According to an ancient Chinese proverb, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. When you are hiking, the gear you take that first step goes a long way toward determining just how many miles you’ll be able to travel.
Just like any other gear you choose for your journey, there are almost as many different opinions on the perfect hiking boot as there are hikers. To be fair, the boot you’ll need will vary tremendously with the type of hiking that you do. If your idea of the great outdoors is hiking an urban trail, a lightweight mid boot offers all the protection and grip you’ll need without weighing you down. More rugged terrain requires a midweight boot that will protect your feet from uneven terrain and moderate hazards you might encounter along the trail. The most strenuous hikes over rocky ground where nature is more of an obstacle require a higher heavyweight boot and layers of varied protection from the elements.
To determine the best hiking boots overall, we combined their types with
the following items: customer reviews, durability, and overall value. Here are the top 10 that emerged after looking at each of those factors:
1. Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX
The Salomon Quest boot is a longtime favorite among serious hikers, and this version doesn’t disappoint. It weighs in at a more substantial 2 pounds, 13 ounces, making it a less enticing option for light backpacking, but a solid choice for seasonal wear. Anti-fatigue tech is built into every step you take with this shoe, meaning that it will indeed help you tackle whatever you encounter. Gore-Tex® membranes protect feet from water and mud, while allowing vapor and perspiration to escape. It’s said that this boot is built on a running shoe frame, which might explain why it’s so comfortable. Its removable ortho footbeds are a vital contributor. Priced at about $220, this boot is priced in the mid-range on our scale, but according to reviews and based on its longevity, the Salomon Quest is a solid investment that will endure. Plus, this latest incarnation of a classic offers a new lug design for improved grip.
2. Merrell Moab 2 Mid Ventilator
This boot is a perennial favorite based on the fact that they are lightweight at about 2 pounds, 2 ounces, affordable at around $110, and reputably one of the most durable boots considered. As the name implies, the shoe is made from a combination of breathable mesh and suede leather, offering comfort in mild to moderate climates. Zonal arch and heel support ensure that these boots are comfortable right out of the box, which isn’t always the case with some hikers. A cushion in the heel offers added shock absorption and stability on the trail. When the rubber literally meets the road, the Vibram TC5+ outsoles with a 5mm lug depth provide an adequate grip for what you encounter.
This mid-height boot is highly regarded for its stability and support. So highly regarded in fact, that it has racked up some prestigious awards. It was inducted in the Editors’ Choice 25th Anniversary Hall of Fame by Backpacker magazine in 2018, and the company itself is the official boot sponsor of the American Hiking Guides Association – meaning that they have some experience in this field. What makes this boot special? At 2 pounds, 7 ounces, it’s a moderate weight boot that offers outstanding protection. GORE-TEX® liners have been proven in the field to keep feet dry, even when crossing shallow streams, and the combination of Nubuck leather / Cordura nylon exterior further protects. The soles offer excellent traction no matter the terrain, making them a solid choice for whatever you want to tackle.
4. Tecnica Forge GTX
If comfort is your sole determinant (see what we did there) of which boot to buy, look no further than the Tecnica Forge GTX. A company known for ski boots might not be the primary place folks would look when it comes to hiking boots, but that’s the sheer beauty of these boots. Just think about how ski boot manufacturers have made those plastic boxes of unyielding pain much more comfortable through customized, thermo-moldable liners. That’s the same technology that Tecnica has incorporated into its hikers, making every pair the ultimate in customization because they are actually thermo-formed to your feet. The result – no more blisters or break-in period. This boots Kevlar laces also stay laced – no matter what – ensuring even more stability. At 2 pounds and nearly 12 ounces, it’s not lightweight – nor is the price tag at about $270, but the custom fit seems to be well worth both the cost and what it adds to the overall weight of the boot.
5. Adidas Terrex Free Hiker
Speaking of non-traditional manufacturers, many hikers may be reluctant to take an athletic shoe company seriously in the hiking market. But doing so would have them missing out on one of the best boots for urban trails and other casual hiking ventures. The Adidas Terrex Free Hiker is surprisingly comfortable – perhaps thanks to its roots as an athletic shoe. The shoe boasts a Primeknit textile upper and a GORE-TEX® inner membrane, keeping feet dry and comfortable. The responsive boost midsole really does seem to increase your energy level, and coupled with the lightweight boot, helps keep you on your toes for longer. Weighing in at 14.8 ounces each and priced at $225, these shoes offer substantial value. Plus, the Continental™ Rubber outsole promises a sturdy grip even in wet conditions – which is what you’re most likely to encounter on urban trails.
6. Keen Targhee III Mid
This budget-friendly – it’s priced right at about $150 – and the lightweight hiker is a solid entry-level choice that even veterans still love. The pros and online reviews all say this boot is solid for light trails and day hikes, but its stability is questioned for more challenging hikes. Still, the leather uppers and oversized toe cap make it a durable choice. Another surprise from many reviews is that it feels good right out of the box, which is a hallmark of one of the higher-end boots on this list. So, if that’s important to you and you’re seeking a reliable option at an affordable price, add the Keen to your list of contenders.
7. Vasque St. Elias
If you like the look of a traditional hiking boot but need all the technological bells and whistles, the St. Elias is your boot. The full-grain leather exterior is enhanced with GORE-TEX® for water protection, and its lacing system was upgraded to offer better-staying power. At 2 pounds, 15 ounces, this boot is on the heavier side, but it is renowned for providing a mix of support and comfort in a reliable package. In fact, its All Terrain Compound midsoles feature EVA cushioning that promise flexibility and comfort right out of the box with no break-in period required. Priced at a hair under $200, it’s a mid-price option that lands it solidly in the center of this list.
8. Hoka Sky Toa
We had to throw in one ultra-lightweight offering, and this one comes with an impressive pedigree. Designed by running shoe maker Hoka One One, the Sky Toa looks more like a running shoe than a boot, with its bright blue and yellow colorway. But this shoe’s beauty is more than upper skin deep. It features the company’s signature springy midsole, thick cushioning, and ultra-flexible construction. At 1 pound, 14 ounces, it’s incredibly lightweight and has a waterproof eVent upper that protects the ankles. Unfortunately, it is a lightweight designed primarily to handle easy and well-maintained trails since it lacks the solid protection and stability of some of the more traditional options on this list. If you’re looking for a lightweight athletically designed shoe that’s priced less than the higher-end competitors at $170, this is the boot for you.
9. Asolo Fugitive GTX
If you prefer a more heavyweight, traditional boot that’s ready to tackle the toughest terrain, the Asolo Fugitive GTX will knock you out. Weighing in at a whopping 3 pounds, these boots feature a solid and stiff construction on the boot paired with thick mid and outsoles that combine to keep feet safe from rocks and anything else in your path. The Cordura and suede uppers keep feet warm and protected, while a GORE-TEX® lining keeps them protected from wetness and dry from perspiration. This is not the lightest boot out there by far, making it something that you might not want to pack, but does offer robust, traditional protection in tough terrain. Priced at around $275, it’s toward the higher end of the scale as well.
10. DANNER ARCTIC 600
No Top 10 list of hiking boots would be complete without at least one offering that was designed specifically for tackling the most brutal weather conditions that you would be likely to meet on the trail – ice and snow. In a world of winter boots, the Danner Artic 600 stands out. First, it has traditional good looks, with a brown suede exterior that is as traditional as it comes. But there’s solid innovation behind this winter warrior. Take the laces, for example. Sure, they look traditional and perfect, but there’s also a side zipper right next to them, allowing hikers to get into and out of their boots in the blink of an eye. To keep you cozy, they’re equipped with 200g PrimaLoft insulation and a waterproof membrane that keeps snow from getting to your feet. The neatest innovation is under the hood, so to speak. The Arctic 600 features a Vibram Nisqaully Arctic Grip that promises to keep wearers upright – even on sheet ice – which means you’ll be sure-footed in any terrain. At $219, they are priced well for a high-end winter boot, and at 2.5 pounds, they are on the lighter side of the winter warriors.
Ultimately, the best boot for you will be determined by how you plan on using it, where you are hiking, and in what conditions. And which boot you need will change based on each of those factors, so we contend that you definitely need more than one in your closet!
Of course, you’ll want to take the budget into consideration when deciding which boot is right for you, but don’t decide on price alone. A good hiking boot will last for some time, and it’s the only protection you have between your feet and the trail, so make your decision based on what a boot offers rather than just the price tag.
Finally, the best boot in the world won’t work if it doesn’t work well for you. Everyone’s feet are different, and boots that fit and function well for regular widths might be too narrow for wide widths or too wide for narrows. How the boot fits your heel and how snugly it grips your toes are critical to avoid chafing and blisters on extended hikes – and even short ones – so you’ll ideally want to try these boots on before you buy them. Also – just like in the real world – appearances do matter – at least a little. A traditionalist might be far more comfortable with the classic, refined look of the full-grain leather St. Elias than with the trendy, urban look of the blue and yellow Hoka Sky Toa, so take how the boot looks into consideration – at least a little. While you definitely don’t want to put style before comfort in a boot that’s designed to offer protection and support, you do at least want it to be something that you’re comfortable wearing.
Finally, make sure that the boot you choose offers the level of protection your typical hikes require. The most comfortable and durable boot in the world won’t do you any good if it won’t stand up to the terrain you typically traverse or if it makes your ankles feel as if they are ready to roll every time you step off the familiarity of a well-maintained trail.
And of course, shop around. The prices we found online varied quite a bit depending on the source we were looking at. Prices quoted in this article were primarily found through manufacturers and/or national retailers, but there were many sites that popped up that offered the same boots for far less – and even some that listed for more – depending on where you shopped.
No matter which of these boots you select, make sure they are right for you, and then head out for your next adventure!