The easiest way to ruin an otherwise unforgettable trip is to wear the wrong footwear. To find the best hiking boots, we researched over 50 of the most popular models before buying 15 of those boots to test ourselves over several months and seasons. After developing a standardized testing protocol, we put these boots through the wringer and then scored them across key performance metrics to help you know what you're putting your foot into. Hiking is one of the best ways to explore the vast public lands that we are lucky to have access to. Across the country, we have hiking trails that visit almost every terrain type and climate imaginable. Our in-depth analysis of the market's top models provides you with the info needed to find the right boot for your future adventures, wherever you may roam.
Best Hiking Boots for Men of 2018
With snows beginning to fall in the northern states, it is time to enjoy some of the excellent hiking opportunities in regions like the Desert Southwest or even the Southern Hemisphere. To get you prepared, we have updated our review to include two exciting new models, the Hoka One One Speedgoat Mid WP and the Asolo Falcon GV, both lightweight contenders that we were happy to take out on long-distance treks. Read on to learn more about these models and many others.
Best Overall Model
Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX
The Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX offers up everything you would look for in a hiking boot and then some. These durable boots are built with the same attention to detail that has made their trail running shoes such a worldwide hit, and despite putting them up against rough and unforgiving conditions could not find an area in which they were deficient. These boots are remarkably comfortable and require virtually no break-in period, meaning they are ready to hit the trail as soon as you are.
Comparing the weight of the Quest 4D 3 to other lighter models the boot is noticeably heavier, though this did not end up being a deal breaker as that extra weight brought us top-notch stability and the highest ankle collar in our test group. While the textile and Nubuck leather had great water resistance, they did take over a day to dry once fully saturated. If you're specifically looking for a lighter boot, or for something best suited to warm conditions, we have some other recommendations below. If you're looking for a versatile option with high ankle support and a stable platform, the Quest 4D is hard to beat.
Read review: Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX
Best Bang for the Buck
Keen Targhee II Mid
Year after year, we give an award the Keen Targhee hiking boots and shoes, which is quite the distinction given how many models we test. It is no fluke, however, as the Targhee line has been nothing but dependable over the years, providing top-notch quality at an affordable price. The Targhee II is comfortable and supportive enough to take on long treks like the Wonderland Trail, the John Muir Trail or the Appalachian Trail while still being perfectly at home on the local day hiking trails. At a relatively svelte 2.4 pounds, they feel light on the foot, reducing fatigue after a long day of hitting the trails.
The Targhee II's didn't have the best water resistance though. In the past, we've experienced leaking around the front seams, and the lower ankle opening means you'll have to be careful on stream crossings. Since this is a mid-cut model, those with ankle issues or who are looking for more stability would be better off with our Editors' Choice model above. But if you don't have a ton of money to spend on your next pair, for $135 this boot gives you great performance for the price.
Read review: Keen Targhee II Mid
Top Pick for Lightweight Hiker
HOKA ONE ONE Tor Ultra Hi WP
Hoka One One shoes are associated primarily with running and working out, though their foray into hiking shoes and boots has been impressive, turning heads and making people rethink what a hiking boot should look and feel like. The Tor Ultra Hi WP is perhaps the boot that best embodies this crossover. With the comfort of a trail running shoe and the stability and traction of a boot with twice its weight, these boots were constantly inspiring. The plush sole is one of its most immediate attributes - these heavily cushioned soles give lots of padding for hiking on hard, durable surfaces (or even for those who spend a lot of time standing on concrete!)
Our main concern with this model was its poor waterproofing consistency. Some models performed flawlessly, though a couple of our test models allowed water in well below the flood height of the eVent waterproof/breathable material. Hoka has stood by their products and warranties these boots deemed ineffective at keeping water on the outside though.
Read the review: HOKA ONE ONE Tor Ultra Hi WP
Top Pick for Scrambling
Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX
The Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX hides a lot of technical climbing prowess behind its subtle exterior. A relatively new model from Scarpa, this model has quickly become a classic in the category. Built as a hiking boot that can handle any terrain that you can throw at it, it also serves as a climbing boot for more technical ascents. With a sticky Vibram rubber compound, a stiff sole that edges well and can also hold a strap-on crampon, these can also be considered as a light summertime mountaineering boot.
The rigid sole does mean that it is not the most comfortable pair, and while this is a benefit while hiking heavy loads, this pair is overkill for light day hikes. It also doesn't "smear" as well when walking up slabs, as the flexion in the forefoot is also limited by the stiff sole. But, if you're looking for a cross-over hiking/mountaineering boot that you use on the long trail approach and more technical 3rd and 4th class terrain when peak bagging, the Zodiac Plus is worth checking out. If you are in the market for more of a mountain boot, Scarpa also makes the Zodiac Tech, which has a welt for a semi-automatic crampon, a stiffer sole and an integrated cuff to keep out snow and dirt.
Read the review: Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX
Analysis and Test Results
Over six months, we vigorously put each model to the test on our feet in a wide range of backcountry hiking environments and specific tests. Throughout the trial period, we compiled meticulous notes on performance. We used these experiences and results to then score each pair of boots across six separate rating metrics to find each model's strengths and weaknesses, and to compare them to each other. Based on the scores in the weighted individual metrics, we calculated an overall tally from 1-100. See the overall scores in the table above.
These scores represent each model's performance in comparison to the other models in this review. Furthermore, each metric's score is a combination of a variety of factors and performance. For example, the score in the Traction metric is an average of each product's scores when tested on dry rock, wet rock, scree, mud, and scrambling individually. We also factored in our backcountry experiences in traction when wearing each pair. Focus on the metrics most important to your hiking preferences and environments to guide you in the search for your unique best model.
With the price of some models exceeding $300, you might want to take the time to consider the value of the product you are buying. As we discuss a lot in this review, we are often making trade-offs when it comes to our purchasing decisions based on priorities; do we want something that is breathable or waterproof, lightweight or durable? Since price is often a major consideration, take a moment to check out our price vs. value chart below (and if you hover over the different dots the name of the boot will appear). The most expensive boots did not automatically rank highest in our tests, in fact, we mostly preferred models that were around or a little over the $200 range. Down in the lower/ right-hand quadrant is where you can find the best value products, including the $135 Keen Targhee Mid II, our Best Buy winner, along with the $165 Salomon X Ultra Mid.
Comfort is king when it comes to footwear, and nowhere is this more important than crushing miles on the trails and off. Due to the trend of lighter hiking boots, many are comfortable out of the box, which is exciting news, as more and more people each summer are questing on many of our nation's most popular thru-hikes, and a comfy pair of boots is the first step in preparing for such an endeavor. The HOKA ONE ONE model, the Tor Ultra Hi WP, and the Salomon Quest 4D define initial comfort. The Salomon X Ultra Mid 3 GTX are comfortable for midweight boots, and feel great from day one, requiring no break-in period that has been typical of hiking boots of years past. The lightest models, such as the Hoka One One Speedgoat WP are unbelievably comfortable while on firm trails and paved paths, though the weight savings derived from a thinner sole means that foot comfort is compromised while on uneven and rocky terrain. The following chart displays the scores of the individual products regarding comfort.
How the foot feels in the footbed
How does it feel when laced up and standing? Are there any pressure points when laced, and how roomy is the toe box? Does your foot feel it when you step on that pointy rock on the trail? After several hours of hiking, which models still made our feet feel great? The Tor Ultra, X Ultra Mid 3, and Moab Ventilator 2 is the most comfortable straight from the box. The Quest 4D 3 did the best job keeping our feet happy after many miles and hours with a moderate pack.
How the ankle collar feels, and how the lacing system works
We noted the number and type of lacing eyelets, how the heel box holds the back of the foot, and whether there's any slippage. The Asolo Powermatic and Salomon models featured our favorite lacing systems, with the La Sportiva TRK close behind. The fit and construction of the ankle collar are super important when logging many miles or traveling steep grades. The Tor Ultra and Terrex Scope have similar ankle collars that balance comfort and ankle stability. The Targhee II and Moab Ventilator 2 have shorter cuts that deliver minimal ankle stability but are quite comfortable.
How well the boot breathes, keeping you cool and dry
Blisters form due to heat and friction, and damp skin has lots of friction. Over the year hikers have developed many tricks and techniques to keep blisters at bay including Mole Skin, duct tape, foot powder, and other black magic. Our perspective? Choose a boot with better breathability! Wearing boots with a waterproof/breathable membrane always limits the ventilation ability of the footwear, though we found models like the Hoka One One Speedgoat Mid WP to be impressively breathable despite having such a liner.
Ankle stability is the defining benefit of boots compared to hiking shoes or trail runners. Hikers who choose boots rather than a low-cut hiking shoe do so for ankle support and torsional stability. Models with a mid-height, or full cut, reduce the chance of taking missteps and twisting ankles. During long days carrying a pack, this support keeps the ankles and feet from tiring. When choosing a boot for stability, first keep in mind that a boot that fits your foot well is necessary for stabilizing your ankle and foot. Try on several models, noting how well your heel and forefoot stay put in the footbed. See the chart below for the overall stability score each product received.
Also consider that for many of the lighter weight models such as the Hoka ONE ONE Speedgoat Mid WP, the stability of the boot relies upon the compression gained from a good lacing system. Soft and supple materials that do not have much structural integrity on their own become more rigid and supportive when wrapped tight around the ankle, for instance, while other boots like the Asolo Power Matic 200 GV have thick leather that offers much more structural support.
In addition to the many miles we hiked over rough terrain, we took a couple of measurements to quantify how well each product supports the ankle and resists lateral rolling. First, we measured the height of the ankle collar from the footbed to its tallest point of the instep. The Quest 4D 3 has the tallest ankle collars at 6.5 inches, followed by the Powermatic 200 at 6.25 inches. The La Sportiva TRK and Tor Ultra both measure 5.5 inches, a notable height for their mid weight. We also measured the width of the sole at the forefoot. A wide forefoot provides a more stable platform and resists rolling. The Hoka One One Tor Ultra Hi WP has the widest forefoot, 4.7 inches at its widest point, providing incredible side to side stability. The Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX by contrast measures only four inches, making it more susceptible to rolling but giving it higher performance in edging ability.
Finally, we manhandled each product by grabbing the sole by the heel and toe and twisting side to side to get an idea of the torsional stability each provides. This is best described as the boot's ability to resist twisting of the sole on uneven surfaces. Better torsional stability translates to less fatigued feet on rough terrain, especially when carrying a load. Overall, we awarded the Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX a 9 in this metric. It ticked all the boxes (tall ankle collar, wide forefoot, torsional rigidity) in the lab, and gave us tons of confidence to speed through rough terrain in the field. The Asolo Powermatic also received accolades in this metric, which comes as no surprise with a plastic/urethane shank, as these mid and heavyweight models focus on stability and support. Also notable are the Scarpa Zodiac Plus, and the Tor Ultra. The least stable by this test was the Speedgoat Mid, which is not a surprising result given its running shoe platform.
When you place your foot on the trail or a rock, you want it to stay put. Each product we tested has a unique lug pattern and sole shape, and different performance characteristics. Considering what type of terrain you might predominantly encounter will do a lot to inform your choice in sole type. Thick, deep lugs with sharp angles like found on the Scarpa Zodiac Plus will do much to improve traction on mud and snow, while narrow and rounded lug patterns like used on the Adidas Terrex Scope High GTX will offer better surface area contact with the ground, a helpful trait on granite or sandstone slabs.
During our backcountry exploits, in a wide variety of terrain types, we were able to test for traction on wet and dry trails, damp and dry rock, snow, and mud. It should come to no surprise that the models made by the companies that are known for their quality rock climbing footwear rose to the top in regards to traction. With incredibly sticky Stealth rubber, the Adidas Terrex Scope scored a perfect 10, with the Scarpa Zodiac Plus and La Sportiva TRK coming in close, with a score of 9.
Moving on to loose terrain, we tested these boots in off-trail travel on High Sierra backpacking routes and alpine climbing approaches and descents. In the looser ground, we found a narrower midsole offered better edging performance, rolling over less when plowing through scree and hopping over talus. Our favorite pair to take into the boulder fields and scree slopes were the Scarpa Zodiac Plus boots, with their blend of stiffness and a nimble sole.
With a record-breaking snowpack in the Sierra Nevada, we were given lots of opportunities to test these boots prowess in snow and mud. The best performers had stiffer soles for edging, and serrated lugs to kick steps in mature summer snow, and that indeed dislodged mud. The Quest 4D 3 was a favorite of testers, followed by the Scarpa Zodiac Plus.
While these are different traction scenarios, we assigned all the products an overall traction score. In the individual reviews, we discuss how each one performed during the traction tests, as some sole types were high performers in certain terrain types but did not compete as well in a range of environments. We weighted traction 15% of the total score.
All else being equal, lighter footwear is better. You expend considerable energy lifting an extra half pound with each step. Hiking specific boots are heavier than hiking shoes and are worth the extra weight when support and stability are a priority. Midweight hikers have designs that focus more on stability, ankle protection, and durability - they don't just focus on shedding weight. Your goal when selecting a hiking boot is finding the lightest model that meets your needs for stability and support. Below is a chart of our weight measurements, which are based on the size 11 (US) pairs we used in our testing.
The Hoka One One Speedgoat Mid WP is the lightest product we tested at 1.68 pounds, a weight that is unheard of in this category. The Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX weighs in as second lightest, with most other models falling just shy of 3 pounds per pair. These lightweight hikers are quite exceptional when the terrain does not demand as much stability and support.
Experienced backpackers with strong feet and ankles may find these lightweight models appropriate under moderate loads. The Tor Ultra Hi amazed us among the lightweight hikers for its high-cut, ample support and stability. This ankle support makes this lightweight boot the best of its class for heavier, moderate loads. Despite their added weight, we recommend midweight hikers to folks hiking extended periods with a medium to heavy load. We assigned this metric as 15% of the total score.
We all want dry feet when hiking. Dry feet are key to avoiding blisters, and staying warm when hiking in the cold and wet. Almost all of our test models feature some waterproof/breathable fabric membrane, except for the Merrell Moab Ventilator which we chose to test for use in hot and dry climates. Most models use a Gore-Tex brand membrane, while Hoka One One uses an eVent fabric, and Keen uses a proprietary KEEN.Dry membrane.
First, we measured what we call the "flood level" of each product. A typical design feature of hiking boots is a gusseted tongue. Not only do the gussets keep rocks and debris from entering the shoe, but the waterproof membrane also extends through this gusset. We measured the depth of water one wades into with each boot before it floods in over the top. The Asolo Power Matic 200 GV had the highest flood level at 5.7 inches, with the Quest 4D 3 scoring second highest with a height of 4.5 inches. The La Sportiva TRK has a height of 5 inches, yet the Gore-Tex lining only protects up to 2 inches, making it useful in the shallowest of wet crossings.
Second, we took each boot through the stream test. Representing the typical use of an extended backpacking trip, fording streams is a better test than standing around in the water, which is a task a rain boot, or molded winter boots would be better suited for. The apparent lack of waterproofness in the Moab Ventilator took it out of contention in this metric, and others had varying degrees of performance. Most impressive were the Salomon Quest 4D 3 and the Asolo Powermatic. The two pairs we had the most trouble with were the Tor Ultra Hi and the La Sportiva TRK, which let water into the toe box within seconds of being submerged to ankle level.
No waterproof membrane that is used to protect the foot can withstand endless exposure to water, and all will eventually wet out, so we also considered the ability of the boot to dry out once fully inundated. The best performer here was the Hoka One One Speedgoat Mid WP, with its heavy use of nylon mesh in the outer it dried out in an impressive 30 minutes after being sopping wet.
No boot will last forever, especially not if you are out there using them on a regular basis. Synthetic fibers will fray and begin to wick moisture, soles will delaminate and wear thin, and the boot will lose structure and become soft. That is the trade-off for getting to wear boots that are made of modern materials. Many hikers praise their boots purchased decades ago that have endured 20 years while failing to mention that the pair weighs four or five lbs, and may have cost 600 bucks in today's dollars.
We were happy to find that all of the models in this review held up well through the months-long testing period. No boot suffered damage to the point of losing function. That said, we expect any hiking boot within the price range of these models to last a couple of seasons of on and off use.
While our review boots did not specifically begin to break down within our relatively short testing period, we researched reviews and talked to users to see how the models made of the lighter weight materials fared over time. We found the durability of the La Sportiva TRK was explicitly called into question, with rand delamination and cuts to the outer over a season.
No boot is immune to damage, but we rated the Asolo and Zodiac as the boots that stood out as the most durable pieces we reviewed thanks to their reliance on thick, durable leather outers rather than flimsy synthetic materials. The Merrell and La Sportiva products scored the lowest scores in this category. We assigned durability 10% of the total score, admitting that a six month testing period is a short amount of time to flush out the exact differences in longevity between models. As we'll note in the following section, though, there are several simple ways to prolong the life of your footwear.
Do your research about the type of climate you plan to use your hiking boots in. The sales staff at your local gear store may be well-intentioned, but it is easy to be sold something that does not truly meet your needs. Consider the style of hiking you are intending on doing, whether it is casual day hiking with a light pack, heavy-duty overnight trekking, or something in between. Matching the footwear to the activity will make your experience on the trail that much more enjoyable.
Do be willing to take the plunge into the exciting and liberating world of ultralight gear, but don't let the trail runner evangelists sway you into a boot that is too light for you. We have highlighted some models that blur the line between weight and support. Hiking is meant to be a way to relax and connect with the natural environment, not to stress about blisters and foot pain. Read each of the individual reviews and our Buying Advice article, slip your feet into a new pair of well-researched boots, and hit the trail with a smile on your face.
— Ryan Huetter & Ross Robinson