Published Mar. 5, 2021

You’re going to walk—or run—a lot of miles on uneven terrain in your hiking shoes, so it’s essential that you find the right ones for you. For instance, the waterproof hiking shoes that are perfect for the adventurer looking to stay dry during spring weekends in rainy Northwest forests are the wrong way to go for the runner who wants ultralight trail shoes to stay cool and comfortable in Southwest deserts.

But how do you know if you need a sturdy set of Salomon hiking boots or a pair of cheap hiking shoes? And how do you tell the difference between good hiking shoes and great hiking shoes? Here’s some help.

Features to Consider When Shopping for the Best Men’s Hiking Shoes

Start by thinking about the hiking shoe’s upper. That’s the section that encases your foot, and it’s the part of the hiking shoe that truly determines durability, breathability and water resistance. Synthetic nylon and mesh uppers are lighter, more flexible and more breathable than leather uppers, but that means they are often more susceptible to wear and tear—and the elements. Many shoes also feature waterproof lining, such as Gore-Tex, as well as rubber toe caps for added protection.

Look to the midsole for support. The construction and materials dictate how well your foot will be cushioned. EVA foam is a popular choice that comes in a variety of stiffness and thickness options, but many serious backpackers depend on TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) midsoles that can handle heavy loads and hold up well over many, many, miles. A lot of the best men’s hiking shoes are made with a combination of both materials.

The outsole provides the foundation you need. This is where the rubber meets the rock, and Vibram tends to have the most traction in the market. Still, other great options exist, including ContraGrip, which is the in-house sole brand for Salomon hiking gear.

Understanding these main components goes a long way toward finding the best men’s hiking shoes. From there, it’s really a matter of knowing what kind of hiker you strive to be. Are you looking to add the right footwear to complete the camping checklist for your next summer backpacking trip? Do you need to know the best way to choose between trail shoes? Read on to help determine how, and if, the shoe will fit.

Do You Need Lightweight Hiking Shoes For Day Trips?

For many weekend hikers—and even those who carry an overnight pack up to alpine lakes a few times a summer—lightweight hiking shoes are the top choice. The low-cut shape and flexible midsoles are comfortable, and waterproof linings typically add all the wetness protection you need, even if it invariably starts to drizzle the second you start up the trail. Rubber outsoles dig in on the way up and help you brake on the way down—though if you often find yourself on especially rugged terrain you might want to step up to a pair of over-the-ankle hiking boots for increased stability (see below).

Meanwhile, thru-hikers who are on the go from sunup till sundown, and therefore need to keep weight to a minimum, should invest in ultralight hiking shoes for men. The lightest hiking shoes easily way less than a pound, while still offering sufficient comfort and support. You’ll go as long as you want without tiring.

Best Lightweight Hiking Shoes: Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX

Strong and Flexible

When it comes to weight, feel and function, these hiking shoes strike the right balance. Salomon

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At 1 pound, 10 ounces (for a men’s size 9), these Salomon hiking shoes are, overall, the best lightweight hiking shoes, because they pack in plenty of comfort and durability. The sculpted insole is soft on your foot, and the rugged rubber ContraGrip digs in on even the hardest, steepest trails—especially strutting its stuff on the downhill. The Gore-Tex lining is practically impermeable, but it can make your feet sweat on hot August days.

Best Ultralight Hiking Shoes: Altra Lone Peak 4.5

Tread Lightly

If you hike long distances, you’ll appreciate this pair that’s especially light on your feet. Altra

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For thru-hikers who need to cut poundage from every part of their hiking gear, this is your pair of lightweight hiking shoes. Weighing 10.5 ounces per shoe, these Altras men’s hiking shoes stand alone as the best ultralight hiking shoes. While you undoubtedly sacrifice some level of protection when opting for an ultralight hiking shoe, these don’t skimp on traction or comfort. The rubber TrailClaw outsoles have ample bite, and the roomy toe box means these shoes won’t cramp your stride.

Will You Be Hiking on Rough Terrain?

Backpackers that take on rockier routes will want to find footwear that gives them a leg up. The biggest difference between hiking shoes and hiking boots is height. While hiking shoes are cut beneath the ankle, hiking boots lace higher up your shin. If you frequently carry a heavy pack or traverse rough trails, the over-the-ankle support will keep you stable and secure.

Still, there is a difference between hiking to a trailside campsite and breaking trail through the bush, meaning your hiking boot needs could diverge, as well.

Best Men’s Hiking Boots For Weekend Campers in Rough Terrain: Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX

Rugged and Reliable

These hiking boots offer the comfort of trail shoes. Salomon

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With the strong structure and waterproofing of the rugged hiking boot they are, and flexibility and comfort of the trail runners they seem to want to be, these versatile, lightweight Salomons are the best hiking boots for weekend campers. The relatively low ankle cut (compared to many other men’s hiking boots) means these could leave you wanting more support on some technical sections of your climb, but the Advanced Chassis and outsoles with two types of strategically placed rubber offer more than sufficient stability and grip on most types of terrain.

Best Hiking Boots For Backcountry Enthusiasts in Rough Terrain: Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX

Rock Solid

If you regularly hit the rough stuff, the Zodiacs were made for you. Scarpa

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Hop on boulders. Scramble through scree. These Scarpa hiking boots, which are basically a step away from a mountaineering boot, were built for the backcountry. The traction on these best hiking boots for backcountry enthusiasts is top-notch, and the Gore-Tex lining is both waterproof and breathable.

Will You Be Hiking in Wet Conditions?

If you’re out a lot, the rain will be unavoidable, as will the occasional stream crossing. For hikers who know they are bound to run into some wet weather (or even some snow), waterproof linings provide critical protection. Such linings do add weight and limit breathability, but many hiking shoes, especially those with Gore-Tex linings, manage to walk the line between function and fortitude. Cold and wet feet will make you head back early and become more reluctant to head back out next time, so waterproofing features could mean the difference between hiking outside or watching a nature show at home.

Best Men’s Waterproof Hiking Shoes: La Sportiva Spire GTX

Sturdy Construction, Dependably Dry

These versatile hiking shoes guard against slick and sloppy trails. La Sportiva

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La Sportiva says the Spire is so strong, it’s basically a low-cut boot. The Gore-Tex Surround protection certainly gives these best waterproof hiking shoes the dampness defense you’d expect from over-the-ankle footwear, while adding a useful Nano Cell 2.0. structure to increase breathability. Perhaps unsurprisingly, these men’s waterproof hiking shoes run on the hefty side in both weight and price. But the stiff upper and Vibram sole traction offer worthwhile stability on all kinds of trails.

Are You a Trail Runner?

Trail runners don’t typically carry much—a water bottle, maybe a small pack to hold a protein bar and keys. Trail shoes for running abide by the same minimalist philosophy. They are lightweight and super flexible, cushioned and breathable. But they don’t focus on ankle support or robust waterproofing, because trail shoes for running are built for just that.

Best Trail Shoes for Running: Hoka One One Speedgoat 4

A Cushy Jog

Plush padding and lightweight construction will support your run up the mountain. Hoka

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From top to bottom, these are the best trail shoes for running. The mesh uppers are incredibly breathable, and the rubber Vibram Megagrip outsoles are secure in all conditions. The midsoles feature a responsive, lightweight foam, and the gusseted tongues breathe in fresh air. These men’s trail shoes are 1 pound, 5.6 ounces, so even if they wear down a little too easily, they won’t weigh you down.

What to Expect in Budget Hiking Shoes

While inexpensive hiking shoes won’t hold up in comparison to the performance of more expensive models, they can absolutely suffice if you stick to marked, maintained trails. You have every right to expect considerable comfort and respectable traction with budget pairs, but you should be prepared for bulkier builds and less reliable durability. Still, it’s definitely possible to find equipped hiking shoes for less than the price of sneakers.

Best Cheap Hiking Shoes: Vasque Juxt

Performance and Price

A lower cost doesn’t mean taking a big step down on comfort and traction. Vasque

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With a sporty and stylish suede leather upper, these are the best cheap hiking shoes and will keep you looking smart. You’ll also find stability thanks to the molded EVA and TPU Plate midsole and the grippy outsole. The stitching isn’t as heavy-duty as on more expensive shoes, and the upper lacks a waterproof lining, but these cheap hiking shoes are perfectly suitable if you’ll mostly be on dry trails.


Q: How often should you replace hiking shoes?

You should replace hiking shoes after anywhere between 500 and 1,000 miles of use. That span largely comes down to how well they’re holding up. Cracking in the midsoles, worn tread, and pain in your feet are all signs it might be time for a new pair.

Q: Can you wear hiking shoes every day?

You can absolutely wear hiking shoes every day. They are built to be supportive and comfortable during long days on your feet, so why not? They might run hot or heavy, depending on waterproofing and build, but many hiking shoes are stylish and won’t feel out of place around town.

A Final Word on Shopping for the Best Men’s Hiking Shoes

Finding the best men’s hiking shoes is all about finding the pair that best fits the season, the weather, and the conditions in which you’ll be hiking. Check for traction, support, cushioning, waterproofing and breathability.