A long hike in a bad boots can be miserable. To guide you to finding the best hiking boots for your situation, OutdoorGearLab evaluated 50 of the most popular men's models, then bought the top 15 2019 models to test them in the field and directly measure performance and comfort. We hiked many miles of different terrain during several months and seasons. Our extensive research can help make your hike worth talking about — for all the right reasons.
The Best Hiking Boots of 2019
|Price||$229.95 at MooseJaw|
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|$268.95 at Backcountry|
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|$230 List||$164.95 at MooseJaw|
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|$149.98 at Backcountry|
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|Pros||Comfortable out of the box, fast and nimble, great stability, support, and water resistance||Best choice for rock and snow travel, durable, breathes well||Ultimate comfort, lightweight yet stable, nice lacing system||Comfort of a trail runner with more support and stability, good all around performance||Comfortable, stable, great ankle collar, available wide and narrow|
|Cons||Potential durability issues with many seams, not as good for warm or hot environments||Wider fit, not the best lace locking system||Rocker takes getting used to, low durability, questionable water resistance||Not as breathable in warm conditions, not great traction on smooth rock||Heavy, permeable leather needs treatment|
|Bottom Line||Our Editors Choice Award winner blends comfort, stability and traction in a boot that fits well right out of the box and provides top-notch performance.||For rock scrambling, alpine approaches and moderate snow travel, the Zodiac GTX is a light weight mountain boot disguised as a hiking boot.||This boot provides incredible performance in some of the most essential areas for hiking boots -- comfort, stability, and weight.||This boot brings the comfort of a trail running shoe but adds in the support you would expect from a hiking boot, resulting in a capable performer in all trail conditions.||This all-leather midweight hiker performs at the top of the group in every category except weight, making it a great choice for nearly any application.|
|Rating Categories||Quest 4D 3 GTX||Zodiac Plus GTX||Tor Ultra Hi WP||X Ultra Mid 3 GTX||St. Elias GTX|
|Water Resistance (15%)|
|Specs||Quest 4D 3 GTX||Zodiac Plus GTX||Tor Ultra Hi WP||X Ultra Mid 3 GTX||St. Elias GTX|
|Weight per Pair (size 11)||3.3 lbs||2.66 lbs||2.29 lbs||2.28lbs||3.38 lbs|
|Boot Type||Midweight Hiker/Backpacking Boot||Midweight Hiker/Backpacking Boot||Lightweight Hiker/Day Hiker||Midweight Hiker/Backpacking Boot||Midweight Hiker/Backpacking Boot|
|Width Options||Regular||Regular||Regular||Regular||Narrow, Regular, and Wide|
Best Overall Model
Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX
The Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX winds up at the top of our list with excellent marks in just about every area we could measure. They have the same attention to detail as their highly-regarded trail running shoes. Notably, their impressive comfort requires almost zero breaking in. So if you are ready to hit the trail, so are they.
The Quest 4D 3 is heavier that other models, but the extra weight brought top-notch stability and the highest ankle collar within our test group. The textile and Nubuck leather had great water resistance, but once saturated they did take over a day to dry. If you want a lighter boot, or one better suited to warm conditions, check out our recommendations below. For a boot with high ankle support and a stable platform, the Quest 4D is a winner.
Read review: Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX
Best Bang for the Buck
Keen Targhee II Mid
Year after year, the Keen Targhee hiking boots and shoes win awards from OutdoorGearLab. Which is impressive, given how many models we test. The reason? The Targhee line has for years provided top-notch quality at an affordable price. This version, 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 kay hikes. At 2.4 pounds, they feel light on the foot, reducing fatigue after a long day out.
The Targhee II's didn't have the best water resistance. Past versions have leaked around the front seam. Also, the lower ankle opening asks you to be careful on stream crossings. This is a mid-cut model so those with ankle issues or who want more stability would be better off with our Editors' Choice model above. But 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 best known for running and working out, although their hiking shoes and boots have made people rethink what a hiking boot should look and feel like. The Tor Ultra Hi WP perhaps 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 heavily cushioned soles give lots of padding for hiking on hard, durable surfaces.
Our main concern with was its poor waterproofing consistency. While some models performed flawlessly, others allowed water in well below the flood height of the eVent waterproof/breathable material. However, Hoka has stood by their products and warranties boots with a water problem.
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. This model is fairly new but it has quickly become a classic in the category. It's both a hiking boot for varied terrain and also a climbing boot for more technical challenges. It's light mountaineering credentials come from its sticky Vibram rubber compound and a stiff sole that edges well and can also hold a strap-on crampon.
The stiff sole helps when hiking heavy loads, but this pair is overkill for light day hikes or those seeking comfort. It doesn't "smear" well when walking up slabs, 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.For more of a mountain boot, Scarpa makes the Zodiac Tech. It 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
Why You Should Trust Us
Our expert panel of testers is led by Ryan Heutter, a full-time AMGA certified mountain guide since 2011 with a bachelor's degree in Outdoor Adventure Management. Ryan uses hiking boots extensively, which are a crucial professional tool, hitting the trail almost daily, and logging thousands of trail miles in the last 10 years. He is joined by Ross Robinson who has hiked and backpacked the world for over a decade. He has lived and backpacked in Thailand, Peru and Germany, with at least 500 miles hiked in each country. Ross is a Senior Review Editor at OutdoorGearLab, and led our hiking boot and hiking shoe testing from 2014-2017. Since 2014 Ross has personally tested more than 50 boots and shoes over 1000 trail miles.
Our testing took place in some of the most rugged and iconic mountain ranges in the country including the High Sierra, Cascade Range, volcanoes and deserts of southern Peru, and the desert country around Moab. The review drew on 20 hours of research followed by months of testing and 350 miles of hiking. For example, the score in the Traction metric is an average of each product's scores on dry rock, wet rock, scree, mud, and scrambling. There is more about how we tested and rated in our How We Test article.
Analysis and Test Results
As we explain in our Buying Advice article, we believe there are six crucial performance metrics for hiking boots. Below are overall scores and citations of those products that offer stand-out performance. As we discuss a lot in this review, there are real trade-offs between performance attributes when it comes to your final purchase decision. Those seeking maximum waterproof boots will inevitably make a sacrifice breathability. Similarly, those seeking the most lightweight boots will trade-off performance in durability. We'll try to explore these issues in more detail below.
The price of some models exceeds $300, but the most expensive boots did not automatically rank highest. In fact, we mostly preferred models near the $200 range.
As you can see in the chart above, the Keen Targhee, which earned our Best Buy Award, comes in well below average on price, yet offers compelling performance that outpaces about half the competition. Although more of an investment in footwear, the Editors' Choice Saloman Quest outperforms every other product at only a bit higher-than-average price.
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 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. The lightest models, such as the Hoka One One Speedgoat WP, are unbelievably comfortable while on firm trails and paved paths. However, 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 are 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 main 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 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, 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 its torsional stability, or 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. 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 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 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 had lots of opportunities to test these boots 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 percent 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 percent 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 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 per cent 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. 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 and Ross Robinson