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.

Our Team's Hiking Boot Picks

Best Overall Hiking Boot

1. Salomon X Ultra 4 Mid GTX ($175)

Hiking boot (Salomon X Ultra 4 Mid GTX)Category: Lightweight
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

2. Merrell Moab 3 Mid WP ($145)

Merrell Moab 3 Mid WP hiking bootCategory: Light/midweight
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 $145, 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 $165). 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... Read in-depth review 
See the Men's Merrell Moab 3  See the Women's Merrell Moab 3


Best Backpacking Boot for Rough Terrain

3. Salomon Quest 4 GTX ($230)

Salomon Quest 4 GTX hiking bootCategory: Mid/heavyweight
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

4. Hoka Anacapa Mid GTX ($185)

Hoka One One Anacapa Mid GTX hiking bootCategory: Lightweight
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... 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

5. La Sportiva Ultra Raptor II Mid GTX ($209)

La Sportiva Ultra Raptor II Mid GTX hiking bootCategory: Lightweight
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

6. Lowa Renegade GTX Mid ($255)

Lowa Renegade GTX Mid hiking bootCategory: Midweight
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


7. Asolo Falcon GV ($260)

Asolo Falcon GV hiking bootsCategory: Light/midweight
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... Read in-depth review
See the Men's Asolo Falcon GV  See the Women's Asolo Falcon GV


8. Topo Athletic Trailventure 2 WP ($180)

Topo Athletic Trailventure 2 WP hiking bootCategory: Lightweight
Weight: 1 lb. 15.8 oz.
Waterproof: Yes (eVent)
What we like: Lightweight and nimble yet impressively stable.
What we don’t: Not a super locked-in feel given the relatively low collar and accommodating fit.

There’s a time and place for traditional leather boots like the Lowa Renegade above, but in 2023, lightweight footwear has all but taken over. This movement is epitomized by Topo Athletic’s Trailventure 2 WP: With the looks of a trail runner but the bones of a hiking boot, the Trailventure 2 WP provides decent stability and support by way of an external TPU heel counter, reasonably tall and padded collar, and full-length rock plate. On the other hand, the 33-millimeter stack height, plush ZipFoam midsole, and minimalist weight will have you moving quickly and comfortably over long distances. Put it all together, and the Topo Athletic is a well-balanced shoe for those tackling easy trails with a light load.

We’re huge fans of lightweight footwear, but it’s important to be aware of the inherent compromises. In particular, the Trailventure 2 WP’s relatively streamlined collar and very accommodating fit translate to less support on off-camber sections of trail or while carrying a heavy pack. Additionally, the wide toe box led to issues on steep descents, where our feet moved around inside the shoe so much that our toes hit the end. But in most other metrics, the Trailventure 2 WP felt fairly uncompromised: Our feet were isolated from rocks and roots, traction was excellent with the Vibram Megagrip outsole, and the waterproof membrane effectively kept out moisture. Unless you plan to travel in mountainous terrain or tend to carry a heavy load, the Trailventure’s benefits will far outweigh the tradeoffs. Lastly, Topo Athletic also makes a non-waterproof version ($160), but performance drops with no rock plate and a downgraded Vibram outsole... Read in-depth review
See the Men's Topo Trailventure 2 WP  See the Women's Topo Trailventure 2 WP


9. KEEN Targhee III Waterproof Mid ($175)

KEEN Targhee III Waterproof Mid hiking bootCategory: Lightweight
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 leather construction, but the Moab matches it in trail comfort, keeps you cooler with its mesh design, and costs $30 less (note: KEEN recently upped the price of the Targhee from $165 to $175). That price difference gives 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


10. Scarpa Rush TRK GTX ($239)

Scarpa Rush TRK GTX hiking bootCategory: Midweight
Weight: 2 lbs. 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 $90 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 GTX... Read in-depth review
See the Men's Scarpa Rush TRK GTX  See the Women's Scarpa Rush TRK GTX


11. Altra Lone Peak Hiker 2 ($160)

Altra Lone Peak Hiker 2 hiking bootsCategory: Lightweight
Weight: 1 lb. 9.6 oz.
Waterproof: No
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


12. Oboz Bridger Mid WP ($190)

Oboz Bridger Mid BDry hiking bootCategory: Midweight
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. 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 $15 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


13. La Sportiva Nucleo High II GTX ($239)

La Sportive Nucleo High II GTX hiking bootCategory: Lightweight
Weight: 2 lb. 1.6 oz.
Waterproof: Yes (Gore-Tex Surround)
What we like: Light, pretty tough, and comfortable.
What we don’t: A bit narrow (although wide sizes are available).

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 higher price. Keep in mind that this boot has a slightly narrow fit, although the good news is that wide sizes are available for both men and women.
See the Men's La Sportiva Nucleo High II  See the Women's Nucleo High II GTX


14. Adidas Terrex Free Hiker 2 GTX ($230)

Adidas Terrex Free Hiker 2 hiking bootsCategory: Lightweight
Weight: 1 lb. 15.4 oz.
Waterproof: Yes (GTX)
What we like: Looks do deceive—this is a capable and well-built 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 lbs. 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 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 on our list, but as a fun day hiker on less challenging terrain, 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


15. Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX ($329)

Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX hiking bootsCategory: Midweight
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


16. Danner Mountain 600 Mid WP ($210)

Danner Mountain 600 hiking bootCategory: Midweight
Weight: 2 lb. 5 oz.
Waterproof: Yes (Danner Dry)
What we like: Classic Danner looks in a lightweight package.
What we don’t: Not as durable or long-lasting as the price would suggest.

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 lightweight at 2 pounds 5 ounces for the pair, surprisingly flexible underfoot, and has sharp looks with a full suede upper and quality lacing hardware. An in-house waterproof liner combined with the water-resistant suede helps keep your feet protected from mud and wet grass, while also providing a light boost in warmth for wearing around town in the cold (to the detriment of breathability).

As expected considering its casual slant, the Mountain 600 is not intended for high-mileage users. The materials aren’t known for holding up over the long haul, particularly if you subject them to rugged trails. Further, the boot is pretty expensive at $210 when stacked up to more capable, lighter-weight designs like the $175 Salomon X Ultra 4 Mid above. But if you prioritize out-of-the-box comfort, styling, and everyday versatility, the Mountain 600 is worth a look.
See the Men's Danner Mountain 600  See the Women's Danner Mountain 600


17. Salewa Mountain Trainer Lite Mid GTX ($220)

Hiking boot (Salewa Mountain Trainer Lite Mid GTX)Category: Midweight
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


18. REI Co-op Flash ($150)

REI Co-op Flash boot (hiking boot)Category: Lightweight
Weight: 2 lb. 2 oz.
Waterproof: Yes (HydroWall)
What we like: A unique and stylish option for day hiking.
What we don’t: Middling comfort and traction.

REI jumped into the hiking footwear game in 2021 with an all-new collection of over-the-ankle boots. The Traverse is their midweight offering (of note: This model is currently unavailable), while the Flash featured here is a light and modern-looking design. What immediately sticks out is the knit upper, which is reminiscent of a running shoe and gives the boot its unique styling and flexible, sock-like interior. Tack on chunky lugs underfoot, a fairly stiff midsole, and a strip of TPU surrounding the base, and the Flash hits a nice balance of protection and cushioning for day hikes and short overnighters.

As with nearly all REI products, the Flash boot undercuts most of the competition at $150 (most alternatives are $20-$40 pricier). And they’ve done a nice job incorporating sustainable measures like recycled polyester and plastic, as well as a bio-based compound in the insole. Where the boot comes up short is comfort: we experienced pretty significant pressure points along the insides of our ankles that never truly dissipated. The culprit is a mixture of thin padding along the collar and tongue and a set of metal eyelets that dig in when tightening the laces. This may not be an issue for everyone—although looking through user reviews, it does appear to be somewhat common—but it’s a notable enough complaint for us to drop the Flash in our rankings... Read in-depth review
See the Men's REI Co-op Flash  See the Women's REI Co-op Flash


19. Arc’teryx Acrux TR GTX ($250)

Arc'teryx Acrux TR GTX hiking bootCategory: Midweight
Weight: 2 lb. 6.8 oz.
Waterproof: Yes (Gore-Tex)
What we like: Tough and capable yet lightweight.
What we don’t: We’d prefer more cushioning.

A couple years ago, Arc’teryx released the Acrux TR GTX technical hiking boot, which took the place of the discontinued Bora in their footwear lineup. In contrast to the Bora, the Acrux follows a more traditional route: It has a standard one-piece upper, EVA midsole, and Vibram traction. But this being Arc’teryx, there are some fun surprises. In particular, we’ve found the SuperFabric upper material to be especially durable and tough considering its thin build. And that in many ways sums up our overall impression of the Acrux: Despite weighing less than 2.5 pounds for the pair, the boot has provided excellent support and protection while hauling 50+ pounds (due to heavy camera equipment) over challenging terrain.

One disappointment with the Acrux is its general lack of cushioning. The thin upper is partly to blame, but underfoot, the stock OrthoLite insole is simply too thin and flat to be comfortable over full days of hiking. Replacing the insole is a good start (it is removable), but the cushioning strikes us as a weak point in the design. In addition, the collar dips fairly low around the back, which let in more debris than we’re used to with a mid-height boot. These complaints push the Acrux down our rankings, but there’s still plenty to appreciate with this burly yet light backpacking boot... Read in-depth review
See the Men's Arc'teryx Acrux TR  See the Women's Arc'teryx Acrux TR


20. Zamberlan Vioz GTX ($350)

Zamberlan Vioz GTX hiking bootsCategory: Heavyweight
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


Hiking Boot Comparison Table

Boot Price Category Weight Waterproof Upper
Salomon X Ultra 4 Mid GTX $175 Lightweight 1 lb. 14 oz. Yes (Gore-Tex) Leather / textile
Merrell Moab 3 Mid WP $145 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 $209 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
Topo Athletic Trailventure 2 WP $180 Lightweight 1 lb. 15.8 oz. Yes (Gore-Tex) Synthetic
KEEN Targhee III WP Mid $175 Lightweight 2 lb. 2.8 oz. Yes (KEEN.Dry) Nubuck leather / textile
Scarpa Rush TRK GTX $239 Midweight 2 lb. 7.2 oz. Yes (Gore-Tex) Suede leather
Altra Lone Peak Hiker 2 $160 Lightweight 1 lb. 9.6 oz. No Synthetic / mesh
Oboz Bridger Mid WP $190 Midweight 2 lb. 6 oz. Yes (B-Dry) Nubuck leather
La Sportiva Nucleo High II GTX $239 Lightweight 2 lb. 1.6 oz. Yes (Gore-Tex) Nubuck leather
Adidas Terrex Free Hiker 2 $230 Lightweght 1 lb. 15.4 oz. Yes (Gore-Tex) Synthetic
Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX $329 Midweight 2 lb. 6.4 oz. Yes (Gore-Tex) Suede leather
Danner Mountain 600 Mid $210 Midweight 2 lb. 5 oz. Yes (Danner Dry) Suede leather
Salewa Mountain Trainer Lite $220 Midweight 2 lb. 7.9 oz. Yes (Gore-Tex) Synthetic
REI Co-op Flash $150 Lightweight 2 lb. 2 oz. Yes (HydroWall) Knit
Arc’teryx Acrux TR GTX $250 Midweight 2 lb. 6.8 oz. Yes (Gore-Tex) Synthetic
Zamberlan Vioz GTX $350 Heavyweight 3 lb. 2.4 oz. Yes (Gore-Tex) Full-grain leather


Hiking Boot Buying Advice

Hiking Boot Categories

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.

Hiking boots (Merrell Moab 3 Mid closeup)
Merrell's Moab 3 is a popular lightweight option

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. 

Hiking boot (Topo Athletic Trailventure 2 WP standing on rock)
The Topo Athletic Trailventure 2 WP places a priority on weight savings and comfort

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.

Hiking boot (backpacking in Scarpa Rush TRK GTX)
Backpacking with the midweight Scarpa Rush TRK GTX in Peru

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.

Salewa MTN Trainer Mid GTX hiking boot (stepping over big rocks)
Heavyweight boots offer maximum support and protection for tricky terrain


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.

Hiking boots (hiking across rock in Altra Lone Peak Hiker 2)
Testing the Altra Lone Peak Hiker 2 in Patagonia

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.

Salomon Quest 4 womens hiking boot
The Salomon Quest 4 GTX does a great job balancing weight and performance

Stiffness and Stability

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.

Hiking boot (hiking through stream in Nepal)
Crossing a stream in Nepal with the Salomon Quest 4 boots

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.

Hiking boot (Arc'teryx Acrux TR scree field)
Hiking over scree in the Arc'teryx Acrux TR boots


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.

Hiking boot (upper detail of Adidas Free Hiker 2)
Adidas' Free Hiker 2 has a Gore-Tex waterproof liner

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 couple that we like are the Merrell Moab 3 Mid (a sibling of the Moab Mid WP on this list), Altra Lone Peak Hiker 2, and Topo Athletic Trailventure 2 (the non-waterproof version of the Trailventure 2 WP above). For a deeper dive on the topic, see our article on waterproof hiking footwear.

Hiking boots (stepping in deep mud with Salomon Quest 4)
We've seen consistent performance out of boots with Gore-Tex liners


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 Topo Athletic Trailventure 2 mentioned above are great options for hikers and backpackers.

Hiking boot (Oboz Bridger Mid Waterproof jumping over stream)
Oboz's Bridger runs warm due to its leather build and in-house waterproof liner

Lacing Systems

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 Quest or Renegade boots. These hooks keep the laces in place extremely well, which increases comfort and on-trail performance.

Hiking boots (lacing up Salomon X Ultra 4 boots)
The lacing system plays a big role in comfort

Hiking Boot “Upper” Materials

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.

La Sportiva Ultra Raptor II Mid GTX hiking boot (jumping between boulders)
Giving La Sportiva's synthetic Ultra Raptor II a thorough test in Patagonia

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.

Lowa Renegade GTX Mid hiking boot (standing on rock above lake)
The Lowa Renegade's Nubuck leather upper is durable and reasonably light

Full-Grain Leather
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.

Midsole Types

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.

Hoka One One Anacapa Mid GTX hiking boot (overlooking lake in San Juans)
Hoka's Anacapa Mid has a running-shoe-inspired midsole

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.

Hiking boot (REI Co-op Flash standing on log)
The REI Flash boasts a soft EVA midsole that's best suited for less technical day hiking

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.

Hiking boot (backpacking in the Scarpa Zodiac Plus)
The Scarpa Zodiac Plus has a hybrid EVA and PU midsole design

Outsoles and Traction

The motivation behind upgrading from a flimsy cross trainer to a real hiking boot or shoe often is for improved traction. In a way that more casual footwear can never match, 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 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 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.

Hiking boot (Lowa Renegade lugs)
We've been impressed with the Vibram tread on the Lowa Renegade boots

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.

Hiking boots (Salomon X Ultra 4 Mid hiking boot tread pattern)
The X Ultra 4 Mid GTX uses Salomon's proven Contagrip rubber

Toe Protection

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, including the Altra Lone Peak boots. 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.

Salewa Mountain Trainer Lite Mid GTX hiking boot (closeup of boots)
Salewa's Mountain Trainer Lite provides adequate toe protection but falls short of heavier designs


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.

Hiking Boots vs. Hiking Shoes

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.

Hiking boot (Keen Targhee III close-up)
KEEN's Targhee III is made in both mid-height boot and low-top shoe variations

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

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