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Published Apr 1, 2022 3:20 PM

Over the last decade, there’s been a pronounced shift away from hiking boots in favor of hiking shoes and even trail runners. But for those who prefer the security and feel of a traditional hiking boot, there are a number of excellent options, ranging from low-cost mids to full-leather boots that can last a lifetime. To find the best hiking boots on the market, I looked at the results of a recent poll conducted by the Colorado Mountain Club of its members and landed on these five options:

Things to Consider Before Buying Hiking Boots

To learn more about how to choose between hiking boots, hiking shoes, and trail runners, I chatted with Kim Kelley, a member of REI’s virtual outfitting team. Here’s what she told me: 

Hiking Boot, Hiking Shoe, or Trail Runner? 

The choice between hiking boots, hiking shoes, and trail runners comes down to personal preference. Some like the secure fit of a hiking boot, while others prefer the more athletic feel of a trail runner, while still others are looking for something in between. Hiking boots, however, are preferred for off-trail or cross-country travel, as the stiffer shank of a hiking boot helps prevent the foot from becoming fatigued. But at the end of the day, the choice is about what’s most comfortable for the individual. 

Ankle Support

A common misconception is that the upper of a hiking boot helps prevent ankle rolling. Unfortunately, the uppers of most hiking boots are not nearly stiff enough to prevent ankle rolling. These uppers do, however, help prevent trail debris from getting inside your boot, and in the case of waterproof boots, can help keep your feet dry during stream crossings. What is protecting your ankle from rolling, however, is the rigidity of the base of the hiking boot. The thing that connects the heel to ankle support is the talus bone, which sits just above the heel bones and connects to ankle ligaments. To test the ankle support, simply twist the base of the boot. If it doesn’t move, the boot provides ankle support. 

Arch Support

On long hikes or backpacking trips, it’s common for the arch of the foot to become fatigued, which can lead to a common ailment of hikers: plantar fasciitis. One cause of this, especially among day hikers and backpackers is overpronation, where the foot leans or collapses inward. Anyone experiencing this, or suffering from pain while they walk, can benefit from an insole like Superfeet (individuals with exceptionally strong arches may prefer a Currex insole). 

Boot Size

With hiking boots, it’s important to have some space between your toes and the end of the boot—aim for about a finger’s width of space between the end of your toes and the tip of the boot. For most people, that works to about a half size larger than they typically wear. However, Kelley cautions that many people, especially women, rely on shoe sizings that they received when they were younger and don’t take into account the natural growth of the foot over time. Getting your foot sized by a professional—something you can do through REI’s Virtual Outfitting without visiting the store—is an important part of choosing a hiking boot. 

Best Overall: Lowa Renegade GTX Mid

Lowa Boots

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Key Features

  • Weight: Men’s 2 pounds, 7 ounces; Women’s 2 pounds, 2 ounces
  • Lining: Gore-Tex waterproof breathable membrane/polyester
  • Upper: Nubuck leather/Cordura nylon
  • Outsole: Vibram Evo
  • Available in regular, narrow, and wide
  • Cannot be resoled

Why It Made the Cut

The Lowa Renegade GTX is a fully-featured hiking boot that’s comfortable for a wide range of foot types right out of the box and comes at a reasonable price. 

Pros

  • Comfortable 
  • Short break-in period
  • Great tread that grips well to a variety of surfaces
  • Waterproof

Cons

  • Less durable than other options

Product Description

True hiking boots can be uncomfortable the first few (or dozen) times you take them on a hike. This break-in period is one of the most common reasons people switch to hiking shoes or trail runners. But CMC members found the Lowa Renegades to bridge this gap. “They were very comfortable from the first time I put them on,” one member said. 

Like the majority of great hiking boots, these come with a Gore-Tex waterproof liner and Vibram sole that ensures the Renegades grip well on a wide variety of terrains. The combination leather and Cordura upper provides additional waterproofing and, over time, forms to the foot for a secure fit. 

The use of polyurethane in the midsole, while more comfortable for a wide range of hikers and backpackers, isn’t the most durable and can degrade over time. One CMC member noted that they “don’t last very long” compared to other hiking boots. 

Best for Wide Feet: KEEN Voyageur Mid

Key Features

  • Weight: Men’s 2 pounds; Women’s 1 pound, 11.5 ounces
  • Lining: Synthetic 
  • Upper: Leather and polyester mesh
  • Outsole: Rubber
  • Available in regular sizes
  • Cannot be resoled

Why It Made the Cut

A broad design with a roomy toe box makes this lightweight hiker a good choice for individuals with wider feet or bunions. 

Pros

  • Wide toe box allows the toes to splay more naturally
  • Good tread handles a variety of terrains
  • Reasonably priced

Cons

  • Less durable 
  • Not as comfortable with heavy loads

Product Description

Hikers and backpackers with wider-than-average feet can run into a range of problems, ranging from blisters to more serious injuries. KEEN has long been known to run substantially wider than standard hiking boots and incorporate a larger toe box into their designs. The Voyageur was popular with CMC members in part for this reason. One member who dealt with plantar fasciitis said, “changing to the Keens helped resolve the issue.” 

This shoe was less popular for backpackers used to carrying loads over 30 pounds, because of the reduced cushion in the footbed. But the lighter overall weight of this shoe compared to those with heavier cushioned shoes makes this a comfortable day hiking choice, even on longer trails. 

Best for Narrow Feet: Asolo Drifter GV Evo

Key Features

  • Weight: Men’s 2 pounds, 11 ounces; Women’s 2 pounds, 6 ounces
  • Lining: Gore-Tex Performance Comfort 
  • Upper: Water-resistant suede and Cordura
  • Outsole: Vibram Duo Radiant with Megagrip compound
  • Available in regular
  • Can be resoled

Why It Made the Cut

Highly durable, waterproof construction in a slim profile made the Asolo Drifter GV Evos popular with hikers with narrower feet.

Pros

  • Long lasting
  • Waterproof
  • Good balance of support and weight

Cons

  • Expensive

Product Description

The Asolo Drifter GV Evos have all the hallmarks of a great pair of hiking boots: a durable upper made from waterproof Cordura, and a Gore-Tex liner that keeps feet dry even in the unpredictable afternoon rain storms of the Rockies. The Vibram outsole (which is replaceable, can keep this boot in commission for many years) grips well and holds onto less dirt and debris. 

Unlike the roomier toe boxes typically seen on trail runners, the Asolo Drifters narrow at the toes. That, combined with the overall slimmer shape of the shoe, made this one an ideal fit for CMC members with narrower feet, locking their heels in place without pinching once laced up. 

Best Leather: Zamberlan 1025 Tofane NW GTX RR

Zamberlan

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Key Features

  • Weight: Men’s 4 pounds, 4 ounces; Women’s 3 pounds, 8 ounces
  • Lining: Gore-Tex Performance Comfort 
  • Upper: Waxed full grain leather
  • Outsole: Vibram NorTrack
  • Available in regular
  • Can be resoled

Why It Made the Cut

The Zamberlan 1025 Tofane is a beautiful leather hiking boot that performs at a high level and will last for years with the proper care. 

Pros

  • High-quality materials
  • Comfortable after the break-in period
  • Waterproof

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Requires careful maintenance

Product Description

Full-grain leather boots have long been popular for their natural water resistance and ability to mold to the shape of the foot over time. The Zamberlan Tofanes take this to the next level with welted construction (as opposed to glue) and a double stitch between the midsole and the upper, which increases the natural durability of the leather. The quality components make this boot appropriate for off-trail hiking and scrambling (a rubber band protects the toe from accidental scuffs). And a Gore-Tex liner augments the leather to make this an excellent waterproof option across a range of conditions. 

One CMC member noted the “longer than normal break-in period” with the Tofanes. But they’re “high-quality, awesome boots once done.” They said. Still, these boots are not as stiff as mountaineering boots because the uppers do not provide significant ankle support. 

While the Tofanes are easily the most expensive on this list, they are designed to be resoled, increasing the overall longevity of the hiking boot. 

Best Budget: Merrell Moab 2 Mid Ventilator

Merrell

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Key Features

  • Weight: Men’s: 2 pounds, 2 ounces, Women’s: 1 pound, 14 ounces
  • Lining: Mesh
  • Upper: Suede leather/mesh
  • Outsole: Vibram TC5+ 
  • Available in regular and wide
  • Cannot be resoled

Why It Made the Cut

Out-of-the box comfort and an affordable price make the Merrell Moab 2 a favorite hiking boot for Colorado Mountain Club members.

Pros

  • Budget friendly
  • No break-in period

Cons 

  • Not waterproof
  • Less supportive than other boots on this list

Product Description

Finding any footwear for hiking in the $100 price range, let alone a hiking boot, can be a challenge, but the Moab 2 from Merrell is a functional choice for activities ranging from day hikes to low-key overnight trips with smaller loads. While it lacks Gore-Tex to protect feet from rain and stream crossings, its breathable mesh dries out faster than typical hiking boots and the suede leather will protect your feet from scuffs on the trail. 

These hiking boots are less durable overall, but the low price and a comfortable fit offset that from mile one. Hikers uncertain about whether to choose a hiking shoe or hiking boot may find this to be the ideal middle ground. Some may even want to compensate for the durability issues by simply buying two pairs to alternate between, as one CMC member reported doing. 

FAQs

Q: Do I need hiking boots?

While many people prefer hiking boots for hiking or backpacking, the vast majority of people do not need them. If you’d like to consider a more lightweight alternative to a hiking boot for your next trail adventure, explore a hiking shoe or trail runner. 

Q: How much do hiking boots cost?

Hiking boots typically run from $200 to as much as $500. When considering price, you should research whether the boot you’re looking at can be resoled. It’s always cheaper to resole a boot than buy a new one. 

Q: Should I get waterproof hiking boots? 

Most hiking boots are waterproof or offer waterproof options. One of the main functions of hiking boots is to protect your feet from the elements, including rain, snow, and river crossings. That said, some individuals find that sweat can lead to soggy feet anyway, something that the poor ventilation typically associated with waterproof hiking boots only exacerbates. Consider the type of terrain you plan to hike (waterproof boots may be less useful in the desert, for instance) and your own foot type to determine the right fit for you. 

Methodology 

As one member of the Colorado Mountain Club put it, “Feet are like Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, every one is special and different.” Compounded with what is perhaps the hiking boots best-known attribute—their longevity—this can make a typical testing regime challenging. What works for one foot over the course of a decade may swiftly result in injury for someone else. Anyone committed to hiking boots as their footwear of choice—as opposed to hiking shoes or trail runners—knows that finding the right fit requires considerable trial and error. But once you find the best hiking boots for your own preferences, that could be your boot for life. 

To find out what has stood the test of time, the Colorado Mountain Club ran a poll to find the best hiking boots that worked for their members across a range of foot types and for loads ranging from sub-10 pounds to over 30. The results from that poll informed the choices in this article, and I’ll continue to update this list as more results come in.

Final Thoughts

While even the best hiking boots may be less popular nowadays, for a number of people they are still the best footwear for treks into the backcountry. Whether or not to purchase a hiking boot, versus a hiking shoe or trail runner, is a personal decision. Don’t be swayed into choosing a low-profile trail runner if you prefer a hiking boot.