The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of gear

Best Hiking Boots for Women of 2021

Lead tester Jane Jackson heading out onto the trail to test some of th...
Photo: Eric Bissell
By Jane Jackson ⋅ Senior Review Editor
Monday February 1, 2021
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Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more

We've bought 45 (and counting) women's hiking boots over 9 years, most recently testing 16 of the best models available in 2021. From lightweight hikers to burly beasts, our experts test the top boots year-round and compare them based on their trail comfort, weight, traction, support, and ability to keep your feet dry. Our lady boot heroes pound out hundreds of miles for multiple months to get to the sole of each product's strengths and weaknesses. The result is clear, detailed assessments of today's top boots to help you find the right pair for your needs.

Related: Best Hiking Shoes for Women of 2021

Top 16 Product Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 16
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Awards Editors' Choice Award  Top Pick Award   
Price $159.95 at Amazon
Compare at 3 sellers
$142.73 at REI
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$177.96 at Amazon
Compare at 3 sellers
$149.93 at REI
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$230.00 at REI
Compare at 2 sellers
Overall Score
84
78
77
76
72
Star Rating
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Pros Good traction, very comfortable, ankle padding, waterproofVery water resistant, durable, incredibly lightweight, sleek designColor options, PU monowrap frame construction, narrow and wide fit options, seamless Gore-Tex liningSupportive, stable, durable, water resistantVery stable, lots of ankle support, durable, water resistant, highly adjustable lacing system
Cons Runs big, excess padding in tongueProblematic fitNo arch support, expensive, bulky, heavyTight fit in toe box, lack breathabilityHeavy, bulky, restricts movement, expensive
Bottom Line This best-in-its-class boot combines lightweight technology with all the versatility a modern boot should haveThese boots are lightweight, sleek, and durable - designed for technical and varied terrainClassic for a reason; an all-leather construction, strong support, waterproof, and sturdy designSupport, stability, and durability with the feel of a lightweight hiking shoeIn terms of durability and support, this boot is as good as it gets
Rating Categories X Ultra Mid 3 GTX Alpenrose Ultra Mid GTX Renegade GTX Mid Nucleo High GTX Quest 4D 3 GTX
Comfort (25%)
9
5
8
7
7
Support (20%)
8
8
9
7
9
Weight (15%)
7
9
3
5
2
Traction (15%)
8
9
8
10
8
Water Resistance (15%)  
10
10
9
9
9
Durability (10%)
8
7
9
8
8
Specs X Ultra Mid 3 GTX Alpenrose Ultra... Renegade GTX Mid Nucleo High GTX Quest 4D 3 GTX
Weight Per Pair (Size 7.5, in lbs) 1.83 lbs 1.47 lbs 2.19 lbs 2.03 lbs 2.50 lbs
Upper Suede leather, nylon Breathable mesh/ coated fabric Nubuck leather Nubuck leather Nubuck leather, textile
Width Options Regular Regular Regular Regular Regular
Heel height (mm) 32 mm 32 mm 34 mm 38 mm 45 mm
Shaft height (mm) 121 mm 127 mm 140 mm 165 mm 178 mm
Midsole Dual-density EVA EVA DuraPU with MONOWRAP Frame EVA Dual Density EVA
Sole Contagrip rubber Michelin rubber Vibram Evo rubber Vibram Nano rubber Contragrip

Best Overall Women's Hiking Boot


Salomon X Ultra Mid 3 GTX - Women's


Salomon X Ultra Mid 3 GTX - Women's
Editors' Choice Award

$159.95
(3% off)
at Amazon
See It

84
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort - 25% 9
  • Support - 20% 8
  • Weight - 15% 7
  • Traction - 15% 8
  • Water Resistance - 15% 10
  • Durability - 10% 8
Weight: 1.83 pounds | Upper: Suede leather and nylon
Versatile
Lightweight and breathable
Water resistance
Supportive without excessive bulk
Great price-to-performance ratio
Lacks stiffness underfoot
Runs large

The Salomon X Ultra Mid 3 GTX has stood the test of time as our top-performing women's hiking boot for multiple seasons in a row. Each year, we end up wearing these boots the most during our test period. They have not only earned the highest scores across the board, but they are the boots we most frequently reach for when gearing up for an all-day outing. The X Ultras are comfortable, breathable, lightweight, and fairly priced compared to many other models we tested. We love how they keep our feet cool in hot conditions while effectively protecting them from the elements. They are stiff enough in the ankle to provide stability without restricting movement. We especially like the stiff, dense rubber of the outsole which handles harsh terrain well and provides reliable traction.

Choosing the X Ultra Mid 3 as our top recommendation represents a transition toward lighter-weight, running 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 scores of pairs of hiking boots, 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 very happy while out on the trail.

Read review: Salomon X Ultra Mid 3 GTX - Women's

Best Bang for the Buck


Keen Targhee III Mid - Women's


77
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort - 25% 9
  • Support - 20% 7
  • Weight - 15% 7
  • Traction - 15% 7
  • Water Resistance - 15% 8
  • Durability - 10% 7
Weight: 1.8 pounds | Upper: Oiled Nubuck
Comfy with a short break-in period
Robust toe protection
Affordable
Water-resistant leather uppers
Not the most stable
Run a bit wide

The Keen Targhee III Mid is another one of our favorite boots and comes in at a very competitive price. With uppers constructed with a combination of leather and mesh, these boots are durable, while remaining breathable and light. They have a water-resistant liner, making the Targhee III an excellent boot for wet spring conditions. We have found that some of the price-point options fall short regarding 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 support and traction on rocky terrain and loose trails. This is a more streamlined look and feel than traditional Keen boots, and our lady testers appreciate that the Targhee III feels more nimble while still providing great toe protection.

The low ankle shaft means that these boots do not provide as much ankle stability as several of the taller models in this review. 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, they are durable, and we expect them to last a long time. They are very capable and well-made footwear 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


Vasque Breeze LT GTX - Women's
Top Pick Award

$179.95
at Backcountry
See It

77
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort - 25% 8
  • Support - 20% 8
  • Weight - 15% 10
  • Traction - 15% 8
  • Water Resistance - 15% 5
  • Durability - 10% 6
Weight: 1.38 pounds | Upper: Microfiber mesh
Low weight
Extremely comfortable
Gore-Tex waterproofing
Supportive underfoot
Expensive
May fall short in long-term durability

Right out of the box, we were amazed by how light these boots felt. When placed on the scale, the Vasque Breeze LT GTX - Women's also stood out. These boots look no different from many other models in this review—above-the-ankle cut, thick midsoles, fairly aggressive sole and tread—and yet, they provide exemplary performance. What sets the Breeze LT apart is that it incorporates all these things into an insanely lightweight package. With comfortable padding, supportive midsoles, and a stable design, the Breeze LTs held their own on multi-day trips and rugged, uneven terrain. We felt fast on the trail without worrying about losing footing or instability. At the end of a long day on the trail, our feet were thankful for these boots.

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 in US Women's size 7.5), these boots are over half a pound lighter than the burliest boots in this review. Because of the materials used in their construction, we are concerned with the long-term durability of these boots, especially in comparison to the all-leather options we've reviewed. 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

Best Support


HOKA ONE ONE Kaha Gore-Tex - Women's


HOKA ONE ONE Kaha Gore-Tex - Women's
Top Pick Award

$219.95
at Backcountry
See It

81
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort - 25% 9
  • Support - 20% 10
  • Weight - 15% 6
  • Traction - 15% 6
  • Water Resistance - 15% 8
  • Durability - 10% 8
Weight: 1.6 pounds | Upper: Synthetic
Extremely comfortable, once broken in
Unmatched support
Vibram MegaGrip outsoles provide impressive traction
Thick foam sole provides stability and protection underfoot
Soles can feel bulky
Pricey
Longer break-in period than other HOKA models

It's no longer a surprise that the latest boot we got our hands on from HOKA ONE ONE quickly rose to the top of the fleet in terms of comfort and support. Over the years, we've found that HOKA's products are often some of the most comfortable options out there. We have many hiking friends who are complete converts—ready to preach the HOKA gospel at any moment. We mostly wore the Kaha Gore-Tex - Women's on hikes on the Sierra Nevada's east side. 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 maintaining a surprisingly light feel. We are impressed.

The added stability and support that the Kaha provides 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 usually required. Of course, one has to not only get used to the slightly unconventional appearance of these boots but also the perceived bulk of the extra-thick midsoles. Think of it as the HOKA learning curve. If support and comfort are what you're after, these concerns will likely soon be overlooked.

Read review: Hoka One One Kaha Gore-Tex - Women's

Best Durability


Lowa Renegade GTX Mid - Women's


Lowa Renegade GTX Mid - Women's
Top Pick Award

$177.96
(26% off)
at Amazon
See It

77
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort - 25% 8
  • Support - 20% 9
  • Weight - 15% 3
  • Traction - 15% 8
  • Water Resistance - 15% 9
  • Durability - 10% 9
Weight: 2.2 pounds | Upper: Nubuck leather
Well-padded
Comfortable
Good ankle support
Very waterproof
Sizing runs big
Lacks support underfoot
Large, bulky tongue and lacing system

The Lowa Renegade GTX Mid - Women's are a fine example of craftsmanship and durability. The Renegade feels like an updated version of hiking boots past. These boots have 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 when fully submerged in spring runoff. Unlike those clunky boots of the past, though, 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 of movement.

At 2.2 pounds, these hefty kicks weigh almost a full pound more than the lighter models we've tested. 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

Great Comfort for Wide-Footed Hikers


Topo Athletic Trailventure WP - Women's


Topo Athletic Trailventure WP - Women's

$127.95
(20% off)
at Amazon
See It

76
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort - 25% 8
  • Support - 20% 7
  • Weight - 15% 9
  • Traction - 15% 8
  • Water Resistance - 15% 7
  • Durability - 10% 6
Weight: 1.52 pounds | Upper: Synthetic
Extremely well-padded ankle and tongue
Wide forefoot and slight rocker for stability and comfort underfoot
Thick foam midsole
Waterproof construction
Tongue is slightly bulky
Lower eyelets may lack durability

For the wide-footed hikers among us, we think the Topo Athletic Trailventure WP - Women's deserves special attention. We love the design and found them incredibly comfortable, especially for those with a wider foot. These boots are lightweight, well-padded, and designed for long days, but don't feel bulky at all. We were excited to find a boot that not only worked well for those with wide feet but also felt slim and sleek on the trail. These boots have great tread, a comfortable ankle, and a stable base. Overall, we found it hard to find too many issues with these boots and highly recommend them to any wide-footed lady.

The biggest issue we found in terms of design with these boots is the eyelets on the lower part of the lacing system. Since they are made from thread, they lack durability and could blow out eventually, though we didn't run into this issue during our three-month test period. If your feet tend to feel confined in regular hiking boots, we recommend trying this pair for its width, but also its strong all-around performance.

Read review: Topo Athletic Trailventure WP - Women's


A colorful fleet of hiking boots ready for testing.
A colorful fleet of hiking boots ready for testing.
Photo: Jane Jackson

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 trips into the Wind River Range, the Tetons, and the Sierra Nevada 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. Jane is no stranger to the range of suffering that can occur with ill-fitting footwear. She has spent countless hours over the last four years 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 these boots' performance 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, assessing traction and stability. 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. Trips to Argentine Patagonia provided Jane with the opportunity to log 60+ trail miles per week just to gain access to the granite peaks, truly putting the footwear to the test. 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

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

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.

Related: Buying Advice for Hiking Boots for Women


Value


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. Often, a higher price does correlate to better quality materials, craftsmanship, and design, but often, we can get a solid performing product for less. Often it is the use of brand-name materials such as Gore-Tex waterproof liners and Vibram rubber outsoles that cost manufacturers extra to add to their boots. In more affordable situations, manufacturers will use a proprietary rubber or waterproofing material. These third-party liners and soles have name-brand recognition and have proven to be very effective in our tests, but we've also been thoroughly impressed with most proprietary waterproof liners and outsoles.

The Targhee III features a more streamlined design than KEEN boots...
The Targhee III features a more streamlined design than KEEN boots we've tested in the past. We welcome this change, as well as the outstanding value these boots bring to the trail.
Photo: Eric Bissell

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 pleased to see the Salomon X Ultra Mid 3 coming in so much lower in price than several other models in this competition while performing at the highest level. The Merrell Moab II Mid is another tried and true boot with a reasonable price tag. Price alone doesn't ensure 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


Comfort is typically the most important consideration for boots. If you sense discomfort in the fit, sizing, or performance of a pair of boots when you first put them on, it might be worth trying some different options. A boot that is comfortable for one person can be a living nightmare for another. 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 or the Topo Athletic Trailventure WP. We have rated each pair of boots based on overall comfort while noting obvious uncomfortable design features. We keep our focus on padding, comfort in support, materials, lacing system, and how our feet felt after many miles on the trail.


While we recognize the HOKA Kaha for its phenomenal support, you can well assume that the Kaha is also one of the most comfortable boots in this review. In most cases, these two characteristics go hand-in-hand, especially when HOKA is involved. The thick, cushioned sole that provides a stable base also provides unparalleled comfort. 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 (a feature we really like in the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid and Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX).

The impressively, almost embarrassingly, thick soles on the Kaha are...
The impressively, almost embarrassingly, thick soles on the Kaha are comfortable, supportive, and stable, even on rocky terrain.
Photo: Eric Bissell

Following close behind the Kaha regarding 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.

We are stoked on the overall performance of the X Ultra 3&#039;s...
We are stoked on the overall performance of the X Ultra 3's, especially concerning comfort and stability. They also feel light on our feet, which helps negotiate talus.
Photo: Eric Bissell

A lot of our assessment 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 more flexible ride. For the most part, this comes down to the type of terrain you plan on traveling most in your boots (i.e. talus, smooth trails, mud, cobblestone). 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 often be significantly more comfortable and lead to less foot fatigue than a more flexible boot. The Topo Athletic Trailventure WP was surprisingly stiff underfoot but still felt fairly nimble on rocky terrain due to its lightweight uppers and light feel. Difficult terrain generally calls for stiff soles, while smoother terrain is best matched with a softer, flexible sole. The North Face Ultra Fastpack IV Mid is a softer-soled boot that works great on smoother trails and more straightforward terrain.

Boots that lack stiffness and support underfoot can end up causing...
Boots that lack stiffness and support underfoot can end up causing discomfort later on as the miles add up.
Photo: Eric Bissell

Adjustability in the lacing system factors into our comfort evaluation 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 an adjustable lacing system that 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, the Oboz Sapphire Mid felt less comfortable because the laces are not adjustable toward the shoe's toebox and the widest part of the foot. Again, having this adjustability in the midfoot is key for wide-footed hikers, so make sure to check the range of the boots you're considering if your foot shape requires it.

Adjustability is important for providing support in the ankle and...
Adjustability is important for providing support in the ankle and keeping the boot secure in the heel an toe box. The lacing system on the Salomon Quest does this extremely well.
Photo: Eric Bissell

Support


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 another important aspect of this metric. All of the boots in this review have a stiff sole that limits flexion under the ball of the foot and lateral flexibility through the midsole.


Overall, the HOKA ONE ONE Kaha provides more support to the feet and ankles than any other model we tested. The thick midsole might feel strange at first, as most boots feel more like a running shoe and less like a platform heel, but most wearers get over this adjustment quickly. These luxuriously 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.

As you can see from this photo, the Kaha has by far the thickest...
As you can see from this photo, the Kaha has by far the thickest soles of any boot in this review.
Photo: Eric Bissell

The wide base of the boot, especially in the forefoot, provides stability for every step. The tall ankle shaft on the Kaha wraps high around the ankle, and the lacing system tightens adequately against the ankle. These boots tick all of the "support" boxes. They also stand out in comparison to the other top-ranking boots in this metric because they feel light and lack bulk. The runners-up for support are also some of the bulkiest boots in this review, which, for us, is a major downside.

Even with a sprained ankle, the Kaha&#039;s made it possible to hike on...
Even with a sprained ankle, the Kaha's made it possible to hike on rugged terrain to picturesque sunrise locations.
Photo: Eric Bissell

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. The Keen Targhee III Mid is more comparable to the Moab 2 with its low shaft height.

The Oboz Sapphires are stiff underfoot and supportive in the ankle...
The Oboz Sapphires are stiff underfoot and supportive in the ankle, making them a great option for rugged, rocky terrain.
Photo: Eric Bissell

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 protective 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 generally more stiff and stable than hiking shoes.

Arch support varies by foot. Some women may find enough support in the original insoles. Other women may 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 apply. To avoid foot cramps and discomfort, accurately support the arches of your feet.

Footbeds
Like the Salewa Alpenrose Ultra (as one example), many boots come with an Othrolite footbed, which will provide enough cushion and support underfoot for some but feel a bit too flimsy for others. Our lead tester, for example, typically puts a footbed from Superfeet in all her hiking boots.

Walking through the High Sierra in the super-stiff Salomon Quest 4D 3.
Walking through the High Sierra in the super-stiff Salomon Quest 4D 3.
Photo: Eric Bissell

The Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX has a stiff sole and offers support in this way, but this might be too stiff to be comfortable for some. 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


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 years past. Backpackers delight.


The Vasque Breeze LT Mid GTX toes the line between a hiking boot and an athletic shoe. A pair of US Women's size 7.5's 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.

The light construction and running shoe style design of the Topo...
The light construction and running shoe style design of the Topo Athletic Trailventures make them feel super light on the foot.
Photo: Alexa Flower

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 most nimble. 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 Topo Athletic Trailventure WP also shows a marked trend toward lighter boots with a running shoe-inspired design. This model weighed in at 1.52 pounds on our scale, which is on the lower end of the spectrum. The Salomon X Ultra Mid 3 GTX weighs 1.83 pounds, while the Lowa Renegade weighs 2.19 pounds, to give some perspective. We tend to prefer the lighter boots for most situations, though there is a use for the heavier Renegade's added durability and support.

Sometimes, a boot has a lighter feel than its actual measured weight...
Sometimes, a boot has a lighter feel than its actual measured weight suggests. The Ahnu Montara III are a good example of this.

On one end of the weight spectrum lies 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. For us, the Salewa is less comfortable than the Vasque Breeze due to its more narrow shape, but that's a result of individual foot shape. Those with regular to narrow feet will likely prefer the Alpenrose when navigating through talus, as they are the stiffer of the two boots. Both of these boots are fierce competitors for being our favorite lightweight model, with the Breeze being more well-rounded than the alpine-specific Alpenrose. The North Face Ultra Fastpack IV Mid Futurelight provides a lightweight feel as well, especially due to TNF's latest improvements on its 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. Otherwise, the Quest is a fantastic boot, but several of our testers found it simply too heavy for all but the burliest of applications.

The Keen Targhee III Mid are some of the lighter boots in this...
The Keen Targhee III Mid are some of the lighter boots in this review despite the amount of leather in the upper.
Photo: Eric Bissell

Traction


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. Columbia's is called Omni-Grip. In our tests, the Omni-Grip didn't perform as well as the Vibram rubber 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. Semi-aggressive to aggressive tread patterns are found on most 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.

The aggressive tread pattern of the X Ultra Mid 3 makes them a great...
The aggressive tread pattern of the X Ultra Mid 3 makes them a great option for rugged terrain, from loose rocks to scree to boulder hopping.
Photo: Eric Bissell

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 have Vibram soles that help them stick to slabs and boulders. We have found in general that in the case of traction, shoes that use Vibram rubber soles tend to get the best scores in this metric. The La Sportiva Nucleo High GTX also has 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 in wet, muddy conditions as well as rock slabs. It is good to think about the types of surfaces you travel over when looking at different boots' tread patterns. 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.

Testing traction on some wet slickrock in the desert.
Testing traction on some wet slickrock in the desert.
Photo: Eric Bissell

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 deeper 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 contender in this metric.

The leather uppers and Gore-Tex membrane on the Nucleos kept our...
The leather uppers and Gore-Tex membrane on the Nucleos kept our feet dry, even when submerged in water.
Photo: Eric Bissell

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 Topo Athletic Trailventure WP. In other words, both the Gore-Tex liners and the eVent liners were impressively breathable. Although some believe that waterproof membranes limit breathability, we found that all of the liners were adequate in keeping water out while keeping our feet wicked and dry. Additionally, breathable mesh panels on the sides of boots and tongues allow for airflow and help maintain dry, comfortable conditions inside.

We were pleased by how quickly water beaded off of the leather...
We were pleased by how quickly water beaded off of the leather uppers of this pair of Columbia boots.
Photo: Eric Bissell

Leather models provide a heavier feel than mesh and synthetic uppers commonly found on hiking shoes and thus offer 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 and non-waterproof models. It's important to realize that waterproof liners make boots take much longer to dry out if they do end up wet on the inside of the boots.

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.

Durability


While companies can cut down on weight by choosing lightweight materials, this sometimes results in a sacrifice of long-term durability. A full-leather boot will typically last longer than a shoe made from synthetic leather and mesh. Lightweight boots generally require a shorter 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, say, a standard running shoe, though the lightweight mesh options won't last as long as a full-blown leather boot.


It is challenging to fully assess the durability of a boot after three months of use. If a model doesn't last through our official testing period, the manufacturer likely needs to do some serious re-evaluation. Nearly all of the boots in this review come from reputable brands that, in general, make solid, durable goods. For our favorite models, we continue wearing them for years to report back on their long-term durability. Overall, 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. We've had the same pair of Salomon X Ultras for almost two years now and are happy to report that these boots are still excelling in the durability metric after approximately 300 on-trail miles.

The Salewa Alpenrose Ultra Mid are a trifecta of lightweight...
The Salewa Alpenrose Ultra Mid are a trifecta of lightweight materials, incredible water resistance, and durability.
Photo: Eric Bissell

Our testing period provides a standard period when 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 or weaknesses in the lacing system, and subtle delamination issues on the upper or sole. Our testing period gives us a general idea of which boots last longest without showing significant wear. The models with all-leather uppers tend to be more durable because they have fewer seams (commonly, 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.

The Renegade is a well made, durable boot, constructed of entirely...
The Renegade is a well made, durable boot, constructed of entirely waterproof leather. This makes them very durable, but also adds weight.
Photo: Eric Bissell

Conclusion


We hope this information helps guide you toward the perfect boots for your next outdoor endeavor. There are hundreds of options out there and we've whittled our list down to these top-performing boots. Investing in a solid pair of boots has the potential to improve your hiking experience immensely, so take your time and make sure you settle on the right pair that suits your needs.

Jane Jackson