The Best Hiking Boots for Men Review
What is the best men's hiking boot? In search of the answer, our expert testers put 12 of the most popular models through the wringer. From North to South America, we hiked through deserts, down into canyons, through thick forests, and up volcanoes, both on well-traveled paths and way, way off trail. We tested them side by side in the mud, scree, wet and dry slabs, streams, boulders, and snow. We scrutinized each boot's construction, devised tests, hiked hundreds of miles, and ranked each one's performance in comfort, traction, stability, weight, water resistance, and durability. Read on to see how all the competitors fared in our updated review.
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Test Results and Ratings
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Analysis and Award Winners
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Analysis and Test Results
Your footwear is the most important piece of gear you take on the trail. Comfy boots that fit your feet are the key to hiking and backpacking bliss, while poorly fitting ones will ruin your day. After examining the advantages of hiking boots compared to low-cut shoes, we also guide you through finding your size and fine-tuning the fit of your boots.
Types of Men's Hiking Boots
Hot weather day hiking? The Columbia North Plains II, at 2.04 lbs, is incredibly lightweight and breathable, but offers meager performance in support, water resistance, and durability. Powering out miles day after day, with a heavy pack in the soggy North Cascades? The Vasque St. Elias GTX, weighing 3.43 lbs, is stable, durable, and waterproof, but isn't very nimble. These two boots are as different from each other as apples and oranges. The products we compare here span a wide range considered under the same umbrella term of "hiking boot." While our award winners highlight the top of the crop, it's important to also focus in on the performance metrics that are important to you. Each boot's individual review describes performance in each rating metric, and compares and contrasts it to the models most similar in design, weight, and best uses.
While more hikers are choosing to wear trail runners or low-cut hiking shoes than in years past, hiking boots provide greater stability and ankle protection. They also do a better job keeping your feet dry when it's rainy and muddy.
Hiking boots are commonly categorized into three groups — lightweight, midweight, and heavyweight categories — according to their weight, ankle stability, and the foot support provided. This classification system is a helpful starting point to find the appropriate type of boot for your hiking needs.
Today's hiking world seems to be trending toward lightweight boots, as heavyweight boots are now seen much less frequently on trails. As technology for boots and backpacking gear in general becomes more weight-efficient, the need for big and burly boots is decreasing. Even some midweight hikers are advertised as "lightweight" by their manufacturers in attempt to fit this inclination. Our selection of boots for this review includes the most popular lightweight and midweight hikers in order to reflect this market trend.
These focus on comfort out of the box and minimalist construction to keep weight low. The ankle collars are typically cut lower than traditional boots, and offer minimal ankle support. If you want a model that is light and comfortable from day one, and you do not plan to carry much more than snacks, water, and a jacket, the products below are for you. Have you been hiking for years, and value the lightest footwear with some ankle support?
Lightweight hikers are a great choice for day hiking on smooth to moderate trails, and for experienced backpackers with strong feet and ankles. If this sounds like you, consider these lightweight hikers, listed lightest first:
These have more substantial construction: higher ankle collars, burlier midsoles and shanks, and heavier, more durable uppers, often all leather. More the traditional backpacking boot, these models provide increased ankle stability and foot support for carrying loads and traveling rough terrain. Planning to be out and about for many days carrying all your gear?
Concerned your ankles need good support when day hiking? These midweight hikers are where to begin your search, in order from lightest to heaviest.
These boots are much heavier, much more durable, and supremely waterproof. Full grain leather uppers, paired with burly TPU midsoles that focus on support rather than lightweight cushioning, create boots that handle the roughest terrain. As backpacking gear continues to get lighter and lighter, the utility of heavyweight hikers is diminishing.
If you plan to carry really heavy loads, a heavyweight hiker like one of the following will provide the most foot support and ankle stability.
Each of these products is one we would recommend to a friend for a particular need. In our individual reviews, we discuss which activities each product is best suited for. While some of them, especially the Salomon Quest 4D II, will excel just about anywhere you take them, others, like the Asolo Jumla GV, are terrain specialists.
Criteria For Evaluation
Comfort is king when it comes to footwear, and nowhere is this more important than crushing miles on the trails and off. Due to the trend of making hiking boots lighter, many are comfortable right out of the box. The Hoka Tor Summit Mid and Keen Targhee II Mid define initial comfort. The Salomon Quest 4D II and Lowa Renegade GTX Mid are especially comfortable for midweight boots, and unlike many other products in their midweight class, they feel great from day one. Heavyweight models have traditionally needed a break-in period to comfortably mold to your foot. We noted three main attributes when considering comfort:
How the foot feels in the footbed
How generally does it feel when laced up and standing? Are there any pressure points when laced, and how roomy is the toe box? Does your foot feel it when you step on that pointy rock on the trail? After several hours of hiking, which models still made our feet feel great? We found the Tor Summit, Targhee II, and Renegade the most comfortable straight from the box. The Quest 4D II and St. Elias did the best job of keeping our feet happy after many miles and hours with a moderate pack.
How the ankle collar feels, and how the lacing system works
We noted the number and type of lacing eyelets, how the heel box feels on the back of the foot, and whether there's any slippage. The Arc'teryx and Salomon models featured our favorite lacing systems, with the Targhee II close behind. The fit and construction of the ankle collar are super important when logging many miles or traveling steep grades. The Renegade and St. Elias have similar ankle collars that balance comfort and ankle stability. The North Plains II and Jumla GV have shorter cuts that deliver minimal ankle stability but are very comfortable.
How well the boot breathes, keeping you cool and dry
Blisters form due to heat and friction, and damp skin is friction-y. Nobody wants blisters, and picking the model that fits your feet and keeps you cool and dry is key. The mostly mesh upper of the Inhaler II is the most breathable product we tested, followed by the North PLains II. Of the midweight models, the Quest 4D II breathed better than others, and our testers with sweaty feet really appreciated it.
Overall, we found the Tor Summit to be the clear comfort champ, followed by the Targhee II and Vasque St. Elias GTX. Comfort scores contribute 25% of each product's total score.
Ankle stability is the defining benefit of boots compared to hiking shoes or trail runners. Hikers who choose boots rather than a low-cut hiking shoe do so primarily for ankle support and torsional stability. Hiking boots with a mid height, or full cut, reduce the chance of taking missteps and twisting ankles. During long days carrying a pack, this support keeps the ankles and feet from tiring as quickly. When choosing a boot for stability, first keep in mind that a boot that fits your foot well is necessary for stabilizing your ankle and foot. Try on several models, noting how well your heel and forefoot stay put in the footbed.
In addition to the many miles we hiked over rough terrain, we took a couple measurements to quantify how well each product supports the ankle and resists lateral rolling. First, we measured the height of the ankle collar from the footbed to its tallest point of the instep. The Quest 4D II and Renegade have the tallest ankle collars at 6.5 inches, followed by the St. Elias and the Lowa Tiago GTX Mid, surprisingly tall for a lightweight model, at 6 inches. Second, we measured the width of the sole at the forefoot. A wide forefoot provides a more stable platform, and resists rolling. The Vasque Inhaler II GTX has the widest forefoot, measuring 4.75 inches at its widest point, with the Quest 4D II and Tor Summit Mid WP only slightly narrower.
Finally, we manhandled each product by grabbing the sole by the heel and toe and twisting side to side to get an idea of the torsional stability each provides. This is best described as the boot's ability to resist twisting of the sole on uneven surfaces. Better torsional stability translates to less fatigued feet on rough terrain, especially when carrying a load. Overall, we awarded the Salomon Quest 4D II GTX a perfect 10 in this metric. It ticked all the boxes (tall ankle collar, wide forefoot, torsional rigidity) in the lab, and gave us tons of confidence to speed through rough terrain in the field. The Renegade received the next highest ratings. This should come as no surprise. These mid and heavyweight models focus primarily on stability and support. Also notable are the Tiago and Merrell Capra Venture, the most supportive lightweight models. We weighted stability 20% of total scores.
When you place your foot on the trail or a rock, you want it to stay put. Each product we tested has a unique lug pattern and sole shape, and different performance characteristics. In addition to our non-structured backcountry playtime, we devised five tests to compare traction. We poked around some rocky outcrops until we found the ideal slopes, one where about half the models would perform well, and half would go slipping and sliding. First, we tested each boot's ability to climb and descend steep granite slabs. All the competitors handled gentle grades well, and when we started reaching the limits of what is possible in hiking boots, the Capra Venture and Asolo Jumla GV stuck the best.
Next, we headed to the river to test out the boots' traction on wet rock. Stepping and hopping across the river back and forth to tease out the differences in traction, we were please to find that all these boots were up to the task. Standing out just above the rest, though, were the Arc'teryx Bora2 and Tor Summit.
Moving on to loose terrain, we tested each boot by hiking/running laps up and down thick scree fields in a canyon in southern Peru. While no boot makes scree easy (or fun) to ascend, we found some to be significantly better than others going up as well as coming down. This tiring day produced a winner, the Vasque St. Elias, which nudged out the Quest 4D II and Bora2 for efficiency in scree. The Bora2's bootie did a great job keeping sediment out of the boot cavity, while most others filled readily with rock and sand after a few descents. Notably underperforming in this terrain was the Columbia North Plains II, with the Jumla GV close behind.
Late fall around Lake Tahoe is a good time to test each model's traction in mud, and occasionally snow as well. While no boot can prevent 100% of slippage in mud, there were some with significantly lower (and some higher!) tumble factors. We found our likelihood of slipping when wearing the Quest 4D II, Salewa Mountain Trainer, and St. Elias to be much less than in other boots.
Our final test was to scramble up volcanic rhyolite boulders outside of Arequipa, Peru. When edging and smearing up these class 4 and 5 rocks, it was easy to separate winners and losers. The bulky boots with deep and spaced out lugs, while solid in muddy terrain, performed very poorly here. Examples include the St. Elias, Renegade, and the North Plains II. However, the Asolo Jumla GV outclassed every boot in this test by a long shot. Its Vibram Friction sole, riddled with shallow, small, and varying mini-lugs, created a large amount of surface area contact, and scurried up rock faces like an approach shoe. Lagging behind the Asolo, but still climbing well, were the Capra Venture, Mountain Trainer, and Bora2 models.
While these are quite different traction scenarios, we assigned all the products an overall traction score. In the individual reviews, we discuss how each one performed during the four traction tests. We weighted traction 15% of the total score.
All else being equal, lighter footwear is better. You will expend considerable energy lifting an extra half pound with each step. In the same way hiking boots are heavier than hiking shoes, midweight hikers have designs that focus more on stability, ankle protection, and durability than light weight. Your goal when selecting a hiking boot should be finding the lightest model that meets your needs for stability and support.
The Columbia North Plains II is the lightest product we tested, with the Vasque Inhaler II GTX and HOKA ONE ONE Tor Summit virtually tying for second-lightest. These lightweight hikers are quite nice when the terrain does not demand as much stability and support. Experienced backpackers with strong feet and ankles may find these lightweight models appropriate for carrying moderate loads.
The Lowa Renegade GTX Mid is the lightest midweight hiker we tested, with the Salewa and then Salomon boots falling in line next. These models are remarkably light considering the stability and additional durability they provide. Despite their added weight, we typically recommend midweight hikers to folks planning on hiking extended periods with a medium to heavy load. We assigned weight 15% of the total score.
We all want dry feet when hiking. Dry feet are key to avoiding blisters, and staying warm when hiking in the cold and wet. All of these pieces we tested have waterproof breathable membranes in the lining. Nine of the twelve boots incorporate a Gore-Tex waterproof membrane, while the Keen, HOKA ONE ONE, and Columbia use either proprietary or other third-party waterproof breathable membranes.
First, we measured what we call the "flood level" of each product. A common design feature of hiking boots is a gusseted tongue. Not only do the gussets keep rocks and debris from entering the shoe, the waterproof membrane extends through this gusset. We measured the depth of water one can wade into with each boot before it floods in over the top. The Arc'teryx Bora2 clearly had the highest flood level or 6.875 inches, as the waterproof section of the bootie extends up the shin. The St. Elias and Quest 4D II are the next tallest, and can handle 6.125 inches of water.
Second, we wore each product while wandering around in the shallows at the edge of Lake Tahoe for five minutes. We performed this test after wearing these hiking boots off and on for three months. We flexed our feet repeatedly underwater, and banged into rocks to seek out any potential leaky spots. We were pleasantly surprised when all boots kept our feet bone dry when challenged up to their flood levels. We awarded the Quest and Renegade top scores for water resistance, which we assigned 15% of the total score. Amongst the lightweight models, the Tiago received the highest score for water resistance, with a flood level just short of six inches.
Without factoring it into the scoring, we were curious as to which boots dried out the fastest. We soaked them all inside and out in the morning, and then left them in a covered portion of a patio on a day with the high temperature of 71°F. While no pair dried out quickly, the St. Elias finished the soonest after seven hours, follow by the Mountain Trainer and Jumla GV. The only model to take over 24 hours was the Quest 4D II, which took almost 27 hours before drying out completely.
All boots will wear out. After enough use, seams will begin to come apart, waterproof membranes will start leaking, and the sole will wear down. This wear and tear is to be expected with time. With today's focus on lightweight footwear, compromises in materials and construction are inevitable. Many hikers praise their boots purchased decades ago that have endured 20 years, while failing to mention that the pair weighs four or five lbs, and may have cost 600 bucks in today's dollars.
We were happy to find that all twelve models in this review held up well through the three month testing period. No boot suffered damage to the point of losing function. That said, we would definitely expect any hiking boot within the price range of these models to last three months of on and off use.
Only three boots suffered wear and tear beyond the scope of minor scuffs. The Capra Venture had some seams pulling loose where the rubber toe protector attaches to the synthetic upper. This is a common spot for wear on most hiking boots. The arch of the Inhaler began to deform slightly. Being made from much softer rubber than the rest of the outsole, it is much more prone to damage. The Bora2 experienced the most wear, although it was also subject to the most difficult terrain we faced overall during a two day hike up a shield volcano. After the 48 hour trip, rocks had chewed up parts of the outsole and nicked and cut the surface of the leather upper. Furthermore, the rubber rand glued around the perimeter of the boot was beginning to delaminate in one area.
No boot is immune to damage, but we rated the St. Elias, Jumla GV, and Mountain Trainer as the boots that stood out as the most durable pieces we reviewed. The Merrell and Arc'teryx products scored the lowest scores in this category. We assigned durability 10% of the total score, admitting that a three month testing period is a short amount of time to fully flush out the exact differences in durability between models. As we'll note in the following section, though, there are several simple ways that you can prolong the life of your footwear.
Care and Feeding of Hiking Boots
There are a number of actions you can take to increase the life expectancy of your hiking boots, from routine cleaning to pre-treating known wear areas.
Leather hiking boots will benefit in waterproofness and durability when a leather treatment is applied. The leather uppers of the St. Elias and Renegade will greatly benefit from a leather treatment. While the GORE-TEX membranes keep your feet dry inside, the leather on these products soaks up water quickly. This not only makes your boot less breathable and heavier, but repeated wetting and drying cycles will cause the leather to become less supple over time.
Nikwax offers the most complete line of leather and fabric conditioners, including products for suede, nubuck, and full grain leather. These come in spray-on versions, or in liquid versions that are applied with a sponge. Atsko SNO-SEAL, a beeswax-based waterproofing for leather, is time tested and works great. Apply it by rubbing it on, and gently heating with a hair dryer to melt it into the leather. Leather conditioners will need to be reapplied every few months to yearly, depending on how many miles you put on your footwear. Nikwax products that are designed for synthetic fabrics work well on lightweight hikers that have mixed materials uppers. Using a fabric treatment that maintains the DWR of synthetic materials on the upper means they will absorb less water, remain more breathable, and dry quicker.
One of the most valuable tricks for prolonging the life expectancy of your footwear is applying a seam sealer to the stitching in high wear areas. Spend $8 for a tube and 20 minutes applying it to high wear seams and you can double the life of your seams. It might not look pretty, but you'll be glad you gripped 'em. Uppers commonly wear out on the seams on the inside and outside of the forefoot, where the boot flexes with each step. The Bora2 has a one-piece leather construction here, and doesn't suffer this wear. All the other models have seams in these areas. Regardless of the type of materials and thread used, these are weak points. Small amounts of dirt and sand work their way into these seams and act like internal sandpaper on the thread. These areas are also prone to scuffing on rock and roots. Applying Seam Grip, or a similar sealer, to these areas will keep out dirt and sand, increases scuff resistance, and has the added benefit of keeping water out. If you plan to abuse your footwear by surfing scree slopes or traversing rocky areas, applying a seam sealer to every visible thread on the upper is a great idea.
Boots get muddy and dirty, inside and out, but cleaning them regularly, especially of mud and sand, will prolong their life. A soft bristle brush and warm water perform the trick best on the outer boot. Using the least pressure necessary, remove all visible mud, dirt, and debris. Do your best to let wet boots dry slowly, out of direct sunlight.
Also be sure to remove your insoles and clean them regularly, and when you're on the trail, always take them out at the end of the day, or even each time you take your footwear off during the day. Shake any debris from the inside of the boot, and remove anything that's stuck to the bottom of your insole. Warm water and a soft brush is the best way to clean your insoles as well. Resist the urge to put shoes or boots in the washing machine, and never put them in the clothes dryer. Insoles that are super funky can benefit from a gentle cycle in the washer, but let them air dry slowly. At this point, it is often best to replace the insole with a new one.
And a final note: boots and extreme heat do not mix. We're all guilty of drying them by the campfire from time to time, but the soles can literally melt off if you're not careful. Additionally, leather that dries this quickly will become hard and brittle. If you feel you have to, do not place your boots any closer to the fire than where your bare hand would be comfortable for the same amount of time. It's much better to hike another day in damp footwear, then to hike another day in a half-melted boot duct taped to your foot. We know, we've learned the hard way! The trunk or backseat of your car is also a danger zone for boots when it's hot and sunny out. The temperatures here in midday sun can cause the soles to delaminate from the uppers in no time at all. Footwear thrown into plastic totes in the back of a truck can suffer the same sad fate.
Gaiters - Gaiters are a wonderful way to prevent debris from getting in your boots that can cause discomfort or even blisters. The Outdoor Research Rocky Mountain Low Gaiters and the Salomon Trail Gaiters are both great traditional style gaiters. If you're looking for something a little more minimalist, the Outdoor Research Sparkplug Gaiters are a great option.
Insoles - Insoles can be very important to help give the proper arch support needed for a long time spent on your feet. We find the Superfeet Green Premium Insoles to be very comfortable and help with the foot ache at the end of a long day of hiking.
There are so many hiking boots available on the market that choosing just one pair can be a real challenge. We recommend first determining what types of trails you look forward to hiking, making note of the climates you will encounter, too. Then, using the test results and reviews present here, we hope to help you narrow down your choices to a few models that suit your unique needs. If you need guidance deciding what type of shoe or boot best fits your needs, head over to our Buying Advice article, where we can help you decide what footwear best meets your needs. Good luck in your search, and happy hiking!
— Ross Robinson
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