It’s time to pick your most important hiking partner: your boots. Because when you swap out sore arches, blistered heels and swollen toes for happy feet, any trek—whether it’s a quick jaunt on your backyard trail or a multiday epic in a remote corner of the backcountry—becomes a wholly more blissful experience.
The 11 boots on this list meld high-tech materials with time-tested designs to give you the best support, protection and comfort money can buy at REI Co-op. They excel when you’re hauling a big load, when you’re scaling mountains, when you’re day hiking, when you’re crushing miles (or when your kiddo is,) when you want an option made with recycled materials or vegan uppers, when you want to make them last with new soles, and more. There is a pair of boots for everyone on this list—so what are you waiting for? It’s time to treat your feet.
Find our quick recommendations here or read on for the full reviews.
- Best Hiking Boot for Backpacking Trips & REI Co-op Editors’ Choice Award Winner: Lowa Renegade GTX Mid
- Best Hiking Boot for Mountain Trips & REI Co-op Editors’ Choice Award Winner: La Sportiva Nucleo High II GTX
- Best Hiking Boot for Lightweight Hiking Trips: Danner Trail 2650
- Best Vegan Hiking Boot: Oboz Katabatic Mid Hiking Boots
- Best Hiking Boot That Can Be Resoled: Danner Mountain 600 Leaf GORE-TEX Hiking Boots
Best Hiking Boot for Hikers Who Want Just One: Salomon X Ultra 4 Mid GTX
Co-op Members’ Choice: REI Co-op Flash
Best Hiking Boot for Fast-Moving Hikers: HOKA Anacapa Mid GTX
Best Kids' Hiking Boot: Merrell Moab Flight Low A/C Hiking Shoes - Kids'
Other Top Performers
Best Hiking Boot for Backpacking Trips & REI Co-op Editors ’ Choice Award Winner
Lowa Renegade GTX Mid Hiking Boots
Upper material Nubuck leather
Weight (pair) 2 lbs. 2 oz. (women’s 7), 2 lbs. 7 oz. (men’s 9)
Test Results: Working for the weekend? Consider this your one-stop boot. Everything about the venerable Lowa Renegade GTX Mid was designed with backpacking in mind. It all starts with the out-of-the-box comfort, so you’ll feel good wearing these puppies for the long haul. Lowa has hidden a surprisingly cushy polyurethane (PU) midsole inside the Renegade. It feels light and springy like a running shoe, but it’s far more durable. Called DuraPU®, the proprietary midsole returns to its original shape when you put pressure on it, offering welcome cushion and “a little bounce to your step,” one editor says.
Not only does the bouncy midsole feel supremely comfortable, but it also offers enough support for hefty weekend loads. Our testers carried up to 50 pounds of pack weight without stressing about their feet. A snug heel cup and spacious toe box make most hikers happy, especially on longer backpacking trips when feet can change size due to swelling.
Traction isn’t shabby, either. Lowa uses a Vibram® outsole that combines softer (read: stickier) rubber with a multidirectional lug pattern, which makes the Renegade at home on rocky and dusty trails. A waterproof membrane seals out water, but—paired with a burly leather upper—comes with a trade-off: breathability. Leather doesn’t vent as well as synthetic materials, so keep these kicks to adventures where pruny feet won’t cause too many issues. Buy here.
Bottom Line: Unparalleled comfort under heavier loads makes the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid a good bet for any hiker looking for a boot fit for overnight trips.
- Total distance hiked: 199 miles
- Testing states: California, Colorado and Washington
- Best testing story: One tester wore the Renegade GTX during an ambitious backpacking trip through a rain forest—“in the rainy season,” she clarifies. Her feet stayed dry after more than 20 miles (when paired with rain pants and gaiters), until she saw her tent site on the other side of a swollen (but slow-moving) river. “You’d think I’d approach this barrier with more caution, given that my feet were still miraculously dry, but no, no, that was not the case,” she explains. “I opted to plow through the thigh-deep water, a straight shot to my camp. Without fly-fishing waders, my boots did, in fact, get wet.”
Best Hiking Boot for Mountain Trips & REI Co-op Editors ’ Choice Award Winner
La Sportiva Nucleo High II GTX Hiking Boots
Upper material Nubuck leather
Weight (pair) 1 lb. 6 oz. (women’s 37), 2 lbs. 1 oz. (men’s 42)
Test Results: Make like a mountain goat when you throw on La Sportiva Nucleo High II GTX, a super nimble yet super supportive leather hiking boot that excels on rougher trails and above treeline. Its high ankle collar and beefy armor protect tootsies—“no issues wedging my toes between boulders when climbing California’s Mount Ritter,” one tester says—but this is no clunker. The Nucleo High II GTX is trim and snugs the foot more like an approach shoe, allowing for precise steps and edging, which our testers appreciated on alpine hikes that require negotiating the path of least resistance. To that end, the Nucleo High II GTX is available in wide sizes—a welcome addition this year for those of us with broader feet.
Testers also lauded the Nucleo High II GTX for having best-in-test traction. Credit a sticky Vibram® outsole that’s peppered with cleatlike lugs and extends off the back of the shoe for easier braking. It kept us upright on descents through gravel, loose scree and dust, and one tester even called the outsole “so grabby” that he was able to jog down the notoriously mucky paths in the Seven Lakes Basin in Washington state’s Olympic National Park.
The Nucleo High II GTX has a soft EVA foam midsole much like a running shoe, but it’s bolstered with TPU inserts. Those harder plastic components give the midsole a bit more life over the long haul than a typical running shoe and up-level the support; our testers were able to shoulder 50-pound loads without issue. The boot’s feature set is rounded out with GORE-TEX SURROUND®, a tried-and-true waterproof tech that lets sweat vapor escape through the sides and bottom of the boot when a spacer in the midsole is compressed. (It leaves you with dryer feet and, hopefully, fewer blisters.) Buy here.
Bottom Line: Protection, traction and support meet in this relatively lightweight package, making La Sportiva Nucleo II High GTX a solid bet for any hiker heading to higher ground.
- Total distance hiked: 175 miles
- Testing states: California, Colorado and Washington
- Best testing story: One California-based tester pulled the Nucleos out for a trip in the Ansel Adams Wilderness, noticing the trimmer fit but deciding to wing it for his four-day trip anyway. “I rolled the dice for the sake of a good test and packed some duct tape in case,” he says. His hiking companions mocked his decision at the trailhead—“the term ‘brave idiocy’ was used,” he says—but he had the last laugh. “After a mile of constant hiking, the leather relaxed and I was granted some toe space. They fit like a glove,” he tells us. “No blisters to report.”
Best Hiking Boots for Lightweight Hiking Trips
Danner Trail 2650 Hiking Shoes
Upper material Leather and textile
Weight (pair) 1 lb. 2 oz. (women’s 7); 1 lb. 8 oz. (men’s 9)
Test Results: Looking for a shoe that can go the distance without a lot of bulk? Look no further. The Danner Trail 2650 was designed for folks who might want to tackle a long walk like the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail it’s named for. Unlike clunkier boots, the 2650 has a lightweight-yet-oversize EVA midsole (no hard plastic TPU here!) for a softer step that’s reminiscent of a trail running shoe. Yet, the TPU shank adds stiffness and support for backpack loads of up to 25 pounds, as one Colorado tester learned on a three-day trip in the Mount Sneffels Wilderness. “These hit my sweet spot: nimble and agile to scamper around the rock fields, but supportive enough to carry a moderate backpack for a few nights,” she reports.
Of course, everything comes with a trade-off. While our crop of testers loved the ground feel of the slim-and-trim 2650s, they did notice a few jagged rocks underfoot when scrambling in high alpine. Still, the Vibram® Megagrip outsole stole our hearts as one of the stickiest rubbers in test. “I carted our daughter over drenched boardwalks covered in moss and I never slipped,” says one Washington state–based tester of her voyage into the Hoh Rain Forest (complete with daughter pulling her ponytail).
The light and relatively breathable upper (even on the waterproof version) preserves the trail-shoe-like feel, but it’s the weight savings we couldn’t get over for such a durable pair of kicks. If you’re a hiker waffling between the agility of trail runners versus the support of backpacking boots, the Trail 2650 may have your number. Buy here.
Bottom Line: Moderate support and around-town aesthetics combine to make the Danner Trail 2650 our top pick for day hikes, trail-to-town and lightweight overnight trips.
- Total distance hiked: 167 miles
- Testing states: Colorado, Washington and one jaunt to Peru
- Best testing story: One tester spent five days hiking Peru’s Salkantay Trek, taking the Trail 2650s up to the route’s high points of 15,200 feet. “Fatigue sets in as you get higher, so it felt good knowing I didn’t have anchors on my feet.”
Best Vegan Hiking Boot
Oboz Katabatic Mid Hiking Boots
Upper material Mesh/TPU
Weight (pair) 1 lb. 6 oz. (women’s 7); 1 lb. 11 oz. (women’s waterproof 7); 1 lb. 12 oz. (men’s 9); 2 lbs. 1 oz. (men’s waterproof 9)
Test Results: The fast-and-light hiking boot is a growing trend in the backpacking world; the Oboz Katabatic Mids check both boxes, and more—all without leather uppers and animal-derived adhesives. Not only are these boots lighter than the Salomon X Ultra 4 and Lowa Renegade GTX, but they still have enough support that you won’t struggle under heavy loads. “I carried all my backpacking gear and fly fishing equipment and never once experienced sore feet,” says one tester after a four-day trip in California’s Eastern Sierras. Credit goes to the single-density EVA midsole, which provides extra comfort without the bulk.
Even with plentiful support, comfort isn’t lacking. The Katabatics are constructed with a Strobel last, which means the upper is stitched to a fabric “floor,” creating a type of sock. Strobel stitching is commonly found in athletic shoes; here, it makes the boot lighter while adding flexibility akin to a trail-running shoe’s. Despite that resemblance, the Katabatics are plenty durable on the trail thanks to the abrasion-resistant mesh and TPU overlays that held up well during one tester’s 40-mile backpacking trip.
Oboz uses its proprietary rubber compound on the outsole, and it held up exceedingly well, especially during wet riverbed crossings near Colorado’s Independence Pass. Oversize lugs extend over the toe box, which helps with traction on steep climbs. Fit note: The forefoot feels a bit tight, so folks with extra-wide feet may want to try the Flash Hiking Boots from REI Co-op, which are also on this list. Buy here.
Bottom Line: Tip-top grip, a fast-and-light design and a lack of leather combine to make the Oboz Katabatic Mid a great choice for vegan hikers.
- Total distance hiked: 73 miles
- Testing states: California, Colorado
- Best testing story: One California-based tester forgot his wading boots during an angling adventure in the Domeland Wilderness Area. Fortunately, he brought his (non-waterproof) Katabatics on the approach and their riverfront grip worked just as well: “I may switch to these for future fishing trips!” he says.
Best Hiking Boot That Can Be Resoled
Danner Mountain 600 Leaf GORE-TEX Hiking Boots
Upper material Full-grain leather
Weight (pair) 2 lbs. (women’s 7); 2 lbs. 6 oz. (men’s 9)
Test Results: The Mountain 600 Leaf GORE-TEX Hiking Boots from Danner are a hiker's soulmate—and beyond being study, stable and stylish, they can also be resoled. In fact, they are eligible for full Recrafting services, a testament to the shoe brand’s pledge to the environment. Instead of chucking your hiking boots when the soles are too worn to wear, ship them back to the factory in Portland, Oregon. There, the Danner Recrafting team will assess your pair and can slap on a fresh sole before shipping it back to you for plenty more trail time. (Other Recraft services include leather care and reworking, restitching, parts replacement and more.)
Of course, the shoe has to work well if you want to wear it for years. The Mountain 600 Leaf GTX is one of our favorites for burly traction and protection on rugged terrain. Thanks to Vibram® rubber outsoles with Megagrip (the stickiest out there), the boots held fast on gritty sandstone and slick mud. “My wife slid downhill for one of the super slippery sections, but I had enough traction that I could pull her up with me,” reports one tester after a weekend hike in Colorado’s Holy Cross Wilderness.
Full-grain leather isn’t naturally waterproof, but thanks to a two-layer GORE-TEX, it would take a monsoon to bust through the Mountain 600 Leaf GTX. “I flopped into an ankle-deep mud hole and my feet still stayed dry,” reports our crew in Iowa. And, the Vibram® EVA midsole is soft enough for immediate comfort but still provides enough support that you won’t struggle under heavy backpacks. All this durability comes with a weight penalty though; these definitely feel heavier than others on the list. Buy here.
Bottom Line: Practically impenetrable leather uppers and a cushioned ride are the secret behind the Danner Mountain 600 Leaf GORE-TEX boots, our top choice for boots that can be resoled.
- Total distance hiked: 49 miles
- Testing states: Colorado, Iowa and Michigan
- Best testing story: One tester in Colorado admits to wearing his hiking boots as daily drivers because he loves them so much. “I’ve even been wearing them to work and to pick up our kid from school,” he reports. “They’re so comfortable out of the box.”
Best Hiking Boots for Hikers Who Want Just One
Salomon X Ultra 4 Mid GORE-TEX Hiking Boots
Upper material Polyurethane-coated leather and textile
Weight (pair) 1 lb. 11 oz. (women’s 7), 1 lb. 14 oz. (men’s 9)
Test Results: Alternative name: Can’t Go Wrong. The Salomon X Ultra 4 Mid GTX scored toward the top of the field in every metric we tested for, including comfort, durability, traction, support, weight and price. True, it’s not the best of the best at any of those things, but its well-rounded nature makes it a great option for folks looking for one boot to do it all. And, in its latest update, Salomon took the comfort to the next echelon by adding leather support straps that attach to the lacing, securing a midfoot fit whenever you snug up the standard laces
The X Ultra 4 Mid GTX is designed like a much burlier boot—high ankle collar, waterproof membrane, mostly leather upper, bomber toe bumper—but it still slides in under the 2-pound mark. “I wore these boots from the Pacific Crest Trail to the top of a Sierra peak and back again, and I almost felt like I was wearing runners,” declared one tester after six days in the Eastern Sierra of California. The X Ultra 4 Mid GTX has a cushy EVA midsole that gives it that running-shoe feel and makes it comfy out of the box. (Added cushioning around the ankle helps too.) It’s augmented with a TPU plate, but though our test samples show no signs of breaking down, we’d be wary of the midsole’s long-term durability after 500 or so miles.
As for the X Ultra 4 Mid’s other features, it has a GORE-TEX® membrane for awesome weatherproofing and a flexible proprietary rubber outsole with aggressive, chevron-shaped lugs. Our testers reported that it held fast on granite and mud but faltered a bit in loose gravel. Fit note: Salomon footwear tends to run narrow, but the X Ultra 4 Mid GTX bucks the trend, even pleasing one tester with self-described “Frodo feet.” Buy here.
Bottom Line: Hikers looking for one boot that can handle everything from easy-peasy day hikes to multiday epics should take a flyer on the Salomon X Ultra 4 Mid GTX, the most versatile boot in our test.
- Total distance hiked: 97 miles
- Testing states: California, Colorado and Utah
- Best testing story: One Colorado-based tester snagged the X Ultra 4 Mid GTXs for an alpine day hike in Rocky Mountain National Park. As she slogged uphill, she realized she wasn’t alone on the scree-filled shoulder. “There was this mountain goat, just staring at me from its perch on a boulder above me,” she says. “I couldn’t tell if it was impressed with my fortitude or embarrassed for me by my lack of comparable grace.”
Co-op Members’ Choice
REI Co-op Flash Hiking Boots
Upper material FirmaKnit™ (recycled polyester)
Weight (pair) 1 lb. 13 oz. (women’s 7), 2 lbs. 2 oz. (men’s 9)
Test Results: The secret is in the name: REI Co-op. Designed based on feedback from more than 6,100 co-op members around the country, the new Flash boot hits that coveted sweet spot: lightweight comfort with underfoot support and durability. It fits like a trail-running shoe with a softer midsole and rockered, or upturned, profile that enhances your natural walking stride and creates a snappier toe spring when you’re hiking quickly. That all makes it feel lighter than its weight suggests. “These move like featherweights compared to my traditional brown leather boots,” says one Alaska-based tester. But that fleet-footed goodness doesn’t come at the expense of support; the Flash still gets its DNA from a traditional mid-cut hiking boot. It’s waterproof and has a nylon shank in the midsole that offers some protection against rocks, roots and other trail debris. Its woven knit upper is bolstered with a double layer of recycled TPU that acts as armor.
Members noted that more sustainability-minded materials were a top priority for them, and REI designers listened. The brand ditched leather (which can have a negative impact on the environment due to the chemicals used at tanneries to preserve the cowhides) in favor of a knit compound called FirmaKnit™, which is constructed from 99% recycled plastic bottles. Designers also created a proprietary waterproofing membrane called HydroWall™, which works the same way as other popular versions already on the market, but is 75% recycled poly. REI Co-op partnered with BLOOM™ for the midsole, which uses algae-based foam, and capped it off with an outsole made from 20% recycled content. For those keeping score at home, we’ll do the math for you: The only features not incorporating bio-based materials or recycled content are the nylon shank and four metal speed hooks near the ankle. That’s it.
Here’s the best part: Durability isn’t affected by using more sustainable materials. “Rain, snow, sleet, heat: I think the mailman could use these boots,” declares an Alaska-based tester. “These are going to last for years.” Buy here.
Bottom Line: Running-shoe comfort, above-average durability and more recycled materials—the REI Co-op Flash boot is a crowd-pleaser by design.
- Total distance hiked: 130 miles
- Testing states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada and Utah
- Best testing story: One tester took the Flash on a hiking vacay in Moab, Utah. “The second our dogs saw me grab my boots, they immediately got excited,” explains one tester. “My daughter, less so.” Turns out, the preteen only packed flip-flops and tennies for her trip to the desert. “Too bad, because the hike to the arch was incredible, and I could climb any rock, ford any stream and easily keep up with the dogs in these boots.”
Best Hiking Boot for Fast-Moving Hikers
HOKA Anacapa Mid GTX Hiking Boots
Upper material Nubuck leather and GORE-TEX textile
Weight (pair) 1 lb. 12 oz. (women’s 7), 2 lbs. (men’s 9)
Test Results: If your favorite maximalist trail-running shoe had ankle support, it’d probably look a lot like the HOKA Anacapa Mid GTX. And that formula should be just about perfect for hikers looking to go far and fast. As one of the lightest midcut boots in our roundup, the fleet-footed Anacapas use the marshmallow stack height that HOKA is known for, with a gloriously thick EVA cushion under the heel and a 6 millimeter heel-to-toe drop. Taking a cue from the brand’s running shoes, HOKA put in a meta-rocker (a sole slightly curved upward like a smile) to help propel forward motion. “They just encourage you to go,” says our California crew. End result: a smooth and speedy gait with lots of cushioning for joint support.
The Vibram® Megagrip outsole is wider than the upper, creating a sturdy base that allowed one tester to easily sidehill during a three-day hunting trip in Utah’s Uinta Mountains. Plus, all that extra width tacks on extra traction. Trade-off: HOKA keeps the weight down by placing the Vibram® rubber in strategic areas of the sole, but the exposed midsole sections take a beating during off-trail journeys.
The leather and recycled synthetic upper breathes as well as you could expect for a waterproof boot, and the added ankle height was a boon during bog crossings. But our team struggled to understand the pronounced dip on the back of the ankle cuff: “It makes it easier to slide the boot on and off, but errant foxtails kept sticking to my socks,” gripes one tester. Buy here.
Bottom Line: The HOKA Anacapa Mid GTX mixes maximum cushioning with a rockered design for a fast-and-comfortable shoe that gets you places quickly.
- Total distance hiked: 86 miles
- Testing states: California, Utah
- Best testing story: One Utah-based tester has a personal vendetta against bogs and goes out of his way to avoid them when possible. But there he was, racing sunset during the final day of his weekender when he came face-to-face with a massive bog. “We thought it was a grassy field but nope: maximum squish. Luckily, the flexibility in these boots allowed me to move quickly and kinda sprint across while my other hiking partners had to lead-foot and high-knee their way through.”
Best Hiking Boot for Kids
Merrell Moab Flight Low A/C Hiking Shoes - Kids'
Upper material Textile
Weight (pair) Unavailable
Test Results: Kids tend to want two things: independence and playtime. The Moab Flight Low A/C hiking shoes from Merrell offer both for big kids who want to go hard outside without fussing over shoelaces. That must be why one 5-year-old tester proclaimed them her “new favorites.” The bungee lacing system (A/C stands for “alternative closure”) is easy for little fingers to manage, while providing a secure-enough fit that you don’t have to worry about your little one running out of her sneakers.
Our kids are always jumping in puddles that spill over the top of shoes anyway, so we like that the Moab Flight Low A/Cs aren’t waterproof: Synthetic mesh uppers make them super breathable so you don’t hear a lot of whining about sweaty toes. Yet, they still keep dirt and grit out: “Our kid loves stopping in the middle of the trail to dump rocks from her shoes, but she doesn’t have any to worry about now,” says one Utah-based tester after a weekend trip to Capitol Reef National Park.
The rubber outsole is plenty grippy for little legs running up sandstone and down muddy inclines. A synthetic toe cap adds bonus durability, but we’re still noticing a little fraying after two months of use. For kids’ shoes, though? We call that a win. Buy here.
Bottom Line: The Merrell Moab Flight Low A/C hiking shoes are light and breathable enough for our littlest trampers, while providing plenty of support and traction for big play days on the trail.
- Total distance hiked: 17 miles
- Testing states: Colorado, Ohio, Utah
- Best testing story: “We’ve struggled to find hiking shoes that our daughter can put on herself,” says one tester. “But she loves the bungee laces and reaches for these almost every morning.”
Merrell Bravada 2 Hiking Shoes - Women's
Upper material Knit
Weight (pair) 1 lb. 3 oz. (women’s 7)
Test Results: Our testers are tough to please, but this waterproof Merrell brought in rave hiking reviews stretching from Utah to New Hampshire, with one tester proclaiming these her new “go-to favorites.” These women-specific kicks have a casual, low fit, with a cushy midsole constructed with recycled EVA foam. Thanks to the nylon arch shank, they provide just enough support for a decent-size pack of up to 20 pounds. The stretchy knit upper fits like a sock, and we appreciated the sustainability-minded details like the recycled laces. Breathability is arguably the best in this roundup, but that comes with a trade-off: No waterproofing. Still, if you’re looking for an aesthetic, lightweight shoe to take you from trail to town and back again, grab the Bravada 2s. Buy here.
KEEN Targhee III Waterproof Mid Hiking Boots
Upper material Nubuck leather
Weight (pair) 1 lb. 12.4 oz. (women’s 7), 2 lbs. 2.8 oz. (men’s 9)
Test Results: The KEEN Targhee III boots are like waking up for sunrise: always a good idea. Launched more than a decade ago, the honorable Targhee has an army of devoted fans across the co-op and our testing field thanks to its all-around comfort and relatively affordable feature set. At this price point, you still score an oiled nubuck leather boot with a proprietary KEEN.DRY waterproof membrane. Its proprietary rubber outsole is a good option for most terrain types; our testers reported that it gripped granite and dirt well. Unless you’re eyeing particularly sporty routes or looking to heft a lot of weight, you can’t go wrong with the dependable Targhee III. Buy here.
There are a few important components 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.
A boot is typically constructed with synthetic or leather materials. Synthetic materials like polyester or nylon breathe well and weigh less, but they don’t have the same longevity as leather. On the other hand, many backpacking boots still use leather (often nubuck) for added durability and support. Leather also tends to mold to your foot after long-term use, giving you a sort of customized boot.
In this gear guide, we recommend both synthetic and leather options, as well as a couple of hybrids. The leather options are the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid, La Sportiva Nucleo High II GTX, Danner Mountain 600 Leaf GORE-TEX, Salomon X Ultra 4 Mid GTX and KEEN Targhee III Waterproof Mid. The synthetic options are the Oboz Katabatic Mid, REI Co-op Flash, Merrell Moab Flight Low A/C and Merrell Bravada 2. Two options are considered hybrids, meaning they combine leather and synthetic materials to draw the benefits from each. The hybrid options in this guide are the Danner Trail 2650 Mid and HOKA Anacapa Mid GTX.
It’s important to note that the upper itself isn’t what’s waterproof. If a boot is waterproof, it either has a socklike waterproof bootie inside or, more likely, an invisible-to-you waterproof membrane or liner beneath the upper. That additional layer makes a boot significantly less breathable (and more expensive), so it may be unnecessary if you don’t hike in wet climates or plan to push your boots into winter use.
All the boots in our guide (except for the Merrell Bravada 2) come standard with some sort of waterproof technology.
Between a boot’s insole and outsole is—you guessed it—a midsole. The midsole provides cushioning and support and absorbs shock. It’s typically constructed of one of two materials: EVA or PU. EVA (or ethylene vinyl acetate) is a softer foam, so it feels comfy underfoot. That softness, though, means it doesn’t have the same durability as a firmer material. PU (or polyurethane) tends to be less comfortable out of the box, but it provides more support and rebound under heavy loads and lasts longer over time.
This year, we reviewed boots with both EVA and PU midsoles. The boots with EVA midsoles are the La Sportiva Nucleo High II GTX, Salomon X Ultra 4 Mid GTX, REI Co-op Flash, Danner Trail 2650 Mid GTX, Oboz Katabatic Mid, Danner Mountain 600 Leaf GORE-TEX, Merrell Bravada 2, HOKA Anacapa Mid GTX, Merrell Moab Flight Low A/C and Keen Targhee III Waterproof Mid. The option with PU midsoles is the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid.
If a boot has a shank or rock plate, that rigid piece of plastic sits underneath the midsole. These plates will make a boot stiffer, both heel to toe and side to side. A stiff boot like this tends to be best for mountainous or steep terrain, where you can save energy by not overflexing your boot. This additional layer may also be strategically placed under the ball of your foot to protect from rock bruising.
Whether you’re hiking across streams, up scree-covered slopes or through flower-filled meadows, you want to stay on your feet. You stay on your feet thanks to your rubber outsole. Traction comes from your outsole’s lugs—those oddly shaped bumps on the bottom of your boots. Deep, angular lugs (4mm or more) tend to offer the best grip while shedding debris. A “heel brake” is either an extension on the back end of the outsole or an area on the heel where the lugs are more pronounced—it gives you more control when heel-stepping and reduces your chances of sliding on descents.
Softer rubber is stickier, while harder rubber has a longer life span. Climbing shoes often use the softest rubbers, but those won’t hold up trail after mud-caked trail. That’s why most hiking boots use a medium-sticky rubber compound, whether from Vibram® or proprietary materials like Salomon's.
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Weight for a Pair
Price on REI.com
Starting at $245
We asked more than 30 co-op members from around the country to hit the trails and to put our favorite boots sold at REI through their paces. They hiked and hiked and hiked and hiked some more, tallying more than a thousand miles (and a couple dozen blisters, sorry) on their local paths and favorite bac kcountry routes. They scaled mountains, slogged through swamps, trekked across deserts and even played some hoops—all in the name of testing.
When all was said and done, each tester graded their sample boots on a 100-point scale for comfort, durability, traction, support, weight and price. The boots featured in this guide received the highest average scores in the test. The Lowa Renegade GTX Mid and La Sportiva Nucleo High II GTX received nearly perfect scores all-around, earning our coveted REI Co-op Editors’ Choice Awards. The Danner Trail 2650, Oboz Katabatic Mid, Danner Mountain 600 Leaf GORE-TEX, Salomon X Ultra 4 Mid GTX, REI Co-op Flash, HOKA Anacapa Mid GTX and Merrell Moab Flight Low A/C scored the next-highest, proving that they are great options in their respective categories. And finally, the Merrell Bravada 2 and KEEN Targhee III Waterproof Mid scored high in most—but not all—categories, carving out special places within their respective niches.