Staff Picks: Best Hiking Boots

Published on Author John

From day hikes to long-distance excursions, our experts pick the hiking boots that go the distance.

Finding a hiking boot is easy. Finding the perfect hiking boot is much harder. We’ll make it a little easier for you to avoid blisters and enjoy the adventure. We polled our staff to find their favorite hiking boots for day hiking, overnighters and long-haul treks.

Hiking Boots 101:

There are three types of hiking boots: hiking shoes or trail runners, day hiking boots and backpacking boots. Hiking shoes or trail runners are low-cut models with flexible midsoles. Day hiking boots come in mid- and high-cut models, flex easily and require little break-in time. Backpacking boots are designed to carry heavier loads on multi-day trips, with a high cut and stiffer midsoles.

Components:

There are a few important pieces to consider when you’re buying a boot. You’ll want to know what the uppers, midsoles, and outsoles are made of before you choose your pair. Click through the tabs below to gain a little insight into the differences:

The type of material used for the top of your hiking boot makes a difference in performance, and you should pick a material based on the type of hiking you’re planning on doing. Waterproof options are ideal for rainy climates while full-grain leather can mold to your feet. Choose from full-grain leather, split-grain leather, nubuck leather, synthetics, waterproof membranes, vegan options and insulated materials. Learn more.

The midsole provides cushioning and absorbs shock. EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) and polyurethane are the most common materials. EVA is lighter, cushier and less expensive, great for the majority of short- to mid-range trips. Polyurethane is firmer and more durable, best for backpacking and mountaineering boots.

Rubber is used on all hiking boot outsoles. Hard outsoles are great for durability, but can feel slick if you are off trail. Lugs are the traction-giving bumps on the outsole. You’ll want deep, thick lugs for backpacking. Widely spaced lugs offer nice traction and also shed mud easily. Heel breaks are the defined heel zone between the forefoot and arch, which reduces your chance of sliding during tough descents.

 

Read on for our staff members’ top picks, plus their best tips for choosing the boot that’s best for you.

Day Hiking Boots

Look for low-cut models with more flex in the midsole—for comfort over shorter distances. Some ultralight backpackers even look to trail running shoes for long-distance treks.

Oboz Sawtooth Low Hiking Shoes – Women’s

Your lightweight, breathable hiker.       Oboz Sawtooth Low

“Oboz found an excellent fit niche within the world of hiking shoes. They are wider in the toe box but narrower in the heel. The insole included with Oboz hiking shoes provides excellent arch support, more than most hiking shoes. The Sawtooth hiking shoe is a versatile shoe great for tackling longer day hikes, like Half Dome in Yosemite National Park, as well as shorter day hikes. This version offers very breathable mesh uppers, but a waterproof style is also available.” – Jesse Fujikawa, San Francisco, staff member since 2006

Even cooler? This company, based in Bozeman, Montana, has fewer than 20 employees and has planted over 1.5 million trees over the last decade, representative of each pair of shoes made. Learn more.

  • Leather and textile uppers for breathable protection
  • Dual-density EVA midsoles and nylon shanks provide cushioning and support
  • Rubber outsoles shed mud, offer intense traction and maintain stability
  • 1 lb. 11.6 oz.
  • Sizes Women’s 6 to 11
  • $110

Shop Women’s

Merrell Moab 2 Vent Low Hiking Shoes – Men’s

Moab stands for Mother-Of-All-Boots.Merrell Moab 2 Vent Low

“This is my best all-around lightweight hiking shoe. It is a hiking shoe that can take you from pavement to trail. I put these on and know I can walk in downtown Breckenridge, Colorado, and go to the light trails surrounding the town.” – Dennis E. Beard II, Colorado Springs, staff member since 2012

  • Performance suede leather and mesh uppers for ventilation
  • EVA midsoles for stability and comfort
  • Vibram® TC5+ outsoles have a 5mm lug depth for grip
  • 1 lb. 15 oz.
  • Sizes Men’s 7 to 15, and wide options
  • $100

Shop Men’s


Check your insole. Boots should be snug everywhere except the very front, where you should have about a half inch (1.27 cm) between the end of your toes and the end of the boots. Remove the factory insole and stand on it. Look for a visible finger’s width of the insole past your toes.  


Mid Distance Hiking and Backpacking Boots 

From longer day hikes to shorter backpacking trips, these boots can take you a little farther into the backcountry. These options are flexible and don’t require a long break-in time, making them best for covering mid distances with lighter packs.

La Sportiva Trango TRK GTX – Women’s

Technical, waterproof performance in a lightweight, all-synthetic design.La Sportiva Trango TRK GTX Hiking Boots - Women's

“These boots are amazing for those with narrow feet. They are lightweight and comfortable when day hiking in Yosemite or backpacking up Mt. Whitney. My feet stayed dry while hiking in a downpour, and they’re breathable enough to be comfortable, but a little warm in 80 degree weather. I feel secure hiking in them while scrambling over rocks, fallen trees and down steep trails.” – Jesse Fujikawa

Jesse recommends them most for weekend backpacking trips and longer day hikes. The stiffer feel of these hikers makes for ample support and long-lasting wear.

  • Waterproof Gore-Tex® lined abrasion-resistant polyester uppers
  • Dual-density EVA
  • Vibram® Mulaz outsoles with technical edging platforms and aggressive rear lugs
  • 2 lbs. 0.3 oz.
  • Sizes Women’s 5.5 to 11
  • $220

Shop Women’s

Merrell Moab 2 Mid WP – Women’s & Men’s

For waterproof, supportive protection.Merrell Moab 2 Mid WP

“This is our best-selling Merrell shoe to date, and I can see why. The air cushion effect, created from an actual hole in the heel, gives an extra spring to my step. The heel brake helps add stability and the price point is attractive, as well. At $130, this boot has proven to be versatile, from short to long-distance moderate day hikes in northern New Mexico.” – Allison M. Hill, Santa Fe, staff member since 2016

“These boots were very comfortable right out of the box and did not require any break-in time. The uppers are very soft and flexible, which made it feel like I was in a pair of athletic shoes. The traction provided by the Vibram® rubber outsole gave me complete confidence while hiking at the Guadalupe Mountains National Park.” – Angel Martinez, Dallas, staff member since 2011

  • Performance suede leather and mesh uppers
  • EVA midsoles for stability and comfort
  • Vibram® TC5+ outsoles have a 5mm lug depth for grip
  • Women’s: 1 lb. 16 oz.; Men’s: 2 lbs. 4 oz.
  • Sizes Women’s 5 to 11.5; Men’s 7 to 15, and wide options
  • $130

Shop Women’sShop Men’s


Test your boots on an incline. While walking up, make sure there is no movement in the heel. Walking down, stomp your feet hard. Ideally, the boot will hold your foot in place and your toes will not touch the front—not even a little bit. If they do and the laces are snug, the boots are either too wide or too short. Try the next size up unless you feel your foot slipping inside the boot. 


Long Distance Backpacking Boots

These shoes have the support you need for longer treks. Made with a high cut for excellent ankle support and stiffer midsoles than lighter footwear options, these are created for on- and off-trail travel.

Lowa Renegade GTX Mid – Women’s

An award-winning option, lauded by REI staffers.Lowa Renegade GTX Mid Hiking Boots - Women's

“All you have to do to love these boots, is get them on your feet. They are ready to go right out of the box, with virtually no break in. The PU sole works great to absorb shock, and supports your foot for a long day hike or backpacking trip in any weather. I broke mine in on the Mist Trail in Yosemite National Park. Even straight up all those wet stairs, I felt secure, with no blisters. I loved them so much I got a pair in purple to go with my wedding dress this past June!” – Nikki Zisner, Manhattan Beach, staff member since 2012

  • Waterproof, breathable Gore-Tex® liners keep your feet dry
  • Water-repellent nubuck leather uppers feature Cordura® nylon ankle bands for flexibility
  • Full-length nylon shanks offer great support; polyurethane midsoles absorb shock
  • Vibram® Evo rubber outsoles deliver excellent traction on a wide variety of terrain
  • 2 lbs. 2 oz.
  • Sizes Women’s 5 to 11
  • $230

Shop Women’s

La Sportiva Nucleo High GTX – Women’s & Men’s

Excellent grip, breathability and waterproof comfort.La Sportiva Nucleo High GTX

“The Nucleo High received a 2017 Gear of the Year award from Outside magazine. It’s not only a well-awarded, good-looking boot, but also sturdy, breathable and lightweight. The boot wraps around your foot in a comforting way, much like a slipper. The leather is soft, yet durable. The Gore-Tex® Surround Technology features waterproof protections that wrap around the shoe, and the nano-cell inserts allow air to escape from the bottom of the boot.” – Allison M. Hill

“These boots provided enough ankle support without any extra bulk. They are lightweight, flexible and offer excellent traction on wet rocks, thanks to Vibram® Nano rubber outsoles. The Impact Break System at the heel made descending steep sections effortless.” – Angel Martinez

  • Protective, durable nubuck leather uppers with breathable nano-cell inserts
  • EVA midsoles
  • Vibram® Nano rubber outsoles with Impact Brake System provide traction and grip
  • Women’s: 1 lbs. 10.9 oz.; Men’s: 2 lbs. 1.6 oz.
  • Sizes Women’s 5.5 to 11; Men’s 6 to 13.5
  • $199

Shop Women’sShop Men’s


Fit your foot, not your size. Each manufacturer’s fit will be different, that goes for fit of shoe/boots purpose, as well. You may need one size for your work shoe and another size all together for your hiking boot. Don’t purchase your boots from an online store without being fitted first. If you order from us online, pick them up from your store and have us assess the fit of your boot.


Overall Top Pick

With votes of confidence across the board from our staff members of all genders, this boot wins hearts and soles everywhere it tromps. They provide ankle stability, great traction and breathable comfort—plus enough versatility to match the needs of nearly every hiker.

Vasque Breeze III Mid GTX – Women’s & Men’s

Legendary performance.Vasque Breeze III Mid GTX Hiking Boots - Women's

“The Breeze was the first backpacking boot that I ever bought. They broke in pretty quickly on day hikes in the Angeles National Forest, before taking me up Half Dome in Yosemite and down into the Grand Canyon with an overnight pack. They have the perfect ankle height that holds you in place on those wobbly rocks and awesome traction. The newest model is even lighter and more breathable than ever before!” – Nikki Zisner

“This is my best value hiking boot. With the Vibram® outsoles and the Gore-Tex® membrane, this boot stands out for its price point. The opening can be laced to fit a variety of feet and its light weight also gives it a leg up (pun intended).” – Susan Syster         

“The combination of Gore-Tex® lining and air mesh uppers kept my feet dry in rainy conditions, yet offered breathability on warm dry days. There’s a perfect balance of lightweight and durable components, plus awesome grip from the Vibram® rubber outsoles.” – Angel Martinez

  • Exclusive to REI
  • Protective, durable nubuck leather uppers with breathable nano-cell inserts
  • EVA midsoles
  • Vibram® Nano rubber outsoles with Impact Brake System provide traction and grip
  • Women’s: 1 lbs. 10.9 oz.; Men’s: 2 lbs. 1.6 oz.
  • Sizes Women’s 5.5 to 11; Men’s 6 to 13.5
  • $199

Shop Women’sShop Men’s


Lace them up. When trying on the shoe, properly snug up and tie the laces. You may miss an important red flag because your shoes aren’t properly attached to your feet during the fitting process. Your REI staff member can offer helpful lacing techniques. You can also learn how to lace hiking boots in our Expert Advice article.


Go-To Trail Runner

Yes, we know trail runners aren’t boots, but they’re rad none the less. Day hikers are enjoying these shoes for easier trails and many ultralight backpackers are turning to lightweighter trail runners to cover long distances with only the essentials. What’s more, you can move faster in them and they dry more quickly than other shoes when wet.

La Sportiva Ultra Raptor – Women’s

Stability plus comfort.La Sportiva Ultra Raptor Trail-Running Shoes - Women's

“These are my go-to shoes for a day or an overnight backpacking trip. They have excellent grip and stability that gave me peace of mind while hiking up the chained section of Angels Landing in Zion National Park. The nylon shank provides excellent support if you happen to be carrying a light backpacking pack or find yourself on rough trails. The [reinforcements on the] lacing harness help maintain a snug fit that is excellent for narrow feet.” – Jesse Fujikawa

  • Nylon air mesh and synthetic leather uppers are highly breathable and lightweight
  • Compression-molded EVA midsoles offer shock absorption and ample cushioning
  • Sticky rubber outsoles feature the Impact Brake System™ to improve traction
  • 1 lb. 5 oz.
  • Sizes Women’s 6 to 10
  • $130

Shop Women’s


Socks are important. Your boots are part of a footwear system. Make sure to add correct socks for you adventure. They should aid in performance and wick moisture from your feet. Learn how to choose the right socks for your adventure.

 

Learn more about how to choose hiking boots

 

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