Whether you’re on high and dry alpine trails or wet, muddy paths, your hiking shoes are the piece of gear that matters most on any hike. They provide more support and durability than regular runners. We extensively reviewed the nine best hiking shoes on the market and present them here.
In terms of waterproofing, grip, traction, and lightweight function, we found the Vasque Breeze LT LOW NTX Lightweight Waterproof Hiking Shoes to be the best all-around. Read on to find the best hiking shoes for every outdoor occasion.
The Top Hiking Shoes Reviewed
Best All-Around Hiking Shoes
Our best all-around shoe provides unparalleled weather and debris protection. The Vasque Breeze LT LOW NTX Hiking Shoes are a perfect choice for adventurous hikers. The Nature-Tex waterproof membrane will keep feet protected (even in a downpour).
The grip of the Vibram outsole is suitable for tackling varied terrain as it provides added traction. We love how these hiking shoes keep your feet dry, comfortable and stable. They feel light, weighing only 1 lb. 9 oz. (716g), and their sleek design looks suitable for casual use as well as on the trail.
- High-quality materials
- Lightweight & waterproof
- Narrow fit
Best Runner Up Hiking Shoes
If you’re looking for a shoe that lets you tackle any terrain, the all-new X Ultra 4 Gore-Tex Shoes (women’s; men’s) are for you. The Ultra 4 has an updated traction system from Contragrip with grippy mixed adhesion. There are breaking lugs in the back and climbing lugs in front to give you more control.
The support structure system provided by Advanced Chassis starts on the medial side under the arch and wraps around to the lateral side. The pinpoint on the lateral side integrates with the heel counter to provide maximum stability.
- Good arch support
- Quick lacing
- Super comfortable
- Runs large
Best Affordable Hiking Shoes
Lightweight and affordable, you can’t go wrong with the Salomon Outline GTX Hiking Shoes (men’s; women’s). They’re versatile enough for any adventure, big or small, whether that’s traversing through easy paths, exploring mixed trails, or meeting up with friends.
At only 300 grams, they’re lightweight and flexible like a running shoe but grippy and protective enough to handle any trail.
- Slim style
- All-weather protection
- Could provide more stability
Best Heavy Duty Hiking Shoes
Leading the market in backpacking boots are the Salomon Quest Element Gore-Tex Shoes for women and the Quest 4 GORE-TEX Shoes for men. They’re more lightweight than the previous version but still very supportive and stable. The big lugs shed dirt and mud to keep you steady on slick surfaces. You can count on the advanced 4D Chassis to keep you grounded as you carry a heavy pack. Last but not least, lightweight and breathable GORE-TEX makes these boots great for all seasons.
Most Breathable Hiking Shoes
The 4mm lugs give good traction when hiking through unknown terrain. They’re ideal for a multitude of casual and sporty uses. There are also several support systems, including a stability Shank and high-rebound EVA cushioning.
- Very durable sole
- 4mm multi-directional lugs
- Well-ventilated mesh material
- A little stiff at first
Best Ventilated Waterproof Hiking Shoes
If you’re looking for cushioned and comfortable hiking shoes, you’ll love the Salewa Dropline GORE-TEX Shoes. They’re still lightweight (350g) even with a GORE-TEX lining, and the stretchable air mesh uppers make them great for summer hiking. The EXA Shell and anti-rock heel cup give you a dependable grip on mountains or rugged trails.
For women, the Dropline GORE-TEX Shoes feature the same sticky Pomoca outsole for confident gripping. They also have a lightweight GORE-TEX membrane to keep the elements out and allow sweat and moisture to pass through.
- Design may be uncomfortable for some
Best Hiking Shoes for Day Hikes
If you’re looking for lightweight shoes for day hikes, you can’t go wrong with the Salomon X Raise GORE-TEX Hiking Shoes (men’s; women’s). The slip-on style with quick-release laces makes it easy to pull on these shoes at the campsite or on the trail.
The focus is on comfort with the maxi-foam collar and tongue, combined with an EnergyCell midsole. The outer material is waterproof and provides great traction, too.
- Super cushy and comfortable
- High-quality build
- Quicklace system
- Not robust enough for multiple-day hikes
Best Ultra-Light Hiking Shoes
Power through the trails in rain, snow, or shine with the Lone Peak All-Wthr Low Trail Running Shoes (men’s: women’s). They’re designed for ultimate comfort with the Balanced Cushioning platform that aligns to your foot. While they have excellent lugs and grip, they’re incredibly lightweight at only 300 grams.
- Moderately cushioned
- Grippy outsole
- Lightweight feel
- No trail gaiters
Best Hiking Shoes for Technical Terrains
Made for powering through tricky terrain, Salewa’s Wildfire Edge GTX Shoes won’t disappoint. They can be adapted from hiking mode to climbing mode thanks to the Switchfit system that works by tightening or loosening the laces and eyelets.
For women, the Mountain Trainer Lite Gore-Tex Shoes offer similar comfort and reliability. The synthetic, ventilated upper makes them suitable for warmer conditions. The adjustable lacing also makes them quick to throw on and tighten.
- Reliable construction
- Heavier than other hiking shoes
What to Look for in Hiking Shoes
Hiking Shoes vs Boots
Hiking boots can be more durable and provide more ankle stability than hiking shoes. On the other hand, hiking shoes have more flexibility and breathability.
There is also more of a break-in period with boots. Initially, you can expect some blisters, so bring moleskin or bandaids on your first hike. The choice ultimately depends on what you’re doing—if you’re going for a long trek, a hiking boot is better.
Trail runners don’t have the same life expectancy as hiking boots. At the same time, they’re great for when you want to go fast and light. If you’re the type of person who goes on day hikes and multi-day treks, having both trail runners and hiking shoes is ideal.
Consider what kind of hiking you’ll be doing. Is it a slow and steady trail with a heavy backpack? Or is it a speedy jaunt through your local backwoods? The lighter the shoe, the faster you’ll be. Light hiking shoes make it easier to maintain a brisk pace as you blow through miles.
Today, hiking shoes integrate many different technologies into their construction. GORE-TEX waterproof membranes equip shoes for wet weather conditions. This waterproof material helps hikers cope with everything from misty mornings to heavy downpours.
EVA foam, often seen in the midsoles of shoes, gives support and cushioning. Vibram, another common material seen on the outsoles, helps give shoes durability and traction through varied terrain.
Waterproof vs Breathable
Breathable hiking shoes are usually designed with high-quality mesh. They are made to whisk away moisture on hotter days.
Waterproof shoes can sometimes lack breathability but have other benefits. If you want shoes for crossing streams or rainy conditions, look for shoes with waterproof treatments.
Soles & Traction
Aside from standard rubber outsoles that are designed for durability, additional features also give traction. Wide-spaced lugs, for example, help the hiker get through soft terrain such as mud. Deeper, thicker lugs improve grip on backpacking and mountaineering trips.
Fit is one of the most critical aspects when choosing a hiking shoe. You want a shoe that holds your foot securely in place and doesn’t let your heel raise up out of the heel cup as you walk. Also, your toes need to have enough space to splay out comfortably and naturally, so a wider toe box is something to look for.
If you go downhill and your toes hit the front of the shoe, this can cause pain and blisters. A true fit to size is the best rule.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is ankle support necessary for hiking?
Depending on your intended use, ankle support may be necessary. Low-cut hiking shoe models are ideal for day hiking. Mid to high-cut hiking boots are perfect for day hikes or backpacking trips with light loads. Finally, high-cut backpacking boots are designed for maximum support.
If you anticipate carrying a heavy load or hiking for several days, additional ankle support may also be needed.
How long does it take to break in hiking shoes?
If you’ve just bought a new pair of hiking shoes, it can take several weeks to break them in. If you haven’t worn your shoes for several months, you may have to break them in again. It takes time for your foot to adjust to the stiffer build of the shoe. One to five weeks of regular wear is recommended to soften the material of the shoe.
Is it ok to hike in sneakers?
If you are going on short day hikes in familiar terrain, sneakers are perfectly suitable. Hiking shoes are made to give you better stability and support if you’re carrying weight or hiking in challenging terrain.
Are barefoot shoes good for hiking?
Barefoot shoes can be the right choice for hiking if you are used to them. If you have only been barefoot walking for a short time, you need to build up to this. Wait until your feet are stronger before you hit the trail with barefoot shoes.
Hiking shoes are one of the best investments you can make for your hiking adventures. We hope this comprehensive guide helps you make a better buying decision.
Remember, Altitude Sports has an easy return policy if you’re a Member. You can order your shoes risk-free, and return them if they don’t fit or work properly. Browse the extensive selection of hiking shoes and find your perfect match.