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, 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, $145
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 is lighter than ever before and still 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 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 at first. But, trust, I had absolutely no reason to be. These suede and mesh uppers may look and feel breathable, but your feet will stay dry and comfortable, too, thanks to the OrthoLite footbed and supportive toe bumper.
To buy: amazon.com, from $118
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: zappos.com, $110
Best for Wide Feet: Merrell Moab Ventilator Wide
I’ve already sung the Moab’s praises for Merrell’s waterproof version, but their 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 Women's 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: zappos.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, from $95.
Best for Overall Comfort: Hoka One One Tor Summit
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: Adidas Outdoor Terrex Skychaser GTX
Adidas Outdoor has outdone themselves with this state-of-the-art trail runner. The Terrex Skychaser GTX features Continental Rubber for the best possible traction in both dry and wet conditions, Ortholite open cell foam technology for a comfortable and breathable insole, and Boost foam cushioning providing optimum energy return. A GORE-TEX membrane keeps feet dry, and at 11.1 ounces, these dynamic trail shoes guarantee ease and agility on any mountain run.
To buy:amazon.com, $160
Best for Rock Scrambling: La Sportiva Boulder X Approach Shoe
Approach shoes serve as a hybrid between shoes designed for hiking and those specifically for rock climbing. The Boulder X is great for lengthy hikes with technical terrain. It’s got a strong leather upper with double stitched seams and a lacing harness that extends all the way to the toe for easily adjustable fitting. The Vibram rubber rand wraps from the top of the toes all the way around to the back of the heel to add grip and protection, and a stiff midsole supports your feet when footholds are less than ideal.
To buy: amazon.com, $110.
Best For Arch Support: Merrell Siren Sport Q2
These hiking shoes are contoured to fit a woman’s foot, with gender-specific support, alignment, and stability. They feel well-cushioned from the first wear and the Omni-Fit lacing system allows you to pull them in for a snug fit, while a footbed designed for heel and arch support keeps each step comfortable.
To buy: zappos.com, $100
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.