No matter the time of year, excited and adventurous individuals are leaving the trailhead and heading out into the vast public lands we have to enjoy. From dusty trails to southwest slickrock, or mucky trails of temperate regions, a good pair of hiking shoes makes the experience more memorable. We researched scores of pairs before buying and testing the 16 best hiking shoes available. Our experts spent countless hours hiking the Sierra Mountains and beyond, testing comfort during long trail days, traction on wet and dry terrain, support under a pack, and their ability to keep feet dry. After lots of miles, tests, and side-by-side comparisons, we match the best shoes to their best applications. Whether you want an affordable pair, plush comfort, or incredible all-around performance, this review will steer you toward your ideal shoes.
Best Hiking Shoes For Men of 2018
More and more hikers are eschewing the traditional high-top boots of years past and instead choosing lightweight, low-cut models that offer more flexibility and comfort. The hiking shoe is not a new category, but many new designs and developments in materials give us far more options than in the past. To stay on top of market developments, we update this review year-round with new, intriguing models. Most recent additions include the Keen Targhee III, a sleek innovation on a long-standing classic, and the latest generation of the Terrex Swift R2 GTX from Adidas Outdoor. The Garmont Dragontail MNT GTX is a robust newcomer as well. With stellar traction and support, it earns our Top Pick for Scrambling for its high alpine performance. Search as we may, we still can't find a pair better overall than the Ultra 110 GTX from The North Face, our reigning champ in this category.
Best Do-It-All Model
The North Face Ultra 110 GTX
For four year in a row, The North Face Ultra 110 GTX has dominated the world of men's hiking shoes. This hiking shoe is capable and willing to put down long miles on all trail conditions, and despite its low weight is a top performer in stability and support. The North Face's proprietary outsole digs into terrain of all sorts, gobbling up the rough stuff without flinching. They're comfortable, too, keeping our feet fresh mile after mile, even when picking up the pace to jog a few miles.
While the Gore-Tex lining keeps water out of the inside of the shoe, the mesh upper does tend to absorb water and hold it in, making it heavier and less breathable in damp conditions. So, if you hike in wet weather often, you may want to consider a pair with a higher Water Resistance rating. They also scored only average for Durability, which was par for the course when it comes to hiking shoes vs. a full-leather boot. If you're looking for something for overall performance though, and like the option of switching between hiking and trail running with the same pair, then these are the shoes for you.
Read review: The North Face Ultra 110 GTX
Best Bang for the Buck
We've given our Best Buy Award goes to the Vasque Juxt for reliable performance at a moderate price. The full-leather upper is comfortable and lightweight, and the outsoles handle flat and rough terrain equally well. Its traction on solid ground and loose gravel is exemplary too, and at $110 the price is just right. We appreciated the casual styling and didn't feel out of place wearing this around town as well.
We do have some durability concerns with this pair, as there is only single stitching connecting the various strips of material on the upper, and the soft rubber soles (which gave us such great traction) wore out a little faster than we would have liked. Another thing to consider is its water resistance or lack thereof. One reason for this shoe's low price-point is the lack of a waterproof membrane as found on most of the other shoes in our review. If you live in an arid, dry climate, then you will no doubt appreciate the increased breathability, though those who live in a wetter climate like the Northwest or the Northeast would do well to consider a shoe with a lining.
Read review: Vasque Juxt
Top Pick for Aggressive Hiking
Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX
The Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX didn't take long to impress us from the bottom up. The stiffer-than-most outsole with aggressive lugs gave us excellent purchase on nearly any surface, sloppy or dry, and we expect the rubber to hold up much longer than the softer soles of most other contenders. Weighing 1 lbs 15.2 oz and sporting a more narrow feel and fit than the Editors' Choice winner from The North Face, this model is ready to scurry downhill trails or speed through the flats. Your hikes might turn into runs with these shoes.
Some might not like the diversion from traditional laces, but we enjoyed the convenience of the Quicklace system. Its durability, though, is an issue, as has potential to rub a hole in the upper after extensive, long-term use. This model lacks a little in overall support, so if you're hiking with a decent sized pack, TNF Ultra 110 is a better option. If you're looking for a little more ankle support, check out the $165 Salomon X Ultra Mid 3 GTX for the same great performance with more ankle protection. Otherwise, if you're looking to move fast and light on the trail, this is your shoe.
Read review: Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX
Top Pick for Comfort
HOKA ONE ONE Tor Summit WP
Lace up the HOKA ONE ONE Tor Summit WP and kiss tired and sore feet goodbye. This uber-comfy model has the thickest and cushiest soles by far. It's also one of the stiffest in the midfoot and provides excellent torsional stability. This combination of comfort and support makes it a great choice for most day hiking ventures and short backpacking trips. It's lightweight, barely tipping our scales past two pounds, and its eVent membrane is waterproof and breathable.
The feature we like least about the Tor Summit is its traction. The Vibram MegaGrip Hi-Traction outsole has plenty of multi-directional lugs, with harder rubber on the outside and softer lugs in the inside. However, the thick midsole impeded our ability to feel the surface underneath us to know when and where to exert pressure. If you're only hiking on easy to moderate trails (which most trails are), these shoes are adequate, but for steeper terrain and scrambling, these left us a little uncertain underfoot. Other than that, they are friendly on the feet, and anyone who spends most days on their feet or who wants to lower the impact on their knees and back will enjoy wearing this pair.
Read review: HOKA ONE ONE Tor Summit WP
Top Pick for Lightweight Hiking
La Sportiva Spire GTX
The La Sportiva Spire GTX is a new favorite of our testing crew, thanks to its extremely lightweight and comfortable feel, as well as excellent water resistance. Sportiva has stepped up their game with this shoe and had blended some of the most cutting-edge textile technologies to make such a sleek and capable long-distance trail hiker. We took these shoes on several long fastpacking hikes in the heart of the Sierra Nevada and despite having both warm trail conditions as well as many stream crossings, came back with our feet dry and happy. The lightweight insert allows for great stability despite such a low weight, and with the advanced Gore-Tex Surround waterproofing membrane, the breathability of these watertight shoes is quite remarkable.
Read review: La Sportiva Spire GTX
Top Pick for Scrambling
Garmont Dragontail MNT GTX
A new contender in this year's review, the Garmont Dragontail MNT GTX impressed us right out the box with its mountain boot inspired looks. With a narrower than average last and heavy-duty outsole, this hiking shoe is a great choice for those who desire the stability and support of a more robust hiking boot but prefer the flexibility and range of motion that a lower cut shoe has to offer. Hiking over miles of uneven ground, up talus blocks and down scree slopes, we found the Garmont Dragontail MNT GTX to excel in off-trail travel. We also took them up steep and foreboding routes in the High Sierra, and with laces tightened down, we felt confident on snow and technical rock thanks to their stiff and sticky sole.
This shoe is the heaviest in the test group and therefore isn't ideal for most of the fast and light crowd. It also isn't super comfortable by comparison. Far from an all-rounder, this specialized shoe is awesome in high alpine environments. Just don't expect it to be your quiver-of-one.
Read review: Garmont Dragontail MNT GTX
Analysis and Test Results
Over the course of a months-long testing period, our reviewers hiked for many miles in a wide range of conditions, with daypacks and overnight backpacks, to discover where each shoe is most comfortable, and where it meets its limits. We took copious notes on each model's performance and then tabulated the results to rank them according to a set of pre-determined metrics.
Many purchase decisions require us to prioritize one consideration over another. For example, with hiking shoes, you might prefer something that is lightweight, but chances are it won't be as supportive as a result. If you're wondering about the tradeoff between the price and our estimate of the value of the product, check out the table below. Models that are to the right and on the low side of the graph are those with the best value relative to their price, such as our Best Buy winner, the Vasque Juxt, along with the Oboz Sawtooth Low. Throughout years of testing, we acknowledge that high-quality models start at list prices of $100 or more. However, our price links help you find the best deals and sales out there!
Comfort is the number one metric that we assess, and for a good reason. A pair of hiking shoes that don't feel good on your feet is a surefire way to ruin an otherwise fun trip (or ruin your hiking partner's trip too!). We packed up an extra large kit of Moleskin and hit the trails with these shoes to see how they stacked up against each other in overall comfort. A lot of factors go into determining how shoes feel on your feet, including the amount and positioning of padding, the lacing system used, the volume of the last, and the flexibility of the materials used.
When testing for this metric, we took extensive notes on the comfort-affecting features of each shoe. We considered the padding in the upper and the tongue, checked the feeling when laced and standing, and how long the break-in period is if any. We walked on flat and rough trails in each to see how well they handled each, noting any soreness or tiredness our feet developed. The roominess of the toe boxes, arch support, rockered soles, and overall protection were all scrutinized as well.
The way shoelaces are secured can affect your comfort, so we considered the ease or difficulty of fine-tuning the fit. We enjoyed the ease and high functionality of speed lacing systems that require no knot-tying, as found on the Salomon, Adidas, and La Sportiva Synthesis models. To test shock absorption in each model, we jumped down off a boulder onto a flat rock landing and noted how much impact was felt in our feet and knees.
Finally, we looked at how well each model breathes. Dry feet are comfortable feet, and a good design keeps feet dry when splashing through puddles and breathes well on warmer days. We took each model to the local gym to walk on a treadmill at the same speed (3 mph), same incline (moderate), and for the same distance (1 mile) in the same socks (no fear, we cleaned them between trials). Afterward, we noted how hot our feet were, then removed the shoes to check for sock dampness and sweat accumulation on our feet. The three products without a waterproof membrane, the Vasque Juxt, Oboz Sawtooth Low and Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator, turned out to breathe the best, as expected. Of the shoes with waterproof membranes, the La Sportiva Spire GTX breathes the most. Some users will need to choose a shoe with a waterproof lining based on where they go hiking (wet environments), but if you live in an arid climate then consider one of these shoes without a liner so that your feet will breathe better and not get as sweaty and damp.
Overall, the Hoka One One Tor Summit ticked the most boxes in the comfort department, easily earning our Top Pick for Comfort award. The extra thick midsole absorbs impact on uneven surfaces without batting a lace eyelet. They kept our feet comfortable and fresh, even under the weight of a medium pack over several miles and on long descents. We've been loving the Hoka One One brand in our trail shoes and road-runners, and it turns out that their oversized midsole design translates to comfort while hiking as well. If your joints are starting to deteriorate from years of hiking, or you want to prevent that wear in the first place, you should check the Tor Summit out.
Light is right for footwear. One of the benefits of a hiking shoe over a full boot is the ounces, if not pounds, that it sheds from every step, while still providing a bit more stability and durability over a trail runner. To accurately compare the different models, we weigh each one ourselves, all size 11 US, on a digital scale straight out of the box.
The different pairs ranged between 1.7 and 2.78 pounds. That pound difference might not seem like much on paper, but we noticed it underfoot. The Salomon OUTpath GTX is the lightest pair that we tested, though it's worth noting that it isn't as comfortable nor as stable as other pairs. The Columbia Redmond Waterproof is also light (1.9 pounds), but scored even lower for stability and comfort — noticing a trend here? On the opposite end, the Garmont Dragontail MNT GTX is the heaviest pair that we tested, but also the most stable.
While weight is an important trait, you do not always have to choose between weight and performance; The North Face Ultra 110 GTX model, our Editors' Choice winner, weighs a hair shy of 2 pounds but is among the more comfortable and stable options. Similarly, our Top Pick for Lightweight Hiking, the La Sportiva Spire GTX weighs 2.06 pounds. Our Best Buy winner, the Vasque Juxt weighs just over 2 pounds and is equally nice underfoot.
No matter if you are hiking on the local trail system or backpacking over the high passes, it is important that your foot stays where you put it, and it does not slide out unexpectedly. A hiking shoe's traction derives from the rubber compound used, the stiffness of the sole, and the design of the sole's lugs. All the shoes we tested use carbon rubber soles, and while some go with a known developer of shoe rubber such as Vibram, others go with a proprietary compound. A midsole insert can stiffen the sole and allow a hiker to find traction in loose scree or mud more easily. The pattern of the lugs is also important, with deeper channels allowing mud and snow to be shed, and smaller lug pattern giving more surface area contact with smooth rock surfaces.
Each model was tested side-by-side on five separate surface types to come up with the shoes' overall traction score. We often wore different shoes on each foot when trekking through the test areas to have direct comparisons in their purchase ability. First, we walked up and down dry granite slabs. Most models performed well in these scenarios, while the Dragontail MNT GTX and Spire GTX stuck best to the steepest slopes. All three pairs have lugs that allow for lots of surface area contact. In our wet rock test, we walked back and forth across the same wet rocks in mountain brooks and streams. The Wet Traction Contagrip sole found on the Salomon OUTpath GTX gave us the most confidence when crossing wet granite.
We also hustled up slopes of loose sediment in our traction tests, in which the more aggressive tread of the Salomon and The North Face models dug in better than the rest. On the eastern side of the Sierras in Spring, we found a trail covered in mud from the thawing snow. Again, the deep and multi-directional lugs of the Salomon X Ultra cut through the mud most efficiently, finding hidden rocks or more stable soil to gain purchase. We also preferred the shoes with heel brakes when descending loose and sloppy terrain, keeping us from sliding out much better than the outsoles without it.
Finally, we walked up and down some gentle snow-covered slopes warmed into a slushy state by the midday sun. The Salomon and North Face models kicked in steps in the snow the best going up. Coming down, we again fell for outsoles with heel brakes which tended to catch a sliding foot. The La Sportiva Synthesis Mid GTX also did well in the snow. On top of our specially designed tests, we also factored our experiences on and off the trail while hiking into the traction score.
How much support a shoe provides is based on several factors, including the thickness and materials of the midsole, thickness of the outsole, the shape of the last, and, to a lesser extent, the insole. An ideal hiking shoe is stiff from heel to midfoot but flexible up front. Most models reviewed included a shank between the midsole and outsole, which increases stiffness and protects you over rough terrain. Stability is also affected by the forefoot width and the height of the ankle collar.
To investigate stiffness underfoot, we tested the lateral torsion of each model. Solid torsional support reduces the risk of injury in uneven terrain and when carrying a load. Holding the front of the shoe in one hand and the heel in the other, we twisted the shoe, similar to wringing out a towel. The more resistant a shoe was to twisting indicated greater rigidity in the sole. This rigidity improves a shoe's support when moving through talus and rough terrain, or scrambling and hopping boulders. The Keen Targhee II and HOKA ONE ONE Tor Summit are some of the stiffest in a group of contenders that varies widely in this aspect. The Columbia Redmond and La Sportiva models are much less rigid and therefore less supportive. We were pleased that all products reviewed flexed sufficiently in the forefoot.
We also measured the forefoot at its widest point on each product. Wide bases provide a stable foundation for powering through each step. The HOKA ONE ONE, Merrell, and The North Face models tied for the widest forefoot at 4.75 inches. We also measured the height of the ankle collar (from the footbed to the highest ankle point) to check ankle stability. While ankle protection is more of a thing with hiking boots, we still appreciate a pair of hiking shoes that offers more stability than a typical trail runner.
Lastly, we also considered the quality of the insole. It appears that some manufacturers view the insole as just an opportunity to add cushioning and improve the fit of the footbed. We appreciated manufacturers that took the insole as an opportunity to add support to the heel and arch. The stiffest insole award goes to the Keen's, while the Salomon, Vasque, and Merrell products also beefed up their insoles by adding a second, more dense layer of foam to the back half of the foot. This extra support does not take away from comfort in the footbed in any case. While many hikers see buying third-party insoles as automatic, hiking shoes are not cheap, and we like insoles that aren't, too.
Overall, the Garmont Dragontail proved the most supportive of the bunch. It has great torsional stability, and it comes already with a supportive insole. This was our first choice of all the pairs that we tested to use when hiking with a heavy pack. Following close behind were the North Face and HOKA ONE ONE models, which have thick, supportive midsoles. The Redmond scored the lowest in this category. We were able to wring the shoe in our torsional stability test more than any other pair. It has thin midsoles, a below-average ankle collar height, and a narrower forefoot width, which when combined all together, resulted in sub-par stability. The La Sportiva Synthesis Mid GTX also lacks midsole support in the arch and is too flexible in the midfoot.
How many things can one pair do? Several considerations went into our Versatility scores. Some of these shoes are comfortable on flat trails and rough terrain, and some handle moderate loads without wincing. We value a shoe that is comfortable for short day hikes and also supportive enough for light backpacking trips.
Do you want one do-it-all shoe or a quiver of options for different adventures? If you are new to hiking, it's likely that a versatile, do-everything shoe fits your needs. But, if you have specific priorities and a bigger budget, two or more pairs of specialized shoes could give you focused performance. Keep in mind that a shoe designed for hiking is only part of your adventure footwear quiver, which might already include boots, trail running shoes, approach shoes, etc.
At a bare minimum, a product in this category must handle several miles with a light daypack stuffed with a water bottle, snacks, an extra layer, and a camera. All models we reviewed pass this low standard. During testing, we also packed a midsize pack with 15-20 pounds and hit the trails in the contenders. After a few miles, the added weight of a pack separated the rest of the "pack." Our favorites for moderate backpacking trips are the Keen Targhee II, The North Face Ultra 110, and Garmont Dragontail models, which have great ankle and foot support.
Out on the trail, we ran a few miles with a light pack in each pair. Fastpacking adventures are fun and growing in popularity, and we wanted to know which models were up to the task. This trend is reflected in the market, as many hikers available look like beefed up trail runners. Several shoes in this review feel natural at a running gait, but none combined nimble running ability with powerful support better than the Salomon X Ultra. We also appreciate hiking shoes that don't scream "I went hiking today!" when worn casually. The Vasque Juxt does the best job blending in around town. Hiking shoes usually don't come in a plethora of color options, but most models in this review have a few different colors to choose from.
It's no secret dry feet provide more comfort and warmth than wet ones. Moisture and water in the footbed also increase the likelihood of blisters. The trade-off for solid waterproofing is lower breathability, warmer feet, and a higher price tag. Most of the shoes we reviewed had a waterproof liner, except for theVasque Juxt and Merrell Moab 2 Ventilators. Many of the models that we tested come in both standard and "waterproof" options. (Usually a designation in the name like "GTX" for Gore-Tex or "dry" give it away.) Popular liners include options from Gore-Tex or eVent, while some manufacturers, like Keen and Columbia, use a proprietary membrane. We chose to test the waterproof versions as much as possible because the average hiker encounters wet conditions often, from water crossings to muck and slush to precipitation and more. Unless you're only hiking in Death Valley - and hey, even they get rain sometimes - it usually makes sense to have a pair with a waterproof liner.
To score the contenders in this metric, we considered their flood heights, how readily the upper absorbs water, and performance in our waterproof challenge. After a couple of months of hiking, we headed to a small mountain stream in the Eastern Sierras. Checking for leaks, we splashed around in water deep enough to cover the forefoot. We walked around and flexed the forefoot to see if the added stress induced leakage. After five minutes, we removed the shoes to see if any water made it inside.
The Salomon X Ultra 3 emerged from the water on top of all other models. It has the tallest flood height (4.75 in.), kept our feet dry through the waterproof test, and resisted absorbing water into its leather and synthetic upper.
Similar water resistance effectiveness came from the La Sportiva, Adidas, and The North Face models, passing the waterproof test but having lower flood heights. Any water these models did soak up dried quickly.
A few seconds after stepping into the water in the Juxt and the Oboz Sawtooth, our feet were soaked. Not having a waterproof membrane, this was expected, and we only put them through this liquid suffering for equality's sake. Two shoes with waterproof membranes, however, did leak — both the Keen Targhee II and the Merrell Moab 2 Waterproof. Our feet remained dry for a few minutes in both, but they couldn't survive the full five minutes underwater. The Keen leaked more than the Merrell, while the Merrell absorbed more liquid into its mesh-heavy upper. Water resistance declines with use and time, but we expected more from these two models after 15-20 miles on each pair.
All of these shoes benefit from a leather or fabric conditioner applied to the upper. Nikwax has a range of products that are great for treating the mixed material uppers of these shoes. A leather or fabric treatment keeps water from soaking the shoe's upper materials. Even when water is stopped by the waterproof liner, it makes your shoe heavy and hinders breathability. The La Sportiva, Salomon, Adidas, and Asolo products soaked up the least water and dried faster than the others.
The are many trade-offs when designing hiking footwear, and the cost for a more durable shoe is commonly more weight. When a manufacturer focuses on making lightweight shoes, durability is less of a focus. Full leather uppers tend to be more durable than synthetics, but also weigh more. Rubber-covered toe boxes also increase durability in that high-wear area, yet again add to the shoe's weight. Durable, dense rubber soles are also heavier than softer rubber. Your hiking shoes take more punishment than any other kind of hiking gear you wear, making craftsmanship, materials, and design an important part of choosing a pair that ages well.
While we didn't test the entire lifespan of each product, we put a minimum of 15 to 20 miles on each shoe and checked them at the end of the testing period for any signs of weakness or wear. We looked at protection in high wear areas, rubber density of the sole, materials and construction of the upper, quality of stitching, and other unique characteristics of each shoe. We also read online reviews and talked to fellow hikers on the trails about their shoe experiences ("Hey, how do you like your Merrells?").
The burly Garmont Dragontail struck us as the most durable pair of the test bunch. The high-quality stitching, large rubber rand extending up the upper, and abrasion-resistant, full-grain leather of the Garmont lend their service to many seasons of use. They barely showed any signs of the abuse we put them through even after three months. On the other side of the spectrum are the Redmond and Synthesis Mid GTX. Both shoes exhibited poor durability, with ripping mesh and toe cap peeling, respectively, after a few months of use. Both shoes have poor toe protection, an area of high wear, and lack dense rubber outsoles to withstand rough trails.
Cleaning and treating your footwear increases its life expectancy. Mud and sand left on the upper create premature wear. Warm water and a soft brush are your best tactic for cleaning. Nikwax offers a line of leather and fabric conditioners, including products for suede leather and synthetic fabrics. Common wear areas, like the flex points on the forefoot and seams that are prone to scuffing, can be reinforced. Applying Gear Aid Seam Grip or a similar sealer keeps out dirt and sand, prolonged use, and has the added benefit of keeping water out.
Walking into your local outdoor store, or perusing online, it is easy to be overwhelmed by the number of options currently available for hiking footwear. There exists everything from minimalist trail runners all to the way to the heaviest of high-top boots. We feel that with so many quality hiking shoe options, that the general hiking population can get the support and stability of a boot, with more comfort and range of motion than these burly boots offer. A good hiking shoe is capable of most day hiking and walking needs, and can also be used on backpacking trips. Still able to effectively protect your feet and give you traction on the trail, hiking shoes are one of the most popular types of footwear in the backcountry these days, and for good reason.
— Ross Robinson and Ryan Huetter