The momentum in hiking footwear is moving away from bulky boots toward lightweight shoes and even trail runners that are faster and more comfortable. You do lose some ankle support when carrying a heavy pack or traversing rocky trails, but the weight savings and feathery feel are worth it for many. Below are our favorite hiking shoes of 2021, from ultralight options for fast and light trips to more supportive models for carrying a full pack. For more background information, see our hiking shoe comparison table and buying advice below the picks. And if you prefer an over-the-ankle style, see our article on the best hiking boots.


Best Overall Hiking Shoe

1. Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX ($150)

Salomon X Ultra 3 Low GTX hiking shoeCategory: Hiking shoe
Weight: 1 lb. 10.8 oz.
Waterproof: Yes (non-GTX available)
What we like: Great mix of lightness, on-trail performance, and durability.
What we don’t: Gore-Tex model runs warm.

The Salomon X Ultra 3 is our top hiking shoe for 2021, combining a feathery feel with impressive on-trail performance. As with each iteration of this popular model, the third edition puts it all together: the shoe is competitively light at 1 pound 10 ounces (for a men’s size 9), the tread design offers impressive grip in just about all conditions, and the stable chassis and cushioned interior are great for long trail days. All told, we highly recommend the X Ultra for day hikes, quick summits, and even lightweight backpacking.

Salomon drew heavily from their trail running expertise with the X Ultra 3’s design. The single-pull laces are fast to use and provide a secure fit, and the shoe is far nimbler than traditional hikers like the Merrell Moab 2 or Keen Targhee below. But you don’t sacrifice protection like with a trail runner—Salomon includes a substantial toe cap and enough cushioning underfoot for hauling a pack. We found the fit runs narrow in the toe box, but the good news is that the low-top GTX version is offered in wide sizes. Tack on the non-waterproof “Aero” model, and the X Ultra 3 stands out as the best all-around hiking shoe line on the market. Finally, it’s worth noting Salomon recently released the X Ultra 4 GTX, which we break down below... Read in-depth review
See the Men's Salomon X Ultra 3  See the Women's Salomon X Ultra 3

 

Best Budget Hiking Shoe

2. Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator ($100)

Merrell Moab 2 low hiking shoesCategory: Hiking shoe
Weight: 1 lb. 15 oz.
Waterproof: No (waterproof available)
What we like: Very comfortable and a great price.
What we don’t: Not built for technical terrain.

These may not be your long-distance or ultra-rugged hiking shoes, but there is a lot to like about Merrell’s flagship Moab 2. What has made this shoe so popular over the years? Most notable, it's the lightweight but planted feel, comfortable fit, and attractive price point. Merrell updated the Moab a couple of years ago including a more durable upper and greater cushioning in the heel of the footbed, but the formula largely remains the same. For day hikers sticking to established trails, the Moab 2 is a great value.

In terms of downsides, on rocky and muddy trails we found that traction and stability fall short of a performance shoe like the Salomon X Ultra 3 above. And despite a competitive 1-pound-15-ounce weight for a pair, the shoe feels a little slow and cumbersome compared with some lighter models. But these are small complaints about an otherwise fantastic shoe, and we highly recommend the Moab 2 for day hikes and lightweight backpacking. Keep in mind that we included the non-waterproof “Vent” here, but Merrell also makes a waterproof version that costs $125 and weighs slightly more at 2 pounds 1 ounce per pair... Read in-depth review
See the Men's Merrell Moab 2  See the Women's Merrell Moab 2

 

Best Cushioned Hiking Shoe

3. Hoka One One Speedgoat 4 ($145)

Hoka One One Speedgoat 4 trail runnerCategory: Trail runner
Weight: 1 lb. 5.6 oz.
Waterproof: No (GTX available)
What we like: Plush cushioning makes these shoes extremely comfortable; grippy outsole.
What we don’t: Unfortunately, they wear down quicker than we would like.

Hoka One One used to be a niche brand for runners, but that has changed dramatically over the past few years and the brand is now a go-to options for hikers. This trajectory makes sense: more and more people are ditching their burly boots for hiking shoes and trail runners, and if you stay mostly on established trails and aren’t scrambling or carrying a heavy pack, it’s our preferred way to go to. With thick cushioning and a lightweight build, the Hoka Speedgoat 4 is the most comfortable trail shoe we’ve ever worn, the sole is surprisingly grippy, and we have few complaints about on-trail performance. 

What are the shortcomings of the Hoka Speedgoat 4? We have been surprised at how quickly they wear down, and the sole in particular. When standing at our local running store recently, a gentleman in front of us was buying new Hokas and said, “I absolutely love these shoes but am bummed by how quickly they pack out,” which sums up our experiences as well. In addition, while the performance is superb on established trails, we took them scrambling over steep terrain and realized the limitations. As a trail running shoe, the Speedgoat is light on protection around the foot and the stability can waver when really put to the test. But again, if you hike or run mostly on established trails, you simply won’t find a more comfortable shoe for the job.
See the Men's Hoka One One Speedgoat 4  See the Women's Hoka One One Speedgoat 4

 

Best Ultralight Shoe for Thru-Hiking

4. Altra Lone Peak 5 ($130)

Altra Lone Peak 5 trail runnerCategory: Trail runner
Weight: 1 lb. 6.2 oz. 
Waterproof: No (waterproof available)
What we like: Super light but with plush cushioning.
What we don’t: Not very protective and the wide fit isn’t ideal for difficult terrain.

Running-centric brand Altra is an uber-popular option for thru-hikers and minimalists, with a strong lineup of heavily cushioned yet lightweight shoes. Their flagship trail runner is the Lone Peak, and for spring 2021, Altra released the “5.” Changes include a bouncier midsole, more versatile tread shape, and tweaked StoneGuard underfoot, but the formula largely remains the same. In use, we’ve found that the Lone Peak is decently tough, provides solid traction, and the thick cushioning isolates you from harsh impacts. Given its low weight of just 1 pound 6.2 ounces per pair, the Lone Peak is a consistent favorite on the AT and PCT.

There are a few important things to keep in mind when choosing a trail running shoe like the Altra Lone Peak for hiking. First, you get less protection at the toe and along the sides of the foot than the more hiking-centric shoes on this list. Second, the shoe flexes more than a traditional hiker and won’t be as comfortable on steep climbs and over rocky terrain. Third, the Lone Peak has a wide fit, particularly in the toe box. If you have narrow feet, we recommend looking for a different trail runner such as the Hoka One One Speedgoat above.
See the Men's Altra Lone Peak 5  See the Women's Altra Lone Peak 5

 

Best Hiking Shoe for Off-Trail Scrambling

5. La Sportiva TX4 ($140)

La Sportiva TX4 hiking shoeCategory: Approach shoe
Weight: 1 lb. 10 oz.
Waterproof: No
What we like: Approach shoe grip with hiking shoe comfort and weight.
What we don’t: Leather upper limits breathability in hot weather.

The La Sportiva TX4 certainly isn’t a traditional pick, but boy do we love this shoe. It’s built as an approach shoe, which means that it’s grippy and tough for long hikes to climbing objectives or traveling over steep, rocky terrain. The Vibram outsole, full rubber rand, and smooth area of sticky rubber under the toe make it a great option for scrambling, smearing, and edging on rock. But what we have been impressed with most is its versatility: the TX4 does equally well moving fast on the trail with its light and moderately flexible construction. We even like it for everyday use due to the high levels of comfort and attractive design.

As with most approach shoes, the La Sportiva TX4 does have limitations. The dotty tread grips exceptionally well on wet and dry rock and even impressed us with traction on snow, but it will fall short of a true hiking shoe in dirt and mud. Further, some hikers—mostly those of the fast-and-light variety—might find that the stiffer sole feels clunky and inflexible. But overall, don’t be dissuaded by the approach shoe label: the TX4 is a worthy companion for long days on the trail. And keep in mind that La Sportiva does make this shoe in a number of versions, including the mesh TX3 (more breathability) up to the burly TXS (a full-on hiking boot)... Read in-depth review
See the Men's La Sportiva TX4  See the Women's La Sportiva TX4

 

Best of the Rest

6. Salomon X Raise GTX ($130)

Salomon X Raise Low GTX hiking shoeCategory: Hiking shoe/trail runner
Weight: 1 lb. 7.6 oz.
Waterproof: Yes (non-GTX available)
What we like: Excellent cushioning and comfort in a lightweight and flexible package.
What we don’t: Disappointing traction in wet conditions.

Salomon has attempted light and flexible hikers in the past with mixed results, but we think they have a real winner with the X Raise line. We tested the low-top shoe on multiple backpacking trips in Patagonia and concluded it’s a true standout in terms of comfort. The cushioning underfoot nicely balances plushness and protection for high-mileage days, there’s a generous amount of padding around the collar, and the interior is smooth and soft. And for those who have had issues squeezing into Salomon shoes in the past—including the narrow X Ultra 3 above—the X Raise has an average fit with plenty of room in the toe box.

At 1 pound 7.6 ounces for the Gore-Tex version, the X Raise has the look, performance, and feel of a trail running shoe. That said, Salomon has done a nice job in reinforcing the upper material and beefing up the heel for a step up in durability and support compared with the Altra Lone Peak 5 above (and it’s still quite a bit more flexible than the X Ultra 3). Our only real complaint with the shoe relates to its traction over wet rock, where it was surprisingly slippery and hard to trust. Despite this, the X Raise should be a top candidate for everything from short day hikes to backpacking... Read in-depth review
See the Men's Salomon X Raise  See the Women's Salomon X Raise

 

7. Danner Trail 2650 ($150)

Danner 2650 Trail hiking shoeCategory: Hiking shoe
Weight: 1 lb. 8 oz.
Waterproof: No (GTX available)
What we like: Comfortable, grippy, and looks good for use around town.
What we don’t: The large and unnecessary piece of rubber on the heel.

Danner is best known for its work boots, but the long-time footwear brand has made a nice transition to hikers of late. The Trail 2650 has a lot going for it: it’s comfortable right out of the box, grippy with a Vibram outsole, and impressively light at 1 pound 8 ounces per pair. And this shoe manages do what most hiking shoes don’t: look good in the process. All in all, we’re impressed with the direction that Danner is headed, and the Trail 2650 is one of the more versatile options on this list.

The version of the Trail 2650 included here isn’t waterproof, but Danner also makes a GTX version for $170 and 1 pound 11 ounces per pair, along with a Mid GTX for those who want more ankle support. Our only real gripe with this shoe line is the rather massive piece of rubber on the heel that seems to go above and beyond the necessary levels of protection (and adds a bit of weight that won’t help you much on the trail). But that’s a small complaint about an otherwise comfortable and modern lightweight hiking shoe... Read in-depth review
See the Men's Danner Trail 2650  See the Women's Danner Trail 2650

 

8. Salomon X Ultra 4 GTX ($150)

Salomon X Ultra 4 GTX hiking shoesCategory: Hiking shoe
Weight: 1 lb. 11.5 oz.
Waterproof: Yes (non-GTX available)
What we like: A near-ideal balance of weight and on-trail performance.
What we don’t: Taller ankle height can lead to rubbing and discomfort.

New for spring 2021, Salomon’s X Ultra 4 is the replacement for our top-rated X Ultra 3 above. What’s changed? Beyond its sleeker and more modern look, Salomon revised the lacing system and chassis, and the fit is a bit wider in the toe box. Importantly, they’ve retained the X Ultra’s fantastic mix of a running shoe-like nimble feel with true trail chops for everything from day hikes to extended backpacking trips. It balances support with flexibility extremely well, is plenty beefed-up for rough conditions, and there’s enough cushioning underfoot for full days with a loaded pack. And at 1 pound 9 ounces for our men’s size 9, the X Ultra 4 matches its predecessor in weight.  

Why hasn’t the latest X Ultra taken our top spot? While we didn’t have any comfort-related issues throughout our test of the shoe, the raised collar around the front of the ankle can be a source of rubbing and discomfort for some users. In comparing the X Ultra 3 and 4, the difference in height is noticeable, and the sheer number of complaints is enough for us to hesitate in moving the shoe any higher on our list at the moment. That said, if you can try it on before you purchase (or buy from a retailer with a good return policy), the new X Ultra is undeniably a high-performance, quality option... Read in-depth review
See the Men's Salomon X Ultra 4 GTX  See the Women's Salomon X Ultra 4 GTX

 

9. Keen Targhee Low Vent ($130)

Keen Targhee III Low Vent hiking shoeCategory: Hiking shoe
Weight: 1 lb. 13.6 oz.
Waterproof: No (waterproof available)
What we like: A nice update that modernizes the classic Targhee design.
What we don’t: Pricier than the Merrell Moab above without enough to show for it.

Like Merrell's Moab, the Targhee is Keen's signature everyday hiker. Updated a couple years ago, the changes weren't groundbreaking but did a nice job at modernizing the classic design. Most importantly, the super wide foot bed of the previous model has been trimmed down slightly to give the shoe a slightly less sloppy feel over rocky terrain. The Targhee Low Vent still won’t be confused with an aggressive model like the Salomon X Ultra 3 above, but its tough leather construction, reasonable weight, and well-cushioned interior make it a great casual hiking shoe.

Among day hiking options, the Keen Targhee Low and Merrell Moab 2 are two of the most popular on the market. Both are very comfortable right out of the box, offer plenty of support and traction for non-technical trails, and can even do the trick on shorter backpacking trips. The Targhee’s Nubuck leather upper is a little more durable than the mesh used on the Moab, but the Keen isn’t as good of a value at $130. That price difference and the wide fit are what push it slightly down our list, but you can’t go wrong with either model.
See the Men's Keen Targhee Low  See the Women's Keen Targhee Low

 

10. La Sportiva Spire GTX ($190)

La Sportiva Spire GTX hiking shoeCategory: Hiking shoe
Weight: 1 lb. 15 oz.
Waterproof: Yes (Gore-Tex Surround)
What we like: A backpacking-ready shoe that is tough, comfortable, and well-made.
What we don’t: Super pricey and a bit heavy.

Many of the designs on our list are lightweight or almost trail runner-like in nature, but La Sportiva’s burly Spire is backpacking-ready—or just about as close as a hiking shoe gets. It feels sturdy and substantial with good stiffness and a thick midsole, effectively isolating you from rough and rocky trails (La Sportiva even goes so far as calling it a low-cut hiking boot). Throw in excellent protection and grip over a variety of terrain, plus a quality build that we’ve come to expect from this Italian climbing brand, and you have one of the more capable hiking shoes on the market.

Why isn’t the La Sportiva Spire ranked higher? At nearly 2 pounds, it’s heavy for a low-top hiking shoe and sits relatively high on the ankle. Second, the $190 price tag makes it the second-most expensive model on this list (right behind the Asolo Agent below), even topping the high-end Arc’teryx Aerios FL. Finally, we appreciate the accommodating fit that should work well for most foot types, but the shoe is a little wide at the heel and we had to cinch it down tightly to avoid slippage. These issues aside, it’s hard to knock the performance chops or build quality of the La Sportiva, and it offers a nice step up in on-trail performance and durability compared to the TX4 above... Read in-depth review
See the Men's La Sportiva Spire  See the Women's La Sportiva Spire

 

11. Arc’teryx Aerios FL GTX ($170)

Arc'teryx Aerios FL Low GTX hiking shoeCategory: Hiking shoe/trail runner
Weight: 1 lb. 8.4 oz.
Waterproof: Yes
What we like: Light, tough, and extremely well-built.
What we don’t: Pricey and a bit stiffer than some more heavily cushioned models.

Arc’teryx has been experimenting with footwear for years, from the Bora2 hiking boots to the Norvan trail runners. But until fairly recently, the legendary Canadian brand had yet to release a true hiking shoe. Enter the Aerios FL, which is superlight at just over 1.5 pounds for the pair, waterproof with a Gore-Tex membrane, and tough with a burly toe cap and a large swath of TPU around the bottom portion of the shoe. All told, the Aerios likely is lighter than your day hiker, more protective than your trail runner, and more comfortable than your approach shoe. For these reasons, it’s our favorite pair of Arc’teryx hiking footwear to date.

In terms of performance, we took the Aerios FL on the multi-day Escalante Route through the Grand Canyon, which included off-trail scrambling with a loaded pack. The shoe felt a bit stiff at first—particularly under the heel—but it broke in nicely and ended up being comfortable during long days on the trail. It also was light on ankle support in a couple of spots, but still did a great job covering ground over a variety of tough terrain. Overall, we came away impressed: the Aerios is an excellent lightweight shoe for day hiking and likely will be a favorite among the minimalist backpacking crowd. For more ankle support, Arc’teryx also makes an Aerios Mid (1 lb. 10 oz. and $185)... Read in-depth review
See the Men's Arc'teryx Aerios FL  See the Women's Arc'teryx Aerios FL

 

12. Oboz Sawtooth II Low ($115)

Oboz Sawtooth II Low hiking shoeCategory: Hiking shoe
Weight: 1 lb. 15.2 oz.
Waterproof: No (WP available)
What we like: Sturdy and quite comfortable.
What we don’t: A little slow and ungainly in this crowd.

Based in Montana in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Oboz footwear is noted for its stability and protection. Their popular Sawtooth II Low—also offered in a mid-height boot—features a sturdy build that is a nice option for folks looking to upgrade in stiffness and support from their Merrell Moabs. The shoe’s proprietary heel counter holds it shape well and provides a steady feel over uneven terrain. In addition, you get a comfortable all-around fit with plenty of room in the toe box and good arch and heel support thanks to Oboz’s sculpted O Fit insole.

Where the Sawtooth comes up short is among the fast-hiking crowd. If you like to cover serious ground and want a light and flexible shoe, we recommend an alternative like the Salomon X Raise or Danner’s Trail 2650 above (even the Moab is nimbler on the trail). And for those considering the waterproof BDry version of the Sawtooth, we found that it runs very warm and had us overheating when backpacking even in moderate temperatures. As such, we prefer the non-waterproof model, which also happens to save you $25 in the process.
See the Men's Oboz Sawtooth II  See the Women's Oboz Sawtooth II

 

13. Asolo Agent Evo GV ($210)

Asolo Agent Evo GV hiking shoeCategory: Hiking shoe
Weight: 1 lb. 11 oz.
Waterproof: Yes
What we like: A comfortable and capable hiking shoe that looks great. 
What we don’t: The most expensive shoe on this list. 

We think Asolo is one of the more underrated footwear brands, and their taller Falcon GV is one of our favorite hiking boots. In the shoe world, the Agent Evo GV has many of the same characteristics: a suede upper, Gore-Tex waterproofing, good protection around the toes and side of the foot, and Vibram Megagrip outsoles for traction. In use, we’ve found that Asolo hits a great balance of comfort and support, and the builds are surprisingly capable even over challenging terrain. Last but not least, the Agent Evo GV is one of only a handful of shoes on this list that look great for everyday use and don’t strike you immediately as being a clunky hiker.

To be sure, the Asolo Agent Evo GV is a very pricey hiking shoe at $210 (in fact, it’s the only model on this list to crack the $200 price point). That said, we’ve been impressed by the build quality and hardwearing nature of Asolo footwear, and would expect the Agent Evo to stand up longer to use and abuse than many of the cheaper shoes on the market. It is worth nothing that Asolo currently only offers this shoe in one color and wide sizes are not available, which may limit the appeal for some. But for those with normal-width feet who like the subdued graphite colorway, the Agent Evo is nice high-end hiking shoe. 
See the Men's Asolo Agent Evo GV

 

14. The North Face Vectiv Exploris ($159)

The North Face Vectiv Exploris Futurelight hiking shoeCategory: Hiking shoe
Weight: 1 lb. 10.3 oz.
Waterproof: Yes
What we like: Thoroughly modern and packed with trail running-inspired tech.
What we don’t: Not everyone will like the rockered shape; unproven over the long term.

A number of The North Face’s hiking models have throwback styling and fairly heavy constructions, but the new Vectiv Exploris is a thoroughly modern and lightweight shoe. Taking inspiration from their new Vectiv trail running collection, this hiking-specific variation features a rockered profile for moving fast on the trail, full-length TPU plate in the midsole for stability, and a lightweight yet durable Cordura ripstop upper. In addition, they utilized their in-house Futurelight waterproofing, and the 3-layer construction helps minimize overheating when working hard in mild temperatures. The styling may be a little polarizing—it’s not as around town-friendly as alternatives like the Oboz Sypes below—but it’s clear a lot of thought and effort went into the design.

We took the Vectiv Exploris backpacking in Washington’s Olympic National Park and returned with mostly positive impressions. The shoe gripped well on everything from slippery downed trees to mud, and there was little to no break-in period. Further, the waterproof membrane held up extremely well despite the sloppy conditions and numerous creek crossings. The rockered shape did feel a little awkward at first—especially when standing still or walking slowly—but it really came to life and gave the shoe a natural and balanced feel when hiking quickly. All told, the brand-new design has a way to go to prove itself in terms of durability—plus we’d like to see how it performs on more technical terrain—but the Vectiv’s early report is a good one... Read in-depth review
See the Men's TNF Vectiv Exploris  See the Women's TNF Vectiv Exploris

 

15. Tecnica Magma ($140)

Tecnica Magma hiking shoesCategory: Hiking shoe/trail runner
Weight: 1 lb. 6 oz.
Waterproof: No (GTX available)
What we like: A fantastic hybrid choice for technical hikes and trail runs.
What we don’t: Not very cushioned and overkill on tame terrain.

There are a number of light and flexible trail runners that cross into the hiking category—Hoka’s Speedgoat and Altra’s Lone Peak are a couple examples—but Tecnica’s Magma flips the script with proper technical hiking capabilities in a surprisingly running-friendly package. This hybrid concept isn’t new, but after testing the Magma over about a five-month period, we think Tecnica has put together a real winner. Most notably, it’s a highly capable design: you get excellent grip from the very aggressive lug pattern (it’s reminiscent of an approach shoe), a good balance of stiffness and flexibility for both hiking and running, and great foot feel and precision from the low-slung design. Tack on a durable upper and a snug, performance fit and you get a strong option for demanding days in the mountains.

The flipside of an aggressive shoe like the Magma is that it inevitably feels overkill and less comfortable on tame terrain. The cushioning underfoot is fairly minimalist, so it’s not as soft and forgiving as many of the more traditional designs above (although foot protection is still quite good). Another complaint is that the laces are extremely long, and we wound up needing to triple knot them when fully cinched. And a final word of warning: the lugs are fairly sharp and firm, which resulted in a couple cut ankles during longer runs when our form got a little sloppy. But for a hiking shoe that’s truly an awesome technical running option—we used ours for a steep and rough 25K trail race—the Magma is as good as it currently gets.
See the Men's Tecnica Magma  See the Women's Tecnica Magma

 

16. Merrell MQM Flex 2 ($110)

Merrell MQM Flex 2 Low hiking shoeCategory: Hiking shoe/trail runner
Weight: 1 lb. 9 oz.
Waterproof: No (GTX available)
What we like: A nice option for fast-moving day hikers.
What we don’t: Durability concerns with the outsole.

In sharp contrast to the sturdy and comfortable Moab above is Merrell’s fast and light MQM Flex series. Offered in both mid-height and low-top shoes, the latter model resembles a slightly built-up trail runner with a thin mesh upper, nimble feel, and 1-pound-9-ounce listed weight (our men’s size 9s are even lighter at 1 lb. 7.7 oz.). But as we found while hiking throughout Washington’s Cascade Range, the MQM is at home on the trail with good toe and heel protection, a rock plate underfoot, and a secure fit.

We think the MQM Flex 2 is a great choice for ambitious day hikes or possibly short ultralight backpacking trips, but it isn’t as well-rounded as the Salomon X Ultra 3 (we’ve listed the GTX version above, but Salomon also makes a non-waterproof “Aero” that is 1 lb. 9.8 oz. and $120). To start, you get less cushioning with the Merrell, which translates to more foot soreness when hauling a heavy load or while moving over particularly rough terrain. Further, we’ve been disappointed with the durability of the outsole. The aggressive lugs do a great job biting into everything from hardpack dirt to rock and mud, but the rubber is too flexible, and we’ve broken multiple chunks off of the tread in only one season of testing. At a similar weight and price point, we prefer the longer-lasting and comfier Salomon... Read in-depth review
See the Men's Merrell MQM Flex 2  See the Women's Merrell MQM Flex 2

 

17. Oboz Sypes Low Leather Waterproof ($145)

Oboz Sypes Low Leather Waterproof hiking shoesCategory: Hiking shoe
Weight: 1 lb. 15.4 oz.
Waterproof: Yes
What we like: Like the Danner Trail, this is a good-looking hiking shoe with everyday appeal. 
What we don’t: Lacking in performance chops. 

Oboz has been a long-time favorite among a certain crowd with hiking shoes like the Sawtooth (above) and Bridger, but the brand has taken a turn toward to being hipper and more modern with the new Sypes. We’ll start by noting that like the Danner Trail 2650 above, this shoe has a lot of everyday appeal with a sleek leather upper that looks much less like a hiker than the aforementioned models. In addition, you get Oboz’s proprietary BDry waterproof membrane, decent support and stability, and a fairly aggressive lug pattern for traction. All in all, the Sypes is a stylish yet moderately capable hiking shoe. 

Keep in mind that if you’re looking for serious cushioning and comfort on long trail days, the Oboz Sypes is not your best bet. The shoe is comfortable but feels flatter than some of the more technical models on the market, and if you plan on covering serious mileage, the performance chops and ruggedness are limited. In addition, you certainly can go cheaper and lighter, and especially if you are willing to give up things like waterproofing and the full-leather upper. But for a good-looking hiking shoe that can be worn to work and on short hikes after, the Sypes is a nice choice.
See the Men's Oboz Sypes  See the Women's Oboz Sypes

 

18. Vasque Breeze LT Low GTX ($160)

Vasque Breeze LT Low GTX hiking shoeCategory: Hiking shoe/trail runner
Weight: 1 lb. 6 oz.
Waterproof: Yes
What we like: Light and grippy with fun styling.
What we don’t: Compromises too much in durability.

The majority of Vasque’s hiking footwear line trends towards the traditional end of the spectrum with substantial leather uppers and stiff constructions. But their Breeze LT Low GTX is a whole different animal: the shoe is a featherlight at 1 pound 6 ounces, flexes quite a bit underfoot, and is among the more stylish options out there with a fun, multi-colored look. Moreover, Vasque didn’t skimp on its performance chops with Vibram’s proven MegaGrip rubber and a comfortable and energetic midsole.

Our primary concern with the Breeze LT is that its trimmed-down build will impact long-term durability. For reference, the shoe weighs less than an ounce more than the Hoka Speedgoat trail runner above, yet the Vasque includes a Gore-Tex lining (the Hoka isn’t waterproof). As a result, the mesh upper is quite thin and the mix of fabrics has us concerned with how they’ll hold up over rocky and rough terrain. Overall, we commend Vasque for the ambitious ultralight design, but we think it’s worth sticking with a slightly heavier but more durable alternative like the Salomon X Raise above.
See the Men's Vasque Breeze LT  See the Women's Vasque Breeze LT

 

19. La Sportiva Wildcat ($110)

La Sportiva Wildcat hiking shoeCategory: Trail runner
Weight: 1 lb. 9 oz.
Waterproof: No
What we like: Lightweight but stable; long-distance comfort.
What we don’t: A step down in durability and toe protection from a true hiking shoe.

Years ago, we took a chance on the La Sportiva Wildcat’s as our daily trail runners. Quickly, we transitioned them to their better usage—fast-moving summer day hikes—thanks to the excellent shock absorption and breathability. We're not alone, as the Wildcat has garnered a lot of praise over the past few years, helping propel trail running shoes fully into the hiking footwear market. The outsole design, optimized for running over varied and rough terrain, is equally at home on the rocky and rooty hiking trails in the Cascades. Notably, we’ve also seen the shoes on a number of PCT thru-hikers.

One warning in turning to a true trail runner style for hiking: the minimalist toe cap does not offer nearly as much protection as a traditional hiking shoe. Further, the La Sportiva's thin mesh upper is more prone to tearing than an option like the Altra Lone Peak above. But despite a few sore toes and a couple pairs that didn't last as long as we hoped, the Wildcat remains a favorite for trail runs and day hikes throughout the summer months... Read in-depth review
See the Men's La Sportiva Wildcat  See the Women's La Sportiva Wildcat

 

20. Salomon OUTline Low GTX ($130)

Salomon OUTline Low GTX hiking shoeCategory: Hiking shoe
Weight: 1 lb. 8.6 oz.
Waterproof: Yes (non-GTX available)
What we like: Light and modern with a running shoe-like feel.
What we don’t: Unimpressive in both comfort and durability.

Salomon’s ever-expanding hiking footwear line added the lightweight OUTline boot and shoe collection last year. And on paper, there was a lot to like with the low-top model: its 1-pound-8.6-ounce weight easily undercuts the X Ultra 3 and 4 above, the shoe has a modern aesthetic that crosses over reasonably well to daily use, and its build quality appeared to be up to the French brand’s typical standards. Moreover, when we first tried it on, the OUTline immediately stood out with its running shoe-like feel.

Despite the positive first impressions, however, the OUTline disappointed in some key areas. First off, the fit is on the narrow side throughout, so even those with average-width feet could run into issues here. In addition, both of our testers dealt with quite a bit of foot soreness due to the minimalist cushioning. It’s worth noting we were hiking on relatively rocky trails, but they certainly weren’t overly technical, and we were only carrying light daypacks. Finally, the toe cap started to peel back on one pair only 13 miles into its test. The nimble build may do the trick for short day hikes, but we’ve concluded the OUTline isn’t Salomon’s best offering... Read in-depth review
See the Men's Salomon OUTline  See the Women's Salomon OUTline

 

Hiking Shoe Comparison Table

Shoe Price Category Weight Waterproof Upper
Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX $150 Hiking shoe 1 lb. 10.8 oz. Yes (Gore-Tex) Synthetic
Merrell Moab 2 Vent $100 Hiking shoe 1 lb. 15 oz. No Leather / mesh
Hoka One One Speedgoat 4 $145 Trail runner 1 lb. 5.6 oz. No Mesh
Altra Lone Peak 5 $130 Trail runner 1 lb. 6.2 oz. No Mesh
La Sportiva TX4 $140 Approach shoe 1 lb. 10 oz. No Leather
Salomon X Raise GTX $130 Hiking shoe/trail runner 1 lb. 7.6 oz. Yes (Gore-Tex) Synthetic
Danner Trail 2650 $150 Hiking shoe 1 lb. 8 oz. No Leather
Salomon X Ultra 4 GTX $150 Hiking shoe 1 lb. 11.5 oz. Yes (Gore-Tex) Synthetic
Keen Targhee Low Vent $130 Hiking shoe 1 lb. 13.6 oz. No Leather
La Sportiva Spire GTX $190 Hiking shoe 1 lb. 15 oz. Yes (Gore-Tex) Mesh
Arc'teryx Aerios FL GTX $170 Hiking shoe/trail runner 1 lb. 8.4 oz. Yes (Gore-Tex) Synthetic
Oboz Sawtooth II Low $115 Hiking shoe 1 lb. 15.2 oz. No Leather / textile
Asolo Agent Evo GV $210 Hiking shoe 1 lb. 11 oz. Yes (Gore-Tex) Suede
TNF Vectiv Exploris $159 Hiking shoe 1 lb. 10.3 oz. Yes (Futurelight) Mesh
Tecnica Magma $140 Hiking shoe/trail runner 1 lb. 6 oz. No Mesh
Merrell MQM Flex 2 $110 Hiking shoe/trail runner 1 lb. 9 oz. No Mesh
Oboz Sypes Low $145 Hiking shoe 1 lb. 15.4 oz. Yes (BDry) Leather
Vasque Breeze LT Low GTX $160 Hiking shoe/trail runner 1 lb. 6 oz. Yes (Gore-Tex) Mesh
La Sportiva Wildcat $110 Trail runner 1 lb. 9 oz. No Nylon mesh
Salomon OUTline Low GTX $130 Hiking shoe 1 lb. 8.6 oz. Yes (Gore-Tex) Synthetic

 

Hiking Shoe Buying Advice

Hiking Footwear Categories​

Hiking Shoes
For the vast majority of day hikers, and even a good number of backpackers and thru hikers, a hiking shoe that falls just below the ankle is the perfect match. Shoes like our top-rated Salomon X Ultra 3 are stiffer and more substantial than a trail runner for carrying a light load over mixed terrain, but not feel draggingly heavy like a full-on boot. Furthermore, hiking shoes often have a tougher construction than trail runners, with increased use of leather and durable nylons as opposed to mesh. Protection from obstacles like rocks and roots come courtesy of rubber toe caps and medium-stiff midsoles. Hiking shoes also are great options for folks needing a substantial shoe for daily wear, just be aware that the outsoles will wear faster on pavement.

Hiking shoes (Salomon X Raise Low by glacier and lake)
Testing Salomon's X Raise hiking shoes in Patagonia

Trail Running Shoes
If moving fast trumps all else, you should consider a trail runner. These shoes have gained significant popularity over the past few years for being the ultimate lightweight option and are a common sight on thru hikes like the PCT and AT. That said, keep in mind that these types of shoes are not traditional off-trail or backpacking footwear. Trail runners are flexible and super comfortable, but they don’t provide much in the way of ankle support when you’re carrying a heavy load and generally have minimal toe and underfoot protection. For hikes on established trails or for experienced minimalist trekkers, however, a trail runner remains an excellent option. We’ve included a couple great hybrid trail running and hiking options in this article, but for a complete breakdown, see our article on the best trail running shoes

Hiking shoes (Saucony Peregrine 8)
Trail runners are the lightest option but compromise in stability and protection

Approach Shoes
The third option has a relatively narrow focus: climbers or hikers that need a grippy shoe to tackle steep rocky terrain. Many rock climbers will use an approach shoe on the hike in (hence, the “approach” name), and swap out to a true climbing shoe when the going gets vertical. Approach shoes are easy to spot: they have a large rubber toe rand and a sticky, low profile rubber compound underfoot for maximum grip on rock. The shoes can be plenty comfortable on day hikes, especially a crossover style like the La Sportiva TX4, but aren’t what we typically recommend as a daily driver. The treads aren’t as secure on muddy hiking trails and they’re not as comfortable underfoot for long trail days. If, however, your day hikes include a lot of scrambling or low grade rock climbing, an approach shoe is an excellent choice.

Hiking shoes (La Sportiva TX4 traction)
The La Sportiva TX4 has excellent traction on rock

Weight

Arguably, the most important change in modern hiking shoe technology is the movement to lightweight designs. Tough but thin fabrics and a shift from over-the-ankle boots to low-top shoes have made putting on major miles a lot easier. It’s no surprise most thru-hikers now choose a hiking shoe over a traditional leather boot. Many of the shoes on our list weigh 2 pounds or less for a pair—by comparison, a backpacking boot like the Asolo TPS 520 tips the scales at nearly 4 pounds. And on your feet, the weight is even more apparent. True, the drop in ounces sometimes impacts long-term durability, but there are still a number of compelling hiking boots for traditionalists and those needing the extra support. For most, a lightweight shoe is a much better partner for day hikes, peak bagging and minimalist overnighters. And as long as the rest of your gear is equally light, there are very few sacrifices.

Hiking shoes (Merrell MQM Flex in Utah)
Lightweight shoes like the Merrell MQM Flex make it easier to cover ground quickly

Stability and Support

As a reflection of the push for lighter gear in all facets, hiking shoes are moving away from the traditional stiff construction of a hiking boot in favor of flexibility and a nimble feel. All hiking footwear (excluding some minimalist trail runners) does retain a degree of stiffness thanks to built-in shanks or internal supports. These features are part of what separate a hiking shoe (and approach shoe) from a super flexy cross trainer or road-running shoe.

For day hikes on flatter or less technical terrain, we can’t recommend a lightweight and semi-flexible hiking shoe enough. Shoes like the Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator and Keen Targhee Low are standouts for these uses. As your trips get longer and your pack gets heavier, a more substantial shoe still wins out for us. Look to the Salomon X Ultra 3 and Arc'teryx Aerios FL for great all-around options that are equally adept at conquering summit peaks and multi-day backpacking.

Hiking shoes (Arc'teryx Aerios FL GTX in Grand Canyon)
Backpacking in the semi-stiff Arc'teryx Aerios FL shoes

Waterproofing

Once you narrow your hiking footwear search, you may be considering the GTX question: do I need waterproofing or not? In theory, waterproofing is a nice security blanket if you’ll be hiking in the mountains. The extra protection that comes with a waterproof and breathable membrane inserted into the shoe is great for creek crossings, surprise rainfall or if you hit snow on an early season trek. But the extra layer adds weight, impacts breathability pretty significantly (discussed below), and the designs aren’t always perfect. We’ve found Gore-Tex models to work consistently well, and many in-house designs perform similarly keeping water out (breathability is a different story), including the Oboz Sawtooth's BDry technology.

Hiking shoes (hiking on beach with La Sportiva Spire)
Putting waterproofing to the test on Washington's Olympic Peninsula

Whether or not you need waterproofing often comes down to a personal choice. Are you a summer-only hiker or live in a warm and dry area? We’d recommend a non-waterproof shoe in most cases, and some of the best ventilating shoes are the La Sportiva Wildcat and Merrell Moab 2. But if you get into the alpine regions or would benefit from the added protection and modest insulation waterproofing provides, we’d lean the other way. The great news is that most shoes on our list are offered in both varieties. Expect to pay about $20 to $30 more for the addition of waterproofing.

Hiking shoe (The North Face Vectiv Exploris stepping on log)
The North Face's Vectiv Exploris uses their in-house Futurelight membrane

Breathability

The truth about waterproof liners, even expensive Gore-Tex booties, is that they don’t breathe well—just as a waterproof jacket won’t be as breathable as a comparable non-waterproof version. Simply put, waterproof and breathable membranes restrict a shoe’s ability to pull moisture away from your sweaty feet as efficiently as a non-waterproof upper. Not all non-waterproof shoes should be treated equally, however. Footwear that features thinner fabrics and a lot of mesh will increase moisture transfer and airflow, which will keep feet less sweaty in hot weather as well as dry out soggy socks far more quickly.

Hiking shoes (Salomon OUTline upper material)
Mesh upper materials greatly improve comfort in hot conditions

Gore-Tex Surround, which is designed to bring 360 degrees of breathability by venting out the insole of the shoe, is an intriguing, if expensive, concept. It’s been well received in a few models, including the La Sportiva Spire, but performance will always fall short of a shoe made mostly of mesh (for more, see our in-depth Spire review). No matter your final decision, we encourage you to at least give non-waterproof footwear a thought before selecting your next pair of hiking shoes.
 

Lacing Systems

Easily overlooked, laces, as well as the lacing system of hooks and eyelets, play an essential role in fit and comfort. If a shoe has a poor lacing system that is prone to loosening, you’ll find yourself having to readjust constantly on the trail. If the system itself doesn’t secure your heel very well, the up and down walking motion will create hot spots and blisters. If the culprit is just the laces themselves, it’s an easy fix: there are a number of good quality replacement laces available. But if the system design doesn’t hold your foot very well, we recommend looking elsewhere.

Hiking shoes (laces comparison)
Laces on approach shoes extend to the toes for easy fit customization

Some models, including the Salomon X Ultra 3 and 4, have a single-pull lacing system. The design is totally convenient and we’ve had no more issues with durability than a traditional lace. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that you aren’t able to adjust the fit between eyelets, so the fit will be equally tight across the entire foot. Those with finicky feet that need to fine tune their laces to be comfortable may be best served avoiding quick lace designs.

Hiking shoes (Salomon QuickLace)
Salomon's speed laces aren't for everyone, but they're fast and cinch evenly

Hiking Shoe "Upper" Materials

Hiking shoe upper material is not the most exciting topic, but checking the construction can give helpful insights into its performance. The type of material used will correlate directly with a shoe's durability, water-resistance, and ability to breathe. Most often, hiking and trail shoes are made with a mix of nylon, mesh, and leather to balance cost and longevity. Below, we spell out the pros and cons for the most common materials used for hiking footwear.

Synthetic Nylon and Mesh
Woven synthetic (often nylon) as well as open synthetic mesh panels are commonly used to aid breathability. These materials are not as well known for their durability, but they do a great job of cutting weight. Exceptions include the Salomon X Ultra 3, which is made of tightly woven synthetic upper that has comparable levels of durability to some Nubuck leathers.

Hiking shoes (La Sportiva Wildcat upper)
The open, breathable mesh upper on the La Sportiva Wildcat

Nubuck Leather
Made of full grain leather, but given a brushed finish that has a suede-like feel, Nubuck leather is a common sight on heavier duty hiking shoes. The softer touch leather is lighter and more flexible than traditional, glossy full-leather options, and is more durable than most nylons. It does fall short in breathability, however. As a result, it’s common to find a mix of leather and nylon mesh for abrasion resistance and breathability, including the Merrell Moab and Oboz Sawtooth.


Midsoles and Cushioning

Digging a little deeper into the shoe's construction, we'll look at midsole construction next. Its importance lies in cushioning your feet, working as a shock absorber from impacts, and providing an additional layer of protection from sharp rocks. Depending on the design, midsoles vary from very thin (minimalist trail runner) to stiff and substantial (burly hiking shoe). Most include EVA, TPU, or a combination of both in their construction.

EVA
Foam EVA midsoles are a common site on running and hiking footwear. The cushy soft material takes some of the sting out of your heel or midfoot impacts and is also extremely lightweight. While nearly all shoes on this list use some sort of EVA, 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 overtime, much like a road-running shoe. In general, you pay more for an improved midsole design and a higher-quality EVA compound.

Hiking shoe (Merrell MQM Flex 2 midsole)
Merrell's MQM Flex 2 has a fairly thin EVA midsole and is best suited for done-in-a-day activities

TPU
Thermoplastic polyurethane, (mercifully) shortened to TPU, is a durable plastic commonly found in performance-oriented light hikers. Shoes that use TPU underfoot are often less cushy than those 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. Because both midsole types have valid applications and TPU is more expensive, it’s common for a manufacturer to use a TPU frame or shank for stability and toughness and add in EVA underfoot to increase comfort.

Hiking shoes (Adidas Terrex Swift R2 GTX)
A quality midsole improves comfort when wearing a heavy pack

Outsoles and Traction

One of the main reasons to upgrade from a flimsy cross trainer to a true hiking shoe is for improved traction. In a way that more casual footwear can never match, hiking and trail running 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. Their name is synonymous with solid grip and traction in a variety of terrain. 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 for serious grip in mud, and others prioritize sticky rubber for scrambling over rocks. 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 2 boots and shoes.

Hiking shoes (Danner Trail 2650 Vibram outsole)
We were impressed with the traction from the Danner Trail 2650's Vibram outsole 

Salomon is one brand that doesn’t outsource their traction needs. Instead, they use their in-house Contagrip compound for all of their hiking and trail running models. We’ve found 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 3 and 4 hiking shoes to the burly Salomon Quest 4 backpacking boots.

Hiking shoes (Salomon X Ultra 4 GTX on steep and wet rocks)
The X Ultra 4 uses Salomon's very tacky Contagrip rubber

Toe Protection

Hiking trails, even well maintained ones, are full of rocks, roots and other potential hazards, so we almost always recommend a hiking shoe with some type of toe cap. Lacking any protection on the front of your shoes can lead to a trip ruining impact when you inevitably look up from the trail to enjoy the scenery. Hiking shoes typically have a full rubber toe cap, but trail runners sometimes have a trimmed down version or none at all—one of the compromises in opting for a minimalist shoe. Approach shoes, on the other hand, have exceptional toe protection with their wraparound rubber rand at the front of the shoe.

Hiking shoes (toe protection)
Toe protection on the Merrell Moab 2

Insoles

Just like with running shoes, the stock insoles that come with nearly every hiking shoe generally are cheap. For some, this might not make a difference, but for others it’s what separates comfort from misery. Thankfully, removing your 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 daily shoes, ski boots, and hiking footwear.
 

Hiking Shoes vs. Hiking Boots

Perhaps the biggest point of differentiation between hiking shoes and boots is height: shoes have a low-top fit, while boots generally sit above the ankle. Hiking shoes excel on smooth trails where rolled ankles are less of a possibility, if you keep your pack weight down, and for those who want to move fast with less on their feet. Tradition tells us that hiking boots are the better choice for heavy packs and rough trails, and in most cases that holds true today. The tall height, along with laces that hold the shoe snugly around your ankle, offer a more secure fit, greater stability, and more protection. Given the choice, we most often select a hiking shoe for their light feel, but both are viable options for day hiking, backpacking, and non-alpine peak bagging.

Hiking shoes vs. boots
We prefer a hiking boot when carrying a heavy pack and traveling over difficult terrain

In 2021 and beyond, we see the lines between hiking shoe and boot categories continuing to blur. They still will be separated by height—although some modern boots only cover part of the ankle—but fewer and fewer boots resemble the heavyweight leather clunkers of old. One example is the over-the-ankle version of our top-rated Salomon X Ultra 3. It’s the exact same shoe with the same defining characteristics—feathery feel, aggressive stance, and supportive fit—but the “Mid” sits slightly higher on the ankle, weighs a couple more ounces, provides a little more protection, and perhaps a modest increase in rollover prevention. Since most folks stick to defined trails, the push for this type of light and fast footwear will continue to take over the market.
Back to Our Top Hiking Shoe Picks  Back to Our Hiking Shoe Comparison Table

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