By Richelle Szypulski
July 03, 2019
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One should never underestimate the sole-saving power of a good hiking shoe. I believe there are few experiences more miserable than being caught in a downpour in the middle of a longer-than-we-realized loop trail and one of them is that exact experience but with sopping-wet, unsupportive, and painful shoes. Can you tell I've been there?

Well, dear reader, I survived it and I learned. On a pursuit wherein your feet are carrying you the entirety of the way, your shoes matter — more than your leggings, rain jacket, deodorant, and maybe even your backpack. And that's why I'm taking it upon myself to call out the very best hiking footwear you can buy. For research, I consulted other Travel + Leisure editors, hundreds of customer reviews, trusted sources like Outdoor Gear Lab and REI's blog, and my own two feet whenever possible.

Related: The Best Waterproof Hiking Boots for Men and Women

If you're a true newbie, I recommend two things: First, read through a comprehensive guide about what sort of hiking shoe will best suit your needs. Second, do not waste your money buying cheap hiking shoes. I can almost guarantee you will regret spending less than the $80 that the most affordable shoe on this list costs. Consider the purchase an investment in future you's well-being, both physical and emotional — thinking "wow, my feet hurt so much," on repeat with little to distract you but the occasional spiderweb to the face (ah, the woods!) is no good for your mental state, friends. Nature is supposed to be resorative! 

With the latest technology in comfort, traction, and support, these picks are the first step to happier feet when you're out exploring the wilds. Here, the best women's hiking shoes in every category.

Best Ventilated Hiking Shoes: Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator

Courtesy of Merrell

There's a reason Merrell's best-selling Moab has earned the nickname "mother of all boots." It's an excellent hiking shoe. My first pair of hikers were Merrell Moabs, as suggested by my Appalachian Trail alum boyfriend, and they're still holding up to this day. They're comfy from mile one and have plenty of grip thanks to a Vibram sole and a 5mm lug depth. I'd especially recommend this pair for day hikes in the summer; they're delightfully breathable.

To buy: merrell.com, $100

Best Ventilated Hiking Boots: Keen Targhee Vent Mid

Courtesy of Zappos

Mesh panels bring breathability to Keen's most beloved hikers so you don't end up feeling like you slogged through a swamp on a hot summer day hike. The rubber outsole is made to take on any terrain, and the mid-height offers added ankle support. And the footbed is supportive, but also removable in case you prefer to use your own insoles.

To buy: zappos.com, $135

Best Waterproof Hiking Shoes: Oboz Sawtooth II Low B-Dry Hiking Shoe

Courtesy of Zappos

Crowned the Editor's Choice hiking shoe for women by the intrepid testers behind Outdoor Gear Lab, the Sawtooth II is an excellent pick for both beginners and experts. The B-Dry waterproof membrane allows moisture to vent out of the shoe while keeping the water from puddles or streams from making its way in. Your steps will be amply cushioned and sculpted arch support will make for happy feet, even after you've logged some serious mileage. It also delivers on traction with its sticky rubber soles, though these do weigh the shoe down a bit.

To buy: zappos.com, $140

Best Waterproof Hiking Boots: Columbia Newton Ridge Plus Waterproof Amped Hiking Boot

Courtesy of Columbia

Anytime we’re heading somewhere where it’s recently rained or if there’s a chance the weather may take a turn for the worse, these are the hiking boots I grab. The waterproof suede uppers are sturdy; the rubber soles have a ton of grip; and they’re great quality boots for how affordable they are. A bonus: they wipe clean easily once you're back at home. And the red-laced style also makes me feel like Cheryl Strayed, but with far fewer blisters.

To buy: columbia.com, $80

Best Lightweight Hiking Shoes: Adidas Outdoor Terrex Speed GTX

Courtesy of Zappos

This hiking shoe–trail runner hybrid weighs only 7.5 ounces (for a size 7). They’re fully waterproof (I’ve puddle jumped to prove it) and are just as well suited to city sidewalks as they are nature trails — I've even worn them to the gym on several occasions. The Continental Rubber outsole also makes sure you've got lots of grip in wet conditions.

To buy: zappos.com, $180

Best Lightweight Hiking Boots: Altra Footwear Lone Peak 4 Mid RSM

Courtesy of Zappos

The same hiking-inclined boyfriend did a section of the Pacific Crest Trail last summer and reported back that no less than half the shoes he saw hikers wearing were by Altra, a popular running brand. This mid-cut pair offers a ridiculous amount of support for weighing only 12 ounces. Praised for their unique Footshape toebox and flawless zero drop construction (where your heel and forefoot are the same distance from the ground), the Lone Peak 4 is equipped to stand up to rain, snow, and mud (what the RSM in the name stands for). Though many reviewers say they're a bit of a struggle to put on and lace up, they're worth it.

To buy: zappos.com, $160

Best for Ankle Support: Vasque Talus Trek UltraDry Hiking Boot

Courtesy of Amazon

Our Digital Executive Editor, Deanne Kaczerski, has been taking to the trails in Vasque's Talus Trek for the last few years and we think it's an awesome contender for those with touchy ankles. The easy speed-lacing construction allows you to customize how tight you'd like them to hug your ankles. Deanne vouches that they can get a bit hot in the summer, but, overall, keep her feet dry and steady, especially on super rocky terrain.

To buy: amazon.com, from $105

Best for Arch Support: Lowa Aerox GTX Lo Surround

Courtesy of Zappos

At only 11 oz., these no-break-in-required 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 — and were a breath of fresh air for my arches, which always appreciate a lift for long days on my feet. 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, $230

Best for Wide Feet: Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator Wide Width

Courtesy of Merrell

I’ve already sung the Moab’s praises above, but the brand is also known for its execution of comfy hiking shoes for those with wider-set feet. The plush padding of the tongue and collar balances well with the airflow from the breathable mesh panels of the upper. Again, these aren't water-resistant; they’re great for hiking on a hot, dry day. Merrell does make a waterproof wide version, if you prefer.

To buy: merrell.com, $100

Best Traction for Wet Conditions: Ahnu by Teva Montara III Event

Courtesy of Zappos

I hate the slightly queasy feeling of trying to keep solid footing on a slick slab of rock. If you do, too, the Montara III earned a 9/10 score on traction from the testers at Outdoor Gear Labs. With Vibram MegaGrip rubber soles, they'll help to keep your footing secure when the incline gets weird. One critique reviewers have is that they're better suited fit-wise to those with narrow feet.

To buy: zappos.com, $170

Best Insulated Hiking Boots: Women's Storm Chaser Boots With Arctic Grip

Courtesy of L.L.Bean

Your feet have two big asks of boots during cold-weather hikes: please keep me dry and warm. With the Storm Chaser, those toes won’t need to worry about either. The uppers are made to shield you from snow and slush with durable waterproof leather. For warmth, they’re lined with water-resistant 200-gram PrimaLoft insulation and a SolarCore aerogel foam for retaining underfoot heat. The latest rendition also includes Vibram's Arctic Grip tech, which is definitely not a substitute for spikes or crampons, but will adhere to cold surfaces with unparalleled traction.

To buy: llbean.com, $165

Best Leather Hiking Boots: Keen Targhee II Mid Hiking Boot

Courtesy of Zappos

A hiking boot I see women wearing rather often on the trail, 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. Do note that they’re known to run small; Zappos recommends ordering up a half size.

To buy: zappos.com, $135

Best Hiking Sneakers: The North Face Ultra Fastpack III GTX

Courtesy of Zappos

If you're not into the look and feel of a more bulky hiking shoe or boot, I'd recommend trying out a sneaker. These knit hikers from The North Face may look trend-forward, but don't let that decieve you; they hold up on the technical side, too. Gore-Tex membranes will keep your feet dry while an Ortholite footbed offers tons of support and comfort.

To buy: zappos.com, $160

Best Hiking Sandals: Chaco Z/Cloud 2 Hiking Sandal

Courtesy of Chaco

As their name suggests, Chaco's Cloud sandals are engineered for all-day comfort. Whether you're wearing them around town on a "zero day" or hiking in them all weekend long, the adjustable straps allow for a perfect fit to your foot and the sole is packed with cushion and support. The ChacoGrip rubber outsole will give you plenty of grip, too. They're also 100 percent vegan-friendly.

To buy: chacos.com, $110

Best Water Shoes for Hiking: Keen Whisper Sandal

Courtesy of Zappos

More than 2,700 reviews back up this uber-popular, women's-specific Keen sandal. It's got Keen's signature toe-bumper to protect you from stubs, an anatomical footbed that will mold to your feet with wear, and a quick-draw lacing system that makes for easy on and off. Plus, we have to give an extra shout out to the built-in antimicrobial and anti-odor treatment, because water shoes can get funky.

To buy: zappos.com, $90

Best for Trail Running: Altra Superior 4 Trail Running Shoe

Courtesy of Amazon

Runners are Altra's bread and butter so you can expect a truly delightful ride from the Superior 4. The roomy toe box, women-specific, hugged-in heel, and strategically positioned lugs for more traction on your toe off all add up to a smart and supportive shoe for many, many miles ahead.

To buy: amazon.com, $110

Best for Rock Scrambling: La Sportiva TX2

Courtesy of Zappos

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 TX2 is great for hikes with technical terrain. It’s got a sticky outsole and a lacing harness that extends all the way to the toe to help you get a snug 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, $130

Best Minimalist Hiking Shoes: Merrell Vapor Glove 4

Courtesy of Merrell

If you actually like feeling the earth's patterns and textures beneath your feet, opt for a zero drop, "barefoot" hiker like Merrell's Vapor Glove. The Vibram sole gives you grip but not much else, so you can feel connected to the trail with each step. This pair is perfect for packing, too! 

To buy: merrell.com, $80

Best Cute Hiking Shoes: Merrell Siren Edge Hiker

Courtesy of Amazon

Merrell's feminine Siren line is contoured to fit a woman’s foot with gender-specific support, alignment, and stability. The Edge'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. For what it’s worth, it’s also currently Amazon’s No. 1 best-selling women’s hiking shoe.

To buy: amazon.com, from $50

Best Vegan Hiking Boots: Women's Moab 2 Vegan

Courtesy of Merrell

Merrell just released the Moab 2 with a fully vegan-friendly, synthetic construction. It's got all the same benefits and technology, just no animal products. 

To buy: merrell.com, $110

Need Hiking Socks, Too? Darn Tough Socks

Courtesy of Zappos

Socks will 100 percent 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. Their Merino wool 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: zappos.com, from $16

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