Hiking boots are critical to your comfort and performance on the trail, but this no longer means a stiff and burly model that will weigh you down. The trend is toward lighter materials that still offer decent support, and waterproof boots are the most popular by far (some are offered in a non-waterproof version for hiking in hot or dry climates). Our picks for the best hiking boots of 2023 below are broken down into three categories: lightweight boots for day hiking and fastpacking, midweight options that work well for most backpacking trips, and heavyweights for rough terrain or hauling a large load. For more information, see the comparison table and buying advice below the picks. If you prefer to go even lighter and faster, check out our article on the best hiking shoes.
- Best Overall Hiking Boot: Salomon X Ultra 4 Mid GTX
- Best Budget Hiking Boot: Merrell Moab 3 Mid WP
- Best Backpacking Boot for Rough Terrain: Salomon Quest 4 GTX
- Best Max-Cushioned Hiking Boot: Hoka Anacapa Mid GTX
- Best for Fast-and-Light Mountain Adventures: La Sportiva Ultra Raptor II
Best Overall Hiking Boot
Weight: 1 lb. 14 oz.
Waterproof: Yes (Gore-Tex)
What we like: Fast, light, flexible, and reasonably priced.
What we don’t: Thinner underfoot and less stable than the Salomon Quest 4 below.
Built like a trail running shoe but with added ankle support and protection, the Salomon X Ultra 4 Mid is our favorite all-around hiking boot for 2023. Updated last spring with a sleeker upper and revised chassis, the latest version of the boot offers an impressive combination of comfort and low weight—all while retaining solid toe protection, stability, and well-rounded traction. You also get Salomon build quality, which we’ve found tends to stand up to more abuse on the trail than other boots in this weight and price range. For fast-moving day hikers, lightweight backpackers, and even thru-hikers, we heartily recommend the X Ultra 4 Mid.
Naturally, there are a few compromises that come with the X Ultra’s lightweight construction. The most significant is the lack of underfoot protection, which is thinner than the burly Salomon Quest 4 and max-cushioned HOKA Anacapa below. In addition, the X Ultra is fairly flexible and doesn’t sit as high on the ankle as the Quest, so it isn’t as supportive over technical terrain or when carrying a heavy pack. However, it beats out other ultralight options like the Altra Lone Peak in durability, protection, and support. And a final bonus: The X Ultra is one of the few lightweight designs that is made in wide sizes... Read in-depth review
See the Men's X Ultra 4 Mid GTX See the Women's X Ultra 4 Mid GTX
Best Budget Hiking Boot
Weight: 2 lb. 0.7 oz.
Waterproof: Yes (M Select DRY)
What we like: Standout price for a proven and extremely comfortable day hiking boot.
What we don’t: Lacks the nimble feel of many modern alternatives.
For day hikers and lightweight backpackers who stick mostly to maintained trails, our top value pick is the Merrell Moab 3. What makes this boot so popular is its foot-friendly, comfortable feel and reliable trail chops at such a reasonable price. For $150, you get great cushioning underfoot and around the collar, trusty Vibram outsoles, and Merrell’s in-house waterproof membrane (an upgraded Gore-Tex model is available for $170). The Moab was updated to the "3" last year, but they didn't fuss much with the proven design. Notable changes include greater use of recycled fabrics—including the mesh lining and laces—and slightly more aggressive traction.
What are the downsides of the Moab 3 Mid WP? Compared to some of the pricier models on this list, the boot is lacking in support for carrying a heavy load or scrambling on rocky or rough trails. Second, it feels heavier than its actual weight: All the cushioning and thick materials make the boot feel clunky and dated when compared to a nimble and modern alternative like the X Ultra 4 above or HOKA's Anacapa below. But for a significant discount, the Moab offers the right mix of comfort and performance for many day and weekend adventures. And if you prefer a non-waterproof design, the standard Moab 3 Mid is an equally great value at $130... Read in-depth review
See the Men's Merrell Moab 3 See the Women's Merrell Moab 3
Best Backpacking Boot for Rough Terrain
Weight: 2 lb. 14.2 oz.
Waterproof: Yes (Gore-Tex)
What we like: Tough, protective, and supportive yet comfortable; excellent lacing system.
What we don't: Pretty heavy and overkill for most day hiking.
If you’re in the market for a tough boot for serious day hiking and backpacking, Salomon’s Quest 4 GTX is the whole package. The fourth generation of the line features a top-notch performance fit, aggressive stance, and one of our all-time favorite lacing systems—the eyelets at the base of the ankle do an excellent job locking your heel in place. In addition, the latest model (released in 2021) has a modernized yet very durable upper, and the cushioning and protection underfoot impressed us on rocky trails, when hauling a heavy load, and on high-mileage days. Taken together, the Quest is a burly boot that truly excels in the backcountry.
Despite trimming off about an ounce per boot from the previous version (comparing men’s size 9 models that we tested), the Quest 4 still sits solidly in our midweight category. It’s ideal for demanding hikes and backpacking trips that feature steep climbs and descents and off-trail adventuring while carrying a full pack. But the boot is a bit overbuilt for people that don’t need the extra protection or want to move fast and light on well-maintained trails. Those folks will be better off with a lighter and nimbler boot option like Salomon's own X Ultra 4 Mid GTX above... Read in-depth review
See the Men's Salomon Quest 4 GTX See the Women's Salomon Quest 4 GTX
Best Max-Cushioned Hiking Boot
Weight: 2 lb. 0 oz.
Waterproof: Yes (Gore-Tex)
What we like: Extremely cushioned and comfortable, great lacing system and fit, and smooth ride.
What we don’t: Some outsole durability issues and polarizing looks
Well, oh well, hiking boots sure are getting more fun of late. Popular running shoe brand Hoka, which is known for its lightweight and cushioned designs, has made a serious push in the hiking footwear market. Our favorite from their lineup is the Anacapa Mid, which features Hoka's well-known springy midsole, a rockered shape for a smooth ride on the trail, and a beefed-up construction that includes durable nubuck leather and a Gore-Tex waterproof liner. In testing the Anacapa on a backpacking trip in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains, we were pleased with its fast-moving personality that nicely mixes a trail runner-like feel with plenty of protection and a very secure over-the-ankle lacing system.
Our main concern with the Anacapa is durability and, more specifically, the longevity of its outsole. The majority of the tread is quality Vibram rubber, but Hoka incorporated large sections of blown rubber in the middle of the design. Blown rubber is common on road running footwear and is almost foam-like in feel. As a result, our pair has already received pretty significant damage from rocky trail use. To be fair, we took the boots on a rather ambitious ridgeline scramble, but the outsole still strikes us as a weakness in the build. All told, if you stick mostly to established trails and prioritize cushy comfort and a nimble feel, the Anacapa is well worth a try. Note: Hoka recently released the Anacapa 2, which features a number of sustainability-minded upgrades. We’re in the process of testing the updated model and will report back with our impressions... Read in-depth review
See the Men's Hoka Anacapa Mid GTX See the Women's Hoka Anacapa Mid
Best for Fast-and-Light Mountain Adventures
Weight: 2 lb. 1.2 oz.
Waterproof: Yes (Gore-Tex)
What we like: Excellent stability and durability in a light, trail runner-like design.
What we don’t: Shallow lugs are prone to slippage in mud.
La Sportiva’s Ultra Raptor trail runner has earned legendary status amongst the mountain running community, beloved for its high levels of protection, durability, and stability alongside a lightweight, trail-runner-esque build. The Mid GTX here simply raises the design, adding an over-the-ankle collar and waterproof membrane. The result is a piece of footwear that lands somewhere in between mid-height trail runner and hiking boot, taking with it the best features from both worlds. For fast-and-light mountain-goers, the Ultra Raptor II Mid GTX is a nimble and quick alternative to boots like the Quest 4 above and Zodiac Plus below.
On the flip side, it helps to compare this boot to a design like the Altra Lone Peak Hiker 2 below. Checking in just a few ounces heavier, the Ultra Raptor offers noticeably more protection around the foot with a generous toe cap and TPU heel, and the rigid shank goes a long way to improve stability. What’s more, the FriXion XF 2.0 sole is stiff and designed to grip well to rock (unfortunately traction falls short in mud). It’s true that the Altra will offer a more cushioned and sprightly feel on well-established trails, and its wide toe box provides relief on high-mileage days. But if you’re looking for a similarly lightweight boot for tackling more technical terrain, the Ultra Raptor Mid GTX is a standout choice... Read in-depth review
See the Men's La Sportiva Ultra Raptor II See the Women's La Sportiva Ultra Raptor II
Best of the Rest
Weight: 2 lb. 7 oz.
Waterproof: Yes (Gore-Tex)
What we like: A classic backpacking choice; surprisingly low weight for the comfort and support.
What we don’t: Not the toughest construction.
The Lowa Renegade has the look and feel of a traditional hiking boot at an impressively low weight. Unlike the more aggressive and modern Quest above, the leather Renegade offers better isolation from the ground and feels more planted and sturdy. It does give up a little of the fun factor and performance fit of the Quest, but the tradeoff is worth it for those carrying a heavy pack or wanting more underfoot protection from rocky trails.
Lowa kept the weight down in part by moving some of the stabilizing duties to a very effective external polyurethane frame. This makes the Renegade perform like a true backpacking boot while weighing less than 2.5 pounds. Further, its leather upper is relatively thin, which saves ounces and reduces break-in time. The sacrifice of all this lightening is a lack of long-term durability—high-mileage users have reported needing a new pair nearly every year. But they keep coming back for the comfortable feel and the right balance of weight and support. And it’s easy to find a good fit as the Renegade is made in narrow, regular, and wide widths... Read in-depth review
See the Men's Lowa Renegade See the Women's Lowa Renegade
Weight: 2 lb. 2.6 oz.
Waterproof: Yes (Gore-Tex)
What we like: Well built, extremely comfortable, and tough.
What we don't: Pricey and not quite as supportive as some of the heavier boots on this list.
When we think of Asolo, the first thing that comes to mind is a classic, leather hiking boot like their TPS 520 GV Evo. The sleeker and more modern Falcon GV, however, represents where hiking footwear clearly is headed: a little less weight and support than a traditional hiking boot, but with serious technical chops. We took the Falcon on and off trail over the course of a rugged trek in Patagonia and came away impressed. It's well built, extremely comfortable right out of the box, and can handle just about anything you can throw at it.
The biggest downside in choosing the Asolo Falcon GV is stability, which we would rate as moderate. If you're used to a high-cut boot with tons of support, the Falcon isn't it. But when laced up tight, we wore it backpacking with a relatively heavy load over all types of terrain from scree fields and glaciers to steep rocky passes with few issues. For those who don't need the ultimate levels of stability and want a lightweight and comfortable do-all boot for everything from day hiking to serious backpacking, we love the Falcon. Note: Asolo just released the updated Falcon Evo GV, which means you can snag the original Falcon for a good discount at the time of publishing... Read in-depth review
See the Men's Asolo Falcon GV See the Women's Asolo Falcon GV
Weight: 1 lb. 15.4 oz.
Waterproof: Yes (GTX)
What we like: Looks do deceive—this is a capable and great-fitting boot.
What we don’t: Durability concerns with the exposed midsole.
It’s always fun to be pleasantly surprised by a piece of gear, and Adidas’ Terrex Free Hiker 2 did just that. At first glance—or fifth—the boot looks nothing like an outdoor-ready piece. But after sliding them on, our impression quickly changed. The Free Hiker has a sock-like fit that’s super comfortable with great cushioning on the tongue and collar, and Adidas’ soft Boost midsole does a great job limiting foot fatigue even on demanding days. Throughout our testing, traction also proved to be excellent on everything from wet rock to loose dirt thanks to the tacky Continental rubber and aggressive lug shape. Competitively lightweight (just over 2 lb. for our men’s size 9) and packing a proven Gore-Tex liner, the Free Hiker is a great addition to the market.
The Terrex Free Hiker 2 was a fantastic technical day hiking option on a recent trip to Patagonia, but it does come with some limitations. The most polarizing is its looks, which land in the love-it-or-hate-it category. A second more substantive concern is durability. Specifically, Adidas opted to leave its Boost foam midsole quite exposed along the outside of the boot. After just a few hikes—albeit on very rocky terrain that involved a fair amount of scrambling and squeezing between boulders—pieces of that exposed midsole are starting to fall off in small chunks. It’s a big enough downside to drop the boot a little on our list, but as a fun day hiker or for lightweight backpacking, the Adidas is well worth a look... Read in-depth review
See the Men's Adidas Free Hiker 2 See the Women's Adidas Free Hiker 2
Weight: 1 lb. 15 oz.
Waterproof: Yes (Gore-Tex)
What we like: A great blend of an approach shoe and lightweight hiking boot.
What we don’t: Some may prefer a little more stiffness and support.
La Sportiva’s TX approach shoe line has long been a sneaky favorite among the hiking crowd—the low-top TX4 has been on our hiking shoe round-up for years. But they leaned into the hiking and backpacking space even more with the new TX Hike Mid Leather. Like its approach shoe sibling, the TX Hike has a relatively roomy toe box and prioritizes comfort. We wore the boot out of the box on the Ptarmigan Traverse—a classic multi-day mountain traverse in Washington’s Glacier Peak Wilderness—and were happy with the mix of grip, agility, toughness, and cushioning. It was clear this was the boot’s ideal application: hauling a pack through rocky and technical cross-country terrain.
What about the TX Hike’s downsides? For those who like a stiff and highly supportive setup, the boot may not do the trick. The leather upper grew softer and more flexible with use, and the collar sits lower than alternatives like the Salewa Mountain Trainer Lite below. The flip side to the broken-in feel is the boot has standout comfort—we had zero complaints even at the end of the trip. Additionally, as we touched on above, it fits noticeably wide, which could be a problem for those with narrow and/or low-profile feet (it worked great for us, though). All told, we think La Sportiva cooked up another winner in the TX Hike, blending approach shoe performance with the added height and comfort of a hiking boot... Read in-depth review
See the Men's La Sportiva TX Hike See the Women's La Sportiva TX Hike
Weight: 2 lb. 2.8 oz.
Waterproof: Yes (Keen.Dry)
What we like: An affordable option with a tough leather upper.
What we don’t: Not very secure on rough trails.
With great out-of-the-box comfort, the Keen Targhee line is an extremely popular boot for day hiking and easy to moderate backpacking trips. The Targhee III has been on the market for a while now—it was released back fall of 2017—but it offers solid bang for your buck. The boot has a surprisingly tough build with a good-sized toe cap and leather upper, moderately wide fit, and a collar height that sits just high enough on the ankle to provide decent rollover protection. Keep in mind that the Targhee III still is a clear step down in stability and ankle support from a boot like the Lowa Renegade above, but it offers sufficient stability and grip for most subalpine adventures.
The Targhee’s main competitor is the Merrell Moab 3 above, and both models have been top sellers for years. The Targhee is more durable overall with its full leather construction, but the Moab has more cushioning, keeps you cooler with its mesh-heavy design, and costs $15 less (note: Keen recently lowered the price of the Targhee from $175 to $165, which is a welcome change). The price and comfort differences are still significant enough to give the edge to the Moab on our list, but the Targhee remains a solid choice, and particularly for those with wide feet... Read in-depth review
See the Men's Keen Targhee III WP Mid See the Women's Keen Targhee III WP Mid
Weight: 2 lb. 7.2 oz.
Waterproof: Yes (Gore-Tex)
What we like: Protective, supportive, durable, and impressively agile.
What we don’t: Overbuilt for day hikes on well-maintained trails.
Scarpa’s Rush series of hiking footwear seeks to find the sweet spot between performance and weight savings, running the gamut from trail runner-inspired hiking shoe (the Rush Low) to the TRK GTX here. We recently took the Rush TRK GTX on a trek through the Cordillera Huayhuash in Peru, where the boot traveled with ease across tricky mountain terrain while still maintaining a light and agile feel underfoot. The suede leather upper and rubber toe rand offer top-notch durability and protection, and the sticky SuperGum outsole gets the job done over a wide variety of surfaces. Finally, moisture protection is excellent, with a waterproof/breathable Gore-Tex liner and tall collar to keep you covered during high water crossings.
We used to rank Scarpa’s Zodiac Plus GTX (below) high on this list, but the Rush TRK GTX wins out in most categories. The Rush is noticeably more supple than the Zodiac and features a roomy toe box (promoting great out-of-the-box and all-day comfort), offers softer cushioning underfoot, and is $100 cheaper to boot. For all but the most aggressive mountain terrain, it’s by far the more approachable design. That said, the Rush is still overbuilt for easy trails, especially compared to many of the lightweight designs here. But if you’re headed above treeline with a heavy pack, the Rush TRK GTX is well worth a look. For those sticking to more gentle terrain, check out Scarpa’s lighter and nimbler Rush Mid 2 GTX... Read in-depth review
See the Men's Scarpa Rush TRK GTX See the Women's Scarpa Rush TRK GTX
Weight: 1 lb. 9.6 oz.
What we like: The comfort and mobility of a trail running shoe with added durability and support.
What we don’t: Roomy fit and zero-drop design feel sloppy on technical terrain.
Altra’s Lone Peak trail running shoes have developed a serious following among thru-hikers, making the streamlined boot version an intriguing concept. Combining an ankle-height design with the Lone Peak’s trademark wide toe box, generous cushioning, and zero-drop last, the Hiker 2 offers instant comfort (we experienced no break-in period) alongside a bit of extra support and coverage. Further, at 1 pound 9.6 ounces, it’s far and away the lightest boot here, which is a game changer for high-mileage days. We’ll admit that we were initially skeptical about the hiking-boot-meets-trail-runner design, but we found the Lone Peak Hiker 2 to be a surprisingly capable piece and consider it a great lightweight option for those who stick to the trail.
However, as a more serious backcountry boot, the Lone Peak Hiker 2 has a number of compromises. For us, the design showed its weaknesses while backpacking in Patagonia—on off-camber terrain, the roomy fit was sloppy and hard to trust, and the toe protection fell far short. What’s more, the zero-drop design means the Altra feels more like a mountain slipper than a technical mountain boot, and the ankle protection and support don’t measure up to the taller boots here. But if you’re prone to blisters or unhappy feet, you’d be hard pressed to find a more comfortable boot, and the freshly updated Hiker 2 is impressively durable with a plush suede upper. Compared to Altra’s taller and waterproof Lone Peak ALL-WTHR Mid 2, we appreciate the Hiker 2’s more hardwearing yet lightweight design, and think of it as the better overall option for fair-weather hiking on easy trails... Read in-depth review
See the Men's Altra Lone Peak Hiker 2 See the Women's Altra Lone Peak Hiker 2
Weight: 2 lb. 1.6 oz.
Waterproof: Yes (Gore-Tex Surround)
What we like: Light, pretty tough, and comfortable for backpacking.
What we don’t: Runs narrow (although wide sizes are available) and only moderate levels of support and protection.
La Sportiva’s Nucleo High II GTX is a quintessential modern boot: light and nimble but with enough support for day hiking and most backpacking trips. Its most notable features are the Gore-Tex Surround liner and Nano-Cell technology. In short, Gore-Tex Surround breathes not only out of the top of the foot like a traditional waterproof design, but also through the bottom of the footbed and out the sides. La Sportiva’s Nano-Cell tech is the web-like mesh you see along the sides of the foot. While they give the boot a distinctive look, these cutouts only seem to have a modest impact on breathability.
Where the Nucleo truly differentiates itself from other 2-pound models is durability: The boot has large swaths of leather rather than mesh for scrambling and hiking over rough terrain. You get moderate flexibility from its mid-height design, so it doesn’t require an extensive break-in, and traction is excellent over rock and mud. All told, the Nucleo a nice upgrade in performance and build quality from a boot like the Merrell Moab 3 above, albeit at a substantially higher price. Keep in mind that this boot has a narrow fit, although the good news is that wide sizes are available for both men and women... Read in-depth review
See the Men's La Sportiva Nucleo High II See the Women's Nucleo High II GT
Weight: 2 lb. 6 oz.
Waterproof: Yes (B-Dry)
What we like: Sturdy and supportive for the price; quality insole included.
What we don’t: Feels a bit slow and heavy on the trail.
Based in Bozeman, Montana, Oboz has a reputation for making tough, comfort-first footwear. Our favorite over-the-ankle design from their lineup is the Bridger Mid, which in many ways is a beefed-up version of the Keen Targhee III above. It’s nicely cushioned and protective underfoot, including TPU reinforcements and a nylon shank, but lacks the lightness and flexibility of many modern options. The upside is that the boot is stable and supportive—the leather upper can withstand a lot of abuse, and the midsole reinforcements give the boot a planted feel. For anything from weekend backpacking trips to snowshoeing in the winter, the Bridger Mid Waterproof is a comfortable choice.
What’s not to like with the Oboz Bridger? On the trail, the boot feels slower and heavier than competitors like the Merrell Moab 3 Mid or Keen Targhee III Mid (the Bridger's chunky tread underfoot doesn't help). Further, the in-house B-Dry waterproof membrane makes the boot run warm even in moderate temperatures. For a cheaper option from Oboz, the Sawtooth X is another mid-height boot that has more mesh in the build, but it’s less tough and supportive at a similar weight (although you do save $25 in the process). For those hiking in hot and dry conditions, both the Bridger and Sawtooth are made in non-waterproof versions... Read in-depth review
See the Men's Oboz Bridger Mid WP See the Women's Oboz Bridger Mid WP
Weight: 2 lb. 6.4 oz.
Waterproof: Yes (Gore-Tex)
What we like: Reasonably light but stiff enough for backpacking over rough terrain.
What we don’t: Pricey and overkill for maintained or moderate trails.
For a trek over the harsh terrain of Peru’s Cordillera Huayhuash, we turned to Scarpa’s Zodiac Plus. This boot mixes approach shoe-like traction on rock and boulders with the toughness and stability of a lightweight mountaineering boot, which is quite a combination. Over a brutal 10 days of on and off-trail hiking while shouldering a heavy pack, the Zodiac impressed: The semi-stiff build, high-quality construction, and solid protection provided a lot of confidence on steep climbs and sketchy descents.
Among tough and serious hiking boots, the Zodiac Plus and Salewa Mountain Trainer 2 Mid GTX (the heavier counterpart to the Mountain Trainer Lite outlined below) are two of the best. The Zodiac is more comfortable out of the box, weighs around 4 ounces less for the pair, and is a bit more flexible for covering ground quickly, but the Mountain Trainer’s stiffer build and 360-degree rubber rand offers even better protection in the alpine. Depending on your needs, both are mountain-ready waterproof designs that should get the job done... Read in-depth review
See the Men's Scarpa Zodiac Plus See the Women's Scarpa Zodiac Plus
Weight: 1 lb. 10.5 oz.
Waterproof: Yes (Gore-Tex)
What we like: Lightweight, nimble, and reliable on technical terrain.
What we don’t: 'Tweener height is less protective than most boots; overly simplistic lacing system makes it hard to achieve a secure lock.
Arc’teryx is no stranger to high-performance gear, and their Aerios Mid GTX (previously named the Aerios FL 2 Mid GTX) is case in point. Similar to designs like the Free Hiker and Ultra Raptor above, the Aerios offers a modern take on the hiking boot, with a flexible upper, running-shoe-like outsole, and ample padding for all-day comfort. Tack on a tweener height (you only get one eyelet above the ankle, while the aforementioned boots both have two), and it’s one of the lightest and most nimble boots available. And with substantial sections of TPU over the tightly woven mesh upper, we emerged from our testing very impressed with the Aerios Mid’s durability and protection.
Given its shorter design, the Arc’teryx won’t be a good match for those with ankle issues or who carry particularly heavy loads. Fit-wise, we found the boot to be a lot roomier than Arc’teryx’s traditionally narrow designs, and—to make matters worse—it’s difficult to achieve a consistent and secure lock with the simplified lacing system. In the end, most hikers will want to stick with a more all-around design like the X Ultra 4 Mid GTX above, but those who like to move quickly will appreciate the Aerios’ feather-light build, which nicely toes the line between a hiking boot and shoe. Keep in mind that the Gore-Tex version does overheat in relatively mild temperatures; Arc’teryx also makes a non-waterproof version called the Aerios Aura Mid ($160)... Read in-depth review
See the Men's Arc'teryx Aerios Mid GTX See the Women's Aerios FL 2 Mid GTX
Weight: 2 lb. 7.9 oz.
Waterproof: Yes (Gore-Tex)
What we like: Comfortable and reasonably light for such a capable, alpine-ready boot.
What we don’t: Sacrifices a little protection and coverage; tall stack height takes some getting used to.
Salewa is well known in the mountaineering world for their technical alpine boots, but not everyone needs an exceptionally stiff and burly design. Enter the Mountain Trainer Lite Mid GTX, which takes their classic Mountain Trainer 2 Mid and trims things down for a lighter and more streamlined ride. Importantly, the Lite retains most of the mountain-readiness we love about the standard version but with wider appeal for most recreational hikers: It’s highly comfortable out of the box with a well-cushioned build and soft materials throughout, offers a good mix of flexibility and stability, and provides surprisingly good arch support. Final highlights include a well-executed lacing system that effectively locks down the ankle and back of the foot, climbing-inspired POMOCA outsole, and solid support and durability for covering technical terrain with a full pack—all for a very reasonable 2 pounds 7.9 ounces.
Like most weight-conscious designs, however, the Salewa Mountain Trainer Lite Mid GTX does make some concessions to keep things light. The biggest is protection: While the approach shoe-like rubber toe cap provides decent coverage at the front of the foot, it’s noticeably thinner and less comprehensive than the standard model’s 360-degree design. Medial foot protection (around the inside of the ankle) is also pretty minimal, which led to some rock strikes on steeper and more aggressive inclines, and the lower collar can allow water, snow, and debris to creep in over top. A final downside is the tall stack height (40mm at the heel and 25mm at the forefoot), which takes some getting used to but provides great isolation from harsh ground. In the end, the Mountain Trainer Lite is a relatively niche option with a steep price tag, but it hits a nice middle ground between lightweight, trail runner-inspired designs and more aggressive alpine boots like the Zodiac Plus above... Read in-depth review
See the Men's Salewa Mountain Trainer Lite See the Women's Mountain Trainer Lite
Weight: 2 lb. 4 oz.
Waterproof: Yes (Gore-Tex)
What we like: Classic Danner looks in a lightweight package—now with the option to resole.
What we don’t: Pricey relative to its on-trail performance.
Danner is best known for their throwback, full-leather boots, but their Mountain 600 has struck a chord with the day-hiking crowd. The over-the-ankle design is relatively light, surprisingly flexible underfoot, and has sharp looks with a full-grain leather upper and quality lacing hardware. Recently updated, the boot is now part of Danner’s “recraftable” collection, which allows you to send the 600 Leaf in for a resole after the tread has worn down. Additional upgrades include a new and more sustainable Gore-Tex liner (it’s 45% recycled) and a range of color options that includes some darker designs along with the traditional tan.
If you prioritize out-of-the-box comfort, styling, and everyday versatility, the Mountain 600 Leaf remains a top boot option for day hikes and occasional backpacking. But at $220 and with only moderate levels of support, it’s a bit of a tweener: The Danner can’t hold a candle to the technical performance of the Salomon Quest 4 above, nor is it as light and nimble as modern alternatives like La Sportiva’s Nucleo High II or Ultra Raptor II. But the option to resole and extend the life of a pair of boots is well worth celebrating—and will justify the extra cost for some—and it’s hard not to be smitten with the Danner’s classic looks and all-day comfort.
See the Men's Danner Mountain 600 Leaf See the Women's Danner Mountain 600 Leaf
Weight: 3 lb. 2.4 oz.
Waterproof: Yes (Gore-Tex)
What we like: Beautifully made and absolutely bomber on rough terrain.
What we don’t: Dated design that’s very heavy.
The hiking boot market has been trending away from traditional heavyweight leather designs for years, but there’s still a time and place for these classics. In this category, the Zamberlan Vioz GTX is among the all-time greats: The Italian-made leather construction is gorgeous and built to last, the interior is soft and isolates you amazingly well from a rough trail, and the stiff structure provides reliable support. For long slogs with a serious load or even light mountaineering, the Vioz GTX is a proven choice.
Unfortunately for the Vioz, there is good reason why you see fewer of them on the trail these days. A heavy boot makes it that much harder to cover ground, and at 3 pounds 2.4 ounces, the Vioz weighs more than anything else on this list (and certainly feels like it as the miles add up). In the end, we think even serious backpackers will be better off with a boot like the Salomon Quest 4 above in most cases. But the Vioz remains a favorite among traditionalists who want a truly bomber boot that will be your hiking partner for years (you can even resole its Vibram rubber).
See the Men's Zamberlan Vioz See the Women's Zamberlan Vioz
|Salomon X Ultra 4 Mid GTX||$175||Lightweight||1 lb. 14 oz.||Yes (Gore-Tex)||Leather / textile|
|Merrell Moab 3 Mid WP||$150||Light/mid||2 lb. 0.7 oz.||Yes (M Select)||Leather / mesh|
|Salomon Quest 4 GTX||$230||Mid/heavy||2 lb. 14.2 oz.||Yes (Gore-Tex)||Leather / textile|
|Hoka Anacapa Mid GTX||$185||Lightweight||2 lb. 0 oz.||Yes (Gore-Tex)||Nubuck leather|
|La Sportiva Ultra Raptor II||$199||Lightweight||2 lb. 1.2 oz.||Yes (Gore-Tex)||Synthetic|
|Lowa Renegade GTX Mid||$255||Midweight||2 lb. 7 oz.||Yes (Gore-Tex)||Nubuck leather|
|Asolo Falcon GV||$260||Light/mid||2 lb. 2.6 oz.||Yes (Gore-Tex)||Suede / polyester|
|Adidas Terrex Free Hiker 2||$230||Lightweght||1 lb. 15.4 oz.||Yes (Gore-Tex)||Synthetic|
|La Sportiva TX Hike Mid Leather||$199||Light/mid||1 lb. 15 oz.||Yes (Gore-Tex)||Nubuck leather|
|Keen Targhee III WP Mid||$165||Lightweight||2 lb. 2.8 oz.||Yes (Keen.Dry)||Nubuck leather / textile|
|Scarpa Rush TRK GTX||$249||Midweight||2 lb. 7.2 oz.||Yes (Gore-Tex)||Suede leather|
|Altra Lone Peak Hiker 2||$150||Lightweight||1 lb. 9.6 oz.||No||Synthetic / mesh|
|La Sportiva Nucleo High II GTX||$239||Light/mid||2 lb. 1.6 oz.||Yes (Gore-Tex)||Nubuck leather|
|Oboz Bridger Mid WP||$200||Midweight||2 lb. 6 oz.||Yes (B-Dry)||Nubuck leather|
|Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX||$349||Midweight||2 lb. 6.4 oz.||Yes (Gore-Tex)||Suede leather|
|Arc’teryx Aerios Mid GTX||$190||Lightweight||1 lb. 10.5 oz.||Yes (Gore-Tex)||Synthetic|
|Salewa Mountain Trainer Lite||$220||Midweight||2 lb. 7.9 oz.||Yes (Gore-Tex)||Synthetic|
|Danner Mountain 600 Leaf Mid||$220||Light/mid||2 lb. 4 oz.||Yes (Danner Dry)||Suede leather|
|Zamberlan Vioz GTX||$350||Heavyweight||3 lb. 2.4 oz.||Yes (Gore-Tex)||Full-grain leather|
- Hiking Boot Categories
- Stiffness and Stability
- Lacing Systems
- Hiking Boot “Upper” Materials
- Midsole Types
- Outsoles and Traction
- Toe Protection
- Hiking Boots vs. Hiking Shoes
Boots in this lightweight category are, not surprisingly, light and flexible but tough enough for a longer day hike or short overnight backpacking trip. Options range from the more traditional Keen Targhee III to the light and fast Salomon X Ultra 4 Mid. Waterproof liners are the norm, but they’re typically the less expensive type (read: non Gore-Tex). Materials used in the construction trend toward a heavy use of mesh and nylon with leather mixed in. This keeps cost and weight down, but doesn’t make them as durable as some pricier full-leather options. You also won’t see as stiff of a structure, as the boot’s shank and support won’t be very substantial. As long as you’re not carrying a heavy pack, that shouldn’t be a deterrent.
The popularity of trail running shoes for hiking and backpacking has spawned a new variation in this lightweight category of over-the-ankle trail runners. The basic concept is to take a popular running shoe like Hoka's Speedgoat or Altra’s Lone Peak and bring the collar and lacing system up a few inches. This provides a light boost in protection and support from a low-top trail runner but retains the lightweight, cushy, and fast feel of that footwear category. As we’ve found, however, there are a number of compromises, including durability, toe and foot protection from the thin materials, and support in technical terrain or when carrying a heavy load. But those that like to move fast and light and even mix in some running during their adventures may find that the pros of a nimble boot like Altra’s Lone Peak Hiker 2 outweigh the cons.
Midweight boots are skilled compromisers, with enough support to carry a heavy load but without feeling like someone stuffed lead in your socks. It’s a rapidly growing category, reflecting demand from backpackers and serious day hikers for a light but capable option. It's also home to some of our favorite boots (the Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX and Lowa Renegade are both midweight). Solid support underfoot makes the boots a bit stiffer than your day hikers but not excessively so. Because of the quality of materials and construction techniques, prices in this category usually start at around $200. At that price point, the quality of the waterproof bootie improves and you’ll typically find GTX (Gore-Tex) in the name.
Stiff, tough, and incredibly reliable, boot legends of the past were made in the heavyweight category. Classic models like the Zamberlan Vioz GTX remain popular for those wanting a full-leather design, but the shift towards lighter weights in boot construction has expanded the category to include models like the Salewa Mountain Trainer 2 Mid GTX (the heavier and more aggressive counterpart to the Mountain Trainer Lite included above).
In general, heavyweight boots are built for tough, rocky trail and long slogs with heavy backpacking packs. While the thick upper materials and Gore-Tex make for excellent performance in the wet and snow, they will run warm in hot conditions (some prefer a non-waterproof leather boot instead). Their solid structure also takes some of the strain out of long ascents by keeping the heel from dropping at each step, and makes them often friendly with strap-on crampons for light mountaineering. A final tip: Don’t pick up one of these boots and head directly to the trailhead for a long trip. Spend the time to break them in and you’ll have a backpacking footwear partner for years to come.
From a quick look at our comparison table above, it’s clear that hiking boot weights vary a lot. You can choose an over-the-ankle design anywhere from over 3 pounds to under 2 in the case of the trail runner-inspired Altra Lone Peak Hiker 2 (1 lb. 9.6 oz.) and Salomon X Ultra 4 GTX (1 lb. 14 oz.). What’s equally obvious is how the various weights have an impact on a boot’s performance. To start, while the correlation isn’t perfect, a lighter boot generally will offer less protection, support and stability, and durability over the long term. This can present a problem if you’re carrying a heavy pack and traveling over rough terrain, but for thru-hikers or minimalists, going lightweight can be a great idea.
Whenever we can, we try and keep the weight of our boots to a minimum, providing enough comfort and support for the weight of our pack and the conditions, but without having to lug around anything extra. Depending on the trip, this can mean a lightweight trail-runner style for fastpacking all the way up to a burly boot like the Salewa MTN Trainer 2 Mid GTX for trekking through Nepal. If you’re going to choose one boot to do it all, the Salomon Quest 4 GTX does a great job balancing weight and performance.
In general, a hiking boot is designed to be stable, which typically involves a piece of hard plastic inserted between the midsole and outsole, known as a shank. The length of the plastic can vary from just under the arch to the full-length of the boot, depending on intended use. The benefit of a stiff boot is that the heel will not drop on an ascent, which helps reduce calf fatigue. This is why the stiffness of a boot will increase along with its technical abilities, culminating in extremely unyielding mountaineering boots that can better handle long summit pushes. On the other end of the spectrum, some lightweight boots do not have this additional structure, instead resembling a tall, flexible hiking shoe.
For day hikes on flatter or less technical terrain or if you're aiming to move fast and light, we can’t recommend a lightweight and flexible hiking boot enough. Shoes like the Altra Lone Peak Hiker 2 or Salomon X Ultra 4 Mid are standouts for these uses. As your trips get longer and your pack gets heavier, a more substantial boot that increases ankle support is a better decision. Look to the Lowa Renegade or Salomon Quest 4 for a great all-around option that is equally adept at conquering summit peaks and multi-day backpacking. On the extreme end, heavyweight boots like the Salewa MTN Trainer 2 Mid GTX are excellent for hiking in areas that require maximum support: off-trail bushwhacking, traversing an exposed area, or trekking over rough ground.
The vast majority of hiking boots are waterproof, and the security from a surprise deluge on a backpacking trip is reason enough for most folks to choose a GTX (Gore-Tex) model. To make these boots waterproof, most designs have a waterproof and breathable bootie inserted inside the outer fabric. Gore-Tex liners are the most popular and have the brand cachet, but even in-house technologies like Keen's Keen.Dry are similar in terms of waterproofing performance (it’s breathability and some inconsistency between models where they’ll differ). In addition, a water-repellent coating is added to the boot to help bead up and shed water droplets.
Most hiking boots are waterproof, but does that necessarily mean they should be? It’s nice to have waterproofing so your feet don’t get wet walking through mud or crossing a stream, but all the waterproofing does on a spring or summer backpacking trip in Canyonlands is make your feet hot and sweaty (we cover breathability in greater detail below). And an argument can be made that your feet will eventually get soaked no matter the waterproof design in truly wet and miserable conditions. As an alternative, some backpackers turn to non-waterproof shoes with gaiters over the top for weather protection. While this won’t keep water from entering at the sides, the boots will dry much quicker. And the gaiters keep water, snow, or trail debris from entering over the top of the boot.
Our take on waterproofing is that it’s best for most folks, and particularly those that venture out in mountainous regions where water on the trail or a rainstorm always are possibilities. The designs aren’t perfect, but a quality waterproof lining will keep you reasonably dry in all but the worst weather. And if you hike in the shoulder seasons, the extra layer adds some insulation from the cold. But hikers in uniquely hot and dry places like Arizona and Utah may be best served with a non-waterproof model, no matter how few options there are on the market. A few that we like are the Merrell Moab 3 Mid (a sibling of the Moab Mid WP on this list), Arc'teryx Aerios Aura, and Altra Lone Peak Hiker 2. For a deeper dive on the topic, see our article on waterproof hiking footwear.
No matter what marketers say, making a boot waterproof inherently impacts breathability. By keeping water from entering from the outside, less moisture (your sweat) can quickly and easily escape from the inside, which means all forms of waterproof footwear can run warm in the summer months. There are, however, big differences between boot models in their ability to ventilate.
We’ve found that heavyweight leather boots with a Gore-Tex lining are often the worst performers, while the Gore-Tex Surround in the mesh-heavy La Sportiva Nucleo High II is a step above. In between, the Lowa Renegade and Salomon Quest 4 both perform decently with their nylon and leather construction and Gore-Tex liners, and are completely suitable for summer backpacking trips. The cheaper membrane in the Oboz Bridger Mid boot fell short of those pricier options in our testing. Alternatively, if you are willing and able to ditch the waterproof lining altogether, the Merrell Moab Mid and Arc'teryx Aerios Aura Mid mentioned above are great options for hikers and backpackers.
Laces are an overlooked feature on hiking boots but play an important role in fit and comfort. If a shoe has a poor lacing system prone to loosening, you’ll find yourself having to readjust constantly on the trail or dealing with hot spots and blisters. If the culprit is just the laces themselves, it’s an easy fix: There are many quality replacement laces available (and can usually be found at a local outdoors shop). But if the system doesn’t hold your foot or fit very well, we recommend looking elsewhere. For this reason, we are hesitant to recommend the single-pull speed lace designs from Salomon and Adidas. Although convenient, it can be more difficult to customize fit, which can lead to discomfort over long miles and when wearing a heavy pack.
As you upgrade to more aggressive designs, the lacing systems also should advance. Notable upgrades for boots include locking hooks near the bend at the ankle, such as what you get on the Salomon Quest or Lowa Renegade boots. These hooks keep the laces in place extremely well, which increases comfort and on-trail performance.
The type of material used in a shoe’s upper, which is the fabric that connects to the rubber outsole, correlates directly with its durability, water resistance and ability to breathe. Most often, a boot or shoe will be made with a mix of synthetic (typically nylon), mesh, and leather. There are exceptions, particularly at the high-end with one-piece leather constructions. Below we spell out the pros and cons for the most common materials used for hiking footwear.
Synthetic Nylon and Mesh
Woven nylon as well as open mesh nylon panels are common on entry and mid-level boots to aid in breathability. They’re not as well known for their durability but do a great job of cutting weight. Moreover, the fabric can absorb moisture faster than a leather boot. Exceptions include the Salomon Quest 4, which is made of tightly woven nylon panels that have comparable levels of durability to some Nubuck leathers despite a lot of exterior stitching.
Nubuck and Suede Leather
Made of full grain leather, but given a brushed finish that has a suede-like feel, Nubuck leather is a common site on mid-range boots. The softer touch leather is lighter and more flexible than traditional, glossy full-leather options, but the thinner construction isn't as durable. It is, however, more durable than most nylon mesh inserts, and as a result, it’s common to find a mix of Nubuck leather and mesh, with the leather bits giving the boots a little extra toughness. Additionally, Nubuck leather tends to breathe better than full-grain leather and isn’t as prone to showing scuffmarks thanks to its brushed finish.
This type of upper is most often found on tough, heavyweight boots. You’ll find one-piece leather uppers on high-end boots like the Zamberlan Vioz GTX, Asolo TPS 520 (not listed above), or in Danner’s boot collection. These designs are not light or as breathable, but are incredibly tough and water resistant. They do require some maintenance to keep the leather in good shape, but they’ll reward those cleaning efforts with a construction that is built to outlast everything else on the market. As an added bonus, some boots like the Danner Mountain Light can be re-soled, so you don’t need to replace the whole boot once you wear down the lugs.
While wearing hiking boots, it’s common to carry a decent amount of weight, which puts a lot of stress on your feet. Combined with the rubber outsole, the midsole plays the essential role of shock absorber from impacts and provides an additional layer of protection from sharp rocks. Depending on the design, midsoles vary from very thin (fastpacking boot) to stiff and substantial (full leather hiking boot). Most include EVA foam, PU, or a combination of both in their construction.
The majority of light and midweight hiking boots use EVA foam in the midsole. The cushy, soft material takes some of the sting out of your heel or midfoot impacts and is also extremely lightweight. Not all EVA should be treated equally, and the proprietary versions can vary from super soft to mildly stiff. For logging serious miles on tougher terrain, we prefer a firm and supportive midsole as opposed to too much cushioning. Those overly-soft midsoles also have a tendency to break down over time, much like a running shoe. In general, you pay more for an improved midsole design and a higher-quality EVA compound.
For tougher applications or when it’s a priority to isolate your feet from rough impacts, manufactures will use a PU or polyurethane midsole. This durable foam is far less cushy than midsoles with only EVA but will last longer and better handle a heavier load. In addition, they’ll keep their shape longer and won’t be prone to compressing like EVA. Boots like the Asolo TPS 520 Evo use a polyurethane insole, but the material’s popularity is expanding to mid-range options—despite the extra cost—with the Scarpa Zodiac Plus being a recent example.
The motivation behind upgrading from a flimsy cross trainer to a real hiking boot or shoe often is for improved traction. In short, hiking footwear is leaps and bounds better when the going gets rocky, slippery, and steep. And much in the same way that Gore-Tex dominates the market for mid to high-end waterproofing, Vibram inhabits a similar space for outsoles. Not all Vibram models should be treated as equals, however, as the rubber manufacturer tailors their designs for the specific footwear and brand. Some have much larger lugs underfoot (listed in mm) for serious grip in mud, and others prioritize durability or sticky rubber for scrambling over rocks (the Megagrip compound is a favorite). There are also more entry-level options that just do well on easier trails, like the lugs you’ll find on the bottom of the Merrell Moab boots and shoes. The lesson is it's worth taking a look at the lug depth and description of the compound type to find out where a specific outsole will perform best.
Salomon is one brand that doesn’t outsource their traction needs. Instead, they use their in-house Contagrip brand for all of their boots and shoes models. And with years of experience in everything from trail running to hiking, they aren’t short on expertise. The level of quality and performance is in-line with the Vibram offerings across the board, from anything from their fast-and-light X Ultra Mid hiking boots to the burly Salomon Quest 4 backpacking boots.
Toe caps or rubber rands cover the front of many hiking boots, and we consider them an essential element of backpacking boot design. These thick pieces of rubber are there to keep your toes in one piece should you accidentally—and in our case, eventually—kick a rock on the trail. One standout from our list above is the Scarpa Zodiac, which has protection that wraps completely around the front of the foot. To cut weight, some manufacturers will occasionally take away or diminish this feature, as we see on the Altra Lone Peak Hiker. Speaking from experience, we’d prefer that Altra included a more substantial one after catching and bruising a toe on a rock hiking in Washington's Enchantments. If you go lightweight, toe protection is one area where you may sacrifice.
Getting a proper fit can be a real pain, and in many cases the blame is a generic, flat insole. Thankfully, removing your stock insoles is super easy, and replacing them with an aftermarket model that’s specific to your foot size and shape can remedy most shoe maladies. New insoles can provide more or less volume to fill out the shoe, improve the fit under the arch, and increase or decrease the cushion and impact shock. We recommend checking out Superfeet insoles for their wide selection of options and trusted reputation in running shoes, ski boots, and hiking footwear.
One of the key decisions in choosing hiking footwear is selecting either an over-the-ankle boot or low-top shoe. Each style has its respective strengths, and we use them interchangeably for hiking and backpacking trips. We’ve found that hiking shoe models vary just as much as the boots listed above, so you can choose from stiff and supportive down to light and nimble.
In the end, the differentiators between boots and shoes are protection, stability, and weight. For rocky terrain, water crossings, snow, and carrying a heavy backpacking pack, a boot is our preferred option. But the low-top style trims away material and weight, making it the clear choice for those focused on moving fast and light without a large pack (especially in milder weather conditions and when traveling over less technical terrain). There isn’t a definite right answer in this debate, but the weight of your gear and the conditions you’ll be hiking in can make the decision a lot simpler. For many dedicated outdoorspeople, it’s worth having at least a pair of each in their quiver.
Back to Our Top Hiking Boot Picks Back to Our Hiking Boot Comparison Table