Your favorite running sneakers might fly on a quick jaunt around the big city when you’re out traveling, but when it’s time to hit the trails, you’re going to want something with excellent traction, waterproofing, and solid support on uneven ground. Water bottle and cozy layers aside, nothing is more essential for comfortably exploring the wilderness (sans blisters) than a solid pair of the best hiking boots for men. Experts agree that the right boot and fit could mean the difference between a mood-boosting experience and the never-ending drama of jammed toes and ankle blisters.
It stands to reason that not all trails are created equal: Some hikes are flat, easy to navigate, and clear of boulders and debris, while others are steep, technical, and relentless. Whether you’re planning a leisurely birding stroll in a local state park or a multi-day backpacking trip in a rustic national park, you’re going to need a reliable pair that won’t slow you down. We asked a few of our favorite outdoor and travel professionals to get the skinny on the best hiking boots for men that can handle whatever planet Earth throws at them. (While you’re here shopping, we also have recommendations for women’s hiking boots and the best hiking socks.)
What to look for in hiking boot:
Finding the perfect pair of hiking boots (especially online) can feel like a daunting task, as the lists of features often blend into a strange hodgepodge of acronyms, technical fabrics, and industry jargon. But, at the end of the day, the most important things to look for in men’s hiking boots are: waterproofing, weight, and traction.
First, ask yourself what type of terrain or climate are you likely to be hiking through the most. If the answer is Joshua Tree’s arid desert or something similar, perhaps opt for an ultralight boot with tons of mesh, or a trail runner that’s designed to vent your sweaty feet when it’s hot out (but isn’t likely to protect you from a downpour). If the answer is the Pacific Northwest or a rainy, tropical environment, seek out a boot with a Gore-tex or other waterproof membrane, which will help keep you dry in showers and creek crossings.
After deciding where I’m most likely to use my new boots, one of the first things I look at when perusing the selection of hiking boots is weight. If I know I’m going to be trekking for several days with a 30–40 pound backpack strapped to my body, I might splurge a little, weight-wise, and get a sturdy boot with great ankle support and a cushy midsole. If I’m aiming to go fast and light on a day hike near my hometown of Boulder, I pop on a pair of ultralight shoes, like the Hoka Speedgoat 5.
Finally, I always check out the boots’ bottom grips (or “lugs,” as they’re called in the industry). Mellow, flat, or paved trails might be fine in a pair of road-running shoes, but slick, muddy, or rocky trails will require more grip to keep you from falling. Look closely at the underside of the hiking boots you’re considering–deeper, more pronounced lugs mean that the shoe is more able to grab whatever wilderness surface you’re stepping on.
This article has been updated with new information since its original publish date.