The Best Hiking Boots for Men Review
What are the best men's hiking boots? Our expert testers put 14 of the most popular models through the wringer to squeeze out the best. We tested them side by side in the mud, gravel, and snow. We hiked in the desert and to snowy mountain tops; on well-traveled trails and way, way off trail. We scrutinized each boot's construction, devised tests, logged thousands 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.
Read the full review below >
Test Results and Ratings
|Displaying 1 - 5 of 14||<< Previous | View All | Next >>|
Analysis and Award Winners
Best Overall Hiking Boots
Vasque St. Elias GTX
Best Bang for the Buck
Keen Targhee II Mid
Top Pick for Fastpacking
Salomon Quest 4D II GTX
Top Pick for Scrambling
La Sportiva Hyper Mid GTX
You may also like:
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
Summertime hiking in the heat? The Merrell Moab Ventilator Mid, at 2.38 lbs, is incredibly breathable and comfortable, but makes no attempt to be waterproof. Powering out miles day after day, with a heavy pack in the soggy North Cascades? The Scarpa Kinesis Pro, weighing 4.42 lbs, is stable, durable, and waterproof. These two boots are as different from each other as apples and oranges. The products we compare here span the spectrum of what gets the title "hiking boot." Our award winners are the best "do everything" products, but 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.
Aside from products that are designed more for specific uses, the contenders we tested are easily divided into three types, reflecting their weight, the ankle stability, and foot support they provide.
These focus on comfort out of the box and minimalist construction to keep weight low. The ankle collars are 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 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.
These two 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.
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 Vasque St. Elias, will excel just about anywhere you take them, others, like the La Sportiva Hyper Mid GTX, are terrain specialists.
Criteria For Evaluation
Comfort is king when it comes to footwear, and no where is this more important than crushing miles on the trails and off. Due to the trend of making hiking boots lighter and lighter, many are comfortable right out of the box. The Keen Targhee II Mid and Moab Ventilator define initial comfort. The Salomon Quest 4D II GTX 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, and this is true for the Power Matic and Kinesis Pro. The burliest products we tested, both require a lengthy 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 you 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 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.
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 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 Moab Ventilator and Targhee II 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 non-waterproof Moab Ventilator is the most breathable product we tested, but truthfully it's basically in its own category. Of the waterproof models, the Hyper, Targhee II, Ultra Fastpack, and Quest 4D II breathed better than others, and our testers with sweaty feet really appreciated it.
Overall, we rated the Vasque St. Elias and Keen Targhee II the most comfortable boots in our review. 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 you 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 heel portion of the footbed. The Quest 4D II has the tallest ankle collar at 6.75 inches, and the Kinesis Pro, Power Matic, and St. Elias the second tallest, all at 6.5 inches. Second, we measured the width of the sole at the forefoot. A wide forefoot provides a more stable platform, and resists rolling. The Moab Ventilator has the widest forefoot, with the St. Elias and Power Matic only slightly narrower.
Finally, we manhandled each product 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 Quest 4D II, Power Matic, and Kinesis Pro top scores for stability. The St. Elias and 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 is the La Sportiva Eco 3.0, the burliest lightweight model. 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 four tests to compare traction. We poked around the forest 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, a clear winner stood out. The La Sportiva Hyper is clearly the best product tested for traction on dry rock.
When this test was complete, it began to rain; so we dumped a bucket of water on that granite to really drench it and tested again. Wet rock is obviously more slippery than dry, but one model blew away the competition, the Targhee II. The Quest 4D II and St. Elias also were top performers on our wet granite slab. We also set out to find which ones work the best on dry gravel. Laps up and down a loose gravel fire road distinguished several models. The Quest 4D II clearly handled going up and down the marble-sized gravel the best. Notably underperforming in this terrain was the Hyper.
Early summer in Colorado is the perfect environment for evaluating how each product fairs while traveling in mud and snow. Every piece of footwear has its limits when the trails get ankle deep in mud, but a few stood out. The Power Matic and Kinesis Pro were clearly the best in mud going both up and down, and the Quest 4D II handled mushy wet snow very well. The Renegade and Targhee II were also great performers in the mud.
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 North Face Ultra FastPack is the lightest product we tested, with the Moab Ventilator and Targhee II taking second. 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 Vasque Breeze 2.0 GTX is the lightest midweight hiker we tested, with the Renegade and St. Elias falling in line next. These models are remarkably light considering the stability and additional durability they provide. The Power Matic and Kinesis Pro are easily the heaviest products we tested, and not surprisingly, we rated them the most stable. We recommend these heavyweights for backpackers carrying heavy loads. 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. Almost all of these pieces we tested have waterproof breathable membranes in the lining. Merrell's Moab Ventilator is designed to be super breathable and has no intention of being waterproof. The Timberland's one piece leather upper has sealed seams, but no waterproof liner. The remainder of our selection incorporates a GORE-TEX membrane, save the Keen and Hi-Tec products, which use a proprietary waterproof breathable membrane. Notable is Lowa's patented seamless GORE-TEX liner that maintains its integrity longer than others.
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 size 12 Kinesis Pro and the Asolo Fugitive can handle almost 7 inches of water. The Power Matic and Quest 4D II are the next tallest, and can handle 6.25 inches of water. The St. Elias is right around 6 inches.
Second, we wore each product while wandering around in the shallows at lake or river's edge 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. Our feet immediately got soaked in the Moab Ventilator; however, all the other models kept our socks dry at first. After five minutes, the left and right foot of the Timberland White Ledge allowed enough water through at the top of the forefoot to wet our sock. Very minor amounts of water seeped into the left Targhee II and the right Quest 4D II. Not bad for five minutes underwater. All the rest kept us bone dry. We awarded the Power Matic, Kinesis Pro, St. Elias, and Renegade top scores for water resistance, which we assigned 15% of the total score.
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.
The La Sportiva Hyper was by far the superior performer on rock slabs, but also the only test piece showing noticeable wear on the sole after two months. Softer rubber on the sole of this model provides better friction on rock slabs, but wears away more quickly. This compromise, great friction on rock vs. sole longevity, is one of the many trade offs manufacturers make when designing specialty footwear.
We rated the Power Matic and Kinesis Pro the most durable pieces we reviewed, with the St. Elias coming in next. The White Ledge and Moab Ventilator stood out as the least durable, which is to be expected considering their light weight and relatively low price. In fact, the sole of the White Ledge began to delaminate from the upper toe area the first day we tested them, and the Moab Ventilator had two seams with broken threads one month into testing. We assigned durability 10% of the total score, but as we'll note in the following section, 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 Asolo Power Matic and Scarpa Kinesis Pro are the only products in this review that needs no leather treatment or fussing with out of the box; and you pay for that. 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 Power Matic, Kinesis Pro and Altitude V have a one-piece leather construction here, and don'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 your looking for something a little more minimalist then 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.
We hope you've found our boot review helpful. 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. Our review of the best Men's Hiking Shoes also discusses the relative advantages of boots vs. shoes for various adventures, and compares ten top hiking shoe models.
— Brandon Lampley
Table of Contents
Helpful Buying Tips