Reviews You Can Rely On

10 Best Hiking Boots of 2024

We've tested hiking boots from Salomon, La Sportiva, Merrell, Altra, Hoka, and more to find the best pairs for day trips and backpacking adventures
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Best Hiking Boots Review (A selection of hiking boots we've tested over the years.)
A selection of hiking boots we've tested over the years.
Credit: Eric Bissell

Our Top Picks

The Best Hiking Boots for 2024

Need a new hiking boot? After earning our blisters with a decade of testing the best men's hiking boots and the best women's hiking boots, we have some excellent recommendations. We spent hundreds of hours on the trail breaking in each product. We designed tests to assess comfort, support, traction, water resistance, weight, and durability performance. We compared materials and construction, dunked each underwater, and weighed each boot on our scales. After trekking hundreds of miles over the years in 145 unique pairs, we know hiking boots. Whether heading into the backcountry for the weekend or spending months on the trail, we'll help you find what you need.

We've tested a variety of boots and shoes for hiking. If you prefer a lighter weight shoe, we've selected the best hiking shoes or best trail running shoes, too. And if you're seeking a top-rated hiking sock, we've got your feet covered, and check out our picks for the best adventure sandals that can also work for hiking. We've done the leg work in our reviews and can point you in the right direction so you can hit the trail. When your day on the trail is done and you're looking to slip into something more comfortable, check out our best slippers picks.

Editor's Note: Our hiking boot review was updated on May 19, 2024, to include additional details and comments from our testing team.

Related: Best Hiking Boots for Men
Related: Best Hiking Boots for Women

Best Overall Men's Hiking Boot

Hoka Kaha 2 GTX

Responsive support
Rockered sole for comfortable walking
Great waterproofing
Durable materials
Some break-in period
Not as great in technical terrain
May be overkill for day hiking
Upper Waterproof nubuck leather
Measured Weight (per pair, size 11) 2.54 lbs
Width Options Regular
Waterproof Lining Gore-Tex
Boot Type Midweight hiker/backpacking boot
The Hoka Kaha 2 GTX is our favorite pair of men's hiking boots. These boots, built on Hoka's foundations as a running shoe brand, bring a lively spring into your step thanks to the thick 2-inch compression-molded EVA midsole. This rockered sole is super comfortable to walk in, as it allows for a less jarring stride while hiking. “For those who have weak ankles”, our tester says, “these boots are a fantastic choice.” The support offered by the Kaha 2 is incredible, thanks to high-top construction, a wide sole, and plenty of impact protection.

The Kaha 2 GTX is made of durable waterproof nubuck leather, though this material does take a few hikes to break in. It also has a unique Swallowtail heel design, which we like, but it took a little bit of getting used to, especially as it puts more material behind your heel than you may be accustomed to. Overall, though, this boot offers many amazing features and is recommended to any hiker looking for high ankle support and maximum comfort. Our favorite boot for support and comfort is the Salomon Quest 4 Gore-Tex.

Read more: Hoka Kaha 2 GTX review

The thick sole on the Kaha 2 GTX soaks up the impacts of hiking with ease
Credit: Ryan Huetter

Best Overall Women's Hiking Boot

La Sportiva Ultra Raptor II Mid GTX - Women's

Excellent comfort
Breathable and lightweight
Long lugs with excellent traction
Lacks support in comparison to other hiking boots
Sizing runs small
Upper AirMesh, microfiber, TPU
Measured Weight (per pair) 1.68 lbs (size EU 40)
Width Options Regular, wide
Waterproof Lining Gore-Tex
Heel Height 1.8"
The La Sportiva Ultra Raptor II Mid GTX is our favorite hiking boot for women. It earns top marks in almost all categories, making it one of the most balanced hikers ever tested. It's rugged, durable, lightweight, and incredibly comfortable, with our head tester Trish Matheny saying it “delivered comfort right out of the box”. The 5-inch shaft offers a surprising level of stability for its design, fit to take on technical surfaces. It features a Gore-Tex waterproof membrane with a breathable design. The deep lugs do well on everything from rock slabs to sloppy steeps, making it a trustworthy and versatile option for most trails. Trish said she had “the confidence to rip through steep descents on loose and variable terrain” in these boots. They are an excellent option for any day trip or backpacking adventure.

While we appreciate the lightweight design of this trail runner-like hiking boot, it's not nearly as stable as other midweight boots. It also fits small, so we recommend sizing up. If you want more cushion and comfort, check out the Hoka Kaha 2 GTX, which scored just a few points behind. However, the Ultra Raptor can still withstand various weather and is suited for long backpacking adventures and day trips. When all is said and done, it truly shines as a protective and lightweight hiking boot that sacrifices some stability.

Read more: Women's La Sportiva Ultra Raptor II Mid GTX review

The Gore-Tex in these Sportiva boots worked to keep our feet dry during our submersion tests.
Credit: Lisa Coleman

Best Men's Value Boot

Merrell Moab 3 Mid Waterproof

Low cost
Comfort straight out of the box
Traction is poor in mud
Heavy for the size
Upper Pigskin leather, mesh
Measured Weight (per pair, size 11) 2.36 lbs
Width Options Regular, wide
Waterproof Lining Waterproof membrane
Boot Type Midweight hiker/backpacking boot
The Merrell Moab 3 Mid Waterproof is a great deal that'll get you out on the trails in most conditions. This water-resistant suede boot is incredibly comfortable, and the break-in period is almost non-existent. It is as supportive as you'd expect a hiking boot to be with solid underfoot construction. It's an excellent option for beginners and experts alike who are looking for a boot that delivers great performance at a decent value. Tester Ryan Huetter says “It is a perfect introductory boot for someone new to hiking but also can offer something for the seasoned adventurer.”

Despite our appreciation of the comfort and performance, this boot comes with a few limitations. For instance, the Vibram sole sticks well to dry and technical surfaces, but the lugs lack the appropriate spacing between them to shed mud easily. They perform poorly in super muddy or sloppy conditions. Furthermore, the design is heavier than other lightweight boots. If you want to save even more money, check out the Timberland Mt. Maddsen Mid Waterproof. It was not nearly as comfortable as the Moab 3, but it did score higher in traction, support, durability, and water resistance. Nevertheless, the Merrell Moab 3 boot is a high-value option that'll keep you comfortable and protected for most outdoor adventures, and in the words of Ryan Huetter, “You get a lot of boot for a fair price.”

Read more: Men's Moab 3 Mid Waterproof review

The Moab 3 provides is well-priced and perfectly featured for most types of outings.
Credit: Ryan Huetter

Best Women's Value Boot

Merrell Moab 3 Mid WP - Women's

Great ankle padding and comfort
Mesh vents are very breathable
Good water resistance
Lacks support for long hikes and backpacking trips
Lacing system has questionable durability
Upper Leather, mesh
Measured Weight (per pair) 2.06 lbs (size 8)
Width Options Regular, wide
Waterproof Lining Waterproof membrane
Heel Height 2.0"
The Merrell Moab 3 Mid WP offers excellent value. It is designed as a day hiker and moderate backpacking boot so that it can go with you on most adventures. It features a comfortable and easy-to-break-in design and generous padding in the ankle shaft. Tester Trish Matheny mentions that “The extra room in the toe box makes these boots a great choice for those with wider feet,” and if you need something even roomier, it comes in a wide version as well. It has excellent durability, with several mesh panels between the leather infrastructure. The new and improved Vibram sole offers sufficient traction on all trail surfaces, making it a great, high-value option for most adventures.

We love the comfort and value this boot offers. What we don't love is the lacing system, which lacks durability. The boot also weighs more than much of the competition. If you can afford to pay more, the Salomon X Ultra 4 Mid Gore-Tex - Women's scored higher across all metrics and is often on sale for prices near or below the Moab 3. That said, the Moab 3 Mid WP functions well for most adventures, including backpacking, while putting a smaller dent in your wallet than most hiking boots, and according to Trish, the “comfort and extra cushion in the new design exceed the expectations of the modest price tag.”

Read more: Women's Merrell Moab 3 Mid WP review

We tested the Moab 3's stability and grip on surfaces with uneven and varying textures, like fallen logs with and without bark.
Credit: Trish Matheny

Best Support in a Men's Boot

Salomon Quest 4 Gore-Tex

Very comfortable
Agile yet burly
Very water resistant
Excellent stability
Long-term durability issues along the seams
Bulky and heavy
Not ideal for light hiking
Upper Leather and nylon
Measured Weight (per pair, size 11) 2.90 lbs
Width Options Regular
Waterproof Lining Gore-Tex
Boot Type Midweight hiker/backpacking boot
The Salomon Quest 4 Gore-Tex is a high-top boot that offers a ton of over-the-ankle support for backpacking trips. This boot is ideal for long adventures on the most technical and demanding trails. Our lead men's tester, Ryan Huetter, loves how comfortable the Salomon is, saying, “this boot is such a treat to slip into.” It is top-notch, offering an excellent blend of stability and comfort, and it is fit for tromping through all kinds of conditions. Ryan noted that he “felt more protected while wearing this boot than nearly any other model in challenging terrain.” The beefy lugs bite down on all surfaces, offering traction on slippery, steep trails and rocky river crossings. If you're in the market for a well-rounded boot that'll offer comfort and stability while shouldering a heavy pack, this top contender is the way to go.

We found the Quest 4 protective and stable but also heavy for a hiker. Moreover, it does not breathe or release heat as readily as we want. Though this boot can function as a casual daily hiker, it thrives on technical surfaces and tricky conditions. Want a lighter option? The Hoka Kaha 2 GTX scored slightly higher and is lighter, though it's not as adept at off-trail travel. However, if you tend towards gnarly trails and long excursions, we feel that the Salomon Quest is a terrific choice for folks wanting a high-performance boot, with our tester saying that it is an “easy choice to single out as the best boot to wear on demanding hikes with heavy loads.”

Read more: Men's Salomon Quest 4 Gore-Tex review

The Quest boots take a little while to lace up. However, once you tie the laces, you feel the ankle support and height that keeps out most debris.
Credit: Ryan Huetter

Max Cushioned Comfort for Women

Hoka Kaha 2 GTX - Women's

Plush and comfortable midsole
Sticky outsole
Waterproof and durable design
Not as breathable
Thicker soles take an adjustment period
Upper Waterproof nubuck leather
Measured Weight (per pair) 2.00 lbs (size 8)
Width Options Regular
Waterproof Lining Gore-Tex waterproof booties, waterproof leather
Heel Height 2.0"
The Hoka Kaha 2 GTX offers superior comfort, with over two inches of foam stacked into its midsole. It is one of the thickest models we have tested, easily providing a smooth landing surface every time. It is surprisingly stable for its stack height, with rigid ankle support to prevent unsuspected turns or twists. The 5mm lugs and sticky rubber hold well on tricky surfaces; tester Trish Matheny says they provide “killer traction through variable terrain.” They also offer a surprising amount of water protection, and the reinforced leather upper resists scuffs and scratches. Hands down, this boot offers the best cushioning on the market. Check it out if comfort is your top priority.

The thick cushioning underfoot is heavenly, but getting used to it may require an adjustment period. We had to train ourselves to lift our feet just slightly to avoid unsuspected trips when hiking over rocky terrain in the Kaha 2. And though the upper offers superior waterproofing, it lacks breathability. In our testing, all the most comfortable boots typically cost around $200. The exception was the Keen Targhee III Mid - Women's, which was very comfy and about half the price. It scored lower in most metrics than the Kaha but gives solid comfort and has a more traditional sole and styling. Still, if ample cushioning and excellent underfoot protection are your main priority, the Hoka Kaha is our recommendation. After lacing up these boots, testers said “we were confident to take on the burliest of backcountry missions.”

Read more: Women's Hoka Kaha 2 GTX review

No matter the environment, from snow to rock to raging rivers, the Kaha 2 GTX was comfortable and up for the challenge.
Credit: Lisa Coleman

Best Off-Trail Hiker for Men

La Sportiva Ultra Raptor II Mid GTX

Consistent all-around performance
Great traction
Runs small
Some long-term durability issues
Upper AirMesh, microfiber, TPU
Measured Weight (per pair, size 11) 2.08 lbs
Width Options Regular, wide
Waterproof Lining Gore-Tex extended comfort
Boot Type Lightweight hiker/day hiker
The La Sportiva Ultra Raptor II Mid GTX is comfortable and agile like a trail running shoe but rugged and capable like a proper boot. If you want to be able to handle all terrain types, this lightweight boot is one to consider seriously. From walking on mellow trails to navigating cross-country obstacles, the Raptor is ready to tackle and transition. “If cross-country and off-trail hiking is your thing,” our lead tester says, then "you will love this boot."

Besides the steep price, our only real gripe about the Ultra Raptor II Mid is that it runs small — we ordered up a half size for a proper fit. You may want to try these on in person or at least order from a retailer with a good return policy. The Raptor is also available in wide sizes, which we appreciate since the regular version — like many La Sportiva shoes — is on the narrow side. If you desire more traction and don't mind the extra weight, check out the Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX, which tied the Raptor for second place. If you want to do it all and have your feet be happy and nimble the entire time, check out the La Sportiva Ultra Raptor, which our tester calls “a machine built for a steady diet of off-trail travel.”

Read more: Men's La Sportiva Ultra Raptor II Mid GTX review

Very capable in demanding off-trail environments, the Ultra Raptor II Mid GTX is a technically-minded hiking boot.
Credit: Ryan Huetter

Best Women's Option for Wide Feet

Altra Lone Peak ALL-WTHR Mid 2 - Women's

Wide toe box
Lightweight design
Excellent padding and ankle support
Fantastic traction
Zero-drop design may take an adjustment period
Not as durable as leather hiking boots
Upper eVent fabric
Measured Weight (per pair) 1.48 lbs (size 8.5)
Width Options Regular, wide
Waterproof Lining Water-resistant bootie
Heel Height 1.5"
Our hiking experts agree that the Altra Lone Peak ALL-WTHR Mid 2 is a fantastic option for wide feet. It features a durable lacing system, thicker cushioning underfoot, and traction that performs in wet and dry weather. It's a favorite for wide feet because it has a unique toe box that allows your toes to splay and wiggle freely while hiking. It offers the fit and flexibility of a running shoe but with a little more support to shoulder a heavy pack. Trish Matheny, lead tester for our women's review, appreciates the lightweight nature of the boot, saying from experience that “you'll be grateful to leave the extra weight and added fatigue of a traditional hiking boot behind.”

The Altra ALL-WTHR is lightweight but not nearly as durable as some leather hiking boots. If you want comfort and durability, check out the Hoka Kaha 2 GTX. However, we've tested the Altras over multiple seasons and have been pleasantly surprised with how well they've held up. Another thing to note is that the zero-drop design also requires an adjustment period. If your top priority is a wide fit, comfortable design, and excellent cushioning underfoot, we think you'll be happy with this pick. Trish is a fan, saying, “Whether you're stoked to push your pace on the trails or simply take in the beauty of nature, we're confident that this boot won't let you down”. It's a favorite amongst thru-hikers and fast packers, where comfort and weight are imperative considerations.

Read more: Women's Altra Lone Peak ALL-WTHR Mid 2 review

The Lone Peak ALL-WTHR  lived up to its name and protected our feet against all the varied conditions we could hike.
Credit: Trish Matheny

Best Waterproof Boot for Men

La Sportiva Nucleo High II GTX

Watertight construction
Specific fit
Excellent on sloppy surfaces
Less support in the cuff
More difficult to lace up
Upper Nubuck leather
Measured Weight (per pair, size 11) 2.41 lbs
Width Options Regular, wide
Waterproof Lining Gore-Tex Surround
Boot Type Midweight hiker/backpacking boot
If you live in a wet climate or prefer a steep hike to dry conditions, consider the La Sportiva Nucleo High II GTX. This waterproof boot beats out the competition in terms of performance in wet conditions. We tested it by hiking in the rain and trudging through rivers. Stream crossings were “absolutely no problem”, our lead tester Ben Applebaum-Bauch reported. The gusseted tongue and Nubuck leather construction do well to keep water out, keeping your socks dry. The Nucleo also offers a superior level of comfort, and our tester also noted that the “side-to-side support is still excellent.” The deep lugs are sticky, holding well on sloppy and dry surfaces. Despite these heavyweight features, it is a relatively light boot, and Ben says, “it punches above its weight class.” It is a great option for all types of adventures in wet (or dry) conditions.

That said, we wish this boot offered more stability. The upper cuff around the ankle is not very rigid, which translates to less stability on uneven surfaces. Additionally, inserting the lace into the boot's eyelets isn't easy, meaning it takes longer to lace up and release. If you're seeking a bombproof boot for water or snow, this is the one you should check out. If you are on a tight budget but still want great weather protection, check out the Timberland Mt. Maddsen Mid Waterproof. They scored lower than the Nucleo because we didn't find them to be the most comfy, but they are half the price and have great support and durability.

Read more: Men's Nucleo High II GTX review

hiking boots - the la sportiva nucleo high ii gtx is our top choice for wet...
The La Sportiva Nucleo High II GTX is our top choice for wet conditions. If you find yourself in snow, rain, or crossing a lot of streams, this is the boot to consider.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

Best Waterproof Boot for Women

La Sportiva Nucleo High II GTX - Women's

Fantastic waterproofing
Construction is durable
Lacks breathability
Upper Nubuck leather
Measured Weight (per pair) 2.14 lbs (size EU 40)
Width Options Regular, wide
Waterproof Lining Gore-Text Surround
Heel Height 1.6"
For ladies seeking a hiking boot that does well in wet environments, the Nucleo High II GTX features some of the best waterproofing on the market, and lead tester Trish Matheny says “its waterproof protection is truly what sets this boot apart from the rest.” Built with a Nubuck leather exterior, waterproof ventilation, and a gusseted tongue, it has proven to keep feet dry in the wettest conditions. The construction is incredibly durable, showing little wear and tear after our testing period. It offers a comfortable fit and a short break-in period. It's a wonderful option for any adventure in wet (or dry) conditions.

While this boot is waterproof, it's not very breathable. In addition, its waterproofing elements make it heavier than other lightweight options on the market. We recommend the La Sportiva Nucleo High II GTX if your primary interest is withstanding wet conditions. We also like the La Sportiva Trango Tech GTX as a great water-resistant model, although it's a heavier boot. However, if a waterproof, supportive, and rugged hiker is what you're after, Trish says you can “consider this boot a solid investment.”

Read more: Women's Nucleo High II GTX review

While not a true winter boot, the Nucleo keeps out water and is high enough to keep out snow in most situations. It is a great option for warmer winter weather where you still want dexterity and don't want the clunkiness of a traditional winter boot.
Credit: Trish Matheny

Best Women's Hiking Boots for Under $100

Columbia Crestwood - Women's

Very affordable
Available in wide and regular fits
Great traction, especially on slippery rocks
Functional ankle cuff without a ton of bulky padding
Sizing runs small
Durability concerns
Upper Leather, mesh and webbing
Measured Weight (per pair) 1.80 lbs (size 8.5)
Width Options Regular, wide
Waterproof Lining Omni-Tech
Heel Height 1.5"
The Columbia Crestwood is a lightweight and affordable hiking boot that offers impressive performance, especially when considering its modest price tag. Our lead tester Trish Matheny, who has a narrow foot and high arch, says this boot was “comfortable immediately out of the box”. However, it caters mostly to those with a narrow foot shape as the sizing runs a bit small. The boot is also available in a wide fit for those who might benefit from more space in the toe box. Our testers appreciated the functional ankle cuff, which offers the perfect amount of padding to add comfort without preventing breathability. The upper is also constructed from primarily mesh, along with leather and webbing, and remained fully waterproof during our testing period. Whether we were moving through snow or crossing streams, the Omni-Tech coating released any moisture we encountered, as it simply beaded off the waterproof upper. Trish also noted that “the mesh upper also kept our feet cool and comfortable during the hottest days of testing,” thanks to a design that is not overly padded, and the mesh inlays that aid in overall breathability.

Though our testing team was impressed with this affordable boot, we do have a few concerns. We found the Omni-Grip outsole to perform exceptionally well on slippery rocks and boulders, but the lug pattern simply wasn't deep enough to grip when hiking through loose terrain like sand. We also have durability concerns with the mesh attachments on the lacing system. Our testers found that reversing the final lace in the system near the ankle cuff allowed us to tighten the boot without applying as much force to the mesh attachment. We're hopeful this tip will prolong the life of your hiking boots. And though we didn't experience any durability issues within our spring testing period, we couldn't help but wonder about the longevity of this design. While we appreciate the breathability and comfort offered by the primarily mesh upper, it simply may not last as long as its counterparts that feature a fully leather design. And finally, those with high arches may want to consider an after-market insole for additional support. Those concerns aside, we are confident in recommending the Columbia Crestwood, and our testers liked the “lightweight sneaker-like feel underfoot” for day hikes and backcountry overnights on well-maintained trail systems. This model is especially great for those seeking performance at an affordable price. The Crestwoods did an excellent job during our water resistance assessment, but if you're looking for a boot that offers even better protection while battling the elements, the Hoka Anacapa 2 Mid GTX is one of the best at repelling water.

The Columbia Crestwood is an affordable hiking boot that offers a ton of value and performance.
Credit: Gus Landefeld

How We Test Hiking Boots

Over the past 12 years, we've researched and tested over 140 unique pairs of hiking boots for women and men. We purchase all products directly from the retailer to provide an unbiased review. After they arrive on our doorstep, we do the dirty work, breaking in each pair and taking to the trail. Our testers wore these boots for thousands of collective miles, with over 500 hours of field time while hiking, camping, fishing, rock climbing, and backpacking through many different conditions. We spent time in all kinds of weather, from hot, sunny days to snow storms to heavy downpours. During this testing period, our team kept detailed notes about the performance of each boot after each hike and after completing a series of objective tests. Award winners were carefully determined after gathering data and after many hours of consideration. We tested women's hiking boots and men's hiking boots, with a focus on lightweight and midweight designs, suitable for all seasons.

hiking boots - we hike to some of the world's most breathtaking locations as part...
We hike to some of the world's most breathtaking locations as part of our rigorous testing protocol. Here, we put the Merrell Moab 3 through its paces on a day trip to a picturesque mountain lake.
Credit: Myrha Colt

The hiking boots we tested were considered across 6 key test metrics including:
  • Comfort
  • Support
  • Traction
  • Water Resistance
  • Weight
  • Durability

Contragrip soles increase performance when moving over a wide...
Contragrip soles increase performance when moving over a wide variety of surfaces, but this design wasn't as successful as others we've tested from Salomon.
This lightweight hiking boot, the Altra Lone Peak ALL-WTHR Mid...
This lightweight hiking boot, the Altra Lone Peak ALL-WTHR Mid, shows some of the lowest numbers on our scale.
The Moab 3 provides all-day protection and comfort, even when hiking...
The Moab 3 provides all-day protection and comfort, even when hiking through thick, muddy conditions.
For hundreds of miles and over all kinds of terrain, we've put the boots in our reviews through the wringer.

Why Trust GearLab

Our team of experts has spent countless days trekking around the world, over all types of terrain, in all sorts of weather, all in the name of testing the best hiking boots on the market. Tag-teaming the men's hiking boot review are professional guides Ryan Huetter and Ben Applebaum-Bauch. Ryan is an AMGA/IFMGA certified mountain guide with a bachelor's degree in outdoor adventure management. He has been guiding trips around the U.S. for a decade and uses hiking boots near-daily for work and play. Ben has led groups on backpacking, cycling, and canoeing tours through much of New England's wilderness. When not guiding, he has embarked on many extended self-supported adventures through the same territory. Both are avid hikers who love long trails and use hiking boots for everything from short day hikes to extended thru-hikes in places across the U.S. and into South America. Our current boot lineup was tested in locations like the Pacific Crest Trail and Colorado Trail. Below is a chart displaying how all the current top boots scored compared to each other.

Lead testers for our women's hiking boot review are Jane Jackson and Trish Matheny. Jane is a professional mountain guide with experience working in places like the Tetons, Yosemite, and Alaska. On top of that, Jane has put hundreds of miles in her boots, hiking for pleasure in beautiful places ranging from the high altitudes of the Himalayas to the long trails circumnavigating the granite mountains in the Western United States. Trish has spent much of the last 15 years in the backcountry. She has worked and played on dusty, muddy, and rocky trails across the United States, all with a pair of hiking boots strapped to her feet. Collectively, they've logged hundreds of hours of trail time, testing in all manner of terrain to see how each boot performed. Below is a look at the full women's lineup and how everything scored after a gauntlet of tests.

How to Pick the Best Hiking Boots for You

Hiking boots are best for adventurers seeking footwear that offers protection and stability on the trail. With such a wide variety of options on the market, searching for a pair that will best suit your needs seems daunting. With our experience, we can help you find exactly what you're looking for. To begin, there are various factors to consider when choosing the best boot for you, including how you will use the boot, the type of boot you need, its fit and design, and how long the break-in period may last. Taking these considerations to heart will help steer you in the right direction to finding your best boot for hiking. Let's dive in.

We tested hiking boots off-trail in the High Sierra. We have found no better test for support and traction than navigating talus fields with a pack on.
Credit: Ryan Huetter

Intended Usage

What will you be using your hiking boots for? There are various options, but the first step is narrowing them down by identifying your intended use. Are you planning just day hiking, or will you be backpacking too? What types of terrain will you be hiking? How does your boot need to perform? Does it need to be breathable or waterproof? These are the types of questions to ask before your search begins, which will help to steer you in the right direction.

Day Hikes

When you're heading out for a day hike, the type of footwear you choose depends on the intensity of the hike, how technical it is, and how much weight you carry. Sometimes, a lightweight hiking boot with minimal ankle support may be all you need. The lighter materials used in lightweight boots make them more flexible and breathable. They also have enough comfort and support to carry substantial loads. Most offer more stability than hiking shoes or trail runners, but they aren't as heavy as midweight hiking boots. Consider a midweight boot, even for day hikes, if you prefer more stability.

hiking boots - one of our testers heads out into the backcountry on a long day trip...
One of our testers heads out into the backcountry on a long day trip with a small, but heavier pack in tow.
Credit: Trish Matheny

Moderate Backpacking Over Rugged Terrain

Backpacking all your gear into a campsite for the night can be strenuous, but it can also be made easier by footwear with a little more stability, especially around the ankle. For any moderate backpacking adventure, a midweight boot is recommended. This type of boot has stability on unstable surfaces without being too heavy. This is helpful when shouldering a heavy pack for a couple of days. A lightweight boot can also function for moderate backpacking adventures. However, with larger loads, your feet might get a little more beat up than they would in a more rigid midweight boot.

hiking boots - we've tested different hiking boots across a myriad of surfaces...
We've tested different hiking boots across a myriad of surfaces while heavy and light packs through the wilderness.
Credit: Lisa Coleman

Factors to Consider

You need to consider the length of time you'll be wearing your boots, and also the conditions. This includes the trail's climate, temperature, surfaces, and steepness. A lightweight hiking boot should be fine if you prefer easy hikes on flat terrain. But, if you often take on steep and technical trails with talus fields, consider a more stable design.


Many people opt for hiking boots instead of hiking shoes because they have some level of water resistance or waterproofing. If you find yourself hiking in wet weather, look for a boot that integrates a seamless design, waterproof or Gore-Tex membrane, and leather construction. An extra plus is a gusseted tongue, which will protect you better during river crossings.

hiking boots - planning a hike in a precipitous part of the country or with...
Planning a hike in a precipitous part of the country or with multiple creek crossings? The La Sportiva Nucleo is a top choice for waterproof protection for its ability to repel water.
Credit: Steve Mace


You'll encounter many different surfaces when you're out on the trail. Wet, dry, steep, and flat — they will vary. For example, kitty litter gravel over rock in dry conditions can cause unsuspected slips when the trails are steep. Steep slabs can also be treacherous, especially if a boot can't grip the rock. A soft, sticky rubber with evenly spaced lugs is preferred.

If you encounter wet conditions, like slippery rocks, mud, ice, or snow, you'll want to look for a combination of deeper lugs that are well-spaced and a sticky rubber that doesn't get too hard in colder temperatures. The spacing of the lugs will help shed mud and snow more easily. The deeper lugs will help bite down on the trail, especially when traveling up or downhill. Regardless of the specific conditions, think about the surfaces you'll be hiking on and then look at the design and construction of the outsole to ensure it'll do what you need it to on your adventures.

hiking boots - a sticky rubber sole provides great traction for loose kitty litter...
A sticky rubber sole provides great traction for loose kitty litter that is found abundantly in the Sierra Nevada.
Credit: Alexa Flower


A boot that can breathe is important, especially in hot or humid weather. Without breathability, a hiking boot can turn a dry sock into a wet one, which is a great way to end up with hot spots or full-on blisters. While considering your options, look for breathable panels protecting from small particulates. If hiking in warmer conditions, look for a light design. A hiking shoe or trail running shoe is also a nice alternative for a hiking boot in hot weather, as long as you're okay with less stability through the ankle and body of the boot.

hiking boots - breathable panels and lighter materials will add to the...
Breathable panels and lighter materials will add to the breathability of any hiking boot.
Credit: Trish Matheny


A lighter boot is the most common preference for most people when hiking. Who doesn't like to feel light? It means you can go further, and the hike always seems much more enjoyable. We recommend looking for a pair of less than four-pound boots. Anything heavier will seem strenuous to hike in, especially if you intend to go out for the day. When you're doing your research on different products, be sure to check out the weight specs to see how each boot measures up.

hiking boots - the rush 2's lightweight design doesn't compromise on performance.
The Rush 2's lightweight design doesn't compromise on performance.
Credit: Trish Matheny

Types of Hiking Boots

We've been discussing several different types of hiking boots, so let's take the time to define each. In this section, we'll cover lightweight, midweight, and heavyweight hikers. In addition, we'll discuss hiking shoes and trail runners, as these are common substitutes.

Lightweight Hikers

In our review, we opted to test many lightweight hikers that generally weigh less than two pounds per pair. These typically have a low to mid-cut, not rising more than 4-5 inches. These boots have a lower ankle height with thinner, more flexible fabrics. These designs have often done away with stability elements, such as rigid shanks embedded in the midsole. They also tend to have more flexible cuffs around the ankle, so there's not as much ankle support as you might encounter with a midweight or heavyweight hiking boot. This boot category is best for those who prefer light feet on the trail, trading off stability around the ankle. If you don't care too much for stability around the ankle, consider a hiking shoe or trail running shoe as an alternative to a lightweight hiking boot.

hiking boots - a couple examples of lightweight boot construction. note the amount...
A couple examples of lightweight boot construction. Note the amount of mesh, and the thinner midsole.
Credit: Ryan Huetter

Hiking Shoes

So what's the difference between a hiking shoe and a hiking boot? The biggest difference is ankle stability. Hiking shoes do not have high cuff ankle support, whereas a hiking boot will. Many of the design elements—including stability, waterproofing, and traction—can be the same. Hiking shoes are also typically quite durable, with better breathability and lower weight than most hiking boots. These are a great option if you don't care too much about ankle support but still want a supportive and stable shoe for exploring the outdoors.

hiking boots - a hiking shoe is a great alternative to a hiking boot. they offer...
A hiking shoe is a great alternative to a hiking boot. They offer excellent stability and durability, just without the extra ankle support.
Credit: Myrha Colt

Trail Runners

If you want to go fast and light, and aren't in need of as much stability and support, a trail runner is a good option to consider. Trail running shoes vary widely in their design, but many of them offer similar stability elements at a lighter weight and with more breathable and flexible upper materials. Although they are at the bottom of the pack when it comes to support, it really comes down to user preference, and you can even find some trail runners that are nearly on par with light hiking shoes. If you don't need ankle coverage, and weight is paramount in your choice of shoe, then you should look at our best trail running shoe review to scope out the different options on the market.

hiking boots - the s/lab ultra 3 is one of the most refined trails running shoes on...
The S/Lab Ultra 3 is one of the most refined trails running shoes on the market. Not only is it excellent for running, but it performs well as a hiker as well.
Credit: Andy Wellman

Midweight Hikers

A traditional hiker is a midweight hiking boot. Typically weighing 2-3 pounds per pair, they rise 4-5 inches on the ankle. They are usually more rigid than a lightweight hiker but more flexible than a heavyweight boot. They offer better stability and durability than most lightweight hiking boots tested.

hiking boots - rough and uneven terrain, is easy in the salomon quest 4d. the...
Rough and uneven terrain, is easy in the Salomon Quest 4D. The above-average stability found in this boot makes steep or uneven surfaces seem like no trouble at all.
Credit: Ryan Huetter

Designed for versatility, this type of boot is a great option for day hikes and backpacking. They can carry loads between 20 to 30 pounds across rugged terrain. They feature stiff soles, leather construction, an ankle cuff that fits well, and stability elements. Most feature breathable vents that don't allow particulates to get inside. If stability is a higher priority than weight, this is a good type of boot for all outdoor adventures.

A midweight hiker is a fantastic choice if you seek ankle support with lightweight construction.

Heavyweight Hikers

These burly hikers are heavy, full-leather hiking boots designed for off-trail explorations and mountaineering adventures. They are designed to carry a 40+ pound backpack across treacherous terrain and often weigh upwards of 3 pounds per pair. During this review, we didn't feature any heavyweight boots, but there are many options on the market, and our lineup has some that lean in that direction. They are typically completely waterproof, extremely durable, and very heavy. They are built with full-grain leather and TPU midsoles, with several stability elements. They are designed to handle the roughest terrain and the most extreme conditions.

Places where a heavier hiking boot might be useful include while carrying a heavy load, or locations where stiffness and support are a priority.
Credit: Ryan Huetter

Fit and Sizing

No matter how high the ratings and how great the features are, if the boot doesn't fit, it's not the right boot for you. You can premeditate all of the features you want, but until you slip it on and try it out, you won't know if it's the right one for you. When considering the fit of a boot, do your research, especially when shopping online.

hiking boots - finding the right fit is imperative for preparing for the trail. the...
Finding the right fit is imperative for preparing for the trail. The Altra Lone Peak ALL-WTHR features a uniquely wide-toe box. What kind of fit are you looking for?
Credit: Steve Mace

Before trying on a boot, grab a sock of similar thickness that you intend to hike in. This will impact the overall fit. When you slide your foot inside and lace it up, note the additional volume or wiggle room in the toe box. Notice if your toes feel cramped front to back or side to side. If they do, you might need to size up a half size or find a different brand that is either wider or more narrow. Walk around and test out the flexibility and stability of the boot. Point your toes, go up the stairs, and walk around on unstable surfaces to see how the boot flexes or if there are any pinch points. If you require specific support, consider using insoles. Once you've found a fit that works, start getting excited because you're on your way to buying your perfect boot.

If you're ordering online, select a retailer with a good return policy so you can return anything that isn't a good fit.

hiking boots - stable as a table! the merrell moab 3 does well to provide the user...
Stable as a table! The Merrell Moab 3 does well to provide the user with a secure and supportive fit.
Credit: Ryan Huetter

Break-In Period

After you've found your pair of hiking boots, know that they will most likely require a break-in period. Depending on the construction and materials, break-in times vary. Lightweight hikers with softer materials typically have a faster break-in period than those with more rigid materials. Midweight hikers have the widest range of time since there are so many combinations of materials in the construction. Some, for example, might take longer to break in than those with a different type of leather.

Finally, test your boots on short hikes before committing to longer adventures. The boots need time to mold and shape. Even in the “right” boot, diving straight into a long, grueling hike can still lead to blisters or other issues on the trail, something nobody wants.

hiking boots - the scarpa zodiacs are the perfect hiking boots for any terrain...
The Scarpa Zodiacs are the perfect hiking boots for any terrain, from desert trails to mountaintops.
Credit: Ryan Huetter


Whether you're about to embark on a life-changing thru-hike or you're taking your dog on its daily walk, a solid hiking boot should be a part of any adventurer's gear closet. There are many different options to choose from, but if you take the time to consider what you will use it for, the conditions you'll be hiking, and the adventures you'll be embarking upon, choosing a hiking boot can be fun. Luckily, we've tested the best options on the market to help guide you in the right direction. Happy trails!

Ryan Huetter, Jane Jackson, Ben Applebaum-Bauch, and Trish Matheny