Deciding on a new pair of hiking boots can be a daunting task. Our team of experts analyzed over 50 pairs before purchasing and reviewing the 13 you see in this review. You no longer have to be compounded by the fear that you might not find out how comfortable they are until many miles of walking in them to break them in! Our testing process makes it easier so you can get out and hit the trail faster. After a rigorous six month test phase during which our review staff hiked, trekked and climbed in each one of the test models, we compared them to one another using a defined set of metrics in order to rank them. We awarded four top awards to those boots that did exceptionally well both overall and in specific niches. Whether you seek the best of the best, a model that won't break the bank, or a niche Top Pick, we have something for you.
Best Hiking Boots for Men of 2018
Analysis and Award Winners
While snow is still on the ground in many of the top hiking destinations of the Northern Hemisphere, it is time to start thinking about getting out of the ski boots or winter hiking boots and back into hiking boots for a fun summer of backcountry backpacking! To make sure your hiking season gets off to a smooth, and not too rocky a start, we updated our Best Hiking Boot review, including several new additions like the Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX and the Salomon X Ultra Mid 3 GTX, two boots you'll be sure to want to consider no matter what kind of terrain you plan on tackling.
Best Overall Model
Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX
The Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX is an all-around workhorse of a hiking boot, topping the ratings in almost every testing metric for our review. It builds upon the successes found in Salomon's well-known (and liked) trail running shoes, adding in technologies that allow for top of the line stability and support, while keeping the boot feel light and flexible on the foot. We were consistently impressed with the performance of these boots from the moment we took them out of the box, as they required none of the break-in period that is typical for this style of boot.
This pair was a little on the heavy side (3.3 pounds), which didn't 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
The Keen Targhee II is another boot that we seem to keep gravitating back to, and have again rewarded its solid all-around performance and budget-friendly price with our Best Bang for the Buck Award. The Targhee II is a simple and durable mid-cut hiking boot that is light enough to be an ideal day hiker, but supportive enough that many have found it to be a great boot for thru-hiking on the John Muir Trail or Appalachian Trail. It gave us solid performance across the board and is on the lighter side at only 2.4 pounds.
The Targhee IIs 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
While Hoka One One shoes have long been known to the long-distance running community, their hiking boots are a rather new development. Though they may lack the traditional hiking boot look, and employ a much more cushioned, almost moon-boot-style, the Hoka One One Tor Ultra Hi WP is hands down one of the most comfortable boots we have ever worn. The wide and cushy sole also allows for competitive stability and traction while hiking on rough or uneven terrain. Usually, lightweight models end up sacrificing a bit on stability, but this pair was a rare exception. The wide foot base, high-collar, and oversized sole combined to make this a stable ride in most conditions.
The main downside to this pair is that the waterproofness was lacking. Our feet got wet when crossing streams even well below our flood-line. The eVent lining did seem highly breathable, but perhaps too much so, letting some water back in the wrong way. Even so, if you're looking for a lightweight option this boot is tough to beat, so we've awarded them our Top Pick for Lightweight Hiking.
Read the review: HOKA ONE ONE Tor Ultra Hi WP
Top Pick for Scrambling
Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX
In only its second year in production, the Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX has become a classic in its category. A durable, robust hiking boot that is modeled after more technical mountain boots, this nimble mid-top boot can handle a wide range of challenging mountain conditions from firm snow to steep rock. With a stiff, almost rigid sole that is capable of receiving a strap-on crampon for early season approaches, and a grippy Vibram sole that ensures good footing, we've awarded the Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX our Top Pick for Scrambling.
The rigid sole does mean that it is not the most comfortable pair, and this is not the boot that we'd want to hike a really heavy load in. 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 Zodiak Plus is worth checking out.
Read the review: Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX
Analysis and Test Results
Over the course of two 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. 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 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. Nobody wants blisters, and picking the model that fits your feet and keeps you cool and dry is vital. The mesh upper of the Moab Ventilator 2 is the most breathable product we tested. Of the midweight models, the Quest 4D 3 breathed better than others, and our testers with sweaty feet appreciated it.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 was the Scarpa Zodiac Plus, with its blend of stiffness and 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. 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 Tor Ultra Hi WP is the lightest product we tested at 2 pounds 4.7 ounces, which is incredible considering how much boot you get with so little weight. The Salomon X Ultra Mid 3 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 loads.
The Salomon X Ultra Mid 3 GTX is the lightest midweight hiker we tested at 2.28 pounds, with the Keen Targhee and then Merrell Moab Ventilator boots falling in line next. These models are light considering the stability and additional durability they provide. 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 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.
Since no boot is entirely resistant to wetting out, either from the outside or the inside (read more about this in our Buying Advice article), we also noted how quickly the inside of the boots dried out after becoming wet. We found that although the Tor Ultra Hi let water in, it also dried out very quickly. After starting with wet socks, our feet (and socks) were dry within 45 minutes!
All boots wear out. After enough use, seams begin to come apart, waterproof membranes leak, and the sole wears down. This wear and tear are to be expected with time. With today's focus on lightweight footwear, compromises in materials and construction are inevitable. 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 nine models in this review held up well through the two-month 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 the course of 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 two 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.
Care and Feeding
Some actions increase the life expectancy of your hiking boots, from routine cleaning to pre-treating known wear areas.
Leather hiking boots benefit in waterproofness and durability when a leather treatment is applied. The leather uppers of the Power Matic 200 and Zodiac benefit from a leather treatment. While the GORE-TEX membranes keep your feet dry inside, the leather on these products soaks up water. This not only makes your boot less breathable and more cumbersome but repeated wetting and drying cycles cause the leather to become less supple over time.
Nikwax offers a complete line of leather and fabric conditioners, including products for suede, nubuck, and full grain leather. These come in spray-on versions, or in liquid versions that are applied with a sponge. Atsko SNO-SEAL, a beeswax-based waterproofing for leather, is time tested and works great. Apply it by rubbing it on, and gently heating with a hair dryer to melt it into the leather. Leather conditioners need to be reapplied every few months to yearly, depending on how many miles you put on your footwear. Nikwax products that are designed for synthetic fabrics work well on lightweight hikers that have mixed materials uppers. Using a fabric treatment that maintains the DWR of synthetic materials on the upper means, they absorb less water, remain more breathable, and dry quicker.
One of the most valuable tricks for prolonging the life expectancy of your footwear is applying a seam sealer to the stitching in high wear areas. Spend $8 for a tube and 20 minutes applying it to high-wear seams doubles their lifespan. It might not look pretty, but you'll be glad you gripped 'em. Uppers commonly wear out on the seams on the inside and outside of the forefoot, where the boot flexes with each step. The Asolo has a one-piece leather construction here and doesn't suffer this wear. All the other models have seams in these areas. Regardless of the type of materials and thread used, these are weak points. Small amounts of dirt and sand work their way into these seams and act like internal sandpaper on the thread. These areas are also prone to scuffing on rock and roots. Applying Seam Grip, or a similar sealer, to these regions, keeps out dirt and sand, increases scuff resistance and has the added benefit of keeping water out. If you plan to abuse your footwear by surfing scree slopes or traversing rocky areas, applying a seam sealer to every visible thread on the upper is an excellent idea.
Boots get muddy and dirty, inside and out, but cleaning them of mud and sand prolongs their life. A soft bristle brush and warm water perform the trick best on the outer boot. Using the least pressure necessary, remove all visible mud, dirt, and debris. Do your best to let wet boots dry slowly, out of direct sunlight.
Also be sure to remove your insoles and clean them, and when you're on the trail, always take them out at the end of the day, or even each time you take your footwear off during the day. Shake any debris from the inside of the boot, and remove anything that's stuck to the bottom of your insole. Warm water and a soft brush is the best way to clean your insoles as well. Resist the urge to put shoes or boots in the washing machine, and never put them in the clothes dryer. Insoles that are super funky benefit from a gentle cycle in the washer, but let them air dry. At this point, it is often best to replace the insole with a new one.
And a final note: boots and extreme heat do not mix. We're all guilty of drying them by the campfire from time to time, but the soles melt off if you're not careful. Additionally, leather that dries too fast becomes hard and brittle. If you feel you have to, do not place your boots any closer to the fire than where your bare hand is comfortable for the same amount of time. It's much better to hike another day in damp footwear than to hike another day in a half-melted boot duct taped to your foot. We know, we've learned the hard way! The trunk or backseat of your car is also a danger zone for boots when it's hot and sunny out. The temperatures here in midday sun cause the soles to delaminate from the uppers in no time at all. Footwear thrown into plastic totes in the back of a truck suffer the same sad fate.
Gaiters - Gaiters are a wonderful way to prevent debris from getting in your boots that cause discomfort or even blisters. See our complete gaiter review.
Insoles - Insoles are essential to help give the proper arch support needed for a long time spent on your feet. The Superfeet Green Premium Insoles are comfortable and help with the foot ache at the end of a long day of hiking.
There are many factors that go into deciding what kind of hiking boot is right for you. Consider your climate - do you need a waterproof boot or would you be better of with something more breathable? Think about how much weight you are going to carry - hiking boots come in mid and high-top models. Research the kinf of terrain you will be traveling over - rough and rocky trails demand more support typically. After considering some of these variables, read our Buying Advice and How We Test articles to learn about how we tested these boots and in what conditions we found them to be best suited.
Now that you have chosen the right pair of hiking boots for you, pack your bag, lace up your new boots, and hit the trail! Choosing the right pair is the hard part, getting out and enjoying the outdoors shouldn't be.
Still not sure? Take a look at our buying advice article for more info.