Whether trekking through the snowy Alps or traversing the Serengeti, footwear will almost always constitute the single most important piece of kit in a hiker’s loadout, affording its wearer with the necessary support, protection, and traction needed to successfully negotiate the trails and other off-grid terrains. Each year, manufacturers manage to bolster these aforementioned characteristics in the form of increasingly capable new hiking boots, and while there is genuinely no shortage of fantastic pairs on the market, there is a short list of models that objectively stand above the rest, distinguishing themselves through the use of innovative materials and designs.
Despite an already robust product space, the number of quality products in recent years continues to increase, making it difficult to find the right option for you. So, to help narrow down your search, we’ve thoroughly poured over the market to shine a light on the best hiking boots currently available, highlighting a selection of the finest hikers that money can buy, while also delving into what factors to consider when shopping for a new pair of hiking boots.
What To Look For
The Big Seven
While there are dozens of factors one can consider when looking at hiking boots, there are a few key areas that are unequivocally the most crucial. To help streamline your shopping experience, we’ve broken down the seven most pivotal areas to think about before pulling the trigger on your purchase.
Application: Like most pieces of gear, hiking boots can be divided into multiple categories depending on their intended application. A boot’s intended use will ultimately determine what elements and amenities it’s equipped with, such as insulation or robust waterproofing for nasty weather or cushioning and support for increased stamina on long hikes.
Comfort: You don’t need to possess a wealth of hiking experience to know just how unpleasant ill-fitting boots can be out on the trail. Fortunately, the evolution of modern hiking boots has given way to a wide array of technologies and designs that make for incredibly comfortable models. Be sure to take factors such as linings, tongues and collars, insoles, and footbeds into account.
Materials & Construction: Whether shopping for a sleeping bag, camping tent, or pair of hiking boots, the materials and construction techniques used in the creation of a product play an enormous role in overall quality. You’ll want to keep an eye out for GORE-TEX membranes, rugged construction, and hardwearing, abrasion-resistant uppers, as well as reinforcement elements and fortifying finishes or treatments. Composite shanks are also popular fare on modern models.
Style: With so many different models and genres being produced by so many different brands, today’s market boasts a massive array of styles, from modern, technical pairs to minimalist streetwear-inspired items to retro-themed boots, and so on. While you don’t want this area to trump application or construction/materials in terms of importance, it’s still okay to let your aesthetic tastes partially guide your purchase.
Traction & Grip: Hiking can be extremely unpredictable and steep inclines and loose or slick terrain can become extremely problematic without proper traction. Fortunately, this is another aspect of hiking boots that has massively evolved over the years, resulting in a host of widely available and highly grippy outsoles and tread patterns that afford hiking boots uncompromising levels of grip. When considering this area, it’s always a safe bet to go with trusted, name-brand offerings such as the ever-so-popular Vibram Megagrip outsole.
Water/Weatherproofing: Keeping your feet dry while out in nature is a must, and luckily it isn’t that tall of an order with so many of today’s hiking boots offering waterproof membranes and upper treatments that make them highly impervious to water and the elements. Even if it’s not raining, you’ll certainly come across creeks, streams, and puddles on your outings. Unless you exclusively plan on hiking in the desert, this is one area that you should almost certainly factor into your decision.
Weight: While pretty much every entry on this list is considered lightweight by traditional hiking boot standards, a model’s weight can still play a pivotal factor when shopping, as certain genres such as trail running shoes massively benefit from a lightweight form, as do boots designed for all-day use during backpacking trips.
Lowa Renegade GTX Mid
- Tons of support
- Lightweight and versatile
- Stock insoles can be better, but they’re replaceable
Best Overall: LOWA has been a staple in the outdoor community for nearly 100 years. Even Jim Whittaker, the first American to peak Mt. Everest in the ‘60s, did so in a pair of LOWA boots. Although the brand’s Renegade GTX Mid is a bit pricier than its contemporaries, you’re paying for the best hiking boot around. And if you’re serious about the trails, you should be willing to shell out the extra dough for the best of the best. Waterproof, supremely comfortable, and surprisingly lightweight at just 1.22lbs per shoe, these GORE-TEX-lined hikers will get the job done no matter how far you’re traveling. LOWA frames the shoes with its proprietary DuraPU MONOWRAP construction and double-injects the material into the midsoles for shock absorption.
Outsole: Vibram Evo
HOKA Anacapa Mid GTX
- Extremely comfortable
- Sustainable-focused construction
- Thin laces and lack of tongue padding can be uncomfortable when laced tightly
Best for the Monthly Hiker: A once-a-month day hiker is definitely someone who takes his outdoor excursions seriously. However, you might not want or need all the capabilities of someone who goes on lengthy trips every other weekend. Increasingly becoming one of the most popular hiking boots on the scene, HOKA’s Anacapa boots are phenomenal in every way. Released in 2021, the Anacapa Mid GTX model retains the innovative qualities and unparalleled performance that the French footwear firm is known for while coming in a markedly more sustainable package. This has been accomplished through the use of uppers made from Leather Working Group-certified waterproof Nubuck leather and upcycled poly mesh lining and collar laces. Even the full GORE-TEX liner present on these boots is crafted from repurposed textiles, though it doesn’t stop there, as this boot also features a sock-liner made from 50% soybean oil.
Outsole: Vibram Megagrip
Merrell Moab 3 Mid
- Very rugged for the price
- Uses recycled materials
- Complaints about water still getting inside
Best Budget: Nobody does budget footwear for the outdoors like Merrell. Largely because its waterproof hiking shoes never feel like they’d be affordable in the first place. Merrell’s ubiquity on the trails has more to do with performance than anything else, but a lower price tag still helps. Improving the cushion and support of the midsoles, the newest iteration of the flagship Moab boots is exactly what you’d expect from the Michigan-based firm. Merrell also ups its sustainability by using recycled materials, including in 100% of the mesh lining, laces, and lining.
Outsole: Vibram TC5+
Arc’teryx Acrux TR GTX
- Insanely durable
- Lacing hooks have snagged for some users
Best High-End: If money is no object and you’re simply after the best modern hiking boots that money can buy, then there’s a very decent chance that the Arc’Teryx Acrux TR GTX model is the boot for you. It features insanely-rugged micro-plated SuperFabric uppers tacked to a Vibram Megagrip outsole. Other highlights on this spare-no-expense model include EVA midsoles, a 4mm OrthoLite 3D molded insert, a full GORE-TEX laminate membrane, and a locking lace closure system. And not only are these high-performance boots built-to-last but they’re also protected by Arc’Teryx’s limited lifetime warranty.
Outsole: Vibram Megagrip
Xero Scrambler Mid
- Provides barefoot feel
- Good traction
- Extremely lightweight
- Might take time to get used to
Best Zero Drop: Some people like more of a barefoot feel out on the trails. If so, opt for a zero-drop hiking boot over a standard boot. Known for its dedication to zero-drop footwear for the outdoors, Xero has made its new Scrambler Mid in partnership with Michelin — yes, the tire company. These hikers utilize the latter’s Fiber Lite outsoles, with lugs inspired by its mountain bike tires for traversing through muddy terrain. Like other Xero shoes, these lightweight Scramblers feature wide toe boxes for spreading your digits, TrailFoam midsoles for superior comfort, and abrasion-resistant, breathable uppers.
Outsole: Michelin Fiber Lite
- A lot of attractive variant options
- Expensive and have gone up a lot in price in recent years
Most Stylish: Beautifully blending traditional hiking boot designs with that of modern streetwear-style sneakers, ROA’s Andreas model represents a stylish yet thoroughly functional and utilitarian pair of boots. The Andreas’ uppers are made from a combination of Kudu and calf leather that’s supplemented via mesh and rubber overlays. Ample comfort and impact absorption is afforded through the boot’s poly lining and foam midsoles while a precise fit is made possible via its speed hook eyelet system. And, whether you’re on the street or on the trails, the Andreas’ Vibram Megagrip outsoles are guaranteed to provide plenty of traction on wet or dry surfaces.
Outsole: Vibram Megagrip
- Have a classy aesthetic
- Surprisingly durable
- You might not want to get these too dirty
Best Vintage-Inspired: When people think of Aether, they don’t usually think of vintage. After all, the Los Angeles-based company’s history only dates back to 2009. However, when looking to develop a pair of heirloom-quality vintage-inspired hiking boots, the brand turned to the experts at the more-than-century-old Italian shoemaker Fracap. The result: an artisan-quality hiker that combines modern traits with old-school shoe-making techniques. As such the Dolomite boot sports Italian calf leather and suede uppers that are outfitted with genuine metal eyelets and lacing hooks and constructed atop a set of Vibram outsoles. Protected by a lifetime guarantee, these boots — which are available in five different color options — are also made by hand in Italy.
Adidas Terrex Free Hiker GORE-TEX 2.0
- Takes pressure off knees
- Very lightweight
Best for a Shoe-Like Fit: Sometimes we want the support of a boot without all the bulkiness. While locking in your ankle will be favorable for most outdoorsmen, footwear with less intrusive ankle support may be optimal for those with knee issues. Adidas has continued to outdo itself with its outdoor sublabel, Terrex. With its flagship Free Hiker, the brand goes more for a shoe-like fit than a traditional boot. Don’t worry, it still gives you proper sturdiness for your lower joints. Hugging your foot rather than locking it into place, the PRIMEKNIT collar provides both flexibility and support, while the GORE-TEX membrane ensures that your foot stays cool and dry.
Outsole: Continental Rubber
Salomon Quest 4 GORE-TEX
- Great for varying terrain and inclines
- A small step down from previous generation of the model
Best for Long Journeys: If you’re going to take a pair of shoes the distance, you’ll want a pair that’s lightweight, durable, and versatile for anything you’re going to face along the way. At 1.45lbs, Salomon’s Quest 4 looks like it would weigh twice as much. However, it clocks in around half a pound less per shoe than the brand’s X Ultra Mid. These GORE-TEX-lined boots have since transcended the outdoor space but they’re still the best option for long treks that can throw anything your way, sporting the brand’s patented Descent Control technology — a lightweight chassis shoehorned between the boot’s outsole and midsole that helps optimize motion control, protection, and energy management — allowing for markedly better support and control, regardless of the typography or terrain.
Outsole: Contagrip TD
Danner Arctic 600 Side-Zip
- Extremely versatile
- Available year-round
- Lacing can be a challenge
Best for Cold Weather: It may seem like hiking through the wilderness in the cold weather is a non-starter, but if you’re well-equipped there’s no reason why you should have to stay indoors all season. We’ve already seen how the Pacific Northwest-based heritage brand can create strong, durable work and hiking boots. However, in Danner’s nine decades of excellence, few of its models have been as equipped for cold weather conditions as the Arctic 600 hikers. A perennial favorite, the brand’s flagship winter boots feature Vibram in heavy doses, including SPE midsoles for comfort and Nisqually Arctic Grip on the outsoles. However, the cold-weather comfort begins with the stylish suede uppers which are reinforced by Danner Dry waterproof protection and insulated with 200g of PrimaLoft.
Outsole: Vibram Nisqually Arctic Grip
La Sportiva Nepal EVO GTX Mountaineering Boots
Best for Mountaineering: While almost certainly a bit overkill for your average trek through the woods, La Sportiva’s Nepal EVO GTX boots are undoubtedly one of the best alpine-grade boots currently in production. Made specifically for mountaineering, the Italian brand’s ultra-high-end hikers will get the job done and then some. While $600 is nothing to sniff at, you also want to be well-equipped when traversing the treacherous terrain of an icy landscape. Aside from the GORE-TEX membrane and Vibram outsoles, the proprietary Impact Brake System allows you to handle inclines and declines. For extreme temperature control, the abrasion-resistant uppers are made from Idro-Perwanger rough-out leather insulated with 3.2mm of silicone.
Outsole: Vibram with Impact Brake System
- Brand continues to strive towards sustainability
- Swapping out GORE-TEX for sustainable VasqueDry affects performance
Best Environmentally Friendly: Relaunched for 2022, the iconic Breeze hiking boot was a game changer for Vasque upon its 2004 debut. Waterproof, breathable, and surprisingly lightweight, the Breeze has now upped the recyclability of its materials while tapping previous generations of the shoe for its updated design. Both the collar lining and webbing are made from 100% recycled materials, while the heel counter is still an impressive 60% and the upper mesh is 75%. Even the midsole has some recycled sugar cane infused into it.
Outsole: Vasque Trail Strider
The Best Hiking Socks
In order to make the most of your new hiking boots, you’re going to want an equally capable pair of trail-specific layers underneath. Head over to our guide to the best hiking socks available.