Hiking boots are by far one of the most important pieces of equipment you will ever take on a hike, and a pair of boots can be the difference between a pain-free enjoyable adventure and one riddled with injury, discomfort and lack of confidence.
With the global trend in hiking shifting towards using lightweight materials, gone are the days of burly, oversized hiking boots that provided little comfort out-of-the-box and that require constant care and maintenance.
The market is now full of the latest boots offering comfort, breathability and water resistance all packed into one lightweight package – so picking a boot can become a nightmare unless you know what you are looking for and how you intend to use it.
This comprehensive guide aims to point you in the right direction by compiling our expert reviews of the best hiking boots into one simple and understandable table.
(Best Overall Hiking Boot)
(Best Lightweight Hiking Boot)
(Best Value for Money)
The Best Overall Hiking Boot award of 2018 goes to the Salomon Quest 4D 2 GTX, gaining top marks in comfort, durability and stability. At 1.5kg, the boots were some of the heaviest tested in this year’s line-up, but we found that to be a small price to pay for the performance that this pair of boots delivers.
We found this Quest 4D 2 GTX successfully combined the versatility and functionality of the trail running shoes that Salomon have become so well known for with the stability, comfort and support of a more traditional hiking shoe. They are ready to be worn out-of-the box and come fitting with the latest Gore-Tex lining giving the shoe full waterproof resistance.
With high ankle collars and an easy-to-use lacing system, the boots from Salomon deliver great stability and the 4D boot chassis provides resistance against torsional twisting of the sole – great for rocky or uneven terrain.
High performance boot that is versatile but still durable and supportive – perfect for short to long hikes.
Scarpa are renowned for their mountain and alpine equipment and the Zodiac Plus GTX can be considered their version of a hiking boot – with hints of a mountain boot. As you would expect from Scarpa, the Zodiac Plus GTX performed well in the traction category where the unique rubber sole deals well with rocky faces and wet/snowy terrain.
With a full leather upper and a Gore-Tex lining, the Zodiac Plus GTX is completely waterproof yet breathable in warmer conditions, boosting the comfortability rating of the shoe. The leather upper also adds an element of durability to the shoe although the suede will require treatment after prolonged or intensive use.
The boots are in the middle of the weight spectrum and are perfect for a variety of uses from light hikes to more demanding terrain, although they do come in at the top end of the price spectrum.
Mid weight boot with great traction and durability for all terrains, especially rocky or mountainous terrain
When it comes to hiking boots, winning the coveted prize of Best Lightweight Hiking Boot is no easy task. Creating a boot that is lightweight but still durable, comfortable and performs well seems to have been an easy task for HOKA ONE ONE with their Tor Ultra Hi impressing our experts in all categories.
The massive wad of foam cushioning in the soles provides you with much comfort and absorbs shocks very easily while keeping the weight of the boot down to a minimum. Combined with the high ankle collar, the boot tested well in areas of stability and comfort giving it a great overall performance score.
Where HOKA ONE ONE did fall short was in the durability and waterproof sections. The eVent waterproof membrane seemed to be more breathable than it was waterproof, which could be a deal breaker for certain hikers.
High performance lightweight boot with great levels of comfort.
Keen has become a popular brand in the hiking boot space due to their reasonable priced boots that perform well. They have gained in popularity with the average day hiker and their latest boot, the Targhee 3 Mid, aims to deliver a step up in performance over the highly successful Targhee 2 Mid.
The boot has running-shoe-like comfort right out the box making it perfect for intermediate hikers looking for something they can use now and then without having to wear in. Without being the heaviest or lightest shoe, the Targhee 3 Mid delivers a lot of stability that is integrated with their unique lacing system that we enjoyed using.
The selling point for this boot is definitely its reasonable price. It is perfect for budget or first time hikers looking for something that will perform well over time.
Value for money boot with out of the box comfort and stability.
This mid weight boot from Lowa is a no-frills boot that does exactly what it says on the box. It is durable, comfortable, provides great support and traction on a variety of hikes and fares well in shallow water. It’s not the lightest nor prettiest boot out there but is highly versatile and perfect for almost any regular hiking trip from day hikes to moderate backpacking.
We found the boots lacked the competitors slightly in the finer details such as the lacing mechanism, but with lots of support and a wide sole, the Renegade GTX Mid performed well under the different terrains and conditions tested.
The durability was on the lower side of the mid weight range and the numerous upper panels provided countless seams which can all wear away with use. The Gore-Tex held off water just fine and our feet remained dry for the duration of testing.
Stable and reliable mid weight boot.
The Terrex Scope High GTX is a rather technical boot aimed at those looking for somewhat of an approach shoe/hiking boot crossover. The synthetic upper gives a fairly lightweight boot that outperforms the other boots in its ability to traverse rocky terrain, especially on approaches or climbs.
The specialised rubber used underfoot provides the best traction out of all the boots we tested, making it perfect for use on rocks or in variable weather conditions on climbs. The boot lacks a bit in comfort and requires some breaking in, although this is typical of an approach shoe.
Durability is on the low side and the boot will show considerable wear after a full season of use and so is marketed at specialised hikers looking for specialised performance.
Light approach shoe with outstanding traction.
3.5/5 Overall Rating
The Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX is a crossover between a trail running shoe and a fully fledged hiking boot – taking the best parts of each and combining into one shoe. As expected, the boot is one of the more comfortable tested with ample toe room in the forefoot. On the stability side, the boot is miles better than your typical trail shoe but falls short of some of the bulkier hiking boots tested, noticeably lacking the stiff upper of most hiking boots.
Beyond that, the boot is one of the lightest tested and the Gore-Tex lining held up well in water but provided much needed breathability on land. All in all, the X Ultra 3 Mid GTX is a great boot for those looking to bridge the gap and find something that meets their needs of a trail runner but with a touch more stability and durability.
Perfect crossover boot – ideal for day hikes or backpacking.
3.5/5 Overall Rating
The Arc’teryx Bora2 Mid is a futuristic boot that comes at a hefty price tag. With its unique double boot system, Arc’teryx are able to have an almost completely seam free upper that encloses an inner boot that you slip your foot into. This provides two layer of waterproof membrane but also compromises on the breathability of the shoe and can cause you to sweat a lot in the boot.
Apart from the issue with sweating, the boot provided great comfort thanks to the inner boot and the wrap around style of the outer boot allowed it to score well in the stability category. The boot is the heaviest tested so may not be for those looking to hike light.
Futuristic, innovative but heavy shoe that comes at a very hefty price.
3/5 Overall Rating
This budget offering from Merrell is geared towards beginner hikers on a budget looking for something to use infrequently and in predominantly dry conditions. It scored well in the most important categories but lacked the competition in the more technical categories of stability and traction.
The boot is comfortable for your average day hike or backpack and provides enough support and stability for typical day hiking usage. The traction is not ideal for variable terrain but held up well when tested under dry conditions and of course the lack of a waterproof membrane means the boots is limited in its usability.
Light, entry level boot that is perfect for day hikes in dry weather.
4/5 Overall Rating
Scoring an impressive 4 out of 5 stars, the Vasque St. Elias GTX is a traditional looking shoe that strives for performance over weight. That being said, the boot makes use of modern materials to keep the weight down but does trade off other performance metrics in order to shave a few grams.
They were some of the highest scoring boots in the comfort, traction and durability categories which is really testament to their quality and lack of compromise. Versatile yet heavy, these boots are perfect for the traditionalist who doesn’t mind a bit of extra weight for an all-round solid boot.
They are dependable and come at a mid-range price making them an attractive option for intermediate hikers.
Heavy traditional boot that scored at the top of the line-up in every category.
There are literally hundreds of hiking boot brands on the market, all boast different features, designs and specs, making the selection of a suitable pair of boots quite a daunting task. This key buying guide sets out what is important to look for when purchasing a trekking boots.
The durability of hiking boots or any other piece of hiking equipment for that matter is a long-term question rather than a short-term one, and so is often overlooking by buyers. More durable boots tend to be heavier and bulkier and so don’t appeal at face value when making the purchasing decision as their value is only realised after countless hikes and multiple years of use.
With the trend in hiking moving towards using lightweight materials, the inevitable trade-off between weight and durability can be seen in almost any equipment category from trekking poles to hiking boots. Compromises in material and build quality to shed a few grams are evident in some of the boots we tested, although most of the boots tested in the top 10 were durable enough to last at least a few seasons of use, while still being lightweight when compared to hiking boots of the past.
The main determinant of durability is the materials used in the upper of the boot. Thicker leather is naturally more durable and doesn’t suffer from the same issues that synthetic materials do, especially at the seams where the upper meets the sole. The lighter synthetic materials are also prone to cutting and in some cases peeling where the laminate became detached.
The level of durability required should largely depend on your needs and how you intend to use the boots. Light, on-trail use can be benefitted by using more lightweight synthetic boots while heavy bushwhacking on variable terrain will be benefitted most by a durable leather construction.
As anyone who has ever hiked in uncomfortable shoes will tell you – comfort is king.
Unfortunately, hiking boots have gotten bad press for comfortability over the years, especially for out-of-the-box use, but with the introduction of lighter materials and advanced linings, many shoes are able to be worn right away and maintain their comfort and breathability throughout the hike.
Most boots in the market now don’t need to be worn-in thanks to replacements for the stiff leather used in the past. While comfort is primarily subjective, there are some things to look out for when trying on a pair of boots for the first time.
It is important that the shape of the sole matches that of your foot and that there are no pressure points where your foot feels cramped or where the boot is too loose and can cause blistering. Try to get an idea of the room in the toe box, as this is where most pain and blistering occurs on your feet.
After the comfort of your foot, focus on the comfort of the boot surrounding your ankle and how well the boots lock-in your heel. Boots come with varying degrees of ankle support so it is important to know and understand what type of terrain you will be traversing before committing to a purchase.
The final determinant of comfort is the breathability and water resistance of the shoe (not an oxymoron). All the boots we tested had a fabric membrane that prevented water from entering the shoe while still allowing the foot to breath and stay dry. Keeping your feet dry and cool is important because blistering occurs more often when your feet are damp and hot.
Hiking with a pair of boots that weighed the same as your daily running shoes would be a miracle, but unfortunately all the added benefits of hiking boots over shoes (durability, support, traction and comfort) come with the price of being significantly heavier.
So while lighter doesn’t always means better, a few hundred grams can make a difference to a pair of boots when you consider that you have to raise and lower each foot hundreds if not thousands of times per hike.
We recommend focussing on the other key features of hiking boots such as support, stability and durability when finding a group of boots that match your needs. Only then should you look at weight and go for the lighter option if it still meets your other requirements.
The stability of hiking boots is what sets them apart from hiking shoes and is one of the most important benefits that boots provide over other types of footwear. A large part of the stability of the boot is determined by the level of ankle support which is in turn driven by the height of the ankle collar.
We tested various components of stability from the ability to ‘edge’ with the boot to the stability of the sole in how it resisted being twisted. The wideness of the sole plays a role in the prevention of ‘rolling’ and twisting of the ankle as it provides a more stable base that comes into contact with the ground. On the flip side, a wider sole makes it harder to use the edge of the sole to climb up places with small footholds and so reduces the ability of the boot to be used for edging.
The resistance of the sole to twisting is known as torsional resistance and prevents fatigue on the feet when hiking on uneven terrain by keeping the foot on the same plane.
The traction of the sole plays a role in the overall stability of the shoe but also in its ability to perform under various weather conditions and on various types of terrain. The sole shape and pattern determine the traction achieved underfoot, with narrower soles performing the best on looser terrain.
Lugged soles provide the best traction in snowy or muddy conditions, while more tacky rubber performs the best for climbing over rock faces or smoother surfaces.
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