Best Lightweight Hiking Shoes of 2021

Tired of your heavy hiking boots or approach shoes weighing you down? Find the perfect solution to your problem in our straight-talking buyer's guide to the best lightweight hiking shoes in 2021.

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Best Hiking Shoe

The North Face Ultra 109 GTX

The North Face Men's Ultra 109 Waterproof Trail Shoe, TNF Black/Dark Shadow Grey, 10.5 D

The North Face 109 GTX is one of few lightweight hiking shoes out there that allows you to cut down on weight without compromising on support, grip, comfort, and durability. 

TheUltra 109 WP features a waterproof DryVent membrane that keeps your feet dry without sacrificing breathability, making it ideal for both warm-weather and rainy day hiking. It also uses a durable, PU-coated leather mudguard, a burly ultrATAC outsole with dreep, grippy lugs, and a robust toe cap to keep your tootsies safe from bumps and bangs on the trail.

Comfort-wise, the Ultra 109 GTX is a winner, too. It uses plush Ortholite cushioning in the footbed to keep your feet cool and protect against impacts. It also has a single-density EVA midsole, an ESS midfoot shank, and a forefoot Snake Plate, all of which combine to provide further protection and slipper-like, all-day comfort. 

Bottom line: A gem of a shoe that provides all the traction, grip, support, protection, and comfort you could possibly ask for in a three-season hiking shoes…and at an ultralight weight, too.

The 8 Best Lightweight Hiking Shoes for All-Day Comfort

Looking for the best lightweight shoe for hiking?

You’re in the right place! In this guide, we will be covering the following:

    • Why you need a pair of hiking shoes
    • Trail hiking shoes vs hiking boots vs trail runners?
    • How to choose a pair of good hiking shoes
    • Reviews of the top hiking shoes for day hikes, backpacking & long-distance thru-hikers
    • Our unbiased recommendation on the #1 hiking shoe

In recent years, more and more hikers have made the shift from big and burly hiking boots to lightweight hiking shoes. And with good reason. Once frowned upon by all and sundry in the hiking community, hiking shoes are now recognized as the ideal solution for hikers who want to enjoy most of the benefits of a hiking boot, but without the weight. 

Sound good to you? If so, read on! In this post, we’ll introduce you to a selection of the top lightweight hiking shoes on the market in 2021 and provide you with all the info required to make the right choice for your needs, feet, and activity type. 

Whether you’re looking for cheap hiking shoes, trail runners for hiking, a Gore-Tex climbing shoe, an ultralight trail shoe, or the best trail shoes for backpacking, our review has you covered!

Features To Look For In Comfortable Hiking Shoes

Materials

The ideal hiking or trekking shoes are those made with durable materials that let them withstand a little bit of rough treatment on the trails without compromising breathability and comfort, or adding too many ounces to their weight.

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Durability depends a lot on the material used in their construction

Two of the most durable materials or fabrics used in hiking shoes are nubuck leather and suede. Both of these are soft and supple, but also very hard-wearing and resistant to punctures, rips, and tears. They’re also naturally water-resistant.

On the downside, both of these materials are far heavier than the lightweight synthetics used in other models and don’t offer nearly as much breathability.

The most breathable and lightweight shoes typically use a combination of leather, suede, or nubuck and synthetic fabrics. While these are great for hikers who like to travel fast and light, and breathe well when you’re working up a sweat, they usually lack durability and are less water-resistant (unless, that is, they use a waterproof membrane). 

When weighing up the options, therefore, it’s best to know your priorities and what conditions you plan to do your walking in. 

Waterproofing

Nearly all hiking shoes can be made water resistant by applying a DWR treatment post-purchase. However, buying shoes that are designed for use in wet conditions is always likely to yield better results, especially if you plan on walking in the mountains or during the wet season. 

Waterproof hiking shoes use a waterproof-breathable membrane sandwiched between the outer and inner fabric of the shoes. This membrane provides far superior protection to DWR treatments and also saves you the hassle of having to reapply your DWR every few months.

The only downside to waterproof shoes is that they usually cost considerably more and are a fraction heavier than their non-waterproof cousins. 

Leather hiking shoes are naturally waterproof. However, you will need to apply a waterproofing treatment now and then to keep the level of protection high and leather is far less breathable than a high-quality membrane. .

Lacing System

This easily overlooked factor can have a large bearing on how practical and user-friendly any pair of hiking shoes is. It also plays a crucial role in comfort and fit. 

The last thing you need is to readjust the lacing continually while on the trail. As such, it is essential that the lacing system isn’t susceptible to loosening. It needs to secure your heel well to prevent blisters and hotspots that arise as a result of up and down walking motion. 

If the laces are the only problem, there is nothing wrong with purchasing quality replacement laces. However, don’t hesitate to look elsewhere if the whole system proves to be problematic.

The single-pull lacing system is quite convenient and allows for an equally tight fit across the foot. Those that need to fine-tune their laces for a comfortable fit, however, are better off avoiding quick-lace systems.

Outsole And Traction

One of the main reasons for choosing a real backpacking shoe over a flimsy cross trainer is that the former offers improved traction. The patterning of the tread and depth of the lugs in your shoes together provide far superior grip in loose, muddy, and slippery terrain, which helps to prevent accidental falls and slips. 

The type of outsole is equally important. Vibram outsoles are generally the most grippy, but Salomon’s Contagrip is also a good choice.  

It’s important to note that because some manufacturers tailor the design of each shoe for specific brands or uses, Vibram models should not all be treated as equal. Those designed for serious grip in the mud (e.g., Vibram MegaGrip) have larger lugs while models designed for scrambling over rocks prioritize sticky rubber (e.g., Vibram Dynamis).

Midsole Construction

The midsole and cushioning have a vital role to play when it comes to the level of comfort a shoe can provide. The purpose of cushioning is to provide an extra layer of protection from rocks and to absorb shock. 

Many midsoles incorporate TPU, EVA or a combination of both. Thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) is usually found on performance-oriented hiking shoes. Models that use TPU last longer than those with EVA and do a better job of handling heavy loads. They are also less cushy and aren’t as susceptible to compressing as EVA models.

On the other hand, foam EVA midsoles are incredibly lightweight and popular for hiking and running shoes. Some manufacturers use proprietary versions of EVA, which may vary from super soft to slightly stiff.

The bottom line? Go for a firm and more supportive midsole if you like logging serious miles in rougher terrain, a softer sole if you’ll be walking on well-maintained paths and prefer pillow-like cushioning.

Insoles

Almost every hiking shoe on the market comes with cheap insoles. And while this may not always be noticable, the quality of the insole can make the difference between comfort and utter misery.

The good news is that removing the insoles and replacing them with a high-quality, aftermarket model specially designed for your feet is easy. The best thing about aftermarket insoles is that they provide an improved fit under the arch. They also offer enough volume to fill out the shoe and added cushioning to improve shock absorption.

Toe Protection

Hiking trails are filled with all kinds of impediments that might do your toes a bit of damage as a result of a misplaced or clumsy step. This is why choosing a shoe with some form of toe cap (aka “toe rand”) is usually a wise decision.

Some walking shoes come with a full rubber toe rand that encircles the entire shoe. However, most lightweight hiking models have a trimmed down version that covers only the toe area. 

If you’re a scrambler or tend to hiking on rougher trails, this “extra” is an absolute must. If you tend to hike on well-maintained trails only, then you could probably get away without one, but it’s always nice to have, just in case you stray into something hard while admiring the scenery. 

Stability And Support

The importance of internal supports and built-in shanks cannot be stressed enough. While they do lead to a degree of stiffness that might take a little getting used to for some hikers, they are what separate good backpacking shoes from ordinary road running shoes or super flexy trail runners. 

A shank is a semi-rigid insert that fits into the insole of a shoe to prevent it from being too floppy. It helps both to improve traction and provides additional support on steeper ground by preventing the shoe from buckling. While not so necessary on flatter terrain the benefit of this feature in technical terrain, or when you’re carrying a heavy pack, can’t be overstated.  

For flat and less technical terrain, a light and reasonably flexible shoe like the Keen Targhee III is a great option. One longer hikes when your pack weight is topping the ten-pound mark, a beefier shoe like the Salomon Ultra 3 GTX is a safer bet. 

The Best Shoes For Hiking Reviewed

The North Face 109 GTX

Top Lightweight Hiking Shoe

The North Face Men's Ultra 109 Waterproof Trail Shoe, TNF Black/Dark Shadow Grey, 10.5 D

The North Face Ultra 109 GTX is designed for those looking to purchase shoes that will serve them for a long time on the trail. It offers the perfect balance between design, functionality, and performance. 

This shoe is designed to provide comfort, even when worn for long hours. This is achieved with a full-length midsole and ample ventilation. The upper section is made with leather material and has a mesh lining that allows for breathability.

The use of leather material and a rubber sole speaks volumes about this shoe’s durability. When you combine that with its waterproof nature, you get a shoe that will help you get through different terrains with ease and without risk of damage. A rigid snake Plate TM works together with a mid-foot shank to provide ultimate protection for your toes and feet. The included leather upper mid-foot support system plays a crucial role in boosting the shoe’s protection capabilities.

As for the overall design, the NF Ultra 109 GTX will surely complement your style. The rugged sole ensures that you get through all kinds of terrains while the upper has a seamless design. It has a lace closure system, which provides a custom fit and adds to the overall look of the shoe.

Ultimately, the North Face 109 GTX is our top pick for the best hiking shoes of 2021.

Key Features

  • GORE-TEX® waterproof stability trail-running shoe delivers subtle pronation correction
  • Upper: GORE-TEX® Extended Comfort Range waterproof, breathable membrane
  • PU-coated leather uppers; midfoot support with ESS midfoot Shank
  • Compression-molded EVA midsole
  • TPU Snake Plate™ forefoot protection & protective TPU toe rand
  • UltrATAC™ rubber outsole
  • PROs

    • Designed for use in different kinds of weather and terrains
    • Can be used for more than just hiking
    • Maximum protection for your toes and feet to hike long distances
    • Incredibly comfortable as long as you choose the right fit
    • Roomy toe box
    • Weigh just 1 lb 11 oz per pair
  • CONs

    • Not the best for extremely rough terrains

Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX

Best Backpacking Shoes

Salomon Men's X Ultra 3 GTX Hiking Shoes, Black/Magnet/Quiet Shade, 10

The Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX is loved for being a lightweight, comfortable and surprisingly stable. At a little over a pound, these are among the lightest mens’ waterproof hiking shoes out there. What’s even better is that they don’t forsake much in the way of stability and comfort. They boast an EVA midsole, which provides ample cushioning, a Contragrip sole, known for affording a good grip even on slippery terrain, and are capped with thick rubber, which comes handy when walking in snow. The leather uppers provide additional protection on the sides.

The X Ultra 3 GTX incorporates a Quicklace system with a plastic lock, four eyelets, and Kevlar laces. The laces slide into the apertures easily and equalize in tightness as you walk. The same cannot be said for traditional laces. There is a mesh pocket at the top of the tongue where you can stow the excess laces in. Another notable comfort feature is the Ortholite insole, which promotes air circulation.

This Salomon shoe offers lateral stability with a molded shank between the outsole and midsole. It has a 4.5″ max forefoot width that allows ample support on rugged terrain. There is a large brake lug towards the back of the outsole that prevents the heel from sliding out when going downhill. In our opinion, the best waterproof trail walking shoes and ultra-light hiking shoes on our list.

Key Features

  • Waterproof leather uppers feature breathable polyester mesh panels to keep feet comfortable
  • Gore-Tex waterproof bootie liners let feet breathe while protecting them from the elements, keeping feet dry and comfortable
  • Mud guards and integrated rubber toe caps provide durable protection from roots and rocks
  • Advanced chassis is light and stable underfoot, maximizing motion control for an efficient and responsive ride without excess weight
  • Compact and secure lace system with 1-pull tightening for easy-on/off; lace pockets provide easy storage
  • Luxuriously soft polyester lining wicks moisture away from feet
  • PROs

    • Great water resistance
    • Offers aggressive traction
    • Quite versatile
    • Weight: 14.5 oz
  • CONs

    • Quicklace system isn’t for everyone

Adidas Terrex Swift R GTX

adidas outdoor Men's Terrex Swift R2 GTX¿

Adidas is one of the most popular sportswear companies, and its Terrex/Outdoor lineup has gained favor with many. What sets the Terrex Swift R GTX apart is that it was actually designed for use as a hiking shoe. At 16.08 ounces, it is one of the lightest trail running shoes for hiking on the market. These mens’ hiking shoes boast a breathable design thanks to a mesh upper that allows for ventilation.

There is a thick rubber rand around the toes that provides added protection. Another protection feature that comes handy is the stiff TPU rand that covers the heel. The EVA midsole provides ample cushioning under the forefoot and arch. This hiking shoe uses a Gore-Tex liner and a tall, gusseted tongue to keep your feet dry at all times.

It also comes with a speed lacing system that includes five sets of eyelets, i.e., one metal ring, one leather and three webbing. One thing you will notice about the Terrex Swift R GTX is that it is quite stiff in the midfoot but still manages to flex in the forefoot. As for traction, it uses a pronounced heel brake that prevents accidental falls while going downhill.

All in all, these are the best hiking sneakers for any hiker who prioritizes weight savings over robustness and support.

Key Features

  • Ripstop mesh upper for breathability and light weight & TPU overlays for durability and added support
  • GORE-TEX® lining for waterproof, breathable performance
  • Speed lacing construction for fast lacing and a snug fit; LACE BUNGEE stows laces to help avoid tangling
  • ADIPRENE® under the heel for superior cushioning at impact; Moulded rubber toe cap for protection
  • TRAXION™ outsole for optimal grip in all directions; Superhigh-traction rubber outsole for optimal grip in wet conditions
  • PROs

    • PROs


      • Speed lacing tightens quickly with the pull of a plastic sliding lock
      • Best for narrow to medium volume feet
      • The upper is made of ripstop style nylon and has synthetic overlays
      • Pronounced heel brake gives you added confidence when going downhill
  • CONs

    • The midsole can prove harsh on longer trail days

Vasque Juxt

Best Budget Hiking Shoe

Vasque Men's Juxt Multi-Sport Shoe

The Vasque Juxt is one of the most versatile pairs of lightweight trekking shoes you will ever own. It is designed to offer maximum comfort and is quite stylish for daily use. The shoe is lightweight and provides plenty of support for each step. One of the factors that sets this approach shoe apart from other contenders for the title of best hiking shoes for men is that the outsole is made with the patented Off-The-Grid (OTG) technology. This technology is designed to remain durable even when subjected to extreme abuse. Vasque incorporated a TPU plate in the midfoot to provide additional foot support without adding extra weight to the shoe. It also has a medium volume Arc Tempo, which helps accommodate higher arches.

The company did an incredible job with the lacing system. It includes eight alternating webbing loops and traditional eyes that make it easy for you to adjust the tightness of the shoe. There are small vent holes and a waterproof lining on the leather tongue. This combination of features allows your feet to remain dry and the shoe breathable.

Key Features

  • Polyurethane-coated suede leather upper material offers durability, flexibility and water resistance; molded rubber toecaps provide excellent protection for feet and shoes
  • Close-to-toe lacing offers a fully tuneable, secure fit
  • Wicking nylon linings absorb excess sweat and disperse it quickly for fast drying
  • Removable dual-density footbeds add cushioning to compression-molded EVA midsoles for all-day cushioning and shock absorption
  • Thermoplastic urethane shanks deliver support and add rigidity for a stable ride
  • PROs

    • Nice and snug fit
    • Flexible forefoot is good for day hiking with medium loads
    • Extra support around the ankle makes it ideal for backpacking trips, too
    • Inexpensive, lightweight and breathable
  • CONs

    • Not 100% waterproof

La Sportiva Synthesis Mid GTX

Best Waterproof Hiking Shoes

La Sportiva Men's Synthesis Mid GTX Hiking Shoe, Grey/Green, 45.5 M EU

The La Sportiva Synthesis Mid GTX is a great hiking shoe that offers a nice blend of performance, fashionable styling and comfortable fit. Like most models on this list, it boasts Gore-Tex waterproofing that allows for use in different weather conditions. It excels as a lightweight hiking shoe that also doubles as a burly trail running shoe.

The shoe offers exceptional stability and support with STB Control in the rear, a feature that also provides added torsional stiffness. The underfoot and arch is good, if not perfect, and the shoe exhibits remarkable stability on rocky ground. This is partially due to the presence of the Impact Brake System Outsoles that reduce impact force and increase braking power.

While the La Sportiva Synthesis Mid GTX isn’t the softest or most flexible shoe out of the box, the presence of a one-pull fast pull lacing system allows for a snug fit. The nylon AirMesh on the upper is injected with polyurethane and Nano-Cell. Rather than a gusseted tongue, it uses a mesh panel for ventilation and breathability.

Key Features

  • Innovative Nano-Cell™ Technology upper wraps the foot in protection while allowing maximum breathability and waterproof protection
  • STB™ Technology stabilizes the foot by wrapping and unifying the midsole with the upper for the perfect locked-down fit
  • Gore-Tex® Surround™ Technology allows 360 degree breathability without compromising the waterproof nature of the boot
  • PROs

    • EVA midsole with TPU inserts offers ample support
    • Top of the line stability
    • Has a Vibram sole
    • Breathable & waterproof 
  • CONs

    • Pricey

Keen Targhee III

KEEN Men's Targhee II Hiking Shoe

Designed for wide and high volume feet, the Keen Targhee III is one of the sturdiest and lightest hikers on the market. It comes with a ¾ length shank that offers added support and hence less fatigue on long hiking trips. The cushioned cuff extends to the ankles, and the interior of the shoes feels very roomy. We love the fact that Keen used nubuck leather on the upper. This region of the shoe also has textile detailing, and the mesh on tongue allows for breathability.

There is a substantial EVA foam midsole that provides added cushioning and comfort. The noticeably large rubber rand offers extra toe protection against rocks and roots. Another notable feature is that the dual density EVA footbed is removable and offers extra cushioning for long hikes or heavy loads. The Keen Targhee III is an excellent investment for those who prefer trekking in aggressive terrain.

Key Features

  • Waterproofed nubuck leather and flexible nylon mesh uppers offer ample durability, flexibility and breathability for comfort on the go
  • Secure-fit lace capture system with sturdy nylon webbing eyelets and heel wrap help lock feet to footbeds for increased support
  • Metatomical EVA footbeds are shaped to provide ample cushioning and arch support; can also accommodate orthotics
  • KEEN.DRY™ waterproof breathable membranes keep feet dry while allowing perspiration to dissipate before it saturates the inside of the shoe
  • Webbing pull loops at heel and tongue allow easy entry/exit; padded, gusseted tongues keep out debris and moisture while relieving lace pressure
  • Compression-molded EVA midsoles offer shock-absorption and padding for all-day comfort
  • PROs

    • Great ankle support
    • Shank prevents foot fatigue on long hikes
    • Large toe rand is good for aggressive or rocky terrain
  • CONs

    • A little too roomy for narrow feet

Columbia Redmond

Columbia Men's Redmond Waterproof Hiking Shoe, Black, Squash, 7 D US

The Columbia Redmond is a durable and lightweight shoe that is well suited for all kinds of outdoor activities. It has an exceptional Omni-Grip sole that provides added traction in different terrains. The upper of the shoe is a combination of mesh, suede leather, and webbing. This prevents water from slipping into the interior of the shoe while allowing improved circulation of air.

The Columbia Redmond is also equipped with a waterproof Omni-Tech that boasts waterproof capabilities. You will certainly appreciate the presence of a Techlite lightweight midsole as it offers long-lasting comfort, high energy return as well as superior cushioning. Your feet will feel energized with every step you take.

Key Features

  • Omni-Tech™ waterproof breathable seam-sealed membrane bootie construction
  • A durable low cut waterproof hiker that provides great traction and comfort
  • UPPER: Combination suede leather, mesh and webbing
  • MIDSOLE: Techlite™ lightweight midsole for long lasting comfort, superior cushioning, and high energy return
  • OUTSOLE: Omni-Grip™ non-marking traction rubber
  • PROs

    • Outsole is made from Omni-Grip non-marking traction rubber
    • Omni-Tech waterproofing
    • Wide fit makes them ideal for wide feet
    • Multi-directional lugs provide sure footing
    • Similar performance and appearance to the Merrell Moab 2, but cheaper
    • Weight: 1 lb. 14.1 oz
  • CONs

    • Runs small and is a little too narrow for wider feet

HOKA ONE ONE Tor Summit WP

Best Men’s Hiking Shoes for Comfort

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The Hoka One One Tor Summit WP are outstandingly well-made hiking shoes for men that up the stakes in the comfort department by using multiple density rubber soles that provide added cushioning and shock absorption. 

This hiking shoe absorbs shock better than most models at its price range. It is incredibly comfortable thanks to a fatty midsole and outsole as well as thick insole and ample arch support. The lacing system includes five sets of eyelets and flat style laces.

One thing you will notice is that despite having leather uppers, this shoe is incredibly breathable. At a little over 2 pounds, it is heavier than most shoes on this list but still within the lightweight hiking footwear category. The Tor Summit WP is a beast when it comes to support. It has a shank insert in the sole, so be sure to expect a less rigid midfoot. Four layers of rubber, all with varying densities, help provide a supportive sole and stability with each step.

Another feature worth noting is that the Tor Summit WP comes with Vibram MegaGrip Hi-Traction outsole. This system includes multi-directional and dense lugs on the perimeter of the underfoot as well as softer rubber RMAT lugs towards the center of the sole.

Key Features

  • Event® Waterproof Membrane with Full Bootie Construction helps keep feet protected from outside elements.
  • Suede and nubuck leather upper with breathable mesh tongue.
  • Protective rubber toe overlay, and tongue and heel pull loops.
  • Late Stage Meta-Rocker Geometry promotes a smoother, more natural ride
  • Full-length EVA top midsole cushioning
  • Vibram® MegaGrip Hi-Traction outsole features 5 mm lugs for optimal grip.
  • PROs

    • eVent membrane
    • Breathable leather upper
    • Ultimate comfort and support
    • Excellent traction
    • Feel like a trail runner
  • CONs

    • Comes at a steep price
    • Weight: 2 lb. 0.8 oz

Last update on 2021-09-17 / 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 Antartica) & 30 of the US states.

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