The Best Hiking Shoes for Women Review

Do you like hiking in a traditional boot? Or do you prefer the light feel of a trail runner? What are hiking shoes anyway? There is an emerging genre in the outdoor industry of the hiking shoe, which offers the best of both worlds: extra support for hiking, but the light comfort of a running shoe. We selected nine top hiking shoes for a detailed comparison to determine the best, and to see if they really are better than boots. After rigorous wearing, long walks in the desert and mountains, and scrambling over granite and sandstone rocks, we got a good feel for hiking in shoes. We evaluated these hiking shoes on categories similar to our hiking boots: support, traction, comfort, durability, water resistance/breathability, and even style.

Read the full review below >

Review by: McKenzie Long ⋅ Review Editor, OutdoorGearLab November 7, 2012

Top Ranked Hiking Shoes - Women's Displaying 1 - 5 of 9 << Previous | View All | Next >>
Our Ranking #1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Product Name
Salomon XA Pro 3D Ultra 2 GTX - Women's
Salomon XA Pro 3D Ultra 2 GTX - Women's
Read the Review
Video video review
Salomon X-Over - Women's
Salomon X-Over - Women's
Read the Review
Video video review
Merrell Moab Ventilator - Women's
Merrell Moab Ventilator - Women's
Read the Review
Keen Alamosa WP- Women's
Keen Alamosa WP- Women's
Read the Review
Adidas Outdoor Terrex Fast X Mid Gore-Tex - Women's
Adidas Outdoor Terrex Fast X Mid Gore-Tex - Women's
Read the Review
Editors' Awards  Editors' Choice Award  Top Pick Award  Best Buy Award     
Street Price Varies $94 - $101
Compare at 3 sellers
$112
Compare at 1 sellers
Varies $90 - $100
Compare at 5 sellers
Varies $75 - $120
Compare at 3 sellers
$200
Compare at 1 sellers
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1 rating
Pros Comfortable, versatile, sturdy, speed lace works well and is easy to use, comes with waterproof modelExtremely comfortable, easy to adjust laces, the lightest hiking shoe we reviewed, more versatile than other hiking shoesVery cushy, wide toe box, breathable, inexpensive, long lasting for such a meshy shoe, comes in wide versionsMore stylish look, Protective toe bumper, lightweight and comfortable, more durable sole than other KeensHolds foot like a glove, hikes like a shoe but has extra ankle support, also comes in low-cut version
Cons Can be hard to get tight enough, sometimes the laces cut into the foot if too tightNot as tough traction as other hiking shoes, the uppers are less supportive than other hiking shoes, difficult to tighten laces enough for long hikesNot as supportive or protective as stiffer models, not very stylish for around town useRuns a little short for their sizeSpeed lace does not work very well and is difficult to use, expensive
Best Uses Hiking, light backpacking, trail runningDay hikes, climbing approaches, long around town walks, as a comfortable everyday shoeHiking, backpacking, particularly in hot and dry conditionsGeneral hiking and campingDayhikes, backpacking
Date Reviewed Nov 02, 2012Nov 12, 2012Nov 02, 2012Nov 12, 2012Nov 12, 2012
Weighted Scores Salomon XA Pro 3D Ultra 2 GTX - Women's Salomon X-Over - Women's Merrell Moab Ventilator - Women's Keen Alamosa WP- Women's Adidas Outdoor Terrex Fast X Mid Gore-Tex - Women's
Weight - 25%
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6
Comfort - 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 Salomon XA Pro 3D Ultra 2 GTX - Women's Salomon X-Over - Women's Merrell Moab Ventilator - Women's Keen Alamosa WP- Women's Adidas Outdoor Terrex Fast X Mid Gore-Tex - Women's
Weight (Per Pair for size 8) 1.72 lbs 1.47 lbs 1.62 lbs 1.59 lbs 1.99 lbs
Sizes Available Sizes 5-11 Sizes 6-11 Sizes 5-11 Sizes 6-11 Sizes 6-11
Upper Quick drying breathable mesh Abrasion resistant Textile Dura leather and mesh upper Nubuck and textile upper High-abrasion mesh and synthetic upper
Midsole Molded EVA injected EVA QForm Comfort midsole provides womens specific stride-sequenced cushioning - Dual density compression molded EVA and PU midsole ADIPRENE
Lining Dual density EVA Abrasion resistant Textile Breathable mesh lining treated with Aegis KEEN.DRY waterproof breathable membrane Waterproof and breathable GORE-TEX lining
Sole Pronation Control Non-marking Contagrip Vibram Multi-Sport Sole/TC5+ Rubber Non-marking rubber outsole TRAXION outsole
Comments Energy Cell 2 Could also be considered an Approach shoe. Protective rubber toe-cap Bellows tongue to keep out debris comes in a mid version Speed Lace

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review


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  • Editors' Choice Winners
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Weight
Since reducing the weight of your hiking footwear saves energy, finding a comfortable, lightweight hiking shoe can increase your performance. (See our Buying Advice article for more details on this topic.) We weighed each shoe on our own scale to get an accurate weight for comparing each pair. The weights we have provided are for a pair of size 8 in each model.

The lightest options are the Salomon X-Over and the Merrell Siren Sport - Women's, which weigh about the same: 1.47 lbs per pair. When comparing these two models, the X-Over stands out for comfort with a cushy upper although it is not very supportive, while the Siren Sport excels at stiff support, while falling slightly short in the comfort category. The heaviest hiking shoes were the Oboz Yellowstone at 2.24 lbs per pair.

Comfort
Comfort and fit may be the most important aspect of your footwear for hiking. If you plan on logging miles and hours in your shoes, it is imperative that they aren't giving you blisters or leaving your feet sore. They should be easy to walk in and ideally you should be enjoying the outdoor scenery and shouldn't be preoccupied with painful feet.

Comfort is a fairly subjective rating, but we based our scores on the cushioning provided by the shoe, how much room the foot had inside the shoe, and how great they felt even after a full day of hiking. The shoes that we felt were the most comfortable were the Salomon X-Over, Merrell Moab Ventilator -Women's and the Salomon XA Pro 3d Ultra. The Adidas Terrex stood out for its excellent fit and dexterous feel. This shoe holds the foot in a more secure manner than any of the other shoes.

Support
We judged how supportive a shoe was by how stable it feels while hiking, how well the upper holds and protects the foot, and if there is any extra ankle support, as is the case with the Adidas Outdoor Terrex Fast X Mid Gore-Tex - Women's and the Oboz Yellowstone - Women's. The stiffer shoes such as the Siren Sport hold the foot more upright, whereas shoes with a looser upper, such as the Salomon X-Over do not support the top of the foot as well. The Adidas Terrex offers excellent support not only because of the extra height around the ankle, but because of the way it hugs and stabilizes the foot in all the right places.

Traction
The Patagonia Drifter took the prize for the hiking shoe with the best traction. It has a 30 percent recycled rubber sole with noticeably huge lugs on the bottom, which grab and grip the trail very well. In general we found that the larger, deeper, and more varied the tread pattern the better the traction. Shoes like the Salomon X-Over have shorter and smaller lugs in a uniform pattern, which makes them less grabby than ones with big lugs. The Siren Sport also has a small tread pattern. The Keen shoes and the Merrell Moab Ventilators have larger treads for better traction.

Durability
Durability is a tricky issue because once you invest over $100 on a product, you want it to last. However, lightweight shoes, which are designed to be light for comfort, don't last as long as heavy duty boots, and will need to be replaced more often. Ideally you would replace them every 500 to 750 miles.

In general we find that the meshier the upper of shoe, the shorter the lifespan of the shoe. This isn't necessary a bad thing, because the mesh also makes for a highly breathable shoe. Some models, such as the Patagonia Drifter AC - Women's combine leather and mesh on the upper, allowing them to still breathe, but extend the life of the shoe somewhat. We think that the Drifters, the Salomon XA Pro 3D Ultra, and the Merrell Siren Sport will last the longest without a serious blow-out, though we have a report from a long-distance hiker that the Merrell Moab Ventilator, which is one of the meshiest shoes we evaluated, lasted over 1,000 miles.

Water Resistance/Breathability
Most models of shoes that we evaluated come in a waterproof model and a non-waterproof model, so it should be easy to find the shoe you like the best in either, depending on the conditions you expect to hike in. If you plan to hike somewhere like the Sierras where it is likely you will encounter snow, then a waterproof shoe is beneficial. If you plan to hike in either dry, hot environments such as the desert, or even a humid environment such as along the East Coast, then a more breathable shoe without a waterproof membrane is the best option.

The only ones that do not come with an option of a waterproof/breathable membrane are the Keen Voyageur and Salomon X-Over. The only one that does not come with an option without a waterproof membrane is the Oboz Yellowstone. Interestingly, the Merrell Moab Ventilator comes in three options: no membrane, a Gore-Tex lined model, and a generic waterproof membrane model, which is slightly less expensive than Gore-Tex.


Editors' Choice Award

Click to enlarge
Our Editor's Choice winner, the Salomon XA Pro 3D Ultra. It won for being a comfortable and versatile lightweight shoe. It offers more protection and support than most running shoes but it much lighter than a boot.
Credit: Luke Lydiard

Our Editors' Choice Award goes to the Salomon XA Pro 3D Ultra 2 GTX - Women's for exemplifying all the benefits of a hiking shoe. It is versatile and can be used for several activities from trail running to hiking, it is lightweight and comfortable, and it also is sturdy and durable. It comes in a Gore-Tex model for hiking in wet conditions, has an easy to operate speed-lace for quick on and off, and has a slightly wider heel base than on the rest of the shoe, which stabilizes.

Top Pick Award

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Wearing the comfortable Salomon X-Overs on a sunset hike through Arches National Park.
Credit: Luke Lydiard

We decided the Top Pick award should go to the Salomon X-Over - Women's because it is outstandingly comfortable, and is also the lightest shoe we evaluated. The primary draw to purchasing a hiking shoe instead of a hiking boot is to reduce the weight on your feet, which saves you energy over the course of your hike. The X-Over does this beautifully while at the same time providing a pillowy upper that feels like a slipper on your feet. Weighing only 1.47 lbs per pair, the weight on your feet is negligible.

Best Buy Award

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Veronica Long in Merrell Moab Ventilators with gaiters on the Appalachian Trail. 1,000 miles and no blow-out means these shoes are tougher than they appear at first.
Credit: Veronica Long

A well-made hiking shoe ideally lasts between 500-750 miles before needing to be replaced. The price average of all the hiking shoes we reviewed was $130 per pair, which if used for 750 miles, comes to approximately 17 cents per mile.

The Moab Ventilators are the least expensive we reviewed, costing $90, which equals 12 cents per mile if used for 750 miles.

If an Appalachian Trail thru-hiker can get 1,000 miles out of these shoes while hiking over rough terrain with a heavy pack, we think that these shoes are well worth the low price of $90, which earns them the Best Buy Award.

Aside from simply being cost effective, these shoes are plush and cushy, comfortable to hike in, and among the most breathable models we tested.

You might also want to check out our Dream Hiking Gear List.

McKenzie Long
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