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The 14 Best Hiking Shoes for Women

By Cam McKenzie Ring ⋅ Senior Review Editor
Wednesday November 14, 2018
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Looking for a new pair of women's hiking shoes? We can help! We researched over 65 pairs and selected the top 14 to put to through our side-by-side testing process. We wore each pair for miles on a variety of terrain, from gentle trails and city tours to burly hikes and scrambles while loaded down with a heavy pack. Our hands-on testing highlighted which models might feel comfortable in a store but fall apart on the trail, and which ones will withstand your most rugged adventures. We have some great options for you to consider below, whether you have wide feet, high arches, bad knees, or don't want to spend a fortune on your footwear.


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Awards Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award  Top Pick Award  
Price $99.93 at REI
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$159.95 at Backcountry
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$95.47 at Backcountry
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$104.97 at Amazon
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Pros Comfortable, stable, waterproof and ruggedly madeLightweight, plush midsole, waterproofGreat traction and stability, durable construction except for the lacesLightweight, versatile, great all-around performanceComfortable, water resistant, breathable
Cons Cut a little on the wide side, slightly heavier than some other modelsNot the best traction, rough terrain can shred exposed midsoleDifficult to tighten the toe box due to the speed lace system, release button got jammed, a little stiffQuicklace system not our favorite, didn't feel great with a heavy pack onLacking support for rough terrain
Bottom Line Whether you're carrying a pack and striking off for serious miles or keeping it simple close to home, these are our top choice.Perfect shoe for those who want or need exceptional cushion and comfort in their footwear.An excellent all-around hiking shoe that is waterproof and supportive.A great option for fast hiking / running.A great shoe that feels better for walking around town or on gentle trails.
Rating Categories Sawtooth Low BDry HOKA ONE ONE Tor Summit WP Terrex Swift R2 GTX X Ultra 3 GTX Endurus Hike GTX
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Specs Sawtooth Low BDry HOKA ONE ONE Tor Summit WP Terrex Swift R2 GTX X Ultra 3 GTX Endurus Hike GTX
Actual Weight per pair (size 10) 2.06 lbs 1.75 lbs 1.75 lbs 1.69 lbs 1.62 lbs
Width Options Regular, Wide Regular Regular Regular Regular
Upper Nubuck leather and abrasion resistant textile Nubuck and suede leather Synthetic mesh Synthetic mesh Synthetic mesh

Updated November 2018
We've spent the fall testing out some new and updated options for our women's hiking shoe review. We've included a popular lightweight option from Merrell, the Siren Edge Q2 WP, and well as the Adidas Outdoor Terrex Swift R2 GTX. The Siren Edge proved to be a little disappointing, but the Terrex Swift almost unseated our Editors' Choice winner! We also retested the updated Sugapine II from Ahnu, and it's our new Top Pick Award winner for adventure travel. Read on below to see why.


Best Overall Women's Hiking Shoe


Oboz Sawtooth Low BDry - Women's


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

$99.93
(29% off)
at REI
See It

Weight: 2.1 pounds | Lining: BDry waterproof/breathable membrane
Comfort and stability
Waterproof construction
Great traction
Robust design
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 Sawtooth 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 works as well as any Gore-Tex liner at keeping our feet dry from the outside elements while venting our 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 is the heaviest model in our test group, though by a hair. A deal breaker for some, and if you are looking for a lighter option then check out 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 are still able to get a good fit (our tester has narrow feet) but have to tie the laces about as tight as they can go and wear a heavier sock. The 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


Weight: 1.8 pounds | Lining: Mesh
Comfort
Grippy outsoles
Breathes well
Not for wet environments
Bulk

The Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator has been around (in various iterations) for as long as we can remember, and we can understand why. This affordable pair ($100) is lightweight and comfortable, with great traction for all kinds of terrain. They have a mesh liner for optimal breathability and are a great choice for desert hikers or in any locale where there is little chance of rain or multiple creek 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 ($120) and a mid-height boot ($130). Merrell continues to offer quality shoes at a reasonable price, and the Moab 2 is no exception.

Read review: Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator - Women's

Top Pick for Adventure Travel


Ahnu Sugarpine II WP - Women's


Top Pick Award

$79.97
(41% off)
at Amazon
See It

Weight: 1.56 pounds | Lining: Aegis Antimicrobial
Comfortable out of the box
Low weight
Not for rugged use
Waterproof liner doesn't provide much coverage

The Ahnu Sugarpine II WP is one of the lightest and most comfortable pairs in our test group. It's not the most rugged pair that we tested, but sometimes you only need something for gentle terrain or for traveling when you'll be doing a combination of city tours and moderate hikes. Here is where the Sugarpine II excels, and this is why we've given it our Top Pick for Adventure Travel Award. This pair looks stylish on (for a hiking shoe), and it isn't too bulky or heavy. There is ample cushioning for those 20,000 step days while checking out a new city, and it works well on the trail as long as the terrain is not too rough.

The traction on this pair is not very aggressive, so if your hikes tend to include steep trails with unconsolidated dirt and rock, you may find yourself slipping a bit in them. While there is a waterproof liner, it doesn't offer a lot of coverage on the sides of the shoe, and we experienced some leaks. There are plenty of other "hardcore" hiking boots and shoes out there to choose from though, but we've had a hard time finding that perfect lightweight pair for mellow days on the trail until now, that is! The Sugarpine II is an excellent option for those situations or for anyone who's looking for a lightweight pair that is still comfortable and somewhat supportive.

Read Review: Ahnu Sugarpine II WP - Women's

Top Pick for Fast and Light Hiking


Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX - Women's


Top Pick Award

$104.97
(30% off)
at Amazon
See It

Weight: 1.69 pounds | Lining: Gore-Tex
Trail runner hybrid
Light
Waterproof
Quicklace system is hard to fine tune
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 doesn't have the same plush feel like some of the newer models that have oversized midsoles, but it is never uncomfortable, and we like 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. The mid-cut boot version even stole away with the Editors' Choice Award in our ladies hiking boots review, proving this model's prowess in multiple versions.

Read review: Salomon X Ultra 3 - Women's

Top Pick for Comfort


HOKA ONE ONE Tor Summit WP - Women's


Top Pick Award

$159.95
at Backcountry
See It

Weight: 1.8 pounds | Lining: eVent waterproof membrane
Modest weight
Super cush
Fantastic water resistance
So-so traction
Rough terrain can eat up the 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 aren't too thrilled about is the traction. While it's fine for moderate trail hikes, the lugs are not very aggressive or sticky, and we had some slipping 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

$218.91
at Amazon
See It

Weight: 2 pounds | Lining: Gore-Tex
Durability
Water resistance
Stability
Weight
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. While the Renegade ended up with a lower overall score in our tests when compared to the EVA models, 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


Weight: 2.0 pounds | Lining: KEEN.Dry waterproof/breathable membrane
Comfortable
Waterproof
Wide 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. Released 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 like 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 is our Best Buy winner for our Women's Hiking Boot Review.

Read review: Keen Targhee III Low - Women's


Analysis and Test Results


We tested these fourteen pairs for many months, hiking dozens of miles in each along the way. We wore them in a variety of terrains, from soft trails in the forest to rocky scrambles. We used each one with a light daypack and a heavier 20-30 pound load, and carefully assessed all of their features along the way. We then rated them on some specific criteria, including how waterproof or durable they are, and have compiled all of our findings for you here. We'll go through each of our test metrics below, explaining why certain things like support or traction are important to consider, and which models excelled in which areas. 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


Gearing up for the outdoors can be an expensive endeavor. People used to buy one pair of leather hiking boots that would last for a decade or two, but today's hiking shoes typically last a fraction of that time. If you hike a lot, you might blow through one or two pairs a year! While the products in this review mostly range between $100 and $140, if you're spending that much a couple of times a year, year after year, that expense adds up. If this sounds like you, be sure to check out our Durability section below and choose something that ranks high in that category.


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. 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! It's important to get a good fit, but that is a highly subjective factor, as what fits one person's long and narrow feet with a high arch might not feel that great on someone else that has wider feet and a flatter arch. We tried to eliminate fit from our consideration for this score and instead considered factors that will affect every user, such as the amount of cushioning.


The standouts in this category are 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. They do have a distinct look that might not appeal to everyone though. 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 are slightly less plush but provide almost as much cushioning.

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 is 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, have little to no forefoot padding, and that affected our overall comfort. Others, like the Merrell Siren Edge Q2 WP, have very little padding in any part of the sole, and that is the least comfortable option that we tested.

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.

Support


We considered several things when scoring each pair for 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 lacing 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 heavy pack, you will do better in a full boot in the long term.


When it comes to arch support, the shape of your foot will determine how much you want. 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 have excellent arch support, like the Oboz Sawtooth Low BDry, Hoka One One Tor Summit WP, and Keen Targhee III Low. In fact, the Sawtooth comes with the best insole of the bunch. It has extra padding and a molded arch that holds its shape. Those with flatter feet may want to consider the Ahnu Montara III, which has little arch support.

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 stands out from the pack. There is ample flexion in the forefoot without too much side-to-side play. The Lowa Renegade II GTX Lo also has great stability thanks to its stiffer sole and exterior arch support.

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

While most of the models in our test group have good overall stability, there are a few that didn't impress us that much, like the Merrell Siren Edge Q2 WP. This shoe is so soft that we can twist it in half! The Ahnu Sugarpine II also has poor lateral stability, and the shorter lacing system (only four eyelets that don't extend very far down the forefoot) limit 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 allow 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 selecting your next pair  try the twist-test. If you can wring your shoe out like a wet towel  it's not going to be that stable. The Merrell Siren Edge Q2 is soft and pliable and doesn't provide much stability or support.
When selecting your next pair, try the twist-test. If you can wring your shoe out like a wet towel, it's not going to be that stable. The Merrell Siren Edge Q2 is soft and pliable and doesn't provide much stability or support.

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. Vibram, the most well-known shoe sole manufacturer, makes dozens of different formulations with varying degrees of traction. Here's how we scored the various models for their 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. We liked the traction best on the Merrell Moab 2, Oboz Sawtooth and Adidas Terrex Swift. The lugs on these models are wide and grippy and work equally well on dirt and rock.

An aggressive tread  like on the Adidas Terrex Swift R2 (left) will typically give you better traction on the trail compared to something that is shallower  like on the Merrell Siren Edge Q2 (right).
An aggressive tread, like on the Adidas Terrex Swift R2 (left) will typically give you better traction on the trail compared to something that is shallower, like on the Merrell Siren Edge Q2 (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  like the Adidas Terrex Swift  have great traction on trails and rocks. If the sole is too stiff and you can't bend it enough in the forefoot though it may feel less secure on a slab.
Slab testing for traction. Some pairs, like the Adidas Terrex Swift, have great traction on trails and rocks. If the sole is too stiff and you can't bend it enough in the forefoot though it may feel less secure on a slab.

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 has 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. Here is the actual weight of each pair in the women's size 10 (or rough equivalent) that tested them in.


As you can see from the chart above, there is about 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 feel the difference. 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 other important factors, like comfort, stability or durability. The Merrell Siren Edge (1.44 pounds) is light but provides little cushioning or 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, a slightly heavier shoe is not a deal breaker for us if it gives us all of the other features that we want. If you are looking for the lightest options that are also high performing, then check out the Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX and Adidas Outdoor Terrex Swift R2 GTX. These both strike 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 are also impressed with how lightweight the Hoka One One Tor Summit WP and The North Face Endurus Hike are. It looks like these pairs are heavier because their soles are so thick, but the Tor Summit weighs only 1.75 pounds and the Endurus only 1.62 pounds. The lightweight Ahnu Sugarpine II (1.56 pounds) is still comfortable but sacrifices a little in the support department.

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 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 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 are so-called "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 is that the technology of the waterproof barriers and uppers mostly results in hiking shoes that are pretty close to fully waterproof. 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.

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.

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 have the highest ankle opening at 4 inches, whereas the Merrell Siren Edge Q2 WP has the lowest at 3.25 inches. The Vasque Talus Trek and Keen Targhee III have lower openings (3.5 inches), and their uppers absorbed a lot of water, which is why they received a relatively low score even though they are "waterproof."

Water testing the Vasque Talus Trek. This pair didn't leak  but the leather absorbed a lot of water  and the ankle opening is on the lower end. Many factors contribute to whether a shoe is waterproof besides just the liner.
Water testing the Vasque Talus Trek. This pair didn't leak, but the leather absorbed a lot of water, and the ankle opening is on the lower end. Many factors contribute to whether a shoe is waterproof besides just the liner.

Those with a waterproof liner that did not fare so well include the Ahnu Montara III and Sugaprine II, and the Merrell Sire Edge Q2. The Montara has a shorter tongue gusset, so when submerged in three inches of water it leaked in that location. The Sugarpine II's liner does not come up very high on the inside of the ankle, and water leaked in through the upper in that location. We couldn't pinpoint exactly why the Siren leaked, but it saturated through after about seven minutes in the bucket.

The gusset on the Ahnu Montara III ends fairly low on the tongue  and that's where it leaked in our bucket test.
The gusset on the Ahnu Montara III ends fairly low on the tongue, and that's where it leaked in our bucket test.

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. These shoes are in no way dunk-proof, but their uppers do shed light rain and dew.

Durability


Your hiking shoes will experience more wear and need to be replaced more often than almost any other piece of gear in your hiking arsenal. A typical pair with an EVA midsole will last between 300-500 miles. If you hike only a few miles a week, it could take you years to get to that point, but regular hikers might go through one or two pairs a year. Those with 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 inspected 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 are most impressed with the construction and durability of the Lowa Renegade II GTX LO and gave it our Top Pick for Durability Award. This model has a PU midsole, which won't pack down as fast as EVA will. 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 are 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, anywhere 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 and Adidas Outdoor Terrex Swift R2 GTX impressed us with their 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 ones on the Keen Voyageur and Targhee III models will last longer than most.

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 a 3-D molded heel counter to increase its longevity. 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 Adidas Outdoor Terrex Swift RT GTX also has some rubber on the heel, improving its durability 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.
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.

Conclusion


Choosing the right pair of hiking shoes can often be a confusing process, as there are so many different options available and features to consider. We hope we helped you narrow down your choices and find the right pair for your next adventure, whether that's a hike close to home or a bigger objective. For more tips and advice, our Buying Advice article is a great guide to help you understand what type of hiking shoe is right for you.



Cam McKenzie Ring