The Best Hiking Boots for Women Review
Dreaming about adventures among tall trees, sleeping beneath summits, and crossing creeks? All while venturing along a winding path with fresh air and a view? In that dream, are your feet happy, well-supported, and stable under a backpack? What is the best hiking boot for women? We bring you a thorough review of 10 top women's boots in a side-by-side comparison focusing on weight, comfort, support, traction, versatility, water resistance, and durability, in our quest to answer this question. From cruising the well-traveled trails of Yosemite Valley, to hiking cross-country through the wilds of the Sierra Nevada backcountry, we have tested the limits of these boots in an effort to find the very best.
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Test Results and Ratings
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Analysis and Award Winners
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Analysis and Test Results
Hiking footwear options are plentiful. We understand the challenge in matching the best footwear to your adventures and have provided a brief overview of the different styles of hiking footwear. For a thorough guide to selecting the most suitable hiking footwear and a comprehensive look at women's boots, see our Buying Advice article.
Types of Hiking Footwear
Hiking shoes and hiking boots are closely related. In fact, with modern footwear designs, the line between boots and shoes is becoming blurrier and blurrier. Many manufacturers like Merrell, Keen, and Salomon offer popular boot models in low-cut shoe versions. These low-cut models are everything you love about quality boots, minus the high ankle shaft. Some boots, such as the Columbia Redmond Mid-Women's, have very low ankle heights and fit and feel more like a shoe right out of the box.
Shoes are lighter, messier, and usually more comfortable and flexible than boots. These are the best option for day hikers, hot weather, and those who have strong ankles and don't need the added height and support of boots. For hiking on well-maintained trails and easy to moderate terrain, hiking specific shoes provide plenty of traction and stability. For more insight on this style of footwear, see our Best Women's Hiking Shoe Review.
Material construction and firmness correlate to the break-in period. Hiking specific shoes are made of lighter weight synthetic materials paired with large mesh panels and flexible soles. Most hiking shoes can be worn right out of the box in comfort. On the other hand, boots are constructed of leather uppers with small mesh panels and firm rubber soles. There is usually a break-in period of at least a single outing, with many pairs of boots requiring a handful of short hikes before resulting in optimum comfort.
Criteria for Evaluation
Months spent on the trail, riverside, and on summit ridgelines exposed the most important considerations when selecting a hiking boot: weight, comfort, support, traction, versatility, water resistance and breathability, and durability. Each pair of women's boots was evaluated based on these rating metrics and then compared side-by-side with the others. Read on to see which ones we like best.
Hiking shoes will often be lighter than boots, the boots we selected this year are focused heavily on being light, so the difference between the two categories is becoming less and less significant. The top women's boots we tested this year weigh between 1.7 and 2.2 pounds. While lighter footwear makes for more comfortable hiking, this small weight differential is insignificant when considering the added benefits and long-term durability of hiking specific boots.
We evaluated the weight of each pair of boots on and off the trail; weight reflected in the chart above was measured by our reviewers to ensure accuracy. While some boots weigh less than others, the lightest by actual weight did not always feel the lightest on foot. Actual weight is only one of many considerations when selecting a pair of boots. Weight also encompasses how heavy the boots feel on your feet while hiking.
This year most of the boots we tested were lighter than previous years, reflecting a trend in hiking boot technology toward lighter and lighter boot designs. The award winning HOKA ONE ONE Tor Ultra - Women beat the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid - Women's in large part due to their light feel, while still providing the support and comfort of a top hiking boot. Similarly, the Vasque Monolith - Women and both the Ahnu Sugarpine and got high scores in weight, each weighing in well under two pounds. That said, the sturdy Lowa Renegade and the Oboz Bridger Mid - Women (our heaviest boots) each weigh right around two pounds for a pair (size 7). That is still only one pound per foot, and give these boots a light feel, even with the added weight.
Hiking shoes will often be lighter than boots; the boots we selected this year are focused heavily on being light, so the difference between the two categories is becoming less and less significant. The top women's boots we tested this year weigh between 1.7 and 2.2 pounds. While lighter footwear makes for more comfortable hiking, this small weight differential is insignificant when considering the added benefits and long term durability of hiking specific boots.
Boot support is determined by sole stiffness, midsole construction, arch support, and flexibility in the forefoot. The height of the boot also lends support to the ankles and feet – the higher the ankle shaft, the more stable and supported the ankles will feel. This ankle height is the main difference between a hiking boot and a hiking shoe in terms of support. For rugged, uneven trails where the ankle is prone to rolling or twisting, boots with relatively high ankle heights are optimal.
Stability is synonymous with support while hiking. All of the women's boots in our review have stiff rubber soles incapable of bending the toe downward toward the heel. This provides great support on rugged terrain by limiting the contortion on rocks and roots.
Boots like the Columbia Redmond Mid - Women and the Merrell Capra Bolt Mid - Women have low ankle heights and thus offer less support for ankle rolling and twisting. Many hikers that have used the HOKA feared ankle rolling because of the oversized sole, but the HOKA ONE ONE Tor Ultra bypasses this issue by having ankle support. When we wore the Tor Ultras, our feet felt stable on uneven terrain despite the tall soles.
Midsoles are the layer between the outer sole and the insole. Boots often have shanks and plates either above or beneath the midsole layers, further adding support and stability. The shanks serve as a barrier from impact on rugged surfaces beneath your feet. These inner shanks create additional stiffness that the rubber soles cannot achieve on their own. Hiking shoes do not need this stiffness, but rather offer flexibility that is suitable for day hiking, so they do not have shanks. The overall construction of boots is far more durable and stable than hiking shoes.
Arch support varies by foot. Some women may find enough comfort in the original insoles. Other women will need to customize the insoles by replacing the original insoles with after-market insoles or orthotics. Depending on how flat or pronounced the arches of your feet are, differing levels of support will be necessary. To avoid foot cramps and muscle discomfort, be sure to accurately support the arches of your feet.
The Oboz Bridger Mid BDry - Women has a very stiff sole and offers support in this way, but for some this might be too stiff to be comfortable in the long term. The Salomon X Ultra Mid 2 GTX - Women scores high in the support metric because they provide cushioned ankle support as well as a moderately stiff sole, making them a happy medium between the ultra stiff OBoz and the lighter weight boots like either of the Ahnu models.
Unlike hiking shoes that are flexible in the sole and forefoot, boots should only offer flexibility in the forefoot. When you take a step, your feet bend upward, creasing at your toes. This area of the boot should be accommodating to your stride. The HOKA ONE ONE Tor Ultras address this with their rockered design in the sole of boot. The oversized sole is turned up at the toe and in the heel. This propels you forward as you walk and allows the foot to flex naturally, because of all the cushion.
We rated the support of all 10 pairs of women's boots based on stiffness of the sole, midsole construction, flexibility in the forefoot, and support gained from ankle shaft heights. We reviewed them with and without backpacks up to 40 pounds.
Overall, the most supportive contenders are the award-winning HOKA ONE ONE Tor Ultra - Women's and the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid - Women's. For hikers looking for an ultra-stiff boot, look no further than the Oboz Bridger Mid BDry.
Tread on the soles of footwear acts similarly to tread on a bike tire or car tire. The pattern, spacing, and depth affects grippiness, stability, and handling. Tread patterns that have spaced lugs in variable patterns manage dirt, sand, mud, and snow by pushing them out from the bottom of the shoe. When dirt, mud, and snow accumulates on the bottom of shoes and boots, it is a result of poor design in tread pattern and depth (or there is a better application). Semi-aggressive to aggressive tread patterns are expected design features on the soles of boots.
Boots that received the highest scores in traction were able to stick to rocks and talus, handle well in wet and muddy conditions, and protect the bottom of the foot from debris. The Ahnu Montara and the HOKA ONE ONE Tor Ultra are both made with Vibram rubber soles, which we found to stick the best to granite slabs and boulders. On and off trail, we trusted that the rubber on these boots would stick to the slickest surfaces. Boots like the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid and the OBoz Bridger Mid BDry have aggressive tread patterns that provide maximum traction. It is good to think about the types of surfaces you may be traveling over when looking at the tread patterns of different boots. Overall, the deeper lug depths, like those on the Lowa Renegade GTX, the Keen Targhee II Mid - Women, or the HOKA ONE ONE Tor Ultra provide more traction than boots with less agressive tread.
Comfort is the most important consideration for boots. If you sense discomfort in the fit, sizing, or overall performance of a pair of boots, you should consider other sizes, models, styles, or brands. Comfortable boots will lead to the enjoyment of your time on the trail. Comfort is a rating that will vary by individual, therefore we have rated each pair of boots based on overall comfort while noting obvious design features lending to discomfort. We kept our focus on insole and lining padding, comfort in support, materials used, and how our feet felt after multiple miles on the trail.
We found the most comfortable boots to be the Salomon X Ultra Mid 2 GTX - Women for their excessive padding around the tongue and ankle, the Vasque Monoliths for their quick break in period, and the HOKA ONE ONE Tor Ultra for their extra thick soles that made our feet feel great after days of hiking. We found that few boots came close to the comfort provided by the HOKA's unique design. Beyond making our feet feel comfortable, the extra padding in the HOKAs prevented joint pain in the knees and hips that can flare up after miles on the trail.
So what exactly separates a comfortable boot from an uncomfortable one? A lot of it has to do with support underfoot. Many shoes that were lightweight in their design, such as the Merrell Capra Bolt - Women and the Columbia Redmond Mid - Women, lacked support and cushion in the sole, and thus became painful after a few hours on the trail. On the other end of the spectrum were boots like the HOKA ONE ONE Tor Ultras, which have extremely thick soles, or the OBoz Bridger Mid, which have very thick soles.
A lot of this comes down to personal preference; some people find that stiffer soles provide more comfort, while others prefer a more flexible shoe. Adjustablilty in the lacing system also adds to the overall comfort of the boot. On a wide foot, for example, the Ahnu Montara was uncomfortable because the laces are not adjustable toward the toe of the shoe/the widest part of the foot. The Lowa Renegade, on the other hand, has a lacing system that is very adjustable and can be tweaked to provide more support in the ankle than the foot by the locking mechanism at the flexing part of the foot.
Water Resistance and Breathability
Water resistance is measured by how dry our feet remained while exposing the boots to typical wet encounters on trail. We walked each pair through moving creeks up to five inches in depth. We first tested them while walking from one side to the other without stopping. All of the models in our review succeeded. Then, we tested the water resistance when submerged in water while standing in place. Within a couple of minutes in inches of standing water, all of the boots eventually began to absorb water.
The higher ankle shaft heights withstood deeper water crossings, as did the thicker soled boots, like the HOKA ONE ONE Tor Ultra. Mesh paneling on the Vasque Monolith - Women is treated with Vasque's own version of Gortex, called UltraDry. We found these boots to be very water resistant and kept water out during creek crossings. The boots with the best waterproof qualities are the Salomon X Ultra Mid 2 GTX and all-leather boots like the Lowa Renegade GTX and the OBoz Bridger BDry.
The Gore-Tex waterproof membranes used in the Lowa Renegade and the Salomon Ultra are comparable in breathability to the eVent liners found in Ahnu products as well as in the HOKA ONE ONE Tor Ultra - Women. These waterproof linings are also breathable. Although some people believe that waterproof membranes limit the breathability, we found that all of the linings were adequate in keeping water out while keeping our feet well-wicked and dry. Breathable mesh panels on the sides of boots and tongue allow for air flow and help maintain dry, comfortable conditions inside the boots.
Leather models are heavier weight than mesh and synthetic uppers more commonly found on hiking shoes, and offer less breathability. This is an important consideration for mid-summer hiking in hot climates. If you intend to hike mostly in dry climates and regions, a pair of boots that do not have a waterproof lining and have mesh on the uppers may be the best option. Most of the models we reviewed are offered in waterproof (GTX) models and non-waterproof models.
Once feet become wet, they are prone to blisters and hot spots. If you intend to hike in a region that presents any question for keeping your feet dry, bring an extra pair of socks. Keeping your feet dry is a matter of choosing the best boots for your intended uses as well as noticing when your feet become wet and attending to them. Consider waterproof features as well as breathability.
In order to lose weight in materials and construction, there is also a loss in durability. A full-leather boot will undoubtedly last longer than a synthetic leather and mesh shoe. Yet, lightweight boots require little break-in period and are more comfortable when trekking long distances (when compared to a clunky heavyweight boot). All of these boots have a longer lifespan than a shoe, though they will not last as long as a heavyweight option. We are pleased with the durability of all of the models in our review and believe they can last for a couple of seasons or more when seeing regular use.
Though we only tested these boots for three months, as opposed to years and years of use on the trail, we got a good idea of which boots would last the longest without showing significant wear. The boots with all-leather uppers tend to be more durable overall because they have fewer seams – the first place to show weakness. The Merrell Capra Bolt Mid boots, for example, are constructed entirely of mesh, and showed significant signs of wear almost immediately out of the box. All leather boots, such as the Lowa Renegade GTX, stand up to wear much better.
The quality of your boots will inevitably have a large effect on your ability to enjoy a trek of any length. However, with a vast array of choices available on the market, finding the right pair that suits your type and level of activity can be a tricky task. We tested each model in this review rigorously in a variety of settings and uses in hopes of helping you come to an informed choice of product(s). For additional tips on how to get the right boots for your feet, see our Buying Advice article.
— Jane Jackson
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