We looked at nearly 100 of the best women's hiking boots you can buy in 2019 and chose 14 for side-by-side tests. We then took to the trails, determined to find the best for performance and value. There are all kinds of hikes, from casual day hikes to multi-day backpacking to off-trail adventures. We tested for which boots are best for all the options. Whether you want versatility, cushy comfort or a steal-of-a-deal, our review points you toward your next ideal pair.
The Best Hiking Boots for Women of 2019
|Price||$164.95 at Backcountry|
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|$101.46 at Backcountry|
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|$230.00 at Amazon|
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|$199.00 at REI|
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|$120.00 at MooseJaw|
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|Pros||Good traction, very comfortable, ankle padding, waterproof||Comfortable, lightweight, durable, inexpensive||Comes in 18 different color options, PU monowrap frame construction, narrow and wide fit options, seamless Gore-Tex lining||Supportive, stable, durable, water resistant||Stable, good traction, very durable, stylish|
|Cons||Runs big, excess padding in tongue||Lacks support of larger, heavier boots||No arch support, expensive, bulky, heavy||Tight fit in toe box, lack breathability||Very stiff, takes time to break in, not very adjustable|
|Bottom Line||It's difficult to find any short-comings in this fantastic product, which even comes at a fair price.||The Targhee III are the latest iteration of the Targhee model, and the best one yet; Keen has made some small changes, making these boots the full package.||Our award winner and Top Pick for Durability, these boots all-leather construction provides unbeatable protection and support reminiscent of a traditional leather hiking boot of days past.||The Nucleo provides support, stability, and durability with the feel of a lightweight hiking shoe.||The Sapphire Mid is a burly, yet still feminine hiking boot that provides support, traction, and durability.|
|Rating Categories||X Ultra Mid 3 GTX||Targhee III Mid||Renegade GTX Mid||Nucleo High GTX||Sapphire Mid Waterproof|
|Water Resistance (15%)|
|Specs||X Ultra Mid 3 GTX||Targhee III Mid||Renegade GTX Mid||Nucleo High GTX||Sapphire Mid Waterproof|
|Boot Type||Midweight hiker||Lightweight/Midweight hiker||Midweight hiker||Midweight hiker||Midweight hiker|
|Weight Per Pair (Size 7.5, in lbs)||1.83 lbs||1.8 lbs||2.19 lbs||2.03 lbs||1.7 lbs|
Best Overall Women's Hiking Boot
Salomon X Ultra Mid 3 GTX - Women's
Every year for the past few years, we have tested the updated version of 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 three-month 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 are relatively inexpensive 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 marks a change toward lighter-weight, hiking shoe inspired boots. We want to make it clear that these are not going to provide the same rigidity of a traditional all-leather hiking boot. After testing so many models and breaking in many stiff leather boots, we embrace these lightweight hikers and feel that their flexibility and versatility outweigh what could be considered their lack of support and stiffness.
Read review: Salomon X Ultra Mid 3 — 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 discover 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.
Their lighter construction and low ankle shaft mean 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.
Read review: Keen Targhee III Mid - Women's
Top Pick for Durability
Lowa Renegade GTX Mid - Women's
Based on the metrics, one of our closest runners-up for Editors' Choice is the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid — Women's. These boots are an incredible example of craftsmanship and durability. The Renegade are a boot from days past, with all the makings of a classic — burly, leather, and very waterproof. 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.
The biggest problem we have with these boots in their weight. At 2.2 pounds, these hefty kicks weigh almost a full pound heavier than the lightest models on the market. When testing side-by-side, the Renegade feels incredibly 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 important 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
This review is crafted by OutdoorGearLab Senior Review Editor and professional mountain guide Jane Jackson. Jane spends over 200 days a year outside using and testing hiking boots and other gear. She has worked extensively in Yosemite, Alaska, and Wyoming's Tetons, to name just a few. Jane has also taught self-rescue and worked for Exum Mountain Guides, assisting with helicopter rescues on Denali. Furthermore, her experience in outdoor gear sales and rentals lend her keen insight into product features and performance.
The quest for the best pair of women's hiking boots started with deep research into the available market. We looked at almost 100 models, from different manufacturers, before choosing the 14 pairs that are discussed here. We chose boots that foremost are high performers among their category and second hit a range of functionality and price points. We then purchased these 14 pairs and considered what the critical performance areas are for a women's boot. Things like comfort, support, water resistance, traction, and durability were paramount, we decided. Keeping these factors in mind, we tested the boots extensively, with field testing appropriate for all but one factor (weight), which was measured in the lab. We took these through a range of conditions, from dusty trails in the southwest, to alpine areas in the high Sierra, to stream crossings and off-trail missions with Yosemite Search and Rescue.
Related: How We Tested Hiking Boots for Women
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. 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. 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. That said, these third-party liners and soles have proven to be very effective. Trade-off.
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. Price alone doesn't guarantee performance, we have learned over many years of testing boots. Allow price along with our detailed assessments 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 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 boot in our fleet is the Salomon X Ultra Mid 3 GTX, thanks to the padding around the tongue and ankle. Beyond making our feet feel comfortable, the extra padding 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 Keen Terradora, lacked support and cushion in the sole and became painful after only a few hours of hiking.
A lot of comfort 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, both the Ahnu Montara and the OBoz Sapphire Mid are uncomfortable, because the laces are not adjustable toward the toe of the shoe and the widest part of the foot. For a supportive boot that is suitable for a wide foot, try the Vasque Breeze III. The Lowa Renegade and the Vasque Mesa Trek UD, 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.
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 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. Boots like the Merrell Moab 2 Mid have low ankle heights and offer less ankle support. The Keen Terradora has a very low ankle height and a soft sole.
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 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. A similar model that has a bit less stiffness is the Oboz Sapphire Mid. The Salomon X Ultra Mid 3 GTX scored high in the support metric because they provide cushioned ankle support as well as a moderately stiff sole, making them a happy medium between the ultra-stiff OBoz and the lower-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.
We rated the support of all 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 Lowa Renegade GTX Mid, the Oboz Bridger Mid BDry, and the Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX.
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 chart below shows the weight of each pair in the women's size 7.5 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 weigh between 1.5 and 2.2 pounds, which is a decrease from previous years, reflecting a trend toward lighter boot designs.
The Ahnu Sugarpine also scored high for its weight, well under two pounds. On the other end of the spectrum, 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. That is only one pound per foot, giving these boots a light feel, even with the added weight.
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.
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 is made with 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 Vasque Mesa Trek UD 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 and the Keen Targhee III Mid provide more traction than boots with 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.
The higher ankle shaft heights withstood deeper water crossings, as did the thicker soled boots. The contenders with the best waterproof qualities are the Salomon X Ultra Mid 3 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. 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.
To lose weight in materials and construction, you might find that there is also a loss of 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). Most 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. All leather boots, such as the Lowa Renegade GTX, stand up to wear quite well.
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 and uses in hopes of helping you come to an informed choice.
— Jane Jackson