The Best Hiking Shoes for Women Review

Click to enlarge
Lightweight yet sturdy, a good pair of hiking shoes can protect your feet, propel you down the trail, and not weigh you down.
Credit: Briana Valorosi
Before stepping foot on the next trail, consider your feet! We put 14 pairs of women's hiking shoes to the test to find the best shoes for hiking and light backpacking. These shoes have some of the support of a hiking boot married to the lightweight agility of a trail running shoe. While working on trail building and restoration in the High Sierra and wandering on well-traveled trails, we tested these shoes for weight, comfort, support, traction, water resistance and breathability, durability, and versatility, finding that some kept us comfortable on long hikes of 200+ miles and others were better suited for day hikes. Check out our side-by-side comparative review of top-selling women's shoes for hiking below.

You may also be interested in our other Women's specific hiking reviews, comparing Women's Hiking Boots, Women's Backpacking Backpacks, and Women's Hiking Pants. Also, see our Buying Advice for more information about when to choose a hiking boot and when to lighten up with a shoe.

Read the full review below >

Review by: ⋅ Review Editor, OutdoorGearLab

Top Ranked Hiking Shoes - Women's

Displaying 1 - 5 of 14 << Previous | View All | Next >>
Our Ranking #1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Product Name
Salomon Ellipse GTX - Women's
Salomon Ellipse GTX - Women's
Read the Review
Merrell Siren Sport 2 - Women's
Merrell Siren Sport 2 - Women's
Read the Review
Ahnu Sugarpine Air Mesh - Women's
Ahnu Sugarpine Air Mesh - Women's
Read the Review
Salomon X Ultra GTX - Women's
Salomon X Ultra GTX - Women's
Read the Review
Merrell Moab Ventilator - Women's
Merrell Moab Ventilator - Women's
Read the Review
Editors' Awards  Editors' Choice Award  Best Buy Award  Top Pick Award     
Street Price Varies $94 - $120
Compare at 6 sellers
Varies $61 - $95
Compare at 5 sellers
Varies $80 - $110
Compare at 6 sellers
Varies $140 - $160
Compare at 2 sellers
Varies $90 - $100
Compare at 6 sellers
Overall Score 
100
0
93
100
0
87
100
0
87
100
0
83
100
0
83
Editors' Rating
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
User Rating
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
1 rating
Be the first to rate itBe the first to rate itBe the first to rate itBe the first to rate it
Pros trail runner design, comfortable, water resistant, technical design, semi-aggressive treadlight weight, traction, lacing system, antimicrobial lining, long lasting, breathablelightweight, simple design, water resistantaggressive tread, simple lacing system, comfortable lining, supportivewell padded, comfortable, supportive, semi-aggressive tread, breathable, wide foot friendly
Cons no heel pull strap (for pulling shoes on),minimal padding, lining is abrasive to thin socksminimal lacing system (4 pair of eyelets vs. 6-10 on other shoes), least aggressive treadlacing system doesn’t tighten as well as laces, low versatilitybulky design, water resistance is lacking
Best Uses day hiking, light backpacking, three season hiking, agility hikingday hiking, light backpacking, trail to town, three season hikingthree-season day hiking, trail to town, walking the dogthree-season day hiking, overnight backpackingday hiking, light backpacking, summer and fall hiking
Date Reviewed May 05, 2015May 05, 2015May 05, 2015May 05, 2015May 05, 2015
Weighted Scores Salomon Ellipse GTX - Women's Merrell Siren Sport 2 - Women's Ahnu Sugarpine Air Mesh - Women's Salomon X Ultra GTX - Women's Merrell Moab Ventilator - Women's
Weight - 25%
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
7
Comfort - 25%
10
0
10
10
0
9
10
0
10
10
0
8
10
0
10
Support - 15%
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
10
Traction - 15%
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
8
Versatility - 10%
10
0
9
10
0
7
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
6
Water Resistance - 5%
10
0
10
10
0
7
10
0
9
10
0
10
10
0
6
Durability - 5%
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
9
Product Specs Salomon Ellipse GTX - Women's Merrell Siren Sport 2 - Women's Ahnu Sugarpine Air Mesh - Women's Salomon X Ultra GTX - Women's Merrell Moab Ventilator - Women's
Actual Weight (size 8) 1.43 lbs 1.47 lbs 1.3 lbs 1.58 lbs 1.67 lbs
Sizes Available Size 5-10 Sizes 5-11 Sizes 5-11 Sizes 5-10 Sizes 5-11
Upper nylon mesh, thermoplastic urethane overlays synthetic leather and mesh upper breathable synthetic mesh, waterproof leather, suede water resistant textile Dura leather and mesh upper
Midsole EVA Qform Comfort Midsole EVA injected EVA Qform Comfort Midsole
Lining Goretex waterproof breathable membrane, polyester mesh, abrasion resistant breathable mesh lining treated with Aegis antimicrobial solution moisture wicking synthetic mesh lining Gore-texwaterproof bootie construction,, ortholite molded EVA (sockliner), abrasion resistant textile breathable mesh lining treated with Aegis antimicrobial solution
Sole Non-marking Contagrip rubber Vibram Mermaid Sole/ TC5+ Rubber Vibram non-marking rubber outsole and slip resistant lugs Non-marking Contagrip- combination of specialized rubbers Vibram Multi-Sport Sole/ TC5+ Rubber

  • Review Photos
  • Editors' Choice Winners

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review



New Review Update: May 2015
It is getting sunnier and warmer, and we know you want to head out to the mountains. In order to help you prepare for your upcoming backpacking and hiking trips we've added a couple of new shoes to our review. Read on to see how these products compare to the other top performers in our test.

Selecting the Right Product


Hiking footwear options have become expansive. Whether you prefer to push the limits of your running shoes or find ultimate support in a hiking boot, you will see women on the trails with a diverse range of footwear selections. Here we offer a brief explanation of the different styles of footwear for hiking and suggestions on when you would want to wear a certain style. Read our Buying Advice article for more in-depth information on different styles of footwear as well as sizing and fit suggestions.

Click to enlarge
Ready for the trail ahead! The low cut at the ankle is comfortable for long or short days on the trail. Vibram soles and a plush lining were greatly appreciated while hiking throughout the sierras.
Credit: Briana Valorosi

Types of Hiking Footwear



Hiking Boots


Click to enlarge
Hiking boots were once the best option for adventuring along trails. A heavier weight hiking boot will offer the most support and stability when carrying pack loads of more than 20-30 pounds. See our Women's Hiking Boots review to compare more durable models for hiking.

Trail Running Shoes


Click to enlarge
With recent trends in opting for the lightest weight gear, many hikers have found themselves trekking in trail running shoes. While this option reduces weight, it also compromises mileage related durability and support of the feet and back body. Trail running shoes will have decent traction for use on the trail and are very light, but will not last very long. If you want to investigate this ultralight option, see the winners on our Women's Trail Running Shoes Review.

Hiking Shoes


Click to enlarge
As a response to this shift in trends, hiking shoes have become lighter in weight and offer a dramatic increase in durability and support from trail running shoes. Only two of the fourteen pair in our women's specific review weighs in over two pounds. Truth be told, hiking boots and shoes may be only ounces apart. Shoes are usually the preferred footwear for their versatility, immediate and lasting comfort, and more cost effective options. Shoes of this style remain supportive for pack weights 20-30 pounds and under.

Click to enlarge
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

Shoes vs Boot


With weight no longer offering a supportable argument for choosing a shoe over a boot, let's take a glance at the reasons to choose a shoe for hiking:

Flexibility: A shoe offers a degree of flexibility that stiff soled hiking boots do not.

Durability: A hiking boot will almost always outlive a shoe. This is a result of the stiffer and sturdier soles of boots as well as the more durable upper materials. Shoes have majority mesh uppers and hiking boots have leather or synthetic leather uppers. Hiking shoes will almost always exceed the lifespan of trail running shoes. Again, this is due to the beefy rubber soles and incorporated leather on the uppers.

Cost: Shoes for hiking typically cost around $100 while hiking boots usually cost around $150-200 dollars. This price difference reflects value over the long term. A shoe will need replacement before a hiking boot will.

Pack weight: If you are planning to hike with weight greater than 20-30 pounds, we highly recommend hiking boots for their added support and ankle stabilizing design. For carrying day packs and light backpacking weights, most of the models in our hiking shoe review are suitable, depending on the terrain you intend to explore.

Ankles: Hiking boots offer a lot of ankle support. If you need ankle support for 1 mile or 40 mile hikes, a hiking boot will be best. For most hikers, especially day hikers and light backpackers, hiking shoes are suitable and offer some ankle support in the form of molded midsoles and embracing, padded heel cups. There is a significant difference in the ankle support provided by a hiking boot versus a hiking shoe and personal needs should be assessed before opting for one or the other.

Break in period: Hiking shoes are designed to be worn comfortably and immediately. If you intend to go hiking tomorrow, consider shoes. Hiking boots require varying break in periods for maximum comfort. The stiff materials used to add support will soften and form to your feet over time, but do not provide the ultimate comfort straight out of the box.


Click to enlarge
Walking across a ridgeline in the Sierra, the Salomon X Ultra GTXs kept out feet happy and dry as the storm moved in.
Credit: Kaytlin Valorosi

Best Uses


Just as there are many styles of backpacking, there are many styles of hiking. From moving ultra fast while carrying only water and Gu, to walking along trails for weeks or months while moving at a leisurely pace, hiking presents the opportunity to get outside and see the natural landscape for both exercise and fun.

Dayhiking


A majority of hiking outings will fall into this category. A day hiker is planning to start and finish their objective within a single day, often in a few hours. This woman will carry water, a map, layers of clothing for changing weather conditions, snacks, and minimal accessories, such as a camera. Her pack will be light but her other gear components are not necessarily 'lightweight'. Hiking may include a variety of terrain conditions and diverse grades. Adventuring on well-traveled trails is the likely scenario. For this hiker, any of the shoes in our review are suitable. Comfort, support, and durability are the top considerations for day hiking. Personal preferences and sizing will dictate which shoes are best for you.

Click to enlarge
A day hike with the dogs is a perfect application for a comfortable and lightweight shoe.
Credit: Briana Valorosi

Fast Hiking


Fast hiking demands a shoe that is flexible and supportive. A fast hiker seeks to cover a specific distance in a short amount of time. Sometimes this distance is far and arduous and other times the distance is short and quick. Peak bagging and moving briskly to mountain summits are often associated with a fast hiking style. Fast hikers are not necessarily trail runners and may seek more support than is offered from a traditional trail running shoe. Shoes like the Salomon Ellipse GTX and Salomon X Ultra GTX - Women's are ideal for agile hiking, particularly on uneven or rocky terrain. Weight is considered for those who fast hike, but as mentioned throughout the review, all of the models we tested are around 2 lbs or less.

Light Backpacking


Light backpacking is day hiking that extends overnight. A day hiker seeking to enjoy the landscape and terrain for a couple of days will camp in the wilderness. Light backpacking means that a hiker is planning to pack on the lighter side, not necessarily lightweight or ultra lightweight, and intends to use the gear and footwear on occasional overnight trips, but not regularly. A hiker who intends to backpack with more gear or heavier pack weight will surely need greater support and durability than a hiking shoe will provide. We tested the shoes in this review on overnight trips and found many of them to be suitable options but only for weights under 20-30 pounds. The Merrell Siren Sport 2 - Women's and Salomon Ellipse GTX are suitable for light backpacking. We took both pairs on multi-day backpacking trips and were pleased with their support and comfort.

Trail to Town Versatility


Lastly, many women seek a shoe that is versatile for wearing on the trail and in town. This is dependent on the style of the shoe. A casual model like the Ahnu Sugarpine Air Mesh - Women's or Keen Marshall- Women's is stylish for wearing in town and has all of the function that a hiker demands. The Merrell Moab Ventilator offers a lot of padding, but this translates to a bulky shoe for wearing into town.

Criteria for Evaluation


After several months hiking across three seasons, we thoroughly evaluated these top products around the Sierra Nevadas, Rocky Mountains, and Southwest Utah desert region. We put the shoes to the test in water and snow, sand and talus. We have addressed common expectations of hiking footwear, such as weight, water resistance, and comfort.

Click to enlarge
From left to right: Vasque Grand Traverse, Merrell Moab Ventilators, Salomon Ellipse GTX, Salomon X Ultra GTX, Ahnu Sugarpine Mesh. Each pair of shoes is shown with their top view and bottom view. This is a great perspective of their width and length as well as design variations.
Credit: Briana Valorosi

Weight


Weight on the feet translates to five-fold weight on the back. Add the weight of a daypack or overnight backpack filled with the essentials for an enjoyable hike, and you have a significant measure of weight to carry. Light is right. The lighter we can keep our shoes and gear, the better we will fare over time. In the past, a trail running shoe would have presented the most weight-friendly option for hiking, but now hiking shoes, and even hiking boots, are constructed with light weight in mind. All of the reviewed contenders weigh in around 2 pounds or less. This evolution in design and construction means that we have more options for lightweight footwear and we can invest our weight in other gear (or lighten it all!). Manufacturers' weight measurements are not always accurate, so we weighed each pair on our scale and provided the actual weight of every model/style in a women's US size 8.

Click to enlarge
The Ahnu Sugarpine Air Mesh is the lightest weight model in our test at 1.3 lbs. This low weight makes them very comfortable for hiking because they do not weigh down your feet and don't fatigue your legs.
Credit: Briana Valorosi

The Ahnu Sugarpine Air Mesh- Women's measured as the lightest at 1lb 3.8oz. In contrast, the heaviest are the Merrell Moab Ventilators and the Oboz Yellowstones. Just because a shoe weighs less doesn't necessarily mean it feels lighter while hiking. A good example of this is the Vasque Grand Traverse shoes that weigh in at 1.55 pounds, but feel heavier than the Merrell Moab Ventilators while hiking. Weight is one of many important considerations, but the difference in a few ounces should not be a primary deciding factor.

Comfort


Comfort and fit are the most important aspects of choosing hiking footwear. Whether you intend to spend hours or weeks on the trail, comfort will enhance or hinder your experience. Comfortable shoes are well-padded, supportive, and sized correctly. Loose or tight sizing will give you blisters and inflammation. Improper padding will lead to muscle aches and discomfort. See our Buying Advice for more information on proper fit. Hiking in your shoes should feel easy so that you have more energy and attention to focus on the scenery.

Comfort is a subjective rating. We based our scores on general comfort without adhering too closely to personal comfort concerns. We addressed some personal discomforts but kept the scoring metric to the comfort of shoe cushioning and padding and overall comfort after a 6-mile or longer hike. The most comfortable pairs were the Salomon Ellipse GTX - Women's, both the Merrell Moab Ventilator - Women's and Moab Siren Sport 2, and the Ahnu Sugarpine Mesh.

Click to enlarge
While searching for the ideal hiking footwear, note where the shoes crease on the tops of the toes and feet. The Merrell Azura are spacious in the toes and have mesh panels over the forefoot for flexibility, though they feel more limited in flexibility than other shoes.
Credit: Briana Valorosi

Support


The support of a shoe is determined by arch support, flexibility and firmness laterally along the sole, ankle support, and the lacing system. Every woman's foot demands varying degrees of arch support. Some of us find the most comfort and support in flat foot beds while others will use inserts to increase the arch support, depending on our natural arch and the best way to comfortably accommodate our feet. The Salomon X Ultra GTXs have the most pronounced arch support and the Merrell Azuras have the least pronounced arch support.

Flexibility and firmness of the soles were tested in stride and over rigid surface edges. A supportive shoe provides a balance between flexibility in the forefoot and firmness under the center of the foot. This allows for comfortable hiking while still remaining supportive of the foot ergonomics. The Ahnu Sugarpine Mesh and Salomon Ellipse GTXs are both firm underfoot yet flexible at the top of the toe box and forefoot.

Click to enlarge
The Ellipses are flexible and sturdy. The soles of these shoes provide adequate support yet bend and flex when traveling across uneven terrain. If extensive support is something you need, you may consider a shoe like the Merrell Moab Ventilators, but if you seek flexibility in motion, the Ellipses are ideal!
Credit: Briana Valorosi

Hiking shoes offer more flexibility at the ankle than support. Stability is achieved by adjusting the laces to assure that the heel does not lift out of the shoe when you are hiking. Some heel designs are lower than others, and this design will present an issue to people will high heels; the Vasque Grand Traverse shoes have a shallow ankle that was easily lifted out by some of our testers. Shoes offer much less ankle support in comparison to hiking boots. If you need substantial ankle support, a hiking boot is recommended.

The lacing systems hold the feet in the shoes for security and stability while in stride. How well the upper holds and protects the foot is also attributed to the lacing system. Two distinct lacing systems made an appearance in our review: traditional laces and a quick lace system by Salomon. While both serve to secure the feet, more sets of eyelets added more support and we found that the quick lace system required some attention after the initial tightening.

Click to enlarge
A spectrum of lacing systems is apparent. From the Vasque Grand Traverse (far left) with flat, tennis shoe like laces and combination lacing eyelets, to the Salomon X Ultra GTXs (second from right) with a cord lacing system that eliminates the need for tying.
Credit: Briana Valorosi

We compiled the ratings for support based on firmness of the outsole, flexibility of the upper material (particularly around the forefoot), security of the lacing systems (particularly in their ability to remain tightened from the initial tie in without having to constantly adjust the laces), and the overall support of the shoe in bracing our feet while actively hiking. We also gauged the shoes' ability to remain supportive with backpack weight of 1 to 25 pounds.

Overall, the most supportive are the Salomon Ellipse GTX, the Merrell Siren Sports 2, and the Merrell Moab Ventilator.

Traction


Sole tread is the direct connection between the shoes and the trail. Traction on varying terrain is important, especially when hiking on uneven, loose, and slick trails. In our experience, deeper tread equates to better traction. Smooth and shallow tread patterns are suitable for well maintained, low angle trails, but let us down on steep or uneven terrain, especially on smooth rock surfaces. Uniformity in tread patterns reduced traction as well. Some types of rubber provided better traction. Vibram rubber soles, like the ones found on the Merrell Azura and the other Merrell models in this review, are notable for stickiness on smooth surfaces and the stiff overall performance. Contagrip is Salomon's proprietary rubber blend that is comparable to Vibram in its durability, flexibility, and grip. The Salomon X Ultra GTX and Salomon Ellipse have aggressive tread patterns and scored highest for traction.

Click to enlarge
From left to right: Vasque Grand Traverse, Merrell Moab Ventilators, Salomon Ellipse GTX, Salomon X Ultra GTX, Ahnu Sugarpine Mesh. Each of these models offer different tread patterns for more or less traction. The Vasque Grand Traverses offer a grippy rubber but not the greatest tread for traction on varying terrain. The Salomon X Ultra GTXs have the most aggressive traction for handling a wide range of terrain.
Credit: Briana Valorosi

Versatility


Versatility refers to the ability to wear shoes on and off the trail or in varying terrain conditions and seasons. Some models in our review are great for wearing both on and off the trail, such as the Ahnu Sugarpine Air Mesh - Women's. Some shoes are great for three season hiking- spring, summer, and fall- like the Salomon Ellipse GTX and Merrell Siren Sport 2. The Vasque Grand Traverse are designed to be versatile between hiking and climbing approaches although we recommend a dedicated approach shoe over this hybrid concept.

It is important to note that certain styles of versatility may come as a disservice to your hiking comfort and support. In the case of a shoe that doubles as an approach shoe, the sizing of each should be different. An approach shoe is sized snugly for maximum sensitivity and control of the shoe. A shoe for hiking is best sized up a half to full size to account for foot swelling with heat and activity (it is best to try new shoes on in the afternoon- see our Buying Advice for more information). In the case of a hiking shoe that may also be used as a trail running shoe, the soles will have varying degrees of stiffness and may not be suitable across all types of terrain. Consider the spectrum of fit for your shoes before using them across different applications.

A hiking shoe will ideally keep you comfortable, secure, and supported on flat trails and steep trails, uneven slopes and rocky paths. We recommend the Salomon Ellipse GTX as the most versatile in varying terrain and across different applications and seasons.

Click to enlarge
On well managed surfaces, the uniform sole of the Grand Traverses fairs well and wears like a casual shoe with a low profile and simple design. These shoes translate the best to peak-bagging and scrambling on rock surfaces, providing the stickiest grip.
Credit: Briana Valorosi

Water Resistance & Breathability


Most hiking shoes, particularly the selection in this review, come in both a waterproof and a non-waterproof model. We tested some fully waterproof versions lined with Gore-Tex, some meshy and breathable versions such as the Keen Marshall - Women's, and some with water resistant upper materials. These different levels of water resistance each have pros and cons and are more desirable for different hiking conditions.

Your hiking destination will influence the need for water resistance while breathability is determined by climate and personal foot needs- sweaty feet need better breathability! For instance, if you plan to hike in the sunny and dry Sierra that can have patches of snow and frequent stream crossings, water resistance will be beneficial and breathability will be less important because of its cool climate. If you plan to hike in the heat of the Southwest desert region, water resistance will be less important but breathability will be essential. Consider the hiking location, climate, and personal preferences to determine your needs for water resistance and breathability.

Breathability is attributed to the material of the upper. Mesh will offer more breathability and leather or waterproof linings will offer the least amount of breathability. Most of the pairs in our review are designed with a combination of materials to offer the best of many benefits between fabrics. Waterproof materials or chemical treatments have the potential for limiting breathability but Gore-Tex, the most common waterproof membrane, is both breathable and waterproof in design. The Keen Marshalls offered the best breathability, particularly during summer heat. The Ahnu Sugarpine Mesh shoes excelled at providing both water resistance and breathability!

We put each shoe to the test by walking them all through shallow water to measure the ability to keep our feet dry. Surprisingly, the Ahnu Sugarpine Mesh excelled in our water resistance test despite the mesh upper due to other water resistant treatments. This provided a welcome balance between water resistance and breathability. The Salomon Ellipse GTX also rated highly in our water test because of its Gore-Tex waterproof/breathable membrane.

Click to enlarge
Mesh exterior is breathable but when submerged in water, the mesh of the Moab Ventilators allowed water to seep in. In contrast, the Ahnu Sugarpine Mesh kept our feet dry under submersion, despite a mesh exterior.
Credit: Briana Valorosi

Durability


In order to lose weight in materials and construction, there is also a loss in durability. A full leather-hiking boot will undoubtedly last longer than a synthetic leather and mesh hiking shoe. Yet, light weight shoes require little to no break in period, are comfortable immediately, and can withstand a lot of wear and tear. We were pleased with the durability of all of the models in our review. After months of hiking, not a single pair revealed weakness and some, like the Salomon Ellipse GTXs looked practically new after miles of use. Proper application- i.e. using a summer specific shoe in the summer vs. winter- lends to greater durability as well. The Salomon Ellipse GTX, with the rubber toe caps and semi aggressive tread, were durable throughout our testing. Even shoes like the Merrell Moab Ventilator and Ahnu Sugarpine Mesh, with mesh uppers, remained durable!

Accessories


Gaiters
Gaiters are a wonderful way to prevent debris and snow from getting in your shoe that can cause discomfort or even blisters. The Outdoor Research Women's Wrapid Gaiters can be put on without taking off your hiking shoes. The Outdoor Research Women's Verglas Gaiters are a high style gaiter that protects your shoe and leg up to mid-calf. If your looking for something a little more minimalist then the Outdoor Research Sparkplug Gaiters are a great option.

Insoles
Insoles can be very important to help give the proper arch support needed for a long time spent on your feet. We find the Superfeet Green Premium Insoles to be very comfortable and help with the foot ache at the end of a long day of hiking.

Editors' Choice Award: Salomon Ellipse GTX


Click to enlarge
What a day for a hike above Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe, California. On steep trails, the Ellipse remained gripped on loose dirt, breathable, and kept all debris out.
Credit: Briana Valorosi

Our Editors' Choice Award goes to the Salomon Ellipse GTX - Women's for their excellent traction and comfort topped with style and water resistance. Scoring high in all of our metric ratings, the Ellipse GTXs fulfill all of our requirements. Weighing in at 1.43 pounds, the Ellipses are as light as many trail running shoes and among the lightest in hiking shoes. They are supremely comfortable for long trail days. With an EVA midsole and a Gore-Tex waterproof/breathable membrane lining, they are equipped with flexibility and support. The Gore-Tex lining lends to keeping your feet well-ventilated and dry in mildly wet conditions. The inner lining also has abrasion resistant fabric so the lining will not pill or tear with continuous use. Over the long term, the abrasion resistant lining adds to durability and comfort. Salomon utilizes a proprietary Contagrip rubber in their soles to ensure durability, flexibility, and support. The only soles that provided more traction than the Salomon Ellipse GTXs are the Salomon X Ultra GTXs- designed of the same sole construction. While the tread was not the most aggressive on the Ellipses, we found the traction to be more than suitable for all of the trails we tested them on. From granite slabs to dusty inclines, we felt secure and stable in the Ellipse GTXs. The versatility of our Editors' Choice Award winner was determined by their ability to provide comfort, support, and water resistance from Spring and into Fall conditions. These shoes are breathable on hot summer days, well padded and insulated on cool fall mornings, water resistant across spring run off, and with the sturdy tread, we would consider them suitable for hiking on snow dusted trails, as well. As far as durability goes, the nylon mesh with reinforcing overlays provided a sturdy upper. The rubber toecap added to the durability and comfort while hiking in rocky regions. The style is similar to a trail running shoe yet maintains a feminine appeal. This truly is the best model we have tested!

Top Pick Award for Comfort and Light Weight: Ahnu Sugarpine Mesh


Click to enlarge
The Ahnu Sugarpine Air Mesh is playful and bold in color while still offering technical design features such as Vibram soles, light weight, and breathable mesh uppers.
Credit: Kaytlin Valorosi

The Ahnu Sugarpine Air Mesh - Women's are the most comfortable we reviewed. They are well padded on the inside and have moisture wicking synthetic linings. We questioned the mesh upper for its ability to keep our feet dry and to block out debris. Surprisingly, the mesh upper faired better than all our other test models, with the exception of the Salomon Ellipse GTXs for keeping our feet dry during stream crossings and our water test. And while mesh may make most question durability, we didn't experience any tearing or wearing out of the mesh after miles upon miles of abrasion, hiking, rock hopping, and exploring in the woods across broken branches and downed trees. At 1 pound, 3.8 ounces, they are the lightest in our review.

Bright colors are not typical of hiking shoes, but we love the refreshing look of the Ahnu Sugarpine Air Mesh. Simplicity and youthfulness embody the Sugarpine design. Bright color accented with more bright color compiled with a versatile shoe that is also water resistant is hard to compete with.

What differentiated the Editors' Choice award winner, the Salomon Ellipse GTX, from the Ahnu Sugarpine Mesh was the aggressive tread and versatility in use. The Sugarpine Mesh are versatile for trail to town wear but didn't fare as well from season to season. The lack of aggression in the outsole and tread limited the use in snow crossings and loose terrain such as trails that have been used by stock. The flexibility is superior to other shoes in our review, which is both good and bad. The good part of having so much flexibility is the ability to maneuver across varying terrain. The bad is that under a weight load, some stability is lost with the ability to bend the forefoot so much. Depending on the intended application, this doesn't affect the overall capability of the Sugarpine Mesh for day hiking and light backpacking on well-managed trails.

Of all the models in our review, the Ahnu Sugarpine Meshs offers the most technology in lateral support. Numentum Hike technology is Ahnu's proprietary support system that has lateral to medial TPU heel clips for incredible heel support and stability. It creates neutral positioning so the foot stays centered and stable in the shoe while hiking. The Sugarpines are also designed with an integrated nylon shank for torsional rigidity. This keeps the shoe from buckling. At a mid-range price point, these shoes offer everything a hiking lady could want: style, comfort, and versatility from trail to town. If you are planning for long distance hiking or desire an aggressive tread, these may not suit you, but otherwise, they are a great pair to consider!

Best Buy Award: Merrell Siren Sport 2


Click to enlarge
Thousand Island Lake, California. Two pairs of Merrell Siren Sport 2 on a backpacking trip.
Credit: Briana Valorosi

The Merrell Siren Sport 2 - Women's carried us along the John Muir Trail and all throughout the Sierra. Mile after mile, they became more comfortable than they started (and they were quite comfortable straight out of the box). While they are definitely not as padded as the Merrell Moab Ventilators, their comfort still measured high. Weighing 1 pound 7 ounces, they are mid-range for weight in this category. In regards to support, the stiff sole provides stability on uneven and rocky trails. We initially found the sole to be quite a bit stiffer than others in our test, but later appreciated the design when we found ourselves hiking on trails that demanded firm support. The lining and insole of the Siren Sport 2 is not the most plush, but can easily be replaced or upgraded to insertable insoles that provide more padding and cushion. The water resistance of these shoes is not something to write home about, but in summer conditions and mild spring and fall weather conditions, we found them adequately suited for trail hiking. We would not recommend them for walking through water deeper than and inch or two, though both Merrell models are offered in waterproof models.

At $95, the Merrell Siren Sport 2 are the best buy! They provide comfort in their streamlined lining and midsole, stability and support with a firm outsole, and an upper made of synthetic leather and mesh, which softens over time. They are great shoes for wearing on and off the trail.

Best Models for Specific Applications


Best for backpacking the John Muir Trail: Salomon Ellipse GTX or Merrell Siren Sport 2
Best for walking the dog: Ahnu Sugarpine Mesh or Keen Marshall
Best for wearing into town after a hike: Vasque Grand Traverse or Ahnu Sugarpine Mesh
Best for spring hiking: Salomon Ellipse GTX
Best for summer hiking: Ahnu Sugarpine Mesh or Keen Marshall or Merrell Siren Sport 2
Best for fall hiking: Merrell Moab Ventilator or Salomon Ellipse GTX
Best for mild winter conditions: Merrell Azura

Briana Valorosi
Helpful Buying Tips