The Best Hiking Shoes and Boots of 2022
Comfort is key when exploring the great outdoors on foot. But there's much more to a great hiking shoe, and having appropriate footwear can make or break your hiking experience. There's nothing like the misery of trekking in wet socks and shoes after encountering a surprise stream crossing or trudging the last few miles back to the trailhead sporting painful blisters. You don't want to find yourself on a more technical trail with tread that can't cut it, either. Luckily, most of this can be avoided by choosing the right shoe or boot for you and your hiking needs. Whether you're in search of a lightweight option that will have you moving at the speed of light (well, almost) or something with extra ankle support for long-distance treks, this list will have you covered. With so many choices out there, selecting the perfect pair for you can be overwhelming.
Our top picks are the Danner Mountain 600s for women and the Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX for men. But there are a lot of options out there, so to help narrow it down, we researched dozens of shoes and spoke to Bennett Grimes, Senior Product Manager for REI's Innovation Solutions and Footwear Co-op brands and consumer-led products expert, for his input.
These are the best hiking shoes and boots to shop for women:
- Best Overall: Danner Mountain 600s at Amazon
- Best Waterproof: La Sportiva Nucleo High II GTX Hiking Boots at REI
- Best Sandal: Chaco Mega Z Cloud Sandal at Backcountry at REI
- Best Breathable: REI Co-op Flask Hiking Boots at REI
- Best Traction: Salomon Quest 4 GTX at Amazon
- Best For Winter: Oboz Bridger 7-inch Insulated Waterproof Boots at Amazon
- Best Arch Support: Merrell Women's Moab 2 Mid Gtx Hiking Boot at Amazon
These are the best hiking shoes and boots to shop for men:
- Best Overall: Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX at REI
- Best Waterproof: Vasque St Elias FG GTX Hiking Boot at Backcountry
- Best Sandal: Bedrock Cairn 3D Adventure Sandals at REI
- Best Breathable: Hoka One One Sky Kaha at REI
- Best Traction: La Sportiva Nucleo High II GTX Hiking Boots at Amazon
- Best For Winter: Xpeti Men's Thermator 8-inch Waterproof Hiking Boots at Amazon
- Best Arch Support: Salomon Quest 4 GTX at Amazon
The Best Women's Hiking Boots and Shoes
Best Overall: Danner Mountain 600s
Best Waterproof: La Sportiva Nucleo High II GTX Hiking Boots
Best Sandal: Chaco Mega Z Cloud Sandal
Best Breathable: REI Co-op Flask Hiking Boots
Best Traction: Salomon Quest 4 GTX
Best For Winter: Oboz Bridger 7-inch Insulated Waterproof Boots
Best Arch Support: Merrell Women's Moab 2 Mid Gtx Hiking Boot
The Best Men's Hiking Boots and Shoes
Best Overall: Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX
Best Waterproof: Vasque St Elias FG GTX Hiking Boot
Best Sandal: Bedrock Cairn 3D Adventure Sandals
Best Breathable: Hoka One One Sky Kaha
Best Traction: La Sportiva Nucleo High II GTX Hiking Boots
Best For Winter: Xpeti Men's Thermator 8-inch Waterproof Hiking Boots
Best Arch Support: Salomon Quest 4 GTX
Tips for Buying Hiking Shoes
Determine the types of trails you will be hiking
You want to narrow down your hiking shoe or boot options based on what kinds of trekking you plan on doing. Knowing if you want lower-cut hiking shoes, mid-cut day hikers, or full-on backpacking boots will help. Hiking shoes will be lightweight but offer less support, though they are typically suitable for shorter day hikes. Hiking boots will beef up the support with mid to high ankle height, and extra stability, making them ideal for day hikes of any length and shorter backpacking trips. Backpacking boots are excellent for overnight trips where you'll be lugging a hefty pack along trails. They offer more ankle support, traction, and cushioning designed to help you go the distance.
Try them on for comfort
This may seem like the most obvious tip, but it's also the most important. "What's the point of buying a shoe if it doesn't feel just right on your foot?" REI's Grimes says. "A good rule of thumb when trying on shoes and boots for the first time is to find a pair that you can almost forget is on your foot. All hiking footwear is made differently, so it's smart to try multiple to see which experience feels best to you."
When you slip into your hiking shoe and boot contenders, make sure you're wearing hiking specific socks, as that can affect the fit. Although sizing can be tricky, most hiking boots should fit a touch big (usually half a size) to accommodate thicker socks. That being said, it does not ring true for every boot, so start with your usual street shoe size and work from there. Trying them on at the end of the day is also key, since most people's feet swell a touch throughout. Make sure you have space approximately the width of your thumb between your big toe and the tip of the boot — your toes shouldn't jam into the front when walking downhill.
If you order online, walk around your home to make sure the boots don't put uncomfortable pressure anywhere, which can lead to blisters and hotspots with use. That's a surprise you don't want to encounter on mile three out of seven on the trail. Arch support for people with flat feet or high arches will also be crucial when trying hiking shoes on for comfort. To avoid pain and injury on the trial, make sure to hone in on shoes or boots that provide extra support both in the arch and the heel with a footbed that has a firm insole. Additionally, insole inserts can be purchased to tailor your boot to your specific support needs. Consider the shape of your feet; do you have narrow or wide feet? This will help you find the right shoes for maximum comfort too.
"More often than not, if you can feel something that seems 'off' at first try on, that feeling will only get more exacerbated through extended wear," Grimes shared. "Comfort for most people is a balance of how the shoe fits and how the shoe feels under the foot. For underfoot comfort, there are a lot of options from maximum cushion to very little cushion. Maximum cushion is good for people who like the feeling of floating above the trail, and very little cushion is good for people who want to feel exactly where their feet are going. Of course there can be the best of both worlds too."
Choose the right materials
Grimes suggests asking yourself a few questions about the conditions you will encounter on your adventures after finding a few options that fit the comfort bill. "Is the majority of the adventure in a hot humid climate? Breathability might be your number one requirement. Is it going to be soggy and wet for days at a time?"
Dialing in on the conditions you will primarily be using your hiking shoes or boots in will ultimately keep you the most comfortable. If winter hiking is your main focus, waterproofing and insulation are going to be crucial. Insulated pairs for winter hiking are usually equipped with 200 grams, 400 grams, or 600 grams of Thinsulate. Base your search on how cold the conditions you will be trekking in; 200 grams is ideal warmth down to -20 degrees Fahrenheit, 400 grams is cozy down to -40 degrees Fahrenheit, and 600 grams of Thinsulate typically works down to -60 degrees Fahrenheit when actively moving.
If waterproofing is a priority, look for Gore-tex membrane in the design as well as eVent in order to have breathability for vapors to be released while still keeping waterproof abilities. This will reduce those sweaty sock situations and uncomfortable moisture getting trapped. For traction, lugs on the rubber outsole are important and measured in millimeters. Backpacking boots with solid grip typically have lugs that are between 5 and 7 millimeters.
Frequently Asked Questions
How should I break in new hiking boots?
More and more hiking shoes and boots (in general, "hiking shoes" refers to more sneaker-like options or those with less ankle support, while "hiking boots" go above the ankle) are designed to tackle the trails straight out of the box. However, some boots require a "break-in" period that can range anywhere from a day of wearing them around the house to sporting them on a handful of shorter hikes before they reach their optimal flexibility and comfort level. Typically, backpacking or mountaineering boots have a stiffer design initially. The best way to break in any hiking shoe or boot is to build up your time wearing them. Start by wearing them in the house or on a short walk around the park. Then, take them on a slightly longer nature trail before working your way up to a first day hike in them. Breaking them in before your first real adventure can make a big difference, as you don't want to get stuck in the midst of a hike with painful blisters or foot pain.
How often should I buy new hiking shoes?
REI's Grimes shared that replacing shoes or boots depends on various factors. "The amount of wear, conditions worn, weight of the person and/or backpack, construction materials, and the build of the shoe/boot all play into it. The general rule for wear is between 300-700 miles of use."
The type of trails you take your boots on will play into their lifespan, as well as the weather they endure. Waterproofing doesn't last forever either; if your boots start leaking that's a great sign to think about purchasing some new ones. Worn tread and cracked midsoles are two other things to look out for when you think your hikers have reached the end of the line. When your hiking boots have stopped performing the way you need them to, it's probably time to get some new ones.
How can I clean my hiking boots?
Keeping hiking boots clean can help increase their longevity. Laces can be thrown in the laundry, yes, but the rest of your boot needs attention too. Dirt, mud, mold, and water can ruin the boot's materials such as leather and fabric, shortening their lifespan. Dislodge small rocks from the traction and wash off mud or dirt from the outsoles. Use an approved boot cleaner for your specific type of hiking footwear and a brush to gently remove the offending dirt before rinsing clean. For quicker drying, remove the insoles and place everything in a well-ventilated, room temperature place. If you have a pair of full-grain leather boots on the upper section, you may want to consider conditioning them as well if they are becoming cracked.
Why Trust Travel + Leisure
Travel + Leisure writers are product and shopping experts who draw on research and first-hand experience to curate the best, up-to-date collections of items for readers. A hiking enthusiast and travel writer, Lauren Breedlove used some of her personal experience both with finding the right hiking boot, as well as using it on a variety of trails all over the world. She also scoured the internet, researching and selecting the best women's and men's hiking shoes and boots. She interviewed REI Co-op's Senior Product Manager of Innovation & Footwear to gather expert insights. With all these factors, she curated this list of hiking shoes and boots for men and women.
Up Next: The Best Winter Hiking Boots
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