Boots are perhaps the most crucial piece of gear for any hiker’s gear arsenal. Choosing the best pair of hiking boots can make a world of a difference in your outdoor adventures, but buying cheap hiking boots can prove detrimental to your backcountry escapes. Your feet need the right padding and protection given that they take on the bulk of work on hiking ventures; therefore, it is important to invest in a pair that offers plenty of support and traction. Buying the best hiking boots however can be a tricky affair given the myriad options and technologies available, but our hiking boot buying guide along with 5 best options should set you off on the right track.
Hiking Boots Reviews
Columbia Newton Ridge Plus II
The Columbia Men’s Newton Ridge Plus II grabs the #1 slot on our list of best hiking boots for several great reasons. For starters, it emerges from a brand stable that’s approximately 80 years old, which speaks volumes about the superior performance you can expect on both smooth and rough trails. They are geared towards both novice and seasoned hikers alike, and available in a choice of 16 different sizes and two appealing colors—Cordovan, Squash and Black. The Newton Ridge Plus II hiking shoes are extremely lightweight at just 1.3 pounds, and arrive complete with a rubber sole, 5” shaft, 1.5” heel and a 0.50” platform.
The Newton Ridge Plus II hiking boots are crafted from a mix of high-quality leather and synthetic fibers, and feature a padded tongue and unique waterproofing technology. In terms of comfort, support and shock absorption, these hiking shoes take home the gold with their full length Techlite midsoles and Omni-Grip high traction rubber outsole. Moving to the interior of these boots, your feet get pampered with spongy and almost cloud-like thick EVA foam to enhance to shock absorption and comfort qualities of the Newton Ridge Plus II hiking boots.
Even though the Newton Ridge Plus II hiking boots ring with premium features, some that are often only seen in higher priced models, they aren’t perfect. The only thing worth bickering about is they are only available in a choice of two color options, and the metal components although sturdy may bend or break over time, albeit if not maintained properly.
- Omni-Grip outsole and Techlite cushioning midsole
- Made from Leather and synthetic material
- Waterproof with breathable upper and mesh tongue
- Limited color selection
- Tread pattern could be improved
- Inserts could be a bit more sturdier
Merrell Moab 2 Vent Mid Hiking Boot
The Merrell Men’s Moab 2 hiking boots are truly in a world of their own, and you will comfortably agree the moment you slip them on. They are appointed with a supportive footbed, plush padded collar and tongue, and weigh in at just 2 pounds. Additionally, these hiking shoes are made from a combination of leather and mesh, and fitted with a class-leading Vibram insole mated with a M Select FIT.ECO+ blended EVA contoured footbed for enhanced heel and zonal arch support.
The Moab 2 Ventilated hiking boots are an ideal choice for day hikers, and are fitted with two silicon bands integrated into the upper material for more structure and to greatly reduce the chances of injury. The tread design on the bottom of this hiking footwear consists of mix of open channels, circles, and narrow and thick lugs for decent overall traction on both rock and dirt. Available in several different sizes and two colors—Walnut and Black Knight, the Moab 2 is distinct from the competition with its snug heel cup that prevents heel slippage and spacious footbox that does not produce any hot spots or pressure points on your feet.
The Moab 2 Ventilated hiking boots are undoubtedly a great pair of hiking boots, but they aren’t waterproof, so not a good choice if you’re going to be trekking in wet terrain or weather conditions. Further, the laces of the shoes are nice and thick, but on the downside may come untied faster. It comes in with a slightly expensive price tag, but if you’re looking for hiking boots that won’t disappoint you on the trail, you really can’t go wrong with the Moab 2 Ventilated hiking boots.
- Well-made and great longevity
- Breathable mesh lining, protective rubber cap and removable insole
- Suede leather and mesh upper with EVA contoured footbed
- A little expensive but worth every penny
- May not be a great fit for heavy loads or technical trails
Hi-Tec Bandera Waterproof Hiking Boot
The Hi-Tec Men’s Bandera features a rugged, non-marking rubber outsole, and compression-molded EVA midsole with steel shank, making this pair of hiking boots good enough for most terrain. Lightweight at just 3 pounds per pair, the upper of the Bandera hiking boots is made from a combination of suede leather, synthetic trim and flanked by a breathable mesh underlay. They are waterproof, and can be ordered in a choice of several different sizes and four color options including Charcoal and Chocolate.
The removable cushioned insole prevents your feet from straining, and can be cleaned easily and separately from the other components of the boots. Both the collar and tongue of the boots are padded to enhance the overall comfort of the shoes, and reduce fatigue in the ankles and toes. Additionally, the Bandera hiking shoes feature D-ring rustproof lacing hardware to withstand the elements, so you can be rest assured they will provide you will several years of hiking pleasure.
The Hi-Tec Bandera hiking footwear boasts a robust build, but may be a bit bulky for some users. Further, the quality of the rustproof lace holder could be improved given that it may fall apart after considerable use. But on a brighter note, if you’re looking for well-built hiking footwear that is both comfortable and durable, and won’t cause you to break the bank, the Hi-Tec Men’s Bandera hiking boots are a great choice.
- Suede leather and fabric upper
- Comfort removable contoured EVA insole
- Fully waterproof and breathable
- Lace holder may fall apart after years of use
- May be a little bulky for some users
Nevados Boomerang II Hiking Boots
The Nevados Men’s Boomerang II hiking boots offer the best of both worlds—comfort and performance, and at a price that’s somewhat hard to beat! The shaft of these shoes measures 4.5 inches from the arch for optimal support on rough terrain. Further, they are fitted with a rubber sole, and arrive complete with a carbon rubber cup sole and molded EVA and brushed nylon sock liner.
Available in several different sizes and a choice of two colors—Dark Brown and Chocolate Chip, the Boomerang II hiking boots are topped by a suede leather and nylon mesh upper, and boast a rather large boot opening of 10 inches around. Further, they feature metal lacing hardware, making them a dependable choice for both work and play.
The Nevados Men’s Boomerang II are undoubtedly one of the best hiking shoes in the market, but aren’t waterproof. You can however walk through light puddles, but anything more than that and you will get your feet wet literally. The shoes are comfortable to wear right out of the box, but are only available in two albeit great color options.
- Suede leather and breathable nylon mesh upper
- Comfort removable contoured EVA insole
- Protective stitched toe/heel and a metal lacing hardware
- Not waterproof
- Limited color options
Timberland Chocorua Trail Hiking Boots
Timberland has been a leading name in the outdoor gear space for over 100 years, and the Chocorua Trail Hiking Boots are just another winning addition to its lineup of footwear. Available in several sizing options, and plethora of colors including Brown and Black, the Chocorua Trail hiking shoes lead the pack with unique anti-fatigue comfort technology for all day comfort.
These mid-cut hiking shoes stand out from the crowd for several great reasons starting with the nubuck leather upper pampered with a waterproof Timber-Dry membrane for enhanced breathability. They offer excellent waterproof protection owing to GORE-TEX bootie construction, and come with a fully gusseted tongue and rustproof hardware. Additionally, the Timberland Chocorua Trail hiking shoes are fitted with a rubber sole and a shaft that measures 5 inches from the arch.
With the Timberland Chocorua Trail hiking shoes, there’s really not much to complain about except for the price. Even though it may be steep for some user’s pockets, remember that they are backed by a leading brand and ring in with features that are geared towards making your adventures on the trails a sheer joy.
- Nubuck leather upper featuring TIMBER-DRY waterproof membrane
- Anti-fatigue comfort technology for all day comfort
- Waterproof leather
- A little on the expensive side, but you get what you pay for
Looking after your feet is one of the most important things you can do when hiking on outdoor trails, and the best way to do it is with a sturdy pair of hiking boots. Before heading out shopping, you should consider the type of terrain and time of year you will be exploring it in order to buy hiking boots that won’t let you down! That said, here are 5 aspects to consider in the best hiking shoes for your trailing desires.
Hiking Boot Type
Unlike walking shoes, hiking boots can be had in several different types and across a broad spectrum of styles. They are generally categorized into three groups—lightweight, midweight and heavyweight according to the ankle stability, foot support they offer and weight of the boots.
Speaking of weight of hiking boots, it makes sense to opt for a lightweight pair because added ounces and pounds of the luggage you will be hauling around could take a toll on your feet, and consequently burn you out quickly at the end of the day. Choosing between lightweight and heavyweight hiking boots ultimately boils down to personal preferences, where some hikers claim that lighter footwear is right and others enjoy the stability and durability of heavy hiking boots.
If you’re not over the fence about whether lightweight, midweight or heavyweight hiking boots will work best for your needs, here’s a quick primer. Lightweight hiking shoes are geared towards comfort right out of the box, and showcase minimalist construction generally with low cut collars and minimal ankle support. These are ideal if you only plan on carrying the basics such as snacks, water and couple items of clothing when hiking. Additionally, they are a great choice for seasoned hikers with strong feet and ankles looking to hike on smooth to moderate trails.
Midweight hiking shoes feature more robust construction complete with heavier and durable uppers, burlier midsoles and shanks and higher ankle collars. If you plan on hiking for several days in a row, and with a fair amount of essentials, midweight hiking boots will provide you with increased ankle stability and foot support to travel through rough terrain with ease. Heavyweight hiking boots just as the name would suggest are heavier and more durable compared to their lightweight and midweight counterparts owing mostly to burly TPU midsoles and full-grain leather uppers.
Sometimes referred to as trail shoes, hiking shoes offer the perfect blend of moderate support, lightweight cushioning, and stable traction. Trail hiking shoes are an ideal choice if you’re going be heading out on day- or shorter hikes, and as a bonus—work great as everyday casual wear too!
Day Hiking or Light Hiking Boots
With the ability to carry heavier loads on longer hikes, day hiking boots are available in mid – high cut models, and are a great choice for moderate elevation grain, and require little break in time.
Backpacking Hiking Boots
These are ideal for trekking over rougher terrain or extended hikes. Most hiking boots in this segment feature a high cut that wraps above the ankles for enhanced support. Although they offer superior durability owing to their integrated stiffer midsoles, they may not be suitable for technical alpine ascents or ice climbing.
Mountaineering Hiking Boots
Of course, if you’re aiming for the peaks, you’re going to need a pair of hiking boots that can help you meet your goals. Mountaineering hiking boots provide the best ankle and foot protection, and are extremely durable. In addition, most boots in this space are waterproof, and some are even fitted with insulation to protect your feet in cold weather. Although mountaineering hiking boots are suitable for challenging mountain topography, significant elevation gain, and traversing ice and snowpack, they will probably weigh you down on most day hikes.
Hiking Boots Materials
Just like the many styles and types they can be ordered in, hiking boots can be crafted with one or more materials. Given that they will be used in sometimes rugged outdoor conditions, the best hiking boots should offer you the best of both worlds—top notch durability and protection. But remember that the tougher the construction, the more break-in-time required.
The materials used in the construction of the best hiking boots affect their weight, durability, breathability and water resistance. Common materials include:
Full Grain Leather
Hiking boots made from full grain leather offer excellent weather, water and abrasion resistance and durability. On the downside, they do require more time to properly break in, and aren’t as breathable or light compared to those made from a combination of nylon and split-grain leather.
Split Grain Leather
Split-grain leather is generally mated with nylon or nylon mesh, so boots made from these materials are lightweight and offer superior breathability. Further, some of these are fitted with mesh panels to increase breathability, but offer less resistance to water (some do feature waterproof liners) and abrasion.
This material is similar to full grain leather with the difference being it has been buffed for a smooth finish. Nubuck leather is extremely flexible, but does require significant break-in time before heading out on extended hikes.
Most modern hiking boots consist of synthetic materials such as polyester and nylon are lighter than real leather, dry faster, break in more easily and are usually cheaper.
Hiking Boots Foot Anatomy
Hiking boots are available in three distinct cuts, and the one you choose should match your trekking needs, because the wrong one could cause sprained ankle or rocks in your shoes.
Low-cut Hiking Boots
This type of hiking boots are similar to running shoes, and make a great choice for lightweight, casual hiking. Since they might leave you vulnerable to rolled ankles and other injuries, they are best suited for well-maintained trails.
Mid-cut Hiking Boots
Choose mid-cut hiking boots if you desire a little more balance and support as well as a great buffer from debris along the trail.
High-cut Hiking Boots
This type of cut is an excellent choice for adventurous hikers looking to go on and off the trail, and traverse potentially dangerous terrain.
Hiking boots with a heel height of 10mm to 20mm are generally a preferred choice among hikers. The higher the heel height, the more load and force placed on the forefoot causing the body’s center of gravity to shift forward. This may result in ligament and muscle fatigue owing to the fact that they will be forced to work overtime to keep you balanced.
Hiking Boots Construction
The quality of construction of hiking boots is just as important as the quality of materials. Hiking footwear made from poor quality materials can lead to leaks, rips, delamination and premature wear and splits. Hiking boots are made up several components, each contributing to their overall performance.
Insole and Midsole
The insole refers to the interior of the hiking shoes underneath the foot. Also referred to as the footbed, the soft, cushioned insole provides support for your foot particularly at the arch and toe, and can usually be removed and replaced. The midsole is where you need to pay attention because it increases shock absorption, and protects you from sharp objects that may pierce through the outsole.
Midsoles can be made from several different materials such as:
- PU (polyurethane) – Midsoles made from this material are lightweight, and offer shock absorption, cushioning, flexibility and excellent durability
- Compression-molded EVA (Ethyl Vinyl Acetate) – Made from expanded EVA, this range of midsoles provide great shock absorption
- TPR (thermoplastic rubber) – These offer lightweight durability and flexibility
- Injection-molded EVA (Ethyl Vinyl Acetate) – Made from melted pellets of EVA, these midsoles provide better uniform density from heel to toe compared to compression-molded EVA midsoles.
Most hiking boot outsoles are made from rubber or thermoplastic polyurethane. Hard outsoles are more durable, and feature a pattern of protruding treads, also called lugs. These traction-giving bumps improve grip, and the wider they are placed apart, the better the traction and ability to shed mud that sometimes accumulates at the bottom of the sole.
The upper is the outside of the hiking boots, all around and above the midsole. Uppers of the best hiking footwear are most commonly made from either leather or synthetic materials, each with their own share of benefits.
The tongue is generally well padded to provide comfort and support, and helps prevent dirt, water and other small rocks from getting into the hiking shoes.
This refers to a robust rubber guard designed to enhance protection and increase the service life of the hiking boot.
Some of the best hiking boots are fitted with moisture-wicking linings, which basically absorb sweat and keep your feet dry.
Hiking Boots Shanks
When it comes to hiking footwear, you need both comfort and sturdiness, and this is usually provided by elements hidden within the footwear. Foot shanks are usually made from composite material, steel, nylon, fiberglass or plastic, and sandwiched between the midsole and outsole or can be integrated in the midsole. They measure between 3–5mm thick, and vary in length, where some stretch out to the entire length of the midsole, while others half way through. They provide torsion stability, and are generally missing from lightweight trail hiking shoes.
Hiking Boots FAQs
How do you break in hiking boots?
Nothing beats the smell of fresh hiking boots right off the shelves, but wearing them to wander in Zion straight out of the box could spell disaster in the form of bleeding, blisters and a crappy time. Breaking in your hiking boots helps achieve the best fit, and is a gradual process that varies across models.
Get started by slipping on the socks you plan to wear with your hiking shoes, lace them up nice and tight, straighten the tongues and gussets, and then wear them around the neighborhood like you would with regular shoes. Once the boots start getting a feel for your feet, put on a daypack and take a few micro-adventures such as hiking around your favorite campground or through the foothills. Gradually increasing the weight and distance will help break in the hiking boots faster.
How do you tie hiking boots?
Most of us aced the art of tying laces way back in elementary school, but if you’ve forgotten how to, here’s the lowdown. There are three ways to tie your hiking boots—surgeons knot (simple and versatile), window-lacing (provides relief to pressure points located at the top of your foot) and D-ring lock.
How do you waterproof hiking boots?
Select models of hiking footwear are water resistant right out of the gate, but others can be done in a few easy ways/steps. First things first—you need to clean your hiking boots thoroughly if you’ve used them, and with a wire brush and warm water. Next, dry them inside and out completely, but you can leave leather models a little damp for optimal penetration of the waterproofing product.
To waterproof your hiking footwear, you will need wax, mink oil for full-grain leather boots or spray-on sealant for suede or synthetic material. Manufacturers sometimes list the best waterproofing products to use for their product so be sure to use those only. Once you waterproof your hiking shoes, make sure you dry them out completely before wearing them on the trail. Repeating this process regularly will not only protect your boots from water damage, but also make the shoes look great even after few years of use.
How long do hiking boots last?
This depends on how much and where you use them, and how well you take care of the boots. The best hiking boots with proper care and maintenance should last for years on end. Just like the service of life of a car depends mostly on the number of miles it is driven, if you hike once a week for an average 10 miles, your hiking footwear will last longer than someone hiking five times a week for an average of 10 miles each time. Be sure to read and follow the manufacturer instructions to increase the longevity of your hiking shoes.
What kind of hiking boots do I need?
This depends on several factors such as the type of terrain and weather you will be hiking in. There are different styles of hiking shoes to choose from such as low, medium and high cuts, so choose a pair that matches your needs perfectly.
When shopping for the best hiking footwear, you literally have myriad options to choose from. If you want the best and don’t mind paying the price, the Columbia Newton Ridge Plus II and Timberland Chocorua Trail hiking are worthy of a second look. However, if you’re just getting started with hiking and don’t want to invest in a premium pair of hiking shoes just yet, the Hi-Tec Men’s Bandera and Merrell Men’s Moab 2 Vent hiking shoes won’t disappoint you.