Best Hiking Boots for Men and Women: 13 Top Picks Of 2023

Looking for a great pair of boots for your backcountry adventures? Find the ideal fit for your feet and activity type in this straight-talking guide, from value picks through to more technical options for the more intrepid adventurer.

Written by: | Reviewed by: Kieran James Cunningham
Last Update:

When hiking, no gear item has more of an impact on the quality of your trail time than what you put on your feet. A great hiking boot will let you cover countless miles in safety and comfort; one that’s anything less than perfect will turn your hikes into suffer-fests and experiences to be endured rather than enjoyed.

To help your feet find their way into a pair of boots that will make your time on the trail great rather than grim, we’re going to introduce you to our favorite hiking boots for men and women – 13 pairs in total. We’ll also provide you with all the info you need to make the right choice for your hiking style and recommend different boots for different activity types and budgets.

Top Choices by Category

Budget: Vasque Breeze AT Mid GTX and Merrell Moab 2 Mid WP
Lightweight: Salomon X Ultra 4 Mid GTX, Altra Lone Peak, Merrell Moab 2 Mid WP, and La Sportiva Nucleo II
Leather: Zamberlan Vioz GTX and Lowa Renegade GTX Mid
Waterproof: Asolo Falcon GV, Salomon Quest 4 GTX, and Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX

Editor’s Choice

Salomon Quest 4 GTX

Salomon Quest 4 Gore-TEX Hiking Boots for Men, Kelp/Wren/Bleached Sand, 8.5

The fourth iteration of the Salomon Quest hiking boot is a solid choice for any type of hiker. While not the most technical boot on our list or the lightest or most rugged, its stellar performance in almost every metric makes it a standout from the competition.

The Quest’s main selling point over the years has been its peerless comfort, and with the Quest 4, that enviable rep is continued in style. The overall fit of the boot, and the adaptability of the lacing system, are what push the Quest onto the top of the podium. The interior is soft and comfortable and the lacing system allows you to lock your heel securely in place.

The updated ADVC chassis in the Quest 4 has one goal: providing excellent support and stability through every twist and turn, and our testers all agree this was one major upgrade that’s worth celebrating.

While we’re huge fans of Vibram outsoles, the Contagrip TD rubber outsoles on the Quest 4 worked great in loose and damp terrain, providing plenty of traction and grip when we needed it most. And although we prefer the Merrell Moab 2 for hot-weather hikes, the Quest 4’s textile and upper provided a nice blend of burliness and breathability.

The Quest 4 GTX are one of the heavier options in our hiking boots reviews, but the upgrade in performance and comfort levels makes them well worth the extra ounces.

Bottom Line: Hiking boots that strike the perfect balance between comfort, support, and performance are few and far between, but the Quest 4 GTX does just that…and then some!

Quick Recommendations

  • Editor’s Choice:  Salomon Quest 4 GTX
    “Offer a great blend of stability, cushioning, traction, support, waterproofing, and comfort in spades.”
  • Best Lightweight Hiking Boots:  Salomon X Ultra 4 Mid GTX
    “Striking a great balance between weight and performance, the X Ultras are great for those who like to travel fast and light.”
  • Best Value Lightweight:  Merrell Moab 2 Mid WP
    “A comfortable and breathable boot that won’t break the bank.”
  • Best for Hauling Heavy Loads:  Lowa Renegade GTX Mid
    “Strong, sturdy, supportive, and surprisingly lightweight for such a robust boot. Great for hauling heavy backpacks on thru-hikes.”
  • Best Ultralight:  Altra Lone Peak Hiker Boots
    “Feels just like a trail running shoe with extra stability and protection.”
  • Best Vegan Hiking Boots:  REI Co-op Flash
    “A lightweight, vegan-friendly hiking boot to tackle easy day hikes.”
  • Best Boot for Technical Terrain:  Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX
    “Great traction and our go-to for tackling snowy alpine or rocky terrain.”
  • Best Leather Hiking Boots:  Zamberlan Vioz GTX
    “A bombproof and beautiful traditional leather boot that’s perfect if you need a heavyweight boot for hiking tough trails with heavy packs.”
  • Best for Wide Feet:  KEEN Targhee III Mid WP
    “An affordable, comfortable boot with a slightly more forgiving fit across the forefoot.”
  • Best Waterproof Hiking Boots:  Asolo Falcon GV
    “A lightweight/midweight hybrid with excellent waterproofing and comfort. Excellent craftsmanship and quality.”
  • Best Backpacking Boots:  La Sportiva Pyramid GTX
    “Thanks to its low weight, great traction, good support, and all-around ruggedness, the Pyramid GTX is our go-to boot for backpacking trips.”
  • Best Budget Hiking Boots:  Vasque Breeze AT Mid GTX
    “A little heavier than its peers, but very fairly priced, sturdy, supportive, and grippy in varied terrain.”
  • Honorable Mention:  La Sportiva Nucleo II High GTX
    “A lightweight and agile boot designed to keep your feet dry, comfortable, and well-protected on scrambles and hikes in tougher terrain.”

Best Hiking Boots Reviewed

Salomon Quest 4 GTX

Editor’s Choice

Class: Midweight ⸱ Weight: 2 lbs. 14.4 oz. ⸱ Waterproofing: GTX ⸱ Upper: Leather/Textile

This is the Quest’s fourth iteration and with each new update it just gets better and better. Very few hiking boots out there score highly in every metric, but it manages to do just that.

These boots are designed to handle all the trail has to throw at them and keep your feet dry and comfortable in the process.

Like many other Salomon boots, the Quest builds off an updated ADV-C chassis, which provides great support and stability. Deep aggressive lugs and the Contagrip® TD rubber outsole provide awesome traction and grip in loose or muddy terrain, while the Gore-Tex liner ensures your feet stay when hiking in wet weather.

One area that improves the overall fit compared to competitors is the Quest’s lacing system, which allows you to lock your heel in place while allowing for adjustability when needed. Not only does this make them feel great but improves stability and reduces the risk of chafing and blisters.

The Quest are often praised for their sneaker-like comfort, and we’d be loath to disagree. Their beefy, springy EVA midsole makes them one of the most cushioned boots we’ve ever tried, and there’s ample padding around the ankles and in the tongue to keep your feet happy on long days on the trail.

We’re also big fans of the Quest’s mixed leather and textile upper. While far from the most durable boot on our list, this combo strikes the sweet spot between durability and breathability and allows them to perform well in both warm and cooler conditions.

So far, all we’ve done is sing the Quest’s praises, but we wouldn’t be doing our jobs if we didn’t point out its shortcomings, as few as these may be.

At 2 lbs. 14 oz., the Quest is one of the heavier boots reviewed, which makes it 5 to 6 ounces heavier than the lightest midweight models such as the Scapa Zodiac or the Lowa Renegade. While the upgrade in performance is well worth it in our opinion, not everyone will be willing to haul that much weight around on their feet.

It’s also worth mentioning that the Quest are likely to be overkill for certain applications. If you hike in dry, warm climates, for example, the breathability of the Moab 2 (below) makes them a far more suitable pick. And if you tend to throw in a bit of scrambling on your hikes, a more technical boot like the Scarpa Zodiac Plus will serve you better.

Click here for Women’s Version.

  • PROs

    • Rugged
    • Well balanced
    • Waterproof
    • Supportive
    • As comfortable as they come
  • CONs

    • Heavy for most day hikes
    • High price
    • Breathability in hot weather

Bottom-Line: The Salomon Quest 4 are our top pick again this year, thanks to their great metrics across the board.

Salomon X Ultra 4 Mid GTX

Best Lightweight Hiking Boot

Class: Lightweight ⸱ Weight: 1 lb. 14.4 oz. ⸱ Waterproofing: GTX ⸱ Upper: Textile/Leather Upper

While not the lightest hiking boot we reviewed, the X Ultra 4 Mid GTX scoops top place in the lightweight category courtesy of offering a reduced weight without compromising on important attributes like stability, support, or traction.

Like other Solomon boots such as the Quest, the X Ultra is built around Salomon’s hugely comfortable and supportive ADV-C chassis. However, while the Quest offers a very rugged feel, the X Ultra 4 is a pound lighter and feels more like a trail running shoe, which makes it a great pick if you want to travel fast and light or are prone to leg fatigue on long trail days.

But what sets the X Ultra 4 apart from other lightweight models?

While you could opt for something like the Altra Lone Peak Hiker Boots, which are over 7 ounces lighter, or a pair of hiking shoes, we feel that X Ultra’s extra weight is worth it for the improved protection, stability, and traction, not to mention its Gore-Tex liner.

The downside to having such a flexible light hiking boot is that challenging technical terrain will remain…challenging. If you want lightweight hiking boots with a bit more technical performance, then we recommend the Asolo Falcon and the La Sportiva Pyramid, both of which are a touch stiffer and more supportive, and only weigh a few ounces more.

Click here for Women’s Version.

  • PROs

    • Lightweight
    • Feel like trail runners
    • Flexible
    • Comfortable straight out of the box
    • Good arch support
    • Gore-Tex liner
  • CONs

    • Cushioning is a little thin
    • Not suited for rough terrain
    • Lacks traction on smooth rocky terrain

Bottom-Line: Lightweight, flexible, and superbly comfortable hiking boots that are ideal for hikers who like to move fast.

Merrell Moab 2 Mid WP

Best Value Lightweight

Class: Lightweight ⸱ Weight: 2 lbs. 4 oz. ⸱ Waterproofing: M Select ⸱ Upper: Mesh/Leather Upper

If you are looking for a great hiking boot at a bargain price, then it’s hard to look past the Moab 2. This is one of the cheapest pairs of boots we reviewed, but also one of the best in the business for certain applications.

The Moab has been around for some time, and the upgraded version has only had minor adjustments made to one of Merrell’s most popular designs, all of which made it just a little better than the original.

Protecting your feet from the hardships of the trail, the Fit.Eco+ blended-EVA midsoles combined with the Air Cushioning in the heels give a great bouncy feel. The improved insole design, meanwhile, has a more contoured finish to provide more support for your heel and arch.

The Moab 2 are one of the most breathable boots we’ve reviewed, making them a great pick for hot summer hikes. They also come in a Ventilator model that is a little cheaper and does away with waterproofing completely – ideal if you need a boot for extremely hot arid hikes in the desert areas of the southwest.

For such a low price, you shouldn’t expect premium features like Gore-Tex. Merrell’s in-house waterproofing M-Select is not the greatest, making them far from the most waterproof hiking boots on the market. If you’re willing to pay extra you can upgrade to a Gore-Tex version of this model. These, however, will set you back a few more $ and are far less breathable.

The other downside is that while a little bulky, the Moab 2 are not particularly supportive, making them more suited for well-maintained trails. If you need a little more support and stability without breaking the bank, then upgrading to the Vasque Breeze AT would be a good shout.

If your foot shape runs a little wide, then the KEEN Targhee III is a very similar boot in terms of price and performance but has a wider fit.

Click here for Women’s Version.

  • PROs

    • Excellent comfort and fit
    • Superb price tag
    • Very breathable
    • Lightweight
  • CONs

    • M Select waterproofing can’t match Gore-Tex
    • Soles aren’t the sturdiest
    • Lacks support on more rocky ground

Bottom-Line: The Merrell Moab 2 is an affordable boot that is great for fair-weather day hikers who hike easy to moderate trails.

Lowa Renegade GTX Mid

Best for Hauling Heavy Loads

Class: Midweight ⸱ Weight: 2 lbs. 7 oz. ⸱ Waterproofing: GTX ⸱ Upper: Nubuck Leather

The Lowa Renegade GTX Mid was one of the most comfortable hiking boots we tested, providing superb support and protection for your feet on rocky and rugged trails.

Despite the all-leather uppers, full-length nylon shank, and thick Vibram rubber outsole, the Renegade is one of the lightest boots in its class, tipping the scales at just 2 lbs. 7 oz.

The Renegade is a classic-looking mid-cut boot that offers great ankle support, even when carrying heavy loads, thanks to its polyurethane Monowrap frame. The polyurethane cuts some weight from the boot and gives a sturdier and more supportive feel. The slightly higher ankle cuff helps protect from scrapes, bumps, and debris ingress while still providing a comfortable fit.

The Renegade is one of the lightest midweight hiking boots to offer this level of ankle support and stability. This makes them an excellent choice if you need more support carrying heavier loads or if your hiking and backpacking trips take you over more technical terrain. (If you plan on taking on long thru-hikes like the Appalachian Trail or CDT, the Renegade are a great pick.)

If we’re going to be picky about shortcomings, then we’d zone in on the lacing system, which made it tricky at times to find the perfect fit. While the Renegade offers more cushioning than the Salomon Quest, the ability to provide a precision fit is why the heavier Quest stole the top award.

Click here for Women’s Version.

  • PROs

    • Lightweight for its class
    • Great support and stability
    • Comfortable mid-height ankle cuff
    • Waterproof
  • CONs

    • Lacing is troublesome
    • Quite pricey

Bottom-Line: A great pick if you’re looking for extra support and stability without paying a penalty in terms of weight.

Altra Lone Peak Hiker Boots

Best Ultralight

Class: Lightweight ⸱ Weight: 1 lb. 7 oz. ⸱ Waterproofing: eVent ⸱ Upper: Synthetic

Shoe running company Altra has taken a traditional trail runner and given it some upgrades to meet the demands of the hiking trail. Their first hiking boot, the Lone Peak Hiker has the fit and feel of a trail running shoe and has been winning over fans in the ultralight community.

The standout feature is of course the 1 lb. 7 oz. weight, making them the lightest hiking boots on our list over half-pound lighter than their closest rival in this category, the Salomon X Ultra 4. The roomy toe box and very flexible design make for a comfortable choice.

As a step up from running shoes, Altra has made the ankle collar a little higher cut, giving them a beefier outsole lug design, and added a little more cushioning to the footbed. Their Balanced Cushioning™ platform is designed to reduce heel dropping on ascents.

For such a dramatic weight reduction, there are several compromises that Altra had to make. The all-synthetic upper offers little in the way of protection and can’t match the durability of a suede/leather boot or hiking shoe. The pair we’ve reviewed here are non-waterproof hiking boots, although Altra does make an all-weather version that costs a little more.

Click here for Women’s Version.

  • PROs

    • Very lightweight
    • Wide toe box
    • Great flexibility/comfort
    • Feel like lightweight trail shoes
  • CONs

    • Offers little protection
    • Traction could be improved
    • Non-waterproof boot

Bottom-Line: If you like the feel of trail runners but want a touch more stability, then Altra Lone Peak are our pick as the best ultralight boots.

REI Co-op Flash

Best Vegan Hiking Boots

Class: Lightweight ⸱ Weight: 2 lbs. 2 oz. ⸱ Waterproofing: Hydrowall ⸱ Upper: FirmaKnit™ Polyester

The REI Co-op Flash are the “odd one out” in our line-up with the unique polyester knitted upper giving the Flash a look all of its own. Aside from aesthetics, the Flash are a flexible, lightweight, and breathable pair of boots most suited to easy-going day hikes.

The knitted polyester may be great for breathability, but it lacks the durability of suede, nubuck, or leather. And because it has only a midfoot shank and limited stiffness coming from the knit design, don’t expect the support and stability you’d get from lightweight peers like the Salomon X Ultra or the Merrell Moab.

REI does a good job of using recycled materials and algae-based foam to make these waterproof shoes more environmentally friendly. Overall, this is a fun and interesting lightweight boot that works well for easy to moderate trails, but don’t expect it to be as durable as its peers.

  • PROs

    • Lightweight
    • Price
    • Waterproof yet breathable
    • Ethically made
  • CONs

    • Durability
    • The top metal rivet can rub against the ankle without good socks

Bottom-Line: If you’re looking for a cheap, ethical, lightweight hiking boot for easy day hiking (and don’t mind compromising on support and ruggedness), then the vegan-friendly REI Flash is a great choice.

Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX

Best Boot for Technical Terrain

Class: Midweight ⸱ Weight: 2 lbs. 6.4 oz. ⸱ Waterproofing: GTX ⸱ Upper: Suede Upper

If you know you are in for a slog over tricky terrain then the Scarpa Zodiac Plus is a semi-stiff boot that will provide the support, stability, and technical performance you need.

The Zodiac Plus excels on rugged terrain, rock scrambling, and snowy trails where its superb traction and stability put it ahead of its competitors in these categories. The Salomon Quest 4 comes a close second but doesn’t quite match the performance of the Zodiac Plus, which, at just 2 lbs. 6 ounces, is considerably lighter.

It’s hard to knock Scarpa’s Zodiac Plus boots, but if your typical trail is well-maintained and free from extra-steep ascents and tricky descents, then they will likely be overkill for your needs. We’d recommend you look at either the Asolo Falcon or the X Ultra from Salomon depending on your preference for weight vs support and stability.

While the Zodiac Plus offers better traction and stability, it narrowly lost out on the top prize to the Salomon Quest due to the Quest’s superior comfort and fit. That said, if you need to trust your tread, then Zodiac Plus may be the better option for you.

Click here for Women’s Version.

  • PROs

    • Amazing on rocky approaches
    • Very durable
    • Highly breathable
    • Relatively lightweight
  • CONs

    • Overkill for easy-moderate trails
    • Asymmetric lacing could use a redesign
    • Price

Bottom-Line: An awesome boot for tackling scrambles, snowy alpine terrain, or rugged trails.

Zamberlan Vioz GTX

Best Leather Hiking Boots

Class: Heavyweight ⸱ Weight: 3 lbs. 8 oz. ⸱ Waterproofing: GTX ⸱ Upper: Full-grain Leather Upper

The Zamberlan Vioz is everything you would imagine in a pair of traditional, heavyweight leather boots for hiking. Made for more serious treks with heavy pack weights, and even a little light mountaineering, the Vioz provides some of the best traction, stability, and durability in our hiking boot reviews.

The full-length thermoplastic urethane shank and stiff leather uppers make for one very rigid boot that offers great stability, even on precarious terrain. Combine that with the Vibram® rubber outsoles, polyurethane midsoles, and the padded, soft interior, and you have one of the burliest, most supportive boots out there, and one of the best hiking boots for hauling heavy loads.

The stiff leather design also gives you solid toe protection and durability that you won’t see in many synthetic or suede leather designs. Add to this the fact that the Vibram sole is resoleable, and these boots will last for years.

The downside to the Vioz, and the reason why there has been a wider retreat from using traditional leather boots, is their weight. At 3 lbs. and 8 ounces, the Vioz are heavier than other boots we have reviewed – a huge 9 ounces more than the next heaviest, the Salomon Quest. The stiff leather will also require a longer break-in time.

Click here for Women’s Version.

  • PROs

    • Great support and stability
    • Extremely comfortable
    • Durable, tough leather upper
    • Resoleable
  • CONs

    • Heavy
    • Stiff boots (require a long break-in time)

Bottom-Line: If you need a heavy-duty, technical, durable boot for occasional alpine climbs, rocky trails, and poor weather conditions, then the Zamberlan Vioz is a good shout.

KEEN Targhee III Mid WP

Best for Wide Feet

Class: Lightweight ⸱ Weight: 2 lbs. 2.8 oz. ⸱ Waterproofing: KEEN.Dry ⸱ Upper: Nubuck Leather

Superb comfort, good traction, and at a great price, it’s not hard to see why the KEEN Targhee III has been a perennial favorite amongst day-hikers. At 2 lbs. 2.8 oz., the KEEN Targhee is a lightweight pick that still provides good protection and durability despite its low price.

While made with tough nubuck leather, the Targhee doesn’t need much of a break-in period – it’s trail-ready straight out of the box. The interiors are soft and hug your feet, with dual-density midsoles providing more than enough cushion for your average trail. The deep lugs also offer great traction even in muddy conditions.

As a lightweight option, the Targhee does lack some of the support of midweight boots such as the Scarpa Zodiac Plus or Lowa Renegade, which are not that much heavier (although are pricier).

It was also a close runner-up to our value pick, the Merrell Moab 2. While the Targhee is more durable, it tends to run wide so is not so great for folks with narrow feet. It is also less breathable and more expensive than the Moab, which ultimately just gets the nod.

If you’re in the market for a boot with a wide fit, we also highly recommend Salomon’s X Ultra 3 Mid GTX hiking boots, which is available in both a men’s version and a women’s version.

Click here for Keen Targhee III Mid WP Women’s Version.

  • PROs

    • Great Price
    • Great traction
    • Very comfortable
    • Robust
  • CONs

    • Not the greatest durability
    • Lacks some breathability
    • Wide fit won’t suit folks with narrow feet

Bottom-Line: The KEEN Targhee III Mid is a comfortable boot that offers good traction at an affordable price. The fit is great for folks with wider feet.

Asolo Falcon GV

Best Waterproof Hiking Boots

Class: Midweight ⸱ Weight: 2 lbs. 2.6 oz. ⸱ Waterproofing: GTX ⸱ Upper: Suede Upper

Great waterproofing, brilliant craftsmanship, and excellent out-of-the-box comfort are some of the defining features of the modern-looking Asolo Falcon GV Gore-Tex hiking boots.

At 2 lbs. 3 oz., the Falcon is light for a boot classed as midweight, although this does mean that it doesn’t offer the same stability as peers like the Lowa Renegade or the Scarpa Zodiac Plus (both 4 ounces heavier).

Providing more support and stability than a lightweight boot, but not as much as is typical for a midweight one, this uniquely places the Falcon somewhere between lightweight options like the La Sportiva Pyramid or the Merrell Moab and its (supposed) midweight competitors.

Despite this, the Falcon still performs admirably and we’d still recommend it for tougher hikes. However, if you would feel safer with the extra ankle support, then you’re going to have to opt for a heavier boot. For that, we’d recommend the Quest, which is a lot heavier but offers a big step up in terms of performance.

The suede leather and Gore-Tex liners combine to give very breathable yet extremely waterproof footwear. Unfortunately, thanks to the Falcon’s lug design, it is not the greatest on muddy trails, which is disappointing considering how well it performs in wet conditions otherwise.

Click here for Women’s Version.

  • PROs

    • Superb out-of-the-box comfort
    • Quality construction and build
    • Excellent waterproof boot
  • CONs

    • Expensive
    • Less supportive
    • Sole pattern lacks traction on muddy trails

Bottom-Line: The Asolo Falcon GV is a well-built boot with excellent comfort and waterproofing.

La Sportiva Pyramid GTX

Best Backpacking Boots

Class: Lightweight ⸱ Weight: 2 lbs. 1.6 oz. ⸱ Waterproofing: GTX ⸱ Upper: Nubuck Leather/Mesh

The La Sportiva Pyramid is one of our favorite lightweight waterproof boots and great for long-term trail travel.

La Sportiva has put a lot of thought into how to improve breathability by adding a Gore-Tex Surround to the sides, as well as the top of the upper boot. Despite this, the boot still performs well when wading through the dew, boggy terrain, or streams.

At only 2 lbs. 1.6 ounces, the low weight makes it a great choice for hikers and backpackers who prefer a lighter, faster trail shoe or boot. The traction is superb and comes close to the overall winner in this category, the Scarpa Zodiac Plus.

The lower weight does mean that it’s not as sturdy as some heavier options like the Vioz or the Quest. However, the Pyramid is more than capable of handling all but the most technical of ascents and steep descents and is nimble and stiff enough for moderate scrambling.

If you have wider feet, then there are better options out there. Like all La Sportiva footwear, the Pyramid runs narrow and is not available in a wide version. The Asolo Falcon is the closest comparable boot that we would recommend for wider feet.

  • PROs

    • Lightweight
    • Waterproof yet breathable
    • Great traction on the Vibram sole
  • CONs

    • Runs narrow/small
    • Some break-in required

Bottom-Line: A great pair of lightweight waterproof hiking boots for day hikes and backpacking trips on easy to moderate trails.

Vasque Breeze AT Mid GTX

Best Budget Hiking Boot

Class: Midweight ⸱ Weight: 2 lbs. 11 oz. ⸱ Waterproofing: GTX ⸱ Upper: Mesh/Nubuck Leather Upper

Cheap hiking boots that offer great comfort, traction, durability, and support are few and far between, but the Vasque Breeze AT (“All Terrain”) is just that.

The Breeze uses modern materials to give the traditional hiking boot look an update. The boot offers great support and enough stability for tougher trails and days with a heavy pack and is extremely comfortable thanks to a snug-fitting heel, wide toe-box, and cushy padding in the tongue and cuff.

The Breeze uses a mix of Nubuck leather with mesh vents to give the boot some extra breathability, while a Gore-Tex membrane helps keep your feet dry whilst also allowing sweat to escape.

The Breeze AT is a pretty heavy and bulky boot compared to its peers, making it less nimble than other midweight options like the Asolo Falcon or Scarpa Zodiac. However, it does perform better on the trail than lightweights like the Targhee or Moab. In terms of performance, the Lowa Renegade is its closest rival, with the Renegade a lighter but more expensive boot.

Click here for Women’s Version.

  • PROs

    • Great price for a midweight boot
    • Very comfortable
    • Stable and supportive
    • Mesh vents provide good breathability
  • CONs

    • Very heavy/bulky
    • Tall collar is stiff
    • Takes a while to break-in

Bottom-Line: While heavier than its peers, the Vasque Breeze AT is a good midweight hiking boot at a great price.

La Sportiva Nucleo II High GTX

Honorable Mention

Class: Lightweight ⸱ Weight: 2 lbs. 1.6 oz. ⸱ Waterproofing: GTX ⸱ Upper: Nano Cell Mesh/Leather

Is there no end to the awesomeness that Italian boot brand La Sportiva continues to roll out? After putting the Nucleo II High GTX through their paces on a few day hikes and a 4-day adventure in their homeland (the Sentiero Roma, if you’re interested), we’d have to say that’s a negative.

The Nucleo are La Sportiva’s latest foray into the lightweight end of the market, weighing just over 2 pounds. But they borrow from the brand’s more technical and burlier backpacking boots and mountaineering boots a lot of lovable features that set them apart from other lightweight competitors.

Most notably, the Nucleo are tough. While most other hiking boots in this weight class are distinguished by extensive mesh panels that can tear up if they just look at a rocky surface or patch of thorny scrub, the Nucleo boasts rugged leather uppers with patches of Nano Cell mesh to boost breathability.

Another standout feature is the Gore-Tex Surround liner, which covers both the top of the foot, as per regular membranes, and the footbed and sides. This makes it not only a standout performer in wet weather but more breathable than most other boots with so rugged a build.

Click here for the Women’s Version.

  • PROs

    • Tough for such a lightweight boot
    • Gore-Tex liner
    • Breathable
    • Very comfortable
    • Grippy outsole
  • CONs

    • Quite pricey
    • A touch on the narrow side

Bottom-Line: An innovative boot that combines a brilliantly light weight with surprising ruggedness.

Hiking Boot Buying Advice

Fit and Comfort

Comfort is the most important thing to consider in hiking footwear, which is why fit should be your top priority when looking for hiking boots. Hiking footwear that doesn’t fit well in the toebox, around the ankles, across the forefoot, at the heel, or around the calf will cause blisters and discomfort after just an hour or two on the trail. 

The best thing you can do when looking for a new pair of hiking boots is to find what makes your feet happy, and then make those needs your top priority when choosing between different styles and brands. 

Knowing whether you need extra cushioning, arch, or ankle support can help to match you with the right pair of hiking boots for you. They will quickly become your best trail buddies, rather than your worst frenemies.

Man tieing his hiking boot laces
Know thy own feet! Everyone is different and with hiking boots there is definitely no ‘one size fits all!’

Comfort is a largely subjective metric, so it’s tricky to say which boots will score the highest for you. Nevertheless, we can make a few more general observations to steer you in the right direction. 

As mentioned above, the Salomon Quest are the kings/queens of comfort. Their beefy midsole, plush padding, and chassis all combine to give them a sneaker-like but supportive feel. The same can be said of the Merrell Moab, whose blended EVA midsole and air-cushioned heels make them a pleasure to wear.

If you have wider feet, then the Keen Targhee’s roomy toebox and wider forefoot make them the best option. 

Pro-Tip: Your feet will swell up while you clock miles on the trail, so always select at least a half size larger when purchasing new hiking boots.


Covering long distances puts a lot of stress on your feet, particularly if you are carrying a lot of weight. To help lighten the load, the part of the boot known as the midsole plays an important role, mainly as a shock absorber. 

Backpackers hiking with large backpacks
Midsoles become super important when you are traveling over long distances and/or carrying lots of gear.

The midsoles in most boots are made from either an EVA foam or Polyurethane (PU) – which one you should pick will depend on the terrain you expect to cover and how your own feet react to your hikes.

The majority of hiking boots use EVA foam in the midsole. This type of foam is extremely lightweight and reduces the impact of your footfall. Different compositions of EVA vary from soft to stiff. We recommend a supportive and firm variety for tougher terrain, as this will reduce shock when your feet strike the ground. 

To protect your feet from rough terrain, bombproof boots like the Zamberlan Vioz GTX use PU midsoles. This foam has a longer lifespan and is better at handling heavier loads without compressing or deforming.

Lacing Systems

Hiking boot laces are an often-overlooked feature yet play an important role in fit and comfort. Many boots have poor lacing systems that will result in the boot being too tight or loose, which will inevitably leave you to deal with blisters and sore spots.

If the laces are to blame, then a replacement pair is a quick fix. However, if the design of the lacing system doesn’t fit or hold your foot well, then it’s best to find another boot

Man putting on hiking boots
Laces can be replaced and the lacing system itself can usually be adjusted to suit your own needs.

Lock hooks near the bend at your ankle help you get a customized and comfortable fit by allowing you to tie your hiking boots several different ways and allowing adjustment for your feet and the terrain. These are a common feature on more rugged boots like the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid.

Lightweight options like the Altra Lone Peak Hiker Boots typically have simpler designs that are more convenient to slip on and off, however, reduce the ability to customize the fit.

Socks and Insoles

Generic, flat insoles can be one of the main issues that stop you from getting the perfect fit you’ve been looking for. This can be easily solved by buying an aftermarket model specific to your foot size and shape. 

Pro-Tip: Whenever you are trying out new hiking boots always wear the socks you wear out on the trail. Hiking socks are thicker than everyday ones and may result in a tighter fit than expected.

New insoles are great because they help fill out shoes, improve the fit under your arch and also increase or decrease cushioning depending on what feels best for you. But keep in mind that inserting insoles might require going up a half size.

Support and Stability

We would choose hiking boots over wearing sneakers or shoes, as they are designed to provide more ankle support and stability over long treks and rugged terrain. 

Hiker wearing hiking shoes and a hiker wearing hiking boots
It’s easy to see the added ankle support that boots give you compared to shoes or sneakers!

To add rigidness and improve stability, a shank (a 3-5mm thick piece of hard plastic) is inserted between the outsole and the boot’s midsole. The length of the shank varies depending on intended use but can range from being just under the arch to the full length of the boots. In short, the longer the shank, the stiffer the boot. 

There is an almost direct correlation between a boot’s rigidity and its technical abilities. At one end of the scale, you have unyielding mountaineering boots that are designed to handle long summit hikes; at the other end, there are a few lightweight options that may not have a shank at all.

While it may be fairly obvious that a stiffer boot will provide more stability, an overlooked advantage is that they also reduce calf fatigue on ascents. During ascents, your heel will want to drop, and a stiffer boot will prevent this, meaning fewer muscle aches as you climb.

If you’re embarking on longer trips with heavier packs, bushwhacking, or will be traveling over rough ground, then a stiffer boot with increased ankle support is your best bet. Options such as the Scarpa Zodiac Plus or the Lowa Renegade are top picks when the trail gets tougher.

Hiker in hiking boots standing in front of a lake
For more technical terrain or backpacking long distances we recommend a stiffer boot.

Flexible lightweight footwear such as the Salomon X Ultra 4 or La Sportiva Pyramid are recommended for flatter or less technical trails.

When considering the stability of a boot, the heel brake (the sole area under your heel) is another area to consider. The heel brake, as its name suggests, is there to prevent slides and slips on steep descents. A more prominent heel brake will be seen in a more technical boot than a lightweight hiking shoe or boot such as the Altra Lone Peak.

Contrary to popular belief, high-collar hiking boots don’t provide greater ankle support than mid (or low) collar ones. According to a 2014 study by the Journal of Foot and Ankle Research, they may inhibit your ankles from engaging on inclined surfaces.

So why bother with high-cut boots? While they may not offer ankle support, they do three things better than mid- or low-cut boots/shoes:

  • Reduce debris ingress around the ankle, meaning less rubbing and blisters
  • Protect your ankles from scrapes and bumps
  • Keep your feet/ankles drier during wet and cold hikes in winter or shoulder-season


One of the key reasons to choose a hiking boot over sandals or trail running shoes is the improved traction they offer. Because of this, hiking boots are the best bet when any hike is rocky, slippery, muddy, or steep.

When it comes to traction, there are three things to consider, the rubber composition, the tread design, and the depth of the lugs.

Hiker walking and showing tread on hiking boots
Different types, patterns, and depths of tread are best suited for different activiites.

Softer, sticky rubbers are much better for rock scrambling but will wear through quicker. If you expect a wet trail, then you are better to go for larger, deeper, more aggressive lugs that will give you a better grip on muddy and slippery surfaces.

You may notice that the majority of hiking boots use Vibram® outsoles, although a few brands, like Salomon, use Contragrip® or other types. However, this doesn’t mean that all outsoles can be assumed as uniform though, as Vibram® tailors its outsoles to each different brand and model.


A quote attributed to Sir Edmund Hillary states that “a pound on your feet equals five on your back”. While there is a touch of hyperbole to the statement, research by the US army has indeed found that small increases in weight on the feet truly do have a significant impact on leg fatigue and energy expenditure.

That’s why we advocate keeping the weight of your boots (or shoes) to the minimum possible. Less weight means less muscle fatigue, less stumbling, and can help prevent knee and hip flexor problems from developing.

Note that we say, the “minimum possible”! Lighter boots tend to offer less protection, support, and stability over the long term. 

merrell moab
The Merrell Moab, a great lightweight hiking boot, but not the sturdiest option on our list.

If you know that you’ll be traveling over rough and challenging terrain, then choose a pair at the minimum possible weight that still meets the comfort, support, and traction that you require. This may mean a lightweight trail-runner style for fastpacking, all the way up to a burly boot for trekking through the Andes.

Ultralight thru-hikers heading out on week-long backpacking trips may be the exception to the rule. If you’re going to be walking for weeks (or months) on end, then a lightweight hiking boot or shoe is a good idea.

The boots that made it onto our final testing list range in weight from 1 lb. 7 oz. (Altra Lone Peak,) up to the 3 lbs. 8 oz. (Zamberlan Vioz). Due to its light weight and flexibility, the Lone Peak is best suited to easier to moderate trails. Whereas the Vioz is a hardy boot suited for difficult trail conditions and heavy packs.

Water Resistance

A typical hiking boot on the market today will be waterproof to some degree. The majority of designs feature a waterproof/breathable liner inserted inside the outer fabric, with a water-repellent coating (DWR) added to the outer boot.

Gore-tex (GTX) liners have dominated the waterproof membrane market for years. However, there are several other brands including eVent, M Select by Merrell, and Keen.Dry by Keen, all of which are just as water-resistant and breathable.

hiker crossing stream in hiking boots with trekking poles
Most hikers will encounter water, whether from above or below.

Waterproofing is obviously a boon for hiking in wet conditions, but it can have a major impact on the breathability of your hiking boots. A waterproof hiking boot makes it difficult for sweat to escape in warmer weather, which may lead you to have warm, sweaty, and uncomfortable feet.

There is a huge variation in the breathability of different waterproof hiking shoes and boots. However, heavy-duty hiking boots, particularly ones with a leather upper, tend to be the poorest performers.

So, should you invest in a pair of waterproof boots?

If you’re not a fan of wet, sweaty feet, and your hiking trips are typically in arid, hot locations, and don’t involve crossing streams, then wearing waterproof boots is like taking a gun to a knife fight, i.e. overkill. 

You can still enjoy some water protection without using a waterproof boot by wearing gaiters when need be. Non-waterproof boots and shoes with a breathable mesh upper will get wetter than their waterproof counterparts, but they also dry out faster.

For the vast majority of us who don’t tend to hike in dry regions like the southwest, and regularly encounter at least a little rainfall or mud, waterproof boots are the best choice.

hiking pants and boots in utah
Mainly hiking in the desert? Waterproofing is not going to be a high priority for you!


The type of material used in hiking boot uppers has an impact on its durability, breathability, and water resistance. Most hiking boots use a combination of three different materials – leather, synthetics, and mesh. Each material has benefits but also drawbacks.

Synthetic nylon and mesh are not great for durability, but help make a boot more breathable. These materials can be found on entry-level boots like the Merrell Moab 2, as well as some mid-tier models, and do a good job of cutting weight. The REI Co-Op Flash takes a novel approach, using a knitted polyester upper to aid breathability.

Nubuck leather, a type of cowhide, is a popular material for mid-range boots, such as the Lowa Renegade and the KEEN Targhee III. It’s lighter and more flexible than traditional leather, but also less durable. However, you will get more mileage out of nubuck leather uppers than nylon or breathable mesh uppers before needing to replace your boots.

At the top end of the scale, full-grain leather is a tough but heavy material that’s not as breathable as mesh or nubuck. Heavy-duty hiking boots with leather uppers like the Zamberlan Vioz GTX are one of the best water-resistant boots out there and a great pick if you’re expecting a combination of rough terrain and poor weather.

leather upper hiking boots
Leather upper boots are the sturdiest you can get but compromise on breathability.

Many boots also add rubber to the upper, on areas such as the heels and the toe box, to help lengthen the boot lifespan.

Best Hiking Boot: The Verdict

Ready for a quick roundup of our top picks? Let’s do it.

Our favorite hiking boots for non-technical trails are the Salomon Quest 4. The Quest aren’t the lightest or the most nimble, but they’re super-stable, supportive, waterproof, grippy, and as comfortable as they come.

For more technical trails, we recommend the Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX, which boasts all the precision, agility, and stability needed to negotiate trickier terrain. 

And if you’re looking for a budget buy, it’s hard to see past the Vasque Breeze AT Mid GTX. The Breeze aren’t the lightest option, but they perform exceptionally well in every other metric for such a fairly priced boot.

If you like our article, let us know in the comments box below. And please feel free to share it with your friends!

Last update on 2023-09-25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


Brian has been an avid hiker and backpacker since he was a small kid, often being taken out into the wilderness on trips with his father. His dad knew everything about nature and the wilderness (or at least that's how it seemed to a ten year old Brian).

After high school, he went to university to read for both a BS and MS in Geology (primarily so he could spend his time outside rather than in a classroom). He's now hiked, camped, skied, backpacked or mapped on five continents (still need to bag Antarctica) & 30 of the US states.

Email - Portfolio

Leave a Comment