Best Hiking Shoes For Men of 2018

The Ultra 109 GTX set the highest bar for performance overall.
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Getting geared up for the spring and summer hiking season? After researching 50+ models and testing the 11 top-rated ones for over 200 hours, we've got recommendations for you. We hiked for hundreds of miles in these shoes, from the Cascades on down to the Range of Light. Through our rigorous side-by-side tests, we identified the strengths and weaknesses of each pair. We evaluated each pair's traction on trails and bare rock, hiked in wet weather and even soaked them to test waterproofing, and compared their comfort after multiple miles underfoot. Then we crunched all the scores to come up with various options no matter your hiking style or needs, with the best models for those who want overall performance, extra support or cushioning, or who are looking for some value in their footwear.

Read the full review below >

Test Results and Ratings

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Analysis and Award Winners


Review by:
Ross Robinson
Senior Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Friday
March 30, 2018

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Updated March 2018
We've updated our Men's Hiking Shoe Review with some new models on the market, including the Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator, to see if it could be a contender for our Best Buy award. Turns out we still prefer the Vasque Juxt! We also tested the new Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX all February and March. We loved its predecessor and are stoked to say the new model is even better (less weight!). We've also included some new recommendations for those looking for a long distance option or those who need some extra cushioning and comfort.

Best Do-It-All Model


The North Face Ultra 110 GTX


Ultra 110 GTX Editors' Choice Award

$119.95
at Backcountry
See It

Weight: 2 pounds | Waterproof Lining: Gore-Tex Extended Comfort Range
All-around performance
Superior traction
Low weight
Average durability
Absorbent mesh upper
For over three years running, the Ultra 110 GTX continues to dominate the world of men's hiking shoes. This shoe can indeed do it all, providing the highest all-around performance of any shoe we tested. On top of its unrivaled versatility, this shoe is also one of the most lightweight. Despite its low weight, though, it's still incredibly supportive, granting longer-distance hikers the necessary stability to handle long days under the weight of a pack. The North Face's proprietary outsole digs into terrains of all sorts, gobbling up the rough stuff without flinching. They're comfortable, too, keeping our feet fresh mile after mile, even when picking up the pace to jog a few of miles.

While the Gore-Tex lining keeps water out of the inside of the shoe, the mesh upper does tend to absorb water and hold it in, making it heavier and less breathable in damp conditions. So, if you tend to hike in wet weather often, you may want to consider a pair with a higher Water Resistance rating. They also scored only average for Durability, which was par for the course when it comes to hiking shoes vs a full-leather boot. If you're looking for something for overall performance though, and like the option of switching between hiking and trail running with the same pair, then these are the shoes for you.

Read review: The North Face Ultra 110 GTX

Best Bang for the Buck


Vasque Juxt


Best Buy Award

$109.95
at MooseJaw
See It

Weight: 2 pounds | Waterproof Lining: None, no gusseted tongue
Low weight and high breathability
Ideal for dry climates
Excellent price for a great shoe
Not for wet environments
Vulnerable stitching
We've given our Best Buy Award goes to the Vasque Juxt for reliable performance at a moderate price. The full-leather upper is comfortable and lightweight, and the outsoles handle flat and rough terrain equally well. Its traction on solid ground and loose gravel is exemplary too, and at $110 the price is just right. We also appreciated the casual styling and didn't feel out of place wearing this around town as well.

We did have some durability concerns with this pair, as there is only single stitching connecting the various strips of material on the upper, and the soft rubber soles (which gave us such great traction) wore out a little faster than we would have liked. Another thing to consider is its water resistance, or lack thereof. Part of how this shoe retails at a lower price point is that it doesn't have a waterproof/breathable membrane. That makes it ill-suited for wet conditions, so you Pacific Northwesterners might want to steer clear of this model. If you typically hike in a dry and warm climate though, you'll appreciate the extra breahtability that this pair offers.

Read review: Vasque Juxt

Top Pick for Aggressive Hiking


Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX


Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX Top Pick Award

$112.46
at Amazon
See It

Weight: 1.95 pounds | Waterproof Lining: Gore-Tex Performance Comfort membrane
Excellent all-around traction
Waterproof
Performs well on all trails
Unique lacing system not everyone's favorite
Not our favorite for carrying heavy loads
The Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX didn't take long to impress us from the bottom up. The stiffer-than-most outsole with aggressive lugs gave us excellent purchase on nearly any surface, sloppy or dry, and we expect the rubber to hold up much longer than the softer soles of most other contenders. Weighing 1 lbs 15.2 oz and sporting a more narrow feel and fit than the Editors' Choice winner from The North Face, this model is ready to scurry downhill trails or speed through the flats. Your hikes might turn into runs with these shoes.

Some might not like the diversion from traditional laces, but we enjoyed the convenience of the Quicklace system. Its durability, though, is an issue, as has potential to rub a hole in the upper after extensive, long-term use. This model is lacking a little in overall support, so if you're hiking with a decent sized pack, TNF Ultra 110 is a better option. If you're looking for a little more ankle support, check out the $165 Salomon X Ultra Mid 3 GTX for the same great performance with more ankle protection. Otherwise, if you're looking to move fast and light on the trail, this is your shoe.

Read review: Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX

Top Pick for Comfort


HOKA ONE ONE Tor Summit WP


HOKA ONE ONE Tor Summit WP Low Top Pick Award

$159.95
at Backcountry
See It

Weight: 2.1 pounds | Waterproof Lining: eVent Waterproof Membrane with Full Bootie Construction
Unrivaled comfort
Supportive
Lightweight and breathable leather
Subpar traction
Modest durability
Expensive
Lace up the HOKA ONE ONE Tor Summit WP and kiss tired and sore feet goodbye. This uber-comfy model has the thickest and cushiest soles by far. It's also one of the stiffest in the midfoot and provides excellent torsional stability. This combination of comfort and support makes it a great choice for most day hiking ventures and short backpacking trips. It's lightweight, barely tipping our scales past two pounds, and its eVent membrane is waterproof and breathable.

The feature we liked least about the Tor Summit was its traction. The Vibram MegaGrip Hi-Traction outsole had plenty of multi-directional lugs, with harder rubber on the outside and softer lugs in the inside. However, the thick midsole impeded our ability to feel the surface underneath us to know when and where to exert pressure. If you're only hiking on easy to moderate trails (which most trails are), these shoes are adequate, but for steeper terrain and/or scrambling, these left us a little uncertain underfoot. Other than that, they are friendly on the feet, and anyone who spends most days on their feet or who wants to lower the impact on their knees and back will enjoy wearing this pair. For increased ankle protection, check out our review of the mid-cut boot version of this shoe, the Hoka One One Tor Summit Mid WP.

Read review: HOKA ONE ONE Tor Summit WP

Great for Long Distance Support


Keen Targhee II


Keen Targhee II Waterproof

Weight: 2.4 pounds | Waterproof Lining: KEEN.Dry waterproof breathable membrane
Superior support
Robust toe protection
Roomy toe box great for downhill
Lacing system cinches heel fit
Heavy
Leaked during testing
Too wide for some folks
Formerly a Best Buy Award winner, the Targhee II was knocked from its pedestal this year by the Juxt. It remains a great shoe with a strong group of devotees in the hiking world. When it comes to support from low-cut shoes, these shoes are unmatched. It's not uncommon to see thru-hikers heading out for weeks or months on end in these Keen's, as it is supremely stable even under medium to heavy loads.

While we love it when hiking with a sizeable pack, it's not our first choice for fast and light day hikes. That's because it's the heaviest model in our review, likely due to the rubber toe cap. It also leaked during our water resistance tests, making us less confident when encountering storms and creek crossings. If your style of hiking has you powering through miles for days with a significant pack, though, this model receives our top recommendation. If you prefer a mid-cut boot, the Keen Targhee II Mid took home the Best Buy Award in our hiking boots review.

Read review: Keen Targhee II

select up to 5 products
Score Product Price Our Take
83
$120
Editors' Choice Award
Considering the top notch performance this pair provides, we're stoked our favorite model is also less expensive than most, too.
80
$150
Top Pick Award
Charge down any and all trails in this aggressive hiker with a non-traditional lacing system.
78
$160
Top Pick Award
If supreme comfort is your only consideration, this is your best match.
74
$135
The lightest and most playful in our review, this athletic shoe is versatile for hikes, runs, and gym sessions.
73
$110
Best Buy Award
This model offers great hiking performance at a low price for folks in dry climates.
66
$125
Backpackers will enjoy the support offered by this tried and true classic.
66
$185
This is a solid choice for fast hikers in wet climates with moderate trails.
66
$100
Built for light to moderate day hikes in cool to warm, dry environments.
63
$120
A popular model that provides solid performance on easy to moderate trails, as well as in chilly weather.
60
$185
Durable and sensitive underfoot, this expensive model isn't for aggressive hiking but does look good.
52
$90
We are inclined to recommend this shoe more for yard work than pounding out miles on a trail.

Analysis and Test Results


Throughout a three-month testing period, we wore these shoes on hundreds of miles of hikes, walks, and jaunts across town. We hit all difficulties of trails and continued hiking where there were none, too. Detailed notes were recorded on performance on each outing, and we used these experiences to score each model in seven unique rating metrics. Furthermore, we designed specific trials and tests for the contenders to further investigate performance capabilities between the pairs, even wearing a different shoe on each foot to compare models. The rating table above displays the combined scores from the weighted individual metrics. In the analysis below we share our findings on each rating metric and the top scorers in each.

The 2017 contenders in all their glory.  The back row (from the left): Vasque Juxt  HOKA ONE ONE Tor Summit WP  La Sportiva Synthesis Mid GTX  The North Face Ultra 109 GTX  Keen Targhee II. The front row: Columbia Redmond  Merrell Moab 2  Salomon X Ultra 2 GTX (updated to the X Ultra 3 GTX)  Adidas Terrex Swift R GTX  Asolo Agent GV.
The 2017 contenders in all their glory. The back row (from the left): Vasque Juxt, HOKA ONE ONE Tor Summit WP, La Sportiva Synthesis Mid GTX, The North Face Ultra 109 GTX, Keen Targhee II. The front row: Columbia Redmond, Merrell Moab 2, Salomon X Ultra 2 GTX (updated to the X Ultra 3 GTX), Adidas Terrex Swift R GTX, Asolo Agent GV.

Value


Many purchasing decisions require us to prioritize one consideration over another. For example, with hiking shoes you might prefer something that is lightweight, but chances are it won't be as supportive as a result. If you're wondering about the tradeoff between the price and our estimate of the value of the product, check out the table below. Models that are to the right and on the low side of the graph are those with the best value relative to their price, such as our Best Buy winner, the Vasque Juxt, along with the Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator.


Comfort


Comfort is king in the world of hiking shoes. Whether you're spending hours or weeks on the trail, nothing is more important for enjoying your on-foot adventures than happy feet. Uncomfortable boots and shoes have been the downfall of many hiking trips, and hot spots, sweaty feet, and models with no cushioning are a fast track to misery. Many different things can affect your comfort level: the amount of padding in the upper and the midsole, how well the shoe fits your foot when correctly sized, and how the lacing system adjusts the fit. Other factors include foot protection across rough terrain, breathability, and shock absorption. Here's our estimation of each model's comfort level.


When testing for this metric we took extensive notes on the comfort-affecting features of each shoe. We considered the padding in the upper and the tongue, checked the feeling when laced and standing, and how long the break-in period was, if any. We walked on flat and rough trails in each to see how well they handled each, noting any soreness or tiredness our feet developed. The roominess of the toe boxes, arch support, rockered soles, and overall protection were all scrutinized as well.

Out of sight  out of mind. We liked the easy stowing of the laces in the elastic tongue pocket.
Out of sight, out of mind. We liked the easy stowing of the laces in the elastic tongue pocket.

The way a shoe laces can really affect your comfort, so we considered the ease or difficulty of fine-tuning the fit. We enjoyed the ease and high functionality of speed lacing systems that require no knot-tying, as found on the Salomon, Adidas, and La Sportiva models. To test shock absorption in each model, we jumped down off a boulder onto a flat rock landing and noted how much impact was felt in our feet and knees.

The Redmonds look pretty sweet in this photo  but extended hiking on uneven surfaces and rocks results in sore feet inside this shoe.
The Redmonds look pretty sweet in this photo, but extended hiking on uneven surfaces and rocks results in sore feet inside this shoe.

Finally, we looked at how well each model breathes. Dry feet are comfortable feet, and a good design keeps feet dry when splashing through puddles and breathes 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 two products without a waterproof membrane, the Vasque Juxt and Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator, turned out to breathe the best. Of the shoes with waterproof membranes, the Columbia Redmond breathes the most.

Shock absorption testing in the Tor Summit.
Shock absorption testing in the Tor Summit.

Overall, the Hoka One One Tor Summit ticked the most boxes in the comfort department, easily earning our Top Pick for Comfort award. The extra thick midsole absorbs impact on uneven surfaces without batting a lace eyelet. They kept our feet comfortable and fresh, even under the weight of a medium pack over several miles and on long descents. We've been loving the Hoka One One brand in our trail shoes and road-runners, and it turns out that their oversized midsole design translates to comfort while hiking as well. If your joints are starting to deteriorate from years of hiking, or you want to prevent that wear in the first place, you should definitely check the Tor Summits out.

The lightweight Terrex Swift blurs the arbitrary line between a heavy trail runner and light hiker.
The lightweight Terrex Swift blurs the arbitrary line between a heavy trail runner and light hiker.


Weight


Light is right for footwear. One of the benefits of a hiking shoe over a full boot is the ounces, if not pounds, that it sheds from every step, while still providing a bit more stability and durability over a trail runner. In order to accurately compare the different models, we weigh each one ourselves, all size 11.5, on a digital scale straight out of the box.


The different pairs ranged between 1.85 and 2.34 pounds. That half a pound difference might not seem like much on paper, but we could definitely notice it underfoot. The Adidas Terrex Swift R GTX was the lightest pair that we tested, though it's worth noting that it wasn't as comfortable nor as stable as other pairs. The Columbia Redmond Waterproof was also light (1.9 pounds), but scored even lower for stability and comfort — noticing a trend here? On the opposite end, the Keen Targhee II was the heaviest pair that we tested, but also the most stable.

You don't always have to completely trade off the two though; The North Face Ultra 109 GTX model, our Editors' Choice winner, weighed just shy of 2 pounds but was among the more comfortable and stable options. Our Best Buy winner, the Vasque Juxt weighed just over 2 pounds and was equally nice underfoot.

When the stakes are high and losing your footing means getting drenched in a cold mountain stream  you want solid traction underfoot.
When the stakes are high and losing your footing means getting drenched in a cold mountain stream, you want solid traction underfoot.

Traction


When hiking, confidence that our foot will stay put with every step is valuable. Traction relies on the design and material composition of the outsole. Vibram soles are popular, and their carbon rubber soles covered the bottoms of four of the contenders in this review. We were surprised, however, that several manufacturers are turning to proprietary outsoles for their hiking shoes, some of which provided the best traction overall. Regardless of who made the outsole, each hiker in this review has a unique sole shape and tread pattern of lugs. This reflects the obvious fact that there is no single answer for great traction on every possible surface. While all models proved capable walking across smooth, dry dirt trails, the differences shone through in trickier terrain. From thick mud to slushy snow, to rock slabs to loose sand and gravel, we tested these shoes over surfaces encountered when hiking.


Each model was tested side-by-side on five separate surface types to come up with the shoes' overall traction score. We often wore different shoes on each foot when trekking through the test areas to have direct comparisons in their purchase ability. First, we walked up and down dry granite slabs. Most models performed well in these scenarios, while the Targhee II, Moab 2, and Agent GV stuck best to the steepest slopes. All three pairs have lugs that allow for lots of surface area contact. In our wet rock test, we walked back and forth across the same wet rocks in mountain brooks and streams. The Terrex Swift R GTX gave us the most confidence when crossing wet granite.

Side-by-side traction testing with the Adidas model on the left foot and the Vasque shoe on the right foot.
Side-by-side traction testing with the Adidas model on the left foot and the Vasque shoe on the right foot.

We also hustled up slopes of loose sediment in our traction tests, in which the more aggressive tread of the Salomon and The North Face models dug in better than the rest. On the eastern side of the Sierras in Spring, we found a trail covered in mud from the thawing snow. Again, the deep and multi-directional lugs of the Salomon X Ultra cut through the mud most efficiently, finding undercover 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.

Oops! We sank in over our cuffs while testing traction on muddy surfaces. Here is the Ultra 109 GTX on the left and the Terrex Swift on the right.
Oops! We sank in over our cuffs while testing traction on muddy surfaces. Here is the Ultra 109 GTX on the left and the Terrex Swift on the right.

Matching shoes to your most common trail conditions helps you achieve the most out of your outsoles. Consider the ground you hike most often and check out the individual reviews which highlight how each model performed on every type of surface tested.

Trailside boulders are just too tempting to resist. If this speaks to you  aim for a shoe with good traction on dry rock like this Vasque model.
Trailside boulders are just too tempting to resist. If this speaks to you, aim for a shoe with good traction on dry rock like this Vasque model.

Finally, we walked up and down some gentle snow-covered slopes warmed into a slushy state by the midday sun. The Salomon and North Face models kicked in steps in the snow the best going up. Coming down, we again fell for outsoles with heel brakes which tended to catch a sliding foot well. The La Sportiva Synthesis Mid GTX also did well in the snow. On top of our specifically designed tests, we also factored our experiences on and off the trail while hiking into the traction score.

On rough and chossy terrain  appreciation for great foot support and stability grows. This model from The North Face handles such terrain very well.
On rough and chossy terrain, appreciation for great foot support and stability grows. This model from The North Face handles such terrain very well.

Support


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 up front. Most models reviewed included a shank between the midsole and outsole, which increases stiffness and protects you over rough terrain. Stability is also affected by the forefoot width and the height of the ankle collar.


If ankle protection and support is a key concern for you, consider a pair of hiking boots. While not always the most comfortable option for day hikes, if it stops you from rolling your ankle the extra weight and warmth might jsut be worth it.

To investigate stiffness underfoot, we tested the lateral torsion of each model. Solid 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 resistant a shoe was to twisting 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 Keen Targhee II and HOKA ONE ONE Tor Summit are the stiffest in a group of contenders that varies widely in this aspect. The Columbia Redmond and La Sportiva models are much less rigid and therefore less supportive. We were pleased that all products reviewed flexed sufficiently in the forefoot.

Good foot support is appreciated on trails littered with rocks and obstacles.
Good foot support is appreciated on trails littered with rocks and obstacles.

We also measured the forefoot at its widest point on each product. Wide bases provide a stable foundation for powering through each step. The HOKA ONE ONE, Merrell, and The North Face models tied for the widest 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. The La Sportiva model crept up our ankles the highest at 4.125 inches.

The Synthesis Mid GTX carried us through the boulder fields for a weekend around Bishop  CA without minding 20-25 pounds of crash pad  climbing shoes  water  and lunch on our backs.
The Synthesis Mid GTX carried us through the boulder fields for a weekend around Bishop, CA without minding 20-25 pounds of crash pad, climbing shoes, water, and lunch on our backs.

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 appreciated manufacturers that took the insole as an opportunity to add support to the heel and arch. The stiffest insole award goes to the Keen's, 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 did not take away from comfort in the footbed in any case. While many hikers see buying third-party insoles as automatic, hiking shoes are not cheap, and we like insoles that aren't too.

The insoles. Top row (from the left): HOKA ONE ONE  La Sportiva  Adidas  The North Face  Asolo. Bottom row: Vasque  Salomon  Keen  Merrell  Columbia.
The insoles. Top row (from the left): HOKA ONE ONE, La Sportiva, Adidas, The North Face, Asolo. Bottom row: Vasque, Salomon, Keen, Merrell, Columbia.

Overall, the Keen Targhee II proved the most supportive of the bunch. It has great torsional stability while maintaining a flexible forefoot, the forefoot is wide, and it comes already with a supportive insole. This was our first choice of all the pairs that we tested to use when hiking with more than just a daypack. Following close behind were the North Face and HOKA ONE ONE models, which have thick, supportive midsoles. The Redmond scored the lowest in this category. We were able to wring the shoe in our torsional stability test more than any other pair. It has thin midsoles, a below-average ankle collar height, and a narrower forefoot width, which when combined all together, resulted in sub-par stability. The La Sportiva Synthesis Mid GTX also lacked midsole support in the arch and was too flexible in the midfoot.

Downward slope? Don't mind if I do speed on when wearing the Ultra 109 GTX.
Downward slope? Don't mind if I do speed on when wearing the Ultra 109 GTX.

Versatility


How many things can one pair do? Several considerations went into our Versatility scores. Some of these shoes are comfortable on flat trails and rough terrain, and some handle moderate loads without wincing. We value a shoe that is comfortable for short day hikes and also supportive enough for light backpacking trips.


Do you want one do-it-all shoe or a quiver of options for different adventures? If you are new to hiking, it's likely that a versatile, do-everything shoe fits your needs. But, if you have specific priorities and a bigger budget, two or more pairs of specialized shoes could give you focused performance. Keep in mind that a shoe designed for hiking is only part of your adventure footwear quiver, which might already include boots, trail running shoes, approach shoes, etc.

The high ankle collar and waterproof upper of the Synthesis Mid GTX make a great combination for strapping into snowshoes.
The high ankle collar and waterproof upper of the Synthesis Mid GTX make a great combination for strapping into snowshoes.

At a bare minimum, a product in this category must handle several miles with a light daypack stuffed with a water bottle, snacks, an extra layer, and a camera. All models passed this low standard. During testing, we also packed a midsize pack with 15-20 pounds and hit the trails in the contenders. After a few miles, the added weight of a pack separated the rest of the "pack." Our favorites for moderate backpacking trips are the Keen Targhee II and The North Face models, which have great ankle and foot support.

We tested each shoe with a medium load over several miles to assess each model's ability on backpacking trips. The Agent GV  shown here  wasn't our first choice for backpacking.
We tested each shoe with a medium load over several miles to assess each model's ability on backpacking trips. The Agent GV, shown here, wasn't our first choice for backpacking.

Out on the trail, we ran a few miles with a light pack in each pair. Fastpacking adventures are fun and growing in popularity, and we wanted to know which models were up to the task. This trend is reflected in the market, as many hikers available look like beefed up trail runners. Several shoes in this review felt natural at a running gait, but none combined nimble running ability with powerful support better than the Salomon X Ultra. We also appreciate hiking shoes that don't scream "I went hiking today!" when worn casually. The Asolo Agent GV and Vasque Juxt did the best job blending in around town. Hiking shoes usually don't come in a plethora of color options, but most models in this review have a few different colors to choose from.

Stomping through puddles is a simple pleasure in the Ultra 109 GTX  which has a Gore-Tex waterproof liner.
Stomping through puddles is a simple pleasure in the Ultra 109 GTX, which has a Gore-Tex waterproof liner.

Water Resistance


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 had a waterproof liner, except for theVasque Juxt and Merrell Moab 2 Ventilators. Many of the models that we tested come in both standard and "waterproof" options. (Usually a designation in the name like "GTX" for Gore-Tex or "dry" give it away.) Popular liners include options from Gore-Tex or eVent, while some manufacturers, like Keen and Columbia, use a proprietary membrane. We chose to test the waterproof versions as much as possible because the average hiker encounters wet conditions often, from water crossings to muck and slush to precipitation and more. Unless you're only hiking in Death Valley - and hey, even they get rain sometimes - it usually makes sense to have a pair with a waterproof liner.

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 the contenders in this metric, we considered their individual flood heights, how readily the upper absorbs water, and performance in our waterproof challenge. After a couple months of hiking, we headed to a small mountain stream in the Eastern Sierras. Checking for leaks, we splashed around in water deep enough to cover the forefoot. We walked around and flexed the forefoot in order see if the added stress induced leakage. After five minutes, we removed the shoes to see if any water made it inside. Here are our scores for Water Resistance.


The Salomon X Ultra 3 emerged from the water on top of all other models. It has a tall flood height (4.5 in.), kept our feet dry through the waterproof test, and resisted absorbing water into its synthetic upper.

The X Ultra GTX is close to a fish in water  receiving one of the highest scores in our water resistance metric.
The X Ultra GTX is close to a fish in water, receiving one of the highest scores in our water resistance metric.

Similar water resistance effectiveness came from the La Sportiva, Adidas, and The North Face models, passing the waterproof test but having lower flood heights. Any water these models did soak up dried quickly.

Not only did the Adidas model pass our waterproof test  its synthetic upper resisted absorbing water well  too.
Not only did the Adidas model pass our waterproof test, its synthetic upper resisted absorbing water well, too.

A few seconds after stepping into the water in the Juxt and the Ventilator, our feet were soaked. Not having a waterproof membrane, this was expected, and we only put them through this liquid suffering for equality's sake. Two shoes with waterproof membranes, however, did leak — both the Keen Targhee II and the Merrell Moab 2 Waterproof. Our feet remained dry for a few minutes in both, but they couldn't survive the full five minutes underwater. The Keen leaked more than the Merrell, while the Merrell absorbed more liquid into its mesh-heavy upper. Water resistance declines with use and time, but we expected more from these two models after 15-20 miles on each pair.

Post waterproof test results: The Moab 2 leaked.
Post waterproof test results: The Moab 2 leaked.

All of these shoes benefit from a leather or fabric conditioner applied to the upper. Nikwax has a range of products that are great for treating the mixed material uppers of these shoes. A leather or fabric treatment keeps water from soaking the shoe's upper materials. Even when water is stopped by the waterproof liner, it makes your shoe heavy and hinders breathability. The La Sportiva, Salomon, Adidas, and Asolo products soaked up the least water and dried faster than the others.

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 when it's sunny.

The Agent GV has superior construction and materials  combining for a very durable shoe.
The Agent GV has superior construction and materials, combining for a very durable shoe.

Durability


The are many trade-offs when designing hiking footwear, and the cost for a more durable shoe is commonly more weight. When a manufacturer focused 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 also increase durability in that high-wear area, yet again add to the shoe's weight. Durable, dense rubber soles are also heavier than softer rubber. Your hiking shoes take more punishment than any other kind of hiking gear you wear, making craftsmanship, materials, and design an important part of choosing a pair that ages well.


While we didn't test the entire lifespan of each product, we put a minimum of 15 to 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 read online reviews and talked to fellow hikers on the trails about their shoe experiences ("Hey, how do you like your Merrells?").

The exposed stitching on the heel is vulnerable to damage when scraping against rocks.
The exposed stitching on the heel is vulnerable to damage when scraping against rocks.

The Asolo Agent GV proved to be the most durable shoe in our review. It features excellent toe protection, a durable suede leather upper, a stiff polyurethane insert (which packs out slower than a typical EVA midsole), and overall quality construction from sole to stitches. It barely showed any signs of the abuse we put it through even after three months. On the other side of the spectrum are the Redmond and Synthesis Mid GTX. Both shoes exhibited poor durability, with ripping mesh and toe cap peeling, respectively, after a few months of use. Both shoes have poor toe protection, an area of high wear, and lack dense rubber outsoles to withstand rough trails.

Washing off the Moab 2's after a particularly muddy trail.
Washing off the Moab 2's after a particularly muddy trail.

Cleaning and treating your footwear increases its life expectancy. Mud and sand left on the upper create premature wear. Warm water and a soft brush are 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, prolonged use, and has the added benefit of keeping water out.

Do yourself a favor and visit the Care and Feeding section of our hiking boot review for more information on cleaning, treating and extending the life of hiking footwear.

Wherever your feet lead you  we want you to have the best shoes for the task. Happy feet  happy hiking  happy souls!
Wherever your feet lead you, we want you to have the best shoes for the task. Happy feet, happy hiking, happy souls!

Conclusion


The variety of hiking footwear for outdoor folks these days is a blessing. With high traction, comfy soles and waterproof uppers that support the foot while freeing your ankle, hiking shoes are the choice of many hikers today. We designed this review to be comprehensive in its scope and detailed in its testing to help you get on the trails with the ideal footwear for your hiking style. But you may need the support and ankle stability that a boot provides, or even enjoy pushing the capabilities of light trail running shoes. We cover the best uses and defining attributes of these types of outdoor footwear above, and delve into the fine details in our Buying Advice article, where fitting and sizing is also detailed.
Ross Robinson

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Still not sure? Take a look at our buying advice article for more info.