The Best Hiking Boots Review

What are the top men's hiking boots? To find out, we took 12 of the top-rated and most popular boots, and put them through a gauntlet of tests. A great pair of boots will take you anywhere, while a bad pair will leave you crippled and sad. For this review we've tested and analyzed the best options on the market, from all-leather classics to the newest breakthroughs in materials and design. We have sprained ankles, popped rivets, and pushed both tester and tested to the very limits of their abilities to answer the ultimate questions of durability, performance, and comfort. Lace up for the raddest hiking boot review in existence.

Read the full review below >

Review by: Chris McNamara and Atherton Phleger February 12, 2012

Top Ranked Hiking Boots - Men's Displaying 1 - 5 of 16 << Previous | View All | Next >>
Our Ranking #1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Product Name
Asolo Power Matic 200
Asolo Power Matic 200
Read the Review
Keen Targhee II
Keen Targhee II
Read the Review
Video video review
Salomon Quest
Salomon Quest
Read the Review
Video video review
Lowa Renegade II GTX Mid
Lowa Renegade II GTX Mid
Read the Review
Vasque Taku
Vasque Taku
Read the Review
Editors' Awards  Editors' Choice Award  Editors' Choice Award  Top Pick Award     
Street Price Varies $300 - $305
Compare at 9 sellers
Varies $110 - $130
Compare at 6 sellers
$230
Compare at 8 sellers
Varies $220 - $250
Compare at 5 sellers
Varies $90 - $180
Compare at 6 sellers
Overall Score 
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Editors' Rating
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User Rating
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1 rating
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33% recommend it (3/9)
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100% recommend it (3/3)
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100% recommend it (2/2)
Be the first to rate it
Pros Great support, comfortable, durable.Comfortable, durable, comfortable.Well-fitting, great support, light.Lightweight, cool look, good support for its weight, durableDurable, Nimble, Comfortable
Cons Heavy.Not good for hot weather.Slow to dry, weird foot angle.None yetOccasionally difficult to fit
Best Uses Backpacking (particularly with heavy loads,) canoe tripping, rescue work.Hiking, backpacking, canyoneering.Hiking, backpacking, "fastpacking."Day hiking, backpacking with a lighter pack, BASE jumpingHiking, Backpacking
Date Reviewed Feb 08, 2012Jun 01, 2012Jun 18, 2012Aug 28, 2013Nov 17, 2013
Weighted Scores Asolo Power Matic 200 Keen Targhee II Salomon Quest Lowa Renegade II GTX Mid Vasque Taku
Comfort - 35%
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Traction - 10%
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Stability - 25%
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Weight - 15%
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Water Resistance - 15%
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Product Specs Asolo Power Matic 200 Keen Targhee II Salomon Quest Lowa Renegade II GTX Mid Vasque Taku
Weight of pair (lbs) 3.75 2.123 2.81 2.7 2.4375
Lining
Material Leather/GTX leather with KEEN.DRY, webbing, mesh; [vest] woven synthetic leather, nylon Leather/nylon leather, mesh, gore-tex interior
Sole Powermatic/Vibram non-marking carbon rubber Contragrip Vibram rubber Vibram Neo Day Hiker
Warranty 1 year 1 year 2 years Unknown 1 year

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review


  • Review Photos
  • Editors' Choice Winners
  • All Reviewed Products
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Asolo Power Matic 200
$300
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85
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Keen Glarus
$160
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79
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Salomon Quest
$220
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84
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Alico Summit
$185
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Hi-Tec Altitude
$90
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77
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La Sportiva Eco 4.0
$165
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Vasque Taku
$170
100
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82
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Salomon Quest - Women's
$220
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Asolo Fugitive
$225
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Lowa Renegade II GTX Mid
$220
100
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84
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Scarpa Kailash
$199
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Scarpa Zen
$135
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Oboz Beartooth
$200
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75
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Vasque Breeze
$170
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Timberland White Ledge
$95
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76
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Columbia Newton Ridge
$100
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76
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Oboz Firebrand
$135
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72
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Criteria For Evaluation
Before we get started with our meaty award winners, we'd like to outline the critera we used for evaluation. As we're sure you're thinking, determining top performers is a largely arbitrary process, and understanding our methods can help you figure out which boots best suit your needs and why, in addition to equipping you, dear reader, with the skills to evaluate boots not included in this review.

Determining how each boot scored within each metric is a holistic process, involving heavy comparison with every other boot we tested, testing boots side-by-side, and consulting the great reviewing spirits through intensive meditation. We divided the grading into five metrics. They are as follows:
Comfort
Support
Traction
Impermeability
Weight
Durability
Here are a few things we looked for within each category that helped us determine a boot’s score:

History
The distinguishing characteristic of a boot as compared to a shoe is protection. Boots were designed to fill a need that wasn’t met by the original shoe – the sandal – and all other lightweight footwear since.

The earliest boots were simply sandal soles modified by adding pieces of leather to protect the foot and leg from the cold. Native Alaskans made winter boots out of caribou hides. The frozen corpse of “Otzi the Iceman” found in the Alps and estimated to be around 5,500 years old, wore boots made of bear and deer skin stuffed with grass for warmth. Nomads from eastern Asia imported boot designs to China, Russia and India almost 800 years ago. Roman troops developed their own modified sandals – boots – as they moved to the colder north to conquer Gaul.

In the Renaissance in Europe boots tended to be very tall, stretching up past the knee in most cases, and were used almost exclusively for riding and war. However, by the mid-1600s a new type of boot became fashionable for walking. The thigh-high leather upper was folded to below the knee, then folded again to form a cup.

In the late 18th century, during the time of the American Revolutionary War, the most popular type of boot was the Hessian boot, a pointed-toe, below the knee version that accepted spurs and was the precursor to the modern cowboy boot. In 1820 the Duke of Wellington had made specially modified waterproof leather boots. They came to be known as “Wellingtons” or “wellies” and were the most popular boots in the world for the next 100 years.

It was around the time of the American Civil War that military boots first incorporated the “crook” last, shaped differently for left and right feet, which made an obvious contribution to walking comfort. Before then all boots were “straights.”

Tracing the roots of the modern hiking boot, it was not until 1868 that the first ankle boot appeared. The 1880s finally saw the standardization, both in Europe and the U.S., of shoe sizes and mass production, making boots available to all without needing custom fitting. And in the late 1890s the world saw the first usage of rubber in the heel of a shoe.

Modern hiking boots can virtually all be defined by one characteristic: Vibram rubber soles. Vitale Bramani, whom Vibram is named after, is credited with inventing the first rubber lug-soles for mountaineering boots, replacing the old hob-nailed designs. The story goes that when six of Bramani’s friends died in a mountaineering accident partly blamed on inadequate footwear, he was inspired to address the problem and eventually produced the “Carrarmato,” or “tank tread” vulcanized rubber sole. To this day Vibram is the most widely integrated outdoor shoe sole manufacturer

Comfort
“Comfort” can take a variety of shades, but we primarily looked for comfort at rest and comfort in motion. Comfort at rest is a relatively easy criterion to meet. Boots that are comfortable for long periods of standing are usually soft and padded, with a lacing system that makes it possible to get a snug (while not restrictive) fit. A good example of this design is the Timberland White Ledge. The White Ledge is an extremely comfortable boot for lounging around the house, but the design doesn’t lend itself towards movement quite as well.
Active comfort is a more difficult achievement. Boots that are comfortable for long periods of hiking, or even running, tend to have less padding and an overall lighter design. Partially synthetic boots like the Salomon Quest dominate this category.
To succeed in this sub-category, the fit must be dialed perfectly to avoid blisters and chafing. The upper had to be stiff enough to offer support, while not so stiff as to hamper movement. We enjoyed it when boots didn’t have a break-in period, though this wasn’t a critical measurement. Often boots that had a break-in period were ultimately more comfortable than those without.

These two qualities were often found separately, but they intersected infrequently. Those boots that had both usually won our Editor’s Choice award.

Scroll down to “Test Results” if this is getting tedious.

Support
Support is a metric that may be more important to some than others. If you have ever sprained or torn anything in your foot or ankle, support will likely compose a greater percentage of your attention than those with healthy ankles. There are a few things we looked for when choosing our winners in the support category.

The first was the stiffness of the upper. Boots with burly leather uppers dominated this category. A thick, stiff upper almost entirely prevents harmful lateral movement, albeit at the expense of some agility. However, it is possible to have a boot that is both nimble and supportive. That depends on the implementation of the other subcategories.

A good lacing and tensioning system can actually compensate for a lack of upper integrity. In fact, without good tensioning a stiff upper is useless. Good tensioning relies on
a) free movement of laces through the rivets. Pulleys like those found on the Asolo Power-Matic help.
b) Lace brackets that actually hold the laces in place. See the Salomon Quest.
c) Thinly padded tongue. Too much padding and it’ll inevitably become lumpy and irregular.

Sole thickness matters as well. An excessively thick sole can create an unstable platform. No matter how thick the upper is, a thick sole can endanger your ankles. Ideally, the sole will be thick enough to prevent sharp trail obstacles from puncturing your feet, but not so thick to make it feel as if you are on platform shoes. This is the backcountry, not the catwalk.

Traction
There are really only two varieties of sole: Vibram, and not Vibram. And honestly, it doesn’t make a dramatic difference. Traction has a lot more to do with how you walk than what you walk in.
That being said, there is a reason that Vibram is a top choice for sole material, and that is longevity. Vibram soles last a lot longer than most proprietary soling we tested. If you want your money’s worth, Vibram is a good choice.
However, that money’s worth is expensive. Usually Vibram boots cost a good margin more than what you’d pay for non-vibram.
There is one final consideration. When boot manufacturers set out to make the best boot possible, they almost always decide to use well-known, high-quality materials, like Vibram and Gore-tex. While that doesn’t inherently make the boot better, it is a sign that the manufacturer is appealing to a certain sensibility. It’s not often that you see a top-performing boot without Vibram soles.

Impermeability
This category abides by much the same rules as Traction. Boots are either Gore-Tex or not. Very few boots, with the exception of the Moab Ventilator have no waterproofing.
But waterproofing is a tricky thing. You could have the most sophisticated waterproofing technology in the world, and it would be rendered entirely useless the second you stepped in water past your ankle. Waterproofing is more a matter of keeping dew, snow, and rain off your feet, and this isn’t difficult.
Ultimately, what mattered a bit more than the specific waterproofing was the construction. A blown rivet, leaky seam or other design flaw is a far greater danger to impermeability. Almost universally, fewer seams meant fewer leaks. Seamless leather, such as that of the Asolo Power-Matic, has no points of failure in the upper itself, giving its waterproofing a much longer lifespan. Additionally, we could condition and waterproof the leather itself, which is much easier than trying to revitalize waterproof fabrics.
See Care Notes under Buying Advice
To some extent, we took wet boots as a foregone conclusion. In some types of excursions, wet boots are inevitable, and what matters more is whether or not they maintain their shape and structural integrity. While nearly every material become floppy and (more) useless when it gets inundated, synthetic boots are particularly susceptible to compromise.

Weight
“Take a load off, Fanny…”
This is a big deal for many modern backpackers, and fortunately modern materials are pretty light. Leather, however, is not (probably because all those poor dead cows sit on your conscience as you hike.) Consumers looking for the lightest and fastest would be well advised to seek out leather-synthetic hybrids, or pure synthetic boots.
Overall, this was an easy category to grade. Any ape with a scale and pencil could do it.

Durability
First of all, congratulations for making it this far. You deserve a cookie. And you get hear about hear about the criteria we used to determine the Durability winners! That’s like getting two cookies.
Durability can only really be evaluated by wearing a pair of boots into the ground. But there are ways to expedite the process. Some boots require more maintenance than others to stay in tip-top condition. We didn’t perform any sort of basic care, which adds years, in some cases, to the life of the boot. Leather in particular can succumb to mistreatment, though even with deliberate abuse leather boots tend to last longer than synthetic.
Durability, like waterproofing, has a lot to do with construction. Check for boots with as few seams as possible. Seams along the ball of the foot are particularly problematic.


Test Results
Because of the wide variety of models we tested, we divide each category into heavy and light.

Comfort
Light
The Keen Targhee was by far the most comfortable of the light models tested. It has a wide, well-padded toe box and a great tightening system that makes your feet feel as snug as a bug in a rug. The heel cup is extremely secure and keeps blisters at bay. While we were impressed by many of the hikers we tested, the Keen Targhee was truly remarkable. We felt like we were walking on clouds. Very small, EVA compression-molded clouds.

Heavy
In terms of all-around comfort, no heavy hiking boot performed better than the Asolo Power Matic 200. In snow, in water, and on the trail, the Power Matic cradled testers feet and kept them cozy and secure. The Gore-tex interior is soft and friendly, and tiny pulleys in the lacing system provided the snuggest fit of any contenders tested. While we clearly loved the Asolo Power Matic, they were miserable in hot weather. We also loved the Keen Glarus, which breathed much better than the Asolo Power Matic. The Keen Glarus shared the soft, comfortable Gore-tex interior, but lacked the sense of security that the all-leather exterior of the Power Matic provided. The Salomon Quest was almost as secure as the Power Matic, better in heat, and significantly lighter. The footbed is at a bit of an odd angle, so they are not very comfortable to stand around in. On the move, however, this isn't noticeable.

Traction

Light
The Scarpa Zen is a hybrid between a light hiking shoe and an approach shoe, (which itself is a hybrid between a climbing shoe and a light hiking shoe; see attached punnett square,) which gives it the benefit of a hard, climbing rubber toe and rand. It easily outperformed every other light hiker tested.

Heavy
All the boots tested had Vibram soles, so traction was pretty consistent across the board. However, the lug pattern on the Keen Glarus stuck to wet rock a little better than the rest.


Support
Light
Because of the Keen Targhee's great tensioning system, heel cup, and interior molding, we found it provided almost as much support as some of the heavy models. It kept our ankles safe backpacking, rock hopping, pogo-sticking, high-altitude tapioca-making, and more!

Heavy
Most of the hiking boots with synthetic uppers could not hold a candle to their leather counterparts. One tester sprained an ankle while testing the Scarpa Kailash. (The Asolo Power-Matic was used as a splint.) The exception, however, was the Salomon Quest. It had an exceptional lacing system that made it easy to get a perfect fit, and kept our ankles safe on the gnarliest terrain.
An interesting contender in this category was the Oboz Beartooth. It's a synthetic boot designed like an old-school leather boot, with some fancy new twists. It wasn't one of our all-around top performers, but in this respect, it's comparable to the all-leather boots.


Impermeability
Light
Most of the light hikers tested had little or no waterproofing. The Moab Ventilator is literally filled with holes. The Keen Targhee claims to have waterproofing, but we found that it wasn't very reliable above about an inch from the sole. If you want something legitimately waterproof, get one of the heavy boots.

Heavy
With the exception of the Oboz Beartooth and the all-leather Alico Summit, all of those tested had Gore-tex waterproofing. The main differences in effectiveness were in the construction. In all cases, the tongue was connected to the body, but the connection went significantly higher in some than in others. Poor seam sealing was another major cause of leaking. Specifically, the Scarpa Kailash had this issue. The Asolo Fugitive was another top performer in this category. It was the only boot that, weeks into testing, still had water beading off. Another worth mentioning is the Oboz Beartooth, which, because of three layers of material between you and the elements, will keep you dry even if there are holes in the exterior.

Durability
This review is still growing and changing. We're still abusing these boots to answer the ultimate question of durability, but in the meantime here are the finalists for the title of most durable:

Light:
Scarpa Zen
Keen Targhee

Heavy:
Alico Summit
Asolo Power Matic

Weight
Weight is a major factor for many people, but it's a factor that should be considered in context. Find the lightest hiking boot perfectly suited for your intended activity not just the lightest overall.

For your reference, we've listed the three lightest in each category.

Light
Scarpa Zen: 1.94 lbs
Merrel Moab Ventilator: 2.123 lbs
Keen Targhee: 2.123 lbs

Heavy
Keen Glarus: 2.79 lbs
Vasque Breeze: 2.5625 lbs
Salomon Quest: 2.81 lbs

The Bottom Line
Best Lightweight Boot

The Keen Targhee II is our favorite lightweight hiking boot. With luxurious comfort, great support, and luxurious comfort, it made oppressive marches feel like puppy-filled frolics. Seriously. We can't get over how comfortable these boots are. It's like walking on lambs, or swimming through cotton balls, or burying yourself in the tender, velvety wool of an El Capsized alpaca.

The Merrell Moab Ventilator is the top contender for best value. While it didn't dominate any one category, it performed well across the board and retails for under $100. It also performs much better in hot weather than the Keen Targhee.

Best Heavy Boot
The Asolo Power Matic 200 is our favorite heavy hiking boot. It had an unbeatable combination of comfort, support, and waterproofing. It is nearly indestructible, and, while pricey, a great investment. These boots could weather the apocalypse and then get passed on to the grandkids.

The Keen Glarus is the best value in a heavy hiking boot. It was the least expensive of the heavy boots tested. It performed well across the board and is a great lighter alternative to the heavy and expensive Asolo Power Matic. The Alico Summit is extremely well constructed and full of old-school class, and retails for as little as $99. However, it can be hard to find, especially at that price.

We also loved the Salomon Quest. It had a tighter fit and more aggressive design than the La Sportiva Eco. That being said, it is more expensive. It's a fantastic boot, and a great investment, but even so, we would probably buy the La Sportiva Eco instead.

Check out our Dream Hiking Gear List and Dream Backpacking Gear list as well.

Chris McNamara and Atherton Phleger
Buying Advice
How we Test
Helpful Buying Tips
How to Choose the Best Hiking Boots - Click for details
 How to Choose the Best Hiking Boots

by Chris McNamara and Atherton Phleger
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