Any seasoned hiker knows that the type of footwear you use is important for hiking.
We did lots of research and a fair amount of testing.
Here is a list of the BEST 10 best hiking shoes (and boots) you can buy in 2018 so far.
We also tell you all you need to know about hiking shoes down bellow…
But, let’s take a quick look at what we recommend before we go into details:
Do you want to learn more about hiking shoes?
Keep reading for a full buyer’s guide.
Here are the full reviews:
10 Best Hiking Boots and Shoes 2018
To help you choose, Mike’s Gear Reviews has come up with a list of the best hiking shoes that you can buy online. We’ve compiled 10 products from well-known and beloved brands for our hiking boot reviews.
Columbia Hiking Shoes
As the brand boasts, its rich leather overlays and waterproof seam-sealed construction give wearers high protection from the elements. Its ultralight cushion and high-traction outsole also apparently provide comfort during long walks on tough terrains.
The Columbia brand a fairly trusted one in the sportswear industry. It’s one of the reasons why many reviewers bought this pair.
This pair of trail runners is good for casual hike.
The most common complaint by users is that it isn’t as waterproof as it claims.
Apparently, it can only resist light sprinkles of water. Anything more than that would render the waterproof claim useless. One user even complained that they got wet feet just by walking around wet grass.
It also runs smaller than size. The toe area also appears to be narrow. So if you are a size 10, chances are you would be more comfortable buying 10 ½ or even 11.
Here are the pros and cons of the Columbia North Plains II Hiking Shoes, according to the reviews:
|Breathable material||Not effectively waterproof|
|Comfortable||A bit narrow in the toe are|
|Good for warm weather||Runs a bit small in size|
Let’s take a look at its specs:
- Rubber sole
- Omni-grip, non-marking traction rubber
- Techlite lightweight midsole for long lasting comfort, superior cushioning, and high energy return
- A lightweight and durable waterproof trail shoe for multiple adventures
- Leather, webbing, and textile upper scratch rubber toe cap for durability and protection Omni-Tech
- Waterproof seam-sealed membrane bootie construction
This low-cut pair may not be the best hiking shoes in this list, but it ticks all the boxes of a decent trail runner for a light hike. You probably wouldn’t expect this to last in an extreme expedition, but it could be a lifesaver during a light trail run on a warm day.
You need to break them in first, as expected, but once you’ve done that, it would be a comfortable fit. It claims to be waterproof, but don’t expect much from it. It can only protect your feet from water to an extent.
The Columbia Women’s Redmond Trail Shoes is a minimalist pair that gets the job done.
Its subdued color scheme isn’t going to be a fashion standout, but that’s fine. You wouldn’t want this to be just pretty; you need this to be efficient and functional. And according to user reviews, it is.
It claims to be waterproof and durable, also promising “high energy return” with its lightweight cushioned midsole. But like the North Plains II for Men’s above, it also has a few concerns.
Again, it’s not thoroughly waterproof. Perhaps because it’s a trail runner, it prioritizes the breathability of its material over its waterproof feature. It also runs smaller than size and appears to be snug on wider feet.
Here are the good and the bad:
|Good sole grip||Not thoroughly waterproof|
|Breathable material||Runs smaller than size|
|Snug on wider feet|
Its features and materials are listed below:
- Omni-Tech waterproof, breathable, seam-sealed membrane bootie construction
- 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
- Shaft measures approximately ankle-high from arch
The best thing about this shoe, according to its over 160 reviewers, is the traction. It provides good sole grip, making it a great companion during a trail run. It’s also lightweight and flexible so you can move without feeling extra weight on your feet.
With its mesh upper, it’s almost guaranteed that it’s not going to be waterproof. It does promise to be one, but again, according to the people who have experienced it, it’s not. Maybe there’s somehow protection from light splashes, but don’t expect it to fully protect your feet from water.
It does run small to size and it’s a bit snug fit for those with wide feet even after breaking them in. As advised by those who have already bought it, choose a half size bigger than your regular size.
It does not have any arch support so you would have a problem if you need this for rigorous hike. You will also need to cushion it with a separate insole because the insole it comes with has very little padding.
Columbia Hiking Boots
A contender for the best hiking boots for men in this list, the Columbia Men’s Newton Ridge Plus II Waterproof Hiking Boot is a mouthful but it does really deliver. It has everything that you could ask for a backpacking boot and more.
With over a thousand customer reviews on Amazon, it is one of the highly rated, best hiking shoes out there. It is lightweight, which isn’t exactly a feature expected from a backpacking boot, and not bulky at all. It is waterproof and has solid traction. You can definitely wear this in winter or during colder days.
It does not suffer from the common negatives the other two above mentioned shoes have, but it still has issues. Most of the reviews say this is true to size. However, there are a few that claim it either runs a size too big or smaller than normal.
Here’s what they say are the pros and cons of this shoe:
|True waterproof||Durability is questionable|
|Good for cold weather|
The specs are the following:
- Leather and synthetic
- Rubber sole
- Shaft measures approximately 5” from arch
- Platform measures approximately 0.50”
- Upper: PU coated leather, suede, mesh and metal hardware
- Waterproof seam-sealed construction
- Midsole: Techlite lightweight midsole for long lasting comfort, superior cushioning, and high energy return
- Outsole: Omni-grip non-marking traction rubber
- Made in Vietnam
This almost ticks all the boxes of a great pair of hiking shoes. Once you have it broken in for a period of time, it should be decently comfortable enough to wear. It provides excellent traction, solid fit, and true waterproof claims. The heels could use a little improvement, though, but otherwise it’s a great buy.
It could possibly be the best hiking boots for men in this list, if not for one tiny, crucial thing: it has questionable quality, at least according to the negative reviews. And that’s not easy to ignore if you are looking for something that you can wear on a grueling backpacking adventure.
Like its male counterpart above, the Columbia Women’s Newton Ridge Plus Hiking Boot is a highly rated backpacking shoe. Rating at 4.5 stars from over a thousand customers on Amazon, this boot is a clear favorite because it is just a perfect outdoor wear.
This hiking boot is a mix of leather and mesh that has breathable yet still waterproof upper. It is lightweight and has secure fit. It has a good traction, which Columbia even hyped as “super-gripping,” and superior cushioning midsole.
|Waterproof||Narrow fit in the toe area|
Take a look at its specs:
- Leather / Synthetic
- Rubber sole
- Shaft measures approximately 5.25” from arch
- Hiking boot in waterproof full grain leather featuring Omnishield water and stain resistant treatment and compression-molded EVA foam midsole
- Triangular D-ring and claimshell lacing; Omnigrip lugged outsole; Techlight cushioning midsole
- How to measure: Place your heel against fold/wall on flat level surface. Mark the end of the longest toe with a pen or pencil. Measure both feet and use the larger measurement. Read measurement and compare to size cart.
- When comparing on the size chart, determine the closest larger measurement and use that number to determine your shoe size for your country’s shoe measurement standard.
Unlike many of the products in our short hiking boot reviews, this female version of Columbia’s Newton Ridge Plus has great waterproof feature.
As per the reviewers, it does really provide solid waterproof. It is also breathable and good for wearing during cold weather, two features that do not usually go together well. It would probably take you a few days to break this in, but that’s just expected.
One of the most common negative comments for the female Newton Ridge Plus, however, is the fit. It arguably has true to size fit, but its toe area is narrow, which makes it appear smaller than it is. Its constricted width coupled with its inflexibility makes it uncomfortable to wear.
Reviewers took note of the shoe’s front, which they say hurts the toes. It bends and creases, which in turn causes toes blisters with every step. This issue wouldn’t be solved by simply breaking in the shoe as well. It is just how the shoe is made. So if you would hike at a slope, you would have traction but the shoe would probably hurt your toes.
Its durability isn’t questioned, though, unlike the Newton Ridge Plus for men. Even the low-star reviews said it is a well-made shoe. So if you can get past the toe box issue, then you’d probably like this so much.
Adidas Hiking Shoes
The Adidas Men’s Rockadia Trail M Running Shoes are touted for off-road performance. For a lightweight trail runner, this shoe is apparently perfect for all terrains. It has the flexibility and comfort expected of a trail runner, as well as the durability needed for one.
It doesn’t have everything that you need for a jaunt in the woods, though. According to hiking boots reviews online, it is just one or two concerns short of being perfect.
Here are the pros and cons users think of the Adidas Rockadia Trail M Running Shoes:
|Comfortable||Runs smaller than size|
|Decent sole grip||Not waterproof|
- Rubber sole
- Shaft measures approximately low-top from arch
- Mesh upper for maximum ventilation
- Textile and synthetic overlays add strategic support
- Grippy rubber outsole with special traction for trail running
It’s from Adidas, a leading brand known for quality.
It’s almost guaranteed that this is going to be a well-made shoe just because it is released by the German company. This particular product is made in China, though it doesn’t seem an issue of some sort. In fact, many reviewers lauded that it is high quality.
But like many of the items in this list, it runs a bit smaller in size. It’s a bit narrow in width so you should really get a half to a whole size bigger if you want a comfortable fit. Break-in period also appears to take longer than usual, about a few days.
It is also really just a trail runner through and through. It doesn’t claim to be waterproof, which evidently is one important, can’t-miss feature these days, because it really is not. According to reviews, even light sprinkle of water, or a jog around wet grass, could wet your feet inside. Its traction power is decent if used on a dry ground. And it’s almost non-existent if used on wet terrains. On a positive note, though, it is truly breathable. You would want this during a trail run on a dry and hot day.
At approximately $60, it’s also one of the cheapest and best hiking shoes there is. It’s a great value for a quality pair.
At about $100, the Adidas Outdoor Women’s AX2 Shoe is made for a light a fast adventure. It has the features the Rockadia Trail M for men lacks. It has great traction even in wet conditions, and it doesn’t run smaller than size. If anything, it runs bigger.
Like the other Adidas shoe above in the list, the AX2 also has a mesh upper, making it light and breathable. It is ideal for a warm weather hike. It also has commendable traction even if you used it on wet grounds.
And again, it is from Adidas. That name alone is enough for brand-loyal adventure-seekers to buy this shoe. It is made in Indonesia.
Here are the pros and cons of owning a pair of Adidas Outdoor Women’s AX2 hiking shoes:
|Sturdy||Not fully waterproof|
|Great traction||Runs bigger than size|
|Soles not cushioned|
Here are the specs of the AX2 as listed on Amazon:
- Textile and synthetic
- Rubber sole
- Sockliner: molded sockliner to enhance comfort and fit
- Midsole: lightweight EVA midsole for long term cushioning
- Outsole: super high traction rubber for optimal grip in wet conditions
- 5mm lug height
These hiking shoes boast of having breathable upper that can keep water out. Keep in mind that it is not waterproof, though, just water-resistant. If you walk through a puddle, your feet would still stay safe and dry. However, it’s a different matter if you submerge your feet even just for a second. So don’t do it.
There are hiking boot reviews that claim it runs bigger than regular size. Others think that it just has extra room in the toe area so that’s why it feels bigger. The extra space allows your toes to spread, so that’s a positive thing perhaps. Nevertheless, consider buying a half size smaller if you think it doesn’t fit right.
Another common complaint about this shoe is the alleged lack of cushion support. The midsole is a lightweight EVA, which is found in most sports shoes. However, a few reviewers still think that it’s not enough.
North Face Hiking Shoes
The Ultra 109 GTX Trail Running Shoe for Men from North Face is expected to be a dependable pair. It claims to be a heavy-duty pair that provides comfort even during a strenuous hiking session. Its main pull is the Gore-Tex “revolutionary patented membrane technology” that promises to protect users from wind and water while maintaining breathability. In a nutshell, it is waterproof but breathable at the same time.
This is one of the higher priced products in this list. Not quite the best hiking shoes as it doesn’t exactly deliver all of its promises, but also not too shabby. It is still a great product from a great brand. Here are the pros and cons of the Ultra 109 GTX for men:
|True to size||Narrow toe box|
The specs, as listed on the official website, are as follows:
- ESS midfoot shank
- Compression-molded EVA midsole
- Breathable mes
- Stability running shoe
- UltrATAC rubber outsole
- Shaft measures approximately Low-Top from arch
- GORE-TEX waterproof stability trail-running shoe delivers subtle pronation correction
- GORE-TEX Extended Comfort Range waterproof, breathable membrane
- Breathable mesh
- PU-coated leather upper midfoot support
- TPU Snake Plate forefoot protection
The Ultra 109 GTX is relatively true to size. You can order your regular size 10 and expect it to fit you just fine. However, some complained that its toe box is just too narrow for comfort. So why your feet are securely and comfortable encased in the shoe, your toes may feel a little bit too snug.
Users said it’s a little heavy for trail running but just the perfect weight for hiking. So while it is called trail running shoes, you may feel that it’s better used in hiking.
You can also probably do away with wearing this during cold days, maybe even light winter. Some users attested that they have used it while walking through shallow snow and it kept their feet fairly warm.
The waterproof feature, though, attracted divisive comments. With its Gore-Tex, “impenetrable barrier” against liquid claim, it better deliver as promised. It does, according to many reviews. It keeps away water from the outside. There are a few comments to the contrary, however. Probably the best thing to do is to avoid submerging it in water higher than your ankle. It is low-cut, and therefore if water has a hard time penetrating the upper part, then it could enter through the ankle part.
A contender for the best hiking boots for women, the North Face Hedgehog Fastpack GTX Hiking Shoes is a power-packed lightweight footwear that is perfect for a backbreaking hike. It requires only short breaking-in period, about a few hours, and you’re good to go after that.
North Face promises users waterproof yet breathable footwear that can be used either during rain or shine. The shoe offers stable footing and solid grip on both wet or dry terrain.
It is almost double the price of some shoes listed here, but it’s apparently well worth it. These are sturdy pairs, which are manufactured in Vietnam, as expected from North Face. It is abrasion-resistant on the outside and solidly cushioned inside for a comfortable fit.
There’s one negative about it, though. Here are the pros and cons of the Hedgehog Fastpack:
|Comfortable||Runs smaller than size|
|Wide toe box|
Take a look at the specs promised by the brand:
- Lightweight, Gore-Tex waterproof hiker travels fast with the support of a CRADLE technology
- Waterproof, breathable GORE-TEX membrane
- PU-coated leather
- Abrasion-resistant and breathable textile mesh
- Rustproof hardware
- TPU CRADLE heel-stability technology
- Dual-density, compression-molded EVA midsole with CRADLE GUIDE
- TPU shank
- Exclusive Vibram rubber outsole
Its waterproof claim is real, according to its users. It does really protect your feet from water from the outside. There are a few complaints that said its waterproof features started to disappear after a few months, but it could probably be because, as mentioned previously, there is no such thing as absolute waterproof.
It does run smaller than size but it has a wide toe box so your feet wouldn’t feel too constricted. However, as advised, it’s better to get half a size bigger than your normal one for a better fit.
Arc’teryx Hiking Boots
The Bora2 Mid Hiking Boot for Men by Arc’teryx is no doubt the best backpacking boots in this list. It’s not the most perfect footwear for such activity, but it’s a close one. The most obvious downside is the price, though.
It is the most expensive entry in our hiking boot reviews. It’s not mentioned where it is manufactured, but it’s probably not made in Canada anymore. Nevertheless, it is still a heavy-duty pair that can last you through a few days of backpacking in winter.
Let’s take a look at the many pros and few cons of this shoe, according to the people who have used it.
|Quick break-in period||Meticulous lacing|
|Removable liner||Takes a long time to dry after getting soaked|
Here are the features:
- Technical footwear with removable liners that provide comfort and stability for multiple days in a variety of weather environments and terrain
- Keeping the science of the foot in mind these were constructed with durability, breathability, and efficiency for safe traveling in even the harshest of environments
- The removable, 2-layer stretch nylon mono-mesh Stretch GORE-TEX laminate to 100 of liner height uses minimal seams and adhesive to secure the membrane, which in doing so maximizes its waterproof and breathable surface areas
- The liner is lightweight and made from a stretch nylon mono-mesh that will not conform or absorb moisture, ideal for quick-drying summer comfort
- There is optional, more insulated mid-cut liner sold separately, great for winter conditions and colder temperatures
This Arc’Teryx boot is the only one in this list that is crampon compatible, allowing you to use this on snow and ice. It has interchangeable liners, which you can buy separately, so you can have better insulation during winter.
It is expensive, the most from all shoes mentioned here, but it is truly comfortable and well-made. It has great traction so you can be confident that you aren’t going to slip while stepping on wet, inclined ground.
It is waterproof as well, but, as per the reviews, it takes a long time to dry if you got it soaked. That’s not exactly a good thing if you are in an icy environment.
The Arc’teryx Bora Mid GTX Backpacking Boot for women looks as amazing as it feels. Those who have tried it swear by its comfort. It is also offers solid traction, as well as waterproof and breathable protection. It claims that it is as comfortable as an approach shoe (a hybrid type of footwear that can be used in hiking), and as secure as a mountaineering boot.
It is still a lot more expensive than any other women’s shoes mentioned here but substantially cheaper than the men’s boot from the same brand above. And like the Bora2, it is also uncertain if it’s made in Canada, US or somewhere in Asia.
Here are the pros and cons of the Bora Mid GTX Backapacking Boot for Women:
|Solid traction||Liner is not removable|
The specs, as listed by Amazon:
- Combines the awesome agility of an approach shoe with the stability and protection of a mountaineering boot
- Keeping the science of the foot in mind, these were constructed with durability, breathability, and efficiency for safe traveling in even the harshest of environments
- The 2-layer stretch nylon mono-mesh Stretch GORE-TEX laminate to 100 of liner height uses minimal seams and adhesive to secure the membrane, which in doing so maximizes its waterproof and breathable surface areas
- The non-removable liner is lightweight and made from a stretch nylon mono-mesh that will not conform or absorb moisture, ideal for quick-drying summer comfort
- The interior liner is separate, which provides an adaptive fit that allows for incredible breathability and weather protection
The Bora Mid GTX may be a great backpacking boot, but it is not as flawless as the Bora2. It also has great outsole grip, also is lightweight and breathable, and it is just as comfortable. It is also very expensive. But that’s where their similarities end.
Unlike the Bora2, the Bora Mid GTX does not have a removable liner. That could either go as pro or con, depending on how the users prefer it. Unfortunately, most of the users think it’s a negative. It is good for use in cold environments, but you will have limited mobility on harsh snowy and icy grounds because it is not crampon compatible.
Mike’s Top Choice
The price of the product doesn’t always translate to quality. However, in this list compiled by Mike’s Gear Reviews, the most expensive product is also the best.
According to our brief hiking boot reviews, the Arc’Teryx Men’s Bora2 Mid Hiking Boot is the best hiking boots for men. It has all the features that you need for a backpacking adventure in cold-climate environments. It is quite pricey, but you are getting quality, and that should be enough pull.
For women, the North Face Women’s Hedgehog Fastpack GTX is your best bet. It is hard-wearing and comfortable at the same time. It should also be fine for light winter. It’s not the cheapest item here, but it’s also not unreasonably expensive. It runs smaller than size, but again, you can remedy that by just ordering a half a size bigger than your usual. Apart from that, there’s not much negative you can say about this hiking shoe.
If you aren’t going on extreme backpacking in the winter, though, you would find the Adidas Men’s Rockadia Trail M Running Shoe quite adequate. It’s not waterproof but that’s just the worst thing you can say about it. It’s best for a light trail run on a warm day.
The Adidas Outdoor Women’s AX2 is also a solid choice for women going on a laid-back hiking. You would perhaps need extra cushion for the insole, but its quality is unquestionable. It could even be the best hiking boots from this list if not for a few, trivial cons.
Hiking shoes – The basics
You can’t just wear flip-flops or your everyday work shoes when you are walking across the country, in the woods, or up a steep trail. You need something that will both protect your feet and allow you to perform the best you can. You need to wear decent footwear, if not one of the best hiking boots you can find.
Unless you can definitely say that you are a more efficient hiker while barefoot, you need to wear hiking shoes for your own safety… You wouldn’t be walking on flat and smooth cement when you hike; you would be walking on uneven terrains, steep uphill and downhill, rocky landscapes, snowy grounds and muddy plains. You simply need to wear the right footwear.
A little tip, though: hiking shoes are different from backpacking shoes or trail runners. These are often mistaken for one another because they do look similar to each other. Also, hiking, backpacking and trail running are related sports.
First, let’s quickly define hiking, backpacking and trail running.
Hiking can be called a leisure activity that is just a light trek. A walk in the woods for a few hours can be called hiking.
Backpacking is a more strenuous hike. It requires full gears because it’s likely you are going on an overnight trip. You need the whole enchilada: survival gears, sleeping bags, cooking stoves etc.
Trail running, to describe simply, is like hiking but with light running. It also takes place on hiking trails but requires faster speed than hiking.
In the description above, you can surmise that you may need different footwear for each activity. You need a lighter pair of shoes when you are trail running, and perhaps a pair with thicker soles for backpacking and hiking.
Hiking boots generally have rigid high ankle collar to protect the wearer’s ankles.
They also have thicker materials and tougher soles.
They are good for cold-weather hikes and have good traction. Most, not all, boast of their waterproof qualities, which can be crucial in certain environments.
They are heavier and bulkier than trail runners, but they are—or should be—durable.
The best hiking shoes of today also have light and breathable fabric on top so you get the best of both worlds. They would need to be broken in for a period of time first, though, because they would otherwise hurt a lot and cause blisters.
Trail runners are lightweight because you would need them for your fast-paced trek.
They usually have breathable materials so your feet stay dry.
As they also have lighter and thinner materials, they are best used during hot-weather hikes. The great thing about trail runners is that they require little to no break-in period. However, they have less support for the feet and they are not as durable as hiking boots. You might find that you need to replace them more often.
Backpacking boots, meanwhile, are more similar to hiking boots in such a way that they are heavier and bulkier than trail runners. However, in terms of which ones are heavier between hiking and backpacking shoes, the winner would be the latter. The best backpacking boots in the market today are made of full-grain leather and have tougher soles. They are generally stiff and have less breathable materials. They have high-cut ankles so they can offer strong support and protection. Hiking boots, in contrast, are usually only mid-cut.
While waterproofing features are just optional for hiking shoes, they are required for backpacking boots.
Backing and hiking boots are often used interchangeably because they can be used in both activities, as hikers and backpackers can attest. And with the technology many brands have incorporated in their footwear these days, their differences have become less noticeable.
Some may even argue that backpacking boots are just another type of hiking shoes. Other types include mountaineering boots and light hiking boots, but these are topics for another day.
In the end, though, it all comes down to how brands market their product and how you prefer your footwear.
Some of the best hiking boots of today try to be the ultimate all-around footwear that you can use in any activity. So don’t be surprised if a product is marketed as a trail runner but has the flexible features of a backpacking pair. More importantly, if you feel that the features of a pair of backpacking boots is best suited for your feet during a hike, then go for it. You might need the extra protection.
Hiking Boots & Hiking Shoes – Why Would You Need Them?
That said, you still need the proper footwear while hiking.
You might like the lightness that a pair of trail runner offers, but it wouldn’t be enough protection for you. Low-cut trail runners leave your ankles exposed to the environments and extreme wear. You may need the ankle protection while trekking a slightly inclined ground, or while tramping through inches-deep mud. And because trail runners have softer soles than hiking boots, you will feel every sharp rock and other pressure points that you step onto while hiking.
Trail runners may be commonly more comfortable than hiking and backpacking shoes, but they also wear faster. So your pair might just last you a few miles.
Similarly, you would need a lighter pair if you are trail running, and so your backpacking shoes would most likely bruise your feet the instant you try running in them.
What to look for in Hiking Shoes and Boots
Whether you are looking for the best hiking shoes or just a decent pair of backpacking boots, keep in mind a few things to look for in a quality pair. A bad pair can be detrimental to your survival outdoors. It can hurt your feet, rendering you unable to function and perform at your best. You may find the most beautiful-looking hiking shoes and probably the most expensive, too, but if they don’t possess the right criteria, then you are better off just wearing a generic pair.
Here are the things that you should look for if you are doing hiking boot reviews:
- Where it is made
Anything you buy for yourself, even if it’s not a wearable item, it must be a perfect fit for you. If you are thinking of buying a new bed sheet, it should be the right fit for your bed. Or if you are buying a dinner table set, it should go with the rest of the room’s furniture, or at least be the right size for the room.
This “fit” rule is even more crucial when buying something that you wear on your body. And for hiking or backpacking boots, this isn’t negotiable. During hiking or backpacking, the most abused parts of your body are your feet. If your feet aren’t comfortable, or worse, battered during the activity because your shoes aren’t the right fit, you won’t be comfortable on the trail.
You might not even complete the trail.
If you can, test a pair before buying them.
The hiking shoes should be snug enough around the balls and instep of your foot but still feel a bit loose that you can flex your foot forward without taking too much effort. Your toes should have enough wiggle room so they won’t get pinched and so you can spread them for stability. The whole of your feet must be snugly sheathed, with the heels of your feet staying in place.
Hiking and backpacking boots usually need to be broken in, so keep this in mind when you have a new pair. They may feel tighter than its size at first. You can wear thick socks and then walk around in your new boots around the house first for several hours to break them in.
Construction / Component
When choosing the best hiking boots, you have a lot of factors to consider, but how you prefer your pair weighs a lot of factor.
You could be presented with a high-cut pair of boots because it’s ideal for a backpacking adventure, but you feel more comfortable with a low-cut, so that’s one component to consider. Nevertheless, how the shoes are constructed is obviously just as important. It could be a matter of how long you can use your hiking boots because they give in from wear and tear. It could also be a matter of what your outdoor adventure calls for.
Your shoes could be missing a midsole, which could make trekking to a rugged terrain less agonizing.
That said, consider the construction of the shoes you are buying. For the height of the boots, is it a low-cut, mid-cut or high-cut? Low-cut is usually for trail runners. It doesn’t offer great stability and it is preferred for non-challenging day hikes. Mid-cut hiking boots offer ankle protection, as well as stability. The cut is great for semi-rugged terrains. However, for sharp terrains, you would need high-cut boots. High-cut offers better ankle support and stability, which you would need when you are on an uphill climb.
Hiking boots have layers of soles. At the very bottom is the outsole.
Outsoles are made in varying degrees of hardness. The harder the sole, the longer it will last. However, it usually has poorer traction on hard surfaces. Softer outsoles provide better cushioning for the feet and better grip. Outsoles have lug patterns, which are bumps that improve grip. The deeper and thicker the lug patterns are, the better the traction they offer.
Next to outsoles are the shanks, which are either stiff plastic or metal plates inserted between the outsole and midsole to provide stability. A midsole, meanwhile, is a shock-absorbing material between the shank and insoles.
Insoles, or footbeds, are the bottom part of the inside of the shoe. It is where the foot rests on and which provides arch support. Some if the best hiking boots have removable insoles so you can have them washed and dried separately from the boots, or you can have them replaced in case you want customized orthotics.
There is also the tongue, which is the flap that covers the inlet and which prevents water, dirt and others can’t enter the inside of the boots.
Upper is simply the upper part of the boots. It protects the feet from the elements while allowing it to “breathe” at the same time.
Apart from the components and construction, the materials used can make or break the footwear, literally. Poor materials clearly won’t make the best hiking boots, but which ones are considered poor and which ones are ideal materials?
It’s not as simple as picking expensive versus cheap materials. It’s not always about the price. In this case, it is also about the function of the boots. Some hiking shoes are meant for lightweight trips, while others are for extended, rougher adventures. And in each case, different materials are best used.
For the upper boot part, the most common choices include full-grain leather, split-grain leather, and synthetics.
- Full-grain leather is generally used for backpacking boots because it is durable and resistant to water and abrasion. Because it is heavier, it is also not as breathable as other materials. It also requires long period of break-in time. Nubuck leather is another type of full-grain leather that has been buffed. It’s more flexible than non-buffed full-grain leather, but it still requires ample time for breaking in.
- Split-grain leather is more lightweight and less expensive. It is a breathable material that isn’t as resistant to water and abrasion as full-grain leather is. Because hiking boots made from split-grain leather are not billed as waterproof, they usually include waterproof liners. Split-grain is normally made in combination with nylon.
- Synthetic materials include polyester and nylon. They are less expensive than full-grain and split-grain leathers, as well as lighter. They have less break-in period time requirement, and are fast-drying. However, synthetic materials are also the least durable. They show signs of wear quicker than leather as well.
For the midsole, the most common materials are ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA), polyurethane (PU), and thermoplastic rubber (TPR).
EVA is a lighter and less expensive material. It is also flexible and resilient but can still offer firm support. It provides good ground insulation.
PU in footwear is usually flexible in structure. As a midsole, it offers good ground insulation. It offers decent shock absorption and cushioning. It is a durable material but light in weight.
TPR offers good traction and great cold track resistance. It does look and feel rubbery simply because it is rubber. It is also lightweight and low-cost.
Some of the best hiking boots have waterproof lining because when you are hiking or backpacking, it’s almost guaranteed that you would step onto swamp or shallow flood. If the shoes’ upper is made from full-grain leather, chances are they are already water-resistant. But if not, the hiking boots likely have a waterproof lining material, like Gore-Tex.
Waterproof, by the way, isn’t absolute in any brand or product. No matter how aggressive the shoes’ advertisement for this feature, it can only be “waterproof” to an extent.
It may be waterproof but only for a brief time.
It can prevent water from permeating the material, and therefore protecting your feet from getting wet, but if you are submerged in water for a long period of time, water can eventually seep into the material.
Apart from waterproof features, some hiking boots may also have moisture-absorbing linings to keep feet dry from sweat. The problem with shoes that have waterproof and/or absorbent linings is that they aren’t breathable anymore because of the extra layer. T
he best backpacking boots, however, ideally have all those features plus some more. It could be tricky to incorporate all features in one pair of footwear, but it’s not rare. Many hiking footwear brands are trying to give consumers as many features as possible.
Another feature is the addition of a crampon, which improves mobility on snow and ice.
It isn’t necessarily a part of hiking boots, but it can be attached to them. So if you are fond of backpacking on icy terrains, choose the best backpacking boots that are crampon compatible so you can attach one if you need to.
Where It’s Made
The country wherein the best hiking boots are made is up for debate. However, many hikers and backpackers still believe it matters where their boots are made in.
Some countries have reputation of practicing mass production, which could affect their quality output. The place of production can also help consumers determine if they are getting authentic or bootlegged products. If a brand has no manufacturing plant in a given country, then the product that you are buying should not be made there.