Never underestimate the sole-saving power of a good hiking shoe. With the latest technology in comfort, traction, and support, these picks are the first step to happier heels, toes, ankles, and arches.
Best for Day Hikes: Keen Women's Targhee II Mid Hiking Boot
The Targhee II Mid delivers in so many ways. Starting from the bottom, the multi-directional lug soles give these boots the traction of what Keen calls “four-wheel drive for your feet.” They have a flexible, but durable EVA (Ethylene vinyl acetate, a porous material similar to rubber) midsole and footbed. The uppers are made of waterproof, wear-resistant nubuck leather. And the mid cut gives your ankles a secure step even on difficult terrain.
To buy: amazon.com, from $96
Best for Ankle Support: Lowa Women's Renegade GTX Mid Hiking Boot
Brave boulder-strewn trails with the newest generation of Lowa’s best-selling boot. A new frame construction makes the Renegade GTX Mid lighter than ever before and it features a full-length, super stiff nylon stabilizing shank to help prevent ankle rolls. These heavy-duty hikers are waterproof, but the breathable Gore-Tex lining and climate-control, moisture-wicking footbeds will keep your feet from suffocating.
To buy: zappos.com, $230
Best for Muddy or Wet Trails: Merrell Moab 2 Waterproof Hiking Shoe
This is the newest rendition of the shoe I’ve been hiking in for the past three years. After always taking care to Frogger-hop from rock to rock when forging a stream — blame an irrational fear of soppy socks — I was reluctant to slosh right through in these when I first got them. But, trust, I had absolutely no reason to be. These suede and mesh uppers may look and feel breathable, but the Gore-Tex lining will keep your feet happy and dry. They're comfortable, too, thanks to the OrthoLite footbed and protective toe bumper and they wipe clean easily once you're back at home.
To buy: zappos.com, $120
Best for Trail-to-Town Transitions: Ahnu Women's Sugarpine Air Mesh
These performance hiking shoes from Ahnu provide all the technology expected of shoes engineered for the trail — breathable, water-resistant uppers, underfoot support and shock absorption, Vibram rubber outsoles with slip-stopping lugs — but look like everyday sneakers. They’re the opposite of clunky and pair vibrant colors like teal, magenta, and purple with a simple design that can take you straight from the city to the backcountry.
To buy: amazon.com, $110
Best for Wide Feet: Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator Wide
I’ve already sung the Moab’s praises for Merrell’s waterproof version, but the Ventilator is excellent, too. The plush padding of the tongue and collar balances well with the airflow from the breathable mesh panels of the upper. While they’re not water-resistant, they’re great for hiking on a hot, dry day, and especially comfortable for those with wider-set feet.
To buy: merrell.com, $100
Best for Summer Hikes: Salomon Ellipse GTX
These athletic-inspired hiking shoes are lightweight and great for powering through quick miles. For how breathable the mesh uppers are, their waterproof Gore-Tex membranes are surprisingly water-resistant and quick-drying. On the traction front, the semi-aggressive tread and Salomon’s Contagrip rubber soles are a great fit for any terrain, sticking on sand, dirt, slick rock slabs, and mud. And to top all that off, the strategic inner padding makes them incredibly comfortable; they really don’t even require a break-in period.
To buy: amazon.com, $120
Best for Winter Hikes: Vasque Women's Pow Pow III UltraDry Insulated Winter Boot
Your feet have two big asks of boots during cold-weather hikes: please keep me dry and warm. With the Pow Pow III UltraDry, those toes won’t need to worry about either. The uppers are made to shield you from snow and slush with durable waterproof suede, quilted taffeta, a ripstop nylon mesh, and Vasque’s proprietary UltraDry waterproof membrane. For warmth, they’re lined with faux shearling fleece and 3M’s Thinsulate Ultra insulation. Plus, the outsoles are engineered to adhere to cold surfaces with tough perimeter lugs and more flexible center lugs.
To buy: amazon.com, $150
Best for Overall Comfort: Hoka One One Tor Summit WP
These hikers actually feel as plush as they look — and that extra thick sole comes in handy when crossing streams. They've got loads of arch support and a dynamic RMAT (a blended rubber EVA) midsole. They’re waterproof but breathable. And your toenails will thank you for the roomy toe box.
To buy: zappos.com, $160
Best for Trail Running: Salomon Speedcross 4
Salomon's Speedcross has long been a top-of-the-line trail runner. The fourth iteration kept the outsole's aggressive lug design and grippy rubber for the best possible traction in both dry and wet conditions. The upper is water-resistant and for weighing only 10 ounces each, they'll give you the confidence to take on the trail ahead with ease. Although, the fit on the Speedcross 4 is slightly more narrow than its predecessors, so it may not be the best option for those with wider feet.
To buy: zappos.com, $91 (originally $130)
Best for Rock Scrambling: Scarpa Gecko Approach Shoe
Approach shoes serve as a hybrid between shoes designed for hiking and those intended for rock climbing, so on difficult trails with a good amount of boulders — looking at you, Precipice Trail at Acadia National Park — they'll offer extra grip where you need it. The Gecko is great for hikes with technical terrain. It’s got a durable leather upper and the lacing harness that extends all the way to the toe for a super adjustable fit. Rubber rands on the toes and heels add grip and protection, and a stiff midsole supports your feet when footholds are less than ideal.
To buy: zappos.com, $179
Best for Arch Support: Merrell Siren Hex Q2
Merrell's feminine Siren line is contoured to fit a woman’s foot with gender-specific support, alignment, and stability. The Hex Q2's mesh upper makes it super lightweight and an air-cushioned heel absorbs the shock of each strike. The real standout on this pair, however, is the insole, which supports not only your main arch but all three arches of the foot to keep you comfortable for miles.
To buy: nordstrom.com, $100
Best for Multitasking: Lowa Aerox GTX Lo Surround
These comfy-from-day-one hiking shoes from Lowa make for an excellent crossover shoe if you don't have a lot of suitcase space. They can easily go from the backcountry to biking to the gym. I tested a pair on the red-sand trails of Nevada's Valley of Fire State Park and they took a lot of the stabilization strain out of hiking in soft sand. If you need to shorten the top quick-pull lace like I had to, here's a quick trick: If you pull on the lace right by the tab that reads “Gore-Tex Surround,” you can shorten the lacing system to your preferred length, cut it, and melt the ends back together with a lighter, as it's made of plastic.
To buy: zappos.com, $220
Need socks, too? Darn Tough Socks
Socks will affect the way your hiking shoes fit, so try them on with a pair you’d be using on the trail. I love Darn Tough, a Vermont-based company that has specialized in making premium all-weather performance socks for more than three decades. These socks are so comfortable, durable, and well-designed that they’re actually guaranteed for life. If you are able to wear a pair out, you can replace them free of charge with a comparable style and color.
To buy: llbean.com, $20