Looking for the perfect hiking boot that eats through the terrain? Or are wondering how I should choose my first hiking boot?

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

Getting the right pair of boots for your hike is vital. Hikes are generally exhausting and you have to encounter unfamiliar terrain. You need a boot which ranks high on comfort, supports your feet, protects them from rocks and firmly grips the surface.

After going through over 50 hiking boots, we narrowed down to the top ten best hiking boots. We had in place a strict buying criterion which was used to rate these boots. Here are our top recommendations.

1Salomon Quest 4D 2 GTX Hiking Boot – Best Overall


If you are going to backpack through an unfamiliar trail, the quest 4D by Salomon will be our top recommendations.
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2Merrell Men’s Moab 2 Hiking Boot – Best Budget Pick for Men


Overall, if you are looking for a budget option for a small day hike in the desert, you can’t go wrong with the Merrell Moab 2.

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3KEEN Women’s Targhee II Mid Hiking Boot – Best Budget Pick for Women


If you are on a budget and want something which is a bit versatile, the Targhee II would be our top pick.

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And here’s a more detailed overview of each hiking boot:

Salomon Quest 4D 2 GTX Hiking Boot – Best Overall

Score

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

If you are going to backpack through an unfamiliar trail, the quest 4D by Salomon will be our top recommendations. It provides ample support and cushioning to your feet, dries quickly when exposed to water and crushes through the rocks that come in your way.

With a little care (especially near the seams), this will easily last for multiple hiking trips and will eat through all kinds of trail. Here is what makes it our top recommendation.

What we liked

  • This bad boy is comfortable from the moment you step into it. (Minimal break-in period)
  • The combination of nylon mesh and GORE-TEX lining makes the upper super breathable and waterproof. (Keeps your feet dry and stink-free)
  • Thanks to 4.5-inch the forefoot and high ankle collars, the quest 4D is the most stable boot you can buy
  • The ContraGrip outsole crushes the rocks on the trail and gives you solid grip over a muddier trail. (You don’t have to worry about slipping)

What we disliked

  • It weighs close to 3 lbs. For size 11 (US). This makes it a little heavy, especially for beginners. (But thanks to its agile design, you can move through the trail quickly)
  • The seams which connect the outsole to the midsole are a bit flimsy

Bottom Line

When you are going to trail on unfamiliar terrain, getting a beast proves to be your best bet. Salomon Quest 4D 2 is ‘a complete beast’ that eats through the trail, giving you unmatched comfort and support.

Check it on Amazon →


Merrell Men’s Moab 2 Hiking Boot – Best Budget Pick for Men

Score

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

For a small day hiking, you don’t need the firepower of heavy hiking boots. The Moab 2 with its lightweight design is ideal for short hikes.

Right off the bat, it feels super comfortable. It provides the best cushioning to your feet (at this price point) and shields your feet from the shock of stepping on rocks. The outsole is quite flexible and handles uneven terrain with ease.

On the downside, the traction is average, especially on muddier trails. The upper also takes time to dry up if you step into the water.

Overall, if you are looking for a budget option for a small day hike in the desert, you can’t go wrong with the Merrell Moab 2. Here is why it is our top budget pick for men.

What we liked

  • With a roomy fit and flexible sole, it ranks high on comfort. (Easy to navigate on an uneven terrain)
  • The ankle collar is reasonably high, and the mesh lining offers excellent breathability on a hot sunny day
  • Hiking on a rocky trail is a breeze with its Vibram outsole
  • Don’t want your feet to be all tired at the end of your hike? The lightweight design of the Moab 2 makes that possible without comprising on support

What we disliked

  • It is lacking a waterproof membrane and performs poorly on wet or snowy trails
  • The lug design of the outsole is not designed for muddier trails, and beginners can experience an occasional slip

Bottom Line

If you are going on a small hiking trip and don’t want to put a major dent in your wallet, the Moab 2 is what you should get.

Check it on Amazon →


KEEN Women’s Targhee II Mid Hiking Boot – Best Budget Pick for Women

Score

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

The Targhee II stands out among the pack of hiking boots thanks to its versatility. You break into these reasonably quickly, and they offer adequate comfort throughout the day.

They offer great traction on all kinds of trail and give ample protection to your feet. The mesh is water-resistant, breathable and keeps your feet dry.

The heel lock and ESS flank give your feet the much-needed support on uneven terrain, but the ankle support is average. (Beginners have to take care while going downhill)

The biggest drawback is the durability. Don’t expect these shoes to last for hundreds of miles as the seams begin to wear out with time.

What we liked

  • A wide toe box, added heel cushioning and breathable mesh, will keep your feet comfortable throughout the day
  • A stiff sole and added toe protection keep your feet safe. (Pointy rocks or exposed roots, don’t stand a chance against the Targhee II)
  • The 4mm lugs grip the surface and keep your feet steady, even on uneven terrain
  • What if I have to go through a swamp of water? Thanks to its hydrophobic mesh, your feet stay dry, even if you are inches deep in water

What we disliked

  • The mesh and the seams wear out with time, making it less durable
  • They run half a size small. (Getting half a size larger than usual is recommended)

Bottom Line

If you are on a budget and want something which is a bit versatile, the Targhee II would be our top pick.

Check it on Amazon →


Lowa Renegade GTX Hiking Boot

Score

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

Just like the Salomon Quest 4D, the Renegade is smash-hit in all the metrics. It is super comfortable thanks to the insole and soft tailored upper. Your feet feel relaxed even after a long hike. (Although the lacing system, is bit of a letdown)

Next up it has the highest ankle collar. What does that mean for you? Well, this gives your unmatched ankle stability. Even while going downhill the chances of a sprained ankle are almost zero. A high ankle collar also means that you don’t have to worry about exposed sharp rocks that come your way.

Finally, the traction is also top notch. The Vibram sole of the Renegade grips all kinds of terrain like a complete monster.

With everything going for it, the biggest letdown of the Renegade is its price point. When compared to Salomon’s Quest 4D the higher price seems a bit unjustified. When compared side by side, both the boots perform equally well, but the Quest price around 150$ (60 bucks lesser compared to the Renegade).

What we liked

  • The combination of a foamy insole and tailored upper give you a snug fit. (This bad boy seems comfortable both uphill and downhill)
  • With the highest ankle collar, the stability provided by Renegade is second to none
  • The full-length shank and sturdy midsole support your feet on both muddy and rocky terrain
  • It is a complete all-rounder when it comes to traction. (Grips dry, muddy or snowy trail equally well)

What we disliked

  • Due to a lot of seams, the upper is prone to damage
  • The higher price tag reduces its overall value among hikers

Bottom Line

Looking for the ultimate pair that can be used both for a short hike and also for a long backpacking trip? The Lowa Renegade GTX with its light weight and solid support fits into that category.

Check it on Amazon →


Vasque St. Elias GTX Backpacking Boot

Score

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

The Vasque St. Elias is among the favorites among cross-country hikers. The dual insole gives your feet ample cushioning, and the high ankle collar almost nullifies the risk of a sprain.

Pair that up with unmatched stability and dependable all-around traction; you have a complete winner.

If everything is so great, why isn’t it the top recommendation?

This is one of the heaviest hiking boot on the market. With a growing preference for lightweight shoes, the Elias seems a bit outdated. Also, during hot conditions, your feet get warm forcing you to take breaks.

What we liked

  • The dual insole keeps your feet comfortable on long tiring hikes
  • High ankle collar and rigid insert make it the most stable boot on our list
  • It eats through the trail and performs well all around. (From granite to muddier stretches to even wet rocks, it scores high on traction)
  • Finally, with full-grain leather, this will last for years

What we disliked

  • It weighs close to 3.4 lbs. Due to this, your feet get tired quite easily
  • Due to average breathability, your feet feel warm especially at the end of the day

Bottom Line

If you are a sucker for old-school design and want a boot that stands the test of time, then you can’t go wrong with the St. Elias GTX.

Check it on Amazon →


Salomon X Ultra Mid 2 GTX Hiking Boot – Lightest Boot for Backpacking

Score

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

The Mid 2 GTX is one of those rare hiking boots which gives the added comfort which you usually experience in a trail running shoe.

It also does a reasonable job at keeping your feet stable and also protects your toes from rocks. On the flipside, the performance is average on snowy or wet terrain.

Overall, this is the kind of boot we’ll recommend to experienced hikers, who can navigate through unfamiliar terrain.

What we liked

  • With a cushioned collar and flexible upper, it gives you a snug fit. (The Sensift technology adapt to your feet, giving it all the supports it needs)
  • It keeps your stable ankles stable in uneven rocky terrain but struggles when you are going off-trail
  • It provides reasonable traction on rocks and granites
  • The Gore-Tex lining sheds water fairly quickly and performs well even in snowy conditions

What we disliked

  • Doesn’t grip muddier or wetter trails that well. (When compared to rockier, uneven terrain)
  • Due to a thinner outsole, you experience the impact of rocks on your feet

Bottom Line

Going on a 10-day hiking trip? Looking for a lightweight option that doesn’t compromise on support? The X Ultra Mid 2 GTX by Salomon proves to the best buy.

Check it on Amazon →


Timberland White Ledge Men’s Waterproof Boot

Score

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

If you are looking to hike on the rocky terrain of El Teide, then the White Ledge with its all-around protection and ample cushioning, is recommended.

You can also use these boots while working in the garden or repairing something in the lawn.

Other than that, the White Ledge clearly lags behind compared to the likes of Salomon or KEEN hiking boots.

What we liked

  • With padded collars and EVA midsole, it provides all-around comfort
  • High ankle shaft, supports your feet and also protects them from the unfamiliar terrain
  • Has one of the most solid and durable uppers. (Thanks to its all leather construction)

What we disliked

  • It performs poorly on a muddier trail. (It also easily slips on wet terrain)
  • The water also begins to seep in your feet are underwater

Bottom Line

This was the best-selling hiking boot in 2012-13 and is easily the most loved shoe made by Timberland. This is what made that possible.

Check it on Amazon →


Ahnu Women’s Montara Boot

Score

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

From the outside, Montara looks like a solid hiking boot. It is hands down the most stylish hiking boot on our list.

It has a zero break-in period, and you feel the added cushioning near the heels instantly. On uneven terrain, Montara blazes through, thanks to its dual density midsole. At just 1.5 lbs. It is extremely light.

On the downside, the toe box is narrow which leave your feet a bit uncomfortable. The traction is also a mixed bag. While it excels on granite, it fails to give the same performance on the muddier trail.

Overall, if you are looking for a stylish pair for a small day hike, then Montara proves to the best buy.

What we liked

  • The Montara adapts to your feet right from the get-go, and the padded collars give additional comfort to your heels
  • The combination of dual density midsole and Ahnu’s Numentum HIKE technology, the Montara is one of the more stable shoes. (It truly shines one uneven terrain)
  • At just 1.5 lbs. it is extremely lightweight, making it perfect for a small day hike

What we disliked

  • Due to a narrow toe box, your feet begin to feel tired after an exhausting hike
  • The lacing system is below average
  • Ankle support is minimal

Bottom Line

Designed exclusively for Women, the Montara ranks high on style. It also doesn’t do a bad job at comfort and support.

Check it on Amazon →


Columbia Newton Ridge Plus Hiking Boot

Score

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

Like other lightweight hiking boots, the break-in period on the Ridge Plus is minimal. The cushioning is average, but the padded collars give added support to the ankles.

The upper can resist tiny amounts of water, but don’t expect it to handle a large stream of water. The outsole grips the surface quite well, and overall the shoe offers decent support.

The toe box is narrow, and we won’t recommend this longer hikes. Also, the build quality is average, so it is not able to handle the rough terrain.

Overall, this is an average hiking boot which can be used for an occasional hike on the weekend.

What we liked

  • Provides decent support and comfort for your ankles
  • The traction is surprisingly good, especially on an uneven rocky terrain
  • Provide adequate water resistance on a rainy day or slightly wet terrain

What we disliked

  • The sole and the upper wear down fairly quickly. (Don’t expect this to last long)
  • The toe box is super narrow. (The shoe begins to bit after few hours)

Bottom Line

With, a bestseller tag on Amazon, this hiking boot by Columbia is recommended for occasional hikes.

Check it on Amazon →


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

Score

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

Finally, if you are looking for a hiking boot exclusively for winters, then we’ll recommend the Bugaboot from Columbia.

Again this boot is designed only for snowy terrains. Firstly, the Bugaboot will take some time to break into. We recommend walking a few miles (wearing these) before you go for a hike.

The ankle shaft is quite high and prevents the snow (or water) from seeping in. It also provides ample support to your ankles. To keep your feet warm, the Bugaboot comes with a 200g insulation.

The outsole provides decent traction, but still, you will have to be careful. (Beginners might have to encounter some slip issues)

Finally, the upper is not that durable, and the harsh weather will take a toll on the synthetic construction of the shoe.

What we liked

  • Techlite lightweight midsole for long lasting comfort, superior cushioning, and high energy return
  • Ankle-high cold-weather boot with waterproof seam-sealed construction featuring Omni-Heat reflective lining with 200g insulation
  • Omni-Grip non-marking traction rubber outsole
  • Waterproof seam-sealed construction

What we disliked

  • Boots may develop damp at the base of the tongue in the rain

Bottom Line

Perfect for building snowmen, and also pretty great for kicking them over and stomping them into extra snowballs for the fight that said action might trigger.

Check it on Amazon →


How to Choose a Hiking Boot – Buying Guide

Before your first hike, these are the usual questions that run through your mind – my running shoe won’t do the job? Should I go for a lightweight shoe or something with more protection? Do I need added ankle support?

We have prepared a comprehensive guide that answers all these questions and helps you pick an ideal hiking boot. Using this same process, we chose our top 10 hiking boots, which were recommended earlier.

Before we get into the specifics lets briefly discuss the two major kinds of hikes –

Types of Hiking

There is a big difference between hiking on Devils Garden Trail and backpacking on the maze of Canyonlands. The former will usually end within a day, but the Canyonlands trail takes over 12 days.

Naturally, the kind of boot you go for depends on the kind of trail you be hiking on. Here are the main differences you need to look for –

Day Hiking

If you are going for a short hiking trip (which usually ends in a day), then getting lightweight boots will make a lot of sense.

You don’t want your feet to be all tired and sweaty when the hike is done. Lightweight hiking boots are quite breathable and have a higher flex, making it easier for you to navigate through the trail. This is where boots like the Merrell Moab 2 or KEEN Targhee II excel.

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

Backpacking

If you are going to backpack through the country, you’ll need durable boots. These are the boots that can support all the heavy camping weight and stomp through all kinds of rocks that come your way.

While looking for backpacking boots, make sure that the upper is made of full grain leather, and come with stiff midsoles.

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

Top Features of a Hiking Boot

Now that we have covered the two major kinds of hikes, lets’ dive into the specific features that you need to look for in a hiking boot.

Comfort

Well this is too obvious, right? However, in a hiking boot, they are specific things you need to look for to ensure that they are a right fit.

While judging comfort for a shoe, we look for two things – breathability and midsole. If you are going on a longer hike, having a shoe with breathable waterproof upper is a must.

You don’t want your feet to be all sweaty, and a breathable mesh will do the trick. Also during longer hikes in the country, you encounter multiple water streams. Having a waterproof membrane which dries out quickly gives you the much-needed comfort. (Plus your feet won’t smell when you are all done). These membranes also keep your feet warm during colder conditions.

For a day hike, you don’t need an additional waterproof membrane. Synthetic nylon uppers are lighter and breathable and keep your feet nice and dry.

And yes, for day hikes, make sure that your boots have an EVA midsole. They are lighter, provide ample cushioning and offer decent support from rocks.

For backpacking, you need a midsole which is durable and firm. Polyurethane midsole won’t flatten out over time and offers solid support for rocky trails.

How to Break in?

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

Going for a few runs is what we recommend. You’ll experience some pressure points which will ease out over time. You’ll also get an idea of how the shoe feels. Professional hikers prefer to go for a two to three-hour hike with their new shoes. This gives them an idea of how the shoe handles rocks and water streams.

Getting the Fit Right

‘My shoe feels great, gives my feet the desired support and keeps’em dry, but something is still missing’. We usually hear this statement from beginners. If you need to add to the cushioning or need added protection your feet, getting an insole is highly recommended. This gives you a snug fit and helps you breeze through the trail.

For winters, we recommend polypropylene liner socks. They keep your feet warm and protect them from blisters.

Stability and Traction

If you want your feet to stay stable during the hike, ensure that they are well protected. You don’t want uneven rocks or roots to slow you down. But how do I that? Well, hiking boots use shanks and plates do give your feet added support. These are small plates or inserts which are placed between the boots’ midsole and outsole.

For a beginner, we’ll recommend a full-length shank as they cover the entire area of the midsole and keep your feet safe from pointy rocks. Experienced hikers usually settle for smaller shanks.

Also, for longer hikes getting high cut boots are recommended. They give the much-needed support to your ankles and also shields them from cuts and bruises. (You don’t want a sprained ankle right?)
(The Salomon Quest 4D 2 is perhaps the most stable hiking boot you can buy)

When it comes to traction and grip, it all boils down the outsole. If you are going to hike over a rocky trail, go for a boot which has deeper lugs.

However, for a muddier trail, you need the lugs to be small and wide. This helps you to grip the surface and also lower the chance of an occasional slip.

Conclusion

This brings us to the end of the article. This is everything you need to know about buying a hiking boot. To recap, the buying guide can be used to pick your ideal hiking boot. We talk about material choices and also discuss the essential metrics (like comfort and traction) that you need to look for.

We have also recommended ten best hiking boots for 2018-19. So, to all the adventure junkies reading this, it’s time to hit the trail and experience the thrill that comes with it.

If you have any question, feel free to ask it in the comment section below.

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