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Hiking is our jam. We've trail-tested 48 unique pairs of hiking shoes in the last 9 years, with 15 of the best models available today in our current lineup. Our experts covered hundreds of miles in these shoes, from dry, high alpine hikes to wet and muddy rock-strewn paths. Day hikes and multi-day adventures informed us on key performance areas like traction, all-day comfort, and support to bring you relevant and helpful comparisons. For moving light and fast, hiking shoes can be a better choice than even the best hiking boots, but choosing the ones to suit your needs isn't a cakewalk. Our review guides you to the ideal shoe for your foot, whether you want the lightest pair, a trail-running hiker, or just a screamin' deal.
While most shoes come in women's and men's versions, they don't always perform the same for both. To address this, we also conduct in-depth testing of the best women's hiking shoes. Additionally, we have extensive reviews of hiking gear and backpacking gear to help you get ready for all manner of adventure.
Editor's Note: This review was updated on November 1, 2022, to include new products from Hoka, La Sportiva, and Arc'teryx.
The Salomon X Ultra 4 Gore-Tex hiking shoe is built to chew up even the roughest trails. These shoes are made especially for rugged terrain, requiring high-performance ability on various surfaces. Built on an AVD-C Chassis, the support offered by these low-top hikers is top-tier, and the combination of SensiFit technology and the Quicklace lacing system allows the shoe to conform to your foot. By cinching and uncinching the laces, these shoes are quick to put on and take off, convenient to swiftly shake out any intruding sediment, and easy to manage when getting in and out of a tent. We love how confident our footwork feels thanks to the deep-set lugs on the outsole and what a difference solid waterproofing, thanks to a Gore-Tex membrane, can make to hiking comfort. For all of these attributes, it is surprising that the X Ultra 4 GTX shoes come in at such a low weight, a measly 1.76 pounds for a pair of US size 11. This new iteration of a well-known and well-regarded classic shaves off nearly a quarter pound per pair. As a bonus, the price tag is moderate compared to the other options available.
The Quicklace system is convenient, although we recognize that it isn't everyone's cup of tea. When the laces are fully stowed away in their pouch, they give much less tripping hazard, though we were sometimes lazy about tucking them back in. Over time the tab extending from the ankle of the shoe wears down, and it is a bit annoying to constantly pull it back out once you pull the shoes on. Additionally, the first time we wore these shoes, we noticed that the ankle cuff is slightly higher than on most other hikers in our lineup. To reduce ankle rub, we wore thinner socks and then had no further issues. Compared to all the shoes we've tested, though, our testers are convinced that the X Ultra 4 is the full-package and readily recommend it as the best option available.
The Columbia Facet 60 OutDry is our favorite footwear for all-day versatility without breaking the bank. Whether you are out for a day hike or need to run some errands in town, these shoes offer a superb combination of support and style that's up to the task. And, at well under 2 pounds, the Facet is light enough to take jogging. We also love its extra-wide base, which adds stability to each step and reduces the likelihood of rolling an ankle on uneven terrain. This shoe is comfortable, and the gusseted tongue makes it easy to slip on from a tailgate or a tent.
There are a few details that kept this model from the very top of the class. We found that the mesh is breathable but also not totally waterproof. Though we didn't run into any issues, multiple users reported issues with durability, primarily around the adhesive between the sole and the upper. With all of that considered, this is still a great shoe at a bargain price, and we feel that it provides a lot of value.
The Hoka Anacapa Low GTX is, without question, the most comfortable shoe in our review. We love how Hoka has taken a trail running shoe and beefed it up in all the right ways but kept the soft and cushioned sole that we have come to know and love as thru-hikers and fastpackers. This is the shoe for the modern hiker who wants added durability, solid waterproofing, and support for sections of hiking off-trail but with a plush sole for soaking up all the jarring impacts of mile after mile.
We have surprisingly little critical to say about this shoe, though we found ourselves grabbing a different pair when there was going to be sustained scrambling involved, as the wide platform that does so well on the trail is less secure in technical, rocky environments. This high-scoring model is the shoe we would heartily recommend to someone looking for a super comfortable shoe for most hiking applications, while the Salomon X Ultra 4 GTX above is the shoe we would give to someone looking for a nimble, narrower, and more technical shoe.
The Salewa Mountain Trainer Lite GTX embodies the important elements found in a good hiking shoe. It is relatively light, hovering around 2 pounds, comfortable in all conditions, has great waterproofing, and is super durable. Our lead tester has abused his pair on long-distance trail hikes in the mountains and in the desert, has used them as approach shoes to access rock climbing venues, and even found them to be supportive enough to be good work shoes. This is one of the best models we tested for scrambling around in the mountains, climbing off-trail, and up to summits that involve 3rd class terrain.
The Mountain Trainer is one of the stiffer soled shoes in our review, a trait that many will benefit from, but they are not nearly as flexible and easy to walk in as some of the other lighter shoes that more closely resemble a running shoe. We also find them a bit uncomfortable at first, but they are not nearly as difficult to break in as an old-school boot. These are a great choice as an all-purpose hiker, but we recommend them for those who might want to venture onto challenging off-trail routes.
The La Sportiva Spire GTX has been another favorite of our reviewers for a long time. This capable hiking shoe performs admirably on all types of terrain, from on-trail walks to long-distance thru-hikes over rough cross-country routes. Supportive and comfortable, we are also impressed with their weight. While there are certainly lighter models out there, at 2.06 pounds per pair, the Spire gives us a lot of hiking performance and without sacrificing comfort.
The Spire GTX is a shoe we recommend to people who want to easily switch between hiking and running while out on the trail. It is the most effective option in our lineup as a trail running shoe, though it contains so many hiking shoe attributes that we classify it as such. Fastpackers, speedy thru-hikers, and those who prefer softer, more forgiving on-trail footwear will really like this shoe.
Since the category of hiking shoes (or shoes that could easily be hiked in) is broad, our review staff and editors spend a great deal of time sifting through the countless models before settling on the top shoes for testing. This starts with extensive research, ultimately selecting models that seem interesting, exciting, or are highly regarded. We then buy each pair and ship them out to our expert review staff, who spend untold hours hiking around. We hike for our living, so it is an enjoyable task, though we use our predetermined metrics to judge each pair and see how they perform against each other. Once we have walked many miles in each of these hiking shoes, we tally up our results and write the thoughtful, in-depth reviews that you, as a GearLab reader, have come to know and expect.
Men's hiking shoes were tested across 6 performance metrics:
Comfort (25% of total weighted score)
Support (20% weighting)
Traction (15% weighting)
Weight (15% weighting)
Water Resistance (15% weighting)
Durability (10% weighting)
We performed more than 10 individual assessments on each hiker, and our testers wore each pair in the real world for a minimum of 20 miles to determine long-term wear and changes in performance over time as they break in and potentially wear out. Each shoe was scored on a scale of 1 through 10 for each metric, resulting in an overall score. While it is useful to look at the overall score to see which models were the best across all metrics, you should also pay attention to how each shoe performs in specific applications.
This review was tag-teamed by Ryan Huetter and Ben Applebaum-Bauch. Ryan is a full-time mountain guide who spends more than 200 days a year hiking, climbing, and recreating on and off-trail. As an IFMGA Certified Mountain Guide through the American Mountain Guides Association, Ryan is an outdoor professional, and hiking on a trail is his daily commute. Ben started his outdoor career as a guide on multi-week backpacking and cycling trips. He is an avid distance hiker, completing thru-hikes of iconic American trails, including the Pacific Crest Trail, Long Trail, Oregon Coast, Pinhoti, and Superior Hiking Trail, among others.
Analysis and Test Results
We tested these models of hiking shoes thoroughly, taking meticulous notes along the way so that we could score them all using a set of pre-defined testing metrics to help you find the right hikers for you.
Many purchase decisions require us to prioritize one consideration over another. For example, with hiking shoes, you might prefer something lightweight, but chances are it won't be as supportive as a result. If you're wondering about the trade-off between the price and our estimate of the product's value, this review can help.
One of our favorite value options, the Columbia Facet 60 Outdry, gives a great performance for a very reasonable dollar amount. And, for just a tiny bit more, the Salomon X Ultra 4 Gore-Tex provides impeccable all-around performance. We have found, through our years of testing, that quality hiking footwear starts in the triple digits. You can get shoes for less, but they will not be high-quality enough for us to recommend or to last through multiple seasons. When you get into this price range, you will maximize your value and get a pair of hiking shoes that can take you places.
Comfort is king when it comes to all hiking footwear. There is simply no reason to choose a shoe that does not feel great right out of the box. Everyone's foot is different, and we recommend ordering a few different shoes and keeping the ones that fit the best. Luckily, we are past the days of excruciating break-in periods; modern hiking shoes are lighter and use less rigid materials, which allows them to be ready to hit the trail from the moment you lace them up.
We take extensive notes on how each shoe feels when we test for comfort. We start by scrutinizing material stiffness, ease of entry and removal, lacing systems, and roominess. A shoe should not need to be broken in if it's made from synthetic fabrics such as mesh and PU-coated nylon, which is now quite common. The material should wrap around the foot without feeling bulky or clunky, and it should not have any stiffness leading to discomfort while walking, such as a tongue that cuts into your ankle. Comfort also relates to fit, and we attempt to relate the fit to individual foot volume so that you can get an idea of how loose or snug a pair of shoes might be. Shoes like the Hoka Anacapa Low, La Sportiva Spire, and Salomon X Ultra 4 rose to the top when considering these testing metrics.
We consider the entire shoe and cover everything, including the way the cuff feels around the ankle, the width of the shoe, the insole quality and arch support, the size of the toe box, as well as any improvements to comfort and protection, such as a molded toe cap or bumper.
Finally, we looked at how well each model breathes. Dry feet are comfortable feet, and a good design keeps everything dry when splashing through puddles while still breathing well on warmer days. We took each model to the local gym to walk on a treadmill at the same speed (3 mph), same incline (moderate), and for the same distance (1 mile) in the same socks (no fear, we cleaned them between trials). Afterward, we noted how hot our feet were, then removed the shoes to check for sock dampness and sweat accumulation on our feet. The products without a waterproof membrane — the Vasque Juxt, Salewa Wildfire Edge, and Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator, turned out to breathe the best, as expected.
Of the shoes with waterproof membranes, the La Sportiva Spire GTX breathes the most, likely thanks to the added air ventilation below the insole. We also felt the Columbia Facet was a solid contender in this regard — lots of mesh along the upper allows it to breathe quite well. Some users will need to choose a shoe with a waterproof lining based on where they hike (wet environments), but if you live in an arid climate, then consider one of the shoes without a liner so that your feet will breathe better and not get as sweaty and damp.
Without a doubt, the Hoka Anacapa Low GTX is the most comfortable in our review. It provides luxurious comfort with a cushioned midsole that helps shield your feet from the jarring impacts of firm surfaces like rocks and packed down trails. Our testers didn't need to break them in; they were comfy from day one.
How much support a shoe provides is based on several factors, including the thickness and materials of the midsole, thickness of the outsole, the shape of the last, and, to a lesser extent, the insole. An ideal hiking shoe is stiff from heel to midfoot but flexible upfront. Most models we reviewed include a shank between the midsole and outsole, increasing stiffness and protecting you over rough terrain. Stability is also affected by the forefoot width and the height of the ankle collar.
If ankle protection and support are a key concern for you, consider a pair of hiking boots. While not always the most comfortable option for day hikes, the extra weight and warmth might be worth it if it stops you from rolling your ankle.
To investigate stiffness underfoot, we tested the lateral torsion of each model. Reliable torsional support reduces the risk of injury in uneven terrain and when carrying a load. Holding the front of the shoe in one hand and the heel in the other, we twisted the shoe, similar to wringing out a towel. The more twist resistance indicated greater rigidity in the sole. This rigidity improves a shoe's support when moving through talus and rough terrain or scrambling and hopping boulders. The Salewa Mountain Trainer Lite GTX is one of the stiffest in a group of contenders that varies widely in this aspect. Similar to the La Sportiva TX Hike GTX, it can be hard to find burly support in the form of a midsole stiffener without sacrificing comfort.
Those who desire a hefty underfoot structure may also find the Columbia Facet 60 Outdry to be a solid option. The Facet 60 has an especially wide base that our testers found to reduce the likelihood of ankle rolls, quite similar to the Hoka Anacapa Low. The Facet also comes with a robust heel guard, which secures the back of the foot. We were pleased that all products reviewed flexed sufficiently in the forefoot.
Additionally, we measured the forefoot at its widest point on each shoe. Wide bases provide a stable foundation for powering through each step. The Hoka Anacapa Low GTX has the widest of all the forefoot widths at 5 inches, and the Merrell models tied for the second broadest forefoot at 4.75 inches. We also measured the height of the ankle collar (from the footbed to the highest ankle point) to check ankle stability. While ankle protection is more of a thing with hiking boots, we still appreciate a pair of hiking shoes that offers more stability than a typical trail runner.
Lastly, we also considered the quality of the insole. It appears that some manufacturers view the insole as just an opportunity to add cushioning and improve the fit of the footbed. We appreciate manufacturers that take the insole as an opportunity to add support to the heel and arch. The stiffest insole award goes to the Keen models, while the Salomon, Vasque, and Merrell products also beefed up their insoles by adding a second, more dense layer of foam to the back half of the foot. This extra support does not take away from comfort in the footbed. While many hikers see buying third-party insoles as automatic, hiking shoes are not cheap, and we like included insoles that aren't either.
To circle back, the Mountain Trainer Lite excelled in this metric, topping the charts as the most stable under any conditions imaginable. It's a great hiking shoe for those who might feel the need to carry heavier packs or who require more ankle support. Low-cut shoes that wrap around the bottom of the ankle can provide that much more stability, and we tend to favor them when hiking on rough and uneven terrain where the risks of twisting an ankle are higher.
Traction is a fundamental trait to consider in a hiking shoe. The basis for a shoe's traction is the outsole. Made from rubber compounds and molded into different shapes called lugs, the amount of grip the shoe's outsole provides directly relates to how secure you will feel, whether you're walking the dog on a local trail or out scrambling up peaks deep in the backcountry. Depending on your application, you may want a shoe with softer or harder rubber. Soft rubber will conform better to smooth surfaces such as rock slabs, while harder rubber will resist deformation and bite into loose terrain better while also lasting longer. Some companies outsource their rubber selection to well-known companies like Vibram, while others choose to go with an in-house or proprietary rubber blend.
Lug pattern and shape will also impact your shoe's ability to hold on to the terrain you are on. Wide and shallow lugs give more surface area contact, making them more appropriate for packed trails and firm surfaces, while deeper and sharper cut lugs will provide a better grip on loose trails, mud, and snow. Shoes such as the Salomon X Ultra 4 Gore-Tex and the Adidas Terrex Swift R3 Gore-Tex have great traction on a range of surface conditions.
Midsole inserts made of molded plastic also contribute to a shoe's traction by giving the user a more stable and secure platform to edge upon, making a dime edge seem like a much broader ledge to use as a foothold. The Salewa Wildfire Edge has an edging plate that makes it a very effective climber.
Each model was tested side-by-side on five separate surface types to come up with the shoes' overall traction score. We even wore different shoes on each foot when trekking through the test areas to compare them directly. First, we walked up and down dry granite slabs. Most models performed well in these scenarios, with the Salewa Mountain Trainer Lite GTX and La Sportiva Spire GTX sticking best to the steepest slopes. Both pairs have lugs that allow for lots of surface area contact. The Salewa Wildfire Edge has the best ability to edge and smear, thanks to its lower profile and even, smooth sole, making it great for technical rock climbing. We walked back and forth across the same wet rocks in mountain brooks and streams in our wet rock test. Both Salewa models impressed us on both wet and dry rock.
We also hustled up slopes of loose sediment in our traction tests, in which the more aggressive tread of the Salomon X Ultra 4 dug in better than the rest. On the eastern side of the Sierra in Spring, we found a trail covered in mud from the thawing snow. Again, the X Ultra's deep and multi-directional lugs cut through the mud efficiently, finding hidden rocks or more stable soil to gain purchase. We also preferred the shoes with heel brakes when descending loose and sloppy terrain, keeping us from sliding out much better than the outsoles without it.
Matching shoes to your most common trail conditions helps you achieve the most out of your outsoles. Consider the ground you hike most often.
Finally, we walked up and down some gentle snow-covered slopes warmed into a slushy state by the midday sun. The Salomon X Ultra 4 was a champ while kicking in steps in the snow, especially when going up. Coming down, we again fell for outsoles with heel brakes, which tended to catch a sliding foot. The La Sportiva Spire GTX also did well in the snow. Overall, the X Ultra 4 showcases the best all-around traction, while the Salewa Mountain Trainer and Wildfire Edge prove to have the most purchase on rock, a boon for rugged alpine travel.
Light is right for footwear. One of the benefits of a hiking shoe over a full boot is the significant weight shed from every step while still providing a bit more stability and durability over a trail runner or tennis shoe. To compare the different models accurately, we weigh each one ourselves on a digital scale straight out of the box.
The Arc'teryx Aerios FL 2 GTX is also a very light pair, though it's worth noting that it isn't as comfortable nor as supportive in the midsole as the others, and these shoes lost much of the little structure they had early in their lifespan. The Salomon X Ultra 4 Gore-Tex only weighs a touch more at 1.76 lbs and offers more longevity and stiffer support. We think this balance of low weight and support is unmatched in all models we have tested and a big reason the X Ultra 4 wins favor among our testers. On the opposite end, the Merrell Moab 2 Waterproof is the heaviest pair we tested, but it's also incredibly stable and clearly built with longevity in mind.
While weight is an important trait, you do not always have to choose between weight and performance. The La Sportiva Spire GTX weighs a hair over 2 pounds but is among the more comfortable, stable, and supportive options. The Vasque Juxt weighs just over 2 pounds and is equally nice underfoot. Most of our favorite shoes hover right around two pounds. More than two pounds and the shoe will likely boast better durability thanks to heavier, natural materials, as well as improved support thanks to a burlier midsole construction.
It's no secret dry feet provide more comfort and warmth than wet ones. Moisture and water in the footbed also increase the likelihood of blisters. The trade-off for solid waterproofing is lower breathability, warmer feet, and a higher price tag. Most of the shoes we reviewed have a waterproof liner, except for the Salewa Wildfire Edge, Vasque Juxt, and Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator. Many of the models that we tested come in both standard and "waterproof" options (a designation in the name like "GTX" for Gore-Tex or "Dry" usually gives it away). Popular liners include options from Gore-Tex or eVent, while some manufacturers, like Keen, use a proprietary membrane. We chose to test the waterproof versions as much as possible because the average hiker often encounters wet conditions, from water crossings and muck to slush and precipitation. However, most manufacturers produce waterproof and non-waterproof versions of their hiking shoes. If you don't need the protection, the non-waterproof versions are almost always cooler, more breathable, and cost less
To score our contenders in this metric, we considered their flood heights, how readily the upper absorbs water, and performance in our waterproof challenge. After a couple of months of hiking, we headed to a small mountain stream in the Eastern Sierra. We checked for leaks and splashed around in water deep enough to cover the forefoot. We walked around and flexed the forefoot to see if the added stress caused any leakage. After five minutes, we removed the shoes to see if any water made it inside. A handful of models emerged from the water on top, including the Salomon X Ultra 4 Gore-Tex, La Sportiva Spire GTX, Salewa Mountain Trainer Lite GTX, and Hoka Anacapa Low GTX. It's worth noting that the Spire has a relatively tall flood height (4.75 inches) which kept our feet dry through the waterproof test and resisted absorbing water into its synthetic upper.
If heavy dew and water crossings are common where you hike, consider choosing a dark color option for your shoes. This allows them to dry quickly under the sun.
The are many trade-offs when designing hiking footwear, and the cost for a more durable shoe is commonly more weight. When a manufacturer focuses on making lightweight shoes, durability is less of a focus. Full leather uppers tend to be more durable than synthetics but also weigh more. Rubber-covered toe boxes increase durability in that high-wear area but also add to the shoe's weight. Durable, dense rubber soles are also heavier than softer rubber. Your footwear takes more punishment than any other kind of hiking gear you wear, making craft, materials, and design an important part of choosing a pair that will age well.
While we didn't test each product's entire lifespan, we put a minimum of 20 miles on each shoe and checked them at the end of the testing period for any signs of weakness or wear. We looked at protection in high-wear areas, rubber density of the sole, materials and construction of the upper, quality of stitching, and other unique characteristics of each shoe. We also talked to fellow hikers on the trails about their shoe experiences.
The hiker we found to be the most durable is the La Sportiva TX Hike. This shoe has impressively robust mesh on the upper and a solid interface between the upper and the sole. We experienced zero delamination issues, even after trying hard to beat these things up. Nothing seemed to phase them.
Mud and sand left on the upper create premature wear, so cleaning and treating your footwear increases its life expectancy. Warm water and a soft brush is your best tactic for cleaning. Nikwax offers a line of leather and fabric conditioners, including products for suede leather and synthetic fabrics. Common wear areas, like the flex points on the forefoot and seams that are prone to scuffing, can be reinforced. Applying Gear Aid Seam Grip or a similar sealer keeps out dirt and sand, prolongs use, and has the added benefit of keeping water out.
Few things make us happier than a good pair of hiking shoes. These capable low-cut models provide all the traction, comfort, and versatility that a pair of boots might, but at a much-reduced weight. For most of us who don't tend to carry big, heavy packs out onto the trails, these are the perfect tickets to an enjoyable hiking experience. They are more comfortable, breathe better while usually still providing waterproofing, and take virtually no time to break in and get used to. Do yourself a favor and slip into a nice new pair of hiking shoes; your feet will thank you.
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