A solid pair of hiking shoes or boots are the most important piece of kit for a hiker. But with all the choices out there, which are the best for you?
We have broken them down by typical use cases and recommended the boots that we would choose (sometimes with options)
What Are The Best Hiking Boots in 2021?
Below is a summary of our hiking boot picks. Click the title for more information and alternative choices
Grip, stability and comfort in an amazingly light package. An amazing all-rounder and our Overall Winner
Amazong grip, stability and comfort straight out of the box. Expensive but does pretty much everything and our Money No Object Pick
Grippy and comfortable - A suprisingly capable hiking boot and our our Best Budget Pick
Tough, supportive with great traction, makes this ideal for rough terrain and scrambling Best For Tough Hikes
Incrediblly light and comfortable with enough support for light hikes, makes this our Best Lightweight Hiking Boot
Please note that we have linked our choices over to Amazon. If you choose to buy through one of our links, we may receive a small commission. This does not affect our picks (we would get the commission regardless of which we recommended) but it does help us maintain this site and pay for things like hosting.
What We Judged Our Reviews On
It is all very well saying "these are the best hiking boots" but just how do we determine this? Well, I am very glad you asked!!
There are certain things that are a given for a good hiking boot - grip, stability, comfort etc. However there are compromises - the lighter you make it, the less effort it takes to move your feet and the less energy you burn, but this means there will be less padding and support.
So what were are looking at is the right balance for whatever your boot is designed for. For example, boots designed for really tough terrain with heavy packs are always going to be heavier and more expensive than those designed for day hikes on well-maintained trails.
So these are the criteria we are looking at
This is the one criteria that is absolutely essential for any boot. So the first thing we do is a test that we can find a good fit and nothing rubs or presses.
Naturally, everyone's feet are different, so we advise you to try boots on or get a few in and return the ones you do not want.
We look for boots with wide toe boxes, potentially available in wide sizes, and ample cushioning.
A good pair of hiking boots need to get you over some pretty tough terrain. Most hikers will meet tree roots, loose and slippery rocks, and if your boot cannot grip, it will not be much use and may even lead to injury.
Naturally, if you are going to be trekking over deep mud or snow, the sole needs to be made very differently from one that is going to target flatter or more maintained trails.
Ankle and foot support are crucial in a good hiking boot. Next to comfort, the ability of your boot will keep your foot locked down and secured is imperative, especially if you have a heavy pack on your back.
The lacing system will account for some of this and comfort too.
Trails are full of hard, sharp rocks underfoot. If you go out in sneakers, you are more than likely going to hurt your feet and ankles. So reinforced toe, heel, ankle, and soles are essential for good hiking boots.
Naturally the level of protection will affect the weight, so boots designed for rocky terrain will generally feature a rock shield in the sole, while day hiking boots will save the weight.
You are going to be picking these boots up with every step, so even slight weight savings can make a big difference to your energy levels over a long day of trekking.
As mentioned before, the weight is proportional to the support and protection. However, some lightweight but poorly designed boots may not be as comfortable a heavier but better designed or fitted one.
So do not look at the weight in isolation only in terms of what that weight offers you.
Even basic hiking boots are not cheap. As a general rule, the more you spend, the better the materials and construction, so the longer they will last.
A good pair of hiking boots should last from 300 to 500 miles, but this will depend on the type of hiking, the weather conditions, the terrain, weight or the hiker and their pack plus the quality of the boots themselves.
Typically that mileage will take between three and five years if you look after your boots well.
It should be noted that many boots look like they still have life in them, but the cushioning becomes compressed and less effective, which renders them less and less able to do their job.
Well designed boots have had a lot of thought put into them. For example, they should feature a good amount of space in the toe, a good lacing system and tongues that prevent dirt, water, and sand from getting into the boot.
Naturally the design should also ensure the boot is able to deal with whatever terrain it is made for and tough and durable enough to survive it.
In addition, for the women's version, has there been any provision for the slightly different angle that women's leg meet at the ankle due to their wider pelvis?
Construction & Materials
A well-designed boot is great, but if it is poorly made or uses inappropriate materials, it is not going to cut it.
Well stitched and glued boots are the first thing we look for. After that, signs of undue wear and tear on the trails are another warning sign.
There are some very well known brand names out there for materials and treatments, such as Vibram outsoles and Gore-Tex waterproofing. Because these are usually the best in class, you often find the makers like to drop hints they use them in the name of their boots.
For example, a boot with "V" in its name usually has Vibram outsoles, while "GTX" indicates a Gore-Tex lining. Finally, if you see "GV" it will usually be a fairly high-end boot and contain Gore-Tex lining with a Vibram outsole.
If you’re hiking, you are going to end up crossing creeks, mud, snow, or just getting soaked in a rainstorm at some point. Good hiking boots should be able to withstand a moderate amount of water.
Cheaper boots generally do not use Gore-Tex but feature other in-house or cheaper alternatives. Some of these are pretty good at keeping out the water but are not as breathable.
All of these treatments need to be looked after and reapplied. Depending on how much use you give your boots this can be as often as every 6 weeks, but typically every 3-6 months.
The flip-side of water-proofing is breathability. If you can cover your foot in a polythene bag, it will be totally waterproof, but your feet will hate you!
So good hiking boots need to offer both water-resistance while remaining breathable during summer hiking, to allow your feet to stay cool.
It should be noted that even class-leaders like Gore-Tex are not perfect for breathability, so boots designed for desert hiking often remove this to keep their owner's feet cooler
Along with the likes of Gore-Tex, most of the big brands have their own "breathable technology". Some are pretty good, others....less so!
Sweaty, swollen feet, or overly sweaty socks are an indicator that the boots do not breathe well.
Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX Hiking Boots Review
For most hikers, these offer a great balance of lightweight, comfort, support and grip for a good price.
Salomon has been doing this stuff for a long time and they know a thing or two about build quality. This means that their boots tend to stand up well to the trail wear and tear better than other boots in this weight and price range.
When you first put these on they feel like a trail-running shoe but do not be fooled. They have a good deal of added ankle support and protection, allied to good toe protection. This is all built on a remarkably stable chassis, with enough stiffness to deal with most trails, and sole that grips exceptionally well.
The ankle is pretty low cut, but I did not find any issues unless the trails turned really gnarly. The biggest issue was when I mistimed a jump crossing a stream and found the water gets over the top of the boot more easily than it would on higher cut ones! The Gore-Tex worked really well though and the boot's waterproofing gave me no cause for concern.
If you have wider than average feet, Salomon even make these in a wide fit, which is a rarity at this price point.
These boots are not designed to support heavy packs on rougher terrain, as this will expose their comparative lack of underfoot protection. So if you are going to be carrying a laden 50-liter pack or child-carrier, we would suggest something with a bit more support.
However for most hikers, these offer pretty much everything you could want in a hiking boot.
- Incredibly light, but tougher than most on the trail
- Really comfortable and fast-moving, while still offering good support
- Good grip and stability, even in mud and snow
- Low cut ankle has good enough support but can let water in over the top.
- Will not cut it with a heavy load or on the toughest of trails
Also Consider Merrell Moab 2 Mid Hiking Boots
These Merrell Moab 2 Mid boots are pretty darn good alternatives.
They are a few bucks cheaper but weigh in a good amount more. This means they feel less sprightly on the trail, but do offer a bit more cushioning.
If you find that most of your hiking is done on fairly flat, well-maintained trails, then these could be a better choice for you.
However I could not get these to lace up as nicely as the Salomons and I much prefer the feel and grip they provided too.
Salomon Quest 4D 3 GORE-TEX Hiking Boots Review
I will say this right at the top - if you are not worried about the extra cash outlay over the SalomonUltra 3's, then just these Quest 4D boots!
They are so comfortable, lighter than pretty much all of the other boots we tried, despite looking really rugged. In fact, when you first put them on, they can feel a bit "tall". However, once you get used to this they feel really light and sprightly and worked just as well for a day hike as for a heavily loaded backpacking trip.
They don't lack in features either with a flexible lacing system and a gusseted tongue to stop anything creeping in over the top, while also being really breathable and waterproof.
At first glance, we thought that these boots might be too rugged, overbuilt, or heavy for a day hike. I wear a size 10 and they tip the scales at about 2.5 lbs, which is lighter than many other boots.
The midsoles on these Salomon boots feature a layer of EVA and more EVA foam wrapping that shank, which does a great job with the comfort. So when we took them out on the trail, they did not overly rigid.
They are also really nicely fitted with an under-arch shank for added stability, so you can take them up all but the most mountainous of terrain.
Unlike many others, the outsole does not use Vibram, but from Contagrip rubber. This did not seem to matter as I found the grip very impressive on pretty much everything I tried - mud, snow, slippery rocks, you name it.
In addition, they did not cut up on the trail and showed very little sign of wear even after I gave them a hammering.
The waterproofing is also excellent, with the higher cut ankle and tongue keeping out pretty much everything that might try to squeeze in from the top.
They are also really breathable and my feet never felt too hot or sweaty. This is a really impressive trick considering how good the waterproofing is.
They do not have any ability to add crampons and yes, they might be a bit clunky for a walk on very flat, maintained trails, but anything in between they just lap up!
I am still impressed with how light these boots feel, yet still managing to be supremely comfortable and supportive. They still provide all the essential features plus good foot protection and grip.
So whatever hiking you do, they are probably the right boot for you! They are an incredible bit of design!
- Does everything really well
- Really comfortable, grippy and stable
- Lightweight and tough
- Bit much for well maintained trails.
- They aren't designed for crampons and mountaineering.
Also Consider La Sportiva Trango TRK GTX Boots
These boots are really comfortable, stable and all-round excellent boots!
added to this, they are entirely synthetic, so vegan friendly, but do not suffer from any issues with breathability. They even allow you to add crampons for some heavy duty mountain scaling.
So why aren't these our No1 pick?
There are a couple of things - the first is that the toe box is tight. So for people with wider feet, do beware, and they don't offer a wider fit.
The next point is some worries about the longevity - the lace hooks that keep the laces tight are plastic, and we have heard from some other reviewers that the waterproofing does not hold up as well as some others.
But in reality, these are really good boots, ideal for every season, comfortable for most people and perform well.
KEEN Targhee III Mid Hiking Boots Review
The Keen Targhee III was released in fall of 2017, with a slight price hike over the older model but with a few nice touches. This has made it an extremely popular boot for day hiking and easy to moderate backpacking trips and we can see why!
These Keen Targhee boots are surprisingly tough, is really comfortable out of the box and it offers decent stability and rollover protection for most adventures, just don't expect it to take you up and down mountains with a huge pack!
The leather upper and sole seem to be a bit tougher than the Moab 2 (which we also really like!) which is why we give it the nod. But if you spend a lot of time hiking in hot climates, the Moab/s mesh design does allow your feet to breathe a bit better.
However, if you are looking for an affordable pair of hiking boots with great out-of-the-box comfort, the Keen Targhee III is a great choice.
If you have wider feet, you may be even better served by the Targhee II, which has a wider toe box - I actually found the old ones a touch too wide, but for those of you that need wide fit...go with the II
If you are looking for a hard-wearing pair of boots that will let you tackle some medium tough terrain and last a few years, these are a great choice
However, it is not that much more to buy a pair of Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX Hiking Boots, which really are worth spending the extra on.
- Very Keenly (geddit?!) priced
- Really comfortable and durable
- Not as breathable as the Moab 2s
- They are not going to take you mountaineering.
- Those Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX Hiking Boots are only a few cups of coffee more...
Also Consider Merrell Moab 2 Mid Hiking Boots
These Merrell Moab 2 Mid boots are pretty darn good too. We included these as an alternative for our top pick, the Salomon's, so we really like them.
The reason we did not give them the best budget was that while they perform slightly better, most people on a budget will prefer the durability of the Keen
Having said that, if you do most of your hiking in the summer, the better breathability of these Moab 2 boots will be the best pick.
The simple fact is that if you are looking for their first set of boots, either of these will do you well.
However if you can afford the extra for the Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX Hiking Boots - I would definitely go with them!
Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX Hiking Boot Review
These Scarpa Zodia Plus boots are heavily geared toward heavy-duty alpine hiking and. mountaineering.
I have to confess I have not tested these, but I am relying on a friend of mine that has used these to hike some seriously tough trails in the Himalayas and Andes and he really liked them.
From his feedback I think we can safely say that these boots are ideal tackle challenging terrains, but most people just won't find their extra stability and protection necessary.
When I looked at these I found the fit was snug and while the support is incredible, they are not particularly well padded. This is common in boots that are aimed at tough terrain with heavy loads as the cushioning and flexibility reduces the all-important stability.
So if you are out to hit the toughest of the tough, get a pair of these, but for anything else, they are probably a bit overkill in their hard-core design.
- Incredibly stable and protective
- Can take crampons for light mountaineering
- Too stiff for most hikes
- Lack of cushioning can cause them to be uncomfortable
- Tight fitting may not work for wider feet.
Adidas Men's Terrex Free Hiker Boot Review
While everyone has heard of Addidas, they are not on most people's radar for hiking equipment. However, they have produced some really good trail and cross country running shoes for many years and they are now moving towards the hiking world.
These Terrex free hikers are very light and offer a grippy sole and relatively stable sole. They are also nice and breathable and comfortable too. This makes them great for flatter, hotter trails, especially if you are not too loaded up.
The lightness and flexibility mean you can hike at some pretty impressive speed without feeling that "clumpy" feeling you get with stiffer boots.
The ankle support and foot protection is not great, so if you find yourself on broken trails, these may not be a great choice, but for those of you that want something comfortable and light for flatter, well-maintained trails, these AdidasTerrex Free Hiker Boots are well worth considering.
- Very light, breathable and comfortable
- Grippy sole
- ideal for well maintained trails in warm weather
- Ankle support is poor
- Not very much protection
- Not good for tougher trails
Types of Hiking Shoes
The trick is to match the type of hiking to the boots your buy. So if you know you will only do light day hikes then there is no point in buying heavy backpacking boots
A pair of hiking shoes are generally low cut with a flexible midsole is perfect for the day-hike enthusiast. Other options include the trail running shoes for the more lightweight travelers.
Hiking boots are the most practical option for the day to weekend hiking that plans to travel with a lighter load.
The mid to high cut boots are great for light travel, but not such a practical choice when searching for the solid support needed on the more heavy-duty backpacking trails.
The heavy-duty backpacking boots are most practical for the multi-day hikes that take you into the difficult and backcountry terrain.
Most of these boots are designed with a high cut to give the foot and ankle area more reliable support. They are built with a stiff midsole to give long-term support and durable service.
The most durable and supportive boots are the mountaineering type which is great for alpine and glacier treks with heavy loads.
What are the major materials of hiking boots?
The material for the hiking shoes differs in relation to water resistance, durability, breathability, and weight.
A high degree of abrasion resistance and durability comes from the shoes manufactured in full-grain leather. Plus, this material is quite effective at keeping the feet dry.
Full-grain leather is a practical choice for rugged terrain, heavy loads, and multi-day trips.
But, these shoes need plenty of time to break-in and not as breathable or light as the alternatives.
A breathable and lightweight material (often combined with nylon mesh or nylon) is the split-grain leather.
This type of leather splits from the rough inner parts to leave a material that is low-cost but less effective at abrasion and water resistance.
Full-grain leather-like Nubuck leather has received treatment to leave the material with an appearance much like suede. This leather-type material is great at resisting abrasion and water.
Plus, it is a lot softer and more flexible compared to the more traditional solid leather, which means less time is needed to break in the footwear.
Many modern hiking shoes are made using synthetic leather, nylon, or polyester material.
A positive aspect of these shoes is the low-cost, fast-drying, quick to break in, and lighter. But, a negative to the synthetic boots is the short lifespan and the higher amount of external stitching.
We have selected our favorite boots here and for most people, we would recommend the Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid Hiking Boots for most hikes.
They offer enough grip, stability, and protection while being ridiculously light and comfortable. They are also not overly expensive and give you a lot of flexibility on the type of hike you can tackle - from very flat too pretty technical.
If you do not mind spending a bit more cash or want the ability to tackle everything up to full-on technical alpine hiking with heavy packs, then the Salomon Quest 4D 3 Hiking Boots are where we would look. These are the boots I currently use as they just do everything well and I do enough hiking that is beyond the abilities of the X Ultras to make spending the extra cash worthwhile.
For those on a budget, both the Keens and Moab 2 are really good, solid choices. However, if you can stretch to the Salomon X Ultra 3 you will notice the difference.
Finally we look at the specialists - the Scarpa and Terrex.
The Scarpa is undoubtedly an excellent boot if you are going to be hiking the wilderness of Andes. So if you are currently plotting your way through the heights of any great mountain ranges, I would have no issue pointing you in the direction of these boots. However, for anyone else, they are a bit too extreme and you will be better served by the Salomon Quest 4D 3 boots.
Likewise, if you are going to be sticking exclusively to well-maintained trails, then the Addidas Terrex boots will serve you well. However, if you will be tackling anything trickier, you will spend similar money on the Salomon X Ultra 3s, which will give you so much more scope on which trails to tackle.
Finally, all these recommendations are based on my hiking and preferences. You may not find that your feet fit the same way as mine do. so I would recommend that you try on boots and not blindly go and buy them based on my advice. You may find that sizes are a little off compared to what you expect or they pinch or do not grip where you need them to.
You should be able to try them on and return them without any issues and always, always wear them in before hitting anything more than a few miles on the trail!
- 1 What Are The Best Hiking Boots in 2021?
- 2 What We Judged Our Reviews On
- 3 Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX Hiking Boots Review
- 4 Salomon Quest 4D 3 GORE-TEX Hiking Boots Review
- 5 KEEN Targhee III Mid Hiking Boots Review
- 6 Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX Hiking Boot Review
- 7 Adidas Men's Terrex Free Hiker Boot Review
- 8 Types of Hiking Shoes
- 9 What are the major materials of hiking boots?
- 10 Summary