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Best Hiking Shoes for Men of 2020

Are your shoes up for the task? We don't expect them to last forever  but we want to make sure that they won't fall apart on your first trip out.
Friday October 23, 2020
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Hiking shoes are our jam. We've trail-tested 49 pairs in the last seven years. This review compares 16 of the best hiking shoes of 2020. Our experts covered hundreds of miles combined in these shoes, from dry, high alpine hikes to wet and muddy paths. Day hikes and multi-day adventures informed us on key performance areas like traction, all-day comfort, support, and more to bring you relevant comparisons. In several applications, hiking shoes can be the better choice than hiking boots, but choosing the ones to suit your needs isn't a cake-walk. 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.

Related: Best Hiking Shoes for Women of 2020

Top 16 Product Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 16
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Best Overall Hiking Shoes


La Sportiva Spire GTX


Editors' Choice Award

$142.49
(25% off)
at REI
See It

78
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort - 25% 9
  • Weight - 25% 8
  • Support - 15% 7
  • Traction - 15% 7
  • Versatility - 10% 8
  • Water Resistance - 5% 8
  • Durability - 5% 5
Weight: 2.06 lbs | Waterproof Lining: Gore-Tex Surround
All-around performance
Superior waterproofness
Low weight
Average durability
Expensive

The La Sportiva Spire GTX is our favorite do-it-all hiking shoe. It is the shoe our reviewers refused to give back once they were done testing it. This shoe is light on the feet at only 2.06 pounds, but they still boast some of the best waterproofing available with a Gore-Tex Surround liner. We could not get this to soak through despite our best efforts. The traction offered is outstanding in both wet and dry environments, making this a very versatile shoe for all kinds of trail conditions.

The Spire is quite comfortable even in warm temperatures thanks to this innovative membrane that lets the foot pass moisture through much more effectively than traditional fabrics, though it is not nearly as breathable as those models which do not feature a water-resistant liner. It is supportive, and we feel comfortable hiking with loads up to around 30 pounds while wearing these shoes. With more weight on our backs or in terrain that is demanding, we might resort to a shoe that has a bit more structure and support. This shoe is our choice when we want to shave weight, don't have a heavy pack, and still need a quality waterproof liner.

Read review: La Sportiva Spire GTX

Best Bang for Your Buck


Vasque Juxt


Best Buy Award

$82.46
(25% off)
at Amazon
See It

65
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort - 25% 7
  • Weight - 25% 8
  • Support - 15% 5
  • Traction - 15% 7
  • Versatility - 10% 6
  • Water Resistance - 5% 1
  • Durability - 5% 6
Weight: 1.9 lbs | 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

The Vasque Juxt has impressed us for years with its performance per dollar ratio. This inexpensive model is comfortable, supportive, and is a recommended shoe for those hiking in dry environments like the desert. The outsole is grippy and offers excellent traction on dry rock, and the leather upper is more durable than many synthetic materials while still maintaining a lighter-than-average weight. We love this shoe as a do-it-all day hiker for warm-weather activities like desert hiking that do not require a waterproof membrane.

Our main concerns with the Juxt revolve around their lack of waterproofing. Most models in this review have some kind of sewn-in waterproof/breathable membrane, while this one has none. If you're heading for mostly dry trails, this may not be a problem for you. Another issue is the less durable craftsmanship around the shoe's upper. We found a few issues with the stitching and might not recommend this model for heavy use in very abrasive environments. For trail hikes, from short to long, though, it's tough to finder a better price on the market.

Read review: Vasque Juxt

Best Waterproof Bargain


The North Face Ultra 109 WP


Best Buy Award

$119.95
at Backcountry
See It

71
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort - 25% 7
  • Weight - 25% 7
  • Support - 15% 6
  • Traction - 15% 8
  • Versatility - 10% 8
  • Water Resistance - 5% 7
  • Durability - 5% 6
Weight: 2.04 | Waterproof Lining: DryVent
Good weight
Very comfortable
Versatile shoe with a waterproof membrane
Lacks some stability
Questionable long-term durability

The North Face Ultra 109 WP is our favorite waterproof option for those seeking a pair of hikers on a budget. It is hard to find a low priced, high-quality hiking shoe that features an impeccable waterproof/breathable membrane that will block out water, so we couldn't help but acknowledge the Ultra 109 WP. Comfortable right out of the box, the shoe feels and performs like a trail running shoe on steroids, and our testers took these shoes on hikes in the mountains as well as in the desert and were impressed with their performance in their versatility.

We find the Ultra 109 to be well-rounded and capable at everything from trail runs to day hikes and even lightweight backpacking trips, though it lacks some of the stability that stiffer or higher-cut models do provide. But if you are looking for a beefed-up trail running shoe that can handle a whole lot more, check out the Ultra 109. This model has few drawbacks while boasting a large price advantage.

Read Review: The North Face Ultra 109 WP

Best for Aggressive Hiking


Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX


Top Pick Award

$104.96
(30% off)
at Backcountry
See It

78
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort - 25% 7
  • Weight - 25% 8
  • Support - 15% 7
  • Traction - 15% 9
  • Versatility - 10% 9
  • Water Resistance - 5% 8
  • Durability - 5% 6
Weight: 1.93 lbs | Waterproof Lining: Gore-Tex Performance Comfort
Excellent all-around traction
Waterproof
Performs well on all trails
Unique lacing system not everyone's favorite

The Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX is our favorite hiking shoe to wear when in tough terrain and when traveling on and off the trail. These shoes snug up nicely with ease thanks to a Quicklace system and securely wraps around the foot, making them very effective in unstable situations. Their traction is excellent in wet and dry conditions, and a supportive injected EVA midsole adds some structure to the shoe, making them bit well into loose terrain. We find that when the going gets tough, we want to have a shoe on our feet that we can count on, and the X Ultra 3 GTX meets these high expectations.

The X Ultra 3 GTX is a bit roomier fit than others, so it does not fit narrow feet well. Some also may not like the Quicklace system as much as we did, as it does not allow for the precise lacing adjustments that some hikers prefer, and the system is difficult to replace, especially when out in the mountains. Other than these minor issues, we find the X Ultra 3 GTX to be an admirable performer in our review metrics and feel that it is one of the most versatile hiking shoes for this reason.

Read review: Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX

Best for Comfort


HOKA ONE ONE Toa Gore-Tex


Top Pick Award

$170.00
at REI
See It

78
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort - 25% 9
  • Weight - 25% 8
  • Support - 15% 9
  • Traction - 15% 6
  • Versatility - 10% 6
  • Water Resistance - 5% 9
  • Durability - 5% 5
Weight: 2.03 lbs | Waterproof Lining: Gore-Tex
Unrivaled comfort
Supportive
Lightweight and breathable leather
Average traction
Modest durability
Expensive

The HOKA ONE ONE Toa wins our recognition for exceptional comfort, as it is incredibly well-cushioned and has a soft yet supportive mesh upper that makes them easy to put on and keep on right out of the box. The footbed is mega-cush. You might be familiar with comfortable, traditional hiking shoes, but this pair (as with many Hoka models) is a whole other level. This model features a Gore-Tex waterproof/breathable liner that effectively keeps water out while also allowing our feet to breathe, making this shoe one of the most comfortable models that utilize such a membrane, even in warm desert climates.

The RMAT sole of the Toa GTX feels wide and offers a lot of surface area traction, so they are well-suited to trail use, though they feel a bit out of place when in lots of loose sediment. While this can be a detraction from certain kinds of terrain, their plush midsole and EVA shank help deflect a lot of the impacts experienced on the trail, and they are an ideal solution to the aches and pains of long days on hard, unforgiving surfaces.

Read review: HOKA ONE ONE Toa Gore-Tex

Best for Lightweight Hiking


Arc'teryx Aerios FL GTX


Top Pick Award

$127.49
(25% off)
at REI
See It

74
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort - 25% 8
  • Weight - 25% 10
  • Support - 15% 5
  • Traction - 15% 5
  • Versatility - 10% 7
  • Water Resistance - 5% 7
  • Durability - 5% 6
Weight: 1.64 lbs | Waterproof Lining: Gore-Tex
Supremely lightweight
Reliable waterproofing
Comfortable on trail
Potential longterm durability issues
Not impressive in off-trail traction

The Arc'teryx Aerios FL GTX is unbelievably light. They are the lightest hiking shoes that we have ever tested, or heard of for that matter. Usually apprehensive about shoes that are too light, we were surprised that when we took these for a 19-mile hike in the Sierra Nevada that we came back without blisters, sore feet, or wet socks. The Gore-Tex lining does a great job of keeping out unwanted water.

This is undoubtedly an ultralight model, as it is more than a pound lighter than our heaviest shoe featured in this review. After wearing these shoes for a couple of years, we are pleased to report that they are amazingly durable despite this low weight. We do find that where this shoe shows its age is in its support - the midsole material softens over time, and even though the shoe might still look great, a lot more stress is put on the foot once this happens. We think these shoes are good for a couple of seasons of moderate use, or about 300 miles before they should be retired.

Read review: Arc'teryx Aerios FL GTX

Best for Scrambling


Salewa Mountain Trainer Lite GTX


Top Pick Award

$119.96
(25% off)
at Backcountry
See It

76
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort - 25% 7
  • Weight - 25% 7
  • Support - 15% 9
  • Traction - 15% 9
  • Versatility - 10% 7
  • Water Resistance - 5% 8
  • Durability - 5% 6
Weight: 2.16 lbs | Waterproof Lining: Gore-Tex Extended Comfort
Excellent support
Traction in wet and dry conditions
Lightweight for its class
Stiff
Not as well-rounded as others

The Salewa Mountain Trainer Lite GTX is an all-around shoe that absolutely excels when the terrain gets rough or steep. In designing the Mountain Trainer Lite, Salewa took the aspects of a mountain boot that we like, such as a stiff sole for support, heavy tread for traction and extra protection for long-term durability, but somehow shaved off a ton of weight and gave us a truly capable hiking shoe that clocks in at just over 2 pounds. We moved confidently throughout alpine environments in these shoes, from talus fields to 3rd class climbing.

The Mountain Trainer Lite GTX 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 to be a bit uncomfortable at first, as the more rigid material breaks down, 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.

Read review: Salewa Mountain Trainer Lite GTX


On the trail in the Keen Targhee III.
On the trail in the Keen Targhee III.

Why You Should Trust Us


This review was tag-teamed by Ross Robinson and Ryan Huetter. As a seasoned world traveler and backpacker, Ross gets around on foot quite often. It's a big part of his lifestyle, whether in the granite peaks of his home in California's Sierra Nevada or during his many forays abroad. He has lived and worked in places like Thailand, Peru, and Germany, and has made tracks for at least 500 miles in each. Ross is joined by Ryan, a full-time mountain guide who spends more than 200 days a year hiking, climbing, and recreating on and off-trail. As a IFMGA Certified Mountain Guide through the American Mountain Guides Association, Ryan is an outdoor professional. Hiking on a trail is his daily commute. Being tied to the outdoor industry, Ryan is able to hear about interesting products as they come to market and then hear firsthand accounts from clients and other guides to include in his product research.

We tested these shoes in all types of conditions  from wet trails to dusty playas.
We tested waterproofing and traction in the snow in early Spring conditions.
Capable and comfortable  the Toa Gore-Tex takes rough conditions in stride.

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 of shoes out there before settling on the top models for our reviewers to test. This starts with a lot of research, both in person at trade shows and retailer events as well as online. Once we select our test shoes, chosen based on what models 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 in these shoes. 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 one of these hiking shoes, then we tally up our results and write the thoughtful, in-depth reviews that you as an OutdoorGearLab reader have come to know and expect.

Related: How We Tested Hiking Shoes

A glimpse at some hiking shoes we've tested over the years.
A glimpse at some hiking shoes we've tested over the years.

Analysis and Test Results


After concluding testing, we tabulated the results and scored each product across our performance metrics. Products with a high overall score are good candidates for all-around prowess, while some of the lower-scoring models might excel in one area over others, making them perfect for some applications while lacking general application capabilities. As you read through this review, focus on the aspects that matter to you and your hiking goals most. For example, if you hike primarily in desert terrain, skip over the water-resistance metric while focusing more on breathability.

Related: Buying Advice for Hiking Shoes


Value


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 Vasque Juxt, gives the best performance for the lowest dollar amount, yet it lacks a waterproof lining. For those of you who want this added weather protection but still want to save some cash where you can, then look to The North Face Ultra 109 WP, which we gave the nod for its value as a waterproof model. The Ultra 109 represents the best price-savings on a high-performance model with waterproofing that we have seen in years. Throughout years of testing, we acknowledge that high-quality models start around a hundred bucks, but you don't have to spend much more than that to get a quality pair.

High and dry. The Juxt is a great hiking shoe at an affordable price.
High and dry. The Juxt is a great hiking shoe at an affordable price.

Comfort


Comfort is the most important metric that we consider. If the shoe is painful, then you are going to have a really bad trip out. Gone are the days of excruciating break-in periods - these days, a good pair of hiking shoes with synthetic materials should feel good on your foot almost immediately and not require the prolonged softening of the upper material to occur. That said, many things do go into the way a shoe will fit each individual foot. Lacing preference, sock choice, use of an aftermarket orthotic insole, and foot shape all can play a role in deciding how a shoe feels.


When we test for comfort, we take extensive notes on how the shoe feels. Right out of the box, we start scrutinizing things like material stiffness, ease of entry and of removal, lacing systems, and roominess. A good hiking shoe should not need to be broken in if it is made from synthetic fabrics such as mesh and PU coated nylon, as is now quite common. The material should wrap around the foot without feeling bulky or clunky, and it should not have any stiffness that causes any discomfort while walking, such as a tongue that cuts into your ankle. 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.

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 shoelaces are secured can 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 and Adidas models. Most models we review do not have the lacing hooks that hiking boots normally do, but a couple of the shoes with taller cuffs, such as the Hoka One One Toa GTX, has a couple of pair of hooks to help securely wrap around the ankle. 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.

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 products without a waterproof membrane, the Vasque Juxt 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. Some users will need to choose a shoe with a waterproof lining based on where they go hiking (wet environments), but if you live in an arid climate, then consider one of these shoes without a liner so that your feet will breathe better and not get as sweaty and damp.

We hiked over sharp  uneven rocks to test the support given by the midsoles of the HOKA ONE ONE Toa.
We hiked over sharp, uneven rocks to test the support given by the midsoles of the HOKA ONE ONE Toa.

Without a doubt, the Hoka One One Toa GTX is the most comfortable hiking shoe in our review, as it provides luxurious comfort with a thick 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 to day…still counting.

Weight


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, all size 11 US, on a digital scale straight out of the box.


The different pairs ranged between 1.64 and 2.78 pounds. That pound difference might not seem like much on paper, but we noticed it underfoot. The Arc'teryx Aerios FL GTX is the lightest pair that we tested, though it's worth noting that it isn't as comfortable nor as supportive in the midsole as other pairs. Furthermore, after moderate use over a year of use by our lead tester, it lost much of this support as the midsole material broke down. On the opposite end, the Garmont Dragontail MNT GTX is the heaviest pair that we tested, but also the most stable and clearly built with longevity in mind.

We can't believe how lightweight the Aerios shoes are.
We can't believe how lightweight the Aerios shoes are.

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 more burly midsole construction.

Traction


Traction is important to hikers, and it doesn't matter whether you are walking around the local trail system or out on a fast-pack. If you are slipping, then you are going to have less confidence and be less efficient in your movement. A hiking shoe's traction is derived from the outsole of the shoe. Components of this outsole that should be considered include the rubber compound, the shape of the lugs, and the rocker profile of the sole. While many shoemakers use well-known rubber blends from companies such as Vibram, others use an in-house compound. The softer the rubber, the stickier it often is, though the durability will be diminished. The shape of the lugs matter, for these bite into the surface of the terrain and provide traction as well. The deeper the lugs, the more they will bite into soft surfaces like mud and snow, but the shallower ones will be more effective on rock slabs, as they have more surface area. The Garmont Dragontail GTX and the Salewa Wildfire Edge represent the two ends of this spectrum of lug shape. And finally, looking at the rocker profile, we consider how flat the sole sits on the ground. The more rockered the sole, whether on the toe, the heel, or both, the more comfortable a hiking stride will be. On the other hand, too much rocker, and you will have a hard time gaining good purchase or traction in the forefoot area, especially when trying to edge on narrow rock ledges.


Midsole inserts that are made of a 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 Wildfire Edge has an edging plate that makes it a very effective climber. Other models, such as the Oboz Firebrand II Bdry, utilize a nylon shank that produces similar stability underfoot that is more generally useful without being so specialized as to be as good at climbing as a more niche model.

We test these shoes on all kinds of trail conditions  wet or dry.
We test these shoes on all kinds of trail conditions, wet or dry.

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 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 Salewa Mountain Trainer Lite GTX, Dragontail MNT GTX, and Spire GTX stuck best to the steepest slopes. All three 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, even smooth sole, making it the best for technical rock climbing. In our wet rock test, we walked back and forth across the same wet rocks in mountain brooks and streams. The Salewa impressed us on both wet and dry rock.

Smearing up smooth rock on an off-trail section of Mt. Whitney requires precise traction control. The Sportiva Spire performed very well.
Smearing up smooth rock on an off-trail section of Mt. Whitney requires precise traction control. The Sportiva Spire performed very well.

We also hustled up slopes of loose sediment in our traction tests, in which the more aggressive tread of the Salomon 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 Salomon X Ultra's deep and multi-directional lugs cut through the mud most 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.

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 Garmont model 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. The La Sportiva Spire GTX also did well in the snow. We also factored our experiences on and off the hiking trails into the traction score on top of our specially designed tests.

Kicking steps up loose scree tested each shoe on stability and grip.
Kicking steps up loose scree tested each shoe on stability and grip.

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 upfront. 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 be worth it.

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 Keen Targhee II and Salewa Mountain Trainer Lite GTX are some of the stiffest in a group of contenders that varies widely in this aspect. Those who desire hefty underfoot structure may also find the Oboz Firebrand II to be a helpful model. We were pleased that all products reviewed flexed sufficiently in the forefoot.

Hiking off-trail requires a lot of support  even if not carrying a heavy load. Running shoes can't compete with hiking shoes in this regard.
Hiking off-trail requires a lot of support, even if not carrying a heavy load. Running shoes can't compete with hiking shoes in this regard.

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 and Merrell models tied for the 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 appreciated manufacturers that took the insole as an opportunity to add support to the heel and arch. The stiffest insole award goes to the Keens, 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 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.

An array of insoles from pairs we tested.
An array of insoles from pairs we tested.

The Dragontail GTX excelled in this metric, topping the charts as the most stable under any conditions imaginable. This is truly a mountain boot disguised as a hiking shoe and is the most confidence-inspiring when carrying heavy loads into the backcountry. That said, if we are considering the need for such stability, we may be looking at one of the lighter weight hiking boots rather than the heaviest weight hiking shoe as a compromise. The Hoka Toa offers above-average support and stability for its weight.

Protecting the foot from impact strikes on sharp and rocky trails is one of the aspects of support we look closely at.
Protecting the foot from impact strikes on sharp and rocky trails is one of the aspects of support we look closely at.

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.

It is nice when a hiking shoe can double as your favorite trail runner  which the Ultra 109 from The North Face does exceptionally well.
It is nice when a hiking shoe can double as your favorite trail runner, which the Ultra 109 from The North Face does exceptionally well.

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 we reviewed pass this low standard. During testing, we also packed a midsize pack (30-40 liter volume) 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 Salewa Mountain Trainer Lite GTX models, which have great ankle and foot support.

You don't have to be climbing gnarly alpine routes to apprecite the extra support and heft of the Dragontail MNT GTX -- they excel at general off-trail travel as well.
You don't have to be climbing gnarly alpine routes to apprecite the extra support and heft of the Dragontail MNT GTX -- they excel at general off-trail travel as well.

While out on the trail, we wanted to see how each shoe did while jogging with a light pack. "Fastpack" hiking is gaining in popularity, and while all-out running is not usually part of the program, a fastpacker's needs often more resemble those of trail runners rather than backpackers. This trend is reflected in the market, as many hikers available look like beefed up trail runners. Several shoes in this review feel natural at a running gait, but none combined nimble running ability with powerful support better than the Salomon X Ultra and La Sportiva Spire. It is also a bonus if you can wear your hiking shoes on the trail and in casual settings, too.

Nimble enough to trail run or fastpack with  but sturdy enough to carry a backpack  we want our hiking shoes to do more than just one thing well.
Nimble enough to trail run or fastpack with, but sturdy enough to carry a backpack, we want our hiking shoes to do more than just one thing well.

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 the Salewa Wildfire Edge, Vasque 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, 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.


To score the 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. Checking for leaks, we 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.

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.

The La Sportiva Spire GTX emerged from the water on top of all other models. It has a relatively tall flood height among the shoes we tested (4.75 in.), kept our feet dry through the waterproof test, and resisted absorbing water into its leather and synthetic upper.

The Salomon X Ultra shoes are up to nearly any task. Let your pup lead the way  as these shoes can handle dry and sloppy trails equally well.
The Salomon X Ultra shoes are up to nearly any task. Let your pup lead the way, as these shoes can handle dry and sloppy trails equally well.

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

Fording small creeks like the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek  our feet stayed dry in the Adidas Terrex shoes. Even when water got in  these shoes dried out very quickly.
Fording small creeks like the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek, our feet stayed dry in the Adidas Terrex shoes. Even when water got in, these shoes dried out very quickly.

A few seconds after stepping into the water in the Juxt, our feet were soaked. The same went for the Moab 2 Ventilator. 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 only 15-20 miles in 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 the waterproof liner stops water, it makes your shoe heavy and hinders breathability. The La Sportiva, Salomon an Adidas 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 under the sun.

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 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 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 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 ages well.


While we didn't test each product's entire lifespan, 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 talked to fellow hikers on the trails about their shoe experiences.

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

The burly Garmont Dragontail struck us as the most durable pair of the test bunch. The high-quality stitching, large rubber rand extending up the upper, and abrasion-resistant, full-grain leather of the Garmont lend their service to many seasons of use. They barely showed any signs of the abuse we put them through even after three months. It does use much more natural material and is a seriously heavy shoe, though. We found the Keen Targhee II and theSalewa Mountain Trainer Lite GTX to blend durability and weight for more approachable longevity.

Washing off the Moab 2s after a particularly muddy trail (before we knew they were leaky).
Washing off the Moab 2s after a particularly muddy trail (before we knew they were leaky).

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 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, prolonged use, and has the added benefit of keeping water out.

Conclusion


Hiking is supposed to be fun and enjoyable, but if you have been complaining of blisters, sore feet, and shoes that fall apart after only a few hikes, then you should look at upgrading to one of the many excellent models that we feature in this all-encompassing hiking shoe review. We know it can be hard to pick the right one, so we hope that our real-world testing helps you choose the pair that will best suit your needs. We have enjoyed testing these shoes and hope that you have a great time out there on the trail, wherever it may take you.

Ryan Huetter and Ross Robinson