Reviews You Can Rely On

Best Hiking Boots of 2022

Our hiking team laced up and tested hiking boots from Salomon, Scarpa, La Sportiva, Merrell, and more to identify the best options for your next adventure
Best Hiking Boots of 2022
Several of the recent models we have put to the test.
Credit: Ryan Huetter
Tuesday May 10, 2022
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 have tested hiking boots for a decade, with 55 unique models bought and pitted head-to-head. This updated review analyzes 16 of the best models available today. Our review team is a group of avid hikers, excited to share their experiences with you. This team of alpine guides and backcountry enthusiasts spent months hiking through mountains, deserts, and forests on the trail and off before scoring, ranking, and passing final judgment on all models we tested. The resulting review has in-depth details on specific performance areas and recommendations for your hiking goals and budget.

Even though most boots come in both men's and women's versions, it is not always the case that they perform similarly for both. To that end, we conduct in-depth testing by female reviewers in our women's hiking boots review and women's hiking shoes review. Over the last decade at GearLab, we've tested dozens of hiking essentials.

Editor's Note: This review was updated on May 10, 2022, with additional products: the Merrell Moab 2 Mid Waterproof, La Sportiva Nucleo High II GTX, and Hoka One One Anacapa Mid GTX.

Related: Best Hiking Boots for Women

Top 16 Product Ratings

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Overall Score
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72
Star Rating
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Pros Unbelievably lightweight, plush comfort on smooth trailsIncredibly lightweight, comfortableLightweight, wide base, easy to slide on and offGood all around performance, lightweight, supportive and comfortableExcellent waterproofing, deep lugs for solid traction, heel brake in outsole
Cons Marginal support for heavy loads, soft sole lets rocks poke throughLess durable than heavier models, thin soleNot waterproof, relatively low flood height, limited supportCould be more breathable, not great traction on smooth rockAverage stability, difficult to lace up
Bottom Line This ultralight boot is best for fastpacking missions where every ounce countsThis mid-top hiking boot is ridiculously lightweight, though it offers excellent stability and traction for fast and light objectivesThis is a lightweight hiking boot for those who move fast and don't need the support or stability of heftier footwearThis boot brings a shoe-like comfort but with the support you would expect from a hiking bootThese high-ankle hiking boots are a great option for excellent waterproof protection in a relatively lightweight package
Rating Categories Hoka One One Speedg... Salomon X Ultra Mid... Hoka One One Anacap... Salomon X Ultra Mid... La Sportiva Nucleo...
Comfort (25%)
8.0
8.0
7.0
8.0
6.0
Stability (20%)
6.0
7.0
5.0
7.0
7.0
Traction (15%)
5.0
8.0
7.0
8.0
8.0
Weight (15%) Sort Icon
10.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
Water Resistance (15%)
5.0
7.0
6.0
7.0
9.0
Durability (10%)
4.0
5.0
7.0
6.0
7.0
Specs Hoka One One Speedg... Salomon X Ultra Mid... Hoka One One Anacap... Salomon X Ultra Mid... La Sportiva Nucleo...
Weight (per pair) 1.74 lbs (size 11) 1.85 lbs (size 11) 2.11 lbs (size 10.5) 2.28 lbs (size 11) 2.41 lbs (size 43.5 EU)
Boot Type Lightweight hiker Midweight hiker/backpacking boot Lightweight hiker Midweight hiker/backpacking boot Midweight hiker/backpacking boot
Width Options Regular Regular Regular Regular and wide Regular and wide
Waterproof Lining Gore-Tex Gore-Tex GORE-TEX Gore-Tex GORE-TEX Surround
Upper Mesh PU coated leather Nubuck leather, Gore-Tex textile Waterproof PU coated leather Nubuck leather
Last Board/Shank None Molded shank Not specified Molded shank Tempo
Midsole EVA SensiFit Compression-molded EVA Injected EVA Compression molded EVA
Sole Vibram MegaGrip Contagrip Vibram Megagrip rubber Non-marking ContaGrip Vibram Nano XS-Trek rubber compound


Best Overall Hiking Boots


Salomon Quest 4 Gore-Tex


79
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort 9.0
  • Stability 9.0
  • Traction 8.0
  • Weight 4.0
  • Water Resistance 8.0
  • Durability 8.0
Weight (per pair): 2.9 pounds | Upper: Nubuck leather and textile
REASONS TO BUY
Comfy
Beefy yet nimble
Stable and speedy
Excellent water resistance
REASONS TO AVOID
Many seams could present durability issues over the long-term
On the heavier side
Not best for light hiking

The Salomon Quest 4 Gore-Tex is the real deal, and we consider it to be the epitome of what a hiking boot should be. In this total package, you are treated with cushioned comfort, excellent stability, and some of the best waterproof credentials in the business. This boot is for hikers who want to do long and demanding backpacking trips in difficult terrain, carrying a heavier pack. With the tallest ankle cuff height of any boot in our review and an innovative support structure, we feel these are the most stable backpacking boots out there, and the height also gives them an advantage in water resistance.

We wholeheartedly recommend this boot as the best overall option if you want the ultimate in performance. It excels on long hikes thanks to a customizable fit that adapts to the shape of your foot, it has the support you need when carrying an overnight backpacking kit, and its traction ensures that you won't be caught slipping. It weighs more than many in this review, though that weight is worth such a performance upgrade, in our opinion. The only aspect where this boot doesn't excel is with dumping heat and excess perspiration on hikes in hot and arid climates. We have been thoroughly impressed with previous iterations of this boot, and we can confidently say that Salomon has once again created a world-class hiker in the Quest 4 Gore-Tex.

Read review: Salomon Quest 4 Gore-Tex

best overall hiking boots
Comfortable and secure, this boot has proven to be our favorite.
Credit: Ryan Huetter

Best Bang for the Buck


Merrell Moab 2 Mid Waterproof


73
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort 8.0
  • Stability 7.0
  • Traction 7.0
  • Weight 6.0
  • Water Resistance 8.0
  • Durability 7.0
Weight (per pair): 2.48 pounds | Upper: Suede leather, mesh
REASONS TO BUY
Good value
Out-of-the-box comfort
Waterproof
REASONS TO AVOID
Hot
Heavy relative to height

The Merrell Moab 2 Mid Waterproof is a comfortable and affordable hiking boot that feels good right out of the box. Testers were blister-free over dozens of miles, and the arch support is some of the best in the category. The insole and EVA midsole provide excellent cushioning, and the padded tongue minimizes chafing during ankle flexion. The suede and mesh upper don'tlook waterproof, but in reality, it offers above-average protection through shallow water crossings and mud. We also appreciate the traction pattern on the sole, which reduces build-up in mucky conditions.

We think the Moab 2 Mid offers a terrific mid-height option, but they don't provide the same support as a high-ankle boot. In addition, the suede and mesh upper have less rigidity than other models with nubuck or thicker nylon. And, despite their shorter height, the thick cushioning made for some especially sweaty feet on warm days. Though we didn't necessarily notice a huge difference, these boots are in the middle of the pack for weight, even though they don't provide as much ankle coverage. However, all things considered, the out-of-the-box comfort, solid all-around performance, and approachable price point make these shoes an excellent value.

Read review: Merrell Moab 2 Mid Waterproof

hiking boots - best bang for the buck
The Merrell Moab 2 Mid Waterproof is a super comfortable mid-height boot.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

Best for Scrambling


Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX


77
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort 7.0
  • Stability 9.0
  • Traction 10.0
  • Weight 5.0
  • Water Resistance 8.0
  • Durability 7.0
Weight (per pair): 2.65 pounds | Upper: 1.8mm Suede Perwanger
REASONS TO BUY
Solid all-around performance
Incredible traction
Durable
REASONS TO AVOID
High price tag
Requires continued maintenance of leather outer

The Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX is a pared-down mountain boot, making it an optimal choice for off-trail travel, mountain scrambling, and carrying heavy loads. It has excellent stability, giving you the confidence to edge or smear up the steepest terrain you might encounter on a challenging cross-country hike. The Vibram sole is sticky while staying durable, and the full-grain leather upper will take a lot of abuse before it starts showing signs of wear.

That said, this boot's rigid midsole knocks some points off of its comfort score. It has a rockered sole, which will make it walk better than the average mountain boot, but it will not be as soft a ride as can be found in less stiff boots. You should check this out if you are into off-trail travel, carrying overnight packs, and scrambling up 3rd and 4th-class terrain.

Read review: Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX

hiking boots - best for scrambling
Approaching the climbs at Washington Pass, the Zodiac is at home.
Credit: Ryan Huetter

Best for Lightweight Hiking


Salomon X Ultra Mid 4 Gore-Tex


75
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort 8.0
  • Stability 7.0
  • Traction 8.0
  • Weight 9.0
  • Water Resistance 7.0
  • Durability 5.0
Weight (per pair): 1.85 pounds | Upper: Leather and textile
REASONS TO BUY
Supportive
Low weight
More comfortable than most
Fast
REASONS TO AVOID
Durability issues
Not as rugged as many heavier models

The Salomon X Ultra Mid 4 Gore-Tex is one of the lightest hiking boots we have worn. These boots keep the same mid-ankle support that we expect for off-trail travel and excursions with heavy packs while shaving nearly a half-pound from the previous model — through some kind of black magic, we can only assume. These boots use the same ADV-C Chassis and ActiveSupport technologies as the low-top shoe version of this model, and we find that the support they offer is exceptional, wrapping securely around the foot to create a stable platform that resists rolling. They are waterproof thanks to the Gore-Tex liner, making them perfectly suited for nearly all terrain types and environments.

Think of this boot as a bridge between the lightweight world of trail runners and hiking shoes and the heavy-duty traditional hiking boots. They are at the lightweight end of the boot spectrum, retaining some of the added stability and support that this category is known for, while cutting huge amounts of weight and remaining as flexible and agile as a running shoe. The sole might be thinner than some folks will want in uneven terrain, but that is a trade-off we are fine with on lightweight hikes. These are going to be best for the hiker who really wants the weight savings of the shoe but still needs the support of a boot.

Read review: Salomon X Ultra Mid 4 Gore-Tex

hiking boots - best for lightweight hiking
The Contagrip outsole is aggressive and provides traction in nearly all terrain types.
Credit: Ryan Huetter

Best Waterproof Protection


La Sportiva Nucleo High II GTX


72
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort 6.0
  • Stability 7.0
  • Traction 8.0
  • Weight 7.0
  • Water Resistance 9.0
  • Durability 7.0
Weight (per pair): 2.41 pounds | Upper: Nubuck leather
REASONS TO BUY
Excellent waterproofing
Gusseted tongue for easy slip-on
Good performance on downhills
REASONS TO AVOID
Middling stability
Difficult-to-use lace hooks

The La Sportiva Nucleo High II GTX is our favorite boot for coming out of water crossings unscathed. The Gore-Tex Surround lining and nubuck leather upper kept our feet dry, and the boot itself dried quickly after splashing through streams. The gusseted tongue also helped with water repellency. These are also one of the lighter pairs in this category, which definitely saved our feet after long miles. The Vibram sole has pleasantly grippy lugs, and the heel has some rock to it that makes it easier to brace and brake on downhills.

This boot's stability was a little disappointing. Even though it has extra cushioning on both the inside and outside of the ankle, the upper still gives way under torsion. We also found the lace hooks curiously and frustratingly difficult to use. It means that the laces stay really secure, but we've never really experienced issues with lace hooks on other models, so we aren't sure why La Sportiva went with the hard-to-use redesign here. In any case, for those who will be stomping through puddles and making their way across streams, brooks, and shallow rivers, this model is our first choice.

Read review: La Sportiva Nucleo High II GTX

hiking boots - the la sportiva nucleo high ii gtx has a moderately stiff upper and...
The La Sportiva Nucleo High II GTX has a moderately stiff upper and heel guard that kept our feet in place throughout our hikes.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

Compare Products

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Score Product Price Our Take
79
$230
Editors' Choice Award
This flagship hiking boot is our first recommendation for a hiking and backpacking boot, achieving remarkable performance in all terrain types and conditions
77
$299
Top Pick Award
For hikers venturing off trail into rocky or snowy terrain, this boot offers stability and traction that no other boot does
75
$165
Top Pick Award
This is one of the lightest hiking boots we have reviewed, and it impresses us not only for its weight but also for its overall performance
73
$145
Best Buy Award
A comfortable, comparatively inexpensive boot with no break-in time required
73
$165
A proven performer from short walks to intense thru-hikes, with comfort in lightweight boot form
72
$220
A modern take on a classic boot, with full grain leather and high top protection for hiking in all conditions
72
$229
Top Pick Award
A top pair for their waterproof yet breathable construction and great traction
70
$299
A stiff-soled hiking boot that is inspired by mountaineering boots. Great in the alpine, but otherwise overkill
69
$245
Robust and comfy, this midweight boot comes in under 3 lbs and performs ahead of the curve in most metrics
67
$179
This hybrid boot combines top traction performance with added support making it great for hiking and scrambling
66
$170
This incredibly lightweight model will fly down the trails without weighing you down
66
$175
A mid-cut hiking boot that provides trail ready comfort at a reasonable price
66
$185
A lightweight pair of boots that make tradeoffs for other features like stability and support that hikers usually look for
66
$250
An all-purpose hiking boot that provides great support while remaining lightweight
65
$190
This hiking boot is roomy and comfortable, requiring no break-in period to make them trail-ready
63
$260
Combining great ankle support with low weight, this waterproof boot is an appealing choice

hiking boots - we test all the products in our review out in the field in all...
We test all the products in our review out in the field in all manner of terrain. From sun to mud to stream crossings, you can take confidence that we put these boots through the wringer.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

Why You Should Trust Us


Our expert panel of testers is led by Ryan Huetter, a full-time AMGA/IFMGA certified mountain guide with a bachelor's degree in Outdoor Adventure Management. Ryan uses hiking boots extensively, which are a crucial professional tool, hitting the trail almost daily and logging thousands of trail miles in the last ten years. He is joined by Ross Robinson, who has hiked and backpacked the world for over a decade, living and backpacking in Thailand, Peru, and Germany, with at least 500 miles hiked in each country. Rounding out this powerhouse duo is Ben Applebaum-Bauch, another thoroughly seasoned backpacker and hiker. Ben has guided trips all over the Appalachian Trail, including the 100-Mile Wilderness, and climbed more peaks than he's managed to count. Thanks to this impressive test team, we feel confident in our assessments and the advice we provide to help guide you to your next best hiking boot.

Our hiking boot testings is divided across six rating metrics:
  • Comfort tests (25% of overall score weighting)
  • Stability tests (20% weighting)
  • Traction tests (15% weighting)
  • Weight tests (15% weighting)
  • Water Resistance tests (15% weighting)
  • Durability tests (10% weighting)

Over a decade, we've tested 55 pairs of hiking boots. Our testing took place in some of the most rugged and iconic mountain ranges in the country, including the High Sierra, the Cascade Range, volcanoes and deserts of southern Peru, and the desert country around Moab. This review draws on hours of research followed by months of testing, more than 350 miles of collective hiking, and specific tests. Comfort is king in any footwear, so we weighted it heaviest. The score in the Traction metric combines our experience hiking in each boot for up to 20 miles, as well as an average of each product's scores on specific dry rock, wet rock, scree, mud, and scrambling tests.

Running down hills felt super stable thanks to the high top support...
Running down hills felt super stable thanks to the high top support in the Kahas.
The high flood height and one piece suede leather outer kept the...
The high flood height and one piece suede leather outer kept the water from getting inside the boot.
These boots take a bit more time to break in than others, so this...
These boots take a bit more time to break in than others, so this 25-mile hike was a bit much for them right out of the box.

Analysis and Test Results


We believe that all good hiking boots can be effectively assessed using six key traits. We developed a scoring system based on weighted metrics to rate each boot objectively. After spending countless hours hiking in each model, taking diligent notes about their performance, we tally up the scores to give you a clear understanding of each model's performance. Boots that score well across all metrics are given top awards, while others may do admirably in one or two categories and are awarded for their specialized performance.

hiking boots - waterproof protection and durability made the la sportiva nucleo...
Waterproof protection and durability made the La Sportiva Nucleo stand out from the rest.
Credit: Steve Mace

Value


Value is an important aspect to consider, as you want to get the best boot that will suit your needs for the lowest price. We think of value in terms of how much performance you get for each dollar spent. There are some very competitively-priced boots in our review, and we give them accolades for bringing great comfort and performance.


We find that as price increases, the best gains come in the stability and durability metrics. You'll pay more for high-quality materials that are well crafted, and these boots usually last longer. You can get a good boot that will provide stability for a reasonable price, but we found the most expensive boots in our review to be the best at tackling rough off-trail, especially with lots of weight in the pack. For instance, the Scarpa Zodiac GTX is really expensive but also perfectly suited to cross-country hiking and peak-bagging. That said, if you want to spend a lot less, the Merrell Moab 2 Mid Waterproof delivers solid all-around performance for a very reasonable price, as does the Salomon X Ultra Mid 4 Gore-Tex.

hiking boots - ready to put down some miles? we hiked hundreds of miles to test...
Ready to put down some miles? We hiked hundreds of miles to test these boots for you.
Credit: Ryan Huetter

Comfort


The most critical factor when deciding on a hiking boot is comfort. Gone are the days of painfully breaking in heavy leather boots. With many more synthetic materials being utilized today, hikers can choose from a wider range of boots that have much better comfort in the uppers and more cushioned midsoles underfoot. With an ever-growing number of hikers questing on many of our nation's popular thru-hikes, a comfy pair of boots is the first step in preparing for such an endeavor. The Salomon X Ultra Mid 3 GTX is comfortable for a midweight boot and feels great from day one, requiring no break-in period, as is the Merrell Moab 2 Mid. The lightest models, such as the Hoka Speedgoat Mid 2 GTX, are unbelievably comfortable while on firm trails and paved paths. However, the weight savings derived from a thinner sole means that foot comfort is compromised while on uneven and rocky terrain.


We noted three primary attributes when considering comfort.

How the foot feels in the footbed

How does the boot feel when laced up and standing? When laced, are there any pressure points, and how large is the toe box? When you step on that pointy rock on the trail, does your foot feel it? After several hours of hiking, which models still made our feet feel great? The Salomon X Ultra Mid 4 and Merrell Moab 2 Mid Waterproof are among the most comfortable straight from the box. The Salomon Quest 4 Gore-Tex did the best job keeping our feet happy after many miles and hours with a moderate pack, though many other models were not far behind.

It is worth spending the time to find out a bit more about your own feet, as we all have different foot volume and arch height, and these traits change as we age. Certain models fit low, medium, or high volume feet the best. Insole thickness and shape will also have a lot to do with initial comfort impressions. Sometimes that space can be reduced or taken up with an aftermarket insole, though we tend to recommend finding a boot that fits as well as possible first and then fine-tuning the fit as necessary.

hiking boots - we want a boot to make our feet feel comfortable when walking on...
We want a boot to make our feet feel comfortable when walking on these types of trails.
Credit: Ryan Huetter

How the ankle collar feels and how the lacing system works

We noted the number and type of lacing eyelets, how the heel box holds the back of the foot, and whether there's any slippage. The Salomon models featured our favorite lacing systems. The fit and construction of the ankle collar are super important when logging many miles or traveling steep grades. The Merrell Moab 2 has a shorter cut with less ankle protection but is still quite comfortable.

hiking boots - is the ankle material soft yet supportive? is it easy and efficient...
Is the ankle material soft yet supportive? Is it easy and efficient to lace the boots tightly? The X Ultra 4 Mid GTX answers with a resounding yes.
Credit: Ryan Huetter

How well the boot breathes to keep you cool and dry

Blisters form due to heat and friction, and damp skin has lots of friction. Hikers have developed many tricks and techniques to keep blisters at bay, including Mole Skin, duct tape, and foot powder. Our perspective? Choose a boot with better breathability from the get-go. Wearing boots with a waterproof membrane (even a breathable one) always limits the ventilation ability of the footwear.

hiking boots - our testers put each model through the wringer, measuring their...
Our testers put each model through the wringer, measuring their level of breathability in all types of terrains and climates.
Credit: Ross Robinson

Overall, the Salomon and Merrell models are comfort champs, thanks to their soft and flexible materials that still impart good stability. Comfort scores contribute 25 percent of each product's total score.

Stability


The biggest reason to wear a hiking boot rather than a trail runner or a hiking shoe is for increased stability. The higher the ankle is cut, the more resistance the boot will provide to rolling ankles. These boots also have thicker and more supportive soles, giving added protection against sharp rocks, a notable weakness in a lighter shoe. Looking at stability, our review team considers torsional stability in the sole, height, and security of the ankle cuff, as well as the width of the sole and stiffness below the footbed to determine the rating for this metric. This review covers boots that barely rise above the ankle to much taller ones that provide unparalleled ankle support. Your needs may not require the full-on stability of a high-top model, and a mid-cut boot may give a better blend of flexibility, mobility, and support.


Also, consider that for many of the lighter weight models, such as the Hoka Speedgoat, the stability of the boot relies upon the compression gained from a sound lacing system. Soft and supple materials that do not have much structural integrity on their own become more rigid and supportive when wrapped tight around the ankle, while other boots like the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid have thick leather that offers much more structural support. For those who are experiencing the aches and pains of life on the trail, such as those hiking in retirement, stability will be an essential asset.

In addition to the many miles we hiked, we took a couple of measurements to quantify how well each product supports the ankle and resists lateral rolling. First, we measured the height of the ankle collar from the footbed to its tallest point of the instep. The Salomon Quest 4 has one of the tallest ankle collars at 6.5 inches. We also measured the width of the sole at the forefoot. A wide forefoot provides a more stable platform and resists rolling.

hiking boots - the salomon quest 4 gore-tex provided some of the best, rugged...
The Salomon Quest 4 Gore-Tex provided some of the best, rugged stability of any boot that we tested.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

Finally, we grabbed the sole by the heel and toe and twisted side to side to get an idea of torsional stability, which is the boot's ability to resist the twisting of the sole on uneven surfaces. Better torsional stability translates to less foot fatigue on rough terrain, especially when carrying a load. Overall, we awarded the Salomon Quest 4 a top score in this metric. It ticked all the boxes (tall ankle collar, wide forefoot, torsional rigidity) in the lab and gave us tons of confidence to speed through rough terrain. The Lowa Renegade also received accolades in this metric, which comes as no surprise thanks to its plastic/urethane shank. Also notable is the Scarpa Zodiac Plus and La Sportiva Trango Tech.

hiking boots - hiking through the bog was a great way to test for support and...
Hiking through the bog was a great way to test for support and stability in slippery conditions.
Credit: Ryan Huetter

Traction


Traction is one of the most important aspects of a hiking boot, but a lot goes into determining what qualifies as good traction. There are a few things to consider regarding a boot's ability to keep from slipping. The amount of stiffness that a boot offers, usually in the form of a shank, gives it more purchase when you can only get the toe of your foot onto an edge or if you need to kick steps up loose scree or snow. Secondly, the type of rubber compound used will impact how well the sole grips. Softer rubber will smear and deform against a smooth slab of granite, though this softer rubber will suffer longer-term durability issues. Harder rubber won't smear nearly as well, though it will give more bite into soft slopes and resist wear. Lastly, we consider the tread shape and patterning. Shallow lugs, the "teeth" on the bottom of the sole, will give more surface area contact and engage better with smooth terrain, while deeper and more spread out lugs will grip better in mud and snow, making them better for off-trail use.


During our backcountry exploits, across a wide variety of terrain types, we were able to test for traction on wet and dry trails, damp and dry rock, snow, and mud. It should come as no surprise that the models made by the companies known for their quality rock climbing footwear rose to the top regarding traction. The Scarpa Zodiac Plus came in at the top of the pack in this category, though the La Sportiva Trango Tech GTX is nearly as capable and flexes slightly better in the forefoot, making it the better choice for smearing on rock slabs. The La Sportiva TXS GTX is another good option and might be an attractive middle-ground between comfort and traction. It blends some of the qualities found in these other climbing-oriented boots but makes them more approachable to the average hiker.

hiking boots - the deep lugs and &#039;impact brake system&#039; of the nucleo high ii gtx...
The deep lugs and 'impact brake system' of the Nucleo High II GTX provide reliable traction across a variety of terrains and ground conditions.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

Moving on to loose terrain, we tested these boots in off-trail travel on High Sierra backpacking routes and alpine climbing approaches and descents. We found a narrower midsole offered better edging performance on looser ground, rolling over less when plowing through scree and hopping over talus. Our favorite pair to take into the boulder fields and scree slopes were the Scarpa Zodiac Plus boots, with their blend of stiffness and a nimble sole. It is perhaps the best boot in this review for technical rock climbing, with a sticky climbing zone on the toe and a sole that ascends steep rock with ease.

hiking boots - slippery, firm, wet or dry, a good boot should be able to grip in...
Slippery, firm, wet or dry, a good boot should be able to grip in virtually all conditions.
Credit: Ryan Huetter

With a deep snowpack in the Sierra Nevada, we had many opportunities to test these boots in snow and mud as well. The best performers had stiffer soles for edging and serrated lugs to kick steps in mature summer snow and dislodge mud. The Quest 4 was a favorite of testers, followed by the Scarpa Zodiac Plus yet again.

hiking boots - we scramble around on high-angle terrain to test the traction of...
We scramble around on high-angle terrain to test the traction of these boots in steep, rocky conditions.
Credit: Ryan Huetter

While these are different traction scenarios, we assigned all the products an overall traction score. We discuss how each one performed during the traction tests in their respective reviews, as some sole types were high performers in certain terrain types but did not compete as well in a range of environments.

Weight


Weight is a factor to consider when choosing a hiking boot, as it translates directly into efficiency. It will be more efficient over the course of a hike (which for day-hikes has been estimated at between 6,300 and 10,500 steps on average) to lift less weight with each step. That makes intuitive sense, though there is a limit to the amount of weight savings a boot can have before there is a decrease in stability and performance on more aggressive terrain. We give 15% of our total scoring to this metric, recognizing that it is important but shouldn't be the single determining factor in choosing a boot.


The Hoka Speedgoat Mid 2 GTX is the lightest product we tested at 1.74 pounds for a US men's size 11 — a weight that was unheard of just a few years ago in this category. That said, while the Salomon X Ultra Mid 4 weighs slightly more with a verified weight of 1.85 pounds, it is much more capable as an all-around boot, from day-hikes to thru-hikes. There are certainly some trade-offs to going with the lightest possible boot, namely support and durability. Think of these boots as being a bridge between heavy-duty boots and more minimal hiking shoes.

hiking boots - trust but verify. we weigh each one of our test models ourselves on...
Trust but verify. We weigh each one of our test models ourselves on our scale.
Credit: Ryan Huetter

Those with more backpacking experience and robust ankles can often get away with a lighter-weight hiking boot, provided that they are not carrying loads more than about 30 pounds. For beginner and intermediate backpackers, and especially those hauling considerable weight, burlier mid and high-top boots are going to be the safest option.

hiking boots - bounding over talus on a long hike to a remote peak, lightweight...
Bounding over talus on a long hike to a remote peak, lightweight models like the Salomon X Ultra 4 boots are more nimble and responsive than bulkier, heavier boots.
Credit: Ryan Huetter

Water Resistance


We all want dry feet when hiking. Dry feet are key to avoiding blisters and staying warm when hiking in the cold and wet. And wet feet are far from comfortable. Almost all of our test models feature some waterproof/breathable fabric membrane. Most models use a Gore-Tex brand membrane, while Keen uses a proprietary Keen Dry membrane.


First, we measured what we call the "flood level" of each boot. A typical design feature of hiking boots is a gusseted or bellows tongue. Not only do the gussets keep rocks and debris from entering the shoe, but the waterproof membrane also extends through this gusset. We measured the depth of water we could wade into with each boot before it flooded in over the top. The overall top-scoring Quest 4 Gore-Tex comes in with a height of 6 inches.

hiking boots - we ensure that the boots are waterproofed as advertised, wading into...
We ensure that the boots are waterproofed as advertised, wading into icy mountain streams to test them.
Credit: Ryan Huetter

Second, we took each boot through a stream test. Fording streams is a better test than standing around in the water, which is a task a rain boot would be better suited for. There were varying degrees of performance. Taking the top spots are the La Sportiva Nucleo High II and Lowa Renegade, followed by the Salomon Quest 4, Merrell Moab 2 Mid, and others.

hiking boots - stream crossings were absolutely no problem with the la sportiva...
Stream crossings were absolutely no problem with the La Sportiva Nucleo High II GTX. We even made a point of standing still in the running water to see how our feet fared and they stayed dry every time.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

No waterproof membrane that is used to protect the foot can withstand continuous exposure to water. All will eventually wet out, so we also considered the ability of the boot to dry out once fully inundated. The best performer here was the Hoka Speedgoat Mid 2 GTX; with its heavy use of nylon mesh in the outer, it dried out in an impressive 30 minutes after being sopping wet. The Salomon X Ultra 4 Mid GTX was also notable in this metric, with a PU leather upper that resisted inundation and quickly dried after being submerged.

hiking boots - reviewer ross robinson rock hopping across a river that carved out...
Reviewer Ross Robinson rock hopping across a river that carved out the Colca Canyon in southern Peru, one of the deepest canyon systems in the world.
Credit: Ross Robinson

Durability


No boot will last forever, especially with heavy use. Synthetic fibers will fray and begin to wick moisture, soles will delaminate and wear thin, and the boot will lose structure and become soft. That is the trade-off for getting to wear boots that are made of modern materials. Many hikers praise their boots purchased decades ago that have endured 20 years while failing to mention that the pair weighs four or five lbs and may have cost a small fortune.


We were happy to find that all of the models in this review held up well through the months-long testing period. No boot suffered damage to the point of losing function. That said, we expect any hiking boot within the price range of these models to last a couple of seasons of on and off use. Materials used vary from mesh to full-grain leather, and we found that the less reliant on synthetic materials a boot is, such as the Vasque St. Elias FG GTX, the better it would perform when pitted against rough wear. Throughout our hiking experience, we consistently find that the lighter-weight boots, utilizing lightweight materials, often begin breaking down ahead of the heavier-duty models we have tested. It's a general rule but one worth considering when looking into long-term value.

hiking boots - the materials used in the lightest boots will not provide as much...
The materials used in the lightest boots will not provide as much long-term durability as more robust materials like leather or suede.
Credit: Ryan Huetter

No boot is immune to damage, but the St. Elias and Quest 4 stood out as the most durable pieces we reviewed thanks to their reliance on thick leather outers rather than flimsy synthetic materials. We assigned durability 10% of the total score, admitting that a season of testing is a short amount of time to flush out the exact differences in longevity.

hiking boots - applying waterproofing sprays or seam-sealer is beneficial to...
Applying waterproofing sprays or seam-sealer is beneficial to maintain the longevity of the water-resistance of your new boots.
Credit: Ryan Huetter

Conclusion


If you want to get out and go hiking, your footwear choice is one of the most important decisions that you can make. While many are trending towards lighter shoes that eschew stability and comfort for dramatic weight savings, this can harm how much you enjoy your trip. Lightweight backpacking has its place, but if you are new to hiking or plan to carry a big pack, you should consider the benefits of a solid pair of sturdy hiking boots. Offering additional support that the lower-cut models simply cannot, investing in a good pair of boots ensures your trip against pain and discomfort, fatigued feet, and rolled ankles.

hiking boots - we hope this extensive review helps you find the perfect boots and...
We hope this extensive review helps you find the perfect boots and allows for many miles of happy trails in them.
Credit: Ryan Huetter

Ryan Huetter, Ross Robinson, and Ben Applebaum-Bauch

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