The 12 Best Hiking Shoes for Women

If you're gearing up for your next hiking trip you've come to the right place! We spent hours examining over 60 different pairs of women's hiking shoes before purchasing the top 12 and testing them side-by-side for months. We wore them on short day hikes and longer outings with heavy packs, and we noted how comfortable and supportive they were throughout the day. We also tested their water resistance and wore them in hot weather to see if they vented well or if our feet were sweaty and uncomfortable. We've compiled all of our findings below, and have some fantastic recommendations for you, including some high-performance pairs, ones that cross over well to trail running, and some top picks for those with wider feet or bad knees.

Read the full review below >

Test Results and Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 12
≪ Previous | View All | Next ≫

Analysis and Award Winners


Review by:
Cam McKenzie Ring
Senior Review Editor

Last Updated:
Wednesday
May 16, 2018

Share:
Updated May 2018
We've updated our women's hiking shoe review just in time for your summer hiking trip. If you've recently pulled your old hiking shoes out of the closet only to remember that they weren't quite working for you anymore after last season, perhaps it's time to consider some new options. We added in several new pairs to the mix, including the Ahnu Montara III and The North Face Endurus GTX. While neither of them were good enough to unseat our Editors' Choice winner, we did give the Endurus a special nod for those looking for a comfortable walking shoe that can go from sightseeing in a city one day to hiking a mellow trail the next. We also tested the updated X Ultra 3 GTX from Salomon, and it's our Top Pick for those who like to move fast on the trail.


Best Overall Women's Hiking Shoe


Oboz Sawtooth Low BDry - Women's


Oboz Sawtooth Low BDry - Women's NEW
Editors' Choice Award

$140.00
at Amazon
See It

Weight: 2.1 pounds | Lining: BDry waterproof/breathable membrane
Comfortable and stable
Waterproof construction
Great traction
Cut slightly wide
A little heavy

Even after checking out some new models and comparing them to this one, the Oboz Sawtooth Low BDry has maintained its top status as our Editors' Choice award winner. The Sawtooths topped the ratings in almost every area that we scored it on. They are comfortable and supportive, with a plush midsole and the best insole of any shoe that we tested. It comes with Oboz's BDry waterproof/breathable membrane, which worked as well as any Gore-Tex liner at keeping our feet dry from the outside elements while venting our own moisture. The lugs on the soles are heavy-duty but still soft and grippy, giving us great traction on loose dirt trails and bare rock alike. This pair is well-made, with triple stitching in places and attention to details. There is also a molded heel counter to increase the longevity of the shoe, and it has excellent stability, making it suitable for overnight hikes and heavy mileage days over rough terrain.

It was the heaviest model in our test group. This might be a deal breaker for some, and if you always want the lightest options available then check out the Ahnu Sugarpine or the Salomon X Ultra 3 instead. It's also cut a little on the wide side, so if you have narrow feet it might not work for you well either. We were still able to get a good fit (our tester has narrow feet), but had the laces about as tight as they could go with a heavier sock on. Fit is the most important consideration when it comes to footwear, and if this shoe fits you, we're sure you're going to love it. For hikers looking for a little more stability, check out the Oboz Sawtooth Mid BDry - Women's, the boot version of this favorite shoe.

Read review: Oboz Sawtooth Low BDry - Women's

Best Bang for Your Buck


Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator - Women's


Best Buy Award

$99.95
at Amazon
See It

Weight: 1.8 pounds | Lining: Mesh
Comfortable
Great traction
Breathable
Not waterproof
Bulky design

The Merrell Moab 2 Ventilators have been around for as long as we can remember, and for a good reason. These hiking shoes are lightweight and comfortable, with great traction for all kinds of terrain. Best of all, they retail for only $100, and even though they were the least expensive pair in our review, they performed better than some models that were twice the price. They are mesh lined for optimal breathability, making them a great choice for warm locales with little chance of rain or river crossings.

That mesh lining does mean that their water resistance is limited though, making it a poor choice for those that live in a wet climate. Lucky for you, it is also available in a waterproof version and as a mid-height hiking boot, also reasonably priced at $130. Merrell continues to offer quality shoes at a reasonable price, and the new Moab 2 is no exception.

Read review: Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator - Women's

Top Pick for Fast and Light Hiking


Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX - Women's


Top Pick Award

$149.95
at Amazon
See It

Weight: 1.69 pounds | Lining: Gore-Tex
Trail runner hybrid
Light
Waterproof
Quicklace system is hard to fine tune
Long dangly laces
Not enough support for hiking with a heavy pack
Expensive

Is it a hiker or a trail runner? The Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX is a bit of both! Salomon took the look and feel of a trail runner and added more support in the heel and a stiffer upper. The result is an excellent option for those who like to hike fast or trot on the downhills. The Gore-Tex liner and synthetic upper help keep your feet dry when splashing through streams, and it comes with a supportive insole. We got great traction from the Contagrip sole in a variety of situations, from loose dirt trails to rocky scrambles. This pair performed well across the board and particularly shined on fast hikes.

The X Ultra 3 didn't have the same plush feel like some of the newer models that have oversized midsoles, but it was never uncomfortable and we liked the support and stiffness in the heel when hiking downhill for miles. It did feel better without a heavy pack though — this is the model for moving fast and not bogged down with a week's worth of supplies. The Quicklace system is not for everyone either; some people love it and some people hate it. If you don't mind the inability to fine tune your laces, the Salomon X Ultra 3 is only ounces heavier than a typical trail runner, and it won't weigh you down while you fly down the trail.

Read review: Salomon X Ultra 3 - Women's

Top Pick for Comfort


HOKA ONE ONE Tor Summit WP - Women's


Top Pick Award

$160 List
List Price
See It

Weight: 1.8 pounds | Lining: eVent waterproof membrane
Lightweight
Plush midsole
Waterproof
Not the best traction
Rough terrain can shred exposed midsole

Hoka One One has been changing people's minds about cushioning and support over the last couple of years, and their latest offering, the Tor Summit WP, is a revelation when it comes to hiking footwear. Why should we feel like we're hiking on a piece of wood when instead we can feel like we are floating on clouds all day long? And if you're worried that the extra thick midsole will make these shoes too soft or heavy, fear not. They are lightweight, and the EVA is supportive without being overly compressible. This model comes with an eVent breathable/waterproof liner, and the extra height from the sole gives you even more clearance when crossing streams. We were afraid that the extra height would make them too tippy, but since your foot actually sits down into the midsole, we still got great support from this model.

The only thing we weren't too thrilled about was the traction. While it's fine for moderate trail hikes, the lugs are not very aggressive or sticky, so we had some issues on steep terrain and bare rock. Otherwise, these are a great choice for anyone with foot or joint issues, and indeed anyone who prefers to be extra comfortable while hiking. For more ankle support with the same comfy sole, check out the $230 HOKA ONE ONE Tor Ultra HI, our Editors' Choice Award winner for the best overall hiking boot.

Read review: Hoka One One Tor Summit WP - Women's

Top Pick for Durability


Lowa Renegade GTX Lo - Women's


Top Pick Award

$184.41
at Amazon
See It

Weight: 2 pounds | Lining: Gore-Tex
Durable
Waterproof
Great traction
Heavy
Stiff with a long break-in period
Lacking in comfort compared to other hiking shoes

If you're the kind of gal who puts down a lot of miles and are tired of blowing out your soft EVA midsole hiking shoes every six months, consider our Top Pick for Durability, Lowa Renegade II GTX LO. This beast of a shoe will last twice as long (if not longer), than most of the other models in this review thanks to its polyurethane (PU) midsole and full Nubuck leather upper. It also has great support and is a good choice for someone looking for a low cut option for backpacking or other uses with a heavy pack.

The downside to a PU midsole is that is is nowhere near as comfortable as an EVA one. They also require some breaking in to soften up, unlike most other pairs that are plush and ready to go out of the box. Because this pair was less comparable (comparatively) to the EVA models, it ended up with a lower overall score in our tests, but it is still a fantastic option particularly if you're looking for something for the long haul. It also comes in a boot as the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid, which won our Top Pick for Durability award as well in our Women's Hiking Boot Review.

Read review: Lowa Renegade GTX LO - Women's

Great for Wide Feet


Keen Targhee III Low - Women's



$135 List
List Price
See It

Weight: 2.0 pounds | Lining: KEEN.Dry waterproof/breathable membrane
Comfortable
Waterproof
Wider toe box
Not very breathable
Narrow feet might not fit well in this model

If your feet on the wide side, you'll want to check out the Keen Targhee III. Newly updated at the end of 2017, this comfortable day hiker is a great option for those who have a hard time getting a good fit in most other models. It comes with a supportive insole and a lot of cushioning in the midsole. We liked the traction we got from KEEN's proprietary "all-terrain rubber," and their signature rubber toe cap adds durability while protecting your toes from accidental toe stubs.

This shoe comes with a waterproof barrier that does a great job of keeping rain and other moisture out, though the leather upper does make it harder to breathe. We got a little overheated in this model in our desert southwest testing locale. If you do have narrow feet, you might have a hard time getting these to fit right. For all the wide-footed ladies though, these fit the bill! They also come in a mid-height boot, which was our Best Buy winner for our Women's Hiking Boot Review.

Read review: Keen Targhee III Low - Women's

Great for Traveling


The North Face Endurus Hike GTX



$140 List
List Price
See It

Weight: 1.62 pounds | Lining: Gore-tex
Comfortable and breathable
Good water resistance
Not enough support for tough trails
Traction is more like a running shoe than a trail hiker

New to our test group for 2018, The North Face Endurus Hike GTX is a comfortable addition to this review. It has an extra thick midsole, similar to the Hoka One One brand, that offers a lot of cushioning. If your feet are hurting from walking around in minimalist "barefoot" shoes, the Endurus may be the antidote! We particularly liked this pair for traveling, and think it's a great choice for wearing on your next weekend getaway, particularly if you're planning on sightseeing a lot and hiking a short trail or two.

The traction on the Endurus was just ok, and they have more of a running shoe sole than one designed to give you good purchase on unconsolidated trails or bare rock. The midsole is on the soft side, which is what makes it so comfortable, but when hiking on sharp trails you can feel the trail under you, and that wasn't as nice. This pair is better used on soft trails or shorter hikes, and for city walking tours.

Read review: The North Face Endurus Hike GTX - Women's

select up to 5 products
Score Product Price Our Take
85
$140
Editors' Choice Award
Whether you're carrying a pack and striking off for serious miles or keeping it simple close to home, these are our top choice.
83
$160
Top Pick Award
If you require a highly cushioned shoe, this might be the choice for you.
79
$150
Top Pick Award
A lightweight pair for times when you want to move fast on the trail.
78
$140
A less aggressive model that is better suited to walking around town or on gentle trails.
73
$135
Comfortable and waterproof, best for wide feet.
72
$120
Minimalist option for going fast and light.
72
$100
Best Buy Award
A workhorse in warm, dry climates.
71
$210
Top Pick Award
This stiffer model has minimal cushion but a ton of durability.
69
$140
If you're looking for a do-it-all model for both day and overnight hikes, consider this option.
68
$135
For shorter distances and non-technical terrain, try this model.
63
$145
Lacking in comfort and support but good for wide, flat feet.
59
$115
A perfect hiker for arid zones and users with wider feet.

Analysis and Test Results


We took these twelve pairs of shoes on dozens and dozens of hikes over a three month period, comparing all of their features along the way. We hiked in them with and without a heavy pack, and on soft forest trails and rocky scrambles. We splashed around in creeks when we came across them, and then did some specific bucket test to gauge their water resistance further. Then we rated each pair based on the following criteria: comfort, stability, traction, water resistance, weight, and durability. In the rest of this review, we'll discuss why these are important factors to consider, and we'll let you know which models stood out in the specific areas. And though we don't score for price, we'll also highlight what to look for when purchasing with value in mind, and try to help you figure out if that $200 pair is twice as good as a $100 one.

We tested these shoes for months in a variety of hiking areas and then rated them based on their Comfort  Stability  Traction  Weight  Water Resistance and Durability.
We tested these shoes for months in a variety of hiking areas and then rated them based on their Comfort, Stability, Traction, Weight, Water Resistance and Durability.

Value


We've hiked in a lot of forest environments and have yet to find money growing on trees, so we're cautious when it comes to spending our hard-earned dough on our gear. And while many of the high-end footwear out there is fantastic, we can often get close to comparable results for less. So, if Value is a key consideration for you, check out the graph below. The models in the bottom right-hand corner have the best value, such as our Best Buy winner, the Merrel Moab 2 Ventilator, as well as The North Face Hedgehog Fastpack GTX. One other thing to consider though purchasing from a value-perspective is the durability. Hiking shoes are notorious for packing out quickly and lasting only a season or two. EVA midsoles are soft and comfortable, but stop bouncing back and "pack out" after a certain number of miles. The Lowe Renegade Lo GTX uses a PU midsole again, which is stiffer but will last at least twice as long. As you can see from the graph below, the Renegade is almost off the chart because it is so expensive ($210), but if it lasts twice as long as a $140 pair, then it is indeed a good value as well.


Comfort


Comfort is queen when it comes to hiking footwear — while we may squeeze our feet into some uncomfortable shoes for a night out on the town, when it comes to hitting the trails we want something that's cushioned and comfortable. That's why we've weighted our comfort score to be 25% of the overall score for each shoe. Whether you intend to spend hours or weeks on the trail, a shoe's comfort can greatly affect your experience. Comfortable shoes are well-padded, supportive, and sized correctly. Too loose or too tight, and you'll end up with hot spots, pressure points, and blisters, oh my! So it's imperative to get a good fit, and since a shoe's fit will affect everyone's comfort level differently, we purposefully tried to eliminate fit from our consideration for this score and consider instead factors that would affect every user.


The standouts in this category where the Oboz Sawtooth Low BDry, The North Face Endurus Hike GTX, and our Top Pick for Comfort, the Hoka One One Tor Summit WP. All of these models have ample cushioning that is plush but not too soft. The Tor Summit has the thickest midsole we've ever seen in a hiking shoe. It cushioned our ride, absorbing the impact of each step without feeling too soft or squishy. If you're looking for the most padding out there, this is the shoe for you. The Hoka One One brand has been gaining popularity in the running shoe market as an extreme alternative to the barefoot shoe craze of the Naughts. We've tested their models in many of our footwear categories, and they always take a prize for comfort or even overall best pick. But they do have a distinct look that might not appeal to everyone. TNF Endurus also has an oversized midsole, though not quite as thick as the Hokas, that is comfortable for all-day wear. As for the Sawtooth's, they were slightly less plush but provided almost as much cushioning (while looking more like a traditional hiking shoe and not a pair of moon boots!)

Sure  the thick soles look a little funny  but function over fashion is a mainstay in the outdoor world and we loved the way the Hoka One One functioned. They were clearly the most comfortable pair in our review.
Sure, the thick soles look a little funny, but function over fashion is a mainstay in the outdoor world and we loved the way the Hoka One One functioned. They were clearly the most comfortable pair in our review.

Another critical factor for us in the comfort category was having ample cushioning under the entire foot. Though your heel tends to hit the ground first when walking on level ground, once the angle increases, most people will step with their forefoot first. Some shoes, like the Keen Voyageur, had little to no forefoot padding, and that affected our overall comfort.

Hiking up steep terrain changes your stride  resulting in your forefoot hitting first. Models that lacked forefoot cushioning were noticeably less comfortable.
Hiking up steep terrain changes your stride, resulting in your forefoot hitting first. Models that lacked forefoot cushioning were noticeably less comfortable.

Most of the shoes in this review used EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) midsoles, which can be manufactured to different densities. The soft-EVA Ahnu Sugarpine WP were almost too soft, as we could feel sharp rocks through the soles. While these shoes felt great while walking the dog around the neighborhood, once we were on the trail we found them too soft to be comfortable. On the opposite end of the spectrum was the Lowa Renegade II GTX Lo, which uses a polyurethane midsole, which is much firmer than EVA. While there are pluses and minuses to each, EVA is typically used in hiking shoes because people are looking for a comfortable ride for shorter hikes. Polyurethane is more durable and a better shock absorber, but it is more often found in hiking boots where a stiffer ride helps absorb the extra weight from a heavy pack and prevent foot bruising and pain.

EVA midsoles (the lighter grey strip) offer more cushioning  but will pack out faster and aren't as durable long term.
EVA midsoles (the lighter grey strip) offer more cushioning, but will pack out faster and aren't as durable long term.

Support


We considered several things when scoring each pair for their support, as there are many features that can increase or subtract how stable a shoe feels. We considered the support under the arch, the lateral stability and stiffness of the sole, and how well we could adjust the shoe with the lace system. Hiking shoes are by nature less supportive than a full boot, so note that these scores are relative to each other and do not consider the support that you would get from a boot instead. If you have unstable ankles or plan on hiking with a very heavy pack, you will do better in a full boot in the long term.


Arch support is another somewhat subjective rating; if you have flatter feet and put on a shoe with a pronounced arch it's not going to feel stable at all! Conversely, little to no arch support can feel brutal to someone with regular to high arches. According to the Institute for Preventative Foot Health, only about 4% of the US population have "flat feet," or fallen arches. Since this syndrome seems to affect people who spend a lot of time moving on their feet, aka us hikers, it is probably more of a consideration for hiking shoe companies than other manufacturers. Still, having proper arch support from the get-go might be one way to avoid fallen arches later in life.

If you have flat and wide feet you might get enough arch support from the Ahnu Montara III  but they were a little bit too much of both for our liking.
If you have flat and wide feet you might get enough arch support from the Ahnu Montara III, but they were a little bit too much of both for our liking.

Some models offered excellent arch support, like the Oboz Sawtooth Low BDry, Hoka One One Tor Summit WP, and Keen Targhee III Low. In fact, the Sawtooth come with the best insole we've ever seen that we didn't have to pay extra money for. It has extra padding and a molded arch that holds its shape. While some people automatically purchase aftermarket insoles for all of their footwear, we'd like to hope that once we are paying over $100 for something that it would come ready to go and not need an additional purchase. So don't be afraid to peek inside a shoe the next time you are trying one on in a store and pull out the insole — what you see may or may not encourage you to buy that pair. Those with flatter feet may want to consider the Ahnu Montara III*, which had little arch support (and was uncomfortable for our testers with regular arches).

The gray insole is flimsy and provides little to no structure. The Oboz insole (bottom)  has a molded arch support and provides an additional layer of cushioning.
The gray insole is flimsy and provides little to no structure. The Oboz insole (bottom), has a molded arch support and provides an additional layer of cushioning.


Lateral stability is also crucial in a hiking shoe — while you are mostly hiking forward, as opposed to say tennis or basketball where you move side to side — any boulder hopping, scrambling, or hiking in rough terrain will benefit from a stable shoe. This comes from the aforementioned internal arch support and also the flexibility and firmness of the sole. If you can wring a shoe around like a wet towel, its stability will leave a lot to be desired. While stiff soles are great for adding stability, if they are too stiff you'll lose flexibility in the forefoot, which will make it harder to hike up steep terrain. Here again is where the Oboz Sawtooth Low BDry stood out from the pack. We had ample flexion in the forefoot without too much side-to-side play. The Lowa Renegade II GTX Lo also had great stability thanks to its stiffer sole and exterior arch support.

The external rubber arch on both sides of the Lowa Renegades provide a lot of lateral support  and the stiff sole made traversing a rock slab a breeze.
The external rubber arch on both sides of the Lowa Renegades provide a lot of lateral support, and the stiff sole made traversing a rock slab a breeze.

While most of the models in our test group had good overall stability, there were a few that didn't impress us that much, like the Ahnu Sugarpine WP. This shoe is very soft, which is nice from a comfort perspective when hiking on soft trails. But, soft soles were so pliable that they didn't provide much in the way of lateral stability, and the shorter lacing system (only four eyelets that don't extend very far down the forefoot) limited our ability to get a secure fit. While hiking shoes offer more flexibility at the ankle than a hiking boot, you still want to feel like your foot is secure and that your heel is not lifting with every step. The uppers on shoes like the Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator and Oboz Sawtooth Low BDry come up slightly higher on the top of the foot (along with the laces) which allowed us to tighten the ankle opening sufficiently to keep our foot in place and minimize heel lift. Even the slightest heel lift can be a recipe for severe blisters over time, so if you can't get a good fit in that area, you should consider a different pair.

When hiking over rough terrain  you'll want something that offers good lateral stability.
When hiking over rough terrain, you'll want something that offers good lateral stability.

Most hiking shoes are designed for day hiking with minimal to low pack weight, but there are those that swear by shoes over boots no matter their objective, even if it is the full John Muir Trail. Those that need additional ankle support might choose to wear a full boot even on a two-mile hike. You have to make the best choice for your needs and consideration. If you do want to try backpacking in a pair of hiking shoes, consider a more rugged pair, like the Vasque Talus Trek Low UltraDry or the Lowa Renegade II GTX Lo. These pairs are low-cut versions of full hiking boots, and still provide a good amount of overall stability. Lighter weight trail runner/hiking shoe crossovers, like the Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX and The North Face Hedgehog Fastpack GTX, are great for fast hiking without a pack, but aren't the best choice for backpacking.

Traction


Traction is an important factor to consider in any hiking footwear. Slipping feet could put you on your rear, or contribute to twisted joints. Several things combine to affect a shoe's traction, including the stickiness of the rubber and the size and shape of the lugs. Even Vibram, the most well-known shoe sole manufacturer, makes dozens of different formulations with varying degrees of traction. After testing the different models in various terrains and conditions, we scored them each for their overall traction.


We primarily evaluated the traction on steep and unconsolidated dirt trails, but we also tested them on sandstone slabs. Good traction on dirt is usually achieved through deep lugs that can dig into the ground with each step. Having "multi-directional" lugs (ones that look like zigzags or arrow tips) will also help your soles grip in a variety of directions. Most shoes have lugs that are angled in one direction on the forefoot and the other direction on the heel. This is to give you more grip on the forefoot when hiking up steep trails, and more on the heel when coming back down them. We liked the traction on the Oboz Sawtooth Low BDry. The lugs are wide and grippy and worked equally well on dirt and rock.

Lugs are like snowflakes - no two are alike. Aggressive and pronounced lugs  like on the Oboz Sawtooth (left) provide better traction on rough trails than smaller ones  like on the Ahnu Sugarpine (right).
Lugs are like snowflakes - no two are alike. Aggressive and pronounced lugs, like on the Oboz Sawtooth (left) provide better traction on rough trails than smaller ones, like on the Ahnu Sugarpine (right).

When it comes to traction on rock, the stickiness of the rubber usually has more to do with how well your feet can grip the surface rather than the shape of the lugs. Hard and stiff rubber doesn't grip as well as softer and more pliable formulations.

Slab testing for traction. Some pairs had great traction on rocks  and others were too stiff and harder to bend or not sensitive enough to give us good traction.
Slab testing for traction. Some pairs had great traction on rocks, and others were too stiff and harder to bend or not sensitive enough to give us good traction.

The flexibility of the forefoot will also affect the traction you can achieve. If you can't bend the front of your feet, or the sole is too thick to feel the rock (as with the Hoka One One Tor Summit WP), then you'll have a hard time achieving secure footing. The Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator had excellent traction on bare rock. The rubber is soft and sticky, and we scrambled all over Red Rock Canyon in this pair without any slippage issues.

Checking out the arch and hoping today is not the day it breaks. When scrambling around rocky terrain  you want a shoe that will stick when and where you need it to. The Merrell Moab 2 Ventilators have great traction and gave us the confidence to "walk the plank."
Checking out the arch and hoping today is not the day it breaks. When scrambling around rocky terrain, you want a shoe that will stick when and where you need it to. The Merrell Moab 2 Ventilators have great traction and gave us the confidence to "walk the plank."

Weight


The lighter we can keep all of our gear, the more enjoyable our whole experience will be on the trail. Hiking shoes are getting so light as to almost be on par with trail running shoes, and even hiking boots are now constructed with weight in mind. However, when the weight savings come at the expense of comfort or stability, the user gets caught in a zero-sum game. Here is the actual weight of each pair in the Women's size 10 (or rough equivalent) that tested them in — and yeah, we have big feet!


As you can see from the chart above, there was a half a pound difference between the heaviest and lightest pair in our test group. This might not seem like much (that's only four ounces on each foot), but we could definitely feel the difference. That difference compounds over the day and miles as well. So why, then, did we choose the heaviest model as our Editors' Choice winner? While we applaud manufacturers' attempts to move in lighter directions, sometimes that comes at the expense of stability or durability. The Ahnu Sugarpine (1.56 pounds) was so light as to provide little overall support. The Oboz Sawtooth (2.06 pounds) feels heavy but has a molded heel counter and a thick and rugged sole. At the end of the day, the slightly heavier weight was not a deal breaker for us, but if you prefer the lightest option that is also high performing, then check out the Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX and The North Face Hedgehog Fastpack GTX. These both struck a sweet spot between being lightweight but still supportive.

Moving fast in the Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX. A lightweight pair won't weigh you down should you want to jog a section of the trail.
Moving fast in the Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX. A lightweight pair won't weigh you down should you want to jog a section of the trail.


We were also impressed with how lightweight the Hoka One One Tor Summit WP and The North Face Endurus Hike were. We thought for sure that these pairs would be heavier thanks to their thick soles, but the Tor Summit weighs only 1.75 pounds and the Endurus only 1.62 pounds. They never weighed us down. Unfortunately, our Editors' Choice winner, the Oboz Sawtooth BDry Low was on the heavier side at 2 pounds 1 ounce in the women's size 10 that we tested it in. In some cases though, a few extra ounces may be worth it if you get the extra stability, comfort, and durability that the Sawtooth provides.

Hiking up-canyon in the Hoka One One Tor Summit. This shoe is surprisingly lightweight for the size of it  and felt supportive enough to hike in with a pack.
Hiking up-canyon in the Hoka One One Tor Summit. This shoe is surprisingly lightweight for the size of it, and felt supportive enough to hike in with a pack.

Water Resistance


Many hiking shoes come in both a waterproof and a non-waterproof model. The best option for you depends on the climate that you live in. Live in the desert Southwest and never plan to hike in the rain? Then forego the Gore-Tex and opt for a breathable pair with a mesh lining instead. While the technology in waterproof barriers, like Gore-Tex and eVent, helps vent your body's moisture (aka foot sweat) while keeping nature's moisture out, they still lead to hotter feet overall than a breathable mesh liner. Better to prevent the sweat from building up in the first place than having to worry about venting it. But, if you live in a wet climate, or are planning any type of long trip into the mountains, a waterproof shoe or boot is a key necessity. We did a variety of tests to determine water resistance, including splashing around in streams and also a 10-minute bucket test with 3 inches of water in it. Most of the models that we tested were waterproof versions, but we also included two popular non-waterproof models, the Keen Voyageur and Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator. Here's how they fared in our tests.


The first thing that stood out to us from our bucket test was that the technology of the waterproof barriers and the uppers used in hiking shoes these days result in shoes that are pretty close to fully waterproof. We didn't have a single leak from the liner failing in any of the lined shoes that we tested. While the bucket test doesn't 100% correlate to a real-world stream crossing, it does help to illustrate that if water is getting into your shoe when crossing a stream, it's most likely coming in from the ankle opening and not the upper or even the gusseted tongues. The one exception to this was the Ahnu Montara III, which has a shorter tongue gusset and can't handle three inches of water without leaking.


To further refine our water resistance score, we examined how much water the shoes seemed to absorb after 10 minutes in water, and how high off the ground the ankle opening sits. A higher ankle opening will give you more protection from errant splashes of water, and the absorption rate is also vital. Picture hiking in a light drizzle or through a wet, grassy field. If the upper sheds water with no absorption, that'll keep your feet drier in the long run, and also lighter.

The thick soles help bring the ankle opening up to 4 inches off the ground  increasing your clearance when crossing streams.

The Hoka One One Tor Summit WP and the Oboz Sawtooth Low BDry had the highest ankle opening at 4 inches, whereas the Vasque Talus Trek Low UltraDry had the lowest at 3.5 inches. The leather upper on the Talus Trek also absorbed a lot of water, which is why it received a relatively low score for a "waterproof" shoe, as did the Keen Targhee III. As for the non-waterproof mesh-lined shoes in this review, the Keen Voyageur and Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator, they lasted a total of 30 and 60 seconds respectively in our bucket test. The shoes are in no way dunk-proof, but their uppers do shed a light rain or dew.

Splashing around in the Oboz Sawtooth Low BDry. These shoes have a waterproof barrier that keep your feet dry  and also offer more coverage up the ankle than some other models.
Splashing around in the Oboz Sawtooth Low BDry. These shoes have a waterproof barrier that keep your feet dry, and also offer more coverage up the ankle than some other models.

Durability


The adage of "buy nice or buy twice" is just as applicable to footwear as it is to every other piece of outdoor gear. Your hiking shoes will also experience more wear than almost any other piece of gear in your hiking arsenal. Mile after mile, step after step, your shoes are taking the brunt of the impact for you. How long will a pair last? The number typically bantered about in the industry is 300-500 miles for a pair with an EVA midsole. If you hike only a few miles a week, it could take you years to get to that point, but if you're doing the John Muir Trail this summer, they'll be done after only a few weeks. Polyurethane (PU) midsoles are thought to last longer, maybe even twice the mileage, but that extra durability comes at the expense of comfort. Normal wear and tear on any shoe will pack down the midsole and wear down the outsole, so stiffer midsoles (like a dual-density EVA vs. a soft one) and harder rubber soles will last longer overall. Below you'll see our estimation of the different models' durability.


While we couldn't put 500 miles on each pair for this review, we did hike in them all extensively and inspect them for signs of damage or potential week spots. We read through online user reviews to try and determine any consistent wear patterns and looked through our girlfriends' shoe racks to examine personal pairs and see how they were faring. We were most impressed with the construction and durability of the Lowa Renegade II GTX LO, and gave it our Top Pick for Durability award. This was the only model in our test group that uses a PU midsole, which won't pack down because there's no give in it whatsoever. The rubber sole encases the entire side and toe as well, protecting the shoe from toe stubs and midsole wear. To reduce weight, a lot of midsoles are entirely exposed. Since that material is softer than rubber, it is more prone to catching on vegetation, tearing out, or separating from the upper.

Exposed midsoles are a major weak spot for wear and tear  but help keep the shoes lighter than covering them with rubber.
Exposed midsoles are a major weak spot for wear and tear, but help keep the shoes lighter than covering them with rubber.

We also considered the various uppers used, and how prone they were to snagging, unraveling, or other types of wear. While the cut-out leather and mesh uppers of the Oboz Sawtooth Low BDry and Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator help keep the shoe ventilated, anyplace you see stitching is a potential point of weakness. Thankfully those areas are double or even triple stitched and should stand up to wear and tear. The synthetic uppers on the Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX impressed us with its abrasion resistance as well. Finally, it's always good to examine the toe box, as that's another area that is quick to wear out. A full rubber toe cap like the one on the Keen Voyageur and Targhee III models will last longer than most, though most of the models we tested try to reinforce that area at least a little.

The Keen's rubber toe cap (right) is great for longterm durability. Other manufacturers  like Oboz (left) use a combination of rubber and reinforced leather or synthetics.
The Keen's rubber toe cap (right) is great for longterm durability. Other manufacturers, like Oboz (left) use a combination of rubber and reinforced leather or synthetics.

The Oboz Sawtooth Low BDry has an added durability element that we hadn't seen before: a 3-D molded heel counter. This extra piece of rubber on the heel helps maintain the shape and structure of the back of the shoe and prevent it from caving in.

The extra rubber on the heel might add an ounce or two to the overall weight of the shoe  but it helps prevent the heel area from caving in over time  and adds more stability to the shoe as well.
The extra rubber on the heel might add an ounce or two to the overall weight of the shoe, but it helps prevent the heel area from caving in over time, and adds more stability to the shoe as well.

A final note about durability is that a well-looked after pair will have a much longer lifespan than one that is put away wet or dirty. It may seem tedious, but if your shoes get muddy or wet on the trail, taking the time to dry them properly (and not by a heater with leather shoes!) will make a world of difference.

Conclusion



Hiking shoes are often the best option for day hikes and backpacking trips. They are much lighter, more breathable, and less expensive than hiking boots while giving more support and traction than trail running shoes. We hope we narrowed down your selection to find the right product for your needs. Happy trails!

Cam McKenzie Ring

  • Share this article:

Still not sure? Take a look at our buying advice article for more info.

You Might Also Like