Hiking shoes have evolved in the last several years. For a long time, the main shoes of choice for hikers were heavy, leather, high-top hiking boots. They provided excellent grip and ankle protection, but were extremely heavy, and would take days to dry if wet.
Even recently there has been a shift in the hiking shoe market. More and more hikers are choosing a lightweight, low-top hiking shoe that is waterproof, provides good grip across all types of terrain, and dries quickly. Whether you are a trail runner, a beginning hiker, or looking for a shoe for hiking through water, we have all our recommendations as well as links to these shoes.
Check out this list of the best men’s hiking shoes and best women’s hiking shoes below.
I’ve always been a huge fan of Merrell, Keen, and Salomon hiking shoes. While those are the main brands that I wear, I realize that there are other excellent brands of hiking shoes and boots. You’ll find all kinds of different brands as well as shoes for all manner of terrain.
Trail Running/Trail Hiking
These shoes are for those looking for a lightweight, barefoot feel, yet still durable to take on the trails. These have become the hot new trend in hiking shoes among the newest generation of hikers.
Here are my recommendations:
Merrel Vapor Glove 3
Price – $80
Available in both mens and womens. Just as the name suggests, this shoe fits like a glove. The Merrel Vapor Glove 3 gives you the barefoot feel with a sock-like fit. Made with a breathable mesh upper and Merrell’s TrailProtect™ pad offers underfoot protection on woodland, desert, and mountain trails. It’s sleek look and extremely light weight (6.5 oz) make it a great choice for trail runners and day hikers.
Merrel Trail Glove 4
Price – $100
The Merrell Trail Glove 4 is also available for men and women. The big brother of the Merrell Vapor Glove, it features all the same attributes of the Vapor Glove, but is two ounces heavier (8.5 oz). It’s a great shoe that can be used on a variety of trails.
Vibram V Trail Runner
It’s the shoe that ushered in the barefoot/minimalist hiking era, and still has a loyal following. Once hikers try them, they seem to love them. Complete with Vibram 3d cocoon technology molded into the sole which provides rock-stopping protection is now extended further into the ball area to provide more comfort over rocky terrain. Multi-directional lugs provide for grip in all directions. They have an anti-microbial poly fabric sock liner, and machine washable.
La Sportiva Bushido Trail Running Shoes
La Sportiva’s Bushido is a nice trail running alternative if you’re looking to get away from a sock-like fit and have more of a traditional low type hiking shoe. It’s heavier than most others in this category at 10.5 oz, but provides a stable grip on all surfaces. Available for both men and women. Each shoe weighs 10.5 oz.
Salomon Speedcross 4 Trail Runner
The Salomon Speedcross has been one the most popular trail running shoes for several years, and the Speedcross 4 is no different from its predecessors the Speedcross 2, and Speedcross 3. It is available for both men and women. Made with an Anti-Debris Mesh/Water Resistant outer and a sticky rubber sole, this shoe provides excellent grip on all terrains, and looks great too. This has been one of my favorites. and is still light compared to other traditional hiking shoes. Each Speedcross 4 shoe weighs 11.0 oz.
Altra Lone Peak 3.0
The Altra Lone Peak 3.0 is a the latest line in their popular Lone Peak trail running shoe collection. While not the most sleek-looking shoe, it makes up for it comfort. Altra’s signature FootShape toe box, which instead of tapering toward the end of the shoe, is more square, allowing more room for toes. Each shoe weighs 9.7 oz.
Low Top Hiking Shoes
While the hiking shoes in this category are all low-top hiking shoes, they don’t have the lightweight feel of trail running hiking shoes. Instead, these typically provide more support the length of foot and many are leather and waterproof.
Keen Targhee II
Keen came up with a winner with Targhee II hiking shoe. Technically a low top hiking shoe, it offers an extra inch of added support around the ankle. Comes in both mens and womens sizes. One of the best concepts of Keen is the sturdy rubber covering around the front and top of the shoe. No more needing to worry about smashing your toes when you hit a large rock with the front of your shoes. Comes with deep 4 mm tread, and a waterproof outer membranne. Each shoe weighs 15.4 oz.
Merrell Moab 2 Waterproof
The Moab 2 Waterproof is one of the flagship hiking shoes of the Merrell brand. They’ve listened to the reviews as the Moab 2 Waterproof also comes in wide widths. It also is available for men and women. The shoes are waterproof and have always had great comfort on the trail. They are a little heavy, which may take a bit to get accustom to if you normally where a minimalist shoe. The Moab 2 Waterproof offers good traction as well. Each shoe weighs 2 lbs 1 oz.
Salomon X Ultra 2 GTX
The Salomon X Ultra 2 GTX is great hiking shoe for both men and women. The shoe is a Full Gore-Tex hiking shoe which ensures breathable waterproof performance, and has sticky grip on all trail surfaces. The X Ultra 2 GTX is a great shoe for a day hiker or backpacker. Each shoe weighs 16 oz.
The La Sportiva Synthesis Mid is a hybrid of a low-top hiking shoe and a high-top boot. This hiking shoe is great for those that want the feel of a shoe with the additional support from a boot.
The Talus Trek Low Ultradry provides great performance with less weight and more mobility. Features UltraDry™ waterproof system, and a durable, protective upper. Vibram outsole provide great grip on various types of terrain. Comes in both mens and womens sizes. Each shoe weighs 2 lbs.
The North Face Ultra 109 GTX
The North Face Ultra 109 GTX is light on the trails, is waterproof Gore-Tex hiking shoes that features CRADLE™ Guide technology for a natural stride transition and a smooth, stable ride. Has Vibram soles for stable footing on wet or dry terrain. Each shoe weighs 15 oz.
Amphibious Shoes for Water Hiking
The amphibious water shoe is another type of hiking shoe that has gain a lot of traction in the hiking world. If you’re going to crossing streams or walking up creek beds for hours on end, these are the best shoes for job. Worn without socks, these shoes are constructed to quickly drain water and sand, while providing your toes and feet with protection from underwater rocks. Here are some great options.
Keen Mckenzie 2
The Keen Mckenzie 2 is my preferred amphibious shoe and the is the best all-around hiking shoe for my needs. I use it in the water, in the desert, on mountain trails, everything. With all the types of hiking shoes out there, this one, in my opinion covers the most needs of a hiker. Closed toe with rugged toe coverage, a wide fit, and drains the water out without bring debris in. If I can only pick one shoe, the Keen Mckenzie is the one I’m taking on the trails with me. Sizes available for both men and women.
The Merrell Capra is a great water shoe that can work in the water and on the dry trails. Great traction with the Vibram outsole, and mesh covering and side drain ports aid in water drainage. Available for both men and women.
Merrell All Out Blaze Sieve
The Merrell All Out Blaze is great amphibious water shoes. It looks like a shoe, and protects like a shoe, but the tiny openings along the side of the shoe aids in water draninage, as does the opening near the heel. This is a comfortable shoe that can be used on dry trails too. Available for both men and women.
Columbia Drainmaker III
The Columbia Drainmaker III is a low-top amphibious shoe that looks like a normal shoe, but the mesh exterior allows for water to drain while keeping out debris. The midsole also has ports that allows for draining as well. It also has protective toe bumper on the front of the shoe.
Keen Newport Evo H2
The Keen Newport Evo H2 is a new release by Keen of the signature Newport series of water shoe/sandal. A popular open shoe that provides great drainage as well as the standard sturdy rubber toe covering. The Newport Evo H2 has sharp new colors and increased traction. It is also machine washable and available for both men and women.
Traditional Hiking Boots
Some hikers, especially those that are doing extended backpacking trips and are not looking to walk in streams and creeks, not do any trail running, will prefer the traditional high-top hiking boot. These also provide superior ankle support and protection. Here are some solid choices for hiking boots.
Salomon Quest 4D 2 GTX
Widely regarded as the best hiking boot on the market.
Merrell Moab 2 Mid Gore-Tex
Vasque St. Elias GTX
For years, the best shoes for canyoneering and climbing for years have been Five Ten. Canyoneer is a term for a person that hikes, climbs, and rappels through technical slot canyons which require the aid of climbing ropes. These are good boots for water hikes as well. In fact, equipment rental shops near Zion exclusively rent Five Ten shoes for those hikers doing The Narrows and The Subway in Zion National Park.
Five Ten Canyoneer 3
The Five Ten Canyoneer 3 is a solid canyoneer shoe and is one of the best on the market. Five Ten is known for superior grip with all of its shoes. Not the most visible appealing, but as mentioned above, if Zion National Park uses these as the rental shoe for The Narrows, they must be good, right?
What about socks?
So now you have an idea of what kind of hiking shoes are there, but what about socks? Here are some great brands of hiking socks to choose from. Darn Tough socks, SmartWool socks, Bridgedale socks, and Patagonia socks are all excellent choices for hikers. They all have a variety of colors, sizes, and length.
Don’t forget to bring these essentials on your next hike:
For some other hiking gear we recommend: Click here
We hope this information helps you prepare for your hiking adventures!
To see some of our favorite hiking trails, click here.
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