The Best Hiking Shoe Review

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Brandon Lampley, in the Patagonia Drifter, near the summit of South Massive outside Leadville, CO. The Drifter delivers great foot support and traction for scrambling rough terrain.
Credit: Brandon Lampley
What are the best men's hiking shoes? We hiked mountain trails, splashed through puddles and compared nine of the top-rated models side-by-side to find out. Our expert testers climbed ridges on Colorado 14'ers and abused each shoe on hikes and short trail runs closer to town. We experienced dry and dusty trails, and rain and mud. At the completion of our testing and measurements, we rated each shoe in weight, comfort, support, traction, versatility, water resistance and durability.

Three of the hiking shoes stood out and became our go-to favorites. In addition to our Editors' Choice award and Best Buy award, we handed out a Top Pick for Moving Fast. Check out our Buying Advice article for the nitty gritty details comparing boots, shoes and trail runners for hiking adventures. Our reviews of Hiking Boots and Trail Running Shoes are also a great resource for the relative advantages of each type of footwear.

Read the full review below >

Review by: ⋅ Review Editor, OutdoorGearLab

Top Ranked Hiking Shoes - Men's Displaying 1 - 5 of 9 << Previous | View All | Next >>
Our Ranking #1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Product Name
Patagonia Drifter A/C GORE-TEX
Patagonia Drifter A/C GORE-TEX
Read the Review
Keen Targhee 2
Keen Targhee 2
Read the Review
The North Face Ultra 109 GTX
The North Face Ultra 109 GTX
Read the Review
La Sportiva FC ECO 2.0
La Sportiva FC ECO 2.0
Read the Review
Lowa Renegade II GTX Lo
Lowa Renegade II GTX Lo
Read the Review
Editors' Awards  Editors' Choice Award  Best Buy Award  Top Pick Award     
Street Price Varies $82 - $165
Compare at 6 sellers
Varies $84 - $125
Compare at 5 sellers
$120
Compare at 4 sellers
Varies $100 - $150
Compare at 6 sellers
Varies $200 - $210
Compare at 4 sellers
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User Rating Be the first to rate itBe the first to rate itBe the first to rate itBe the first to rate itBe the first to rate it
Pros Comfortable with minimal break in, great foot support and all-around traction, secure lacing.Great traction and comfort, great foot support, extra toe protection, secure lacing.Great for running, slim toe profile, excellent all round traction, good torsional stability.Very durable, great foot support, snug fit.Comfortable, full leather upper, good muddy traction, seamless GORE-TEX liner.
Cons A bit heavy.Webbing lace eyes can wear, a bit wide for narrow feet.Not the most durable.Heavy and stiff.Heavy, not breathable.
Best Uses Dayhiking, fast hiking, light backpacking.Dayhiking, backpacking with light loads, thruhiking.Trail running, dayhiking, fast hiking.Ridge scrambles, backpacking, casual wear.Backpacking, dayhiking, casual and office wear.
Date Reviewed Oct 10, 2014Oct 07, 2014Oct 09, 2014Oct 10, 2014Oct 08, 2014
Weighted Scores Patagonia Drifter A/C GORE-TEX Keen Targhee 2 The North Face Ultra 109 GTX La Sportiva FC ECO 2.0 Lowa Renegade II GTX Lo
Comfort - 25%
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Weight - 25%
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Support - 15%
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Traction - 15%
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Versatility - 10%
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Water Resistance - 5%
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Durability - 5%
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Product Specs Patagonia Drifter A/C GORE-TEX Keen Targhee 2 The North Face Ultra 109 GTX La Sportiva FC ECO 2.0 Lowa Renegade II GTX Lo
Weight of pair (lbs) Size 12 2.6 2.3 2.3 2.5 2.7
Upper Nubuck leather and mesh Nubuck and textile Mesh and PU-coated leather Nubuck Leather/ 100% recycled Nylon Mesh/ Uretech Nubuck leather
Waterproof Lining GORE-TEX KEEN.DRY waterproof breathable membrane GORE-TEX Extended Comfort GORE-TEX Extended Comfort Footwear Waterproof, breathable GORE-TEX
Last Board/Shank PU insole board Torsion stability ESS shank ESS midfoot shank TPU shank Full length nylon shank
Midsole Bi-Fit 80% recycled PU Dual density compression molded EVA Compression-molded EVA midsole Dual-density ECO Trailon/ 2mm LaSpEVA PU Monowrap Frame
Sole Vibram Trail Ecostep Non-marking rubber UltrATAC rubber Vibram River Vibram Evo
Warranty Lifetime 1 Year 1 year Yes, duration unclear 1 year
Sizes Available 7-15 US 7-17 US 7-14 US 38-47.5 EU 7.5-15 US, wide and narrow options

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review


  • Review Photos
  • Editors' Choice Winners
  • All Reviewed Products
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Keen Targhee 2
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Salewa Wildfire GTX
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Keen Marshall WP
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Lowa Renegade II GTX Lo
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La Sportiva FC ECO 2.0
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Merrell Moab Ventilator
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Adidas Outdoor AX 2.0 GTX
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Selecting the Right Product
Abundant choices in footwear for hiking these days are a blessing. With high traction soles and waterproof uppers that support the foot while freeing your ankle, hiking shoes are the choice of most hikers today. But you may need the support and ankle stability that a boot provides, or you may enjoy pushing the capabilities of light trail running shoes as far as possible. We briefly cover the best uses and defining attributes of these types of footwear here, and delve into the fine details in our Buying Advice article, where fitting and sizing is also detailed. Our Women's Hiking Shoe article is also a great source of information.

The individual review for each product discusses best uses, details the score in each performance metric and compares and contrasts each model to similar products. You'll find a thorough description of the evaluation metrics below, and the top scorers in each category.

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Relaxing in the Keen Marshall WP at camp. This shoe's minimalist design is comfortable and form-fitting.
Credit: Brandon Lampley

Types of Hiking Footwear
Hiking Boots
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For decades, hiking boots were the best choice for covering miles on the trails. For folks that carry more than 35 lbs and hike often in the mud and snow, they remain the best choice. Boots protect the ankle and they are warmer in cold weather. Check out our review of Men's Hiking Boots for the best boots available today.

Trail Runners
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Innovations in materials and design have enabled the ultralight approach to hiking and backpacking. Lightweight trail running shoes are popular with hikers, especially those with light pack weights and hundreds of miles in front of them. Heavier trail running shoes like the Salomon XA Pro 3D make excellent hiking shoes. These running shoes work great for some, but others want more support and durability. Enter the…

Hiking Shoes
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Typical features of this footwear include durable soles with great traction, midsole designs that focus on supporting the foot for miles with light loads and waterproof linings to keep your feet dry and happy in challenging trail conditions. Hiking shoes are the most popular footwear seen on the trails now. They fit into that sweet spot of good support while remaining light and affordable. Typically, they are more comfortable than boots, and more durable than trail runners.

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All the hiking shoes we tested, save one, incorporate waterproof breathable membranes. An early September snowfall at our lead tester's abode made us appreciate the dryness and added warmth membranes deliver.
Credit: Brandon Lampley

Shoe vs. Boot
Six of the shoes we tested are available as mid-height boots, which begs the question…Should I choose a low-cut shoe or mid-height boot? On average, the hiking shoes we tested weighed in at five ounces per pair lighter than their boot brothers. A couple ounces per shoe isn't cause enough to drive your decision and the price difference is relatively small as well.

Hikers with previous ankle injuries know that ankle stability is the primary reason to choose a boot over a shoe. Mid-cut boots stabilize and support the ankle, especially in rough terrain or with a backpack, the way no low-cut shoe can. Boots provide much more protection from mud, snow and water, and are a necessity for rough terrain with heavy loads. They are also much warmer when hiking in cold weather.

If you usually carry a light pack or none at all, or if you've built strong ankles and good agility with miles and miles of hiking, these low-cut models are for you. Enjoy the lightness, comfort and agility that defines hiking shoes.

Best Uses for Hiking Shoes
"Hiking" covers a whole range of fun-on-your-feet outdoor adventures, including day hikes when you are carrying a minimum of essentials. These could be leisurely strolls on well-maintained trails, or many miles covered at impressive speed in rough terrain, and everything in between. Hiking also encompasses short backpacking trips with light or medium loads or long fastpacking trips where paring down the weight becomes a more urgent priority.

A Note on Pack Weight
We often refer to light, medium and heavy loads for hiking and backpacking. Light refers to everything up to 20 lbs. This should cover most everyone dayhiking and some of the ultralight backpacker and thruhiker folks. By medium loads we mean 20-35 lbs. It's a noticeable amount of weight to carry, and footwear that offers good foot support is important. Anything more than 35 lbs is heavy. Most folks want a boot for these loads.

Dayhiking
Dayhiking is where this type of footwear really shines. When the plan is to start and finish on the same day, the essentials carried can be minimal. A water bottle in the hand, a rain jacket tied around the waist just in case, and a camera in your pocket. Or a small pack with extra clothes, maps, camera gear, snacks and water is still quite light. For these hikes comfort and weight are of primary importance to most of us. All the shoes we've reviewed here are good choices for dayhiking. Consider the terrain and conditions where you commonly hike, and choose from among the shoes that match your needs. Your final choice will depend on personal preference and which fits your foot the best. The Keen Targhee 2 in particular is an excellent and popular choice for dayhiking.

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Brandon Lampley puts the La Sportiva Eco 2.0 GTX thru the paces on a quick roundtrip on the Kelso Ridge of Torreys Peak. Long day trips thru rough terrain are right in the Eco's wheelhouse.
Credit: Brandon Lampley

Fast Hiking
Our testers spent a lot of time evaluating these shoes on hikes and scrambles to the summits of mountains in Colorado. Ten miles round-trip, 4,000 feet of elevation gain and loss, and five hours on the go was an average trip. These trips are not running adventures, though sometimes a smooth flat section encourages you to step on the gas for a few minutes. Fast hiking simply refers to being ambitious about the amount of ground you want to cover in a day.

The support offered by hiking shoes is a better choice for most than the lightweight cushioning offered by trail runners. The Patagonia Drifter A/C GORE-TEX and La Sportiva FC Eco 2.0 became our go-to shoes for fast hiking that covers a lot of off-trail terrain or involves scrambling. The North Face Ultra 109 GTX fit the ticket for mostly good trail terrain, where the urge to run a little takes over.

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Relaxing and taking in the view of Mt. Elbert from South Massive. This is a perfect shoe for fast hiking and peak bagging.
Credit: Brandon Lampley

Backpacking with Light or Medium Loads
Hiking shoes are perfect for carrying medium and lighter packs on well-maintained trails. Hikers that occasionally head out backpacking for a couple of nights generally pack light, and the support and durability offered by a low-cut model is a perfect choice. Experienced backpackers with strong ankles cruise through rough terrain in hiking shoes as well and find medium packs weights reasonable with the support provided. The Patagonia Drifter, our Editors' Choice winner, is an excellent shoe for multi-day backpacking trips, as is the Lowa Renegade II GTX Lo.

Thruhiking
If you take a trip out on the Pacific Crest Trail or the Appalachian Trail, you'll see most thruhikers wearing low-cut hiking shoes, with trail running shoes the second most popular choice. Thruhikers (those who are hiking extreme distances) place a premium on weight and comfort when choosing a shoe vs. boot, and enjoy more foot support and durability than trail runners can offer. The Keen Targhee 2 and the Merrell Moab Ventilator are excellent and popular shoes for thruhiking and long trips with light loads. The Targhee 2 has excellent foot support for a light shoe, and the superlight Moab Ventilator minimizes everything for weight and breathability.

Criteria For Evaluation
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The nine pairs of hiking shoe's evaluated during our 2014 tests. We've done lots of hard work for ya, and rated each for weight, comfort, support, traction, versatility, water resistance and durability.
Credit: Brandon Lampley
Comfort
Nothing is more important for enjoying your on-foot adventures, whether hours or weeks, than happy feet. Many factors influence comfort: the amount of padding in the upper, how well the shoe fits your foot when sized correctly and how easily the fit is adjusted with the lacing system.
We noted how the foot feels in the footbed and generally how the upper feels on the foot, especially where the top of the shoe meets the ankle. We also noted how the lacing system works and how easy or challenging it is to fine tune fit by lacing. Finally, we noted how well each model breathes. Dry feet are comfortable feet and a good design not only keeps feet dry splashing through puddles, but also breathes well on warmer days.

We found the Patagonia Drifter, with its ample padding, and the Keen Targhee 2 the most comfortable. The Keen's upper hugs the foot and the lacing system is top notch. The Drifter cradles our feet in the well-padded upper and is comfortable for both short hikes and long ones with a pack.

Weight
Light is right for footwear. Lifting an additional half pound with each step is noticeable, especially as the miles pass by. Choosing the lightest footwear with enough stability for your ankles and feet should be a top consideration. Hiking shoes fit a sweet spot between boots and trail runners; boots are heavier but provide significantly better ankle stability, and lighter trail runners aren't as durable or supportive of the foot.

The Moab Ventilator is the lightest shoe we tested, weighing 2.11 lbs for the pair. The Lowa Renegade and Patagonia Drifter were the heaviest models we tested, which translates to high scores in durability and support. To ensure accuracy in our comparison, we weighed each of the models we tested, a size 12, on a digital scale. We weighed each with the insoles and laces supplied by the manufacturer.

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The Merrell Moab Ventilator is the lightest hiking shoe we tested. While is doesn't provide much in the way of foot support, its feather-light comfort is well matched to dayhiking smooth trails.
Credit: Brandon Lampley

Support
How much support a shoe gives your foot is in large part a function of the thickness and materials of the midsole, the thickness of the sole and the shape of the last. A shoe that is stiff through the midfoot but comfortably flexible up front helps keep feet happy on long hikes. Our tested models range from the Lowa Renegade with a full nylon shank and substantial PU midsole. In fact, the underfoot components are identical to its popular mid-height, hiking boot brother. The Renegade provides excellent torsional stability, and is stiff enough in the midfoot for all-day hiking with moderate loads.

The Keen Targhee 2 provides good support considering its light weight and good torsional stability. It's surprising how much performance Keen packs into this light shoe. At the other end of the support continuum is the Merrell Moab Ventilator. With only a nylon shank in the arch and a less dense EVA midsole it doesn't offer much in the way support for the foot, but is light and comfortable for dayhiking.

Traction
On a good day hiking, we expect our foot to stay put every time we take a step. Hiking shoes get asked to handle everything from mud and slushy snow to smooth rock slabs and loose gravel. While most of the models we tested feature carbon rubber Vibram soles, each has a unique sole shape and tread pattern of lugs. We put these shoes through four side-by-side tests to rate their traction. First, we took several laps up and down a steep granite slab to test the limits of friction. The Salewa Wildfire GTX and its sticky rubber sole, designed for this type of terrain, performed best. Afterward, we dumped water on this same rock, and logged some more laps. The Keen Targhee 2 was a great performer on wet granite.

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We evaluated all test models side-by-side for traction on dry and wet granite slabs, hiking up and down loose gravel and in the mud.
Credit: Brandon Lampley

Gently sloping trail surfaces with an abundance of grape-size loose gravel can be smooth sailing or frustratingly slippery. There's a gravel fireroad near our lead tester's place that's perfect for finding the shoes with the best grip. The La Sportiva FC Eco and Keen Targhee 2 were top performers on gravel. Finally, we tested how well each shoe performs in slippery mud. The Keen Marshall WP and Patagonia Drifter work great on muddy trails. Overall, we awarded top traction scores to the North Face Ultra 109 and Drifter A/C. In each individual review, we detail the shoe's performance in each traction test.

Versatility
Several considerations went into our versatility scores. Some of these shoes were equally comfortable on flat trails and rough terrain. We highly value a shoe that is comfortable for short dayhikes and also supportive enough for light backpacking trips.

That said, some folks are seeking a specialist shoe. Do you want one do-it-all shoe, or a quiver of options for different adventures? If you are relatively new to hiking, it's likely that a versatile, do-everything shoe will fit your needs best. But, if you have specific priorities and a less limited budget, two or more pairs of specialist shoes could give you focused performance. Keep in mind that a hiking shoe is only part of your adventure footwear quiver, which might already include boots and trail running shoes.

We also made it a priority to run a few miles with a light pack while wearing each shoe because we suspect some of you will want to use these models for fastpacking adventures. The North Face Ultra 109 and Adidas Outdoor AX 2.0 GTX felt quite natural to run in when terrain and energy allowed. Some of these shoes, the Lowa Renegade especially, look great and can double as casual footwear while working, gardening and around town. With a lot of color options for each shoe, you can usually pick something not too flashy.

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The North Face Ultra 109 GTX is the best shoe we reviewed for moving fast. Hikers that also want a shoe for trail running need look no further.
Credit: Brandon Lampley

Water Resistance
While many of these shoes are available without a waterproof membrane lining, all the test models save the Merrell Moab Ventilator feature a waterproof membrane. While Keen uses its proprietary KEEN.DRY membrane in all its footwear, the others feature GORE-TEX waterproof breathable membranes. If you live in a sunny and dry climate, or mainly avoid mud and rainy weather when hiking, a hiking shoe without a waterproof membrane will be more breathable, and thus more comfortable.

After a couple months of hiking, we splashed around in Colorado's Poudre River in each shoe to check for leaks. Our feet got soaked in the Moab Ventilator of course, but stayed dry in all the rest except the Adidas Outdoor, which leaked a little around the tongue. The full leather Renegade took the top score for water resistance.

All of these shoes will benefit from a leather or fabric conditioner applied to the upper. Nikwax has a range of products that are great for treating the mixed material uppers of these shoes. A leather or fabric treatment will keep water from being soaked up by the shoe's upper materials. Even when this water is stopped by the waterproof liner, it makes your shoe heavy and hinders breathability. The Keen Marshall and The North Face Ultra soaked up the least water and dried faster than the others. If heavy dew and water crossings are common where you hike, consider choosing a dark color option for your shoes that will dry more quickly when it's sunny out.

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The Outdoor AX 2.0 GTX's fabric upper resists water well and the Gore-Tex liner kept our feet dry.
Credit: Brandon Lampley

Durability
The are many trade-offs when designing hiking footwear. A focus on making lightweight, comfortable shoes necessarily means that durability is less of a focus. A heavier, full leather shoe like the Lowa Renegade will last much longer than an uberlight one like the Moab Ventilator. These shoes received the highest and lowest scores we awarded for durability. The Renegade is quite an investment, but will last practically forever. The affordable and superlight Moab Ventilator simply wears out faster than most shoes.

Generally speaking, we have been impressed with the durability of all the models we tested. Patagonia double-stitches the seams of the Drifter A/C, and upper details applied over the mesh portions of the Salewa Wildfire and Keen Marshall help protect the lightweight mesh from abrasion.

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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

Regularly cleaning and treating your hiking shoes will also greatly increase their life expectancy. Mud and sand left on the shoe's upper will create premature wear. Warm water and a soft brush are your best tactic for regular cleaning. Nikwax offers an extensive line of leather and fabric conditioners, including products for suede leather and synthetic fabrics. Common wear areas like the flex points on the forefoot and seams that are prone to scuffing can be reinforced. Applying Gear Aid Seam Grip or a similar sealer will keep out dirt and sand, prolong wear out time and has the added benefit of keeping water out.

Do yourself a favor and visit the 'Care and Feeding of Hiking Boots' section of our Men's Hiking Boots review for more detailed information on cleaning, treating and extending the life expectancy of footwear used for hiking.

Key Accessories
Gaiters - Gaiters are a wonderful way to prevent debris from getting in your shoes. Pebbles and sticks can cause discomfort or even blisters. The Outdoor Research Rocky Mountain Low Gaiters and the Salomon Trail Gaiters are both great traditional style gaiters. Hiking shoes work well with more minimalist gaiters like the Outdoor Research Sparkplug Gaiters. Colorful minimalist gaiters from Dirty Girl Gaiters are very popular among thruhikers and trail runners.

Insoles - Insoles can make or break the fit of a shoe. We performed all our testing with the stock insoles from the shoe manufacturer, but changing to a thicker or thinner insole is a great way to fine-tune a shoe's fit. Some folks love a particular shoe, but need more arch support than it provides; new insoles can deliver it. We find the Superfeet Green Premium Insoles to be very comfortable, provide good arch support and help with the foot ache at the end of a long day of hiking.

Socks - socks can make or break a hike or backpacking trip. How thick the sock is affects the fit of the shoes as well has how likely debris is to get in. Should you go with thin socks or thick wool-style socks? It's personal preference. Many die-hard lightweight backpackers prefer a thinner sock that lets their foot breathe. However, thin socks can also lead to more blisters if the fit is not just right. A thick sock can also overheat your foot and lead to discomfort and blisters. We recommend bringing a few different styles and swapping them out to see what is best. Most importantly, keep your socks clean. Every time you stop for food or water, empty out your shoes of dirt and see how much debris has passed through the sock to your feet. Carry at least one extra pair at all times in case your socks get dirty or wet. See our Hiking Sock Review for more info.

Editors' Choice Award: Patagonia Drifter A/C GORE-TEX
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Brandon Lampley sucking up some water with the LifeStraw after a fun romp on the Massive Traverse. The Patagonia Drifter was our favorite shoe for long day trips.
Credit: Brandon Lampley

The Patagonia Drifter A/C GORE-TEX came out on top as our Editors' Choice winner. It is comfortable and supportive and handles everything from dayhiking to short backpacking trips in style. This became our go-to shoe for all sorts of adventures. With excellent traction in wet and dry conditions, this is a shoe you can take anywhere.

Best Buy Award: Keen Targhee 2
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The Targhee 2 is our favorite shoe for dayhiking, expecially in wet terrain.
Credit: Brandon Lampley

Our Best Buy award goes to the Keen Targhee 2. It's our favorite shoe for dayhiking, pretty darn light and supports the foot much better than most of the shoes we evaluated. The Targhee handles wet trails and mud with ease and breathes well. We noted impressive foot support from this light shoe. The mid-cut versions of the Targhee took home awards in our reviews of hiking boots for men and women. Keen clearly makes a great product in the Targhee.

Top Pick for Moving Fast: The North Face Ultra 109 GTX
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The 109 is designed as a hybrid trail runner and hiking shoe. Our Top Pick winner has great traction, a comfortable fit and very light weight.
Credit: Brandon Lampley

The North Face Ultra 109 GTX is a trail running shoe with enough support and burliness to cross over into our hiking shoe category. It handles rough terrain and light loads well and is the best choice for folks that want one shoe for trail both running and hiking. For hikers that like the snug fit and narrower profile of a trail running shoe, the Ultra 109 is perfect.

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

Brandon Lampley
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