The Best Hiking Boots Review

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Eight pairs of new boots and insoles, ready for testing.
Credit: Brandon Lampley
What are the best men's hiking boots? Our expert testers put 15 of the top-rated models through the ringer to find out. We compared them side by side in the mud, gravel, and snow. We hiked in the desert and to snowy mountaintops; on well traveled trails and way… off trail. We scrutinized the boots' construction, devised tests, logged thousands of miles, and ranked each one's performance in comfort, traction, stability, weight, water resistance, and durability.

Our four award winners distinguished themselves after this in depth evaluation. In addition to our Editors' Choice and Best Buy Awards, we gave out a Top Pick for Fastpacking and a Top Pick for Scrambling. After an exciting early summer in the Colorado mountains, we were also tempted to give a unique award: Top Pick for Running Downhill in a Lightning Storm! Read on to learn how to care for your hiking boots and increase their life expectancy and why a focus on weight reduction leads to compromises in stability and durability.

Read the full review below >

Review by: ⋅ Review Editor, OutdoorGearLab

Top Ranked Hiking Boots - Men's Displaying 1 - 5 of 15 << Previous | View All | Next >>
Our Ranking #1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Product Name
Vasque St. Elias GTX
Vasque St. Elias GTX
Read the Review
Salomon Quest 4D GTX
Salomon Quest 4D GTX
Read the Review
Keen Targhee II Mid
Keen Targhee II Mid
Read the Review
Lowa Renegade GTX Mid
Lowa Renegade GTX Mid
Read the Review
Asolo Power Matic 200
Asolo Power Matic 200
Read the Review
Editors' Awards  Editors' Choice Award  Top Pick Award  Best Buy Award     
Street Price Varies $145 - $190
Compare at 7 sellers
$230
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Varies $130 - $135
Compare at 6 sellers
Varies $220 - $250
Compare at 5 sellers
$305
Compare at 9 sellers
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1 rating
Pros Comfortable, stable, great ankle collar, minimal break-in time, available wide and narrowComfortable out of the box, makes you want to move fast, great stability and supportSecure lacing, extra toe protection, great traction, and out-of-the-box comfortComfortable collar, good muddy traction, seamless Gore-Tex linerBurly and stable, waterproof, high quality leather
Cons Minor durability issues, permeable leather needs treatmentLots of seams to wear out, a little too aggressive for casual hikingLace eyes wear outLaces coming loose, lots of upper seamsHeavy, not breathable
Best Uses Backpacking, long day hikesFastpacking, muddy and snowy spring trails, snowshoeingDay hiking, casual wear, thruhiking, fastpackingBackpacking with moderate loads, fastpacking rough terrainHeavy backpacking, rough terrain, mud and snow
Date Reviewed Jul 12, 2014Jul 12, 2014Jul 12, 2014Jul 12, 2014Jul 12, 2014
Weighted Scores Vasque St. Elias GTX Salomon Quest 4D GTX Keen Targhee II Mid Lowa Renegade GTX Mid Asolo Power Matic 200
Comfort - 25%
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Stability - 20%
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Traction - 15%
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Weight - 15%
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Water Resistance - 15%
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Durability - 10%
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Product Specs Vasque St. Elias GTX Salomon Quest 4D GTX Keen Targhee II Mid Lowa Renegade GTX Mid Asolo Power Matic 200
Weight of pair (lbs)  Size 12 3.5 3.2 2.4 3.0 4.3
Boot Type Midweight Hiker Midweight Hiker Lightweight Hiker Midweight Hiker Heavyweight Hiker
Waterproof Lining Gore-Tex  Gore-Tex Performance Comfort Footwear KEEN.DRY waterproof breathable membrane Waterproof, breathable GORE-TEX Gore-Tex Performance Comfort Footwear
Upper Leather Split suede leather and Nylon mesh Nubuck leather and textile Nubuck leather Water-resistant full grain leather 2.6-2.8 mm
Last Board/Shank TPU Shank 4D Advanced Chassis Torsion stability ESS shank Full length nylon shank Asoflex 00 MR Last Board
Midsole A.S.E. Midsole with EVA Cushioning Pods Molded EVA Dual density compression molded EVA PU Monowrap Frame PU triple-density
Sole Vibram Frontier Non-marking Contagrip Non-marking rubber outsole Vibram Evo Power Matic Asolo/Vibram
Warranty 1 year 2-3 years 1 year 1 year 1 year
Sizes Available 7-14 US, wide and narrow options 7-14 US 7-17 US 7.5-15 US, wide and narrow options 6.5-15 US, wide option
Color Options Yes Yes Yes Yes No

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review


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  • Editors' Choice Winners
  • All Reviewed Products
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Vasque St. Elias GTX
$190
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Keen Targhee II Mid
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Salomon Quest 4D GTX
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La Sportiva Hyper Mid GTX
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Hi-Tec Altitude
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Asolo Power Matic 200
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Asolo Fugitive GTX
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Vasque Taku GTX
$180
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Salomon Quest - Women's
$220
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Lowa Renegade GTX Mid
$225
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Scarpa Kailash
$209
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Oboz Beartooth
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Vasque Breeze GTX
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Columbia Newton Ridge
$90
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Timberland White Ledge
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Selecting the Right Product
Your footwear is the most important piece of gear you take on the trail. Comfy hiking boots that fit your feet are the key to hiking bliss, while poorly fitting ones will ruin your day. More hikers are choosing to wear trail runners or low cut hiking shoe than ever before. Hiking boots provide greater stability and ankle protection though, and do a better job keeping your feet dry. If you need guidance deciding what type of shoe or boot best fits your needs, head over to our Buying Advice Article, where we guide you deciding what footwear best meets your needs. After examining the advantages of hiking boots compared to low cut shoes, we will also guide you through finding your size. And we have some great advice for fine tuning the fit of the model you do choose. Also, check out our reviews of Hiking Shoes and Trail Running Shoes for more expert advice.

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Happy feet in the Salomon Quest 4D. Rubbernecking in the Tetons.
Credit: Scott Glenn

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 day in the soggy North Cascades? The Asolo Power Matic 200, weighing 4.3lbs, is stable, durable, and waterproof. These boots are as different from each other as apples and oranges, so be sure to take a close look at how the products scored in our individual metrics so that you can focus in on which metrics are most important for you. Aside from products that are designed more for specific uses, the hiking boots we tested are easily divided into two types, reflecting their weight and the stability they provide.

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Eight pairs, ready for abuse. Merrell, Keen, La Sportiva, Salomon, Timberland, Vasque, Lowa, and Asolo.
Credit: Brandon Lampley

Lightweight Hikers
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. Lightweight hikers are a great choice for day hiking on smooth trails, and for experienced hikers with strong feet and ankles. 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? Consider these lightweight hikers:

Keen Targhee II, La Sportiva Hyper, Merrell Moab Ventilator, Timberland White Ledge, Vasque Taku GTX, Hi-Tec Altitude, and Columbia Newton Ridge

Midweight Hikers
These have more substantial construction: higher ankle collars, burlier midsoles and shanks, and heavier, more durable uppers, usually all leather. More the traditional backpacking boot, these models provide increased ankle and torsional stability for carrying loads and traveling rough terrain. Planning to be out and about for a few days carrying all your gear? Concerned your ankles need additional support when day hiking? These midweight hikers, with two heavyweights lumped in, are where to begin your search.

Vasque St. Elias, Salomon Quest 4D, Lowa Renegade, Asolo Power Matic, Keen Glarus, Vasque Breeze, Oboz Beartooth, Asolo Fugitive GTX, Scarpa Kailash

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Brandon Lampley testing the limits of traction in the Salomon Quest.
Credit: Brandon Lampley

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, are terrain specialists.

Criteria For Evaluation

Comfort
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 GTX and Lowa Renegade GTX Mid are especially comfortable for midweight boots, and unlike many other products in their class, they feel great from day one. Heavier models have traditionally needed a break-in period, and this is true for the Power Matic. The burliest product we tested, it is getting more comfortable every day we wear it. 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? How does your foot feel 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 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 miles or traveling steep grades. The Renegade and St. Elias have similar ankle collars that are comfortable and supportive. The Moab Ventilator and Targhee II have shorter cuts, and are also very comfortable.

How well the boot breathes, keeping you cool and dry
Blisters form due to heat and friction, and wet skin is friction-y. Nobody wants blisters, and picking the model that fits your feet and keeps you dry is key. The Moab Ventilator is the most breathable product we tested, but truthfully it's almost in its own category. Of the waterproof models, the Hyper, Targhee II, and Quest 4D breathed better than others, and our testers with sweaty feet really appreciated it. Overall, we rated the Vasque and Keen the most comfortable. We weighted comfort 25% of the total score.

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Happy warm comfy feet! Early morning hike in Grand Teton National Park.
Credit: Brandon Lampley

Stability
Ankle stability is the defining benefit of hiking 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 stability. Try on several models, noting how well your heel and forefoot stay put in the footbed.

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This muddy, rocky, crazy roots everywhere terrain is where boots give you some peace of mind.
Credit: Brandon Lampley

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 has the tallest ankle collar at 5.75 inches, and the Power Matic and St. Elias the second tallest, both at 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 on the sole on uneven surfaces. Better torsional stability translates to less tired feet on rough terrain, especially when carrying a load. Overall, we awarded the Quest 4D, Power Matic, and Oboz Beartooth top scores for stability. The St. Elias and Renegade received the next highest ratings. This should come as no surprise. All the products we categorized as midweight hikers offer better stability than lightweight hikers. We weighted stability 20% of the total score.

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Zac Castillo and Scott Glenn enjoying great ankle stability traveling on loose rocks.
Credit: Brandon Lampley

Traction
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. 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 one'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 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 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 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 was clearly the best in mud going both up and down, and the Quest 4D handled mushy wet snow very well. The Renegade and Targhee II were also great performers in the mud.

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Side by side traction and stability evaluation.
Credit: Brandon Lampley

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.

Weight
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 Moab Ventilator was the lightest one we tested, with the Targhee II taking second. These lightweight hikers are quite nice when the terrain does not demand as much stability and support. Experienced hikers with strong feet and ankles may find these lightweight models appropriate for carrying moderate loads.

The Vasque Breeze GTX is the lightest midweight hiker we tested, with the Renegade and Keen Glarus falling in line next. These models are remarkably light considering the stability and durability they provide. The Power Matic and Beartooth were easily the heaviest products we tested, and not surprisingly, we rated them the most stable. We recommend the Power Matic for backpackers carrying heavy loads. We assigned weight 15% of the total score.

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Broken threads on the forefoot of the Moab Ventilator where it flexes. Seam Grip these spots! This was one of the lightest products we tested, but also one of the least durable.
Credit: Brandon Lampley

Water Resistance
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 testers incorporate a GORE-TEX membrane, except Keen, who uses a proprietary waterproof breathable membrane. Notable is Lowa's patented seamless GORE-TEX liner that maintains its integrity longer than others.

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The Asolo Powermatic and Vasque St Elias received top scores for water resistance.
Credit: Brandon Lampley

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 Power Matic can handle 6 inches of water, with the St. Elias a close second at 5.75 inches.

Second, we wore each product while wandering around in the shallows at a lake'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 in the Moab Ventilator; however, all the other models kept our socks dry at first. After five minutes, both Timberland White Ledge allowed enough water through at the top of the forefoot to wet our sock. Minor amounts of water seeped into the left Targhee II, and the right Quest 4D. Not bad for a five minutes underwater. All the rest kept us bone dry. We assigned the Power Matic, St. Elias, and Renegade top scores for water resistance, which we assigned 15% of the total score.

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Ho man! I hope these are waterproof. Stream hopping in Pingree Park, CO
Credit: Brandon Lampley

Durability
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 4 or 5 lbs, and may have cost 500 bucks in today's dollars.

Softer rubber on the sole of this model provides better friction on rock slabs, but wears away more quickly. 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. 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 the most durable piece we reviewed, with the St. Elias coming in second. 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.

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The three top full leather models we tested, the Power Matic, St. Elias, and Renegade II.
Credit: Zac Castillo

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 is the only product 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. 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.

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 and White Ledge 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 Gear Aid 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.

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Another great spot to apply Seam Grip.
Credit: Brandon Lampley

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.

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Let your feet and boots air out when taking a break, remove the insoles and shake out any debris.
Credit: Brandon Lampley

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.

Key Accessories

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.

Editors' Choice Award: Vasque St. Elias GTX

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Testing the limits of this Vasque model while scrambling. This product scored well in most of our traction tests.
Credit: Brandon Lampley

The Vasque St. Elias GTX is the winner of our Editors' Choice Award; it became our go-to boot for all types of adventures. Superior comfort, excellent traction on wet or dry terrain, and great water resistance (while still being breathable!) set it apart. When we had to pick one model for variable terrain and weather, we choose this one without a second thought. The St. Elias is comfortable from the moment you lace it up, and supportive enough to leave your feet happy at the end of a eight hour hike.

Best Buy Award: Keen Targhee II Mid

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Our favorite lightweight hiker, this product provides great stability in comparison to the other competitors in its class.
Credit: Brandon Lampley

The Keen Targhee II Mid wins our Best Buy award. A top scorer in comfort, stability, and weight, it's hands-down a great deal. Some liken it to having your foot wrapped in a soft pillow, and the lacing system is top-notch. Many of our thruhiker friends are Targhee II devotees. Although it's not the most durable product we tested, some retailers offer the Targhee II at $105, so it certainly can't be beat for value.

Top Pick Award for Fastpacking: Salomon Quest 4D GTX

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Taking a load off while overlooking Jenny Lake, Grand Teton National Park.
Credit: Brandon Lampley

The Salomon Quest 4D is a unique boot designed for moving fast. A trail running shoe on steroids, it wants to propel you forward faster and faster. A top scorer in comfort, traction, and stability, it's an easy choice for fastpacking, especially if you'll be encountering lots of snow, mud, and off-trail travel. We recommend it for snowshoeing as well.

Top Pick Award for Scrambling: La Sportiva Hyper Mid GTX

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If you want to climb this terrain in hiking boots, you want the La Sportiva Hyper.
Credit: Brandon Lampley

The La Sportiva Hyper Mid GTX wins our Top Pick for Scrambling. One of the minimalist hikers we tested, it is best used on terrain that is more climbing than hiking. We wore it backcountry bouldering and climbing off-width cracks in Vedauwoo. Essentially a high cut, waterproof approach shoe, we love it. If objectives like the Upper Exum Ridge on the Grand Teton are on your summer to-do list, the Hyper will eat them up.

For a rundown of our favorite clothing and equipment for hiking, click here Dream Hiking Gear List.

Brandon Lampley
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