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recommendations for most breathable hiking shoes & socks

Hello REI shoe experts,

I would love your top 2 recommendations for hiking shoes that are breathable. (No GTX!!)

I need a "strong chassis" as I'm hiking every week in rugged terrain with hidden rocks.

I also would love your reco for the right socks to go with it. I'd like your #1 rec here. And then, if different, what is your rec for a sock that is still long enough to tuck my pants into? There are lots of ticks where I hike.

I hate hate hate sweaty feet.  Now that we are solidly in the mid-50s my feet are swimming a swamp inside my leather boots. yucky! I fear what should happen when we get to the 80s.

I real the "ultra 4" may be a good option, but wanted your two recs.

Thank you,



4 Replies

Obviously this is just one person’s opinion but I, too, have to deal with sweaty feet. And, of course, the rest of the family have to deal with it when I come home. 🤣🤣🤣

The combination I found that works for me are the Merrill Moab 2 Ventilator shoes (not the boots) and I pair them with a pair of Injini toe sock liners and a pair of merino wool ankle socks. 
Because the liners are toe socks, they prevent the toes from rubbing together and causing blisters. Plus they wick the moisture away from my feet. 
The Moab 2 vents breath really well. They’re neither GTX nor waterproof so your feet will get wet if you cross water but they dry really fast. 

“Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life.” (John Muir)

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

Hi @mstring .

I can't comment on the shoes/boots, because I tend toward waterproof (resistant) boots.  Where I hike in the mid-Atlantic, we have lots of streams, springs, wetlands, and generally high humidity.  Even during drought conditions, the trails always have wet areas to cross.

However, I could not agree more with @Dad_Aint_Hip about liner socks coupled with merino wool hiking socks.  Despite wearing GTX during mid-summer with 90 F and 90% humidity, I seldom, if ever, am left with wet, sweaty feet at the end of the day.

The thicknesses, weight and height will all be dependent on your specific fit and comfort, but definitely try liner socks with wool hiking socks with whatever shoe/boot you choose.

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

Well you can't got wrong with hiking sandals for breathability, but those hidden rocks will get you.  I have been more of a fan of Garmont Dragontail approach shoes than pure hiking boots over the last couple years, especially when there are rocks around, but these are GTX.  Garmont also makes hiking shoes, which are probably similar in comfort level and durability. 

Socks sound like you are looking for synthetic rather than merino if you want to avoid wet feet.  I love darn tough and smart wool, but they don't stay super dry.  I have found than any super lightweight sock made from econyl (recycled nylon) or nylon.  You may be trading a bit for cushion, but if you go for some supportive moisture wicking insoles that can be corrected (if you need it).

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

Many people wear trail runners for hiking these days.   Some of these come with a "rock guard" in the sole.  Altra Lone Peaks are the de-facto standard for long distance hikers because of their wide to box.  I find them a bit too squishy.  Other popular contenders are Brooks Cascadia (I have used and like) and Hoka Speed Goats (I have not tried but some love and other's find over cushioned).   There are a lot of choices.  What shoe to get is a matter of personal fit.  Running shoes in particular support in different ways depending on how your feet work...generally I like a neutral shoe like the Brooks Cascadia...I suggest getting fitted at a good athletic shoe store if you don't know what suits you.

Trail runners will wear out faster than boots.  If you hike a lot then you will probably need a new pair at least each year and maybe more frequently.

There are also hiking shoes such at the Merrel Moab 2 ventilator and variants which are a bit stiffer and hardier but also slightly heavier.  I wear variants of these as daily shoes.  Salomon also have non GTX hiking shoes..more extra stiff trail runners that I almost bought but wasn't entirely happy with the fit (I have Salomon GTX boots that work well for me).

These are not water proof and really only appropriate for summer conditions but can work for shoulder season depending on your tolerance.  You can get waterproof variants of such shoes but the general advice is that the non waterproof shoes dry faster   Waterproof shoes stay wet once dunked  so only have an advantage in narrow circumstances.

For socks I like Darn Tough mid weight wool blend.  The quarter length works well with trail runners. 

You can wear a light running gaiters  (Dirty Girl, Altra etc) to keep bits out of the shoe.  Some shoes such as the Altra Lone Peaks have a build in gaiter trap on the heel for this.