Need new boots? We've bought 45 (and counting) women's hiking boots over 8 years, most recently testing 17 of the best models in 2020. From lightweight hikers to burly beasts, we continue sending our experts the top boots every year to compare them based on their trail comfort, weight, traction, support, and their ability to keep your feet dry. Our lady boot heroes pound out miles for multiple months to get to the sole of the strengths and weaknesses of each product. The result is clear, detailed assessments of today's top boots to help you find the right pair for your needs.Related: The Best Hiking Shoes for Women of 2020
The Best Hiking Boots for Women of 2020
Best Overall Women's Hiking Boot
Salomon X Ultra Mid 3 GTX - Women's
For the past few years, we have tested the Salomon X Ultra Mid 3 GTX alongside the other top hiking boots on the market. Every year, we end up wearing these Salomon boots the most during our test period. For scoring atop the boot heap and for consistently being the model we reach for most, the X Ultra's deserve our Editors' Choice Award. These boots walk the walk, literally. They are comfortable, breathable, lightweight, and also fairly priced in comparison to many other models we tested. We love how they keep our feet cool in hot conditions, while still effectively protecting them from the elements. They are stiff enough in the ankle to provide stability without restricting movement.
Choosing the X Ultra Mid 3 as our Editors' Choice Award winner represents a transition toward lighter-weight, shoe-inspired boots. Many of the latest boots on the market focus more on lightweight breathability and construction than the stiff, traditional, all-leather boots of days past. We have broken in countless pairs of hiking boots at this point, and we tend to favor these low weight hikers. We feel that their flexibility and versatility outweigh what could be considered their lack of support and stiffness. With lighter material, the X Ultra achieves more comfort as the miles add up, keeping our feet the happiest on the trail — earning our highest award.
Read review: Salomon X Ultra Mid 3 GTX - Women's
Best Bang for the Buck
Keen Targhee III Mid - Women's
Price aside, the Keen Targhee III Mid is one of our favorite boots. Their uppers are constructed with a combination of leather and mesh, making them durable, but still breathable and light. Additionally, they have a water-resistant coating, making the Targhee III an excellent boot for wet, spring conditions. We have found that some of the price-point options fall short regarding stability and support, but we were happy to find that this was not the case with the Targhee III. Their sturdy rubber toe cap and 4 mm lug depths make for a model with excellent traction on rock slabs.
The low ankle shaft means that these boots fall a bit short regarding ankle stability. This is important to keep in mind if you are planning to hike with heavy loads, rocky and rugged terrain, or have ankle instability. If this is you, then the Keen Targhee III may not be the best option. These shoes also run a bit wide, an important consideration if you have narrow feet. That said, these boots are durable and will last a long time, making them an excellent choice for our Best Buy Award. They are the full package at a modest price for modern women's hiking boots.
Read review: Keen Targhee III Mid - Women's
Best Lightweight Performance
Vasque Breeze LT GTX - Women's
The Vasque Breeze LT GTX - Women's stole our hearts the moment we put them on the scale. These boots look no different from many other models in this review - above-the-ankle cut, thick midsoles, fairly aggressive sole and tread - and they provide an exemplary level of performance. What sets the Breeze LT apart is that it incorporates all these things into a lightweight package, and our testing proved that they could hang tough with the more robust models in this review. With comfortable padding, supportive midsoles, and stable design, the Breeze LT's hold their own on multi-day trips and rugged, uneven terrain. At the end of a long day of trail, our feet were thankful for these boots. For these reasons, and more, the Breeze LT wins our Top Pick Award for Lightweight Performance.
Vasque had to cut a few corners to make the LT's as light as possible. Weighing in under a pound and a half (1.38 pounds to be exact), these boots are over half a pound lighter than the burliest boots in this review. This means that some choices were made in their construction that will likely limit their long-term durability. They also leaked a bit of water through the mesh upper during testing. We found the Breeze to provide plenty of traction and grip regardless, and unless you're in a continuously wet environment, we think the advantages of nimble, shoe-like weight on our feet outweigh the small drawbacks we found.
Read review: Vasque Breeze LT GTX - Women's
HOKA ONE ONE Kaha Gore-Tex - Women's
It's no longer a surprise that the latest boot we got our hands on from HOKA quickly rose to the top of the fleet in terms of comfort and support. We've found that HOKA's products take the cake as some of the most comfortable options out there. We have many friends who are complete converts — ready to preach the HOKA gospel at any moment. Well, this spring is no different. This season, we wore the HOKA ONE ONE Kaha Gore-Tex - Women's on hikes on the east side of the Sierra. The thick foam soles provide an unparalleled stable base for ankle, knee, and hip joints. One tester with a lingering sprained ankle was thrilled by the stability these boots provided. In addition to providing a stable base, the Kaha remains relatively lightweight. With leather uppers and a Gore-Tex membrane, the boots are durable and burly, while keeping a light feel. We are impressed.
The added stability and support that the Kaha provide also make these boots a bit stiffer than other HOKA models we've tested in the past. This means a longer break-in period is required. Additionally, these boots can seem quite bulky at first until you get used to the thick midsoles — kind of the HOKA learning curve. But if support and comfort are what you're after, this will soon be overlooked.
Read review: Hoka One One Kaha Gore-Tex - Women's
Lowa Renegade GTX Mid - Women's
One of our closest runners-up for Editors' Choice is the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid - Women's. These boots are a fine example of craftsmanship and durability. The Renegade is a boot from days past, with all the makings of a classic — burly, leather, and very waterproof. Taking elements from modern hikers, they have a GORE-TEX lining and a waterproof coating on their leather uppers to keep your feet dry even in when fully submerged in spring runoff. Unlike boots of the past, these boots are also very comfortable and require very little time to break in. Despite their bulky appearance, the Renegades handle very well on the trail and provide a surprising amount of freedom.
At 2.2 pounds, these hefty kicks weigh almost a full pound more than the lightest models on the market. When testing side-by-side, the Renegade feels heavy compared to these lighter models. Unfortunately, we found that this only got worse the longer we were on the trail. But, if extra stability and support are vital to you, then this extra weight may not be a problem. For a boot that will last you through the years and provide stability and support along the way, the Lowa Renegade is a tried-and-true choice.
Read review: Lowa Renegade GTX Mid - Women's
Why You Should Trust Us
Our lead tester, Jane Jackson, has traveled hundreds of miles on foot across the world. From trekking in Nepal to guiding trips in the Wind River Range in Wyoming to working as a member of Yosemite Search and Rescue, Jane has put her time in on the trails. All this hiking has given her plenty of time to experience blisters, bunions, and hot spots - so Jane is no stranger to the range of suffering that can occur with ill-fitting footwear. She has spent the last three years and countless hours researching hiking boots and putting them to the test around the globe.
For this review, Jane set off on foot. She spent 250+ hours on the trail, evaluating the performance of these boots in the most demanding conditions. Breaking in dozens of pairs of hiking boots over the past three years has given Jane plenty of experience to evaluate the overall comfort and support each model provides. She took these boots on overnight searches looking for lost hikers in remote corners of Yosemite National Park where traction and stability were put to the test. Stream crossings and slushy, early-winter snowstorms were great grounds for testing these boots' ability to keep feet dry and gain purchase on varying surfaces. Jane even wore the less comfortable boots for miles and reported her findings, so you don't have to.
Related: How We Tested Hiking Boots for Women
Analysis and Test Results
After extensive field testing and online research, we are confident in our evaluation of these hiking boot models. We've summarized all of our findings below to help you gauge which one is the right hiking boot for you. Our scoring method involves comparing each product relative to the others in this review.
In addition to all of the testing criteria, 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 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. Gore-Tex liners and Vibram outsoles cost manufacturers extra to add to their boots, and manufacturers that develop their own technologies tend to produce less-expensive models. These third-party liners and soles have proven to be very effective, but we've also been thoroughly impressed with most proprietary waterproof liners and outsoles.
We don't factor price into our performance assessments and scores, but we know you do. When it comes to value, our Best Buy Award winners are typically a good place to start. The Keen Targhee III employs a proprietary waterproof liner and outsole to keep costs low. They also work well, resulting in a great product at a lower-than-most price. We're also very happy to see the price of our Editors' Choice Award winner, the Salomon X Ultra Mid 3, coming in so much lower than several other models in this competition. The Merrell Moab II Mid is another tried and true boot at a reasonable price. Price alone doesn't guarantee performance; we have learned over many years of testing boots. Allow price along with our detailed assessments to help you find the right boot for you and your wallet.
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 somewhat individually, too. Someone with a narrow foot might never get a good fit (and therefore feel 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, lacing system, and how our feet felt after many miles on the trail.
While we awarded the HOKA Kaha with our Top Pick Award for Support, you can well assume that the Kaha is one of the most comfortable, as well as the most supportive, boots in this review. These two features tend to go hand-in-hand, especially when HOKA is involved. The thick, cushioned sole that provides a stable base also provides unparalleled comfort — you're standing on the shoe equivalent of a Memory Foam mattress! We also like the way the lacing system and the upper design work together to pull the upper snug against our ankles. The only thing missing from the lacing system is a way to lock the laces in place after tightening the lower half of the laces.
Following close behind the Kaha in terms of comfort are the Salomon X Ultra Mid 3 GTX and the Keen Targhee III Mid. Both have a comfortable footbed and plenty of padding around the ankle and tongue. While the Kaha needs some breaking in, these other two pairs feel great right out of the box and required very little time to break in.
A lot of comfort comes down to personal preference, but construction, materials, and design all play a strong role here, too. Some people find that stiffer soles provide more comfort, while others prefer a flexible shoe. For the most part, this comes down to the terrain being traversed. On a smooth dirt path, a stiff sole, like the one found on the Salewa Alpenrose, will be less comfortable than a sole with greater flexibility in the forefoot. However, in rocky alpine environments where scrambling through talus comes into play, these same boots will be significantly more comfortable and lead to less foot fatigue than a more flexible boot like the Forsake Patch. The Patch is happier on the dirt trails mentioned above. Difficult terrain generally calls for stiff soles, while smoother terrain is best matched with a softer, flexible sole.
Adjustability in the lacing system adds to the overall satisfaction as well. Being able to lock your foot into place within the boot can increase comfort in difficult terrain, and some lacing systems are better at this than others. The Lowa Renegade 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, leading to more comfort. The Salomon Quest 4D also features this lace lock and has one of our favorite lacing systems overall. On a wide foot, both the Ahnu Montara and the Oboz Sapphire Mid felt less comfortable, because the laces are not adjustable toward the toe of the shoe and the widest part of the foot.
Boot support is determined by sole stiffness, midsole construction, arch support, and forefoot 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 roll, boots with relatively high ankle heights are optimal, along with effective lacing systems. 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.
Overall, the HOKA ONE ONE Kaha provides more support to your feet and ankles than any other model we tested. This support might not be obvious at first, though. The thick midsole might feel strange at first, as most boots you've worn before probably are much thinner here. However, these thick soles achieve a supportive feeling underfoot without sacrificing comfort, which is normally a tradeoff. They are sufficiently stiff, too, helping to avoid foot fatigue. The thickness of the foam also makes a shank insert unnecessary, which saves weight. The wide base of the boot, especially in the forefoot, provides stability for every step. The tall shafts of the Kaha wrap high around the ankle, and the lacing system adequately keeps the shafts snug. These boots tick all the support boxes.
Boots like the Merrell Moab 2 Mid have low ankle heights and offer less ankle support. The Lowa Renegade, Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX, and the La Sportiva Nucleo High GTX all provide lots of stiffness and stability in the ankle, while the Keen Targhee III Mid is more comparable to the Moab 2 with its low shaft height.
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 always need this rigidity, but instead, offer flexibility that is suitable for day hiking, so many 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 support 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 Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX has a stiff sole and offers support in this way, but for some, this might be too stiff to be comfortable. A slightly less stiff, lighter-duty model is the Oboz Sapphire Mid. The Salomon X Ultra Mid 3 GTX scores well for support because they provide cushioned ankle support as well as a moderately stiff sole, making them a happy medium between the ultra-stiff Salomon Quest and the less burly models like the Sapphire.
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 are not into the heaviness of the models of days past.
The Vasque Breeze LT Mid GTX toes the line between a hiking boot and athletic shoe and is our Top Pick for Lightweight Comfort accordingly. A pair of size 7.5s weighs 1.38 pounds, which means that each foot is only carrying around 11 ounces. This felt significant to us, and when we found that the boots held their own in other metrics as well, we were very impressed. Many of our testers and friends are stoked that boot design is trending toward lighter and lighter models because a light boot feels nimble and makes boulder hopping and off-trail travel feel all the better.
We considered the weight of each pair on the trail as well; while some boots weighed less than others, the lighter models did not always feel the nimblest. The women's boots we tested weigh between 1.38 and 2.5 pounds. The low end of this weight spectrum continues to decrease, as the Breeze LT shows. The Editors' Choice Award winner, the Salomon X Ultra Mid 3 GTX, weighs in 1.83 pounds, while the Top Pick for Durability, the Lowa Renegade, weighs 2.19 pounds. We tended to prefer the lighter boots for most situations, though there is a use for the added durability and support the Renegade provides.
On one end of the weight spectrum lie the Vasque Breeze LT and the Salewa Alpenrose Ultra GTX Mid (which weighs in at 1.47 ounces). Nimble yet stiff, both of these shoes are ready for alpine approaches over talus fields without weighing you down. The North Face Ultra Fastpack IV Mid Futurelight provides a lightweight feel as well, especially due to TNF's latest improvements on their waterproof/breathable membrane. These boots feel light and nimble, but lack the support and stiffness of some of the burlier boots we've worn. On the other end of the spectrum is the Lowa Renegade and the La Sportiva Nucleo High GTX, both weighing over 2 pounds. The Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX weighs 2.5 pounds, which most of our testers found to be overkill and quite heavy after several miles.
Tread on the soles of footwear acts similarly to tread on a bike or car tire. The pattern, spacing, density, and depth affect purchase, stability, and handling. The majority of the brands you'll see in this review use some form of Vibram rubber for their outsoles. Vibram MegaGrip is becoming a favorite among many top brands, and in our testing, these outsoles received some of the highest scores in our metric comparisons. Some companies, like Columbia, use a proprietary rubber, called Omni-Grip, that doesn't seem to perform quite as well as the Vibram options used on other models.
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 hiking boots. Well-placed lugs can also provide additional stability and support on uneven terrain, making for a more stable walking experience. Though this plays more into the support metric, it is worth noting that lugs and tread patterns have a large impact on the overall performance of a boot.
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. Many boots, including the Ahnu Montara III, have Vibram soles, helping them stick to slabs and boulders. The 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. The Salewa Alpenrose Ultra Mid has an intricate and aggressive tread pattern that provides traction on wet, muddy conditions. 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 and the Keen Targhee III Mid, provide more traction than boots with a less aggressive tread.
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, and some leaked through the upper.
Boots that have tall shaft heights like the Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX and La Sportiva Nucleo High withstood deep creek crossings with ease. The taller the ankle shaft height, the better chance you have at keeping your feet dry in seriously wet conditions. Once water gets inside the boot, a waterproof liner or upper isn't going to be helpful. Other contenders with the best waterproof qualities are the Salomon X Ultra Mid 3 GTX and all-leather boots, like the Lowa Renegade GTX and the Oboz Bridger BDry. Additionally, the HOKA ONE ONE Kaha GTX impressed in this metric, with a high ankle shaft, a waterproof leather upper, and a Gore-Tex liner. This combination of features makes the Kaha a top condender in this metric.
Like we saw with the Kaha, the Gore-Tex waterproof membranes used in the Lowa Renegade and the Salomon X Ultra are comparable in breathability to the eVent liners of the Ahnu Montara III. 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 provides the protection of a leather boot while having enough mesh to remain breathable, which sets them apart from other leather models in this review. Breathability 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.
When weight is lost through materials and construction, you might find that there is also a loss of durability. A full-leather boot will last longer than a shoe of synthetic leather and mesh. Lightweight boots generally require a minimal break-in period and are more comfortable when trekking long distances (when compared to a clunky heavyweight boot). Most all of these boots have a longer lifespan than a standard running shoe, though they will not last as long as a heavyweight option.
Honestly, it is a bit challenging to fully assess the durability of a boot after only three months of use. If a model doesn't last through this testing period, the brand needs to do some serious re-evaluation! Overall, we were 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.
The good news about our testing period is that it provides a standard period where we can assess each boots' overall performance. Minor signs of wear-and-tear include wear-marks on the widest part of the toe box, failures in the lacing system, and minor delamination issues on the upper or sole. Our testing period gave us a fairly good idea of which 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. All leather boots, such as the Lowa Renegade GTX, stand up to wear quite well. Lighter-weight options that received high scores in durability include the Salomon X Ultra Mid 3 GTX and the La Sportiva Nucleo High GTX.
We hope this information helps guide you toward the perfect boots for your next endeavor. There are hundreds of options out there, but we whittled them down to this list of high-performing boots, weeding out lesser options. Investing in a solid pair of boots can improve your hiking experience immensely, so take your time and make sure you settle on the right pair that suits your needs. Happy hiking!
— Jane Jackson