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Updated Sep 12, 2022 3:18 PM

The wildlands beyond your gaming PC are equal parts treacherous and enthralling, and an excellent pair of hiking shoes will help you conquer it all. Lighter, cozier, more mobile, and more versatile than even the best hiking boots, hiking shoes will let you explore the great outdoors, crushing any terrain while still being fit for an outing to the grocery store. There’s a lot to choose from, but luckily we have your back.

Take a dive into our buying guide for the best hiking shoes money can buy, from trail runners to essentially armored walking shoes. Scroll on through for a pair of hiking shoes because it’s time to ditch the barracks and explore those sketchy backwoods your sergeant warned you about.

There doesn’t seem to be a more well-rounded hiking shoe than the Danner Trail 2650. It’s a sharp, sneaker-esque shoe, especially in women’s variants, that fits right in at the grocery store or the workplace. Yet, it’s riddled with a toughened addition to make it a genuine outdoor shoe for various trails. The Vibram sole provides softness for grip on nearly any surface, plus shock absorption for comfort, while still being tough for traversing sharp objects. The Gore-Tex fabric, a material you’ll become quite acquainted with in this guide, greatly amplifies the waterproofing and resiliency, a frequent source of praise. As a fine little cherry on top, the shoe is surprisingly light, weighing roughly the same as our Best Lightweight trail running shoe.

But even the best will have a few caveats, and the Danner is not immune. Sizing tends to run a tad wider than some consumers are used to. It’s not uncommon in hiking shoes, but notes of awkward fitment requiring a downsize frequently appear here.

The pricing is also a bit of a tearjerker, with a price range of $190 to $210. I’m pretty sure I saw Jordan’s at a Footlocker for cheaper.

Product Specs
  • Weight: 1.31 pounds
  • Materials: leather, Vibram foam-rubber, Gore-Tex fabric, polymer
  • Recommended terrain: dirt, rock, gravel, mud
Why It Made The Cut
  • Badass sports car name aside, the Trail 2650 GTX is an evolution of the acclaimed Danner Trail, sporting improved waterproofing and even lighter weight for maximum comfort and performance.
PROS

Featherweight design rivals dedicated trail running shoes

Trail design wrapped in wind- and water-proofed fabric

Elastic polymer insoles aid long-distance comfort

Sleek, sharp design works as casual wear

CONS

Priced like collector sneakers

Wide sizes may not be wide enough for large individuals

Reports of inadequate adhesive on insole

If triple digits for an outdoor shoe discourage your hand from clicking “buy,” then the Nortiv 8 is a fantastic value proposition. Stickering within the far friendlier range of $50 to $57 for men’s and women’s sizes, the Nortiv 8 puts up an impressive act borrowed from Merrell Moab’s playbook. Weight is still under two pounds, and the overall design remains robust and ergonomic with an appropriately wide toe box for breathability and comfort without slippage — if you purchased the correct size. Mesh keeps the shoe fairly light and breathable overall, while its generous use of rubber and leather is reportedly quite admirable at keeping feet dry.

So, the Nortiv 8s are adequate at doing all the things a premium hiking shoe would do, but are there any consequences for penny-pinching? Well, there are reported costs in comfort and quality, including material that may begin to peel and separate after time. Most buyers admittedly expected it for the price and claimed they’re minor issues that new adhesives can easily fix. The shoe is also regarded as just a tad too stiff for serious long-hauling, with ho-hum support despite a memory foam insole.

Product Specs
  • Weight: 1.79 pounds
  • Materials: leather, rubber, mesh
  • Recommended terrain: mud, rock
Why It Made The Cut
  • Very much and especially cheerful, the budget choice by Nortiv provides excellent all-around usability and comfort at a stellar price point that slips far beneath key competitors.
PROS

Knockout price greatly undercuts competitors

Waterproof materials paired with breathable mesh keep feet dry

Designs available for men and women

Large toe box enhances comfort

CONS

Minor build quality hiccups

A few reports of inadequate cushioning

This high-octane trail runner is here to bring Adidas namesake to the great outdoors with its take on outdoor shoes. The Terrex Swift R3 is marketed as an on- and off-track, multi-terrain trail runner for athletes looking to make their strides across a vast array of terrain. Weight is minimal, although not the lightest in its class. They hold you around the ankle nicely to minimize blistering and maximize stability. The generous use of rubber and Gore-Tex make it a waterproof companion for mud and rain, with plenty of traction to boot.

Fun fact: The ultra-aggressive tread is formulated by Continental, the premium tire manufacturer renowned for high-performance sports car tires, whose logo adorns the sole of every Terrex Swift R3. If that’s not a flex, I don’t know what is.

The $160 price tag is a hard pill to swallow, however, even if it’s lower than the Danner hiking shoe. The Adidas Terrex Swift R3 could’ve easily usurped Danner’s Trail 2650 GTX title as the best hiking shoe if it wasn’t for frequent complaints of overly stiff construction. The shoe itself is comfortable and resilient for hikes, but some have found it too firm for casual wear, unlike the acclaimed Danner.

Product Specs
  • Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Materials: mesh, rubber, Gore-Tex fabric, polymer
  • Recommended terrain: dirt, rock, gravel, mud
Why It Made The Cut
  • A noteworthy rival to our Best Overall, Adidas presents adventurers with a quality shoe that sacrifices a smidge of everyday comfort and style for durability and aggression over most terrain.
PROS

An agile lightweight for blitzing trails

Gore-Tex fabric strikes again

Aggressive, deep-digging tread pattern by a renowned tire manufacturer

CONS

More affordable, yet still a pricey pill to swallow

Some may find it too stiff for casual use

Salomon’s OUTpulse runs away with the textbook attributes of women’s outdoor shoes, from a flexible, lightweight design to the blinding color palette that I envy (I’d take a men’s pair in women’s blue). These women’s hiking shoes come finished in the aforementioned blue as well as a vivid pink or a dark teal, and sport an especially low-cut ankle. The overall design is slim, like a running shoe, yet it retains a broad rubber sole for maximum stability and comfort, plus Gore-Tex and synthetic textile materials for strength and weatherproofing. Its surprising ruggedness compliments what is regarded as one of the most comfortable hiking shoes on the market, with consumers reporting many miles of effortless use over rocks and even through snow.

While undoubtedly a waterproof hiking shoe, the low-cut ankle could hinder your ability to traverse deep mud or creeks without water seeping through the very top. Also, the materials that grant the OUTpulse its weatherproofing have reportedly created quite a hot shoe that could be a touch too warm in scorching climates.

Product Specs
  • Weight: 1.32 pounds
  • Materials: synthetic textile, rubber, Gore-Tex fabric, foam
  • Recommended terrain: dirt, rock, gravel
Why It Made The Cut
  • Sleek, nimble, and stylish, the OUTpulse is a low-cut hiking shoe that combines the hard-edged ruggedness of traditional outdoor footwear with the agility and coziness of a trail runner.
PROS

Sharp, running shoe-like design

Gore-Tex enhances waterproofing for serious hikes

Sneaker-like comfort

CONS

Low-cut design hinders waterproofing in deeper mud and snow

Could be a tad too warm, despite slim design

Best for Men

The Merrell Moab 3 hails from a line of perennial favorites — hardcore and trail-proven. You can’t seem to search for quality hiking shoes online without quickly stumbling upon these, and it’s easy to see why. Super sticky Vibram soles with deep, aggressively-siped tread create one of the grippiest hiking shoes without sacrificing durability. Overall comfort and shock absorption have been improved versus its forbearers thanks to the Vibram material and contoured insoles with reinforced heel cushions. Mesh improves breathability, while pigskin leather improves toughness and water resistance.

Overall comfort is remarkable for this hiking shoe, but a few hiccups in fitment mean that not everyone can fully benefit. Some have noted that the toe box may not be spacious enough for wider feet, and flat-footed individuals may not enjoy the high arches of the contoured insoles. The Moab 3 is also the heaviest on this list, by only a small margin, and the generous use of mesh without waterproofed synthetics or fabrics hinders its overall weatherproofing.

On the plus side, the trade-off is that this hiking shoe manages to run quite cool, even in hot climates. That said, these would be excellent picks for desert explorers.

Product Specs
  • Weight: 2.06 pounds
  • Materials: leather, mesh, Vibram foam-rubber
  • Recommended terrain: dirt, rock, mud, gravel
Why It Made The Cut
  • The Moab 3 is a tried-and-true choice with excellent performance in a plethora of environments. It retains the boulder-crushing, mountain-scaling attributes of its forebearers with a dash of added comfort.
PROS

Improved cushioning and shock absorption over predecessors

Hyper-aggressive tread for digging into most surfaces

Sticky, siped tread is great for wet and slick surfaces

CONS

The heaviest on this list

A few minor fitment issues

Questionable waterproofing

Best for Kids

The Merrell Youth Moab 2 is a solid pick for those who fancy their younglings to be the next Bear Grylls. As the name suggests, it’s a hiking shoe specially made for kids and is available in a broad range of sizes suitable for tiny tots to even small adults. Sizing is also available for narrower and wider feet. Essentially a shrunken-down version of the standard Moab, many of the same design features carry over, including the extensive use of mesh between the leather inserts and a rubber sole and toe. The shoe has proven durable enough to keep pace with adults on the trail and grippy enough to keep kids safe and upright on snowy terrain.

Like the grown-up Moab it’s based on, the Youth Moab isn’t the most waterproof hiking shoe, so beware of river crossings and mud pits. Additionally, while the fit is reportedly perfect for most children, some parents have expressed that Velcro straps in place of the lace-ups would be a better solution, especially for the youngest of adventurers.

Product Specs
  • Weight: 0.62 pounds
  • Materials: leather, rubber, mesh
  • Recommended terrain: dirt, rock
Why It Made The Cut
  • The Youth Moab 2 is nothing more than a scaled-down caricature of the acclaimed Moab family, meaning it’s a reliable, durable choice for gearing up the tots for the trail.
PROS

Available in wide and narrow fitments for varying foot shapes

Tiny and big sizing for toddlers and small adults

Stout, non-slip soles that can even handle snow

CONS

Lack of waterproofing

Velcro straps would be a better choice for little ones

It seems as though the Salomon X Ultra 4 Gore-Tex was destined to be the most waterproof hiking shoe available. The immense use of synthetics, rubber, and Gore-Tex fabric creates an impenetrable barrier against moisture. The slightly higher-cut ankle that edges close to a hiking boot allows you to ford deeper waters and mud pits. Despite extensive use of dense materials, weight is not compromised and still undercuts heavier, less waterproof items on this list.

Like the slimmer OUTpulse, this hiking shoe dons a wide and aggressive tread that’s great for stability over most trails. The surface is textured as well, which will aid with slippery surfaces.

Aside from the somewhat steep price and no-tie laces, which could potentially loosen over long hikes, the number one drawback is insole comfort. Numerous consumers have reported a lack of arch support and an insole that’s generally too stiff. Some pan it as a considerable downgrade from other Salomon models, while others find them to be minor nitpicks and aren’t so bothered. Others even find comfort to be excellent. Perhaps it depends on the user’s feet, but be prepared to invest in upgraded insoles.

Product Specs
  • Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Materials: synthetic textile, rubber, Gore-Tex fabric
  • Recommended terrain: dirt, rock, mud, gravel, snow
Why It Made The Cut
  • An overabundance of synthetic textiles, rubber, and Gore-Tex fabrics create an incredibly waterproof product that pairs with a high-riding ankle to ensure your feet stay dry, no matter the terrain.
PROS

Well-thought-out, highly-effective waterproofing

Its generous use of materials doesn’t compromise weight

Slightly higher ankle better protects from mud and snow

Wide footprint and tread pattern increase stability over varying terrain

CONS

On the pricier side

No-tie lacing could loosen over time

You may want to invest in new insoles

A favorite among the fleet-footed, the La Sportiva Jackal is one of the lightest hiking shoes on this list and is designed for seeing nature at a rapid pace. Similar to the OUTpulse, it bears a striking resemblance to many running shoes but is reinforced with added rubber and polyurethane for resiliency over rough terrain. Toe caps are polyurethane, and the deep-lug tread dons rock guards to keep them free of debris. EVA polymer insoles bolster the cushion and shock absorption while the small, ultra-thin tongue keeps from rubbing. Overall, it’s a proven choice that has been acclaimed for its comfort and durability in races, trailblazing, and casual hikes where someone simply wants a featherweight hiking shoe.

The Jackal’s focus on speed and comfort means that it, unfortunately, lacks proper waterproofing. One consumer noted that his pair even shrank a half size after accidentally getting them completely soaked. Additionally, while overall comfort is commendable, the heel counter is noted to be a tad abrasive, so longer socks are in order when purchasing this hiking shoe.

Product Specs
  • Weight: 1.32 pounds
  • Materials: rubber, mesh, nylon, microfiber, polyurethane
  • Recommended terrain: dirt, gravel
Why It Made The Cut
  • A nimble rally car among Jeeps, La Sportiva presents a solid, well-received product defined by a cozy fit, stable performance, and minimal weight for fast-paced outdoor folks.
PROS

Reliable and comfortable for fast jaunts and long hikes

Wide overall footprint for enhanced stability over rugged terrain

Wide toe box for enhanced comfort

CONS

Poor water resistance

Harsh material on heel counter may necessitate long socks

Things to consider before buying hiking shoes

Fitment and sizing

The fitment of your shoes is always important, but it’s never been more important than with outdoor shoes. Like ill-fitting combat boots, a few hours in even the highest-quality hiking shoes can result in aching foot pain and blistering if they don’t fit just right. You’d typically want something that holds your foot snug with no slippage as you climb and descend inclines, and a wide-enough toe box to give you just that bit of breathability and wiggle room.

Note that sex-specific shoes are designed with the common shapes of each biological sex’s feet in mind. Women’s hiking shoes will often be a tad narrower, but with a proportionally wider toe box, and will be available in far smaller sizes than men’s hiking shoes. They may also be constructed to be more flexible and have firmer padding for the heel box to better cushion a narrower foot. Many shoes, however, are available in unisex designs, and some shoe listings will include sizing charts for both sexes should their demands have them cross-shopping.

Ruggedness and durability

How tough is it? Superb hiking shoes are essentially built like low-cut hiking boots: tough, weatherproof, and impervious to damage while sacrificing little to none in terms of comfort. Many follow the same formula with leather or synthetic textiles as the outer protective layers with a stiff rubber toe and sole to bash against rocks and sharp debris. Trail runners may shed some of this material for weight savings and flexibility but will retain the rigid rubber toe and underside for protection on mildly rough terrain. A few may even have wide-reaching, deep-digging tread that will enable them to traverse snow akin to a winter hiking boot.

Mesh may be used to improve breathability but are far more susceptible to tearing than other exterior materials and could potentially compromise waterproofing. Gore-Tex is a toughened fabric material popularized by many high-end hiking shoes for its strength and ability to wick away water, making them an excellent waterproofing material.

Beware of occasional build quality hiccups that can afflict even the best brands in the business. The rough lives of hiking shoes can uncover gremlins, especially poor adhesives that can cause insoles and rubber toe material to peel away.

FAQs about hiking shoes

Q. How much do hiking shoes cost?

A: Hiking shoes cost no different than most casual footwear. Many quality items retail between $80 and $150, including the Merrell Moab 3, Salomon X Ultra 4, and Adidas Terrex. Our Best Overall-winning Danner ranges from $190 to $210, in line with high-end collector sneakers. Our Best Value Nortiv 8 stickers at an un-intimidating $55.

Q. Can I use running shoes for hiking?

A: In theory, you could, as the immense cushioning will provide comfort over not-so-harsh trails, but this is ill-advised. Running shoes will often lack the proper sole and toe protection in the event you become acquainted with a dastardly rock or spiky plant. It’s best to stick to proper outdoor footwear. 

Q. Should hiking shoes be worn tightly or loosely?

A: Akin to running or walking shoes, hiking shoes are best worn in the happy middle ground. Leave room to stretch without cutting off circulation or squishing toes. At the same time, never leave room for slippage around the ankle or sole, as it’s an easy way to blister.

Final thoughts

Danner’s Trail 2650 GTX is a remarkably well-made, great-performing, and sharp-looking hiking shoe all in one, a trusty Best Overall winner. Close on its heels are the Adidas Terrex Swift R3 Gore-Tex hiking shoes, which extends the renowned company’s reputation into the outdoors with great comfort and waterproofing at a lower price point. The Nortiv 8 Waterproof Hiking Shoes stand as an undeniable value proposition, with adequate performance and slotting $100 to $150 less than competitors.

Methodology 

This buyer’s guide was primarily research-driven, with manufacturer specs and, more importantly, consumer feedback influencing what outdoor shoes made the cut. Amazon continued to serve as a major hub of information and real-world customer input but was greatly bolstered by other reputable retailers. Sportsman’s Warehouse and especially REI proved to be invaluable resources of objective data and subjective experiences, and many featured shoes can be purchased in stores, should you choose.