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On the hunt for new hiking shoes? In 10 years, our all-female hiking team has tested 50 pairs, with the 12 best contenders now available in our current review. Our hiking enthusiasts have done leg work, busting out hundreds of long 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, and slippery surfaces. From differing foot shapes to varied trail conditions, we look at 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 pinpoint your perfect pair.
Hiking is a world of fun in which you can either load up on gear or head out with nothing more than a stellar hydration pack and a good pair of shoes. But if you are the kind of hiker that loves to have all the top-notch hiking 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 hiking shoes, we've tested those too.
Editor's Note: We updated this review on November 7, 2022, to add a few new pairs to the lineup and to re-test updated versions of some old favorites.
The Moab 3 WP is the latest update to Merrell's wildly popular collection, and the model's best performer yet. With consistently excellent scores across all test metrics, we found it incredibly stable and supportive in arch and midsole, well-padded in both tongue and ankle collar, and protectively cushioned, cradling the foot from the heel to toe. A wide toe box allows the forefoot to splay in a comfortable natural state while the backend of the shoe narrows into a highly structured heel cup, locking the foot into place to ensure a relaxed, unencumbered gait. The thick, deeply patterned Vibram TC5+ outsoles provide a highly responsive grip and impressive shock absorption across all surfaces. Meanwhile, the watertight yet highly breathable leather upper is both durable and soft, ensuring comfort and protection straight out of the box. Although it's a bit bulky and unlikely to be the most technically or aesthetically flashy option in any crowd, there's no question this reliable hiker delivers the goods where it counts: comfort, stability, durability, and performance.
The newest generation of Moab incorporates a few subtle yet important updates that helped advance its position in our rankings: a new more supportive factory insole, a softer better-cushioned midsole, and a stickier version of its best-in-class Vibram outsole. It's also built with an increasing amount of recycled materials. The Moab 3 offers the best trail hiking technology — reasonably lightweight, exceptional traction, and reliable waterproofing — now with an even more comfortable fit, including deep cushioning, solid arch support, and the roomy toe box it was already known for. This collection has been on the market longer than most of the competition and comes at a very reasonable price point, demonstrating a recognized value among hiking crowds.
The newest iteration in the series, the Oboz Sawtooth X Low Waterproof remains just as incredibly supportive and comfortable as its celebrated predecessor, especially on lengthy hikes with a pack. The anniversary X edition incorporates a few enhancements to make this the most capable version yet: a new outsole boasts superior slip-resistance and enhanced durability and strength, and new Adaptive Cushioning Technology has been incorporated into the midsole to improve efficiency and produce a softer heel area. What does that mean to you? An even cushier ride and a grippier base on a shoe that already scored pretty highly on both counts. The entire footbed is notably plush, and the proprietary insoles offer excellent structure and support. Chunky, tiered lugs now grab loose surfaces and slick rocks even more easily, and a roomy toe box reduces pressure and friction across the forefoot. This shoe also does a great job holding the heel in place to minimize lifting and rubbing. Combined with thick, flat laces and an extra runner's loop means plenty of adjustability and support to achieve a perfect fit.
The one thing we didn't love about the Sawtooth X Low Waterproof is its weight. It is among the heaviest shoes in our review. But when we take into account the wealth of features, including a BDry membrane that successfully kept our feet dry both on trail and under controlled testing, it seems a worthy tradeoff. The combination of impressive cushioning, protection, support, and durability kept the Sawtooth X WP high on our list of top choices, particularly for multi-day treks where comfort is of the essence.
It is no surprise that the Keen Targhee III Low is such a crowd-pleaser. This wildly popular shoe features durable leather uppers matched with a solid well-engineered base that offers excellent arch and lateral support, plus a thick outsole with large, multi-directional lugs. This is a long-lasting waterproof hiker ready to tackle distances on varied terrain. The Targhee III also has a roomy toe-box that's particularly popular among hikers with wider feet, while a fitted heel cup and responsive lacing structure ensure an equally great fit for even our B-width reviewers. This shoe is comfortable straight out of the box and easily adjustable, with plenty of space to mix-and-match thick socks and inserts according to preference.
While the Targhee III does well in terms of stability, durability, and overall performance, some design aspects we like less. For example, it is relatively heavy and burly for a low-rise shoe. If you have a narrow foot or want to travel light, it's not likely to top your list of favorites. It's also got a particularly hard footbed and very little cushioning under the midfoot. So while an aftermarket insole is generally optional, we expect such added underfoot support will prove a necessity for most average hikers. Finally, while Keen's proprietary waterproof liner works wonders and the Targhee's sturdy leather upper is sure to last over many miles, this combination proves less breathable in practice than other options we tested in this group. If you tend to run hot, this is worthy to note. Of course, if you don't, or if you prioritize durability over all else, it won't really matter. Either way, this is a formidable option for anyone needing a stable and comfortable shoe for long days and nights on the trail.
The La Sportiva Spire GTX will be most appreciated by those whose feet run long and narrow-to-average and whose style preferences lean toward the athletic. It's a shoe that combines the lightweight, grippy breathability typical of a classic trail runner with the waterproof lateral stability of a low-rise hiker. The upper is soft and flexible, the midsole solid and supportive, and the Gore-Tex Surround liner as breathable as it is waterproof, making this a great option for those who bounce between trail runs and light-and-fast day adventures. For some, the Spire proved a top choice no matter what terrain or objective lay ahead. Other testers experienced less optimal results. Why? Ultimately individual fit is both subjective and the key to any great shoe, and subtle differences in length and width, or nuances in individual foot structure, can make all the difference. This is why we highly recommend taking the time to test drive any option up for consideration.
For technical mountain scrambles, peak-bagging, or light day outings, the Spire scored highly. With thick, deep lugs, it provides solid traction on dirt and dry rocky terrain. But in slick conditions, the outsoles generated limited confidence despite the hefty appearance. And when faced with multiple days under pack weight, testers questioned whether the shoe was appropriately rugged and supportive enough for the job. The laces also proved problematic, requiring frequent stops to re-tighten for adequate fit and wearing down quickly due to friction within the thin nylon lace holsters. But overall, this shoe is exceptionally durable in materials and design, and the lightweight technology makes it a favorite. As one of the spendiest shoes we tested, the Spire GTX is not for everyone. Yet, where speed, comfort, support, and performance are a priority, the cost will be worth it.
The Salomon X Ultra 4 Gore-Tex offers excellent traction, a relatively lightweight design, and impressive midfoot stability. With a sleek modern appearance and snug, protective fit paired with a surprisingly solid base, it proves particularly well suited to technical backcountry terrain and mountaintop scrambles. A synthetic welded upper does a great job of locking the forefoot and heel securely into place to stabilize from the bottom up. Meanwhile, the rubber Contagrip sole provides excellent traction for moving through loose scree or up and down wet rocks, and the Gore-Tex liners deliver watertight confidence when needed. The X Ultra 4's toe box is also notably roomier than in previous iterations. But, our testers report this model still runs long and remains uncomfortable for a wider forefoot. So while worthy of serious consideration for hikers with long, slender feet, it isn't for everyone, and we might still suggest ordering a half size down from your normal size.
When it comes to agility and speed on all manner of technical terrain, the X Ultra 4s make a fantastic shoe even if it wouldn't be our go-to for ]multi-day expeditions requiring a heavy pack. But we didn't love all the unconventional design choices that set this model apart. The quick-release cinching drawstring of its Quicklace system sounds good in theory but proves a bit of a nuisance in practice. With no adjustability and a tendency to loosen in motion, instability and heel slippage both become issues. Durability is also a concern. The Quicklace storage pocket tore almost immediately in early tests, and the midsole showed signs of compression even when no substantial pack was involved. Still, these are an all-around, hard-charging option at a moderate price and a great alternative to the more expensive Spire GTX.
The Arc'teryx Aerios FL 2 GTX is a relatively lightweight, performance-oriented hiking shoe in a clean, minimalist style equally-suited to hip urban outings as to dusty, rugged trail days. The model owes much of its eye-catching appeal to the use of structural welds rather than stitches across each mono-colored shoe, from the synthetic upper and laces to the rubber toe cap. And all of the same qualities that made the earlier model a favorite appear just as relevant and applicable with this updated version. The only real change to note in the Aerios FL 2 is in materials: it is constructed of a slightly lighter, more durable polyester fabric. Otherwise, these athletic-inspired hikers remain soft, flexible, waterproof, and breathable up top, with a base that's still thick, sturdy, and deeply treaded to inspire confidence on and off trails.
We should point out that the Aerios FL 2 runs fairly long and a bit narrow. Yet, it also manages to be overly loose across the top of the foot. Testers struggled to lock things down using the lacing system alone and found the tongue insufficiently padded to protect against constant re-tightening. This lack of top-side structure means there are opportunities for slippage in the heel and even a bit of rolling inside the shoe itself. Similarly, limited arch support and cushioning underfoot, despite the thickness of the compressed EVA midsole, means there is little to stabilize or protect from sharp rocks. Also, the large-lugged rubber outsoles prove less grippy on loose, unconsolidated ground than anticipated. So, while we think the Aerios would make a great choice for hikers looking to stay light on their feet between trail sessions and happy hour hangs, they aren't our pick for more arduous day hikes or backpacking trips.
Before testing begins, we research the breadth of options available. After scouring the market and vetting a huge variety of manufacturers and models, we purchase all shoes discussed here at retail price. Our selection includes models that we consider the most promising, innovative, intriguing, and high-value. We then test our selected models for months, hiking numerous miles in each pair.
Women's hiking shoes were tested in 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, makeup 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 rocky scrambles. 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 aspects along the way. Since 2012, we've tested more than 50 unique hiking shoes for women, giving us insight to better evaluate the performance of each shoe.
Our review team is headed up by a team of strong women with decades of hiking experience. Our lead review editor is Myrha Colt, 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. Myrha has adventured from Nepal's Himalayas and the Peruvian Andes to deep in the Patagonian wilderness and over the scree-covered slopes of "Mt Doom" in New Zealand's Tongariro National Park. In collaboration with long-time climber, backpacker, and all-around outdoor gear expert Mary Witlacil, these two backcountry connoisseurs are well-versed in assessing the features that make a great trail shoe and calling out the hiker models 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 terrain type.
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 sports. That said, a good pair of hiking shoes tailored to your outdoor objectives is essential. Back in the day, you could buy one pair of leather hiking boots that would last a decade or two. Yet, 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 technologies. But people who hit the trail often are apt to blow through one or two (or even more!) pairs each year. Though the hikers 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 fit.
The Merrell Moab 3 WP offers exceptional value for the price. It gets the job done across all routes, conditions, and terrain — wet, dry, technical, long haul, you name it — providing excellent comfort and support without emptying your wallet. When you need to move quickly over rugged routes, the Salomon X Ultra 4 is an excellent, well-priced option as well. The Oboz Sawtooth X Low makes a great, affordable choice when a bit more cushion is called for. 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 and traction out on the trail with fantastic breathability for dry, warmer weather. One tip for finding value in hiking shoes is to consider your need for waterproofing. 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.
It is hard to overstate the importance of comfort in 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. Even a short hike can be unpleasant in an uncomfortable shoe, let alone a weeklong through-hike in remote mountains. It's hard to take in views when all you can think about are hotspots on your toes.
Comfortable shoes are well-padded, responsive, supportive, and correctly sized. Of course, a good fit is important and highly subjective, as a shoe that fits one person's long and narrow feet might not feel so great to someone with a wider forefoot. So we highly recommend test-driving any potential candidates before committing. Too loose or too tight, you'll end up with blisters, pressure points, and chafing. While we attempt to state which models will work best for a certain shape of foot or height of the arch, fit influences a shoe's comfort score less than factors that will affect every user, such as the amount, placement, and style of cushioning. If you think you've found the perfect shoe, but discover it is a bit uncomfortable after breaking it in, consider playing around with aftermarket insoles, tongue pads, or different shoelaces.
The two standouts in this category are the Merrell Moab 3 WP and the Oboz Sawtooth X Low Waterproof. These shoes have ample cushioning paired with substantial structure and support, continuing to be comfortable even after long days over big miles. 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. The Keen Targhee III Low is immensely supportive, but you are likely to feel the miles without a bit of extra padding added to the footbed. Similarly, the La Sportiva Spire GTX is not the most cushioned option, but it has a responsive and dynamic midsole and excellent support that performs particularly well on technical terrain. The Salomon X Ultra 4 Gore-Tex also features flexible, soft materials and supportive technical overlays, which combine to make a remarkably agile and comfortable shoe.
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. But here, despite being leather, the Moab 3 and Targhee III both impressed us, molding quickly to our feet and providing a comfortable fit on the first go. Each has a spacious toe box to avoid cramped toes. And while the Keen's heel cup could be too large for some, a set of Superfeet insoles proved a great way to add cushioning and set up a perfect fit. Occasionally, a stiffer material, like that of the Adidas Terrex Swift R3 Gore-Tex, needs a few hikes to soften up. We recommend wearing any new shoe on a couple of short jaunts to dial in lacing and adjustments for comfort before taking them out for an epic adventure where hot spots and blisters can become more of a problem.
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, including the Oboz Sawtooth X Low, Merrell Siren Edge 3, and the Merrell Moab 3 WP also come in wide sizes. These models are worth considering if you know you will need or prefer more width in your hiking shoe.
Size conversion is not always consistent between US and European shoe brands, so it's always good to double-check the sizing. US Women's shoes convert to a range of Euro sizes, but only the Salomon X Ultra 4 Gore-Tex, La Sportiva Spire GTX, Arc'teryx Aerios FL 2 GTX, and the Hoka Anacapa Low GTX run noticeably longer and more narrow than the rest of our test group. 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 upfront for swollen toes on the trail.
Support and stability come from several features, including arch support, lateral structures, stiffness of the sole, and how effectively one can adjust the shoe with the lacing system. We looked at each feature and evaluated the different models on how they performed relative to each other. Remember that ankle-high hiking shoes do not offer the same amount of support as a full boot. If your ankles are unstable or you plan to hike with a heavy pack over long miles, consider a full boot (often called "mid" height).
When it comes to arch support, the shape of your foot will determine how much you want your shoe to have. If you have flatter feet and put on a shoe with pronounced arch support, it's not going to feel stable or comfortable. Conversely, little to no arch support in a shoe can feel brutal to someone with medium to high arches, especially during an all-day hike. Arch support is often a feature of the insole, which can be replaced with an aftermarket insole that suits your foot. If you love every other feature of a specific shoe but want more arch support, this is worth considering.
Some models have excellent arch support, like the Oboz Sawtooth X, the Merrell Moab 3 WP, and the Salomon X Ultra 4 Gore-Tex. The proprietary insole from Oboz provides the most support in the bunch with extra padding and a molded arch that holds its shape well. The La Sportiva Spire GTX fell mid-range, while those with flatter feet may want to consider the Hoka Anacapa Low, Arc'teryx Aerios FL 2, or the Altra LP Alpine, which have little arch support.
Lateral stability is also crucial in a trail shoe because hiking rarely happens on manicured terrain. Such stability is a combination of internal arch support and a sole's flexibility and firmness, and it comes into play when you are boulder hopping, scrambling, or hiking over mixed or rough trails. Whenever you can wring a shoe around like a wet towel, that shoe's lateral structure will leave a lot to be desired. But, 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 Merrell Moab 3 . On longer hikes, it offered both underfoot protection and solid stability with limited side-to-side play. For technical hikes, the sturdy base of the La Sportiva Spire GTX makes a great 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 Hoka Anacapa Low GTX, and the Altra LP Alpine allows for alternative lacing strategies to create a snug fit and minimize lift. The Hoka Anacapa even provides a built-in heel pad to lock your foot. Just the slightest slippage can be a recipe for severe blisters over time, so if you can't get a good fit in the heel area, you would be wise to consider a different pair.
Traction is a critical factor for any hiking or trail footwear. 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 and the size, shape, direction, and depth of the lugs. 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.
We primarily evaluated traction on steep and unconsolidated dirt trails. Still, we also tested shoes on rocky slabs, roots, wet logs and boulders, mud, loose scree, and any surface you might encounter on a big hike. Above-average 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 many directions. Five pairs garnered attention here: the Moab 3 WP, X Ultra 4 Gore-Tex, Terrex Swift R3 Gore-Tex, Sawtooth X Low, and the Targhee III Low. The lugs on all these models proved deep, wide, and grippy and worked equally well on dirt and rock. Additionally, some shoes like the Sawtooth X, Hoka Anacapa, La Sportiva Spire, X Ultra 4, Swift R3, Merrell Siren 3, and Targhee III also come equipped with a unique tread pattern at the heel, intended to improve traction while descending steep terrain. We appreciate this outsole feature, as it offers greater security and purchase when moving down steep slopes by allowing us to dig in with our heels more effectively.
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 Terrex Swift R3 performed particularly well on bare rock, as did the X Ultra 4. The rubber is soft and sticky, and we scrambled with confidence all over rocky slabs in both of these models. Of course, the temperature can affect stickiness, and soft rubber typically does not perform as well in colder conditions. The Spire GTX is fitted with Vibram XS Trek, which works exceptionally well on cold and wet surfaces while retaining flexibility.
The flexibility of the forefoot will also affect traction. If you can't bend the front of your feet or the sole is too thick to feel the rock, you may have difficulty achieving secure footing. The X Ultra 4 hit that sweet spot between flexion and stability to prove a great option for fast and aggressive hiking.
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 when it comes to foot protection.
There is nearly a full pound difference between our test group's heaviest and lightest pair of shoes. This extra weight might not seem like much, but you can feel the difference once on. The La Sportiva Spire GTX, at 1.7 pounds per pair for a size 10 US, falls in the middle. The upper is less burly than the heaviest models while taking advantage of the best in current technology to demonstrate a superb balance between durability, performance, and weight.
Our tester's favorites prove that a slightly heavier shoe is not necessarily a deal-breaker when it delivers across all other features, such as greater foot support and less foot fatigue at the end of the day. Sometimes, lighter materials lead to less comfortable, stable, or durable results. The Altra LP Alpine is feather-light at 1.2 pounds for a size 10 US but provides little cushioning or support. That said, for those who have trained their feet to prefer this kind of shoe (which does indeed take training), this minimal design might be more comfortable than a lot of cushioning or structure. As with all things, much is dependent on where you are in your athletic or hiking journey.
On the other hand, the Oboz Sawtooth Xis one of the heavier shoes we tested at 2 pounds for a size 10 US but proved a top performer for longer treks. The Merrell Moab 3 WP and the Lowa Locarno GTX Lo both hit that sweet spot between durability and weight. Each lands near the middle of the pack for weight and is built of burly nubuck leather uppers that can endure heavy use.
If you are looking for the lightest possible weight without sacrificing performance, or if you are fastpacking, mountain running, or tackling big objectives in a single day, consider the Salomon X Ultra 4 Gore-Tex. This pair weighs just slightly less than the La Sportiva Spire GTX, striking a balance between weight and support while offering aggressive, dependable tread for confident speed on tricky terrain.
Many hiking shoes come in both waterproof and non-waterproof versions. The best option for you depends on the climate, terrain, and season 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 Gore-Tex 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 breathable and waterproof in our current lineup is the La Sportiva Spire GTX, which is built with a Gore-Tex Surround liner for protection but increases ventilation through the bottom of the shoe with open channels in the sole. 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 offers, we performed various trail tests, including stream crossings and a controlled submersion test (5 minutes submerged in 3 inches of water) with each shoe. What became immediately apparent is that waterproof technology works really well these days overall. 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.
In comparison, each of our mesh-lined shoes lasted less than 60 seconds in our submersion test, with the Merrell Siren Edge, Danner Trail 2650, and Altra LP Alpine immediately soaking through and absorbing a significant amount of water. Among them, the Siren Edge was the quickest drying 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.
Hiking shoes are the buffer between you and rough, rugged, or abrasive terrain, so it's no surprise that they will 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 for your shoes to break down. Ambitious hikers, however, may go through one or more pairs a year. Shoes with a polyurethane (PU) midsole are expected to last up to twice the mileage, but that extra durability can come at the expense of comfort and a longer 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 vs. a soft one) and harder rubber soles last longer overall.
While time does not allow us to put 500 miles on all the models in this review, each pair was worn extensively on various terrain. We closely inspected the shoes for damage, areas of potential weakness, or premature wear and compression. To make shoes lighter, 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.
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. We closely inspect seams, eyelets, toe boxes, and pressure areas for any indication of failure, delamination, or wear. The abrasion-resistant mesh of the La Sportiva Spire GTX is supplemented with a polyurethane toe cap and 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 Merrell Moab 3 WP, Oboz Sawtooth X Low Waterproof, Lowa Locarno, and, especially, the Keen Targhee III Low all impressed with durable leather uppers and mesh inserts to improve breathability. Double or triple-stitched seams give no indication of pulling or unraveling over the long term. These shoes are burly, and the insoles are solid, increasing the footbed's life. Even if you use these shoes for hiking long distances and with a heavy pack, we expect them to perform the longest among all options we tested. Leather tends to be a better investment for its longevity, though it can come with extra 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 or stability. But it can require many miles to test new features and models with depth. This review should help you narrow down your options to find the right hiking shoe for any adventure, whether exploring backyard trails or planning an epic adventure.
Planning for an upcoming hike? We reviewed a handful of...
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