Getting ready for a big backpacking trip this summer and need a new pair of women's hiking boots? We're here to help! After researching over 60 different models, we purchased 13 of the best to put through our side-by-side testing process. After four months of testing and hundreds of miles underfoot, we were able to select the top performers for a variety of needs, whether you're looking for an all-around performer, a value purchase, or something that will last for years. There are so many different models out there, and so many bold marketing claims, that it can be difficult to know which one is right for you. Our expert testers wore each competitor in a variety of terrains in and around Yosemite National Park and the Sierra Nevada Mountains. We carefully noted the features that made a pair comfortable for the long hauls, or not, and whether we got the support and traction we needed. Keep reading below to help you find the best option for your next mountain adventure.
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Test Results and Ratings
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Analysis and Award Winners
Updated March 2018
We've updated our women's hiking boot review to bring you the latest versions of the more popular products out there. We've included the updated Merrell Moab 2 Mid and the new La Sportiva Nucleo High. Keen has revamped the well-liked Targhee line, and we were so impressed with it, and its wallet-friendly price tag, that we've given it our Best Buy award. We are happy to report that the hiking boot market is continuing to focus on more comfortable and lighter weight options, so that you, and your feet, can be happy on the trail.
Best Overall Women's Model
HOKA ONE ONE Tor Ultra HI - Women's
Judging only by looks, the HOKA ONE ONE Tor Ultra stands out from the pack with its oversized sole and funky graphic design. We soon found out that it stands out in hiking performance as well. We've given the Tor Ultra our Editors' Choice award for offering almost everything a hiker could want; stability, support, low weight, waterproofness, and a revolutionary new design that promotes foot comfort to an extreme. Don't be intimidated by this new look and approach, as it will keep your feet comfortable all day and virtually need no break-in period. Our reviewers with wide and narrow feet all found this boot accommodating. Hailing from France, HOKA ONE ONE has been producing running shoes since 2010, and they have applied their successes in technology from that category to hiking specific boots very effectively.
Very comfortable with lots of cushioning underfoot
Good traction on the trail
While the Tor Ultra offers excellent support and comfort in a lightweight package, the look of it might not be for everyone. If you can get over the unusual appearance, or purchase it in a more muted colorway (which isn't always an option), then you should give these a try. The thicker sole does take a bit of getting used to as well and occasionally interfered with our ability to scramble on steep slabs. They are also on the pricier side ($225), but well worth it, in our estimation, as the extra dollars you are spending equate to saving your feet and knees the impact of all of the miles that you are hiking.
Read review: HOKA ONE ONE Tor Ultra - Women's
Best Bang for the Buck
Keen Targhee III Mid - Women's
Day after day on the trail, we were continually impressed by the Keen Targhee III. These boots are made with just the right combination of leather and mesh to make them durable and water-resistant, yet still lightweight and breathable. They seem to toe the line between hiking boots and shoes while taking the best features of both categories. Underfoot, they are supportive and stiff enough to hold up even under heavy weight or long days on the trail. Also, they provide excellent traction and protection with the sturdy rubber toe cap and 4mm lug depth of the soles. We also liked the lacing system, which allows the boots to be cinched up tightly, without risking blowing out the eyelets, as the laces go right through the leather of the uppers. All of these factors are highlighted by the fact that these boots are reasonably priced!
Suboptimal support underfoot
The lighter weight and mid-rise high do mean that this model is slightly less stable than a taller boot, so if you have ankle issues or plan on hiking with a hefty pack, you'll want to keep that in mind. Other than that, we were impressed with virtually everything about this updated model. The Targhee IIIs have the longevity of a more expensive boot while remaining affordable, making it an excellent choice for our Best Buy Award.
Read review: Keen Targhee III Mid - Women's
Top Pick Award for Durability
Lowa Renegade GTX Mid - Women's
Good ankle support
Sizing runs big
Lacks support for long hikes
Trailing close behind our Editors' Choice winner in our ratings is the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid - Women's. This is a great boot that shines in its durable construction and waterproofness. The Renegades are a throwback to hiking-specific boots of yesteryear when you could buy a pair of leather boots and know they would last decades. In that way, these boots are classic; burly, leather, and waterproof. They are lined with GORE-TEX and have a waterproof coating on their Nubuck leather upper to keep your feet dry while allowing them to breathe. Lowa has also done an amazing job making these boots comfortable as well as durable. They break in quickly and will last you a long time.
The main downside to this pair is its weight - at 2.2 pounds a pair they are the heaviest ones in our test group and almost a full pound heavier than the lightest pair. You can immediately tell when you put them on that they are heavy, and that feeling only compounds throughout the day. That extra weight does give you the enhanced stability and durability though, so you'll have to decide for yourself if the tradeoff is worth it. While we are re excited about a lot of the lightweight, hybrid boots on the market today, the Lowa Renegades are still a tried-and-true choice for a well-crafted, durable.
Read review: Lowa Renegade GTX Mid - Women's
Analysis and Test Results
After we spent months on the trail hiking in each pair, with and without heavy packs, we evaluated them based on the most important criteria. We gauged our comfort level and the support that each model gave us and noted the traction of each pair on a variety of slopes and trail materials. We splashed around in streams and hiked in wet weather to see how effectively they kept our feet dry and compared how sweaty we felt on hot and dry days as well. At the end of it all, we carefully examined each one, looking for unusual wear, and researched online user reviews to look for durability issues and patterns. We've summarized all of our findings below to help you gauge which one is the right hiking boot for you. If you're looking for an exceptionally stable model, head down to our Stability metric. Never want to wear a heavy pair of leather boots again? Our Weight comparisons will give you different options instead.
In addition to all of the testing criteria and performance metrics, one of the things most of us consider when making any purchase is the price. We often wonder if a product is "worth" what we are paying for it and if a larger price tag also means better value? Sometimes a higher price does correlate to better quality materials, craftsmanship, and design, but often we can get a solid performing product for less. After rating each pair, we graphed them relative to their price (see chart below). Those products that end up on the "bottom" but towards the right are great value picks, including our Best Buy winner, the Keen Targhee III Mid ($145), the Salomon X Ultra Mid II ($165), and the Vasque Monolith Ultra Dry ($130).
Weight is an important thing to consider when purchasing any piece of outdoor gear, but particularly your footwear. The old saying that weight on the feet translates five-fold on the back is pretty spot on, and who wants to feel dragged down by their feet when hiking? While hiking boots are typically heavier than hiking shoes, the difference between the two categories is becoming less and less significant. This is great for those of us who prefer to hike in a full boot but hate the heaviness of the models of old. The chart below shows the weight of each pair in the women's size seven that we tested them in.
We considered the weight of each pair on the trail as well; while some boots weighed less than others, the lightest did not always feel the most nimble. The top women's boots tested this year weighed between 1.5 and 2.2 pounds, which is a decrease from previous years, reflecting a trend toward lighter boot designs. The award-winning HOKA ONE ONE Tor Ultra beat the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid, in large part due to their light feel, while still providing the support and comfort of a top hiking boot. The Vasque Monolith and the Ahnu Sugarpine also scored high for their weight, each well under two pounds. That said, the sturdy Lowa Renegade as well as the La Sportiva Nucleo High GTX and the Oboz Bridger Mid, each weigh around two pounds per pair (size 7). That is only one pound per foot, giving these boots a light feel, even with the added weight.
Boot support is determined by sole stiffness, midsole construction, arch support, and forefront flexibility. The height of the boot also lends support to the ankles and feet — the higher the ankle shaft, the more stable and supported the ankles will feel. This ankle height is the main difference between a hiking boot and a hiking shoe regarding support. For rugged trails where the ankle is prone to rolling, boots with relatively high ankle heights are optimal.
Stability is synonymous with support while hiking. All of the women's boots reviewed have stiff rubber soles incapable of bending the toe downward toward the heel. This provides support on rugged terrain by limiting the contortion on rocks and roots. Boots like the Merrell Moab 2 Mid and the Merrell Capra Bolt Mid have low ankle heights and offer less ankle support. Many hikers that have used the HOKA feared ankle rolling because of the oversized sole, but the HOKA ONE ONE Tor Ultra bypasses this issue by having ankle support. When we wore the Tor Ultras, our feet felt stable on uneven terrain, despite the thick soles.
Midsoles are the layer between the outer sole and the insole. Boots often have shanks and plates either above or beneath the midsole layers, adding support and stability. The shanks serve as a barrier from the impact on rugged surfaces. These inner shanks create additional stiffness that the rubber soles cannot achieve on their own. Hiking shoes do not need this rigidity, but instead offer flexibility that is suitable for day hiking, so they do not have shanks. The overall construction of boots is more durable and stable than hiking shoes.
Arch support varies by foot. Some women may find enough comfort in the original insoles. Other women will need to customize by replacing the original insoles with aftermarket insoles or orthotics. Depending on how flat or pronounced the arches of your feet are, differing levels of support will be necessary. To avoid foot cramps and discomfort, accurately support the arches of your feet.
The Oboz Bridger Mid BDry has a stiff sole and offers support in this way, but for some, this might be too stiff to be comfortable in the long term. The Salomon X Ultra Mid 2 GTX scored high in the support metric, because they provide cushioned ankle support as well as a moderately stiff sole. That makes them a happy medium between the ultra-stiff OBoz and the lighter weight boots, like the Ahnu models.
Unlike hiking shoes that are flexible in the sole and forefoot, boots should only offer flexibility in the forefoot. When you take a step, your feet bend upward, creasing at your toes. This area of the boot should accommodate your stride. The HOKA ONE ONE Tor Ultras address this with their rockered sole design. The oversized sole is turned up at the toe and in the heel. This propels you forward as you walk and allows the foot to flex naturally because of the cushion.
We rated the support of all 13 pairs of women's boots based on sole stiffness, midsole construction, forefront flexibility, and ankle shaft support. We reviewed them with and without backpacks up to 40 pounds. Overall, the most supportive contenders are the award-winning HOKA ONE ONE Tor Ultras and the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid. For hikers looking for an ultra-stiff boot, look no further than the Oboz Bridger Mid BDry.
Tread on the soles of footwear acts similarly to tread on a bike or car tire. The pattern, spacing, and depth affect grippiness, stability, and handling.
Tread patterns that have spaced lugs in variable patterns manage dirt, sand, mud, and snow by pushing them out from the bottom of the shoe. When these accumulate on the bottom of shoes and boots, it is a result of poor tread design and depth (or there is a better application). Semi-aggressive to aggressive tread patterns are expected design features on the soles of boots.
Boots that received the highest scores in traction were able to stick to rocks and talus, handle well in wet and muddy conditions, and protect the foot from debris. The Ahnu Montara and the HOKA ONE ONE Tor Ultra have Vibram rubber soles, which stick the best to granite slabs and boulders. The new La Sportiva Nucleo High GTX also had excellent traction, with their Vibram soles and Impact Break System tread pattern. On and off the trail, we trusted that the rubber on these boots would stick. Boots like the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid and the OBoz Bridger Mid BDry have an aggressive tread that provides maximum traction. It is good to think about the types of surfaces you travel over when looking at the tread patterns of different boots. Overall, the deeper lug depths, like those on the Lowa Renegade GTX, the Keen Targhee III Mid, or the HOKA ONE ONE Tor Ultra provide more traction than boots with less aggressive tread.
Comfort is the most important consideration for boots. If you sense discomfort in the fit, sizing, or performance of a pair of boots, you should consider other sizes, models, or styles. Comfortable boots will be more enjoyable on the trail. Comfort is a rating that will vary individually. Someone with a narrow foot might never get a good fit (and therefore feel a lot of discomfort) in a wider cut pair, like the Keen Targhee III Mid. Therefore we have rated each pair of boots based on overall comfort while noting obvious uncomfortable design features. We kept our focus on insole and lining padding, comfort in support, materials, and how our feet felt after many miles on the trail.
The most comfortable boots in our fleet were the Salomon X Ultra Mid 2 GTX, thanks to the padding around the tongue and ankle. The Vasque Monoliths had a quick break-in period while the HOKA ONE ONE Tor Ultra had thick soles that remained comfortable, even after days of hiking. We found that few boots came close to HOKA's comfort and unique design. Beyond making our feet feel comfortable, the extra padding in the HOKAs prevented joint pain in the knees and hips that can flare up after miles on the trail.
What separates a comfortable boot from an uncomfortable one? A lot of it has to do with support underfoot. Many shoes that were lightweight in their design, such as the Merrell Capra Bolt and the Columbia Redmond Mid, lacked support and cushion in the sole and became painful after only a few hours of hiking. On the other end of the spectrum were boots like the HOKA ONE ONE Tor Ultras and OBoz Bridger Mid, which have incredibly thick soles.
A lot of this comes down to personal preference; some people find that stiffer soles provide more comfort, while others prefer a flexible shoe. Adjustability in the lacing system adds to the overall satisfaction. On a wide foot, for example, the Ahnu Montara was uncomfortable, because the laces are not adjustable toward the toe of the shoe and the widest part of the foot. The Lowa Renegade, on the other hand, has a lacing system that is adjustable and can be tweaked to provide more support in the ankle than the foot by the locking mechanism at the flexing part of the foot.
Water Resistance and Breathability
Water resistance is measured by how dry our feet remained while exposing the boots to typical trail wetness. We walked each pair through creeks up to five inches in depth. We first tested them while walking from one side to the other without stopping. All of the models in our review succeeded. Then, we examined the water resistance when submerged in water while standing in place. Within a couple of minutes in inches of standing water, all of the boots began to absorb water.
The higher ankle shaft heights withstood deeper water crossings, as did the thicker soled boots, like the HOKA ONE ONE Tor Ultra. The Vasque Monolith has a proprietary liner, called UltraDry, which worked well. We found these boots to be water resistant, keeping water out during creek crossings. The contenders with the best waterproof qualities are the Salomon X Ultra Mid 2 GTX and all-leather boots, like the Lowa Renegade GTX, the OBoz Bridger BDry, and the La Sportiva Nucleo High GTX.
The GORE-TEX waterproof membranes used in the Lowa Renegade and the Salomon Ultra are comparable in breathability to the eVent liners in Ahnu products as well as in the HOKA ONE ONE Tor Ultra. These waterproof linings are also breathable. Although some believe that waterproof membranes limit breathability, we found that all of the linings were adequate in keeping water out while keeping our feet wicked and dry. Breathable mesh panels on the sides of boots and tongues allow for airflow and help maintain dry, comfortable conditions inside.
Leather models are more cumbersome than mesh and synthetic uppers commonly found on hiking shoes, offering less breathability. The Keen Targhee III Mid provide the protection of a leather boot while having enough mesh to remain breathable, which sets them apart from other leather models in this review. This is an essential consideration for mid-summer hiking in hot climates. If you intend to hike mostly in dry climates and regions, a pair of boots that do not have a waterproof lining and have mesh on the uppers may be the best option. Most of the models reviewed are available in waterproof (GTX) and non-waterproof models.
Once feet become wet, they are prone to blisters and hot spots. If you intend to hike in a region that could get your feet wet, bring an extra pair of socks. Keeping your feet dry is aided by choosing the best boots for your intended uses as well as noticing when your feet become wet and attending to them. Consider waterproof features as well as breathability.
To lose weight in materials and construction, you might find that there is also a loss in durability. A full-leather boot will last longer than a synthetic leather and mesh shoe. Lightweight boots require little regarding a break-in period and are more comfortable when trekking long distances (when compared to a clunky heavyweight boot). All of these boots have a longer lifespan than a shoe, though they will not last as long as a heavyweight option. We are pleased with the durability of all of the models reviewed and believe they can last for a couple of seasons or more when seeing regular use.
Though we tested these boots for three months, as opposed to years of use on the trail, we got a good idea of what boots would last longest without showing significant wear. The models with all-leather uppers tend to be more durable because they have fewer seams — the first place to show weakness. The Merrell Capra Bolt Mid boots, for example, are constructed entirely of mesh and showed significant signs of wear almost immediately out of the box. All leather boots, such as the Lowa Renegade GTX, stand up to wear much better.
The quality of your boots will have a large impact on your ability to enjoy a hike of any length. However, with many choices available, finding the right pair that suits your type and level of activity can be a tricky task. We tested each model rigorously in a variety of settings in hopes of helping you come to an informed choice. For additional tips on how to get the right boots for your feet, see our Buying Advice article.
— Jane Jackson
Still not sure? Take a look at our buying advice article for more info.