Choosing your best hiking shoes: this is a real headache. Do you love walking in the wild but often have sore feet? Do you need the advice to buy your next hiking shoes?
You do not know which ones to choose according to the type of outing? Often overlooked step, having a good pair of hiking shoes can completely change your adventure in plain or mountain.
In this practical guide, we explain everything about the best hiking shoes and how to choose your next pair.
Hiking shoes are crucial among the equipment of every hiker. They may or may not be successful on your outdoor adventures, so every smart hiker needs to know the basics of how to choose hiking boots before going on a tour.
The good news is that we have already done all the calculations for you.
For you, it’s about asking the right questions and letting not only the sellers but also the boots provide the answers. The next time you’re in the sporting goods store, you’ll know exactly where to look and what to ask.
What type of hike will I do?
This is THE question to ask yourself in the first place when choosing your best hiking shoes. By ” type of hike ” we mean:
- On what type of terrain?
- With what weight to carry in the bag back?
- For how long and with what intensity?
What type of shoes or boots is best for your hikes?
Previously, everyone wore large leather boots to go hiking. But now there is a whole range of shoes and boots, whether trail running shoes, short hiking shoes or short or long hiking boots.
Short hiking shoes
Like trail running shoes, short hiking shoes have a flexible sole, but more robust to withstand the rigors of long days on trails. They are also more stable and better protect your feet.
Short hiking shoes are ideal for hikes on well-maintained trails, people who carry a relatively light backpack, and those who do not need ankle support or stabilization.
- They are light, flexible, and comfortable from the first day (especially when compared to short and long hiking boots).
- They are available in a variety of materials to optimize breathability and waterproofing.
- They are more durable than trail running shoes.
- They do not support the ankle very well.
- They are less durable and less stable than short and long hiking boots.
Short hiking boots
Short hiking boots have a mid-high or high strap to better support the ankle when exploring uneven trails or carrying a heavy load. Short hiking boots are ideal for technical trails, long-distance hikes, people who carry a relatively heavy backpack, and those who need good ankle support and some stabilization.
- They support the ankle well thanks to a mid-high or high bracelet
- They offer increased stability
- The sole and upper are durable
- Most models are water-resistant
- They are heavier than hiking or trail running shoes.
- They are much less flexible than hiking shoes and may require a period of flexibility.
- Most models do not breathe very well.
Long hiking boots
Designed for people who carry heavy loads on uneven surfaces, long trekking boots stabilize the ankles well. They are rigid to prevent foot fatigue and are extremely durable to withstand the most demanding conditions.
Long hiking boots are ideal for rugged and off-the-beaten-track trails, people who need good ankle support and great stabilization, and those who carry a very heavy backpack.
- They have a high strap that maximizes ankle support.
- They have a rigid midsole to increase stability and prevent foot fatigue.
- The sole and upper are durable.
- Most models are very water-resistant.
- They are heavy.
- Since they are rigid, they require a period of flexibility.
- Most models are not very breathable.
Trail running shoes
Trail running shoes have a grippy sole that increases traction and offer good shock absorption to protect your feet from roots and stones. Some people use them for hiking because of the feeling of comfort and flexibility they give them. But since they are less stable, do not support the ankle as well, and are not as durable as hiking boots, they are not unanimous.
Trail running shoes are great for short hikes on well-maintained trails, trail running trips, long-distance hikes, people who don’t need ankle support or stabilization, and those who carry a light backpack.
- They are light, very flexible, and comfortable from the first day.
- Most models breathe well and are more durable than road running shoes.
- They do not support the ankle.
- They are less durable and less stable than boots and hiking shoes.
- Most models are not very water-resistant (some are waterproof, but do not breathe very well when hiking in hot weather).
Let’s say it from the start: mountaineering shoes are not designed for hiking. They are heavy, very rigid and much less comfortable than other types of shoes for long walking. Unless you have the ambition to make technical winter outings or wear crampons, these shoes are to be avoided.
If they are sometimes used to walk on low technical terrain, it is only to make an approach to technical or glacial terrain. We wear them in these situations to limit the weight and not clutter up with another pair of shoes.
Personally, if the approach is on a dirt or rock path for a long time, I will almost always opt to do it with light shoes. I will then put on the mountaineering boots once in the snow. It says a lot about their comfort!
9 Most Important features before buying the best hiking shoes
The 5 most important are these:
1. Weight of shoes
There is a saying among hikers. One kilo on the foot is equal to five on the back. The heavier the shoe, the more work there is for our legs. We advise you to lighten your hiking bag as much as possible by taking only the essentials. You will find valuable advice by reading this article.
A light backpack means less fatigue, less risk of injury, and easier over time. You can then choose light and flexible hiking shoes if the terrain allows.
Do you have to carry a heavy load because of the tent, stove, and take-out food for your trek? Look for rigid shoes for stability. A tall rod will provide additional support if your ankles are fragile.
2. Waterproof or not?
The water in our shoes is definitely the mistake not to make. This causes an accumulation of odors, blisters and it is generally uncomfortable. So we should include waterproof materials that allow our feet to “breathe” and let perspiration escape. The GoreTex membrane is buzzing these years, provided the temperatures are not too high.
3. Arch support
Adequate support will not let your feet flatten under pressure, saving you a lot of pain. For additional support, you might consider purchasing additional orthopedic insoles.
4. Injury protection
Two of the most common hiking injuries are twisted ankles and crushed toes. Therefore, the rougher the terrain, the more we will need ankle support. The inclined surfaces will punish our toes for choosing a hiking shoe without enough free space in the parts of the toes.
Heavier backpacks require strength and flexibility. We need a full range of motion, but also protection that will keep our feet from leaning too far back or forward.
In addition, there are other aspects to consider:
6. Special Tab
This is the tab connected to the rod to prevent dirt, small rocks, water and debris that we find on the trails.
A hard rubber edging located either just in front or around the outside edge. It is there to strengthen the most affected areas of the shoe. It both increases the life of your shoes and adds more toe protection.
GoreTex is a waterproof, hardcore membrane. It offers some breathability but your feet will still sweat at high temperatures and in direct sunlight. Moisture-wicking liners like Dri-Lex or Cambrelle are my best choice for water resistance with additional ventilation. They often come with antimicrobial treatment to prevent odors.
9. Padded collar
The padded collar of hiking boots provides good comfort and ankle support on the trail.
Understand the characteristics of a hiking shoe
You’ve taken stock of your hiking experience, now you need to define the shoe characteristics that suit you.
A rigid shoe provides stability on technical terrain. A flexible shoe promotes the foot roll and freedom of movement when stable support.
High rod or low rod
A shoe with a high upper holds your ankle. A low shoe allows better freedom of movement for your ankle.
There are intermediate shoes called ” Mid ” whose upper goes up under the malleolus.
Protection or lightness
A pair of reinforced shoes protect your feet and lasts longer on steep trails or off-trail. A thick sole also better protects the bottom of the foot. Light shoes are less tiring but more fragile.
What hiking shoes to choose? Our comparison of the best hiking shoes of the moment
To buy a best hiking shoes, you need to define how you will use it most often. See the best models on the market that we have selected for you, and then learn their main differences throughout this guide.
1 – Best value for money shoes
We don’t necessarily all have the same budget for shoes. It should also not be forgotten that there is other equipment to buy. This category is for those who want a shoe offering maximum benefits without hurting the bank account too much. By taking good care of it, one can easily extend their life.
- Weight: 425g
- Waterproof: yes
- Features: suitable for all conditions, excellent sole, ankle support, and comfort
- Ideal for: day trips on all types of terrain and even for two-day hikes.
Our opinion: It is one of the most popular shoes from Salomon. They are versatile, comfortable, waterproof, and offer a lot of foot and ankle support. They will be loyal to you in town and in the mountains. If you are looking for a master’s shoe, it might just be this.
2 – Best for The ladies
Women have a narrower foot than men. In addition, they do not set foot on the ground in the same way as men when they walk. It is therefore important for them to find a shoe that meets their physiology. While most models are available for both sexes, some are known to be more suitable for ladies.
- Weight: 772g
- Waterproof: yesMerrell Moab 2 Ventilator
- Features: excellent general-purpose shoe, grippy sole, waterproof and comfortable
- Ideal for: day hikes on any type of terrain
Our opinion: This shoe is very versatile and affordable. If your goal is to go for day hikes on various types of terrain, this shoe is for you. However, allow time to soften it properly.
3 – Best hi-top hiking shoes
The rising shoe is essential for hiking. Many hikers are now opting for a lighter shoe. I am one of those converts. While it is true that such a shoe tires legs less during a long day, I cannot deny that the high shoe offers better support for the foot and ankle.
The rising shoe lends itself better to walking on varied terrain and offers better protection against the elements. If you do not know exactly what type of terrain to expect, the high shoe will prepare you for all the surprises. It is also stronger when carrying a heavy backpack.
Weight : 1.36kg
Waterproof: yesSalomon Quest 4d 3 GTX hiking shoes
Features: ultra-comfortable, excellent sole, upper foot support
Ideal for: All types of terrain, day hikes or longer
Our opinion: This high shoe is a must. It is recognized for its comfort and hardly requires a period of flexibility. Several of my colleagues call it a “slipper” and have only worn this model for several years. It is solid and suitable for hiking on all types of surfaces. You quickly forget your weight when you see all its qualities. The only downside: she does not breathe much in hot weather.
4 – light and trail running shoes
Light shoes are definitely popular. Trail running is gaining popularity and hikers are taking advantage of technological advances in running shoes. And why not? Trail running shoes combine lightness, robustness, and excellent soles.
I prefer a light shoe myself for all my outings that do not involve mountaineering. On the other hand, I took care to accustom my feet and my tendons to this type of shoe. I highly recommend anyone who wants to transition to the light shoe to go gradually to avoid injury.
It should not be forgotten that low shoes offer less support for the foot than a high shoe. They are therefore less recommended for long trips with a heavier backpack. However, they are not incompatible with this type of outing. Just get used to it and train your feet to avoid injury.
Waterproof: yes hiking shoes Altra Superior 4
Features: comfortable and light shoes, excellent sole, plenty of room for the toes
Ideal for: day hikes in all conditions and trail running
Our opinion: Altra offers interesting shoe models for hikers and trail runners. Superior 4 is recognized for its comfort and its excellent sole. It is suitable for all your day walking or running trips. There is no difference in height between the heel and the toes. I have a pair that I use for trail running and shorter hikes or easy terrain. I have been satisfied with it since the first day.
It should be mentioned that Altra shoes leave a lot of space for the toes. In general, we love it or we don’t like it at all. You decide!
Special mentions: Brooks Cascadia and Columbia Ventrailia.. These affordable and high-performance classics are also interesting. I myself have used several pairs and have never been disappointed. I used them for hiking and trail running in rather a difficult terrain (paths full of rocks, branches, roots) and they did not resist me very long. On cleaner or easier terrain, they will do you great service.
5 – Best For small budgets
Do you have little money to spend on your shoes? No problem. There are still affordable quality products.
Waterproof: yes Hiking Shoes Salomon X Ultra 3 Low
Features: robust, comfortable shoes, excellent grip
Ideal for: day hikes for all conditions
Our opinion: This shoe is interesting for walking whatever the weather. The sole has an excellent grip and is waterproof while being lighter than a high shoe, although it offers less support for the foot. It is also said that it is not easy to soften and that it is a bit narrow. Although it is a super versatile option, it might not be suitable for all feet. A store test may be required.
6 – Best approach shoes
This type of shoe is an interesting mix between running shoes, light shoes, and climbing shoes. Designed for walking, it also allows you to tackle technical terrain, including easy climbing passages. Some models are comfortable enough to allow running.
Do you want to venture into technical mountainous terrain, for example in the Alps or the Pyrenees and want a versatile shoe? Look no further, the approach shoe will suit you. It is much more comfortable than a mountaineering boot but is not suitable for snow.
Personally, I have opted for an approach shoe for all my hikes for many years. Whether I leave for one or more days, if there is no difficult passage with snow, I leave with my approach shoes. Their versatility is impressive.
Waterproof: yes hiking shoes Salewa Wildfire GTX
Features: versatile approach shoe, the excellent grip of the sole
Ideal for: hikes on all types of terrain with technical passages
Our opinion: This approach shoe is ideal for hikes on any type of terrain that will include technical passages or steep climbs. The sole offers excellent grip and the shoe is very efficient and comfortable. It’s my choice for this year.
How to check the quality of shoes in the store
Going with famous brands is one way to determine quality because they have their name on the product. But the brand does not mean that the shoes are of good size. You have to dig a little deeper.
So here are some tips for checking the quality of shoes in the store:
- Check the seam. We don’t want to see loose sons.
- The part between the sole and the upper must be tight and solid, without loose or weak points.
- The leather should be smooth everywhere, without thin spots, uneven edges, cuts or abrasion.
- The tongue should be solid, hard, and thick. If it is soft and spongy, it wears out quickly.
- We should opt for braided nylon laces. The eyelets must be durable and robust.
- Try to twist the shoe like a towel. If you can twist it, the midsoles are too soft and don’t do their job
- Check the heels. We want hard heels rather than soft and spongy
How can I test my shoes in a store?
An intelligent hiker will ignore the brand’s appearance or fantasy. How the shoes fit the shape of your foot is much more important.
Let’s see some ways to test if the shoes are made for your feet:
1. The finger test – This is also the start of an appropriate fit test. Put on a shoe, leave it untied and try to slide your finger behind your foot. It should be fine.
2. The sensory test – You will have to put your barefoot in the shoe of your choice for it. Feel all the places where the boot is tight. You can’t really do it right with socks.
Note: Concentrate especially on the little toes and the big toe and if you feel pinching or pressure.
3. The stride test – What happens to the shoes while you are walking? Is the top breaking as it should or is the corner behind the toes too tight? If your heel and the boot move as one, the boots are too large and will cause blisters.
How to adjust hiking boots – 9 actionable tips
These are the steps to follow to choose the right fit:
- Make sure it is, at least, late in the afternoon (evening is more preferable, however). Our feet stretch during the day, so the best time to buy hiking shoes is when they have reached their full size.
- Test the boots by wearing your favorite socks
- Include your orthotics if you use them
- Compare your feet to the sole
- Slide your finger between the heel of the shoe and the back of your foot. It should get there without a problem, if the fit is right
- As you lace up, your foot should start to move
- Your toes should have enough room at all times. Nor should they touch the front of the shoe
- See how they feel after you take a few steps
- Avoid a pair of shoes that rub against your heel
I hope this article will guide you to the shoes that are right for you. Just ask yourself these questions with each pair you think is the right one. Choose wisely and go to the trail.
Do you have questions about how to choose the best hiking shoes? Do not hesitate to ask me in the comments. What is your favorite shoes? You can also share it with your hiker friends.