The Best Hiking Boots for Women Review
Dreaming about adventures among tall trees, sleeping beneath summits, and crossing creeks 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 ten top women's boots in a side-by-side comparison focusing on weight, comfort, support, traction, versatility, water resistance, and durability in order to answer this question. From trail building in Yosemite National Park to hiking through the Rocky Mountains and Utah deserts, 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
New Review Update: May 2015
It is summer, so to help you prepare for your hiking and backpacking season we've added a couple of new hiking boots to our review. Read on to see how these products compare to the rest of the field.
Best Overall Hiking Boots for Women
Lowa Renegade GTX Mid - Women's
Best Bang for the Buck
Keen Targhee II Mid - Women's
Top Pick Award for Versatility, Light Weight, and Comfort
Ahnu Montara - Women's
Best Models for Specific Applications
Best for day hiking: Keen Targhee Mid II or Ahnu Montara
Best for backpacking: Lowa Renegade GTX Mid or La Sportiva FC ECO 3.0 GTX
Best for spring hiking: Asolo Athena
Best for summer hiking: Asolo Athena or Ahnu Montara or La Sportiva FC ECO 3.0 GTX
Best for fall hiking: La Sportiva FC ECO 3.0 GTX or Ahnu Montara
Best for winter hiking (in mild conditions): Merrell Salida Mid WP or Lowa Renegade GTX Mid
Best for fast hiking: Asolo Athena
Best for manual labor: Timberland Chocorua or Keen Targhee II Mid
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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. We highlight when to opt for hiking shoes and when boots are best. 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 La Sportiva 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 Merrell Salida Mid WP - Women's have very low ankle heights and fit and feel more like a shoe right out of the box.
Best Women's Hiking Shoe Review.
Boot vs Shoe
Here are a few reasons to select a hiking boot over a hiking shoe:
The top women's hiking shoes weigh between 1.3-2.25 pounds. The top women's boots weigh between 1.8-3.5 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 boots.
Boots cover the ankle and rise inches higher than hiking shoes. The additional height of the ankle shaft supports the ankle from jostling, twisting, and spraining when hiking across rugged, uneven terrain. Boots also have stiffer soles than shoes, making them the ideal option for rough terrain where rocks, roots, and uneven surfaces are encountered.
Hiking shoes offer more versatility than boots. A stylish pair of hiking shoes may be worn around town, but even the most stylish pair of boots are not as versatile or comfortable in day-to-day wear. Consider your ultimate uses for your hiking footwear - boots are best only on the trail or working outdoors while shoes can be worn on and off trail, as well as while travelling and running errands.
Hiking shoes and boots differ in price, but the value is reflected in long term durability. Boots usually only need replacement long after you have cycled through a couple of pairs of hiking shoes. Therefore, a boot can be a worthy investment despite the higher initial cost.
For lightweight pack loads less than 20 pounds, most women will find enough comfort and support in a hiking shoe. When hiking with a pack load exceeding 20-30 pounds, a pair of boots will offer more stability in your feet and legs as well as more support in your ankles and back body.
Material construction and firmness correlate to the break-in period of hiking footwear. Hiking 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.
Styles of Hiking
There are many styles of hiking, from heading out on the trail for an hour to spending months in new environments, experiencing broad landscapes. The best applications for boots fall into a few overlapping styles. You may find yourself preferring backpacking, but also enjoying day hikes, or maybe you prefer to hike off trail in rugged terrain, feeling a sense of exploration. Any time spent on in the outdoors is an opportunity to take in the scenery, actively explore the landscape, and enjoy yourself.
The majority of hiking is in a day hiking style. This hiker will find herself on the trail only for a single day, and for as little as a single hour. On trail, provisions such as water and snacks are carried as well as minimal gear such as a water filter and an extra layer. The pack load is considered light weight based on the few items in comparison to an overnight trip. Day hiking will take you to incredible places that are relatively close to a trailhead. Light weight boots and shoes are suited for day hiking. Consider the Ahnu Montara - Women's or the Keen Targhee II Mid - Women's. Women desiring firmer support in the ankles and underfoot may consider a mid weight boot like La Sportiva's FC ECO 3.0 GTX.
Boots excel while backpacking for multiple days. Spending days, weeks, or even months on the trail is completely different from any single day on the trail. It demands comfort in your footwear as you will spend miles in a single pair of boots. Whether progressing a couple miles each day or aiming to hike 20+ miles per day, your footwear should meet the demands of the most challenging terrain you anticipate hiking across. Boots have rigid soles intended for rough surfaces, but don't forget to consider cushion and padding in the fit of the shoe. Backpack weight loads of 20-40 pounds are suitable with any of the boots in our review. Mid-weight boots are preferred over light weight boots when carrying mid- to heavy weight pack loads.
Rugged terrain includes rocky trails, exposed tree roots, loose scree, talus, and potential snow crossings where kicking footsteps are required. Loose and rough terrain presents plenty of opportunity for rolled ankles and loss of traction. Trails that meander through rugged terrain demand boots (or shoes) that maintain traction, provide adequate stability (particularly under a pack load), and a high ankle shaft for keeping feet dry and debris free. All of the mid-weight boots in our women's review are suited for hiking in rugged terrain. Light weight boots are suitable for some rugged terrain, but are soft and closely resemble hiking shoes, limiting their support and stability in rugged environments.
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.
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 in 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. The Salomon Comet 3D GTX - Women's weigh 2.4 pounds, only 6 ounces more than the lightest pair of boots, but they feel amongst the heaviest while hiking. In contrast, the La Sportiva FC ECO 3.0 GTX - Women's are one of the two heaviest boots at 3.25 pounds but feel as light and comfortable as the Keen Targhee Mid II boots on trail. The two pairs of boots categorized as light weight are the Ahnu Montara and Keen Targhee Mid II, both weighing 1.8 pounds per pair (womens size 8) and accurately reflecting this airiness.
Hiking 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. 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.
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.
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 La Sportiva FC ECO 3.0 GTX - Women's boots have a unique design that separates the toe box area from the bulk of the shoe with a mesh panel that runs along the forefoot crease. This allows for unmatched flexibility in the forefoot. When breaking in leather boots, you may consider a leather softener if this crease is too stiff.
We rated the support of all six 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 boots are the award winning Lowa Renegade GTX Mid - Women's and the La Sportiva FC ECO 3.0 GTX boots.
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.
Salomon continues to design aggressive tread patterns on their hiking footwear and the Salomon Comet 3D GTX - Women's have the most aggressive tread and impressive traction. The Timberland Chocorua Trail Mid GTX - Women's have shallow lug depths and a semi-uniform pattern that limits the aggression in the tread. With that being said, the Chocoruas handle deep mud with composure. La Sportiva's FC ECO 3.0 have a unique tread pattern with a shallow depth, but the Vibram rubber works to maintain traction in many conditions including talus, rock hopping, and sand.
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 lend 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. The most comfortable boots are the Ahnu Montaras and the La Sportiva FC ECO 3.0. The Montaras have abrasion resistant linings that do not pill or gather when putting the boots on and taking them off. They are well padded, especially along the ankle shaft, and kept our feet comfortable. The FC ECO boots are designed to be the best in comfort around the ankle and foot bed. The padding exceeds that of other women's boots. The unique fore foot design adds comfort and flexibility when walking.
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 5" 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. This may seem obvious, but until testing each pair individually, we were unsure that mesh panels on boots with higher ankle shafts would resist water. Mesh paneling on boots like the La Sportiva FC ECO and Timberland Chocorua Trail did not allow water to penetrate during creek crossings because of the inner waterproof Gore-Tex linings. Of all the hiking boots in our review, the Asolo Athena - Women's have the best waterproof qualities while hiking through water or being submerged.
With the exception of the Keen Targhee II Mid and Merrell Salida WP which use proprietary waterproof linings and the Ahnu Montara which uses eVent, all of the other boots in this review are lined with Gore-Tex (GTX) or a similar waterproof membrane. 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 hiking long distances than a clunky heavyweight boot. All of these boots have a longer life-span than a shoe, though they will not last as long as a heavy-weight hiker. 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 of regular use.
The quality of your hiking 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.
Ask an Expert: Kasey Stewart
Kasey has worked as a trail crew supervisor and wilderness ranger for the US Forest Service for over 10 years throughout Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho. Each summer she spends 16-20 days a month backpacking and hiking in the backcountry.
What kinds of things do you do to help break in your hiking boots?
I make sure that I buy hiking boots that fit well and then I don't ever have to break them in. I do this with the confidence that allows me to backpack 10 miles the first time I wear a pair of boots and come out blister-free. When I try the boots on, if there is a hot or sharp spot, a rub, a slip, or anything funny or mildly uncomfortable, then a boot is not worth it. In the field I might get them soaking wet and let them dry while walking in them - perhaps laced a little extra tight. I do this because I have had hiking boots which are repeatedly soaked and dried in the hot summer sun which causes them to shrink. I have taken them to a leather worker to stretch or rub on a bar.
What characteristics are you willing to go without to save on weight? What things are you not willing to compromise to save on weight?
Weight is one of the lower-priority things I consider when buying hiking boots and I usually don't buy the lightest-weight hiking boots for work. I am a trail crew worker who repeatedly wades through swamps, scampers across scree fields, backpacks with a 50 pound pack, works in creek beds, etc., so my first priority are boots that are rugged and durable, and that support my feet and ankles. I prefer solid leather boots and will consider GoreTex in a hiking boot, but it isn't a necessity for me. Most boots have nylon, plastic or rubber additions to save on weight. These things require glue or stitching which will usually be the first source of weakness or failure once you put several miles in your boots.
What is the most important thing you consider when choosing hiking boots?
I mentioned this above, but fit, construction, and materials are my essentials. They need to fit perfectly when I try them on at the store. I strongly prefer solid leather boots with minimal stitching. Then I'll go for the lightest boot from there.
Do you use any accessories with your boots? What types of socks do you use? Do you use any special inserts or foot beds?
Yes. I always replace the stock foot bed liner with either a SuperFeet or Down Under foot bed in my hiking boots. Even if you don't have any special issues with your feet, when you are walking and hiking for long distances, I find the extra support of these foot beds to be crucial to keeping my feet happy. I always wear medium weight hiking socks made of some type of performance wool material. This is also really important to keep your feet dry and blister/rub free.
What tricks do you have to prevent blisters?
If I get a hot spot I treat it quickly and aggressively. I do my best to remove whatever is causing the rub (for example, re-arrange my socks or boots, dump out the pebbles or dirt). Then maybe I'll change my socks, or re-tie the boots, or put duct tape over the hot spot. If I do get a blister, I leave it alone and I try my best not to pop it. I usually cut out a circle or oval of duct tape (the rounded corners are key because they don't catch on socks or boots when you are walking and start to peel off) and place it over the hot spot, pressing it firmly on and allowing the heat from my hand to make it stick better. It will eventually form a callus and that will protect that spot from rubbing issues for the rest of the season.
If your boots get wet, how do you dry them?
I try not to dry my leather boots quickly and I avoid drying them in heat (like a campfire), or in direct hot sun. I have had issues This causes the leather to crack or the leather and rubber to shrink. I prefer to dry them slowly in a cool place or wear them until they dry. I also try to
Do you like waterproof boots or would you rather have more breathability?
I really prefer a waterproof boot in my line of work. Usually I'll use a water-proofing leather spray or wax and sometimes I'll buy GoreTex. However, if I get GoreTex boots, I usually find that the water-proofness wears out after a season or so and so I need to use water-proofing wax for the leather after that.
What kinds of tread do you like or use in different situations?
I like an aggressive Vibram sole that is grippy in all situations – its really helpful for muddy conditions, but also if you need to do a little rock scrambling.
— Briana Valorosi
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