When you’re hitting the trails, your feet are your most valuable asset to take you to your destination. After extensive testing on hiking trails and scrambles in the Wasatch mountain range, we found that the Scarpa Rush Mid GTX (which comes in a men’s and women’s version) was the best overall hiking boot because of its versatile yet lightweight design. Likewise, the Adidas Terrex Skychaser 2.0 Mid (which comes in a men’s and women’s version, too) won our best value hiking boot pick because it provides structured ankle support at a more approachable price point than traditional backpacking boots.
Nothing can end a hike faster than blistered, tired feet, so it’s important to take care of them with the proper gear and invest in a great pair of hiking boots (as well as a great daypack or hiking backpack). The best hiking boots for you should provide traction, support and comfort for all-day use whether you’re hiking an urban trail or backpacking deep into the wilderness.
I’ve been advising hikers on what boots to wear since 2015 when I worked as a backpacking guide (which I did until 2020), and I’ve guided multi-day trips in National Parks including Yosemite, Yellowstone, Olympic and the North Cascades. As a guide, I hiked—and instructed guests on—terrain from root-covered trails to the smooth granite of Half Dome. Before and during trips, I recommended boots to guests, advised them on break-in protocol, and assessed footwear issues on the trail.
For this piece, I interviewed experts, like the team at AllTrails. I spoke to Senior Operations Manager Manon Nectoux and Head of Social Media Stephanie Asper, who have spent hundreds of hours in hiking boots for both work research and recreation. I also consulted with Joe Liefer, the Divisional Merchandise Manager for Hard Goods at Christy Sports, who determines the hiking boot inventory for their retail stores and previously led the company’s boot fitting educational programs for staff.
Hikers need boots that can perform well on the trail and stand up to miles of hard use, so we established testing criteria to determine which boots would serve you best for hiking and backpacking.
I wore the boots in different environments and climates to see how they performed. I tested the hiking boots in the late spring and summer of 2022 in various terrain in the Wasatch Mountains outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. I hiked on smooth trails, up and down steep loose dirt, across granite boulder fields, and through creeks. Each day, temperatures reached between 75 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit, so I was able to see how breathable these boots were in summer hiking conditions.
To see how boots performed with and without heavy weight, I tested each pair of hiking boots with both a light day pack and a 30-pound backpacking pack. With the weight of a heavy pack on your back, cushioning and support are even more important to stay comfortable and safe on your hike. However, boots should also feel light and agile when you’re only carrying a day pack.
As I was hiking, I evaluated each hiking boot on the following criteria:
- Comfort: I tested how the boots felt on my feet and whether or not they created pressure points. I also considered if they needed an extensive break-in period or were comfortable right out of the box.
- Traction: I took each boot on both solid rock and loose dirt to test whether or not the shoe provided good traction in all scenarios.
- Stability: I looked at the ankle height and tested how much support they provided when fully laced. I also tested if the cushion provided decent comfort without sacrificing stability. (In general, more cushion creates a less stable shoe.)
- Breathability: I tested these boots in hot summer temperatures to determine whether or not my feet stayed cool and if the shoe materials were breathable. I wore the same socks for each hike to try to keep the conditions consistent.
- Waterproofing: I took each pair of boots through an ankle-deep creek crossing to see how the waterproof coating and lining performed, and all of the boots did well during a three-minute exposure to water. I considered whether the waterproofing prevented leakage and if the ankle and tongue design prevented water from getting in through the top of the boot when splashed with water.
When selecting the winners, I also considered each boot’s weight and aesthetics. When looking at weight, I considered the intended use of the boot. For example, a backpacking boot can—and should—be heavier than a day hiking boot. Lastly, while aesthetics shouldn’t be the main deciding factor when you’re searching for hiking boots, you may consider them if you plan to wear your hiking boots around town, as well as on the trail.
Best Overall Hiking Boots
A Versatile Choice For Day Hikers And Backpackers Alike
These boots top our list of the best hiking boots because they’re the most versatile option that will suit both day hikers and backpackers who don’t need high ankle support or protection. They provide the benefits of both trail running shoes and hiking boots in one package: they’re lightweight and breathable, yet also offer adequate cushion for carrying a heavy pack. The dual-density EVA midsole is a cushy foam that absorbs impact every time you step, taking stress off of your joints. The Rush Mid is also equipped with a TPU heel frame, an interior component that keeps your foot stable on uneven terrain. All this to say, these boots feel solid whether you’re hiking on an established trail or a rocky ridgeline.
Scarpa’s Sock-Fit construction adds to this stability because you can tighten down the laces to achieve a secure fit around the mid- and forefoot. “If a hiker is looking to go through really rocky terrain, we want them in a snug-fitting boot because they’re going to need that support,” explained Liefer, the Divisional Merchandise Manager for Hard Goods at Christy Sports.
Unlike leather hiking boots which stretch over time and require a lengthy break-in period, the Rush Mid is comfortable right out of the box because they are made of synthetic materials that retain their shape. The cushion around the ankle creates a V shape that hugs your ankle bone, but it tapers around the tongue insert to create a smoother shape with fewer pressure points. And, while Gore-Tex lining is not known for being breathable, my feet stayed cool while hiking the White Pine Trail in Little Cottonwood Canyon in summer conditions.
Scarpa also equipped this shoe with its Free-dome Interactive Kinetic System (IKS) outsole, which the brand uses on its trail runners for superior traction. This technology consists of zones that absorb shock as your foot lands, allowing more of the tread to grip the ground. And it does not disappoint: it’s sticky on slippery rocks and confidence-inspiring when hiking down steep, loose trails. (Not surprising, as Scarpa creates high-performance climbing and mountaineering shoes.)
But for hikers looking for a rugged backpacking boot that will last close to a decade, this might not be your top choice. The lightweight design feels great while hiking but it reduces durability because the synthetic materials wear down faster than leather. The rubber on the sole is soft to enhance traction through surface area contact, but it will also wear down faster than a stiffer boot. Additionally, while this shoe provides adequate ankle support, the mid-height design lacks structure and does not provide the same support as a high-top backpacking boot like the Salomon Quest 4. And, while I might be nit-picking here, the design is sleek but does not stand out among the rest, and I would love to see them offered in more colorways.
These shoes are backed by a one-year warranty for any manufacturer defects, but we recommend buying them from a retailer like REI which has a generous one-year return policy for all used gear.
- Day hikers who want a versatile, lightweight shoe for everyday use
- Backpackers who are comfortable carrying a heavy pack and don’t need extra ankle support
- Hikers looking for a shoe that will perform well in technical, rocky terrain and on scrambles
- You need a heavy-duty boot with a rigid structure and high-top ankle support.
Best Value Hiking Boots
Running Shoe-Inspired Comfort
These ultra-comfortable hiking boots are a great value for both day hiking and backpacking because they are roomy, responsive and supportive—while maintaining the classic Adidas aesthetic in either a black or bright blue colorway. While they retail for $200, you can usually find them on sale through various retailers for as low as $120. Even though Adidas is known as a running and streetwear company, their Terrex trail line delivered in our tests.
This shoe packs in a lot of features and quality for your money, like the Boost cushioning technology. Adidas incorporated this cushioned midsole, which you can see in most of the brand’s running shoes, into its hiking boot to create a shoe that you can wear for long days on the trail. On a six-mile hike along Wolverine Ridge in Little Cottonwood Canyon in Utah, this boot provided enough cushion that I didn’t feel sharp rocks underfoot and my feet felt fresh when I got back to the trailhead.
The Skychaser 2 Mids have a higher, stiffer ankle collar which offers more support than the Scarpas, so they are a better lightweight backpacking boot for hikers with ankle instability issues. The ankle cuff is stiff and supportive, yet the back of the cuff has a stretchy, neoprene-esque panel which both makes it easier to get on and off and minimizes pressure on your Achilles tendon. While the soles have less aggressive lugs (the tread pattern on the bottom of the boot) than the Scarpas or Salomons, they feel sticky and agile when you hike on rocks or roots. I wore them while crossing a boulder field, and the rubber sole kept me from slipping. They also have a solid toe plate to protect from rocks on the trail.
These boots offer the best fit we found for a range of foot widths and sizes. For those with wide feet, they are very comfortable because they are roomy across the midfoot. But they’re also great for those with narrow feet because the bottom laces expand across the forefoot so you can tighten them down for a more snug fit. The extra width through the ball of the foot makes it easy to pair these with thick hiking socks. However, while they are spacious and comfortable, they don’t skimp on agility. The tapered toe box is well designed so you can achieve more precise footwork on the trail.
Similar to Scarpa, Adidas provides a one-year warranty for manufacturer defects, like stitching or adhesives, and you can return them within 30-days of purchase in their original packaging. However, we recommend buying from a retailer, like REI, with a better return policy.
- Hikers and backpackers seeking structured ankle support from a lightweight hiking boot
- People with wide feet
- You need a narrow fit through the midfoot
Best Backpacking Boots
Comfortable, Supportive, Breathable And Waterproof
A serious backpacking boot without the heavy weight of its fully-leather counterparts, the Salomon Quest 4 GTX, made with both synthetic fabric and Nubuck leather, is about as perfect as a hiking boot gets. It checked every box in our tests: it’s comfortable, supportive, breathable, has excellent traction and is water resistant. I also love the style of this boot: it’s both modern and classic, durable and rugged-looking.
It’s also packed with extra design features, like the pull tab on the tongue that makes it easy to take on and off. The durable outsole provides enough structure that you can travel uphill with ease but enough flexibility that you can maintain your full range of motion when you’re hiking, scrambling or climbing over logs. The Active Support bands let you cinch the laces tight to achieve a more secure fit at the forefoot, and the rugged yet lightweight toe cap protects your feet no matter the terrain you find yourself in.
Best of all, this boot is one of the most versatile we tested for different styles of hiking. It’s extremely comfortable for such a high-performing backpacking boot because of the EVA foam cushioning and shoe shape. The rounded toe box is just the right width—narrow enough to remain agile but wide enough to let your toes wiggle. When I wore these with a backpacking pack, my feet appreciated the extra room while cruising on smooth trails, but I could quickly tighten down the laces in steeper trail sections to hold my foot in place. If you’re a dedicated backpacker who tackles tough terrain and you only buy one hiking boot for all your adventures, make it this one.
Salomon has one of the best warranties of the bunch: the brand covers manufacturing defects up to two years from the purchase date.
- Backpackers looking for a classic, supportive hiking boot
- Day hikers who need premium ankle support
- You prefer to hike on easy to moderate trails without rough terrain—these will be overkill
Best Lightweight Hiking Boots
Innovative Design With An Extra-Wide Toe Box
If you’re looking for a shoe with a barely-there feel, the Altra Lone Peak All-Wthr Mids are one of the best lightweight hiking boots we tested. They’re ideal for day hikers, people with wide feet, and lightweight backpackers. However, for new backpackers or those with joint issues, they may not have enough cushion to support a heavy pack.
Altra, a relatively new brand founded in 2011, has a dedicated following because of a few key features. First, the zero-drop design, called Balanced Cushioning, eliminates padded cushioning in the heel so the sole of your foot rests flat in the shoe. Additionally, the FootShape Fit shape creates an extra-wide toe box so your toes can splay out in a more natural position.
This shoe was one of my favorites because it has soft, squishy cushioning and is incredibly breathable. Usually, after hiking in the heat, my feet feel swollen and sore, and the sides of my shoes compress my toes and forefoot. But after miles of hiking in 90-degree temps with these boots, my feet felt unstoppable. This is due to the wide toe box which allows for foot swell and the breathable eVent waterproof liner. This fabric, which is a competitor to Gore-Tex, is silky, comfortable and employs a venting technology that is breathable even when it’s dry. (It’s also slightly more waterproof with a water column rating of 30,000mm versus Gore-Tex’s 28,000mm.) When I tested it in an ankle-deep creek crossing, water shed off the shoe and my feet stayed dry inside.
Because of their lighter weight and unique design, hiking in these shoes is a very different experience than a traditional hiking boot, and they won’t work for everyone. I primarily hike in low-top trail runners and have very stable ankles, so the Altras work for me. As mentioned above, most hiking boots have added cushion in the heel. But Altra’s zero-drop cushioning keeps your foot flat, requiring flexibility in the calf and Achilles to reach the insole. If you’re prone to calf tightness like me, this can be a difficult adjustment. When I bought a pair of Altra trail running shoes with the same design, the REI staff member recommended introducing this shoe into rotation slowly, only wearing it for one hike a week for the first few weeks until my calves got accustomed to the low profile.
These boots are best for day or ultralight hikes, not long backpacking trips. The Lone Peak All Wthr does not have a toe cap and offers the least protection of all the shoes on this list. When you put on a heavy pack, the cushioning does not stand up to the weight and you may feel your body is compressed. But for day hikers or ultralight backpackers, you won’t find another shoe as light or comfortable.
Overall, this boot is a great option for casual day hikers looking for maximum comfort and those seeking lightweight footwear. I’m a big fan of the maroon color and the high-top sneaker design, so it will definitely be in regular rotation in my wardrobe, even for urban hikes and town walks.
If you plan to buy this shoe, keep in mind that Lone Peaks tend to run small, so size up. I tested a size 8 compared to a 7.5 in other brands and models, and the fit was comparable. Altra also has a generous warranty for 300 to 500 miles on any manufacturing defects.
- Day hikers who frequent well-maintained trails
- Ounce-counter backpackers and thru-hikers who want a comfortable trail shoe
- Hikers in hot climates who also need a waterproof shoe
- Hikers with wide feet
- You need the structure and support of a traditional hiking boot
Footwear is deeply personal, and your hiking boot choice will depend on your hiking style and foot shape. While these boots didn’t top our list, they could be a great option for other hikers. Here are the rest of the boots that we tested:
- La Sportiva Trango Tech GTX (Men | Women): While I loved these boots, they’re too limited for most hikers. They’re stiff-soled with sticky rubber, so they excel in technical terrain. However, they’re overbuilt, heavy, and hot for everyday hiking. They’re worth considering for backpacking trips with a lot of alpine mileage.
- Merrell Moab 3 (Men | Women): While these shoes are frequently cited by many as a great budget option, I found them to be uncomfortable. They also lacked the traction that I’d like to see in a hiking boot. They have more cushion on the lateral foot edge than under the interior and ball of the foot, so they would be great for hikers who struggle with oversupination (rolling the ankle outward) but they feel unbalanced if you tend to overpronate (roll the ankle inward).
- Danner Mountain Light (Men | Women): These boots are beautiful—they’re made from lightly-tanned leather with red laces—but the mid-height design doesn’t provide much ankle support and the toebox is incredibly narrow. They are the most expensive on the list because they are hand-built in Portland, but will last for years of moderate use. However, the fit may be too restricting unless you have very narrow feet.
- Zamberlan Vioz GTX (Men | Women): These leather backpacking boots were decently comfortable but as soon as I started hiking, my feet felt like they were on fire. They feel supportive while carrying weight, but the lack of breathability restricts their usability. If you primarily hike in cooler climates and need a durable, waterproof boot, they might be a good option.
- North Face Vectiv Exploris FutureLight (Men | Women): This lightweight option features a rocker sole that is designed to propel you forward with each step. While this design was innovative and the shoe was breathable, it didn’t stand out among the competition and was less comfortable for wide feet than the other lightweight shoes that we tested.
How To Choose A Hiking Boot
Day Hiking Vs. Backpacking
Before investing in boots, consider what type of hiking you prefer. If you’re a casual day hiker, you should prioritize comfort over technical features. “You won’t be carrying as much weight and you’ll want something that is really comfortable so you can enjoy being out there,” explained Liefer. Liefer advised that for casual to moderate day hikes, you may want to find a soft-soled boot that’s a bit more flexible than a traditional backpacking boot.
However, if you plan to backpack with a heavy pack, you should consider a more durable boot with cushioning and high ankle support, especially if you are prone to joint issues. The amount of support you need is a personal decision, so give some thought to your body’s needs and comfort level on rocky or technical terrain. Some experienced backpackers like to wear low-top trail running shoes because they are light and breathable but lack support, while others need a stiff cuff to prevent their ankles from rolling.
When it comes to hiking boots, comfort is paramount. If you’re comfortable, you can enjoy your journey without worrying about returning home before blisters form. “You’ll stay out on your feet longer because you’ll have the basic support based on your foot shape and type,” said Liefer.
Look for a shoe that is designed to fit your foot type based on your foot width, arch, and overall shape. “I am very tall with a size 11 foot,” said Asper, the head of social media at AllTrails, who usually wears a women’s shoe size. “But I wanted something that would fit me really well. So, I bought the men’s version because it fits my foot a lot better than the women’s model.” Some models, like the Merrell Moab 3 and Zamberlan Vioz, come in both regular and wide fits.
Other shoes, like the Adidas Terrex Skychaser 2 and the Salomon Quest 4, are more adjustable than others so they can fit a variety of foot shapes. Both of these models have a wider footbed but also integrate a lace system with forefoot and midfoot bands so you can achieve a more precise fit.
When you get your shoes, try them on and walk around your house to ensure they’re comfortable and provide enough support before taking them on the trail.
Ankle support and overall boot stability are crucial aspects to consider when buying a boot. In general, the higher the ankle cuff, the more support it will provide. “Some customers have a very rigid foot and ankle joint, so they might be able to handle a low or mid-cut height boot,” said Liefer. “While other guests might need a lot of support up and through the ankle, perhaps due to a past injury or because they’re going on a backpacking trip and will be carrying an additional 40 pounds on their back.”
While a structured boot will provide ankle support, it will also protect the rest of your joints, like the knees and hips. “I’ve hurt my knees and ankles quite a bit,” said Asper, “So I need to have a boot that is supportive and comfortable for the longevity of my body.”
Different climates and terrain require different hiking boot designs and materials. Synthetic materials will be best if you’re hiking in hot environments, because they are typically more breathable than leather. Leather is great for durability, but it is not breathable, so should be avoided in hot temperatures. Alternatively, waterproof coating and liners—like Gore-Tex and eVent—are beneficial if you’re hiking in damp, rainy climates. Most boots come in both a waterproof version (often designated as GTX if they use the Gore-tex waterproofing) and a non-waterproof version.
But it’s not all about waterproofing—flexible upper can also be beneficial if you’ll be scrambling on rocks. “For a scramble [which requires the use of your hands to maneuver through rocky terrain], nylon might be a bit more flexible for your foot, so you’re not going to overextend yourself,” said Asper.
The sole of the shoe may not be your first priority when choosing hiking boots, but as you start to move from beginner to intermediate hikes, you’ll want a sole with adequate traction to keep you from slipping on roots, rocks and loose dirt. When it comes to the sole, you have two considerations: the stiffness of the rubber and the tread pattern.
The stiffness of the rubber is important because a stiffer sole will make it easier to walk up steep terrain. “Say you’re walking up the stairs and you can only get the tip of your toe on the step platform,” said Liefer. “You don’t want that sole to be super soft and flex or you’ll feel unstable.”
However, if you’re on a hiking route that is primarily smooth, rounded rock—like the Half Dome hike in Yosemite—you would want a softer-soled boot so your foot could flex to get the most surface area in contact with the rock.
You should also consider tread, which is the pattern on the bottom of the sole. “The tread of your hiking boot is really important, especially if you’re hiking in mud so you can make sure you’re getting a really good grip,” said Nectoux, the senior operations manager at AllTrails.
You may also want to consider features like a stiff ankle collar and sticky rubber outsole for increased traction when you’re venturing into rough terrain. “Often when I go on hikes that are rocky, I know I want double the support,” explained Asper. “That way, even if my ankle rolls a bit, it’s not going to go all the way because it’s enclosed in a pretty stiff shaft.”
Boot height is also a crucial design element to consider beyond it’s stability benefits. “When I’m in the desert, I wear a high-top boot so I can keep sand out of my shoes,” said Nectoux. So, you should also keep in mind any unique hiking terrain, like the sand dunes in Death Valley or along the Lost Coast in California.
Return Policy and Warranty
When you’re buying online, shop with retailers that have generous return policies so you can find a boot that works for you. REI offers a 365-day return policy for members and a 90-day policy for non-members, even if you’ve worn the boot on the trail. Many retailers accept returns as long as the product is unused in its original packaging. “When I bought my last pair of boots, I ordered two sizes to try on at home,” said Nectoux. “I kept the pair that fit me and returned the other pair because the store had a great return policy.”
“Don’t be afraid to return them if you have to,” stressed Asper. “Hiking boots are an expensive piece of gear and you want them to last for a really long time.” Just be sure to keep the original packaging so you can get a refund. When you buy online, it can be helpful to buy from a retailer, like REI or Christy Sports, that has physical stores where you can make returns.
Many brands also offer warranties for manufacturer defects, usually for one to two years for footwear. Although a warranty provides protection for your purchase, it is also a sign that the brand stands by the quality of its products.