Whether you’re venturing out into the mountains, the desert, or your nearest park, the best hiking boots are the most important piece of gear you’ll need to hit the trails safely and comfortably. While it may be tempting to grab that old pair of running shoes in your closet and go for a hike, they probably won’t cut it. Hiking boots, on the other hand, are designed for the challenges of the trail: The high top design provides structured ankle support in uneven terrain, rigid toe caps protect your feet from rocks, and the lugged soles grip the ground to keep you upright in all trail conditions.

After extensive testing on hiking trails and rock scrambles in the Wasatch mountain range, I found that the Scarpa Rush Mid GTX (which comes in a men’s and women’s version) was the best overall hiking boot because of its versatile yet lightweight design. Likewise, the Adidas Terrex Skychaser 2.0 Mid (which comes in a men’s and women’s version, too) won the best value hiking boot pick because it provides structured ankle support at a more approachable price point than traditional backpacking boots.

Nothing can end a hike faster than blistered, tired feet, so it’s important to take care of them with the proper gear and invest in a great pair of hiking boots (as well as a great daypack or hiking backpack). The best hiking boots for you should provide traction, support and comfort for all-day use whether you’re hiking an urban trail or backpacking deep into the wilderness. In the last decade, brands have been using design innovations to expand hiking boots offerings. Today, you can find anything from lightweight models for fast day hikes to burly, leather boots for off-trail travel.

Here are the best hiking boots I found after testing:

My Expertise

I’ve been advising hikers on what boots to wear since 2015 when I worked as a backpacking guide (which I did until 2020), and I’ve guided multi-day trips in National Parks including Yosemite, Yellowstone, Olympic and the North Cascades. As a guide, I hiked—and instructed guests on—terrain from root-covered trails to the smooth granite slabs of Half Dome. Before and during trips, I recommended boots to guests, advised them on break-in protocol, and assessed footwear issues on the trail.

For this piece, I interviewed multiple experts, including the team at AllTrails. I spoke to Senior Operations Manager Manon Nectoux and Head of Social Media Stephanie Asper, both of whom have spent hundreds of hours in hiking boots for work research and recreation. I also consulted with Joe Liefer, the Divisional Merchandise Manager for Hard Goods at Christy Sports, who determines the hiking boot inventory for their retail stores and previously led the company’s boot fitting educational programs for staff.

How I Tested The Best Hiking Boots

Hikers need boots that can perform well on the trail and stand up to miles of hard use, so we established testing criteria to determine which boots would serve you best for hiking and backpacking.

I wore the boots in different environments and climates to see how they performed. I tested the hiking boots in the late spring and summer of 2022 in various terrain in the Wasatch Mountains outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. I hiked on smooth trails, up and down steep, loose dirt, across granite boulder fields, and through creeks. Each day, temperatures reached between 75 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit, so I was able to see how breathable these boots were in summer hiking conditions.

To see how boots performed with and without heavy weight, I tested each pair of hiking boots with both a light day pack and a 30-pound backpacking pack. With the weight of a heavy pack on your back, cushioning and support are even more important to stay comfortable and safe on your hike. However, boots should also feel light and agile when you’re only carrying a day pack.

As I was hiking, I evaluated each hiking boot on the following criteria:

  • Comfort: I tested how the boots felt on my feet and whether or not they created pressure points. I also considered if they needed an extensive break-in period or were comfortable right out of the box.
  • Traction: I took each boot on both solid rock and loose dirt to test whether or not the shoe provided good traction in all scenarios.
  • Stability: I looked at the ankle height and tested how much support they provided when fully laced. I also tested if the cushion provided decent comfort without sacrificing stability. (In general, more cushion creates a less stable shoe.)
  • Breathability: I tested these boots in hot summer temperatures to determine whether or not my feet stayed cool and if the shoe materials were breathable. I wore the same socks for each hike to try to keep the conditions consistent.
  • Waterproofing: I took each pair of boots through an ankle-deep creek crossing to see how the waterproof coating and lining performed, and all of the boots did well during a three-minute exposure to water. I considered whether the waterproofing prevented leakage and if the ankle and tongue design prevented water from getting in through the top of the boot when splashed with water.

When selecting the winners, I also considered each boot’s weight and aesthetics. When looking at weight, I considered the intended use of the boot. For example, a backpacking boot can—and should—be heavier than a day hiking boot. Lastly, while aesthetics shouldn’t be the main deciding factor when you’re searching for hiking boots, you may consider them if you plan to wear your hiking boots around town, as well as on the trail.

Best Overall Hiking Boots

A Versatile Choice For Day Hikers And Backpackers Alike

Scarpa Rush Mid GTX Hiking Boots

Style: Men | Women | Weight: 13.1 oz | Cuff Height: Mid | Waterproofing: Gore-Tex Extended Comfort | Size Range: Men’s 8 – 15, Women’s 5 – 10 | Colors: Black (Ottanio), Blue (Fiesta)

These boots top our list of the best hiking boots because they’re the most versatile option that will suit both day hikers and backpackers who don’t need high ankle support or protection. They provide the benefits of both trail running shoes and hiking boots in one package: they’re lightweight and breathable, yet also offer adequate cushion for carrying a heavy pack. The dual-density EVA midsole is a cushy foam that absorbs impact every time you step, taking stress off of your joints. The Rush Mid is also equipped with a TPU heel frame, an interior component that keeps your foot stable on uneven terrain. All this to say, these boots feel solid whether you’re hiking on an established trail or a rocky ridgeline.

Scarpa’s Sock-Fit construction adds to this stability because you can tighten down the laces to achieve a secure fit around the mid- and forefoot. “If a hiker is looking to go through really rocky terrain, we want them in a snug-fitting boot because they’re going to need that support,” explained Liefer, the Divisional Merchandise Manager for Hard Goods at Christy Sports.

Unlike leather hiking boots which stretch over time and require a lengthy break-in period, the Rush Mid is comfortable right out of the box because they are made of synthetic materials that retain their shape. The cushion around the ankle creates a V shape that hugs your ankle bone, but it tapers around the tongue insert to create a smoother shape with fewer pressure points. And, while Gore-Tex lining is not known for being breathable, my feet stayed cool while hiking the White Pine Trail in Little Cottonwood Canyon in summer conditions.

Scarpa also equipped this shoe with its Free-dome Interactive Kinetic System (IKS) outsole, which the brand uses on its trail runners for superior traction. This technology consists of zones that absorb shock as your foot lands, allowing more of the tread to grip the ground. And it does not disappoint: it’s sticky on slippery rocks and confidence-inspiring when hiking down steep, loose trails. (Not surprising, as Scarpa creates high-performance climbing and mountaineering shoes.)

But for hikers looking for a rugged backpacking boot that will last close to a decade, this might not be your top choice. The lightweight design feels great while hiking but it reduces durability because the synthetic materials wear down faster than leather. The rubber on the sole is soft to enhance traction through surface area contact, but it will also wear down faster than a stiffer boot. Additionally, while this shoe provides adequate ankle support, the mid-height design lacks structure and does not provide the same support as a high-top backpacking boot like the Salomon Quest 4. And, while I might be nit-picking here, the design is sleek but does not stand out among the rest, and I would love to see them offered in more colorways.

These shoes are backed by a one-year warranty for any manufacturer defects, but we recommend buying them from a retailer like REI which has a generous one-year return policy for all used gear.

Best For:

  • Day hikers who want a versatile, lightweight shoe for everyday use
  • Backpackers who are comfortable carrying a heavy pack and don’t need extra ankle support
  • Hikers looking for a shoe that will perform well in technical, rocky terrain and on scrambles

Skip If:

  • You need a heavy-duty boot with a rigid structure and high-top ankle support.

Best Value Hiking Boots

Running Shoe-Inspired Comfort

Adidas Terrex Skychaser 2 Mid Gore-Tex Hiking Shoes

Style: Men | Women | Weight: 14 oz | Cuff Height: Mid | Waterproofing: Gore-Tex Membrane | Size Range: Men’s 6 – 15, Women’s 5 – 11 | Colors: Black, Blue

These ultra-comfortable hiking boots are a great value for both day hiking and backpacking because they are roomy, responsive and supportive—while maintaining the classic Adidas aesthetic in either a black or bright blue colorway. While they retail for $200, you can usually find them on sale through various retailers for as low as $120. Even though Adidas is known as a running and streetwear company, their Terrex trail line delivered in our tests.

This shoe packs in a lot of features and quality for your money, like the Boost cushioning technology. Adidas incorporated this cushioned midsole, which you can see in most of the brand’s running shoes, into its hiking boot to create a shoe that you can wear for long days on the trail. On a six-mile hike along Wolverine Ridge in Little Cottonwood Canyon in Utah, this boot provided enough cushion that I didn’t feel sharp rocks underfoot and my feet felt fresh when I got back to the trailhead.

The Skychaser 2 Mids have a higher, stiffer ankle collar which offers more support than the Scarpas, so they are a better lightweight backpacking boot for hikers with ankle instability issues. The ankle cuff is stiff and supportive, yet the back of the cuff has a stretchy, neoprene-esque panel which makes it both easier to get on and off and minimizes pressure on your Achilles tendon. While the soles have less aggressive lugs (the tread pattern on the bottom of the boot) than the Scarpas or Salomons, they feel sticky and agile when traversing rocks or roots. I wore them while crossing a boulder field, and the rubber sole kept me from slipping. They also have a solid toe plate to protect your digits from rocks on the trail.

These boots offer the best fit we found for a range of foot widths and sizes. For those with wide feet, they are very comfortable because they are roomy across the midfoot. But they’re also great for those with narrow feet because the bottom laces expand across the forefoot so you can tighten them down for a more snug fit. The extra width through the ball of the foot makes it easy to pair these with thick hiking socks. However, while they are spacious and comfortable, they don’t skimp on agility. The tapered toe box is well designed so you can achieve more precise footwork on the trail.

Similar to Scarpa, Adidas provides a one-year warranty for manufacturer defects, like stitching or adhesives, and you can return them within 30 days of purchase in their original packaging. However, we recommend buying from a retailer, like REI, with a better return policy.

Best For:

  • Hikers and backpackers seeking structured ankle support from a lightweight hiking boot
  • People with wide feet

Skip If:

  • You need a narrow fit through the midfoot
  • You’re looking for a classic leather hiking boot with ultimate durability

Best Backpacking Boots

Comfortable, Supportive, Breathable And Waterproof

Style: Men | Women | Weight: 18.8 oz | Cuff Height: High | Waterproofing: Gore-Tex Membrane | Size Range: Men’s 7 – 14, Women’s 5 – 11 | Colors: Tan, Olive Green, Dark Grey, Slate Blue, Brown

A serious backpacking boot without the heavy weight of its fully-leather counterparts, the Salomon Quest 4 GTX, made with both synthetic fabric and Nubuck leather, is about as perfect as a hiking boot gets. It checked every box in our tests: it’s comfortable, supportive, breathable, has excellent traction and is water resistant. I also love the style of this boot: it’s both modern and classic, sleek and rugged.

It’s also packed with extra design features, like the pull tab on the tongue that makes it easy to take on and off. The durable outsole provides enough structure that you can travel uphill with ease but enough flexibility that you can maintain your full range of motion when you’re hiking, scrambling or climbing over logs. The Active Support bands let you cinch the laces tight to achieve a more secure fit at the forefoot, and the rugged yet lightweight toe cap protects your feet no matter the terrain you find yourself in.

Best of all, this boot is one of the most versatile we tested for different styles of hiking. It’s extremely comfortable for such a high-performing backpacking boot because of the EVA foam cushioning and shoe shape. The rounded toe box is just the right width—narrow enough to remain agile but wide enough to let your toes wiggle. When I wore these with a backpacking pack, my feet appreciated the extra room while cruising on smooth trails, but I could quickly tighten down the laces in steeper trail sections to hold my foot in place. If you’re a dedicated backpacker who tackles tough terrain and you only buy one hiking boot for all your adventures, make it this one.

Salomon has one of the best warranties of the bunch: the brand covers manufacturing defects up to two years from the purchase date.

Best For:

  • Backpackers looking for a classic, supportive hiking boot
  • Day hikers who need premium ankle support

Skip If:

  • You prefer to hike on easy to moderate trails without rough terrain—these will be overkill

Best Lightweight Hiking Boots

Innovative Design With An Extra-Wide Toe Box

Style: Men | Women | Weight: 12 oz | Cuff Height: Mid | Waterproofing: eVent Waterproof Membrane | Size Range: Men’s 7 – 16, Women’s 5 – 12 | Colors: Maroon, Black, Grey/Yellow, Grey/Blue

If you’re looking for a shoe with a barely-there feel, the Altra Lone Peak All-Wthr Mids are one of the best lightweight hiking boots we tested. They’re ideal for day hikers, people with wide feet, and lightweight backpackers. However, for new backpackers or those with joint issues, they may not have enough cushion to support a heavy pack.

Altra, a relatively new brand founded in 2011, has a dedicated following because of a few key features. First, the zero-drop design, called Balanced Cushioning, eliminates padded cushioning in the heel so the sole of your foot rests flat in the shoe. Additionally, the FootShape Fit shape creates an extra-wide toe box so your toes can splay out in a more natural position as your foot makes contact with the ground.

This shoe was one of my favorites because it has soft, squishy cushioning and is incredibly breathable. Usually, after hiking in the heat, my feet feel swollen and sore, and the sides of my shoes compress my toes and forefoot. But after miles of hiking in 90-degree temps with these boots, my feet felt unstoppable. This is due to the wide toe box which allows for foot swell and the breathable eVent waterproof liner. This fabric, which is a competitor to Gore-Tex, is silky, comfortable and employs a venting technology that is breathable even when it’s dry. (It’s also slightly more waterproof with a water column rating of 30,000mm versus Gore-Tex’s 28,000mm.) When I tested it in an ankle-deep creek crossing, water shed off the shoe and my feet stayed dry inside.

Because of their lighter weight and unique design, hiking in these shoes is a very different experience than a traditional hiking boot, and they won’t work for everyone. I primarily hike in low-top trail runners and have very stable ankles, so the Altras work for me. As mentioned above, most hiking boots have added cushioning in the heel. But Altra’s zero-drop cushioning keeps your foot flat, requiring flexibility in the calf and Achilles to reach the insole. If you’re prone to calf tightness like me, this can be a difficult adjustment. When I bought a pair of Altra trail running shoes with the same design, the REI staff member recommended introducing this shoe into rotation slowly, only wearing it for one hike a week for the first few weeks until my calves got accustomed to the low profile.

These boots are best for day or ultralight hikes, not long backpacking trips. The Lone Peak All Wthr does not have a toe cap and offers the least protection of all the shoes on this list. When you put on a heavy pack, the cushioning does not stand up to the weight and you may feel your body is compressed. But for day hikers or ultralight backpackers, you won’t find another shoe as light or comfortable.

Overall, this boot is a great option for casual day hikers looking for maximum comfort and those seeking lightweight footwear. I’m a big fan of the maroon color and the high-top sneaker design, so it will definitely be in regular rotation in my wardrobe, even for urban hikes and town walks.

If you plan to buy this shoe, keep in mind that Lone Peaks tend to run small, so size up. I tested a size 8 compared to a 7.5 in other brands and models, and the fit was comparable. Altra also has a generous warranty for 300 to 500 miles on any manufacturing defects.

Best For:

  • Day hikers who frequent well-maintained trails
  • Ounce-counter backpackers and thru-hikers who want a comfortable trail shoe
  • Hikers in hot climates who also need a waterproof shoe
  • Hikers with wide feet

Skip If:

  • You need the structure and support of a traditional hiking boot
  • You frequently hike in rocky terrain—the wide toe box feels sloppy

Products Tested

Footwear is deeply personal, and your hiking boot choice will depend on your hiking style and foot shape. While these boots didn’t top our list, they could be a great option for other hikers. Here are the rest of the boots that we tested:

  • La Sportiva Trango Tech GTX (Men | Women): While I loved these boots, they’re too limited for most hikers. They’re stiff-soled with sticky rubber, so they excel in technical terrain. However, they’re overbuilt, heavy, and hot for everyday hiking because they fill a unique gap between hiking boots and serious mountaineering boots. They’re worth considering for backpacking trips with a lot of alpine mileage or non-winter mountaineering trips.
  • Merrell Moab 3 (Men | Women): While these shoes are frequently cited by many as a great budget option, I found them to be uncomfortable. They also lacked the traction that I’d like to see in a hiking boot. They have more cushion on the lateral foot edge than under the interior and ball of the foot, so they would be great for hikers who struggle with oversupination (rolling the ankle outward) but they feel unbalanced if you tend to overpronate (roll the ankle inward).
  • Danner Mountain Light (Men | Women): These boots are beautiful—they’re made from lightly-tanned leather with red laces—but the mid-height design doesn’t provide much ankle support and the toe box is incredibly narrow. They are the most expensive on the list because they are hand-built in Portland, but will last for years of moderate use. However, the fit may be too restricting unless you have very narrow feet.
  • Zamberlan Vioz GTX (Men | Women): These leather backpacking boots were decently comfortable but as soon as I started hiking, my feet felt like they were on fire. They feel supportive while carrying weight, but the lack of breathability restricts their usability. If you primarily hike in cooler climates and need a durable, waterproof boot, they might be a good option.
  • North Face Vectiv Exploris FutureLight (Men | Women): This lightweight option features a rocker sole that is designed to propel you forward with each step. While this design was innovative and the shoe was breathable, it didn’t stand out among the competition and was less comfortable for wide feet than the other lightweight shoes that we tested.

How To Choose A Hiking Boot

Day Hiking Versus Backpacking

Before investing in boots, consider what type of hiking you prefer. If you’re a casual day hiker, you should prioritize comfort over technical features. “You won’t be carrying as much weight and you’ll want something that is really comfortable so you can enjoy being out there,” explained Liefer. Liefer advised that for casual to moderate day hikes, you may want to find a soft-soled boot that’s a bit more flexible than a traditional backpacking boot.

However, if you plan to backpack with a heavy pack, you should consider a more durable boot with cushioning and high ankle support, especially if you are prone to joint issues. The amount of support you need is a personal decision, so give some thought to your body’s needs and comfort level on rocky or technical terrain. Some experienced backpackers like to wear low-top trail running shoes because they are light and breathable but lack support, while others need a stiff cuff to prevent their ankles from rolling.


When it comes to hiking boots, comfort is paramount. If you’re comfortable, you can enjoy your journey without worrying about returning home before serious blisters form. “You’ll stay out on your feet longer because you’ll have the basic support based on your foot shape and type,” said Liefer.

Look for a shoe that is designed to fit your foot type based on your foot width, arch, and overall shape. “I am very tall with a size 11 foot,” said Asper, the head of social media at AllTrails, who usually wears a women’s shoe size. “But I wanted something that would fit me really well. So, I bought the men’s version because it fits my foot a lot better than the women’s model.” Some models, like the Merrell Moab 3 and Zamberlan Vioz, come in both regular and wide fits.

Other shoes, like the Adidas Terrex Skychaser 2 and the Salomon Quest 4, are more adjustable than others so they can fit a variety of foot shapes. Both of these models have a wider footbed but also integrate a lace system with forefoot and midfoot bands so you can achieve a more precise fit.

When you get your shoes, try them on and walk around your house to ensure they’re comfortable and provide enough support before taking them on the trail.


Ankle support and overall boot stability are crucial aspects to consider when buying a boot. In general, the higher the ankle cuff, the more support it will provide. “Some customers have a very rigid foot and ankle joint, so they might be able to handle a low or mid-cut height boot,” said Liefer. “While other guests might need a lot of support up and through the ankle, perhaps due to a past injury or because they’re going on a backpacking trip and will be carrying an additional 40 pounds on their back.”

But it’s not just about the height of the boot: You’ll also want to consider how stiff the ankle collar is. Some, like on Merrell Moab 3, have a soft and pliable cuff that molds around ankle, while others, like the Adidas Terrex Skychaser, are more rigid to hold the joint in place. “Often when I go on hikes that are rocky, I know I want double the support,” explained Asper. “That way, even if my ankle rolls a bit, it’s not going to go all the way because it’s enclosed in a pretty stiff shaft.”

While a structured boot will provide ankle support, it will also protect the rest of your joints, like the knees and hips. “I’ve hurt my knees and ankles quite a bit,” said Asper, “So I need to have a boot that is supportive and comfortable for the longevity of my body.”


Different climates and terrain require different hiking boot designs and materials. Synthetic materials will be best if you’re hiking in hot environments, because they are typically more breathable than leather. Leather is great for durability, but it is not breathable, so should be avoided in hot temperatures. Alternatively, waterproof coating and liners—like Gore-Tex and eVent—are beneficial if you’re hiking in damp, rainy climates. Most boots come in both a waterproof version (often designated as GTX if they use the Gore-tex waterproofing) and a non-waterproof version.

But it’s not all about waterproofing—flexible upper can also be beneficial if you’ll be scrambling on rocks. “For a scramble [which requires the use of your hands to maneuver through rocky terrain], nylon might be a bit more flexible for your foot, so you’re not going to overextend yourself,” said Asper.


The sole of the shoe may not be your first priority when choosing hiking boots, but as you start to move from beginner to intermediate hikes, you’ll want a sole with adequate traction to keep you from slipping on roots, rocks and loose dirt. When it comes to the sole, you have two considerations: the stiffness of the rubber and the tread pattern.

The stiffness of the rubber is important because a stiffer sole will make it easier to walk up steep terrain. “Say you’re walking up the stairs and you can only get the tip of your toe on the step platform,” said Liefer. “You don’t want that sole to be super soft and flex or you’ll feel unstable.”

However, if you’re on a hiking route that is primarily smooth, rounded rock—like the Half Dome hike in Yosemite—you would want a softer-soled boot so your foot could flex to get the most surface area in contact with the rock.

You should also consider tread, which is the pattern on the bottom of the sole. “The tread of your hiking boot is really important, especially if you’re hiking in mud so you can make sure you’re getting a really good grip,” said Nectoux, the senior operations manager at AllTrails. Think about trail running shoes compared to road running shoes: Deeper lugs will provide more grip in mud and on rocks, while a smoother sole won’t offer as much traction but may be more comfortable on well-graded paths.

Design Features

If you’re a serious hiker, you may want to consider all the extra bells and whistles on a hiking boot. Here are some key features to look out for:

  • Toe caps are rigid piece of materials that wrap around the toe box to protect the front of your foot from impact against rocks or hard objects.
  • Pull tabs on either the tongue or back of the ankle help to get the shoe on and off. This is more important the higher the boot cut.
  • Rock plates are inserts layered between the midsole and outsole that protect the sole of your foot from any sharp objects on the trail.
  • Boot height is also a crucial design element to consider beyond its stability benefits. “When I’m in the desert, I wear a high-top boot so I can keep sand out of my shoes,” said Nectoux. So, you should also keep in mind any unique hiking terrain, like the sand dunes in Death Valley or along the Lost Coast in California.
  • Crampon compatibility is important if you’re considering mountaineering in your boots. While all of the boots on this list are compatible with microspikes, only the La Sportiva Trango Tech GTX will work with crampons because of their notched heel design.

Return Policy And Warranty

When you’re buying online, shop with retailers that have generous return policies so you can find a boot that works for you. REI offers a 365-day return policy for members and a 90-day policy for non-members, even if you’ve worn the boot on the trail. Many retailers accept returns as long as the product is unused in its original packaging. “When I bought my last pair of boots, I ordered two sizes to try on at home,” said Nectoux. “I kept the pair that fit me and returned the other pair because the store had a great return policy.”

“Don’t be afraid to return them if you have to,” stressed Asper. “Hiking boots are an expensive piece of gear and you want them to last for a really long time.” Just be sure to keep the original packaging so you can get a refund. When you buy online, it can be helpful to buy from a retailer, like REI or Christy Sports, that has physical stores where you can make returns.

Many brands also offer warranties for manufacturer defects, usually for one to two years for footwear. Although a warranty provides protection for your purchase, it is also a sign that the brand stands by the quality of its products.

What Does A Hiking Boot Do?

A hiking boot provides structure, support and traction to help you walk on unpaved terrain. Hiking boots feature mid- or high-ankle cuffs to support the ankle joint and prevent injury. One of the main differences between hiking boots and standard boots is the treaded rubber soles that grip rocks and dirt to prevent you from slipping on uneven, loose terrain. Unlike traditional shoes, hiking boots also keep dirt, debris and moisture at bay, allowing you to enjoy your journey without suffering from dirty, wet feet.

Are Hiking Shoes The Same As Hiking Boots?

Hiking shoes refer to low-top hiking-specific footwear, while boots refer to both mid and high-top designs that provide more ankle support and stability than low-top hiking shoes. Hiking boots are ideal for people with ankle instability or backpackers who are carrying heavy weight. However, advances in hiking boot technology have led to more versatile boots that combine the benefits of trail running shoes with the support of traditional boots. Lightweight boots, like the Scarpa Rush Mid GTX and the Altra Lone Peak All Wthr Mids, fill this niche.

Do I Need Waterproof Hiking Boots?

Waterproof boots will keep your feet dry in most conditions, including during rain storms and through shallow creek crossings (although we do not recommend wearing boots in deeper water crossings.) Liefer mentions that he wears waterproof boots every time he goes for a hike. “If you’re walking in knee-high grass in the morning, your feet are going to get wet because there’s dew in that grass,” he explained. “If you walk through a field, your feet are going to be just as wet as if you crossed a creek.” If your feet get wet during a long hike and can’t dry out properly, you risk blisters, foot discomfort, and—in worst-case scenarios—trench foot.

But remember that waterproof boots don’t prevent all moisture from getting inside. If your feet do get wet, they will not soon dry out in waterproof hiking boots. The design is also significantly less breathable than their non-waterproof counterparts. If you primarily hike in hot, dry environments, you may want to forego the Gore-Tex membrane altogether.

How Long Do Hiking Boots Last?

The lifespan of your hiking boots will depend on the quality and durability of the materials they are crafted with, as well as how much you hike and the type of terrain you encounter. On average, “good-quality boots last 3 to 5 years for most hikers,” explained Liefer. “Avid hikers or guides who hike daily will get a new pair every year.” As a general rule of thumb, lightweight hiking boots will wear out faster than heavier, more durable boots. However, as Liefer explained, “although it was previously thought that leather lasted longer than synthetic, that no longer necessarily applies. The method of construction and quality of the materials plays a larger role in the life of your hiking boots. Many of the best boots use a combination of synthetic and leather today.”

No matter what type of hiking boots you buy, you can extend their lifespan by taking proper care of them. Clean and dry them after use, but avoid storing them in direct sunlight or next to a heater. Some signs that you should replace your boots include worn treads that prevent you from getting adequate traction or packed down cushioning that leads to foot or ankle pain.

Do You Have to Wear Hiking Boots To Go Hiking?

Although hiking boots will keep your feet safe and supported on the trail, they aren’t crucial for all forms of hiking. Many hikers prefer trail running shoes because they’re lightweight and breathable, but they do not offer the same ankle support as a boot.

On well-graded park paths and rail trails, any walking shoe will do. However, once you begin hiking on terrain with rocks, roots and steeper grades, you’ll want a hiking-specific shoe for its sticky sole and deep lugs. Overall, the footwear you choose will depend on the type of hike—the more difficult the trail, the more you’ll need the technical features of a hiking boot.

Should You Buy Hiking Shoes A Size Bigger?

This depends: Many avid hikers suggest sizing up a half size for hiking shoes. While it’s good to have a bit of breathing room, too much extra space will cause your feet to move around, especially on downhill sections of trail. If your boots are too big, your heel might rise with each step, causing friction and blisters on the back of your ankle. Meanwhile, your toes might jam against the foot box with each step, which also makes for an obvious source of discomfort.

Additionally, each boot is designed with a different fit in mind. Some boots, like the Scarpa Rush, are meant to offer a snug fit for agility on the trail, while boots like the Salomon Quest have a wider fit so you can wear thicker socks and allow for foot swelling while on the trail. The best way to know if a hiking boot will fit is to try it on with the socks intend to wear while hiking. When ordering online, Nectoux suggests you “compare the sizing to a brand you know fits you well.”

The Anatomy Of A Hiking Boot

To make an informed decision when shopping for hiking boots, it’s worth understanding the basic components of a hiking boot. The following elements can be found on most any hiking boot or shoe:


The upper is the flexible material that wraps around the top of your foot and connects to the sole of the shoe to the top. Hiking boot uppers are made from different materials, but most are made with leather, synthetics or a combination of the two.

Leather hiking boots, like the Zamberlan Vioz GTX, are known for their durability and waterproof capabilities. Although many leather boots now incorporate Gore-Tex, leather offers natural water-resistance even when the coating wear away, though it takes a few test hikes to “break in” because the fibers stretch out over time. Eventually, the leather upper molds nicely to fit your foot. (But you should definitely break them in before a backpacking trip unless you want to deal with blisters.) The only downsides to leather are its heavier weight and less breathable structure when compared modern synthetic materials.

Fully synthetic hiking boots, like the Scarpa Rush GTX, are lightweight, breathable and can often be worn right out of the box with a minimal break-in period. But, they’re not as durable as traditional leather boots. Some manufacturers design boots with a blend of leather and synthetic materials, like the Salomon Quest 4. This cuts down on weight while balancing breathability and durability.


The midsole of a boot is the layer sandwiched between the outsole and the insole (where the sole of your foot rests). This region is home to all of the squishy, forgiving cushioning that keeps your feet feeling fresh mile after mile. The two main types of midsoles you’ll encounter are ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) and polyurethane (PU).

EVA cushioning is known for its soft, responsive feel, like that of running shoes. It’s incredibly lightweight and comfortable but because of its plushness, it lacks durability. PU, on the other hand, is stiffer and heavier but has greater durability and is more capable under heavier loads.


The outsole is the rubber bottom of the shoe that makes direct contact with the ground. The outsole should be slightly sticky and durable, and it should feature a lugged pattern to provide grip as you traverse various terrain. While all outsoles feature some form of rubberized material, it’s worth noting that not all outsoles are created equal. Some brands, like Salomon, create their own high-quality rubber outsoles, while others outsource soles from reputable brands like Vibram.

Outsoles can also vary in flexibility: some are soft while others are more rigid, and one outsole will offer different benefits and drawbacks from that of another. Soft rubber is preferred when gripping rock and other surfaces because it flexes with your foot and allows more of the shoe to make contact with the ground. Rigid rubber is far more durable and will protect your feet more effectively. Backpacking and mountaineer boots generally feature stiffer rubber, while day hiking and approach shoes (those designed for rocky trails or approaches) feature softer rubber.

Toe Protection

Most modern hiking boots use toe caps or rubber rands to provide additional protection about the front of the foot. Because it’s likely that you’ll strike your foot against a root or rock, manufacturers reinforce this region to ensure your toes remain in one piece. Different boots offer varying degrees of toe protection, so be sure to consider this feature when investing in new footwear. Some boots, like the Salomon Quest 4, offer advanced toe protection that wraps around the front of the foot while others, like the Altra Lone Peak All-Wthr Mid, offer less protection to save weight. The amount of protection you need is a matter of preference, but be sure to reflect on the environments you often hike in when weighing your options. Rocky, rooted trails demand more protection, while smooth, level terrain requires less.

Lacing Systems

We often overlook laces because every hiking boot has them, but these simple pieces of fabric play an important role when the time comes to dial in comfort and fit. If the laces have a tendency to loosen over time, you’ll find yourself constantly fiddling with them or worse, suffering from hot spots and blisters. But if they’re locked in place, you can hike to your heart’s content.

Generally speaking, we don’t recommend hiking in boots that employ speed laces because it can be harder to establish a comfortable, customized fit, especially over long distances. Instead, we recommend looking for boots that employ locking hooks that act as anchor points to improve comfort and performance. The four boots we recommend in this guide use locking hooks.

More Hiking Gear We Love

Whether you’re looking for trail runners, sandals or tents or pads, here are some roundups to help you shop:

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