The Best Lightweight Hiking Boots

Find a pair of kicks that won’t weigh you down with our tried and true picks
We tested the best lightweight hiking boots.

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If you’re looking to up your mileage in the backcountry, it’s time to start researching your next pair of lightweight hiking boots. The old saw “a pound on the foot is worth five on the back” is based on actual research (conducted by the U.S. Army Research Institute in 1984), so if your pair is clocking in at over 5 pounds, it’s time to upgrade. Fortunately, there has been a revolution in lightweight hiking boots in recent years, many of which Outdoor Life has tested as part of our coverage of boots for backpacking and hunting. I’ve rounded up our picks for the best lightweight hiking boots here, to help you get prepped for your next season on the trail or in the woods. 

How I Chose the Best Lightweight Hiking Boots

Outdoor Life has been testing boots for years, both in the field and in controlled environments. Alaska contributor Justin La Vigne has opined on the best hiking boots for men. I tested 10 best waterproof hiking boots to see which had the chops to keep the water out. For my take on barefoot shoes and trail runners, I evaluated a number of hiking boots. And, of course, OL editors are constantly out in the field, testing a range of hiking boots in different settings.

Best Lightweight Hiking Boots: Reviews & Recommendations

Best Overall: Danner Trail 2650 GTX Mid

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Key Features

  • Available Sizes: 7-14 (men’s), 5-11 (women’s)
  • Weight: 14 ounces per boot (men’s), 11 ounces per boot (women’s)
  • Outsole: Vibram 460 
  • Available in regular and wide

Pros

  • Great fit
  • Protects the foot more than trail runners
  • Fast break-in period

Cons

  • Heavier than a typical trail runner
  • Substantial heel-toe-drop (8mm) 

If you’ve bee researching the best lightweight hiking boot for more than five minutes, you’ve probably had someone ask you if you’ve considered trail running shoes instead. I’ve got good news: with the Danner Trail 2650, you don’t have to choose. These shoes are lightweight like trail runners but with many of the features of traditional hiking boots, including a tough upper, serious lugs (4mm) on long-lasting tread, and a stiffer overall construction.

I had a tester take out a pair in preparation for an upcoming thru-hike, and she found that the integrated tongue of the shoe improved the overall fit, locking her heel into place and giving her the stability she was accustomed to from hiking shoes. Strategically placed leather panels on the upper also helped protect her toes and Achilles area, while the ventilation in the Gore-Tex kept her feet from overheating. Contributor Joe Genzel similarly called this one a trail running shoe built for hunters, noting it was an all-purpose shoe with enough cushion and traction to handle every type of scenario he could throw at it. 

Best for Men: Hoka Kaha GTX 2

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Key Features

  • Available Sizes: 7-15 (men’s), 5-11 (women’s)
  • Weight: 16.8 ounces per boot (men’s), 15.6 ounces per boot (women’s)
  • Outsole: Vibram Megagrip
  • Available in regular width only

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • High ankle support
  • Cushy footbed

Cons

  • Expensive
  • No wide options

Out of all the contenders in the best hiking boots for men, these are the lightest with a full high top (7 inches). I wore the Kaha GTX for two summers of guiding in the Alaskan bush, logging about 300 miles. They have been my go-to for everything from exposed alpine tundra hikes to rocky slopes. The design of the sole has a slight arch, which creates a rocking motion to spring my steps forward. I feel a bounce in my steps along with the enhanced cushion. Released just last year, the GTX 2 has a more plush cushion and my feet never ached or fatigued. The newest GTX also utilizes more sustainable materials, like recycled Gore-Tex textiles. These are one of the few pairs of boots that I don’t need to replace the insole with aftermarket versions because of the ideal shock absorption. 

I tramped through wet and muddy swamps and the Gore-Tex lining kept my feet completely dry. Composed of Vibram Megagrip, the multi-directional rubber lugs of the outsole gripped well and kept me moving forward. If there are any downsides, it’s that after extensive use—especially after hiking on sharp lava rock—the outsoles wear down faster than other boots I’ve tested. 

Some say that the Hokas look like moon boots. Likely the extreme cushioning and oversized toe box give this impression. However, once you put on this plush boot with optimal toe splay, you might not mind a few funny looks. —Justin La Vigne

Best for Women: Altra Lone Peak Hiker

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Key Features

  • Available Sizes: 7-16 (men’s), 5.5-12 (women’s)
  • Weight: 11.5 ounces per shoe (men’s), 9.9 ounces (women’s)
  • Outsole: Duratread
  • Available in three different widths

Pros

  • Minimal to no break-in time
  • Wide toe box promotes balance and comfort

Cons

  • Less durable than other hiking boots
  • Not as robust ankle protection

For Hannah Simmerman, a hiking guide with REI in Shenandoah National Park, the best hiking boots for women are the kissing cousin of what hikers and backpackers have long agreed is the best hiking shoe: the Altra Lone Peak. Read the OL gear team’s full test of the biggest shoe in backpacking here. Like the Altra Lone Peak, the Hiker’s wide toebox and zero heel drop promotes stability and correct foot placement (Simmerman also recommends this shoe to clients dealing with plantar fasciitis). 

While one of the most appealing aspects of the lightweight Lone Peak Hiker is that, like many trail runners, it requires little to no break-in period, this does come with a catch: This shoe has very limited water resistance and is known to be less durable than other shoes on the market, particularly the midsole foam. While Simmerman initially grabbed the Lone Peak Hikers for the heavy load she carries on client trips, she has started using these on personal trips as well. 

“It’s nice sometimes to feel support on my ankle when I’m hopping around on rocks,” she told me for my story on the best hiking boots for women. “They feel more secure than trail runners.”

Best Waterproof: Vasque Breeze

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Key Features

  • Available Sizes: 7-14 (men’s), 6-11 (women’s)
  • Weight: 20 ounces per boot (men’s), 17 ounces per boot (women’s)
  • Outsole: Vasque Trail Strider
  • Available in regular and wide

Pros

  • Fully waterproof
  • Affordably priced
  • Dries fairly quickly
  • Reasonably lightweight

Cons

  • Tight fit may be uncomfortable for some

The Vasque Breeze scored well in every test I put it through during my review of the best waterproof hiking boots. It was completely dry after being left in several inches of water for 16 hours, and then stayed dry in my second test, where I threw all of the salt and mud and sun that I could at it and then left it again in submerged water. This boot manages all that while coming in at a fairly affordable (at least for hiking boots) price. The lightweight design of the Vasque Breeze also offers more breathability than other waterproof hiking boots, and it performed well during the dry-time test. 

I recommend sizing up for the Vasque Breeze (which runs small) and also walking around for some time before committing to a final purchase. This boot is on the narrow side, and some hikers may find that it is putting more sideways pressure on the forefoot than they prefer.

Read Next: The Best Waterproof Hiking Boots

Lightest for Winter: Merrell Thermo Rogue

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Key Features

  • Available Sizes: 7-15 (men’s), 5-11 (women’s)
  • Weight: 14.84 ounces per boot (men’s), 14.84 ounces per boot (women’s)
  • Outsole: Vibram Arctic Grip All Terrain
  • Available in regular width only

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Good traction

Cons

  • Gets cold fairly quickly when subjected to cold water
  • Flexible upper provides less protection when postholing than other winter hiking boots

Everything about hiking in winter is heavier. Your pack is heavier, your clothes are heavier. And your shoes: They are a lot heavier—likely twice the weight of your warm-weather kicks. And while it’s easy to forget that your shoes are heavier when you first start hiking, the reality is that the biomechanics of your body mean that (as we mention above) extra weight on your feet is worth as much as five times that on your back. So there’s a good reason to invest in a quality lightweight winter hiking boot.

Not only was the Merrell Thermo Rogue the lightest option I looked at for my test of the best winter hiking boots—at about two pounds for a pair, it also performed impressively during most of my testing protocol. Like the Danner Arctic 600 and the Oboz Bangtail, it sports a variation of the Vibram Arctic Grip and was pretty grippy when walking on ice. I had to step more carefully than with the other two boots, but I would be confident walking on most level icy surfaces with the Merrell Thermo Rogue. It also handled the waterproofing test admirably, staying dry for 14 hours when left in standing water.

When I first laced up the Merrell Thermo Rogues I noticed they warmed up fast compared to the Oboz Bangtail on the brief, fast-paced hike I took them on before the insulation test. But when I stepped into the icy cold water of the Snoqualmie River, the situation changed rapidly. In fact, my feet got so cold so quickly that I thought water was seeping in through the top of the shoe (which was not included as part of standing water test) and I ended the test earlier than planned.

When I went to check my sock, however, I found that my foot was completely dry: The Merrell Thermo Rogues had just lost its insulating powers after only a couple of minutes of standing in cold water. To confirm this, I retested the shoes, this time being sure to lace them up tightly to prevent as much water from seeping in around the laces as possible. This made a slight difference in how quickly my foot got cold, but it was still nowhere near the performance of either the Oboz Bangtail or the Danner Arctic 600.

Read Next: The Best Winter Hiking Boots

Best for Women’s Hunting: Danner Wayfinder

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Key Features

  • Available Sizes: 5-11 (women’s)
  • Weight: 17.5 ounces per boot (women’s)
  • Outsole: Danner Wayfinder outsole
  • Available in regular width only

Pros

  • Versatile for species and terrain
  • Lightweight compared to similar style boots
  • Waterproof liner 

Cons

  • Require conditioning for best performance

After years of wearing men’s hunting boots in my size (including Danner Pronghorns), I finally slipped on a pair of Wayfinders and realized why buying boots made specifically for women is a good idea. The Wayfinders are much lighter than comparable styles in men’s boots, and the fit just feels right (Danner describes it as “athletic”). Lacing up the Wayfinders is closer to slipping on a pair of hiking boots or trail running shoes, but with all the versatility of an 8-inch leather hunting boot.

I appreciate the natural, hunting color tones on this boot (none of the pink or purple that traditionally plagues women’s camo). These boots are stiffer and more structured than the Danner Pronghorn, so they’ll take a little breaking in, but once you do they’ll serve you well. I’ve worn the Wayfinder for everything from summer deer scouting and tree stand work to Hawaiian axis deer and high-alpine elk hunts. It wouldn’t be my go-to choice for hauling meat out of the backcountry, but it can do just about everything else. Technically these boots are suede instead of leather (with some nylon), but they wear in well and are much lighter than full-grain leather. Just be sure to waterproof and condition the suede as needed. —Natalie Krebs

Best Minimalist: Xero Scrambler Mid Hiking Boots

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Key Features

  • Sizes: 6.5-15 (men’s), 5-12 (women’s)
  • Weight: 11.3 ounces per boot (men’s), 9.4 ounces per boot (women’s)
  • Outsole: Michelin Fiberlite
  • Available in regular only

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Straddles the difference between barefoot-style shoes and other minimalist shoes like the Altra Lone Peak
  • Wide fit will accommodate a wider variety of foot shapes. 

Cons

  • Stiff back heel can affect gait for barefoot hikers accustomed to a more flexible shoe

If you’re curious about hiking in a more minimalist shoe, the Xero Scrambler Mid HIking Boot is a great place to start. While other barefoot shoes let you feel every sharp rock underfoot, this one provides reasonably substantial protection, including 4mm of foam. I tested this boot as part of Outdoor Life’s inaugural ultralight backpacking test and was impressed with just how little I thought about it on everything from muddy trails to road walks. And unlike traditional hiking boots, it’s still exceptionally flexible, bending with the foot as you roll through your stride. I also liked that this boot has a wider fit than others on this list, like the Vasque Breeze. 

It’s naturally wide enough to accommodate a classic wide-shaped foot, especially if you remove the insole. But the low stack height (15mm) means that even if you have a little more room along the side of your foot than you’re used to, the likelihood of rolling your ankle is lower than it is with hiking boots with higher stack heights. One note for individuals accustomed to wearing barefoot style shoes is that the back of the heel on this boot is stiffer than that of my best barefoot pick. If you tend to land on the balls of your feet on steep downhills, the Xero Scrambler Mid Hiking Boot may feel uncomfortable in that more elongated foot position. 

Best Barefoot: Vivobarefoot Tracker II

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Key Features

  • Sizes: 7-15 (men’s), 5.5-11.5 (women’s)
  • Weight: 20 ounces per boot (men’s), 14.1 ounces per boot (women’s)
  • Outsole: Firm Ground Outsole
  • Available in regular width only

Pros

  • Zero heel drop
  • 5.5mm stack height
  • Flexible and quiet

Cons

  • Cold of the ground can creep through
  • Not waterproof

One of the biggest problems with many barefoot-style boots is that they retain the stiff upper of conventional boots. This can force your gait into a heel strike, the exact opposite of what barefoot shoes should do. The big exception to this is the Vivobarefoot Tracker series. These uppers do not constrict ankle movement at all, and, in my experience, require no break-in time. The best option for hunters in the Vivobarefoot Tracker lineup is the Forest ESC. 

Like all of the best minimalist shoes, these have zero heel drop and barely-there soles. Unlike others, however, they have some serious lugs. These provide great traction when new but be aware that they will wear off faster than the lugs on more conventional hunting boots. In testing, I’ve found that these boots are absolutely not waterproof (do not wear these into a stream) but in practice they are quite water resistant and will keep your feet dry when you’re trudging through soaked underbrush. They are also very effective at keeping debris out. 

Things to Consider Before Buying the Best Lightweight Hiking Boots

Weight

If you’re purchasing one of the best lightweight hiking boots for the first time, then you’re in for a treat. Gram for gram, there is no greater value in cutting weight from your kit than in your shoes. As anyone who has spent a long day in the backcountry knows, fatigue often starts in our feet, and it’s aching dogs that are most often responsible for ending a day in the woods sooner than planned. The biomechanics of the foot are such that weight on the feet has a greater impact than anywhere else in our body. Choosing a lightweight hiking boot will help you have a longer and more enjoyable outing in the backcountry.  

Fit

Many people assume that the stiff upper of a hiking boot will protect their ankle from rolling. But the reality is that unless you are wearing something made from a rigid plastic, such as you would find on a ski or mountaineering boot, your ankle can still roll. What can help prevent ankle rolling, however, is the fit of your boot, particularly at the heel. If your foot slides around easily inside of your shoe, then the odds of rolling your ankle go up. You want the heel of your foot to be locked in place in the boot, which will also help keep blisters down. If you feel your heel moving around excessively inside of the boot, you may want to try some other options. It may also be helpful to experiment with the best insoles for hiking before making a final purchase. 

Other factors that can affect ankle rolling include stack height (the distance between the bottom of your foot and the ground) and a shoe’s toe box. Shoes with higher stack heights may be more likely to roll than those with lower stack heights. Similarly shoes with a narrow footbox may prevent your toes from splaying. Splayed toes increase the surface area of your foot, allowing your big toe, pinky toe, and heel to act more like a tripod, which can help prevent ankle rolling.

Waterproof Lining

As several of our picks on this list show, you can have both a great lightweight boot and a great waterproof boot. However, keep in mind that waterproof boots won’t breathe as well as other options, which can trap heat (and often sweat) inside of your boot. Individuals in arid climates may be happier with non-waterproof boots.

Upper

Many people believe that a high upper is a requirement to prevent ankle rolling. However, the feeling of security provided by a tall upper is just that: a feeling. You can roll your ankle in even the highest, stiffest uppers. (The exception to this is truly rigid boots, such as a ski boot.) What uppers can do, however, is keep dirt and other debris out from the inside of your hiking boot. They can also protect your ankles from getting banged up, either from rocks or from inadvertently kicking them. 

If you are looking for extra protection for your ankles, consider either an ankle brace or investing in a pair of the best trekking poles

FAQs

Q: Are lighter hiking boots better?

Yes, all things being equal, you want a lighter hiking boot. Unnecessarily heavy hiking boots will result in foot fatigue earlier than lighter models. 

Q: Can I wear hiking boots for walking?

While you can wear hiking boots for walking, they may be less comfortable than other options. Many hiking boots also rely heavily on cushioning and arch support, which also may weaken your feet over time.

Q: Are hiking boots breathable?

Hiking boots are built to protect: from the weather, from the environment, from accidentally kicking yourself in the ankle. As such, they are often less breathable than other choices like the best trail runners or even the best hiking shoes

Read Next: The Best Hiking Boot Brands 

Why Trust Outdoor Life?

Since 1898, OL has been a leading authority in testing and reviewing hunting gear, fishing tackle, guns and shooting equipment, and much more. We have more than a century-long history of evaluating products, and we’re now bringing that expertise to online reviews. Our editors are experienced outdoorsmen and women, and most importantly, we’re trained journalists. We prioritize field testing and objective data when reviewing products. We conduct interviews with gear manufacturers and engineers as well as outdoor experts so that our readers have an understanding of how and why a product works—or doesn’t.

Advertising does not influence our gear reviews and it never will. While we always focus our coverage on standout products—because we want our readers to be aware of the latest and greatest gear—we also cover the flaws and quirks of any given product.

Final Thoughts

The best lightweight boots can increase your stamina and enjoyment of the outdoors. Keep in mind, however, that all people’s feet are different: different shapes, different levels of strength and flexibility, and different issues with injury. Before making a final purchase, identify a few top contenders and take the time to try them on and walk around as much as possible. One of the most important indicators of the right shoe (and the shoe that will cause the least problems and injuries) is comfort. 

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Laura Lancaster

Staff Writer

Laura Lancaster is Outdoor Life's gear staff writer where she focuses on in-depth testing of backpacking and camping gear, with a particular interest in lightweight and ultralight gear. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and daughter.

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