Hiking is an activity with a low barrier to entry; all one really needs to head out for a day in the woods is a pair of sturdy shoes and a mindset for walking. Both are equally important, but one is far easier to come by. And while it may be tempting to head out for a summit bid in a pair of well-worn running shoes, it’s best advised to shod yourself the appropriate footwear. Unlike concrete sidewalks and gravel paths, the trail calls for hardened and supportive footwear to combat dirt, mud, jagged rocks and streams. The answer is hiking boots and hiking shoes, and these are the best available.
This guide is designed to be a resource that can help you find the best hiking boots available. Hours of research and wear-testing were undertaken to make sure that the hiking boots and shoes found here are actually pieces of high-quality footwear.
That being said, every person’s needs and walking habits are different, and more importantly, every person’s feet are different. What works for us may not work for you, and while we’ve provided as much variety here as we can, a review isn’t a substitute for trying a shoe on and making sure that it fits and is comfortable.
Hiking Boots vs. Hiking Shoes
There are two types of footwear made for logging trail miles: hiking boots and hiking shoes. Hiking boots are full-sized footwear made with stability and support in mind. When you’re backpacking, or you’re just taking on black diamond terrain during a day hike, hiking boots are there to lend more ankle support and reinforced protection.
Hiking shoes don’t offer the same level of ankle support that a cuff provides, they’re designed to be lightweight for nimble mobility. Most hiking shoes still give more support than a running shoe, plus a durable rubber sole with lugs that will maintain grip through varying terrain. Hiking shoes are a good option for those who prefer short walks and don’t need the extra support, and they’re a great option for travel too.
Should You Buy an Aftermarket Insole?
The short answer is yes. Almost every hiking boot and hiking shoe come with a foam insole that will wear out after very few uses. Some are better than others, and most will feel comfortable straight out of the box, but none will provide the long-term support of an aftermarket insole.
Superfeet makes a variety of affordable insoles that offer different volumes and levels of support. As with the boots themselves, it’s best to try these on at a store to find the most comfortable and best-fitting option. Bring your boots with you, because insoles can change the amount of space inside your shoe and affect the overall feel of its fit.
The Best Hiking Boots of 2018
Editor’s Pick: Tecnica Forge
The Forge is the first hiking boot from ski boot manufacturer Tecnica, and it’s also the first hiking boot that’s fully customizable. Every piece of the Forge is designed for customization, most notably so the upper, which is available in both synthetic ripstop and nubuck leather. In addition to that, Tecnica equipped the Forge with all the indications of a solid hiking boot, including a Gore-Tex liner and Vibram rubber sole.
Because the Forge is a full-custom boot, buying options are limited to the brick-and-mortar stores that keep it and its boot-fitting robot in stock. The typical fit process that involves trying on multiple pairs of boots and walking up and down a ramp covered fake rock doesn’t apply here because the boot feels remarkably different before and after molding. That process takes about 20 to 30 minutes and involves two rounds of heating and molding, one for the Forge’s insoles and another for the uppers.
The result of that is about as good a fit as a hiking boot can achieve, and it doesn’t come with a rigorous break-in period either. That alone should make the Forge an attractive choice for many, and it’s not the only feature that makes it a great hiking boot. The Vibram sole is appropriately rugged, the wrap-around cuff is comfortable and supportive, and the upper is waterproof but breathable. For its first foray into a new category, Tecnica hit the mark.BUY NOW: $250+
Weight: 20.9 ounces (leather) 20.6 ounces (synthetic
Waterproofing: Gore-Tex Extended Comfort
Upper: Nubuck leather or synthetic
Sole: Vibram Megagrip
Adidas Terrex Fast Mid GTX
Adidas doesn’t get enough credit for its Terrex hiking shoes, which have been partially eclipsed by the company’s athletic and lifestyle footwear. The Terrex Fast Mid GTX Surround draws influence from those categories though and is entirely modern as a result. It uses a combination of open and closed lace hooks in its integration of the speed-lacing system, which is uncommon in full-height hikers. Adidas also equipped it with a Continental rubber sole and Gore-Tex Surround, one of the company’s most breathable waterproof membranes.
The Terrex Fast Mid is very light considering how supportive and protective it is. I was pleasantly surprised at how well the boot held my heel in place, even while having a roomier toe box than others on this list. (Consider trying a half size down in addition to your normal size to find the best fit.) I also enjoyed the sneaker-like aesthetic, which has the potential for more versatile use during the time spent off-trail.