On the hunt for your next pair of hiking shoes? We've got you covered here at OutdoorGearLab. After researching the top 55 pairs, we chose 10 of the best and put them through our side-by-side testing process. After testing them in different terrain and conditions, with and without heavy packs on, we rated them based on important concerns, such as comfort and stability, and how good a job they did at keeping our feet dry and not sweaty. We came up with a set of recommendations based on several criteria and concerns; whether you are looking for something for a short day-hike or a multi-day adventure, have wide feet or bad knees, or don't want to spend a lot on your footwear, we have options for you.
Read the full review below >
Test Results and Ratings
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Analysis and Award Winners
Updated March 2018
Getting ready for hiking season and looking for a new pair of shoes? We've updated our women's review this spring to bring you the most recent models available, including an updated Targhee model from Keen that's a great choice for wider feet, and a new Top Pick for Durability.
Best Overall Women's Hiking Shoe
Oboz Sawtooth Low BDry - Women's
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 sweat. The lugs on the soles are heavy-duty but still soft and grippy, giving us excellent 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 is stable, making it suitable for overnight hikes and heavy mileage days over rough terrain.
Comfortable and stable
Cut slightly wide
A little heavy
It is a little heavier than some other models out there — but considering the other great features of the shoe, it wasn't a deal-breaker. It's also cut a little on the wide side. While we were still able to get a good fit (our tester has narrow feet), we 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
The Merrell Moab 2 Ventilators have been around for as long as we can remember, and for 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 2s are no exception.
Read review: Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator - Women's
Top Pick for Comfort
HOKA ONE ONE Tor Summit WP - Women's
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.
Not the best traction
Rough terrain can shred exposed midsole
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 overall best hiking boot.
Read review: Hoka One One Tor Summit WP - Women's
Top Pick for Durability
Lowa Renegade GTX Lo - Women's
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 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 midsole and full Nubuck leather upper. It also has great lateral support provided by the stiff sole and external rubber arch.
Stiff with a long break-in period
Lacking in comfort compared to other hiking shoes
The downside to the above features that make it so durable is that it does so in the sacrifice of your comfort. This was one of the least comfortable models that we tested (comparatively) which caused it to have a lower overall score for what is still a fantastic option. Because the shoe is so stiff and the midsole so rigid, it will require a break-in period, unlike most other models that we tested. This negates some of the benefits of a hiking shoe over a hiking boot. However, if you're still wistfully thinking of your old-school full-leather boots from the last millennium, this model might just be what you are looking for. It also comes in a boot as the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid, which also won our Top Pick for Durability award 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
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.
Wider toe box
Not very breathable
Narrow feet might not fit well in this model
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. And 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 Fast and Light Hiking
Salomon Ellipse GTX - Women's
If you're searching for the look and feel of a trail runner but want something with slightly more support and durability (that is also waterproof), the Salomon Ellipse GTX is a great choice. While it looks more like a trail runner than your typical hiking shoe, it still offers a lot of great features for hiking, like a stiffer upper made with abrasion resistant material, and a Gore-Tex liner. The traction on this shoe impressed us with its stickiness on bare rock, even though it doesn't have the most aggressive lugs. The Ellipse is only ounces heavier than a typical trail runner, and it won't weigh you down.
Trail runner hybrid
Not enough support for hiking with a pack
What the Ellipse doesn't have is much support or cushioning in the midsole. While it worked great for fast-and-light hikes, as soon as we put a 30-pound pack on we noticed a lack of comfort in these shoes. If you're looking for something to hike a load in, this is probably not for you. Instead, it's for those who liked to move fast in the mountains without a lot of weight.
Read review: Salomon Ellipse GTX - Women's
Analysis and Test Results
We took these ten pairs of shoes on dozens and dozens of hikes over a three month period, comparing all of their features along the way and evaluating their Comfort and Stability. We also did some specific testing to determine scores for Water Resistance and Traction, and compared designs and other user reviews to find any Durability concerns. Finally, we weighed each pair that we tested to compare their Weight relative to each other in a similar size. You can read more about our testing methods in our How We Test article. Below you'll see how the different models scored overall.
We've hiked in a lot of forest environments and have yet to find money growing on trees, so we're really careful 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 Salomon Ellipse GTX and The North Face Hedgehog Fastpack GTX.
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 very important 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.
When perusing online user reviews, hikers typically complain about (or tout) a model's comfort, but usually those issues are specific to fit. If your toes are rubbing against the sides and giving you blisters, that's not really the shoe's fault, it just doesn't fit you well. By focusing instead on factors that everyone will experience the same, we hoped to come up with the least subjective comfort score possible. For example, both the Keen Targhee III and the Keen Voyageur have a wide cut, but they received different comfort scores due to the amount and placement of the padding underfoot. You can see the different comfort ratings that we gave each model in the chart below.
The standouts in this category where the Oboz Sawtooth Low BDry and our Top Pick for Comfort, the Hoka One One Tor Summit WP. Both 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, and to good effect. 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. As for the Sawtooth's, they were slightly less plush and think in the midsole, but provided almost as much cushioning (while looking more like a traditional hiking shoe and not a pair of moon boots!)
Another important factor for us in the Comfort category was there being a lot of 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 had little to no forefoot padding, and that really affected our overall comfort. The Keen Voyageur had little cushioning in the forefoot, and that reduced our overall comfort when hiking in them.
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.
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 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.
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 good arch support from the get-go might be one way to avoid fallen arches later in life. Some models had 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 wasn't an after-market purchase). 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 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.
Lateral stability is also important in a hiking shoe — while you are mostly hiking forward, as opposed to say tennis or basketball where you move side to side — any type of 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.
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.
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 its the full John Muir Trail. Those that need additional ankle support might choose to wear a full boot even on a two-mile hike - so it's really about what you and your body needs. 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 Ellipse 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 is an important factor to consider in any hiking footwear. Slipping feet could put you on your rear, or contribute to twisted joints. There are several things that 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.
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. 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 great 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.
Depending on your regular hiking area, you might encounter a lot of exposed rock, or none. If you don't expect to encounter bare rock, look for a model with a harder rubber sole, as softer rubber wears out faster. You can check the hardness of the rubber by pushing on the lugs with your thumb. If you can easily flex the lug, it's a softer rubber, and if you feel little to no resistance it's a harder one.
You've probably heard before that weight on the feet translates to five-fold weight on the back. Add the weight of a daypack or overnight backpack filled with the essentials for an enjoyable hike, and you have a significant measure of weight to carry. The lighter we can keep our shoes and 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 a trail running shoe, and even hiking boots are now constructed with weight in mind. However, when the weight savings come at the expense of comfort and/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 wasn't much variation between the lightest and heaviest pairs in this review. While a half a pound might not seem like much (and that's only a quarter of a pound on each foot), we could still feel a noticeable difference between the 1.56 pound Ahnu Sugarpine WP and the 2.13 pound Lowa Renegade II GTX Lo.
While we applaud manufacturers' attempts to move in lighter directions, sometimes that comes at the expense of stability or durability. The Ahnu was so light as to provide little overall support. The Lowa feels heavy but has rubber covering the entire midsole and toe, which will help it last a long time. The Salomon Ellipse GTX and the The North Face Hedgehog Fastpack GTX struck a sweet spot between a lightweight but still supportive design in our estimation. Both of these models felt light on our feet, and are good choices for people who like to move fast on the trail.
We were also impressed with how lightweight the Hoka One One Tor Summit WP felt. We thought for sure that something with such a thick sole would be heavy, but it weighs only 1.75 pounds and 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.
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, as mountain weather can change on a dime and wet feet can lead to an uncomfortable or ruined trip.
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 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.
In order 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 key. 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 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.
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. In order to reduce weight, a lot of midsoles are completely exposed. Since that material is softer than rubber, it is more prone to catching on vegetation, tearing out, or separating from the upper.
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 Ellipse GTX impressed us with its abrasion resistance — one of our friends has been using her pair regularly for almost a year and they still look virtually brand new. 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 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.
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 (and not by a heater with leather shoes!) will make a world of difference.
Gaiters are a good option for the trail if you want to enhance the water resistance of your hiking shoes and also prevent small debris from getting in your shoe and causing you discomfort or even blisters. The Outdoor Research Women's Wrapid Gaiters can be put on without taking off your hiking shoes. The Outdoor Research Women's Verglas Gaiters are a high style gaiter that protects your shoe and leg up to mid-calf. You can check out our complete gaiter review for more options there.
As our review has shown, many manufacturers don't put proper insoles in their very expensive hiking shoes. Insoles can help give you the proper arch support you need for a full day spent on your feet, and even some additional cushioning. The Superfeet Green Premium Insoles are a comfortable option that help minimize foot ache from a long day of hiking.
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
Still not sure? Take a look at our buying advice article for more info.