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On the hunt for new hiking shoes? In 11 years, we have put 113 pairs of the best hiking shoes through extensive testing. In this update, our all-female hiking team compares the 15 best women's hiking shoes available now. Our hiking experts have done the leg work, busting out hundreds of miles over the years through deserts, forests, mountains, and streams. We carry loaded packs, consider all-day comfort, and evaluate traction over and through wet, loose, slippery, and uneven terrain. From differing foot shapes to varied trail conditions, we consider it all and rank each shoe according to our on-trail experiences. Over months of side-by-side comparison and testing, we tease apart the differences between these shoes and share our findings to help you hone in on your perfect pair.
Hiking in the great outdoors is a ton of fun, whether you load up on gear or head out with nothing more than a stellar hydration pack and a solid pair of shoes. But if you are the kind of hiker that loves to have all the high-end gear, we've probably tested it and have recommendations for you. If you are planning longer treks carrying a heavy pack or just prefer to have a bit more support, you might be interested in women's high-top hiking boots. If you're looking for men's hikers, we've tested those too.
Editor's Note: We updated this review on May 11, 2023, to add a few new pairs to the lineup, re-test updated versions of some old favorites, and add new video content and photos for our award winners.
100% recycled polyester laces may require replacement
The La Sportiva Spire GTX features a low-profile design that combines the agility of a trail runner with the stability of a hiking boot into one unstoppable trail shoe. The fit is comfortable right out of the box, though it may run a little big and favor those with a high arch. The abrasion-resistant mesh upper combined with the compression-molded midsole offers excellent support while remaining flexible, whether day hiking or considering an extended trip into the backcountry with the added weight of a pack. The Vibram XS Trek outsole and Stability Control System built into this design are ready to tackle any type of terrain without sacrificing ground feel underfoot or responsiveness on the steeps. This shoe features one of the highest flood levels, measuring 3.75 inches above the ankle, and a waterproof membrane that remains breathable without allowing water to penetrate the shoe. Whether crossing creeks during high runoff or moving through melting, slushy snow, this shoe is up for the challenge.
For some who are seeking simple day hikes on well-maintained trails, this shoe may be overbuilt with too many additional features. The waterproof membrane may also be too hot for those who plan to hike at lower elevations during the heat of summer. And finally, though we love Sportiva's nod towards sustainability by including 100% recycled polyester laces, they may require adjustment or replacement depending on your foot shape and how much off-trail travel you get up to. While the Spire is one of the most expensive designs that we tested, we believe it's worth every penny and will last for many hiking seasons to come.
The Merrell Moab 3 WP is the latest update to Merrell's popular collection of affordable hiking shoes. With consistently reliable scores across most testing metrics, we found the structure to offer enough stability and support for those with a wider foot shape, thanks to a sizeable toe box that allows the forefoot to splay in a natural position while the backend of the shoe narrows into a structured heel cup, locking the foot into place. The shoe is well-padded in both the tongue and ankle collar and protectively cushioned to cradle the foot from heel to toe. The Vibram TC5+ outsoles provided traction in most terrain types, and the waterproof upper successfully shed moisture and kept our feet dry during our submersion tests.
While our testers appreciate Merrell's efforts to incorporate more recycled materials, a more supportive insole and midsole, and beefing up the Vibram traction, this is not our first choice for those seeking high performance. The overall design is a bit bulky and unlikely to be the most technically or aesthetically flashy option in any crowd. That said, there's no question this reliable hiker delivers the goods at an affordable price.
The La Sportiva TX4 is more than just a shoe that's built for long and arduous climbing approaches. It's time to let hiking enthusiasts in on the secret to navigating slippery and polished rock on the most popular hiking trails. Featuring Vibram Megagrip Traverse rubber with an Impact Brake System, these shoes will provide the ultimate confidence underfoot. In addition to top-of-the-line traction, the TX4 offers a comfortable and supportive feel directly out of the box thanks to the STB Control System for torsional stability and a spacious fit in the forefoot.
Unfortunately, the TX4 is not fully waterproof, but it does perform well when moving through shallow stream crossings, mud puddles, and even melting snow patches. The nubuck leather upper features a very high-quality construction and can be treated with waterproof protection if desired, though it may affect the breathability. While we didn't experience any issues with our TX4s during our testing period, we couldn't help but notice other models on the trails wearing holes near the big and pinky toe and the tiny orange cord ripping out around the laces and the heel pull tab. Regardless, this quickly became our go-to hiking shoe for navigating slickrock trails from the slippery granite in Yosemite Valley to the polished sandstone in Zion National Park.
The Salomon X Ultra 4 Gore-Tex features excellent traction, a relatively lightweight design, and impressive midfoot stability. With a sleek modern appearance and a snug, protective fit paired with a surprisingly solid base, it proves particularly well suited to technical backcountry terrain and mountaintop scrambles. The welded, synthetic upper does a great job of locking the forefoot and heel securely into place for stability from the bottom up. Meanwhile, the rubber Contagrip sole features a chevron lug pattern to enhance traction while navigating loose scree or wet and slippery rocks, and the Gore-Tex liners deliver watertight confidence during inclement weather. The X Ultra 4's toe box is also notably roomier than in previous iterations, making it spacious enough for those with a wider foot. Just keep in mind that the Salomon fit typically favors those with narrow feet and higher arches.
When it comes to agility and responsiveness on technical terrain, the X Ultra 4 makes a fantastic shoe, even if it isn't our go-to for multi-day expeditions while carrying a heavy pack. Perhaps our biggest complaint about this shoe is the Quicklace system — it's designed for convenience but ultimately prevents a customized fit and requires adjustments due to loosening on the trail. We also don't recommend this shoe if you plan on primarily traveling off trail, as the synthetic, welded upper isn't substantial enough to endure the impact from constant boulder-hopping over sharp rocks, talus, and scree. Still, these are an all-around, hard-charging option, available at a reasonable price.
The North Face VECTIV Fastpack FUTURELIGHT is our favorite hiking shoe to recommend for those seeking to drop the added weight and bulk of a traditional hiking shoe without sacrificing high performance. This shoe features a moderate cushion and a unique rockered design that feels comfortable right out of the box and centers around maximizing energy output on the trails. The fully waterproof design allows space for air to permeate the abrasion-resistant mesh upper and increase overall breathability without losing any waterproof performance.
This high-performing shoe is not without some caveats. While we appreciate the reduced weight and bulk, we also can't imagine this shoe will offer the same durability as other more substantial, heavier synthetic and leather uppers. And while we love this lightweight design for day hikes and fastpacking missions, it wouldn't be our first choice for an extended backpacking trip with any significant weight on our backs. All that said, if you're looking to shed some weight without losing torsional stability and waterproof performance, this is a shoe that will maximize forward motion without slowing you down.
The LP Alpine is Altra's casual version of their more aggressive and high-performing Lone Peak Series trail shoe. Our testers were blown away by the out-of-the-box comfort and spacious toe box that allowed the toes plenty of room to spread out, especially when hiking in the heat. The Duratread rubber is the exact same rubber used on other shoes within the Lone Peak Series and offers excellent traction and precision for moderate day hikes. This is also one of the lightest hiking shoes that we tested, which can make quite a difference when covering lots of miles.
It's important to understand that this shoe offers enough trail performance to hike on moderate and well-groomed terrain but is not well suited for technical or cross-country travel. The design is constructed from hemp canvas with suede overlays that will keep your feet dry when moving through shallow puddles and melting snow patches, but it does not offer full waterproof protection or sufficient durability. However, we do appreciate the added breathability and the sustainable resources utilized to construct the sufficiently supportive midsole. If you're considering moderate day hikes without a heavy pack, daily dog walks, or simply want the support of a "zero-drop" shoe while running errands around town, the LP Alpine is a great choice.
Before testing begins, we research a wide variety of available options. After scouring the market and vetting many manufacturers and models, we purchase all shoes discussed here at retail price. Our selection includes models that we consider to be the most promising, innovative, intriguing, and of high value. We then test our selected models for months, hiking many miles in each pair.
Women's hiking shoes were tested across 6 performance metrics:
Comfort (25% of overall score weighting)
Support (20% weighting)
Traction (15% weighting)
Weight (15% weighting)
Water Resistance (15% weighting)
Durability (10% weighting)
Comfort and support tests are the two most important metrics we investigated and, together, they make up nearly half of the total weighted score. We wore each pair of hikers in various terrain, from soft trails in the forest to scree-covered buttes and scrambles over slippery granite. We assessed support while traveling light and while wearing a heavier pack, checked traction by wearing them back-to-back on dry and technical scrambles, and carefully evaluated all of their positive and negative attributes along the way. Since 2012, we've tested over 50 unique hiking shoes for women, giving us insight to better evaluate the performance of each and every shoe.
Our review team is headed up by a team of strong women with decades of hiking experience. Our lead tester is Trish Matheny, an avid climber, splitboarder, ultra runner, and gear junkie. Pick a day, and Trish is on the move, probably testing gear. She is backed up by Myrha Colt, a long-time adventure travel professional and trail enthusiast whose feet have carried her from the rugged backcountry trails of the US West to dramatic heights and dusty roads in trekking hot spots worldwide. Also contributing to this dynamic team is long-time climber, backpacker, and all-around outdoor gear expert Mary Witlacil. These three backcountry connoisseurs are well-versed in assessing the features that make a great trail shoe while calling out the hiking shoes that may miss the mark. So it is with great enthusiasm they bring you their final, well-vetted assessments.
From steep and rocky to mucky and slick, we've tested these hikers over every type of terrain.
Analysis and Test Results
Following our testing period, we scored each pair of hiking shoes on specific criteria so you can find the best shoes for your needs. Read on to learn more about each metric and which shoes rose to the top.
Hiking is, at its core, a pretty basic activity that requires much less gear than most other outdoor activities. That being said, a good pair of hiking shoes tailored to your specific outdoor objectives is essential and can make all the difference in enjoying your experience. Back in the day, you could buy one pair of leather hiking boots that would last a decade or two. Given the lighter weight, and high-performing materials of today's styles, many new hiking shoes may last only a fraction of that lifespan. There's no doubt modern hikers benefit from innovative design and advanced technologies. But people who hit the trail often are apt to blow through one or two (or even more!) pairs each year. Though the hiking shoes in this review may not be outrageously expensive, costs add up if you're replacing your trail shoes often. We offer opinions on the value of each shoe based on the metrics below, but to a certain extent, any final assessment will depend on two things: your hiking priorities and your specific fit.
The Merrell Moab 3 WP offers great value for the price. It gets the job done across many routes, conditions, and terrain — wet, dry, long haul, you name it — providing adequate comfort and support without emptying your wallet. When you need to move quickly to achieve your objectives, the The North Face VECTIV Fastpack FUTURELIGHT is an excellent, well-priced option that will impress you with its rockered design that optimizes forward motion. While the Merrell Siren Edge 3 wasn't a top performer (nor is it waterproof), it is one of the least expensive and lightest-weight shoes in our review. It provides reasonable comfort out on the trail with better breathability than hiking shoes that feature a waterproof membrane.
One tip for finding value in hiking shoes is to consider your need for waterproof technology. Many of the models in this review are available in non-waterproof versions, which tend to be lighter in weight and less expensive than their waterproof counterparts. As a bonus, non-lined shoes almost always have better breathability, which is particularly great for warm-weather hiking at lower elevations.
It is difficult to overstate the importance of comfort when considering hiking footwear. Your feet are your foundation on the trail, navigating roots, rocks, and rugged terrain, so it is essential to have cushioned and comfortable shoes, especially with the weight of a pack. Even a short hike can be unpleasant in an uncomfortable shoe, let alone a weeklong thru-hike in remote mountains. It's hard to take in views when all you can think about are hotspots and blisters on your toes.
Comfortable shoes are strategically-padded, responsive, supportive, and sized correctly. Of course, a good fit is essential and highly subjective, as a shoe that fits one person's long and narrow foot might not feel so great to someone with a wider forefoot. So we highly recommend test-driving any potential candidates before committing to your purchase. If the fit is too loose or too tight, you'll end up with pressure points, chafing, and, worst of all, blisters. In this section, we'll identify which shoes will work best for various foot shapes and arch heights, as the overall fit significantly influences comfort. If you think you've found the perfect shoe but discover it didn't break in as well as you had hoped, consider swapping out the insole for aftermarket insoles, tongue pads, or different shoelaces.
Our testers discovered three very different standout options when evaluating each shoe for comfort — the Altra LP Alpine, the Hoka Anacapa Low GTX, and the On Running Cloudwander Waterproof. While the Anacapa and Cloudwander offer ample and unique cushioning combined with substantial structure and support, the LP Alpine increases comfort through its spacious toe box and Balanced Cushioning that encourages your body's natural alignment by placing the heel and forefoot at the same height.
One telltale sign of a comfortable shoe is the amount of fatigue and soreness you feel in your feet at the end of the day. Though the La Sportiva Spire GTX is not the most cushioned option, it has a responsive and dynamic midsole and excellent support that performs particularly well on technical, off-trail terrain. While the abrasion-resistant mesh upper could be too spacious for some, a set of Superfeet insoles could be a great way to add cushioning and achieve a near-perfect fit. The Salomon X Ultra 4 also features flexible, soft materials and supportive technical overlays, which combine to make a remarkably agile and comfortable shoe. And finally, we'd be remiss not to mention the VECTIV Fastpack for its moderate cushioning, flexible forefoot, and rockered design that increases comfort without weighing you down on the trail.
Leather shoes can sometimes require a few miles to break in, as the material needs to be worked to conform to your foot. Conversely, shoes made with synthetic materials tend to be more comfortable out of the box, with the laces establishing a more individualized fit. Despite being leather, the La Sportiva TX4 impressed our testing team after it quickly molded to our feet and provided a comfortable fit and a secure heel right out of the box. The design hugs your foot and imparts confidence with every step. We found a stiffer material, like that of the Adidas Terrex Swift R3, will certainly require quite a few hikes to soften up and increase responsiveness. We highly recommend slowly increasing your mileage while breaking in any new shoe rather than heading out for a demanding hike. This will give you time to dial in the lacing and adjustments you'll need to maximize the comfort of the shoe and hopefully prevent any development of blisters or hot spots before committing to a longer hike.
There is great variation across shoe brands when it comes to width, length, and shape. While we evaluate whether each shoe will work best for a narrow or wide foot, keep in mind that some models like the Oboz Sawtooth X Low, Merrell Siren Edge 3, and the Merrell Moab 3 WP also come in wide sizes. If you prefer more width in your hiking shoe, these models are worth considering.
Size conversion is not always consistent between US and European shoe brands, so double-checking the sizing is always good. US Women's shoes convert to a range of Euro sizes, but only the La Sportiva Spire, Arc'teryx Aerios FL 2, and the Hoka Anacapa Low run noticeably longer and more narrow than the rest of our test group. Additionally, we found the sizing for the VECTIV Fastpack FUTURELIGHT, the Merrell Moab Speed, and the Cloudwander to run small and feature narrow toe boxes that could potentially be problematic for those with wider feet. Otherwise, sizing differences were not enough of an issue to demand note, but it is something to keep in mind if you run between sizes. And, of course, no matter what sizing standard is at play, many hikers prefer to buy half a size larger to ensure a bit of extra room up front for swollen feet after miles on the trail.
When evaluating the overall support of a hiking shoe, we consider the arch support, lateral stability, overall stiffness of the sole, and the effectiveness and adjustability of the lacing system. We examined each feature and evaluated the different shoes side-by-side, noting how they performed relative to one another. It's important to understand that ankle-high hiking shoes simply do not offer the same amount of support as that of a full boot with an ankle cuff for additional stability. If you prefer more ankle support while exploring uneven terrain or you plan to hike with a heavy pack over long distances, we highly recommend a full hiking boot (often referred to as "mid" height).
The shape of your foot will often determine the amount of arch support you prefer your hiking shoe to have built into its structure. If you have flatter feet and put on a shoe with pronounced arch support, it's not going to offer stability or comfort. Conversely, little to no arch support in a shoe can feel brutal to someone with medium to high arches, especially after hiking all day. If you love every other feature of a specific hiking shoe but are after more support for your arches, it is possible to replace the insole of the shoe with an aftermarket insole that better suits the shape of your feet and provides a more customized fit.
Out of all the shoes we tested, the La Sportiva Spire, La Sportiva TX4, Salomon X Ultra 4, and the On Running Cloudwander offered the most support for moderate to high arches. The proprietary insole in the Cloudwander provides the most support of the bunch, with extra padding and a molded arch that holds its shape well. Those with flatter feet may want to consider the Hoka Anacapa Low GTX, the Arc'teryx Aerios FL 2, or the Altra LP Alpine, which have less pronounced arch support.
Lateral stability is also a crucial consideration for your next trail shoe, especially since hiking rarely happens on flat terrain free of obstacles. Such stability is a combination of internal arch support and a sole's flexibility and firmness, which comes into play when you are boulder-hopping, scrambling, or hiking over mixed terrain through rugged trail systems. Whenever you can wring out a shoe like a wet towel, that shoe's lateral structure will leave a lot to be desired. However, the more stiffness you add, the less flexibility you'll find in the forefoot, and the shoe can become less suitable for tackling steep inclines. On the flip side, too much flexibility under the balls of your feet means you will absorb more shock from the trail and fatigue your feet more quickly. So, your hiking plans will likely dictate your priorities.
One of the best mixes of support and mild forefoot flexibility we saw was in the La Sportiva TX4. On technical hikes and scrambling for summits, it offered protection underfoot and solid stability with limited motion side-to-side. For longer hikes through any type of terrain, the sturdy base of the La Sportiva Spire GTX makes an excellent choice. Or if miles of uphill climbs lie ahead, the Salomon X Ultra 4 impressed us with ample flexibility at the ball of the foot coupled with ankle and pronation support via overlays on the outside of the upper.
A key feature for ensuring stability is to have your heel secured in place. An extra runner's loop eyelet on shoes like the Oboz Sawtooth X, the Adidas Terrex Swift R3, and the Hoka Anacapa Low GTX allows for alternative lacing strategies to create a snug fit and minimize heel lift. The Hoka Anacapa even provides a built-in heel pad to lock your foot into position. It's important to consider that even the slightest amount of movement in the heel over the course of an all-day hike can be a recipe for severe blisters and discomfort, so we highly recommend finding a shoe with the best fit for your feet.
Traction is a critical consideration for any footwear designed for the trail. Slick feet could land you on your rear end, contribute to twisted ankles, and severely limit the terrain you feel confident exploring. Several things contribute to a shoe's traction, including the stickiness of the rubber as well as the size, shape, direction, and depth of the lug pattern on the outsole. Vibram soles are the gold standard for high-end hiking shoes; they make dozens of different rubber compounds and tread patterns with varying degrees of surface grip.
Our overall favorite shoe for navigating slick rock terrain is the La Sportiva TX4, which features a Vibram Megagrip Traverse with a TrailBite Heel Braking platform below the heel. This shoe is well-known by rock climbers who primarily navigate steep and unforgiving terrain on the approach to their favorite climbing routes. However, we also found this "approach" shoe to perform well when evaluated on hiking trails, especially when navigating slippery, polished, and super popular trail systems in America's National Parks.
Other notable performers include the La Sportiva Spire GTX, which features a Vibram XS Trek outsole and an Impact Brake System positioned on the heel for additional grip and traction while quickly descending technical terrain. This rubber also performed exceptionally well in cold, wet conditions, where we've seen other softer rubbers lose traction once the temperatures dropped. We'd also like to give a shout-out to the Hoka Anacapa Low GTX but with an asterisk. The sole is comprised of two separate rubbers, and in our case, the red rubber represented the durable, high-performing Vibram Megagrip rubber, while the lighter soft-sole rubber was very susceptible to durability issues while on challenging and rocky terrain.
We primarily evaluated traction on steep and unconsolidated dirt trails littered with decomposing granite, in addition to slippery slabs, roots, wet logs and boulders, mud, loose scree, melting snow, and talus fields. Above-average traction on dirt is usually achieved through a deep lug pattern that can dig into the ground with each and every step. We found shoes that feature outsoles with "multi-directional" chevron lug patterns that look like zigzags or arrow tips to provide the highest-performing traction. This optimal traction allowed us to tackle the steeps without losing confidence in our footwork. Notable pairs include the Salomon X Ultra 4 and the Altra LP Alpine, which both feature a chevron pattern with a very different feel underfoot. While neither outsole is equipped for cross-country terrain, the LP Alpine boasts more flexibility and control thanks to the Duratread rubber and Trailclaw patterning, while the X Ultra 4 offers exceptional grip even on icy terrain without being overly rigid.
When it comes to traction on rock, the greatest impact comes from the stickiness of the rubber rather than the shape of the lugs. Hard and stiff rubber doesn't grip as well as softer and more pliable formulations. The La Sportiva TX4, Terrex Swift R3, Altra LP Alpine, and Salomon X Ultra 4 performed particularly well on rock that lacked texture due to their flexible and grippy outsoles. Though various types of rubber, these outsoles remained soft, flexible, and sticky, thereby increasing our confidence as we leaped from boulder to boulder and scrambled over polished slabs. Of course, the temperature can affect stickiness, and soft rubber typically does not perform as well in colder conditions. Therefore, in colder conditions, we recommend the Spire GTX, which is outfitted with a Vibram XS Trek outsole, giving high performance while maintaining flexibility on cold, icy, and wet surfaces.
The flexibility of the forefoot will also affect traction. If you can't bend the front of your foot or the sole is too thick to feel the rock, you may have difficulty achieving secure footing. The X Ultra 4 and the Spire GTX both hit that sweet spot between forefoot flexion and stability to prove themselves as great options for navigating technical descents and steep climbs.
Light hiking gear can often lead to a more enjoyable experience on the trail, and hiking shoe technology has now advanced to the point where hikers are almost as light as trail running shoes without sacrificing protection, stability, or performance. Though less than half a pound separates our testing group's heaviest and lightest pairs, this extra weight can make quite a difference, especially when carrying a heavy pack or increasing overall mileage. It's important to consider that some of the lightest shoes that we tested also delivered the least amount of performance.
For a little extra weight, we found shoes that combined the agility of a trail runner with the stability of a hiking boot to offer the best performance. For instance, the VECTIV Fastpack only weighed 1.34 pounds per pair yet offered excellent comfort, support, and waterproof protection. The La Sportiva TX4 weighs only 1.42 pounds per pair yet provides incredible stability and traction within a comfortable and supportive structure. The On Running Cloudwander and the Salomon X Ultra 4 both weighed only 1.54 pounds, and though not as durable as their nubuck leather counterparts, they still remain appropriate and responsive for navigating technical terrain.
Moving to the middle of the pack, the La Sportiva Spire GTX weighs in at 1.68 pounds. The synthetic upper remains flexible while also offering high performance in both traction and waterproof protection. The extra weight is worth the trade-off for the additional features and stability that allow this shoe to navigate off-trail while carrying a pack.
The heaviest shoes that we tested included the Merrell Moab 3 WP, the Keen Targhee III Low, and the Oboz Sawtooth X Low Waterproof, weighing between 1.78 and 1.92 pounds per pair. Though only a few ounces heavier than our lightest contenders, the designs feature bulky leather construction with additional volume that makes for a heavier feel on the trails. It is also worth mentioning that the added weight for these hiking shoes means increased durability in a long-lasting, if heavy, design.
Many hiking shoes are available in both waterproof and non-waterproof versions. The best option for you depends on the climate, terrain, elevation, and the season where you plan to do most of your hiking. Do you live in the desert and avoid hiking in the rain? Are your hikes primarily shorter and closer to home? You may want to pass on the less breathable Gore-Tex membrane and opt for a pair with a mesh lining instead. However, most hiking destinations have unpredictable weather, and an afternoon rainstorm far from the trailhead can make for a soggy, uncomfortable, and even painful hike.
Waterproof membrane technology is always improving, allowing shoes to transfer heat and sweat away from your feet and out of the shoe. Even as the technology becomes more breathable, a membrane will invariably be less breathable than a shoe without this lining. The best mix of breathability and waterproof protection in our current lineup is the Spire GTX, which is designed with a Gore-Tex Surround liner that increases ventilation through the bottom of the shoe with open channels in the sole. Other breathable waterproof options include the VECTIV Fastpack and the On Running Cloudwander, whose designs feature performance mesh and waterproof membranes that maximize water resistance without sacrificing overall breathability, thereby making them better options for hikes during the heat of the summer at lower elevations. On the other hand, the Adidas Terrex Swift R3 is perfectly watertight but not nearly as breathable as others in the group. Our feet got rather toasty while hiking, especially on the warmest days of summer. But on a cold, wet day, it makes an excellent choice.
If you live in a wet climate or like to plan trips into the mountains, a waterproof shoe is typically a necessity. Most of the models in our current test suite claim such protections, but we also included a few non-waterproof models for comparison. To determine the level of water resistance each offer, we performed various trail tests, including stream crossings and a controlled submersion test (5 minutes submerged in 3 inches of water) with each shoe. We were immediately impressed by the performance of modern waterproof technology, noting that each shoe advertised as waterproof could back up its claim in practice, holding strong against any outside moisture to keep our toes warm and dry.
Other excellent options that offer waterproof performance but lack some breathability include the Salomon X Ultra 4 GTX and the Arc'teryx Aerios FL 2 GTX. Though the X Ultra 4 offers excellent waterproof protection, we found the design to be hot, causing our feet to sweat and swell in warmer climates. On the flip side of the coin, we appreciated this design feature when some of our early hikes required post-holing through knee-deep snow and crossing several cold creeks filled with recent snowmelt. The Aerios FL also performed well in this metric, though, similar to the X Ultra 4, it wasn't able to successfully shed moisture build-up in the interior of the shoe. However, the design does feature a wider toe box for feet that may swell during the hike.
In comparison, each of our mesh-lined shoes lasted less than 60 seconds in our submersion test, with the Merrell Siren Edge, the Danner Trail 2650, and the Altra LP Alpine immediately soaking through and absorbing a significant amount of water. Among them, the Siren Edge was the fastest to dry by a long shot. So, if waterproofing is not a top priority but breathability is, this could be a great option to regulate sweat and foot temperature while still drying quickly in the event of an unexpected storm. It is also available in a waterproof version if you love the fit but require moisture protection. Not to be missed, the La Sportiva TX4 features a nubuck leather upper that can withstand some moisture on the trail, though it cannot be fully submerged when crossing creeks. There is an option to treat this leather with a waterproof coating for added performance while remaining mindful that the treatment may reduce overall breathability.
Hiking shoes are the buffer between you and the rough, rugged, or abrasive terrain you encounter on the trail, so it's no surprise that they may wear out faster than the rest of your hiking gear. A typical shoe with a soft EVA midsole lasts between 300-500 miles, depending on its structure, as well as where you hike, how you walk, and how much weight you carry. If you are a casual hiker, it might take years before your shoes begin to break down. Ambitious hikers, however, may go through one or more pairs per year. Shoes with a polyurethane (PU) midsole are expected to last up to twice the mileage, however, that extra durability can come at the expense of comfort and an extended break-in period. Normal wear and tear on any shoe packs down the midsole and wears down the outsole, so stiffer midsoles (like a dual-density EVA) and dense rubber soles will last longer overall.
While time does not allow us to put 500 miles on every shoe in this review, each pair was still worn extensively on various terrain. We closely inspected them for damage, areas of potential weakness, or premature wear and compression. In an effort to make shoes lighter weight, some midsoles are left almost entirely exposed. Since that material is softer than rubber, it is more prone to snagging on vegetation, tearing, or even pulling away from the upper. If you hike in very brushy terrain, you may see more of this kind of damage than if you are out on desert slabs or well-maintained trail systems.
In addition to the soles, we look closely at the uppers. Leather tends to have the greatest longevity, especially when it is double-stitched. Synthetic materials are lighter and more breathable than leather, but our experience shows that they are more vulnerable to tearing or cracking after encountering debris on the trail. We closely inspect seams, eyelets, toe boxes, and pressure points for any indication of failure, delamination, or wear. The abrasion-resistant mesh of the Spire GTX is supplemented with a polyurethane toe cap and a "heel-surround" for added durability. Some models have welded overlays made of thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), which adds durability while being lighter than rubber. It protects from abrasion but will not provide as much protection from rocks, roots, or other potential toe-stubbing hazards.
The La Sportiva TX4, Oboz Sawtooth X Low Waterproof, and Keen Targhee III Low all impressed our testers thanks to their durable leather uppers and mesh inserts to improve breathability. Double or triple-stitched seams gave no indication of pulling or unraveling throughout our testing period. These shoes are burly, and the insoles are solid, thereby increasing the life of the footbed. All of these shoes are designed to handle long-distance hikes, and we expect them to offer long-lasting performance. That being said, though leather uppers will offer a better return on your investment in terms of longevity, the design may include additional weight and bulk.
Many innovative and exciting technologies are being used to design hiking shoes these days, making them lighter and more responsive without sacrificing support, stability, or waterproof performance. But it can require many miles to test new features and models with any depth. We hope this review helps you to narrow down your selection so that you find the right hiking shoe for your upcoming adventure, whether exploring local trails or planning a once-in-a-lifetime trip.
GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.