When it comes to hiking, having the right pair of shoes can make all the difference. Whether you’re planning a leisurely stroll through a local nature reserve or embarking on an epic multi-day trek through rugged terrains, investing in a pair of high-quality hiking shoes is essential. The right footwear provides the comfort, support, and durability you need to conquer any trail and fully immerse yourself in the beauty of nature.
But with so many options available on the market, how do you choose the best hiking shoes that meet your specific needs? In this comprehensive guide, we have curated a list of the top hiking shoes that combine outstanding performance, value, and durability.
We understand that every hiker is unique, with distinct preferences and requirements. Whether you prioritize lightweight construction, waterproofing, exceptional traction, or ankle support, we have got you covered. From renowned outdoor brands to innovative newcomers, we have carefully selected a range of hiking shoes to suit various budgets and hiking styles.
The Best Hiking Shoes in 2023
For more hiking recommendations, read our other popular hiking gear reviews:
Hoka Anacapa Low GTX: The Best Cushioned Shoe
Weight (men’s): 1lb 10.8 oz (size 9.5)
Upper Material: Nubuck Leather
Midsole Material: Compression Molded EVA
Outsole Material: Vibram Megagrip Rubber
- Super Comfortable
- Great fit and feel
- Excellent lacing system
- A bit pricey
The Hoka Anacapa Low GTX stands out as an exceptional hiking shoe, offering a superior performance that rivals even its lighter and more cushioned trail-running counterparts. Hoka has gone above and beyond by incorporating a supportive compression-molded foam midsole, utilizing genuine Nubuck leather on the upper for enhanced durability, and implementing a grippy Vibram Megagrip outsole to improve traction. These features have collectively made the Anacapa Low one of the smoothest functional hiking shoes out on the market.
When I tried the Anacapa Low the first thing I noticed was its remarkable comfort and smooth transition from heel to toe. This is all thanks to the famous Hoka rocker sole and generous cushioning. Another thing I noticed was a reduced amount of fatigue on long hikes in my legs. I was able to go for far distances with more comfort and less fatigue, it’s no wonder why Hoka’s have gradually become a favorite amongst many thru hikers.
Another thing I was pleasantly surprised about the Anacapa Low was how stable the shoes were. I’ll admit with my experience wearing many pairs of Hoka’s in the past this has been somewhat of a problem. But I did not notice any difficulty during technical terrain with the Anacapa Low. I still would not recommend the Anacapa as the best for technical terrain due to durability and a weaker outsole. There are better options like the La Sportiva Spire and Salomon X Ultra 4.
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Merrell Moab 3 Ventilator: Best Budget Shoe
Weight (men’s): 1lb 14.8 oz (size 9.5)
Waterproofing: Yes, available with WP membrane
Upper Material: Leather/mesh
Midsole Material: EVA
Outsole Material: Vibram TC5+ rubber
- Great fit and feel
- Great price to value ratio
- All Around Great shoe
- Comfortable with wide options
- A little Bulky
- Not built for super technical terrain
The Merrell Moab has been a reliable shoe for several years with many followers. The main reason for the mass appeal is the value to performance ratio. You would be hard tasked to find a shoe that works like the Merrell Moab 3 at such a great price range.
I personally really am fond of the Merrell Moab as it was one of my first hiking shoes I ever tried on. It offers quite a vast range of appeal and works for a variety of trail situations. The shoe fits well and is comfortable, durable, and offers pretty decent traction. Overall, the Merrell Moab 3 is a balance shoe that does not really excel in any certain area but does everything fairly well. I would call the Moab the “Jack of all trades”.
However, there are a couple of downsides to consider when wearing the Moab’s and it depends on the trail conditions. The Moab’s traction and stability may fall short on rocky and muddy trails when compared to better technical type shoes. Additionally, the Merrell Moab 3’s are a little heavier when compared to other options but not as heavy as the Keen Targhee III. During my testing and years of use I have not really ever noticed the weight difference except when I put on the Hoka Anacapa’s which are super light.
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La Sportiva Spire GTX: Best for Technical Terrain
Weight (men’s): 1lb 15.5 oz (size 9.5)
Upper Material: Mesh, polyurethane techlite
Midsole Material: OrthoLite Insole/EVA/thermoplastic polyurethane
Outsole Material: Vibram XS Trek Rubber
- Great Durability
- Excellent Traction
- Supportive fit and feel
- Excels in technical terrain
- A bit expensive
- Can be a bit warm
- A little heavy
The La Sportiva Spire GTX trail shoe is an amazing shoe that is durable while also being light enough for quick movements on technical trails. I found the shoe to be extremely tough and was able to resist scratches and tears among rocky trails. It also offered good flexibility which is something most durable shoes struggle with.
Notably, the Vibram XS Trek outsole offered incredible traction on wet terrain. Additionally, the Spire features a waterproof membrane that works well and easily repels water without impacting breathability too much.
While I personally found the Spire GTX to be a great shoe especially for technical terrain. It still may not work for everyone. I found the features on the Spire GTX to be excessive, for less technical, maintained trails. And the shoe tends to get a little warm due to the upper material. Those looking for more simple shoes may want to look at the Merrell Moab 3, Keen 3, or Hoka Anacapa.
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Salomon X Ultra 4 GTX: Best for Wet Terrain
Weight (men’s): 1lb 11.6 oz (size 9.5)
Upper Material: Synthetic/textile
Midsole Material: EnergyCell
Outsole Material: Contagrip Rubber
- Excellent traction
- Great comfort
- Supportive fit and feel
- Narrow toe box
The Salomon X Ultra 4 Gore-Tex is a reliable choice for hikers seeking a lightweight, supportive, grippy, and waterproof shoe. The X Ultra 4 does feature some changes from the X Ultra 3 mostly a sleeker design, lace system, and slightly wider toe box. When trying the Salomon X Ultra 4 the first thing I noticed was the supportive and stable feel of the shoe.
However, during testing and researching customer reviews I noticed that durability came up quite frequently. While personally I did not notice any durability issues during my time with the X Ultra 4’s and they seemed to perform well. This was still something I could not leave unmentioned due to the amounts of frequent reviews I saw during my research. One thing I did tend to find slightly annoying was the quick lacing system, the tab would tend to slip down into the shoe and require readjusting.
Overall, Salomon’s X Ultra 4’s remains a very stable and durable shoe great for technical wet terrain. The shoe feels light and quick to move in and makes hiking up rough trails feel easy. The shoe is protective, and the toe cap works very well for shielding the toes from being bumped or rubbed up against. And the Gore-Tex waterproofing worked well without even seeping in when the shoe was submerged and still maintained good breathability which can be a common issue.
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Keen Targhee III Low WP: Best Wide Hiking Shoe
Weight (men’s): 2lb 0.5 oz (size 9.5 wide)
Upper Material: Nubuck Leather
Midsole Material: Dual Density EVA
Outsole Material: Proprietary Rubber blend
- Great fit for wide feet
- Excellent price
- A bit clunky and bulky feel
- Not the best for technical terrain
The Keen Targhee III Low is similar to the Merrell Moab in reliability and durability. The Keen Targhee III is well known for having a spacious toe box and protective toe cap. For people with wide feet or wanting a wider shoe this is excellent. For people with more narrow feet like me this can make the shoe feel a little floppy, loose, and bulky.
The Keen Targhee III was updated a few years ago, nothing drastically changed however, they were able to slightly modernize the design of the shoe. I would say the appearance of the Keens is slightly better than the Merrell Moab now. In addition, the shoe is slightly a bit more durable than the Moab’s. Nevertheless, both remain to be great budget options with balanced performance.
During my field testing I did find the Keen Targhee III to be a little too wide for my feet, not quite as stable on technical terrain, and less breathable than the Moab 3 ventilator but excelled a bit in durability due to its leather upper. However, a downside of the Keen Targhee III is how heavy it is, it makes it on this list as the heaviest shoe. Overall, the Targhee is a balanced shoe at a reasonable price that will work well for anyone wanting a wider shoe at a pretty good price range.
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Adidas Terrex Swift R3 GTX: Best Durable Shoe
Weight (men’s): 1lb 12.4 oz (size 9.5)
Upper Material: Warp Knit Textile
Midsole Material: EVA Foam
Outsole Material: Continental Rubber
- Great technical performance
- Longer break in period
- Stiff feel
Adidas Terrex Swift R has established itself as a favorite among trail enthusiasts due to its lightweight yet durable and supportive design. The third generation of the shoe introduced a more traditional lacing system, which is considered an improvement compared to the finicky quick-lace design of the R2.
Most of the Adidas Terrex Swift R3 is similar to the R2, the outsole is still fairly aggressive and grips easily in various terrain. The shoe remains very durable and supportive which provides protection to the feet from abrasion and puncture. I personally found the shoe to feel a bit better than previous models. It seemed to feel a little more spacious around the toe box while still being sleek and snug at the ankle.
The Swift R3 overall offers a great balance between weight, cushion, and performance. The shoe really excels in durability and support compared to others and bears a lot of similarities with the La Sportiva Spire and Salomon X Ultra 4. The only con I really noticed during my field testing with these shoes was the stiffness.
The Terrex Swift R3 does take some time to break in due and feel a bit stiff during extended climbs but overtime tend to get better and more flexible. During my research I saw several reviews complaining about the sizing being slightly large, I personally found the shoe to be a perfect fit for my feet and wore my regular size.
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Buyers Guide: How to Choose the Best Hiking Shoes
When choosing hiking shoes there are a lot of considerations. In our top hiking shoe picks we mostly focused on shoes that offered excellent value to performance ratio and work in various situations out on trail. But there are other variables to consider when choosing a pair of hiking shoes.
When choosing the best hiking shoes for your needs, you need to take in consideration your own personal preferences. In addition, to the hiking terrain, temperature, and weather forecast. In general, when looking at hiking shoes there are a few important factors to consider such as: comfort and fit, weight, durability, stability, breathability, and waterproofing.
Hiking Footwear Categories
Hiking boots are the most traditional footwear for hiking and backpacking. Conventional wisdom suggests that hiking boots are the preferred option for demanding trails and carrying heavy packs, and in many situations, this still holds true today.
The tall design, coupled with laces that securely fasten the shoe around your ankle, provides a snug fit, enhanced stability, and increased protection. However, when given the choice, we often lean towards hiking shoes due to their lightweight nature and similar functionality. Hiking boots are a suitable choice for day hiking and backpacking.
When it comes to hiking, most day hikers, as well as many backpackers and thru hikers, find that a hiking shoe that reaches just below the ankle is the perfect choice. Hiking shoes offer a happy medium between hiking boots and trail runners. Hiking shoes provide more support and durability than trail runners, making them suitable for carrying a light load across diverse terrains without feeling excessively heavy like full-on boots.
Hiking shoes are typically constructed with tougher materials such as leather and durable nylons, as opposed to mesh, offering enhanced protection against obstacles like rocks and roots. They are also a great option for everyday use if you need a robust shoe, although it’s important to note that the outsoles may wear down more quickly on pavement.
If prioritizing speed and lightweight feel is your main concern, then trail runners should be considered. Trail shoes like the Hoka Speedgoat or Altra Lone Peak have become increasingly popular in the thru hiking world, due to their exceptional lightweight design and comfort.
However, it’s important to note that these shoes are not typically used and designed specifically for traditional off-trail or backpacking footwear. While trail runners offer flexibility and exceptional comfort, they lack substantial ankle support and durability for carrying heavy loads and tend to provide minimal toe and underfoot protection. Therefore, work really well for trail running or backpacking with light loads.
When it comes to weight arguably the lighter the shoe the better. Most companies are also designing their shoes to be more lightweight to keep up with the demand and competition. The utilization of durable yet thin fabrics and a transition from high-cut boots to low-top shoes has greatly facilitated covering longer distances.
A lighter shoe puts less wear and tear on the body and counters fatigue over many miles. It no wonder why so many thru hikers are now wearing hiking shoes and/or trail runners instead of hiking boots. Though with a decrease in weight, this can sometimes affect long-term durability and most trail runners and hiking shoes have a shorter lifespan compared to hiking boots.
There are still some awesome boots out there for those carrying heavier weight out on the trails or those that just like the feel of hiking boots. But, for the majority of hikers, a lightweight shoe is a far superior choice for hiking or backpacking. As long as the rest of your gear is also light to moderate in weight.
Stability and Support
In regard to stability and support there is an increasing demand in lightweight equipment. Because of this hiking shoes are starting to move away from the conventional rigid design of hiking boots and instead prioritizing flexibility and agility. More commonly hiking shoes and trail runners can be seen out on the trail compared to the traditional hiking boots.
However, hiking boots still have a place in those wanting the most supportive feeling footwear out on the trails. The one benefit of hiking shoes is that it meets the middle between hiking boots and trail runners. Most hiking shoes still offer some supportive and stable feel especially when comparing them to trail runners.
In theory, having waterproofing during creek crossings, unexpected rain showers, or encountering snow during an early-season hike can be very useful. However, it’s important to note that the additional layer adds weight and significantly affects breathability. In my experience Gore-Tex has been one of the best waterproofing materials for most shoes and retains a fair bit of breathability.
When determining whether waterproofing is necessary typically boils down to personal preference. If you are hiking in a warmer and dryer location, you may not benefit so much from waterproofed shoes compared to if you were hiking in a more wet or colder environment. Most of the shoes in this list offer a waterproof and non-waterproof design. One of my favorites non waterproof designs goes to the Merrell Moab 3 Ventilators, which is a very breathable shoe.
When it comes to breathability mesh type fabrics and thinner fabrics offer the best air flow and dry quicker. Waterproofing fabrics tend to retain more moisture and are not as breathable though they can keep shoes from getting wet during water crossings. Gore-Tex though still one of the best waterproofing and breathable fabrics still slightly under performs in breathability compared to non-waterproof shoes.
In my experience I tend to prefer a non-waterproofed shoe for breathability and even in conditions where my feet may get wet often. The reason being is that shoes that are more breathable and also dry quicker despite getting wet easier. Waterproofing fabric is great for blocking out water as long as you are not having to submerge your feet in water. Once your feet are submerged the less breathability of waterproofing fabric makes that shoe take longer to dry from the insole out in comparison to a non-waterproof shoe.
Hiking Shoe Upper Materials
When it comes to hiking shoes, it helps to know what type of upper material the shoe has. Knowing the material can help provide information and insight about the performance. The choice of material directly influences the shoe’s durability, water resistance, and breathability. Below, we outline the advantages and disadvantages of the most commonly used materials in hiking footwear.
Synthetic Nylon and Mesh
Woven synthetic materials, often nylon, and open synthetic mesh panels are frequently used to enhance breathability in hiking footwear. While these materials may not be renowned for their durability, they excel in reducing weight and breathability.
Nubuck leather, which is full grain leather with a brushed finish resembling suede, is frequently utilized in rugged hiking shoes. This type of leather provides a softer texture, making it lighter and more flexible compared to traditional glossy full-leather choices. It also tends to be more durable than most nylon materials. However, Nubuck leather does have limitations when it comes to breathability. To address this, it is common to find a combination of leather and nylon mesh in hiking shoes, offering a balance of abrasion resistance and breathability.
Midsoles and Cushioning
The Midsole of the shoe is the big player when it comes to cushioning for your feet. The midsole allows the shoe to help cushion, absorb impact and shock, and also provides additional layering and protection against rough terrain. Depending on the shoe’s design, midsoles can range from extremely thin, as seen in minimalist trail runners, to rigid and substantial in hiking boots. Most shoes use common materials like EVA (ethylene-vinyl acetate), TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane), or a combination of both.
Foam EVA midsoles are a common feature found in both running and hiking footwear. EVA is a soft and cushiony material that helps to minimize impact on your heels or midfoot, while also being remarkably lightweight. Most shoes on this list provide a form of EVA midsole and some companies use a proprietary blend of midsole cushioning.
Thermoplastic polyurethane, commonly referred to as TPU, is a type of plastic commonly used in lightweight hiking shoes. TPU tends to offer less cushion but really enhances the durability of the shoe which allows it to be more effective at handling heavier loads. Also, TPU also lasts longer and is less prone to compression compared to EVA. To harness the benefits of the two most companies will use a TPU and EVA together.
Outsoles and Traction
In regard to outsoles, hiking shoes excel with outsole design and offer better traction compared to regular sneakers. Hiking and trail running footwear surpasses casual shoes in performance, especially in challenging conditions like rocky, slippery, or steep terrains.
Similar to Gore-Tex dominating the market for high-quality waterproofing, Vibram is one brand that stands at the top when it comes to making shoes with great traction. There are other brands that perform very close such as Continental and some companies have developed their own proprietary rubber blend.
Stubbing your toes does not make for a fun time. When it comes to hiking shoes, having toe protection out on the trails is helpful for blocking toes from hitting rocks, roots, and other objects. In general, I recommend having a hiking shoe with some form of toe protection. Most hiking shoes typically feature a full rubber toe cap or a harder piece of material that wraps around the front of the shoe.
Lacing is one aspect of footwear that often gets overlooked. Lacing is an important factor as it ensures proper fitting and is crucial for ensuring comfort. A shoe with a subpar lacing system that tends to loosen easily will require constant readjustment during your hike. Moreover, if the lacing system fails to secure your heel effectively, the repetitive up-and-down motion while walking can lead to discomfort, hot spots, and blisters.
What is the best footwear to use when hiking? The best footwear depends on your personal preferences. In general, we recommend wearing hiking boots if you are hiking in the winter, in very rough terrain, or carrying heavy loads. Hiking shoes when hiking with moderate loads in various terrain but not winter. Trail shoes work well with lighter loads and less technical terrain.
Can I hike in running shoes? Sure, standard running shoes will work best on well-maintained trails. If you might be getting on slightly more technical terrain, I would recommend a trail running shoe or hiking shoe.
Why Trust Us?
We are a small independent team that make it our mission to produce honest reviews. We do not receive any money for reviews and do not accept sponsored reviews which allows us to remain truly unbiased and transparent. All our comments are based on years of research and experience on the field.
In the last few years, we have spent countless hours searching and reading reviews for the best hiking shoes. Once we narrowed down our selection, we spent countless miles hiking with the best hiking shoes for a true hands-on experience. The shoes we have tested have touched the trails from out West in Idaho to the desert in Utah, the Ozarks, and made it in the southeast along the Blue Ridge Mountains.
We are always constantly evaluating and in the process of testing hiking shoes. As we continually wear, evaluate new models, and try emerging brands, we will update our recommendations for the top hiking shoes. As a product user if you have any suggestions feel free to let us know and we will do our best to get to them! We hope you found this list of the best hiking shoes helpful.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published June 6, 2022, and has been updated for more accuracy and comprehensiveness.