Tested: The Best Hiking Boots of 2021

These shoes were made for walking.

162 reviews with an average rating of 4.3 out of 5 stars

This article is part of our series: Hiking Boot Basics

A hiker scales mountains in Boulder, Colorado, while wearing the Lowa Renegade GTX hiking boots.

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, well, happy feet, any trek—whether it’s a quick jaunt on your backyard trail or a multi-day epic in a remote corner of the backcountry—becomes a wholly more blissful experience.

The eight 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. They excel when you’re hauling a big load, when you’re moving fast, when you’re scaling mountains, when you’re day hiking, when you’re crushing miles 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.

Jump ahead:

 

Lowa Renegade GTX Mid (Women’s, Men’s)

REI Co-op Editors Choice Award Winner

Best Hiking Boot for Backpacking Trips

Score: 95

Lowa Renegade GTX

  • Versions: Women’s regular, narrow and wide, men’s regular, narrow and wide
  • Upper material: Nubuck leather
  • Weight (pair): 2 lbs. 2 oz. (women’s 7), 2 lbs. 7 oz. (men’s 9)
  • Price: $240

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. Buried inside the Renegade, Lowa hides a surprisingly cushy polyurethane (PU) midsole. It feels light and springy like a running shoe, but it’s far more durable. Called “DuraPU,” Lowa’s proprietary midsole returns to its original shape when you pressure 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 swell and change size.

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.

 

Testing stats:

  • 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 (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.”

 

Topo Athletic Trailventure (Women’s, Men’s)

REI Co-op Editors Choice Award Winner

Best Hiking Boot for Fastpacking Trips

Score: 97

Topo Athletic Trailventure

Test Results: Go fast, go light, go big. That’s the mantra behind the Topo Athletic Trailventure, the lightest boot in our test. The magic is in the materials: The Trailventure sports a nylon mesh upper and EVA midsole (more on that later), which make it downright feathery when compared to traditional leather hiking boots. It’s also cut a bit lower than others on our list (the collar hits just above the ankle bone). “I call these my court-to-trail boots because they feel so much like basketball shoes,” says one tester.

But though Topo slashes grams all over the place, the Trailventure is no flimsy sneaker. “I had to carry our 3-year-old back to the car when she gassed out on a hike, and the boots handled the load like champions,” said one dad after schlepping his 38-pound daughter in Utah’s Arches National Park. The Trailventure has a whopping 30mm stack height under the heel (like your favorite maximalist running shoes), plus an extra-thick, 5mm EVA midsole, for pillow-like underfoot cushion. The Trailventure is bolstered with a hard plastic rear rock plate.

Breathability is all-time in the Trailventure. The synthetic upper is meshy, and since the boot is not waterproof (the only one on this list), sweat vapor can easily escape. That makes it a great choice for folks who live in warmer, drier climates (or who have sweaty feet). Bonus: The price is right. Buy here.

 

Bottom Line: Hikers looking to go fast and light will love the comfort and agility of the nimble Topo Athletic Trailventure.

 

Testing stats:

  • Total distance hiked: 112 miles
  • Testing states: California, Colorado and Utah
  • Best testing story: One Colorado tester attempted to thwart his wife’s relentless attempts to get him to go running with her by packing the Trailventures for a weekend of fall color at Kebler Pass. “I don’t really like running—at all,” he says. “But when we arrived at our campsite, my wife took one look at my boots and declared that they were ‘basically trail-running shoes,’ and so I guess I’ll have to come up with a better plan next time around.” The Trailventure has a 30mm stack height and a 5mm heel-to-toe drop—just like the Ultraventure, its trail-running brethren.

 

La Sportiva Nucleo High II GTX (Women’s, Men’s)

REI Co-op Editors Choice Award Winner

Best Hiking Boot for Mountain Trips

Score: 98

La Sportiva Nucleo High II GTX

  • Versions: Women’s regular and wide, men’s regular and wide
  • Upper material: Nubuck leather
  • Weight (pair): 1 lb. 6 oz. (women’s 37), 2 lbs. 1 oz. (men’s 42)
  • Price: $199

Test Results: Make like a mountain goat when you throw on the La Sportiva Nucleo High II, 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 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 is available in wide sizes—a welcome addition this year for those of us with broader feet.

Testers also lauded the Nucleo High II’s 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’s Olympic National Park.

The Nucleo High II 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 the La Sportiva Nucleo II High GTX a solid bet for any hiker heading to higher ground.

 

Testing stats:

  • Total distance hiked: 175 miles
  • Testing states: California, Colorado and Washington
  • Best testing story: One California 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.”

 

Oboz Sypes Mid Leather Waterproof (Women’s, Men’s)

Best Hiking Boot for Day Trips

Score: 91

Oboz Sypes Mid Leather Waterproof

  • Versions: Women’s, men’s
  • Upper material: Nubuck leather and CORDURA®
  • Weight (pair): 1 lb. 11.9 oz. (women’s 7), 2 lbs. 1.2 oz. (men’s 9)
  • Price: $165

Test Results: Day hikers, let’s dance. Because if you’re neither shouldering a massive pack nor negotiating tumultuous terrain, your feet will love the easy comfort, just-right support and inoffensive styling of the Oboz Sypes Mid. Let’s start with comfort. Oboz designed the Sypes Mid on gender-specific lasts—so each shoe picks up on anatomical nuances more common with each sex. (The women’s version has a narrower heel, for instance, while the men’s accommodates a narrower ball of the foot relative to the heel.) That gives the boot a broken-in feel out of the box, which, when paired with its light weight, makes it wear a little more like a sneaker.

The Sypes Mid sports a PU midsole like burlier boots on this list, plus a nylon shank and TPU heel insert. That’s a lot of acronyms and different plastics, but basically comes down to this: The Sypes Mid is sneaky sporty. The midsole won’t fold over on technical terrain and it won’t collapse under heavier loads if you take it backpacking in a pinch. (Our testers limited backpacking loads to 25 pounds and had no problems.) The collar reaches just above the ankle bone for minimal support.

And should you wear this boot for more casual pursuits, the same Nubuck leather that easily shrugged off wet grass, brambles and willows in our Alaska-based tester’s backyard wilds fares well paired with jeans. Our team also points out the eco cred of the Sypes Mid: Oboz constructed this boot with recycled materials and BLOOM™, a plant-based foam. Buy here.

 

Bottom Line: The lightweight Oboz Sypes Mid is comfy and supportive under small loads, making it a perfect shoe for done-in-a-day missions.

 

Testing stats:

  • Total distance hiked: 125 miles
  • Testing states: Alaska, California and New Hampshire
  • Best testing story: Our Alaska tester ventured into the Talkeetna Mountains for a day of bouldering, opting for the Sypes Mids instead of standard approach shoes. After a slippery, rock-hopping section back and forth across a river, he declared that he had “more confidence than a billy goat. I only wish my climbing shoes had felt as good as these boots.”

 

Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX (Women’s, Men’s)

Best Hiking Boot for Hikers Who Want Just One

Score: 94

Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX

  • Versions: Women’s regular and wide, men’s regular and wide
  • Upper material: Leather
  • Weight (pair): 1 lb. 13.4 oz. (women’s 7), 1 lb. 14.6 oz. (men’s 9)
  • Price: $165

Test Results: Alternative name: Can’t Go Wrong. The Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid 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.

The X Ultra 3 Mid 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 3 Mid 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 3 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 3 Mid 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 multi-day epics should take a flyer on the Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX, the most versatile boot in our test.

 

Testing stats:

  • Total distance hiked: 97 miles
  • Testing states: California, Colorado and Utah
  • Best testing story: One Colorado tester snagged the X Ultra 3 Mids 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.”

 

Other Top Performers

 

Danner Trail 2650 Mid GTX (Women’s, Men’s)

Score: 89

Danner Trail 2650 Mid GTX

  • Versions: Women’s, men’s regular and wide
  • Upper material: Leather and textile
  • Weight (pair): 1 lb. 6 oz. (women’s 7), 1 lb. 12 oz. (men’s 9)
  • Price: $179.95

Test Results: Looking for a shoe that can go the distance? 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. It’s light and relatively breathable (even for a waterproof boot) with a meshy cuff that hits just above the ankle bone, preserving the more trail-shoe-like feel. An oversize EVA midsole adds to the running-shoe illusion, while a TPU shank offers up enough support for loads up to 25 pounds. Another trail-shoe-like trait? The Vibram® Megagrip outsole, one of the stickiest in our test: “I carted our daughter over drenched boardwalks covered in moss and I never slipped,” says one Washington-based tester. Buy here.

 

HOKA ONE ONE Speedgoat Mid 2 GTX (Women’s, Men’s)

Score: 90

HOKA ONE ONE Speedgoat Mid 2 GTX

  • Versions: Women’s, men’s
  • Upper material: Synthetic
  • Weight (pair): 1 lb. 6.7 oz. (women’s 7), 1 lb. 10.5 oz. (men’s 9)
  • Price: $170

Test Results: If your favorite maximalist trail running shoe had ankle support it’d probably look a lot like the HOKA ONE ONE Speedgoat Mid 2 GTX. And that formula should be just about perfect for hikers looking to go far and fast. One of the lightest boots in our roundup, the fleet-footed Speedgoat Mid 2 GTX uses HOKA’s iconic marshmallow stack height with a glorious 30mm of cushion under the heel (the men’s version has 32mm) and a 4mm heel-to-toe drop. That’s a recipe for comfort; this boot should protect your tootsies from rocks and roots, allowing you to look up from your feet and check out the scenery. Buy here.

 

KEEN Targhee III Waterproof Mid (Women’s, Men’s)

Score: 89

KEEN Targhee III Waterproof Mid

  • Versions: Women’s, men’s regular and wide
  • Upper material: Nubuck leather
  • Weight (pair): 1 lb. 12.4 oz. (women’s 7), 2 lbs. 2.8 oz. (men’s 9)
  • Price: $149.95

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. For just $150, 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.

 

Shop All Hiking Boots 

 

Buying Advice

La Sportiva Nucleo High GTX

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.

 

Hiking Boot Uppers

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, Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX and KEEN Targhee III Waterproof Mid. The synthetic options are the Topo Athletic Trailventure and HOKA ONE ONE Speedgoat Mid 2 GTX. 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 Oboz Sypes Mid Leather Waterproof and Danner Trail 2650 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 sock-like 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 come standard with some sort of waterproof technology, except for the Topo Athletic Trailventure, which is available in both non-waterproof and waterproof versions.

 

Hiking Boot Midsoles

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 Topo Athletic Trailventure, La Sportiva Nucleo High II GTX, Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX, Danner Trail 2650 Mid GTX, HOKA ONE ONE Speedgoat Mid 2 GTX and Keen Targhee III Waterproof Mid. The options with PU midsoles are the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid and Oboz Sypes Mid Leather Waterproof.

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.

 

Hiking Boot Outsoles

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 like Oboz and Salomon.

 

Learn More: How to Choose Hiking Boots 

 

Comparing Our Favorite Hiking Boots

Mobile users: Turn your phone sideways.

 

Hiking Boot

Weight for a Pair

Features

Price on REI.com

Lowa Renegade GTX Mid

Score: 95

  • Women’s: 2 lbs. 2 oz. (size 7)
  • Men’s: 2 lbs. 7 oz. (size 9)
  • Nubuck leather upper
  • Traditional mid-cut
  • Waterproof
  • Ideal for backpacking and hiking.

$240

Topo Athletic Trailventure

Score: 97

  • Women’s: 1 lb. 4.8 oz. (size 7)
  • Men’s: 1 lb. 10.2 oz. (size 9)
  • Ripstop leather upper
  • Slightly lower mid-cut
  • Non-waterproof
  • Ideal for fastpacking and hiking.

$140

La Sportiva Nucleo High II GTX

Score: 98

  • Women’s: 1 lb. 6 oz. (size 37)
  • Men’s: 2 lbs. 1 oz. (size 42)
  • Nubuck leather upper
  • Traditional mid-cut
  • Waterproof
  • Ideal for backpacking and hiking.
$199

Oboz Sypes Mid Leather Waterproof

Score: 91

  • Women’s: 1 lb. 11.9 oz. (size 7)
  • Men’s: 2 lbs. 1.2 oz. (size 9)
  • Nubuck leather and CORDURA® upper
  • Traditional mid-cut
  • Waterproof
  • Ideal for hiking.
$165

Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX

Score: 94

  • Women’s: 1 lb. 13.4 oz. (size 7)
  • Men’s: 1 lb. 14.6 oz. (size 9)
  • Leather upper
  • Traditional mid-cut
  • Waterproof
  • Ideal for backpacking and hiking.
$165

Danner Trail 2650 Mid GTX

Score: 89

  • Women’s: 1 lb. 6 oz. (size 7)
  • Men’s: 1 lb. 12 oz. (size 9)
  • Leather-and-textile upper
  • Slightly lower mid-cut
  • Waterproof
  • Ideal for hiking.
$179.95

HOKA ONE ONE Speedgoat Mid 2 GTX

Score: 90

  • Women’s: 1 lb. 6.7 oz. (size 7)
  • Men’s: 1 lb. 10.5 oz. (size 9)
  • Synthetic upper
  • Slightly lower mid-cut
  • Waterproof
  • Ideal for fastpacking and hiking.

$170

KEEN Targhee III Waterproof Mid

Score: 89

  • Women’s: 1 lb. 12.4 oz. (size 7)
  • Men’s: 2 lbs. 2.8 oz. (size 9)
  • Nubuck leather upper
  • Traditional mid-cut
  • Waterproof
  • Ideal for backpacking and hiking.
$149.95

 

Methodology

Methodology

Last year, we asked 19 co-op members from around the country to hit the trails as safely as possible 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 backcountry routes. They scaled mountains, slogged through swamps, trekked across deserts and even played some hoops—all in the name of testing.

When it was all said and done, each tester graded their sample boots on a 100-point scale for comfort, durability, traction, support, weight and price. The eight boots featured in this guide received the highest average scores in the test. The Lowa Renegade GTX Mid, Topo Athletic Trailventure and La Sportiva Nucleo High II GTX received nearly perfect scores all-around, earning our coveted REI Co-op Editors’ Choice Awards. The Oboz Sypes Mid Leather Waterproof and Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX scored the next-highest, proving that they are great options in their respective categories. And finally, the Danner Trail 2650 Mid GTX, HOKA ONE ONE Speedgoat Mid 2 GTX and KEEN Targhee III Waterproof Mid scored high in most—but not all—categories, carving out special places within their respective niches.


Article by Heather Balogh Rochfort. Heather is a freelance writer and author specializing in the outdoors and adventure travel, particularly as they apply to women and families. Her organization WildKind educates and empowers families to find their wild. As a lifelong Colorado resident, Heather loves Type-II fun above treeline where the sun is hot and the oxygen depleted. Things she does not like: rock climbing. REI member since 2008.

 


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