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The Best Hiking Boots

rated 4.5 out of 5 with 16 reviews

This article is part of our series: Hiking Boot Basics

A close up image of the underside of a hiking boot being worn by a hiker on a forest trail

Finding a hiking boot is easy. Finding the perfect hiking boot is much harder. We’ll make it a little easier for you to avoid blisters and enjoy the adventure. We polled our staff to find their favorite hiking boots for day hiking, overnighters and long-haul treks.

Read on for our staff members’ top picks, plus their best tips for choosing the boot that’s best for you.

 

Vasque Breeze III Mid GTX

Best Overall

Vasque Breeze III Mid GTX Hiking Boot

  • Upper: Nubuck leather/air-mesh 
  • Outsole: Vibram® Contact Grip with Megagrip rubber compound
  • Waterproof: Yes
  • Weight: Women’s: 1 lb. 10.9 oz.; Men’s: 2 lbs. 1.6 oz.
  • Price: $179.95

With votes of confidence across the board from our staff members of all genders, this boot wins hearts and soles everywhere it tromps. They provide ankle stability, great traction and breathable comfort—plus enough versatility to match the needs of nearly every hiker.

“The Breeze was the first backpacking boot that I ever bought. They broke in pretty quickly on day hikes in the Angeles National Forest, before taking me up Half Dome in Yosemite and down into the Grand Canyon with an overnight pack. They have the perfect ankle height that holds you in place on those wobbly rocks and awesome traction. The newest model is even lighter and more breathable than ever before!” –Nikki Zisner, Manhattan Beach, staff member since 2012

“This is my best value hiking boot. With the Vibram outsoles and the GORE-TEX membrane, this boot stands out for its price point. The opening can be laced to fit a variety of feet and its light weight also gives it a leg up (pun intended).” –Susan Syster       

“The combination of GORE-TEX lining and air mesh uppers kept my feet dry in rainy conditions, yet offered breathability on warm dry days. There’s a perfect balance of lightweight and durable components, plus awesome grip from the Vibram rubber outsoles.” –Angel Martinez, Dallas, staff member since 2011

Bottom Line: Legendary performance

 

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Oboz Sawtooth II Low Hiking Shoes

Best Day Hiking Shoe for Women

Oboz Sawtooth II Low Hiking Shoes

  • Upper: Nubuck leather
  • Lining: Nylon mesh
  • Outsole: Carbon rubber
  • Weight: 1 lb. 8.8 oz.
  • Price: $110

“Oboz found an excellent fit niche within the world of hiking shoes. They are wider in the toe box but narrower in the heel. The insole included with Oboz hiking shoes provides excellent arch support, more than most hiking shoes. The Sawtooth hiking shoe is a versatile shoe great for tackling longer day hikes, like Half Dome in Yosemite National Park, as well as shorter day hikes.” –Jesse Fujikawa, San Francisco, staff member since 2006

Even cooler? This company, based in Bozeman, Montana, has planted more than 3 million trees since 2007, representative of each pair of shoes made.

Bottom Line: Your lightweight, breathable hiker

 

Merrell Moab 2 Vent Low Hiking Shoes

Best Day Hiking Shoe for Men

Merrell Moab 2 Vent Low Hiking Shoes

  • Upper: Suede leather/mesh
  • Lining: Mesh
  • Outsole: Vibram® rubber
  • Weight: 1 lb. 15 oz.
  • Price: $100

“This is my best all-around lightweight hiking shoe. It is a hiking shoe that can take you from pavement to trail. I put these on and know I can walk in downtown Breckenridge, Colorado, and go to the light trails surrounding the town.” –Dennis E. Beard II, Colorado Springs, staff member since 2012

Bottom Line: Moab stands for Mother-Of-All-Boots and this boot delivers.

 

La Sportiva Trango TRK GTX

Best Backpacking Boot for Women

La Sportiva Trango TRK GTX Hiking Boots

  • Upper: Thermoplastic urethane/polyester mesh
  • Lining: GORE-TEX waterproof breathable membrane
  • Outsole: Vibram® Mulaz rubber
  • Waterproof: Yes
  • Weight: 2 lbs. 0.3 oz.
  • Price: $220

“These boots are amazing for those with narrow feet. They are lightweight and comfortable when day hiking in Yosemite or backpacking up Mt. Whitney. My feet stayed dry while hiking in a downpour, and they’re breathable enough to be comfortable, but a little warm in 80-degree weather. I feel secure hiking in them while scrambling over rocks, fallen trees and down steep trails.” –Jesse Fujikawa

Jesse recommends them most for weekend backpacking trips and longer day hikes. The stiffer feel of these hikers makes for ample support and long-lasting wear.

Bottom Line: Technical, waterproof performance in a lightweight, all-synthetic design

 

Merrell Moab 2 Mid WP

Best Backpacking Boot

Merrell Moab 2 Mid WP

  • Upper: Suede leather/mesh
  • Lining: Waterproof breathable membrane/mesh
  • Outsole: Vibram® TC5+ rubber
  • Waterproof: Yes
  • Weight: Women’s: 1 lb. 16 oz.; Men’s: 2 lbs. 4 oz.
  • Price: $135

“The air cushion effect, created from an actual hole in the heel, gives an extra spring to my step. The heel brake helps add stability and the price point is attractive, as well. This boot has proven to be versatile, from short- to long-distance moderate day hikes in northern New Mexico.” –Allison M. Hill, Santa Fe, staff member since 2016

“These boots were very comfortable right out of the box and did not require any break-in time. The uppers are very soft and flexible, which made it feel like I was in a pair of athletic shoes. The traction provided by the Vibram rubber outsole gave me complete confidence while hiking at the Guadalupe Mountains National Park.” –Angel Martinez

Bottom Line: Ideal for waterproof, supportive protection

 

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Lowa Renegade GTX Mid

Best Long-Distance Boot for Women

Lowa Renegade GTX Mid

  • Upper: Nubuck leather
  • Lining: GORE-TEX waterproof breathable membrane/polyester
  • Outsole: Vibram® rubber
  • Waterproof: Yes
  • Weight: 2 lbs. 2 oz.
  • Price: $240

“All you have to do to love these boots is get them on your feet. They are ready to go right out of the box, with virtually no break-in. The sole works great to absorb shock, and supports your foot for a long day hike or backpacking trip in any weather. I broke mine in on the Mist Trail in Yosemite National Park. Even straight up all those wet stairs, I felt secure, with no blisters. I loved them so much I got a pair in purple to go with my wedding dress!” –Nikki Zisner

Bottom Line: An award-winning option, lauded by REI staffers

 

La Sportiva Nucleo High GTX

Best Long-Distance Boot

La Sportive Nucleo High GTX

  • Upper: Nubuck leather
  • Lining: GORE-TEX waterproof breathable membrane/synthetic
  • Outsole: Vibram® Nano rubber
  • Waterproof: Yes
  • Weight: Men’s: 2 lbs. 1.6 oz.; Women’s: 1 lb. 10.9 oz.
  • Price: $199

“The Nucleo High received a 2017 Gear of the Year award from Outside magazine. It’s not only a well-awarded, good-looking boot, but also sturdy, breathable and lightweight. The boot wraps around your foot in a comforting way, much like a slipper. The leather is soft, yet durable. The GORE-TEX Surround Technology features waterproof protections that wrap around the shoe, and the nano-cell inserts allow air to escape from the bottom of the boot.” –Allison M. Hill

“These boots provided enough ankle support without any extra bulk. They are lightweight, flexible and offer excellent traction on wet rocks, thanks to Vibram Nano rubber outsoles. The Impact Break System at the heel made descending steep sections effortless.” –Angel Martinez

Bottom Line: Excellent grip, breathability and waterproof comfort

 

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Buying Advice

 

Types of Hiking Boots

  • Day Hiking Boots: Look for low-cut models with more flex in the midsole—for comfort over shorter distances. Some ultralight backpackers even look to trail-running shoes for long-distance treks.
  • Mid-Distance Hiking and Backpacking Boots: From longer day hikes to shorter backpacking trips, these boots can take you a little farther into the backcountry. These options are flexible and don’t require a long break-in time, making them best for covering mid distances with lighter packs.
  • Long-Distance Backpacking Boots: These shoes have the support you need for longer treks. Made with a high cut for excellent ankle support and stiffer midsoles than lighter footwear options, these are created for on- and off-trail travel.
  • Trail Runners: Yes, we know trail runners aren’t boots, but they’re rad none the less. Day hikers are enjoying these shoes for easier trails and many ultralight backpackers are turning to lightweight trail runners to cover long distances with only the essentials. What’s more, you can move faster in them and they dry more quickly than other shoes when wet.

 

Components

There are a few important pieces to consider when you’re buying a boot. You’ll want to know what the uppers, midsoles, and outsoles are made of before you choose your pair. Click through the tabs below to gain a little insight into the differences:

Hiking Boot Uppers: The type of material used for the top of your hiking boot makes a difference in performance, and you should pick a material based on the type of hiking you’re planning on doing. Waterproof options are ideal for rainy climates while full-grain leather can mold to your feet. Choose from full-grain leather, split-grain leather, nubuck leather, synthetics, waterproof membranes, vegan options and insulated materials. Learn more.

Hiking Boot Midsoles: The midsole provides cushioning and absorbs shock. EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) and polyurethane are the most common materials. EVA is lighter, cushier and less expensive, great for the majority of short- to mid-range trips. Polyurethane is firmer and more durable, best for backpacking and mountaineering boots.

Hiking Boot Outsoles: Rubber is used on all hiking boot outsoles. Hard outsoles are great for durability but can feel slick if you are off trail. Lugs are the traction-giving bumps on the outsole. You’ll want deep, thick lugs for backpacking. Widely spaced lugs offer nice traction and also shed mud easily. Heel breaks are the defined heel zone between the forefoot and arch, which reduces your chance of sliding during tough descents.

Learn more in our How to Choose Hiking Boots article.

 

Fit Tips

Check your insole. Boots should be snug everywhere except the very front, where you should have about a half-inch (1.27 cm) between the end of your toes and the end of the boots. Remove the factory insole and stand on it. Look for a visible finger’s width of the insole past your toes.

Test your boots on an incline. While walking up, make sure there is no movement in the heel. Walking down, stomp your feet hard. Ideally, the boot will hold your foot in place and your toes will not touch the front—not even a little bit. If they do and the laces are snug, the boots are either too wide or too short. Try the next size up unless you feel your foot slipping inside the boot.

Lace them up. When trying on the shoe, properly snug up and tie the laces. You may miss an important red flag because your shoes aren’t properly attached to your feet during the fitting process. Your REI staff member can offer helpful lacing techniques. You can also learn how to lace hiking boots in our Expert Advice article.

Fit your foot, not your size. Each manufacturer’s fit will be different, that goes for fit of shoe/boots purpose, as well. You may need one size for your work shoe and another size all together for your hiking boot. Don’t purchase your boots from an online store without being fitted first. If you order from us online, pick them up from your store and have us assess the fit of your boot.

Socks are important. Your boots are part of a footwear system. Make sure to add correct socks for your adventure. They should aid in performance and wick moisture from your feet.

 


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