crossed hiking shoes on top of a mountain

Conquer Any Trail with the Best Hiking Shoes

The right choice of footwear can make a world of difference on your next hiking trip.

Many people opt to wear hiking boots. But boots tend to be very heavy and can thus weigh you down. Luckily, you can avoid this by going for a lightweight, comfortable pair of hiking shoes.

Here you’ll find a detailed guide on how to choose the right hiking shoes. But before that, take a look at our top picks for the best hiking shoes on the market.

Every model of hiking shoes below (except one) comes with matching men’s and women’s versions. You could call it gender neutrality but the fact is that hiking shoes selection criteria for men and women are the same, only the cuts and size charts are different.

Our Top Pick: Salomon X Ultra 2 GTX

Review:

If the quality of the hiking shoe is your main concern, then the X Ultra 2 GTX from Salomon is an obvious choice. This excellent model provides great support for your feet, which is particularly important if you’re carrying a heavy backpack. At the same time, you will get the level of protection that other hiking shoes simply can’t match.

Let’s look at the pros and cons of this high-grade model from Salomon.

Pros:

  • Excellent Traction

Salomon has constructed the outsoles using the High Traction Contagrip technology that provides excellent traction on all types of surfaces. The secret is in the combination of deep lugs with up to a dozen edges each. This allows for a firm, multi-directional grip even on the most challenging terrain.

  • Optimum Protection

A good pair of hiking shoes will keep your feet dry in all conditions and that’s where the X Ultra 2 GTX really excels.

The polyurethane-coated leather on the outside repels water amazingly well. Even if you get some water on the shoe, it will stick to the surface and eventually bead off. But if some of it still manages to pass through, the comfort membranes on the outside will provide an extra layer of protection.

  • Very Versatile

Due to their excellent traction and a high level of comfort, these shoes can be a great fit for a variety of tasks. Speed-walking, light jogging, running – you name it and this model will deliver. They’re also less bulky than some other models out there, which allows for high versatility.

  • High Stability on Uneven Surfaces

You’ll likely come across some uneven surfaces during your hiking trip, but these shoes have you covered. As soon as you put your foot down, the soles will grab onto the loose pieces, thus helping you maintain proper balance.

  • Unique Lacing System

Like all Salomon hiking shoes, these utilize the proprietary Quicklace lacing system. Once you’ve laced your shoe, use the plastic buckle on top to adjust the fit to your liking. Then store the excess lace inside the buckle and tuck it inside the pocket on the tongue of the shoe.

Sounds complicated, doesn’t it? It’s really not, but you may need some practice. Take a look at this short instructional video from Salomon to learn how to use the Quicklace system like a pro.

  • Durable

Salomon’s engineers have taken extra steps to make these shoes as durable as possible. There is a thick rubber cap on the toes that protects the leather from damage, as well as from wear and tear. On top of that, they’ve also reinforced the stitches in all the flexible areas of the shoe to prevent them from opening up.

Cons:

  • Not the Lightest Model Out There

While it’s not that heavy, the X Ultra 2 GTX is not the lightest model out there. At about 2.1 pounds, it’s a tad heavier than other shoes on this list, but this shouldn’t be a deal-breaker. After all, the added weight allows for superior protection, which is very important in a hiking shoe.

  • The Fit Could Be a Bit Too Snug at First

The fit of these shoes might be a bit tight for some. Even if you get the length just right, they may feel a bit narrow the first time you put them on. As such, you might need to break them in before taking them on the road.

  • Somewhat Pricey

Although not that expensive, this model might still be too pricey for hikers with a smaller budget. But considering the excellent quality of these shoes, the high price is more than justified. Plus, they are extremely durable, so your investment will surely pay off in the long run.

Materials Analysis:

The upper portion of the shoe is made of polyurethane-coated leather and the standard synthetic textile. This helps keep the shoe sturdy and durable, while also allowing for great breathability. Both the outsole and the sole use thick rubber for superior traction across a variety of terrains.

Who It’s Best For:

Whether you’re a casual hiker or an ardent outdoor enthusiast, these shoes are a great choice. They allow you to transition from flat surfaces to rough, uneven terrains without noticing any difference. And even though they are a bit pricey, you can be sure you’ll get great mileage out of them.

Pick your style and click on the link below to learn more about the Salomon X Ultra 2 GTX hiking shoes.

Men’s: https://www.backcountry.com/salomon-x-ultra-2-gtx-hiking-shoe-mens-sal00d1

Women’s: https://www.backcountry.com/salomon-x-ultra-2-gtx-hiking-shoe-womens-sal00d0

Our Versatility Pick: The North Face Ultra 110 GTX

Review:

When it comes to versatility, no other shoe can match the Ultra 110 GTX from the North Face. This is a very comfortable model that provides great stability whether you’re hiking or backpacking. Still, there are certain shortcomings that have prevented us from naming it as our top pick.

Let’s discuss the pros and cons of the North Face Ultra 110 GTX.

Pros:

  • Superior Versatility

Thanks to the excellent support and comfort, these shoes are even more versatile than our top pick. Whether you’re hiking on a flat land or climbing up a mountain, they will provide optimum stability at all times. The manufacturer advertises them as trail runners for backpackers, and they more than live up to that description.

  • Good Traction on All Terrains

No matter how fast you’re walking, these shoes will provide excellent traction on all terrains. The soles utilize the UltrATAC technology with deep and aggressive lugs to ensure excellent grip on different surfaces. The lugs vary in size and are sturdy enough to handle rocky terrains, gravel, and mud.

  • Excellent Waterproofing on the Soles

These shoes have a special lining above the soles that prevents water from getting in. As long as you opt for a tight fit in the upper portion, your feet will remain dry even if you’re walking across snow or puddles. Because the soles are very sturdy, the water will stay out no matter how much you flex them while walking.

  • Great Foot Support

Although they may look a bit rough, these shoes are surprisingly comfortable and provide excellent support for your feet. The midsole uses ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) to ensure a tight fit in the middle. At the same time, the forefoot is very flexible and adjusts to your foot while you’re on the go.

  • Lightweight

At 1.99 pounds for two 11.5-size shoes, this is a rather lightweight model. It’s also lighter than our top pick, although the margin is not that large. Still, even one-tenth of a pound can make a big difference in certain terrains, which is why this model excels in the versatility department.

Cons:

  • A Bit Higher Cost

This model from the North Face is on the higher end of the price spectrum. If you have a limited budget, you might want to look around for a more affordable option. Still, if you want a versatile hiking shoe, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better model, especially at a lower price.

  • Might Not Be Very Durable

Even though it’s built from reliable materials, the Ultra 110 GTX might not be as durable as some other hiking shoes on the market. For one, the rubber sole is a bit soft and may thus wear off rather fast. Also, the mesh and the PVU-coated leather are joined together with a single stitch, which could open up due to regular use.

  • Doesn’t Perform Too Well in Wet Conditions

We’ve already said that the soles of these shoes provide excellent waterproofing, but the rest of it is a bit of a mixed bag. Namely, the upper portion is made from breathable mesh fabrics that may absorb water more easily than synthetic materials. As such, we wouldn’t recommend wearing these shoes in extremely wet conditions.

Materials Analysis:

This model is made from a combination of polyurethane-coated leather and mesh fabrics in the upper part. They are thus very breathable, which is especially important if you’re hiking in warm weather. The UltrATAC rubber soles provide great traction without weighing your feet down.

Who It’s Best For:

Due to its ability to tackle different surfaces easily, this model is great for many different uses. You can wear these shoes while running, speed-walking, or carrying a light backpack. They are so lightweight and comfortable that you can take them day-hiking for hours on end and be sure that your feet won’t get tired.

Choose men’s or women’s model and follow the link below to learn more about these great hiking shoes.

Men’s: https://www.backcountry.com/the-north-face-m-ultra-110-gtx-shoe-mens

Women’s: https://www.rei.com/product/112617/the-north-face-ultra-110-gtx-trail-running-shoes-womens

4 Very Good Hiking Shoes That Didn’t Make the Cut

Before making our final decision, we’ve looked at many different models of hiking shoes. And although some of them have barely missed the cut, they still warrant a strong recommendation.

Here are four more excellent models that you might want to consider, starting with our top budget pick.

Our Budget Pick: Vasque Juxt

If you’re looking for a more affordable model, the Vasque Juxt is a good choice. Made from suede leather and EVA, these shoes are very breathable. More importantly, they’ll fit your feet right out of the box, so there’s no need to break them in.

But because these shoes are cheaper than our top two picks, there are some pro features that are missing.

For example, although the traction is excellent in dry conditions, this model might not perform so well on wet surfaces. It also doesn’t have any waterproofing layer and might thus be unreliable in rainy weather.

Still, this is a very good, budget-friendly model that might be best for occasional hikers. It’s surprisingly sturdy and durable for its price, though you might have to pay special attention to the single-stitching on the back. Also, only a men’s version of this model is available, so women could have a problem with the fit.

Click the link below to find out more about these budget-friendly hiking shoes.
Men’s: https://www.backcountry.com/vasque-juxt-hiking-shoe-mens

HOKA ONE ONE Tor Summit WP

HOKA ONE ONE is a popular manufacturer of athletic shoes from France. While their Tor Summit WP model is mostly on par with our top picks in terms of performance, it’s also more expensive than either of them. Made of nubuck, suede leather, and sturdy rubber, these shoes can take a lot of beating before they start showing any signs of wear and tear.

They also have excellent water resistance, thanks to the use of the proprietary eVent membrane in the front. This model will thus perform rather well even underwater, but only up to its 4-inch flood level. At 2.05 pounds, the Tor Summit WP shoes weigh about the same as our other picks.

While they’re pretty versatile, these shoes don’t have such great traction on muddy terrains and gravel. As such, your foot may slip on soft surfaces, which is surprising for a model in this price range. Still, you’ll get a very versatile shoe that is best for moderate hiking, as well as short backpacking trips.

Click on the link below to learn more about this popular and versatile model of hiking shoes.

Men’s: https://www.backcountry.com/hoka-one-one-tor-summit-wp-hiking-shoe-mens

Women’s: https://www.backcountry.com/hoka-one-one-tor-summit-wp-hiking-shoe-womens

Merrell Moab 2

Comfort is one area where the Merrell Moab 2 truly delivers. The cushioning on the inside might feel a bit off at first, but a few minutes in these shoes and you’ll love it. It provides extra support for the heels and the arches of your feet and allows for a more form-fitting shape than other comparable models.

The busy, multi-directional tread pattern on the bottom of the shoes ensures great traction on all types of surfaces. But at 2.35 pounds, this model is certainly on the heavy side. And although these shoes are advertised as waterproof, that’s only true in case of small puddles or moderately wet surfaces.

As soon as the water reaches the area where the midsole connects to the upper part of the shoe, it will start seeping in. What’s more, the heavy use of mesh fabrics also makes it easier for the shoe to absorb moisture. Still, as long as you’re hiking in dry conditions, this moderately-priced model is sure to provide excellent performance.

Follow the link below to find out more about this ultra-comfortable hiking shoe.

Men’s: https://www.backcountry.com/merrell-moab-2-waterproof-hiking-shoe-mens

Women’s: https://www.backcountry.com/merrell-moab-2-waterproof-hiking-shoe-womens

KEEN Targhee II

Like the Tor Summit WP, the KEEN Targhee II uses nubuck to ensure maximum durability. These shoes are very popular among hiking enthusiasts because of the great comfort they provide. They achieve this thanks to a well-balanced footbed, padded tongue, and a rather spacious toe box.

The traction is great on rough areas, but as soon as you reach more loose terrains, you may experience some slipping. And like the Merrell Moab 2, this model isn’t as waterproof as either of our top two picks – or even our budget pick. But even if your feet get soaked, your toes might remain dry, thanks to the rubber cover in the front.

At 2.4 pounds, these shoes are quite heavy and are thus not recommended for longer hiking. In fact, because they can support a lot of weight, they might be best for backpacking. This is especially true if you are carrying a heavy backpack – these shoes are built on the heavy side for extra stability. Still, these shoes utilize durable and sturdy leather materials and are not as expensive as some other models on this list.

Learn more about the sturdy and comfortable Keen Targhee II by clicking on the link below.

Men’s: https://www.backcountry.com/keen-targhee-ll-hiking-shoe-mens

Women’s: https://www.backcountry.com/keen-targhee-ll-hiking-shoe-womens-ken0046

How to Find the Right Hiking Shoes

With so many good options out there, finding the best shoes for hikers is no easy task. There are several important things you should consider before you make your pick. Otherwise, you could make a wrong decision and end up with a model that doesn’t meet your hiking needs.

Here are a few things you should keep in mind when buying your next pair of hiking shoes.

Comfort

If you plan on spending hours on your feet, you need to find shoes that are comfortable to wear. As a rule, you should look for a model that’s tight in the midsole, but flexible in the toe area. Different models have a different fit, so you might need to try them on before you make your decision.

All the picks on this list provide great comfort. Some of them also have extra padding to support the arches.

Weight

The weight of your shoes goes hand-in-hand with the level of comfort they provide. After all, the main reason you’re looking into hiking shoes instead of boots is that they’re supposed to be considerably lighter.

Most hiking shoes weigh about two pounds, though a few models are even more lightweight. Some of our picks are a bit heavier, but this helps them provide better protection for your feet. Also, the use of sturdier materials makes the shoes more resistant to punctures, as well as wear and tear due to heavy use.

Traction

Because you’ll likely be tackling different terrains, you need shoes that provide great traction. Traction is the term that describes how well the soles of the shoes grab onto the surface.

This is particularly important if you’re hiking on uneven or loose surfaces. For example, if your shoes have poor traction, your foot might slip if you step in mud or walk over a patch of ice. The rule here is simple: the better the traction, the more stability the shoes will provide.

Versatility

Versatility is all about how well your shoes transition between different types of surface. As such, it has a lot to do with the traction your shoes provide. The goal is to find the shoes that will handle different terrains while supporting your weight.

Speaking of weight, versatility also depends on how heavy or lightweight your shoes are. Heavy shoes can weigh you down on loose and sticky surfaces and thus make it more difficult to move. If you’re looking for highly versatile shoes, either of our top two picks would make an excellent choice.

Water Protection

Even if you’re hiking in dry conditions, the weather can change in a second. You may thus find yourself in heavy rain, which is why it’s important that your shoes provide optimum water protection. Most hiking shoes achieve this by using water-repellant materials like leather and nubuck.

Some models also utilize special rubber membranes and covers that add an extra layer of water protection. But the water can sometimes seep in through mesh materials and loose stitches. We’ve tested each of our picks for water protection, so make sure to read that info before you make your final decision.

Durability

Depending on their price, hiking shoes can be a sizable investment. And as with any investment, you want this one to pay off in the long run. That’s why you need shoes that will endure years of use with minimum wear and tear.

The durability of your shoes will depend on its construction, as well as the materials used. Most hiking shoes utilize coated leather or nubuck to ensure maximum durability. What’s more, some of them have reinforced stitches to prevent them from opening up.

Men’s Shoes vs. Women’s Shoes

You’ll notice that men’s and women’s version of the same model usually sport a different color scheme. But that’s not the only thing that sets them apart. They also have a different fit.

Scientifically, women’s feet are slightly narrower than men’s and they also have higher arches. That’s why women may find men’s shoes too wide even if the length is just right. All but one of our picks come in both versions and we’ve included links to both.

If you’re a woman and want to buy a men’s model, there’s another important thing you should keep in mind. Namely, men’s and women’s shoes use different size charts and there’s a 1.5-size difference between the two. So, if you wear women’s size 9, it will translate into men’s size 7.5 while the width will remain the same.

The Final Word

Whether you’re an occasional hiker or a fervent outdoor enthusiast, a great pair of hiking shoes is an essential part of your gear. If you’re in the market for new shoes, any of our picks would make a good choice. Your choice will depend on your hiking needs, as well as your budget.

But if you want the absolute best hiking shoes, then look no further than the Salomon X Ultra 2 GTX. These excellent all-terrain shoes provide great comfort and support while keeping your feet dry and protected. Click the link below to buy these superior hiking shoes now.

Men’s: https://www.backcountry.com/salomon-x-ultra-2-gtx-hiking-shoe-mens-sal00d1

Women’s: https://www.backcountry.com/salomon-x-ultra-2-gtx-hiking-shoe-womens-sal00d0

You also can’t go wrong with our second pick, the North Face Ultra 110 GTX. Unparalleled in their versatility, these shoes will provide great protection, as well as excellent traction on a variety of terrains. Follow the link below to purchase these durable and lightweight hiking shoes.

Men’s: https://www.backcountry.com/the-north-face-m-ultra-110-gtx-shoe-mens

Women’s: https://www.rei.com/product/112617/the-north-face-ultra-110-gtx-trail-running-shoes-womens

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