Photo: Olga Danylenko/Shutterstock

The Best Hiking Boots For Every Type of Hike

Hiking
by Matador Creators Mar 19, 2024

Your boots are your loyal companions on the trail, carrying you through sunshine, rain, and everything in between. But with so many options on the shelf, choosing the right pair can feel daunting. Do you prioritize ankle support for rugged hikes or lightweight agility for speedy ascents? Waterproof protection for surprise downpours or breathability for hot summer treks? This guide will help you navigate the world of hiking boots, ensuring you select the perfect partner for every adventure, whether it’s a leisurely stroll through a local park or an ambitious trek to a mountain peak.

  • Support vs. agility: Consider the terrain you’ll be tackling. Rugged hikes with heavy backpacks call for ankle-supporting boots, while lighter trails might favor a more agile, low-cut boot.
  • Waterproofing vs. breathability: Will you be conquering wet or snowy conditions? Opt for a waterproof liner. Prioritizing hot-weather comfort? Breathability is key.
  • Weight and durability: Heavier boots offer more protection but tire you out faster. Lighter options prioritize agility but may not be as durable.
  • Fit and break-in: Try boots on with the socks you’ll hike in. They should be snug but not constricting. Some boots require a break-in period, while others feel comfy from the start.
  • How often you hike: If you only hike once or twice per year, you don’t need to shell out the big bucks on a pair of hiking boots – opt for lighter and more basic options.
  • Hiking terrain: If you live in the desert, your boots will encounter different obstacles than someone who lives in the Pacific Northwest. Consider the type of terrain you will do most of your hiking in, and read the brand’s description of where the boot is best used.
  • Your very special feet: Do you have wide feet? Need extra cushioning? Maybe a bunion? Consider special features that cater to your specific needs and preferences.

We hope you love the hiking boots we recommend! Just so you know, Matador may collect a small commission from the links on this page if you decide to make a purchase. Listed prices are accurate as of the time of publication.

Best hiking boots: A rundown of top options

Lowa Renegade GTX Mid Merrell Moab Speed II GTX On Cloudtrax Xero Ridgway Erem Xerocole
Price: $255 Price: $180 Price:  $210 Price:  $145 Price:  $49.97 clearance
Great for backpacking Great for casual hikers Lightweight Stylish, looks good at happy hour Great for desert hikes
Forms to your foot after break-in period Easy to break in and feel comfortable Cushioned midsole Good for varied trail types Sustainably built
Good for wet climates Waterproof and breathable Agile and quick Minimalist design Excellent grip

Best for backpacking: Lowa Renegade GTX Mid hiking boots

Photo: Jessica Hughes
Photo: Jessica Hughes
Photo: Jessica Hughes
Photo: Jessica Hughes
Photo: Jessica Hughes

Lowa Renegade GTX Mid hiking boots are known for their excellent ankle support, durability, and comfort. They’re a popular choice for backpackers and hikers who tackle moderate to challenging trails. The boots feature a nubuck leather upper that’s both water-resistant and tough enough to withstand scrapes and dings on the trail. A Gore-Tex liner adds a layer of waterproof protection and breathability to keep your feet dry and comfortable in all weather conditions. The mid-cut design offers additional stability and ankle support, especially when carrying a heavy backpack.

Despite its weight, which some reviewers find substantial, the Renegade GTX Mid is known for its comfortable fit and impressive shock absorption. This makes them a good option for long hikes where you’ll be on your feet for extended periods. The Vibram sole provides excellent traction on a variety of terrain, including loose rock, dirt, and wet surfaces.

Here’s why these boots stand out:

Break-in Period: Unlike some hiking boots, the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid is known to require a break-in period before they feel comfortable. This can involve wearing them for short hikes or walks for a few days or weeks to allow the leather upper to conform to your feet. A few sessions should do it and once broken in, they’re set to last for years.

Sizing and Fit: These boots come in a wide variety of sizes, including wide and narrow widths, to accommodate different foot shapes. However, some users report that they run a bit small and recommend ordering a half size larger than usual.

Great for damp climates: While the boots are generally praised for their quality and performance, they can be heavy compared to some other hiking boots, and some users find the lacing system to be cumbersome. Additionally, the breathability can be limited due to the Gore-Tex liner, so they might not be ideal for very hot climates.

Check out Matador’s detailed review of the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid hiking boot

Price: $255

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Best for casual hikers: Merrell Moab Speed 2 Mid GTX hiking boots

Photo: REI
Photo: REI
Photo: REI
Photo: REI

Hikers seeking a balance between agility and support on the trails should consider the Merrell Moab Speed 2 Mid GTX. This versatile boot lives up to its name, offering a lightweight and streamlined design for faster hikes without sacrificing stability. The upper is crafted from breathable mesh with synthetic overlays for durability, keeping your feet cool while providing protection from trail debris.

The Moab Speed 2 Mid GTX prioritizes comfort for long days on the move. A fuel cell midsole absorbs shock with each step, reducing fatigue on uneven terrain. Merrell’s signature M Select grip+ outsole offers reliable traction on various surfaces, wet or dry, giving you confidence to navigate technical sections with ease. Additionally, a Gore-Tex waterproof lining keeps your feet dry when encountering puddles or light rain.

Here’s why these boots stand out:

Waterproofing and Breathability: The boot uses a Gore-Tex liner, a reliable material that offers both waterproofing and breathability. This is ideal for keeping your feet dry in wet conditions while allowing moisture vapor to escape, preventing overheating. However, some users have reported that the breathability might not be sufficient for very hot climates.

Fit and Sizing: The Moab Speed 2 Mid GTX is known for its comfortable, out-of-the-box fit. Unlike some hiking boots that require a break-in period, these should feel good on your feet from the start. They come in various men’s and women’s sizes with a standard width option. However, if you have wider feet, you might want to consider going up a half size for better comfort.

Check out Matador’s detailed review of the Merrell Moab Speed 2 Mid GTX hiking boots

Price: $180

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Best lightweight hiking boots: On Cloudtrax hiking boots

It was rainy in Juneau, Alaska this fall, but the Cloudtrax did prevent my feet from getting soaked. Photo: Jesse Adams
Photo: Jesse Adams

Designed for hikers who value both comfort and style, the On Cloudtrax is a modern take on the traditional hiking boot. They bridge the gap between outdoor performance and everyday wearability. The shoe features a water-repellent upper made with recycled polyester, making it a sustainable choice for eco-conscious adventurers. The upper also boasts a breathable mesh tongue, allowing for air circulation and keeping your feet cool on the trail. A one-pull speed lacing system allows for quick and easy on-and-off, while a TPU toe cap and mudguard offer protection from scrapes and bumps encountered on the path.

On Cloudtrax is known for its signature CloudTec cushioning technology in the midsole. These cloud-like pods compress on impact, providing a soft and comfortable landing, and then spring back for a propulsive feel. This makes them ideal for long hikes where fatigue can set in. The Missiongrip outsole features multiple traction patterns for superior grip on various terrains, be it loose rock, dirt, or wet surfaces.

Here’s why these boots stand out:

Weight and Sizing: On Cloudtrax is known for being a lightweight hiking boot, making them a good option for hikers who prioritize agility and speed. They are lighter than many traditional hiking boots and feel more like a comfortable athletic shoe. However, some users might find they lack the ankle support of a heavier boot. On Cloudtrax comes in both men’s and women’s sizes and is known to run small. Reviewers recommend going up half a size for a proper fit.

Versatility and Durability: The Cloudtrax is designed to be a versatile shoe, suitable for both hiking and everyday wear. The stylish design makes them a good choice for wearing around town after your hike. However, while the upper is water-repellent, it is not waterproof, so they may not be ideal for very wet conditions. The durability of the Cloudtrax also receives mixed reviews. Some users find them holding up well on moderate trails, while others report faster wear and tear on more challenging terrain.

Check out Matador’s detailed review of the On Cloudtrax hiking boots

Price: $210 (often on sale at REI)

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Best for trail and city life: Xero Shoes Ridgeway hiking boots

Photo courtesy Xero Shoes
Photo courtesy Xero Shoes
Photo courtesy Xero Shoes
Photo courtesy Xero Shoes

Hikers who crave a barefoot feel on the trail can look to the Xero Shoes Ridgeway hiking boots. These minimalist boots prioritize a close-to-the-ground experience, allowing for increased flexibility and agility compared to traditional hiking boots. The upper is crafted from water-resistant leather that provides some protection from the elements while remaining surprisingly flexible. A thin, puncture-resistant sole offers enough protection for most trails without compromising on ground feel. A lacing system with ankle lock allows for a secure and customized fit.

Despite their minimalist design, the Ridgeways are surprisingly adept at handling varied terrain. The grippy FeelTrue® sole provides good traction on loose rock, dirt, and even some light snow. Additionally, a removable 2mm insole offers a touch of extra cushioning for those who prefer it. However, it’s important to note that these boots are not designed for heavy backpacking or very technical hikes due to the minimal structure and support.

Here’s why these boots stand out:

Suitability and Break-in: Since the Ridgeways are minimalist boots, they’re best suited for experienced hikers who are comfortable with a close-to-the-ground feel. They might not be ideal for beginners or those who need a lot of ankle support. Also, due to the minimal sole and upper, a break-in period is less necessary compared to traditional hiking boots. However, it’s still recommended to wear them for shorter hikes or walks initially to allow your feet to adjust to the barefoot feel.

Sizing and Care: Xero Shoes Ridgeways are known to fit true to size and come in both men’s and women’s sizes. They are wider than most traditional hiking boots to accommodate a natural toe spread. For care, the water-resistant leather upper can be spot-cleaned with a damp cloth and mild soap. Since the sole is thin, it’s wise to avoid overly rocky or technical terrain that could lead to punctures.

Check out Matador’s detailed review of the Xero Shoes Ridgeways hiking boots

Price: $144.99

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Best for desert hiking: Erem Xerocole hiking boots

Added perk: They wear like Vans, transporting me back to me '90s skater kid roots. Photo: Tim Wenger
The Xerocole blends perfectly with desert surrounds. Photo: Tim Wenger
Comfort and performance. Photo: Tim Wenger
Ignore the horrible calf tattoo. Photo: Tim Wenger

The Erem Xerocole is a hiking boot designed for desert hikes. It’s built for durability and comfort, with a full-grain leather upper that protects your feet from the elements and a high-traction, recycled rubber sole that provides good grip on loose terrain. The boot also has a shock-absorbing cork insole that cushions your feet on long hikes.

There are two versions of the Xerocole: the regular Xerocole and the Xerocole Expedition. The Expedition is a higher-cut boot that provides more ankle support, making it a good choice for off-trail hiking. Both versions of the boot are available in men’s and women’s sizes.

Here’s why these boots stand out:

Sustainability: Erem focuses on creating a sustainable product. The Xerocole is part of the world’s first Biocircular hiking collection. This means the materials used are 100% traceable and can be broken down and repurposed into new boots at the end of their lifespan. They also use 70% recycled rubber in the soles.

Performance: These boots prioritize breathability to keep your feet cool in hot weather. The cork insole provides shock absorption and the high-traction sole offers good grip on various terrains, including sand, rocks, and loose soil. Reviewers have also mentioned that the boots excel at ascending rocky trails.

Durability: The Xerocole is built with a full-grain leather upper, known for its sturdiness and resistance to abrasions. This makes them suitable for rugged hikes where you might encounter sharp objects or challenging terrain. However, some users online rated the durability only average.

Check out Matador’s detailed review of the Erem Xerocole hiking boots

Price: $49.97 clearance

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