitch, on Amazon.com

Merrell Men's Moab Mid Gore-Tex Waterproof Boot

Review Excerpts:

... great for light backpacking and dayhikes. ... they require no break-in period. They are durable and very breathable.

- Possum, on Amazon.com

... They took the beating of walking up mountains, streams, and anything in between. Would highly recommend for anyone looking for a serious trail shoe, ...

- CliffTheRedDogg, on Amazon.com

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Men's Backpacking Boots

Vasque Men's Clarion GTX Hiking Boot

Review Excerpts:

... keep my feet dry while hiking through snow or wet fields ... They are extremely robust and I'm amazed at how well the gortex has held up. ... I want to keep them forever. ...

- Ryan M. Adams, on Amazon.com

I go through a pair a year because I wear them every day, ... I hike a great deal and last year I got into snowshoeing. ... You can do anything you want on the first day you get the shoe.

- Don E. Beeler, on Amazon.com

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Men's Expedition Backpacking Boots

SCARPA Men's SL M3 Backpacking Boot

Review Excerpts:

... Once properly broken in a very comfy ride is yours. ... An excellent all-arounder boot ...

- George Shaw, on Amazon.com

... This is a very comfortable boot that does take a little while to break in ... an incredibly reliable boot. ... I used mine in scree, snow, rock and numerous river crossings and they loved it. ... flexible enough to give you all day walking comfort ... but stiff enough to wear with crampons and climb reasonably serious rock. ... a great trekking / mountaineering ... these are a very capable boot.

- Phil Twiss, on Amazon.com

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Men's Mountaineering Boots

La Sportiva Men's Nepal EVO GTX Boot

Review Excerpts:

... I use them ice climbing, hiking, and for winter and spring mountaineering. ... I have put them through a lot of use and they have held up very well ... A very good boot and well worth the money.

- Elk Mountains, on Amazon.com

I climbed Mt. Rainier this July and the boots really paid off! ... Highly recommendable!

- Rolf Jorgen Strand, on Amazon.com

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Women's Hiking Shoes

Merrell Women's Moab Ventilator Cross Training Shoe

Review Excerpts:

... If you like backpacking or camping and enjoy hiking easy to moderate trails, this shoe is an excellent choice.

- F.Bancroft, on Amazon.com

... These are great for hiking and walking the dog, ... comfortable, sturdy, and just overall exactly what I needed! ... they were perfect.

- NA, on Amazon.com

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Women's Hiking Sandals

Chaco Women's ZX/2 Sandal

Review Excerpts:

Like the look and feel of these sandals. ... I found these sandals work very well. ... Shoes are comfortable and love that all the straps adjust.

- Carol S. Welch, on Amazon.com

I LOVE these shoes! I have barely taken them off since I got them. So comfortable ... my feet never hurt once. I definitely recommend them to everyone!

- C.B., on Amazon.com

wore these all summer long. ... they are the best!

- Karen, on Amazon.com

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Women's Day-Hiking Boots

KEEN Women's Targhee II Mid Waterproof Hiking Boot

Review Excerpts:

... after the first 8 miles my feet were so happy that we extended the trip. It was some of the best packing I've ever done. ... mine never leak, ...

- MF, on Amazon.com

I wore them for the first time during a trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton and they were GREAT! ... These boots survived very wet snow, many muddy, flooded paths and Bison Poop! ... I felt very confident on rocky paths. ... I am super pleased with these boots. ...

- M. Stroffolino, on Amazon.com

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Women's Backpacking Boots

Salomon Women's 3D Fastpacker Mid GTX Fast Light Backpacking Boot

Review Excerpts:

... This boot is the best of both worlds. ... Excellent grip and foot stability, without feeling like you're wearing a cast. ... After walking 60+ miles, they still look new. ... I am also impressed with the large toe-box. ... I would definitely recommend this to anyone looking for a lightweight boot that doesn't want to compromise on support.

- Leauxra, on Amazon.com

... These are winners. ... Rugged, well-built, ... no problems with dirt or tiny pebbles. No worries on a 30-mile backpacking trip in the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania. ... I wore the boots until tent time, three days in a row, and felt fine. Crossed streams and mud c... They've passed the test, and I'm a happy camper. ...

- Lee Hall, on Amazon.com

Ahnu Women's Montara Boot

Review Excerpts:

... everything I wanted wrapped into one boot. Waterproof, good ankle support, awesome traction, a tough toe ... lived up to every expectation ... Highly recommended.

- Boots, on Amazon.com

... I wore these boots practically to the summit of the West Spanish Peak (12,700 ft). ... around the crater of Capulin Volcano. ... up to the peak of Star Dune in the Great Sand Dunes. ... up to the top of the Kashe-Katuwe Tent Rocks ... Valles Caldera, Petroglyphs National Monument, and Sandia Crest ... El Malpais, a a'a' volcanic flow notorious for eating boots (and hands). My boots came out unscathed. ... All around trusty, awesome boots. ...

- QueSarahSera, on Amazon.com

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Women's Expedition Backpacking Boots

Lowa Women's Tibet Pro GTX Backpacking Boot

Review Excerpts:

... on a hike/climb up Mt. Shasta; and with 45 lbs. on the back I never had a blister, not one sore spot, no wet feet from snow or water, excellent traction, great crampon boot - I only can recommend this boot.

- The Voice of Reason, on Amazon.com

... hiking outings they have been exceptional....I'm trying to break them in for my Kilimanjaro climb. They are a bit heavy, but I'm getting used to that....everything else so far so good! :)

- sandy matthews, on Amazon.com

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Women's Mountaineering Boots

Asolo TPS 520 GV Boot - Women's

Review Excerpts:

... My feet have never, let me repeat, NEVER, felt this good. ... I did a long 6 mile descent and my toes tips never touched the boot. ...

- Lani Sammons, on Amazon.com

... For being a pretty hardcore leather hiking/backpacking boot they are surprisingly lightweight. ... hiked a lot of miles and no blisters. ... super comfortable. ... If we're packing a lot of weight or a little weight we still get the same good results from the boot. ... awesome on snowy, wet, muddy, steep trails. ... We like these boots, we'd recommend them, and we'd buy them again.

- Rebecca, on Amazon.com

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What to Look For in Hiking Boots and Hiking Shoes

What They Must Do: Hiking boots must keep your feet dry, warm (in season), provide arch support, provide traction on wet and dry surfaces, and protect your feet from rough surfaces. Auxiliary to all that, they must fit well, must not rub, must be easy to adjust, must last a reasonably long time, and must keep out rocks and dirt (which can cause blisters). That's it. If you want anything else, such as the latest fashion statement, you may have to pay extra.

Beware of Imitations

Waterproofing: Real hiking boots and shoes have the tongue attached at least partway up. They must be constructed of water resistant material (leather or breathable synthetic), and treated with wax or silicone to be waterproof. Don't trust factory waterproofing: Always waterproof your boots before every hike.

Weight: It's a trade-off. Heavier boots make you tired faster, but they generally provide better warmth, better support, and longer wear. Lighter boots, ironically, are better for shorter hikes, where you don't need as much support. If you're looking for a sturdy, warm, long-wearing backpacking boot that doesn't weigh much, you can find them, but you'll have to pay for it. In reasonable cost ranges, expect stronger boots to weigh more.

Support: Ankle support is important only if you have weak ankles, due to congenital condition or injury. If your ankles are of normal strength, you don't need ankle support in your boots. If you do need ankle support, by all means look for it. Otherwise, just look for good arch support, which includes a good "shank," either steel or fiberglass, which prevents you from twisting the sole of the boot. A rigid shank is less important in light hiking shoes and day-hiking boots. The more weight you're carrying, the more arch support you'll need, so look for a good shank in backpacking boots and mountaineering boots.

Traction: Another trade-off. Softer soles offer better traction on rock and ice. Harder soles wear longer. If you're hiking on boulders and rock ledges, you need a softer sole. Expect to replace it from time to time. Look for tread cut at least 2/5 of the thickness of the sole. Look for a sole soft enough that you can dent it with your fingernail, but hard enough that the dent springs back in a second or so.

Fit: Expect to buy a larger size than your normal street shoes. Fit-test the hiking boots while wearing the socks you use while hiking (2 thick pairs for winter), and any insoles or other inserts you need. With the boots unlaced, you should be able to push your foot forward and insert a finger behind your heel. With the boots laced tightly, you should be able to wiggle your toes freely.

Scree Collar: Real hiking boots have a ring of padding around the top that lets you lace the boot tightly without cutting off circulation. The padding lets the boot stay tight enough to keep out loose rocks, even as your ankle and Achilles tendon move. Very high-rise expedition backpacking boots might not have this padding, relying on their height, well above the ankle, to keep out scree.

What About Hiking Sandals? How do hiking sandals keep your feet dry? By letting water out after you step out of a stream. Use hiking sandals under any of three conditions:

  1. Light hikes in known dry, warm conditions.
  2. Light hikes in conditions where getting wet is inevitable.
  3. River crossings during major hikes. Hang your boots from your pack and wear your sandals to wade across. Then switch back to your dry boots.

For more information about types of hiking boots, and how to select the right boots for your needs, see the "Hiking Boots" series at HikingWithChuck.com.

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