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Updated May 13, 2022 3:45 PM

Regardless of how you get outdoors, hiking is the root of many activities, and hiking shoes are just as universal. They’ve replaced big, rugged boots for hikers who find boots overkill for trails and whether it’s a simple three-mile loop or a traverse through the Rocky Mountains, hiking shoes will get you there. 

If you’re looking to replace your heavy boots with something lighter, you’ll need to sort through the wide range of options, fits, and specialties for hiking shoes. I’ve made that uphill march into a walk in the park by testing the best options on the market on my local Colorado trails. After putting the miles on them and evaluating their fit, traction, features, and support, I made my top picks for the best men’s hiking shoes.

How to Choose the Best Hiking Shoes

There is a lot that goes into picking the best hiking shoes. Luckily, a few simple steps can make sure you find the perfect fit to avoid injury and find what works best for you.

Starting with what might be obvious, but can be overlooked, hikers need to examine their own feet. Cramping wide feet into a thin shoe leads to blisters and other problems. So, getting your feet measured and finding the right fit is key. 

Also, all shoes have a drop, that’s the height from your heel to toe, and it can have a big impact on how you walk. For those who aren’t used to a zero drop, you’ll notice it quickly when you buy a flat shoe. It’s good to ease into any drastic changes when it comes to a drop height as too many miles with a big change can lead to an injury.

Next up, knowing where and how you plan to use a shoe is also key. Different footwear could come in handy on the marshy trails of the Southeast compared to rugged rocky paths you come across in the West. If you know you may often be crossing a creek or muddy paths, a waterproof shoe should work in your favor, as opposed to a trek up a 14er, something a little tougher could be more ideal. If you plan to travel, finding an all-around diverse shoe may work best, but keep in mind how often you use it and where you do so.

Best Overall Hiking Shoe: Scarpa Rush GTX

Alex Murphy

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Key Features

  • Designed for day hikes and trail running
  • Waterproof to keep you going
  • Weight: 1 pound 10 ounces

Why It Made the Cut

Anyone looking to knock out miles while backpacking with the support of a hiking shoe should check out the Scarpa Rush GTX. With trail runners in mind, this design is perfect for anyone who hikes fast.

Pros 

  • Great for fast hikers
  • Extra padded soles to keep feet comfortable
  • Designed to keep water out and to keep you moving on trail

Cons

  • Most users will need to size up
  • Not as breathable as someone other options

Product Description 

It might be surprising that the best men’s hiking shoe is a trail runner, but more hikers are adopting this shoe style, myself included. I consider myself a fast hiker when I’m backpacking. I recently hiked 30 miles on a two-day trip. Often on trail, I bring trail runners, and Scarpa Rush fills that need. I found them to be a great version of a hiking shoe for those who move swiftly through rugged trails and like to keep moving. 

There was also additional support in a thicker sole than you would find in a traditional trail runner, making this a great hybrid for anyone looking for an all-around shoe. Plus, the shoe did a great job of keeping water out while creek crossing yet still being breathable with its GORE-TEX design. One thing to note is the Scarpa Rush runs fairly tight. I usually wear an 11, and my toes were right up against the toe box in these 11s.

Most Comfortable: Merrell Moab 2

Alex Murphy

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Key Features

  • Offers extreme cushion
  • Vibram soles
  • Weight: 2 pounds

Why It Made the Cut

The Moab 2 offers extreme comfort with a well-padded shoe designed for any terrain. 

Pros

  • Affordable with lots of variations to fit your needs
  • Sticky sole helps handle slick and wet rocks
  • Felt broken in right out of the box

Cons

  • With the added comfort comes a bulkier design and an overall wider looking shoe
  • Did begin to feel sore after about ten miles

Product Description 

Slipping on the Moab 2 felt like a cloud compared to some other brands. I noticed immediate comfort from the Moab’s cushioned design. I easily felt the difference between the Moab’s cushion and the others I tested. 

I found the Moab 2 handily dealt with rocky trails and roots in the Rocky Mountains, and with a Vibram-designed sole, you can count on many miles and a rubber that’s sticky enough to handle slick terrain and rocks. Once I started pushing miles in these shoes, it eventually felt like a strain on my foot, so maybe these are best designed for the casual day hiker. 

I also tried a few other Moab variations Merrell offers, including the waterproof version. It’s an excellent option for anyone who does a lot of creek crossing, casual fly fishing, or lives in a wet area. The sticky rubber also made it great for river crossing and overall kept my feet fairly dry as I crossed a few small creeks. You can also go with the Mid GTX (GORE-TEX) that takes the Moab design and makes it into a boot. Overall, I found it had the same comfort and strong attributions as the shoe, with added ankle support.

Best Support: Garmont Groove G-Dry

Alex Murphy

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Key Features

  • G-Dry tech is waterproof and windproof and keeps your foot dry
  • Sturdy middle foot for those who want extra support
  • Weight: 2 pounds 

Why It Made the Cut

Garmont is probably best known for their boots, and you can see that history in this sturdy shoe. This is great for a boot fan who wants something a little lighter to wear on trails.

Pros

  • Good for rocky terrain
  • Waterproof adds confidence in creek crossing
  • Sturdy for those who need extra support

Cons

  • A fairly narrow shoe, so you may need to size up
  • If you care about your shoes looking new, that won’t last long as the black leather exterior is like a magnet for dirt

Product Description 

Out of the box, the Garmont Groove G-Dry lives up to its sturdy design. I took these on a fairly aggressive uphill trail in Roosevelt National Forest, and it took a bit of walking before I could feel my feet getting used to them. I prefer fairly flexible footwear, so it took a minute to get used to the Groove’s stiffness. However, the Groove may be a great option for anyone looking to get the extra support of a boot in a shoe. 

The shoe also does a great job of keeping things dry, as I found when I tested it around the Poudre River. One con is the all-black design does attract plenty of dirt, so you’ll have to rinse them off to keep them looking pristine.

Best for Trail and Town: Danner Trail 2650 Campo GTX

Alex Murphy

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Key Features

  • Breathable lightweight design
  • Vibram soles
  • Weight: 2 pounds

Why It Made the Cut

The Danner Trail 2650 is a lightweight and breathable shoe designed for logging miles. 

Pros

  • A unique design with a sock-like fit you slip your foot into
  • Very breathable
  • Great grip and handling of trails

Cons

  • One of the pricier options
  • Takes a bit to get used to the fit and may be a little loose

Product Description 

The first thing I noticed with the Danner Trail 2650 is they look cool. I have a pair of blue ones, and they look like you can wear them just about anywhere.

Aside from looking the part, Danner also uses the Vibram sole for great grip. While the actual shoe is thin and breathable, I found it had extra reinforcement where you need it, like on the toe box, which is helpful on rocky trails. The GORE-TEX material also helped keep my feet dry from outside water while allowing for breathability and avoiding sweaty feet. I would recommend sizing down in some cases as I felt a little bit of wiggle room, especially around the heel.

Best Waterproof: Salomon X Ultra 4 GTX

Alex Murphy

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Key Features

  • GORE-TEX waterproof shoe
  • Weight: 1 pound 11 ounces

Why It Made the Cut

The Salomon X Ultra 4 GTX is designed to be waterproof—a great option for any creek crossings or low country trail.

Pros

  • Does great handling water and kept my feet dry
  • Lightweight compared to some competition

Cons

  • Traction didn’t feel as good as the brands using Vibram rubber
  • Opting to not use traditional laces can take getting used to for the right fit

Product Description 

Many hiking shoes use GORE-TEX technology, and to test them, it was easiest to just hike right into a river. I will say, out of all of them, the Salomon X Ultra 4 GTX kept my feet the dryest. In the water the grip also held up close to competitors who used the Vibram rubber.

If you anticipate a river crossing, these should be your top pick.
If you anticipate a river crossing, these should be your top pick. Alex Murphy

Instead of traditional laces, the shoes have a SensiFit system that works like a drawstring. While many may like this feature for its snug fit, it took me time to get used to it and optimize the feel for my feet. The sizing is also true to size and the shoe felt good to go right out of the box.

Best for Speed Hiking: La Sportiva Ultra Raptor II

Alex Murphy

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Key Features

  • 100 percent AirMesh
  • Nylon stability shank
  • Weight: 1 pound 8 ounces

Why It Made the Cut

Many hikers have made the jump to trail runners. They’re usually lighter and allow for hikers and backpackers to pick up the pace. Honestly, some of the best lightweight hiking shoes are going to be more for trail runners. La Sportiva is one of the best names in trail shoes, so it makes sense to showcase their Ultra Raptor.

Pros

  • One of the most popular trail runners
  • Great for a lighter shoe to keep moving fast while hiking
  • Handles extreme terrain well with a thick sole

Cons

  • A fairly aggressive drop from heel to toe may take some getting used to
  • Runs tight and most users will need to sizer up.
The best of both worlds: A light trail runner that can handle extreme terrain.
The best of both worlds: A light trail runner that can handle extreme terrain. Alex Murphy

Product Description 

I prefer trail runners, so I understand why so many hikers are going to them. The Ultra Raptor II is one of La Sportiva’s most popular designs, and for good reason. The company creates a tough durable shoe with a strong sole and extra protection around the toe box that protects your feet in almost any terrain. As someone who often kicks rocks when I hike and run, I appreciate this.

With the Raptors, it took me a moment to get used to the shoe’s drop because at 9mm, the Ultra Raptors have a fairly aggressive one. This also makes it stand out, as a recent rise in zero-drop shoes has grown in popularity.

As someone who has used La Sportiva before, I knew I needed to size up a half size to get an ideal fit. While using them here in Colorado worked well for big climbers and drops, they can feel like overkill on a smaller local trail. However, it’s best to try to rock hop and avoid too much direct water if you want to keep your feet dry.

Methodology 

I used my years of hiking knowledge to head into the Northern Colorado mountains on a mix of aggressive trails and paths—including creek crossings—to get a good take on what made the best men’s hiking shoe and what other unique aspects made other shoes stand out. I tested them with a series of steps including:

  • Hiking: I started out each shoe with a short hike to give it some time to break them in. I then followed up with a longer hike that covered up hills and flat sections to get a good feel for the shoes.
  • Water crossings: I made sure to spend sometime crossing wet rocks and downed trees, while also occasionally getting some shoes fully into the water to see if they kept my feet and socks dry.
  • Sizing: With so much shopping done online, it’s important to get a good idea for a fit. As a size 11, some shoes felt a little too loose while others left no room in the toe box. As with most hiking shoes, having a gap between your toe and the front of the shoe is essential for hiking downhills. 
  • Uniqueness: I also made sure to test out anything that made a shoe unique to highlight what each hiking shoe was designed for—this included waterproof shoes, alternative laces, and other qualities.

FAQs

Q: Should I get waterproof hiking shoes?

This is best answered by knowing where you live and where you plan on taking your hiking shoes. Waterproofing is great in most places, even if that’s just a rainstorm. However, opting for waterproof could cost extra and you may not need it especially if you live somewhere dry or rarely cross trails with running water. 

Q: What is special about hiking shoes?

In many cases, the best hiking boots are more than you’ll need. Not to mention the added weight can slow you down on trail. Hiking shoes allow for some of the sturdier qualities found in boots while letting your feet breathe better and make it feel less like you have cinder blocks tied to your feet. Especially, if you’re not used to wearing boots. Plus, packing hiking shoes for a trip is going to save a lot of space compared to boots.

Q: Can you wear hiking shoes every day?

Just like the best hiking pants, some hiking shoes are designed specifically for town to trail in a way that lets you take them anywhere. This is primarily a focus on the look of these shoes and less on the capabilities for trail. However, if you want your shoes to last longer, it’s best to switch them out while not hiking.

Q: How many miles should a hiking shoe last?

The general rule for more shoes is about 300 to 500 miles. It depends a lot on the brand and what you’re willing to put up with. In some cases your body will start to ache from older shoes, meaning it’s time to get a new pair as the sole has worn down and any padding is no longer protecting your ankles and knees.

Final Thoughts

No matter what new outdoors or action sport I get into, I always return to hiking. It’s the most accessible way to get out the door and in nature. Outdoor gear is far from cheap, but having the best men’s hiking shoes can make all the difference. They protect your feet on hike and while getting to a crag or fishing spot. Taking the time to find a shoe that fits correctly and is the best design for where you’ll be using it will only pay off in the end.