The 7 Best Hiking ShoesPublished on 03/30/2023 · 8 min readHaving the right footwear is an essential part of setting yourself up for a great hiking experience! Check out these top 7 hiking shoes below.
Hiking in Glacier National Park. Photo courtesy of Hunter Reed
There's nothing like hitting the trails for a day of hiking with the right shoes on your feet. Whether you're trekking up steep inclines or navigating rocky terrain, a good pair of hiking shoes can make all the difference in keeping you comfortable and supported throughout your journey. With so many options available, knowing where to start when selecting the perfect pair of hiking shoes can be overwhelming. So, we've researched for you and compiled a list of the top recommended hiking shoes to help you hit the trails with confidence and comfort!
A Few Things to Know About Hiking Shoes
Materials in a Hiking Shoe
Hiking shoes are made of various materials, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Here are some common materials used in hiking shoes:
- Leather: Full-grain leather is the most durable material used in hiking shoes. Leather hiking shoes typically last the longest out of any material. In addition, it is highly resistant to abrasions and provides excellent ankle support. But the downfall is that leather shoes tend to be heavier, have a longer break-in period, and are typically more expensive!
- Synthetic materials: Many hiking shoes are made of synthetic materials such as nylon, polyester, and mesh. These shoes tend to be lighter, more breathable, and faster to dry than leather shoes. However, synthetic shoes are less durable than leather shoes and may not provide as much ankle support.
- GORE-TEX: GORE-TEX is a popular waterproof and breathable material used in hiking shoes. If you see a hiking shoe with GTX in the name, the shoe has GORE-TEX! Shoes with GORE-TEX keep your feet dry in wet conditions, but they tend to be more expensive than non-waterproof shoes and can be less breathable.
Overall, the material you choose for your hiking shoes will depend on your personal preferences, the type of hiking you plan to do, and the climate you plan to hike.
Hiking shoes come with different types of soles to provide traction on various surfaces. Here are some of the most commonly seen types:
- Vibram: Vibram is a popular brand of rubber sole that offers excellent traction on rocky terrain. Shoes with Vibram soles are durable and long-lasting.
- Contagrip: Contagrip is another brand of rubber sole designed for hiking and trail running. It offers good traction on a variety of surfaces, including wet and slippery ones.
- Lug Soles: Lug soles have deep, wide treads that provide excellent traction on muddy and uneven terrain. However, shoes with lugs may be less comfortable walking on flat surfaces.
Waterproof and Water-Resistant
If you're planning to hike in wet conditions, choosing shoes that will keep your feet dry is important. The two options are getting something waterproof or water resistant.
- Waterproof: Waterproof shoes are made with materials, like GORE-TEX or treated leather, that prevent water from seeping in. Waterproof hiking shoes are great for hiking in wet conditions but will also be less breathable.
- Water-Resistant: Water-resistant shoes are treated with a coating that repels water to some extent; however, the shoes are not fully waterproof. These shoes are good for hiking in light rain or dewy conditions, but moisture will soak through in heavier rain or snow.
How Should My Hiking Shoes Fit?
Proper fit is essential when it comes to hiking shoes. A well-fitted hiking shoe should feel snug but not tight, with plenty of room to wiggle your toes. In addition, the heel of the shoe should feel snug and not lift when walking.
When trying on hiking shoes, wear the same socks you plan on wearing while hiking to ensure an accurate fit. Walk around in the shoes for at least 10-15 minutes to see if you experience any pressure points or discomfort.
Here are a few specific points to look for when checking if your hiking shoe fits properly:
- Length: There should be a thumb's width of space between your longest toe and the end of the shoe.
- Width: The shoe should feel snug but not tight. Your foot should not slide around inside the shoe. Many hiking shoes come in wide-fit options for hikers with wider feet!
- Arch: The shoe's arch should match your foot's arch. If you are struggling to find something that has comfortable arch support, it’s a good idea to look into aftermarket insoles!
- Heel: The heel should feel snug and not lift when walking.
- Flexibility: The shoe should be flexible enough to bend at the ball of the foot but not in the arch or heel.
It's important to take the time to properly fit your hiking shoes to ensure maximum comfort and reduce the risk of blisters or other foot injuries. If you're unsure about your shoe size or have any questions, reach out to a Camping and Hiking Expert here on Curated!
Now that that’s settled let's get into the best hiking shoes!
The Best 7 Pairs of Hiking Shoes
In first place is the Salomon X Ultra 4 GTX. This lightweight hiking shoe offers excellent grip and support on various terrains. It features a durable GORE-TEX waterproof membrane that keeps your feet dry and comfortable. The Contagrip outsole ensures superior traction on wet and slippery surfaces, while the EnergyCell midsole provides cushioning for long-lasting comfort. The Sensifit system cradles your foot for a secure and precise fit, while the Quicklace system allows easy on and off. This shoe is also offered in a non-waterproof version for those who want something a bit more breathable and don’t care as much about the waterproof feature.
- Best suited for: rugged trails, wet conditions, backpacking
2. Merrell Moab 3 Waterproof
The Merrell Moab 3 is a popular classic hiking shoe with a waterproof membrane to keep your feet dry in wet conditions. In addition, the shoe has a Vibram sole for superior traction on a range of surfaces. The Moab 3 also has a protective toe cap, a breathable mesh upper, and a removable EVA footbed for added comfort.
- Best suited for: day hiking, light hiking, rocky terrain
The Danner Trail 2650 is a versatile hiking shoe that is lightweight and comfortable. It is made with a durable textile and suede leather upper and a Vibram Megagrip outsole for great traction on wet and dry surfaces.
- Best suited for: day hiking, rugged trails, rocky terrain
The Targhee III from KEEN is a popular hiking shoe that is both waterproof and breathable. It is made with durable leather, has a mesh upper, and features a KEEN.DRY waterproof membrane to keep your feet dry. The shoe also has a KEEN.ALL-TERRAIN rubber outsole for great traction on various terrains.
- Best suited for: all-terrain hiking, backpacking, rocky terrain
Technically trail-running shoes, the Speedgoat 5s are a great lightweight option for hikers with excellent cushioning. They have a breathable mesh upper and a Vibram Megagrip outsole for excellent traction on rocky terrain. These trail runners also have a wide platform for added stability and a lightweight EVA midsole for cushion. No waterproofing on this one, so not the best for wet trails!
- Best suited for: all-terrain hiking, backpacking, rocky terrain
6. Vasque Breeze LT Eco NTX
The Vasque Men's Breeze LT Eco NTX Low Hiking Shoes are designed to provide support and comfort on the trails while being eco-friendly. These shoes are constructed with eco-friendly materials such as the recycled content upper and the Vibram EcoTread outsole made with 30% recycled rubber. The upper is made with abrasion-resistant mesh and synthetic leather, and the GORE-TEX Extended Comfort waterproof membrane ensures your feet stay dry and comfortable. In addition, the dual-density EVA footbed provides cushioning and support, and the TPU shank offers torsional stability on uneven terrain.
- Best suited for: backpacking, mud or wet conditions
The North Face Hedgehog Fastpack GTX is a versatile hiking shoe that combines durability and support with a lightweight and comfortable design. It features a breathable and waterproof GORE-TEX membrane that keeps your feet dry in wet conditions while allowing moisture to escape for optimal breathability. In addition, the Vibram outsole provides excellent traction on various terrains, including wet and slippery surfaces. The Hedgehog Fastpack GTX also has a TPU heel cradle that enhances stability and support, reducing the risk of injury on rough trails.
- Best suited for: day hiking, light hiking, wet conditions
Finding the right pair of hiking shoes is essential for any outdoor enthusiast. With the wide variety of options available, it's important to choose something comfortable and well-suited to your adventures. Whether you're tackling rough terrain or leisurely trails, having the right shoes can make all the difference. The recommended best hiking shoes we've covered in this article are all great options to consider. However, if you still have questions or concerns about which shoe is right for you, don't hesitate to reach out to a Camping and Hiking Expert here on Curated for additional information. Remember, investing in quality hiking footwear is an investment in your safety and enjoyment of the outdoors!