Getting a pair of the best hiking shoes is a major step toward having the right hiking gear. Ideally, the hiking shoes you intend on buying should provide comfort, traction, and durability, and be lightweight. While on the trail, shoes that are comfortable and agile keep your feet cool and deliver optimal performance. Unlike hiking boots, shoes are light and nimbler making them an excellent alternative to have.
Many hikers opt to have hiking shoes over bulky boots. They allow for faster movements on account of being lightweight. Although in comparison to boots, the ankle support you get while carrying heavy packs and going past rocky trails is lower, the feathery feel of hiking boots works in its favor. Hiking shoes work well on day hikes and multi-day adventures.
What are the best hiking shoes?
There is a lot of trendy hiking footwear and finding the right hiking shoe can be bothersome. Besides being fashionable it has to also be functional. Having proper blood circulation on your feet is critical for long hikes. Getting a perfect size allows your toes to be more relaxed and less strained. Some hikers are prone to get swollen feet after day hikes. Based on differing necessities, I have come up with a list of hiking shoes based on your unique needs and personal preferences.
Best Hiking shoes overall – ALTRA Men’s AL0A547L Lone Peak 6 Trail Running Shoe/ALTRA Women’s AL0A548E Lone Peak 6 Trail Running Shoe
This shoe comes with a rubber sole and it is the recipient of RUNNER’s WORLD 2022 award. One of the best trail shoes in the market, it features a MaxTrac outsole and multi-directional TrailClaw lug pattern. The shoe delivers grippy traction which helps the hiker to focus on the trail before them.
It gets a balanced cushioning platform that places the heel and forefoot at the same distance from the ground. This results in low-impact landings and the FootShape toe box allows your toes to relax and spread out naturally. It also features Altra EGO midsoles which deliver a soft yet responsive ride.
What I liked
- It is designed for comfort, and it gets a wide toe box which allows your toes to spread out easily. It has a cushioned midsole with shock absorption.
- With a durable outsole, this shoe offers excellent traction on a variety of surfaces making it suitable on all surfaces.
- The upper part of the shoe is made of breathable material and it offers airflow to keep your feet cool and dry.
- This shoe gets a zero-drop design, with no difference in height between the heel and the forefoot.
What I disliked
- The shoe wears out quickly.
- Getting the right size and fit can be difficult.
- The shoe feels stiff and takes time to break in.
- It is pricier compared to other trail running shoes in the market.
Best hiking shoes affordable – Merrell Men’s Moab 2 Vent Hiking Shoe/ Merrell Women’s Moab 2 Vent Hiking Shoe
Made with 100% leather, this shoe gets a man-made sole. It has a shaft that measures approximately low-top from the arch. The shoe is constructed with Pigskin leather and has an upper mesh. It features a traditional lace closure, and it gets a bellows tongue which keeps the debris out. It also has a protective toe cap and a breathable mesh lining.
This hiking shoe features a Kinetic Fit ADVANCED removable contoured insole with reinforced heel cushioning offering moderate support. It gets a molded nylon arch shank and Merrel Air cushion which absorbs shocks and provides stability to the heel. This shoe gets a lightweight EVA foam midsole which delivers comfort and stability.
What I liked
- It gets a ventilated upper mesh which allows breathability to keep your feet cool and dry during hikes.
- It has a cushioned heel with a supportive footbed and it gets a snug fit for long hikes.
- This shoe has a tough leather and upper mesh which is able to withstand challenging terrain.
- It gets a Vibram outsole which provides excellent grip and traction for all sorts of terrain.
- The shoe is lightweight and it is easy for long periods of hiking.
What I disliked
- This shoe is not waterproof and it isn’t the best choice for hiking in wet conditions.
- This shoe has a low-cut design and there is not much ankle support on offer.
- The sizing is not accurate.
- Limited color options and it might not be as to everyone’s taste.
Best stylish – Danner Men’s Trail 2650 3″ Gore-Tex Hiking Shoe /Danner Women’s Trail 2650 3″ Hiking Shoe
This hiking shoe is durable and made with lightweight leather. The upper part is made of textile and it features an Ethylene Vinyl Acetate sole. The platform of this shoe measures 3 inches approximately, and this shoe delivers a modern performance with legendary Danner durability.
It is 100% waterproof and breathable, it gets GORE-TEX liners which do not allow water to enter the shoe. Sweat and moisture are kept out and it has an ultra-lightweight EVA which provides superior cushioning with weight savings.
What I liked
- The Gore-Tex lining has excellent waterproofing which helps in keeping the user’s feet dry even in wet conditions.
- This shoe gets a cushioned midsole and an OrthoLife footbed which provides ample support and comfort even on long hikes.
- Built with high-quality materials, it features a Vibram outsole which is durable and long-lasting.
- This shoe has a lightweight design which makes it a great option for those who want a lightweight hiking shoe.
What I disliked
- This is a high-end hiking shoe that does not fit everyone’s budget.
- The shoe has a narrow fit and it could be uncomfortable for those with wide feet.
- It is available only in a few color options, and might not appeal to everyone.
- The low-cut design does not have enough ankle support for hiking on rough terrain.
Best waterproof – Astral Men’s TR1 Mesh Minimalist Hiking Shoes/ Astral Women’s TR1 Mesh Minimalist Hiking Shoes
This shoe comes with a rubber sole and it uses heavy-duty 5 mm lugs which give maximum grip for any terrain. It is lightweight and flexible and provides a comfortable and flexible feel. This hiking shoe has a top shank midsole which reduces fatigue of the foot and it gets a supportive EVA heel cup. This shoe has a high-performance G.15 rubber outsole which has an extra grippy line tar.
It gets a low durometer construction which conforms to the ground and provides superb abrasion resistance. Having a ripstop 2D Mesh with TPU overlays and it has drain holes to remove excess water. It also features a removable Polygiene treated insole which eliminates bad odor. It gets a padded mesh tongue which keeps your feet cool. With a level footbed, balance and agility are delivered, and the wider toe box allows your toes to naturally spread out.
What I liked
- This is a lightweight shoe making it a preferred choice who look for a minimalist shoe.
- The upper mesh allows good airflow and it keeps your feet cool on hot and dry days.
- The sole offers good traction on a variety of surfaces like wet and slippery terrain.
- The shoes dry quickly and are particularly useful in wet conditions.
- It can be used in a variety of activities besides hiking like – water sports, fishing, and kayaking.
What I disliked
- The shoes have a minimalist design and do not offer decent support.
- It is not as durable as other hiking shoes since it is constructed with lightweight materials.
- The shoes are too narrow, and it could cause discomfort or blistering.
- It has a minimalistic design and protects the foot from rocks, roots, and other potential hazards on the trail. The low-cut shoes do not match the ankle support like high-cut hiking boots.
Best for travel – KEEN Men’s Targhee 3 Low Height Waterproof Hiking Shoes/ KEEN Women’s Targhee 3 Low Height Waterproof Hiking Shoes
This shoe comes with a rubber sole and it has a DRY waterproof breathable membrane that helps to keep your feet dry. It provides all-day comfort and does not let water get in. The shoes offer a high traction grip in muddy and rocky terrain. It has non-marking rubber outsoles which leave no traces while walking indoors.
It features an external support shank and the mid-cut height provides additional support and balance to your ankles on uneven surfaces. The contoured heel optimizes stability, and the low-profile upper portion of the shoe with the padded tongue and collar gives a comfortable and secure fit. On account of its Metatomical footbed design, the shoe provides exceptional arch support and cradles to the natural contours of your foot.
What I liked
- These shoes are designed with a waterproof, and breathable membrane which keeps your feet dry and comfortable in wet conditions.
- It comes with a removable EVA footbed and midsole. This provides fantastic cushioning and support for your feet.
- Built with high-quality materials, it is durable and the hiking shoes can withstand rough terrain and long hikes.
- These shoes get a non-marking rubber outsole with 4mm multidirectional lugs. This helps provide excellent traction in any terrain.
- It is waterproof and it is designed with breathable materials which allows air circulation and keeps your feet cool and dry.
What I disliked
- It is relatively pricier compared to other hiking shoes.
- The sizing of the shoes is not in accordance with the usual size.
- The shoes are stiff and it requires some time to break in before being comfortable for prolonged usage.
- It is heavier than other hiking shoes which is good for those who prefer lightweight shoes.
- These shoes have a bulky and unappealing design.
Best for cushioning – HOKA ONE ONE Mens Speedgoat 4 Textile Synthetic Trainers/ Hoka One One Women’s Speedgoat 4 Gore-tex Running Shoe
This shoe has a mesh and a rubber sole. Featuring a breathable Gore-Tex textile upper with seamless synthetic overlays, it has a breathable textile lining to prevent abrasions and damage. This shoe has a removable, foam-padded insole that delivers optimal cushioning and support. It also features a durable full-length EVA foam midsole which absorbs shocks and maximizes stability. It gets a durable Vibram mega grip sole with 5mm stepped rubber lugs for improved grip.
What I liked
- These trainers have a thick midsole and a wider base, which gives excellent cushioning and stability, making it comfortable for long-distance running and hiking.
- Built with high-quality synthetic materials, it is durable and can handle harsh terrain making it suitable for trail running and hiking.
- They have an aggressive and multidirectional lug pattern on the outsole that offers generous traction on any terrain including – wet and slippery terrain.
- The upper portion of these trainers is lightweight and breathable, so it keeps your feet cool and dry during high-intensity activities.
- The trainers have a reinforced toe cap and a heel counter that offers additional support and protection on the feet.
What I disliked
- These shoes are on the heavier side which can cause discomfort on longer hikes.
- This shoe has a thick midsole which can make you feel stiff and less responsive as opposed to a natural feel.
- These shoes are small in the sizing chart and it is advised to get a size larger.
- It is not affordable.
Factors determining best hiking shoes –
With improvisations in technology, hiking shoes have evolved to become low-profile and lightweight. The fabrics and designs used are lightweight and thinner. The benefits of weight savings are understood after every mile you cover. Having lightweight shoes helps you to move faster, and you can use them for trail running.
Weight savings can compromise the durability of your shoe, but the shoes listed n this blog are more than capable of handling rough terrains. Also, with modern advancements in design, there is no compromise on durability despite weight savings.
Fit and comfort –
The hiking shoes should feel good when in action. The shoe should not have negative space, and at the same time, it should not crumple your toes. Hiking shoes are comfortable and can be worn all day long. With the right fit, there is very little chance that you will develop blisters or a sore foot. The hiking shoe must be as per your foot shape, arches, and heels.
If you find yourself hiking muddy or wet terrain, having waterproof shoes proves to be beneficial. They will help to keep your feet dry and prevent developing blisters or other foot issues. On the downside, waterproof shoes tend to be warmer and less breathable. Also, after getting wet, waterproof shoes take a longer time to fully dry.
Waterproof hiking shoes will include a membrane in the liner (GORE-TEX being the most common) which prevents water from getting into your shoes. On the downside, waterproof shoes tend to become sweaty and warm in hot and humid conditions. Also being waterproof does not mean that the shoe will not get soaked when fully submerged or when they get very wet.
The shoe’s upper portion and outsole are more prone to damage. The upper portion of the shoe has to be waterproof and durable, it is usually made of nylon, mesh, leather, or a combination of all. Heavy-duty shoes tend to use leather and they may be more durable.
Nylon and mesh are comfortable and breathable materials. Also, the sole type depending on whether it is firm or soft will determine how long it will last. Softer ones are comfortable but are more prone to abrasions compared to denser and firmer soles.
Based on the construction and type of components like sole and midsole, you can adjudge the kind of support you will get from the hiking shoe. If the underfoot layers are stiff and stable in the middle part of the foot, and flexible in the toe portion, then the overall support delivered by the shoe is optimized. Hiking shoes miss out on ankle support, compared to hiking boots, shoes have a low-cut ankle collar.
Hiking shoes have a firm and grippy outsole. A sturdy outsole is what differentiates hiking shoes from sneakers. Based on the terrain a hiking shoe has to provide decent traction. There are hiking shoes that are dedicated to a particular terrain, and if you find yourself traversing unstable terrains, a firm sole with large rubber lugs is seen as desirable. If you traverse rocky terrains, having a soft and sticky rubber sole with a flat toe edge will work in your favor. Having a shoe with a versatile sole will adapt to most terrains.
In hiking shoes, areas, where there is open synthetic mesh and woven nylon, will improve breathability. Portions of the shoe constructed with leather and waterproof membranes like – GORE-TEX reduces breathability. Shoes that provide breathability feel cooler and less sweaty over periods of increased usage. However, in cases when you encounter rain or puddles of water, breathable shoes will soak the water in your socks and feet.
In conclusion, the best hiking shoes will become a beloved member of your hiking outfit. It is the primary point of contact between you and the trail. As the shoes make your adventure possible, it is important to get hold of a pair of reliable ones. Shoes score high when it comes to weight savings and nimbler usage.
They can handle most terrains that you might encounter on a hiking adventure. The list presented to you in this blog makes it easier to decide on hiking shoes for your next outdoor adventure. All shoes mentioned in this list are good quality and will increase confidence in every step you take.