The Best Hiking Boots of 2024: Tested

These shoes were made for walking.

Heather Balogh Rochfort|Updated May 10, 2024

401 reviews with an average rating of 4.1 out of 5 stars

This article is part of our series: Hiking Boot Basics

A good pair of hiking boots will take you far: to the top of summits, the bottoms of canyons and around your local nature preserve. We rely on our hiking boots to carry the load (pun intended), so it’s important to choose the right ones to help us enjoy our favorite experiences.

But, choosing a pair can feel daunting, since there are countless options and tons of techy lingo that sounds closer to a foreign language. We tested dozens of hiking boots and believe that these 12 are the best that money can buy at REI Co-op. They combine high-quality materials, innovative technology and all-around comfort to keep you going the distance.

Regardless of whether you’re shouldering a monstrous backpack, scrambling up a ridgeline or poking around your local concrete jungle, we’re confident there is one here for you—wherever your journey takes you.

Looking for something a little lighter and lower-cut for your trail time? See Best Hiking Shoes of 2024: Staff Picks for our favorites in that category.

Test Results

Find our quick recommendations here or read on for the full reviews.


Other Top Performers


Jump to Buying Advice and Methodology.

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.

Versions: Women's, men's

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

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.

Versions: Women's regular and wide; men's regular and wide

Bottom Line: Protection, traction and support meet in this relatively lightweight package, making La Sportiva Nucleo High II 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-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."

It’s rare for a hiker to compare trekking boots to “walking on clouds,” but that’s exactly what happened with the Elixir Mid GORE-TEX hiking boots from Salomon, our top pick for all-around comfort. The secret is in the midsole, a proprietary mix called Fuze Surge that blends 30% rubber with a cozy EVA foam. The result is a ride so soft and bouncy that you’ll forget it’s a boot. “They wear like a sneaker but kick butt on the trail,” our Hike editor for Expert Advice, who tested these boots around the lakes, at dog parks and along the Mississippi River Gorge near their Minnesota home.

Beyond the plush-and-lush feel, Salomon added a ski-inspired reverse-camber midsole, meaning it is curved upwards on the ends like a smile. This enhances a natural gait more than a flat midsole, helping hikers roll through their steps, charge efficiently and quickly pivot when necessary. Fit is spot on too, with six different testers all praising the Elixirs as the most comfortable boots they’ve ever worn, with a generous (but not overbig) toe box. 

Comfort goes a long way, but it won’t help you in slippery terrain. Thankfully, the rubber outsole pairs with 5-millimeter lugs for tacky traction on mixed terrain including wet mud, frozen dirt, ice, snow, dead grass, gravel and stone. It may be cliché, but one tester said it: “I stuck like glue to just about every surface.” And though their modern shape and beefy uppers might not get points for appearance from some wearers, they were an ally on serious uphills. “I personally think they’re ugly as sin, but they were absolutely great to wear—probably some of the most comfortable shoes I’ve worn,” says a Washington-based tester who tackled more than 1,000 feet of elevation gain on one muddy forest trek on her tribal lands for several hours. “I spent that time climbing over logs, climbing up in trees and navigating through the evergreens, and they stayed gripped to the ground.” Buy here.

Versions: Salomon Elixir Mid GORE-TEX Hiking Boots women's, men's; Salomon Elixir Activ Mid GORE-TEX Hiking Boots women's, men's

Bottom Line: The Salomon Elixir Mid GORE-TEX hiking boots use a thick-and-soft midsole with a secure fit for a rolling stride that makes these kicks the most comfortable in our test.

Testing Stats:

  • Total distance hiked: 133 miles
  • Testing states: Minnesota, Washington
  • Best testing story: One tester went out for what seemed like a relatively moderate hike but spring snowmelt, downed trees, unexpected water crossings, thick mud and steep inclines turned it into an obstacle course fit for "American Ninja Warrior." “I can’t believe I stayed on my feet—and trust me, I could trip over my own shadow. But I actually practically raced somebody on an uphill jag so I could get to the top of the bluff and look for eagles,” they say. (Once there, they saw five soaring overhead.)

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 oversized 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-based 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 our tests. "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.

Versions: Women's regular & waterproof; men's regular and waterproof

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.

Testing Stats:

  • Total distance hiked: 167 miles
  • Testing states: Colorado, Washington and one jaunt to Peru

These boots are made for walking—but they look good doing it, too. The Speed Solo Mid hiking boots from Merrell toe the line between function and fashion, making them equally at home on singletrack and urban corridors. Thanks to a light-as-a-cloud FloatPro Foam™ midsole and 10% recycled EVA foam, they weigh relatively little for a midcut boot—and it’s noticeable. “[These are] a night-and-day difference compared to other hiking boots I own,” says one Minnesota-based tester who often performs field work with the Department of Natural Resources. The softer foam also helped with comfort: our entire testing team wore them straight from the box with zero discomfort. Don’t confuse feel-good with flimsy: A rock plate adds decent underfoot protection.

Traction received rave reviews from our testing team, as long as they stuck to dirt and pavement. Merrell uses a Vibram® ECOSTEP outsole, a type of rubber made with at least 30% recycled Vibram®. A lightweight design and rubber outsole built for paved surfaces make the Merrell Speed Solo Mid Waterproof hiking boots our top choice for hikers going the distance in urban environments. It’s specifically designed for dry dirt and urban areas, but testers felt the 4-millimeter lugs also held tight to spring mud. Tradeoff: Folks traversing on ice and slicker, wintry terrain struggled a bit more. The recycled rubber in the outsole isn’t the only sustainability feature. All of the laces, webbing, mesh lining and insoles are made from 100% recycled materials. And 10% of the FloatPro midsole is made from BLOOM, an algae-based foam.

The Speed Solo boots are waterproof with an M-Select™ DRY membrane—one tester watched water “wick right off the top” while tromping through a shallow stream—but it comes with a loss of breathability. “My socks were wet from sweat,” reports another after a 10-mile hike. These shoes might be better suited to cooler-weather outings. Fit note: Plenty of arch support makes these a great pick for those with high arches, but testers found them to be low volume in the toe box. Buy here.

Versions: Women's, men's

Bottom Line: A lightweight design and rubber outsole built for paved surfaces makes the Merrell Speed Solo Mid waterproof hiking boots our top choice for hikers going the distance in urban environments.

Testing Stats:

  • Total distance hiked: 54 miles
  • Testing states: California, Minnesota
  • Best testing story: One tester wore these on a 7-mile early spring hike in California’s Los Padres National Forest and got multiple compliments about them both while on the trail and while grabbing a snack afterward. “I normally wear low-top runners to hike, but these have converted me,” she says.

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.

Versions: Women's regular & waterproof; men's regular & waterproof

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.

Testing Stats:

  • 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

Score 93

Waterproof Yes

Waterproofing 2-layer GORE-TEX waterproof/breathable membrane (45% postconsumer recycled materials)

Upper material Full-grain leather

Weight (pair) 2 lbs. (women's 7); 2 lbs. 6 oz. (men's 9)

The Mountain 600 Leaf GORE-TEX Hiking Boots from Danner are a hiker's soulmate—and beyond being sturdy, 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.

Versions: Women's, men's

Bottom Line: Hardworking 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.

Testing Stats:

  • 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."

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.

Versions: Women's, men's

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.

Testing Stats:

  • 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."

Many of today’s hikers want the protection of hiking boots with the featherweight feel of trail running shoes, and the Flash TT from REI Co-op deliver on that promise—and without the use of any animal by-products. REI uses a lightweight foam midsole infused with nitrogen, which keeps these kicks under 2 pounds while maintaining comfort for the pickiest of trekkers. “These have just enough cushion to allow me to hike a bit faster and longer than I intend to,” says one Ohio-based tester. But, they’re not flimsy thanks to slight sidewalls that add torsional support. Pro tip: Some testers found them initially stiff, so plan on wearing them around the house for a brief break-in period.

Good news: those cushy midsoles use eco-friendly materials too, with 20% coming from recycled content. Another 10% of the midsole material is derived from BLOOM, a type of algae-based  foam. REI dug deep to increase the quantity of recycled materials in the Flash TT boots, so the list doesn’t end there. The ripstop polyester upper—no leather found—is made with 90% recycled material from plastic bottles and the waterproofing membranes use 70% recycled polyurethane. More recycled content is found in the lining, foam collar, and synthetic overlays. 

One tester with a recent ankle surgery noted the solid and stable ride over rough terrain. This is thanks to the Vibram Megagrip outsole (the tackiest out there)  that is slightly wider at the base, ensuring goat-like footing on the most technical of trails. Buy here.

Versions: Women's, men's

Bottom Line: Oodles of synthetic recycled materials pair well with a supportive midsole and a lack of leather to make the REI Co-op Flash TT Hiking Boots a great pick for a wide variety of hikers.

Testing Stats:

  • Total distance hiked: 74 miles
  • Testing locations: Ohio, Washington, Guatemala
  • Best testing story: One Ohio-based tester who works in the coffee industry wore the Flash TT to visit coffee farms in Central America. "I've had a major ankle surgery several years ago, so the bed and heel cup are super important to me when hiking," he says. "I don't plan on using any of my other boots for a while, now that these are in my backpack!"

If your favorite maximalist trail-running shoe had ankle support, it'd probably look a lot like the HOKA Anacapa 2 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.

Versions: Women's, men's

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.

Testing Stats:

  • Total distance hiked: 86 miles
  • Testing states: California, Utah

Kids tend to want two things: independence and playtime. The Moab Speed 2 Low A/C waterproof 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, so we like that the Moab Speed 2 Low A/Cs are waterproof, and they also 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 Speed 2 Low A/C waterproof 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.

Testing Stats:

  • 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."

Other Top Performers

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.

Versions: Women's regular, men's regular and wide

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 hiking boots with 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 Elixir Mid GORE-TEX, Merrell Speed Solo Mid, 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 TT, and Merrell Moab Speed 2Low A/C . Two hiking boots 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 hiking 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.


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 La Sportiva Nucleo High II GTX, Salomon X Ultra 4 Mid GTX, Salomon Elixir Mid GORE-TEX, Merrell Speed Solo Mid, REI Co-op Flash TT, Danner Trail 2650 Mid GTX, Oboz Katabatic Mid, Danner Mountain 600 Leaf GORE-TEX, Merrell Bravada 2, HOKA Anacapa Mid GTX, Merrell Moab Speed2Low A/C and Keen Targhee III Waterproof Mid. The option with PU midsoles is the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid.

If a hiking 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 (4 millimeters 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 those from Salomon.


Related reading: How to Choose Hiking Boots


Methodology

Methodology

We asked more than 40 co-op members from around the country to hit the trails and to put our favorite hiking 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 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, La Sportiva Nucleo High II GTX and Salomon Elixir Mid GORE-TEX received nearly perfect scores all-around, earning our REI Co-op Editors’ Choice Awards.