The Best Hiking Boots Buying Guide

Looking for the perfect hiking shoe that eats through the terrain? Or are you wondering how to choose my first hiking shoe?

This post covers everything you need to know about a hiking shoe – from top recommendations to a comprehensive buying guide.

Finding the right pair of boots for your hike is important. Hikes are usually strenuous and you have to come across unfamiliar terrain. You need a boot that is comfortable, supports your feet, protects them from stones and holds the surface in place.

After looking through over 50 hiking boots, we limited ourselves to the ten best hiking boots. We had a strict purchase criterion against which these boots were rated. Here are our top recommendations.

Salomon Quest 4D 2 GTX Hiking Boot

Score

  • Comfort – 10/10
  • Stability – 9/10
  • Traction – 9/10
  • Durability – 9/10

Merrell Men’s Moab 2 Hiking Boot

Score

  • Comfort – 8/10
  • Stability – 7/10
  • Traction – 6/10
  • Durability – 7/10

KEEN Women’s Targhee II Mid Hiking Boot

Score

  • Comfort – 8/10
  • Stability – 8/10
  • Traction – 8/10
  • Durability – 7/10

Lowa Renegade GTX Hiking Boot

Score

  • Comfort – 9/10
  • Stability – 9/10
  • Traction – 9/10
  • Durability – 9/10

Vasque St. Elias GTX Backpacking Boot

Score

  • Comfort – 7/10
  • Stability – 10/10
  • Traction – 8/10
  • Durability – 8/10

Salomon X Ultra Mid 2 GTX Hiking Boot

Score

  • Comfort – 8/10
  • Stability – 7/10
  • Traction – 7/10
  • Durability – 7/10

Timberland White Ledge Men’s Waterproof Boot

Score

  • Comfort – 7/10
  • Stability – 6/10
  • Traction – 6/10
  • Durability – 7/10

Ahnu Women’s Montara Boot

Score

  • Comfort – 7/10
  • Stability – 8/10
  • Traction – 7/10
  • Durability – 7/10

Columbia Newton Ridge Plus Hiking Boot

Score

  • Comfort – 7/10
  • Stability – 6/10
  • Traction – 6/10
  • Durability – 6/10

Columbia Men’s Bugaboot Plus III Omni Cold-Weather Boot

Score

  • Comfort – 8/10
  • Stability – 7/10
  • Traction – 7/10
  • Durability – 6/10

How to Choose a Hiking Boot – Buying Guide

Before your first hike, these are the usual questions that cross your mind – my running shoe isn’t doing the job? Should I go for a lightweight shoe or something with more protection? Do I need additional ankle support?

We have prepared a comprehensive guide to answer all of these questions and help you choose an ideal hiking shoe. Using the same process, we selected our top 10 hiking boots that were recommended earlier.

Before we go into the details, let’s briefly discuss the two main types of hiking.

Types of Hiking

There’s a big difference between hiking the Devils Garden Trail and hiking the Canyonlands Labyrinth. The former usually ends within a day, but the Canyonlands Trail is over 12 days.

Of course, the type of boot you choose will depend on the type of trail you are hiking. Here are the main differences to look for.

Day Hiking

If you are going on a short hike (which usually ends in a day) it makes a lot of sense to buy lightweight boots.

You don’t want your feet to be tired and sweaty after the hike. Light hiking shoes are very breathable and have a higher flex, so you can navigate the trail more easily. This is where boots like the Merrell Moab 2 or the KEEN Targhee II stand out.

On the other hand, they come with little support and are often less durable. (Such boots usually don’t last that long.)

Backpacking

When you backpack around the country, you need sturdy boots. These are the boots that can carry all the heavy camping weight and stomp through all sorts of rocks that get in your way.

When looking for backpack boots, make sure that the upper is made of full-grain leather and has stiff midsoles.

On the back, these boots have a break-in period and are on the heavier side. Experienced hikers can work with lighter boots, but solid protection is vital for beginners.

Top Features of a Hiking Boot

Now that we’ve covered the two main types of hiking, let’s dig into the specifics to look for in a hiking shoe.

Comfort

Well, that’s too obvious, isn’t it? However, in a hiking shoe, these are certain things that you need to look for to make sure they fit properly.

When assessing the comfort of a shoe, we look at two things – breathability and the midsole. If you’re going on a long hike, a shoe with a breathable waterproof upper is a must.

You don’t want your feet to be sweaty and a breathable mesh will do. Even on long hikes in the country, you will come across several streams of water. A waterproof membrane that dries out quickly gives you the much-needed comfort. (Plus, your feet won’t smell when you’re done.) These membranes keep your feet warm even in colder conditions.

You don’t need an additional waterproof membrane for a day hike. Synthetic nylon upper is lighter and more breathable and keeps your feet nice and dry.

And yes, for day hikes, make sure your boots have an EVA midsole. They are lighter, offer sufficient cushioning and offer a good grip on stones.

For backpacking, you need a midsole that is durable and strong. The polyurethane midsole won’t flatten over time and offers solid support for rocky trails.

How to Break in?

Before embarking on your first hike, it is important that you break into the shoe. This is usually required for heavier backpack boots, which are stiffer compared to lighter boots.

We recommend a couple of runs. There are some pressure points that will subside over time. You also get an idea of how the shoe feels. Professional hikers prefer a two to three hour hike with their new shoes on. This gives them an idea of how the shoe handles rocks and water currents.

Getting the Fit Right

My shoe feels great, gives my feet the support I want and keeps them dry, but something is still missing. We usually hear this statement from beginners. If you need to improve the cushioning or add extra protection to your feet, it is highly recommended that you use an insole. This gives you a good fit and helps you blow through the trail.

For the winter we recommend polypropylene inner socks. They keep your feet warm and protect them from blisters.

Stability and Traction

If you want your feet to be stable during the hike, make sure they are well protected. They don’t want uneven rocks or roots to slow you down. But how do I do that? Well, hiking boots use stems and plates to give your feet extra support. These are small plates or inserts that are placed between the midsole and the outsole of the boot.

For beginners, we recommend a full-length shaft as this covers the entire area of ​​the midsole and protects your feet from sharp stones. Experienced hikers usually opt for smaller legs.

High-cut boots are also recommended for longer hikes. They will give your ankles the much needed support and also protect them from cuts and bruises. (You don’t want a sprained ankle, do you?)
(The Salomon Quest 4D 2 is perhaps the sturdiest hiking shoe you can buy.)

When it comes to traction and grip, it’s all about the outsole. If you want to hike down a rocky path, take a boot with deeper cleats.

For a muddy trail, however, the cleats need to be small and wide. This will help you grip the surface and reduce the chance of the occasional slip.

Conclusion

This brings us to the end of the article. This is all you need to know about buying a hiking boot. In summary, the buying guide can be used to help you choose your ideal hiking shoe. We talk about material selection and we also discuss the essential metrics (like comfort and traction) that you need to look for.