Best Hiking Shoes For Exploring In 2022


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If you’ve ever spent any time seriously hiking the trails, gullies, and mountain ridges of the world you know that your most important allies are your hiking shoes. And that’s true whether you’re tackling boulder fields, hardscrabble trails above the tree line, or some of the wider, better-groomed trails in a National Parks.

Modern hiking shoes can trace their origins to the aftermath of World War I when weary Europeans began to focus their attention on leisure activities. Early hiking shoes were heavy, leather affairs that were of very little use when they got wet. Over time hiking shoes began to incorporate different materials and fabrication methods. But while waterproof fabrics have been around for some 250 years it wasn’t until the late 1970s and the invention of Gore-Tex that the kind of hiking shoes we have today became possible.

The 10 hiking shoes we’re going to review here have all proven their mettle.

The Best Hiking Shoe

These Merrell Men’s Moab 2 Vent Hiking Shoes are first class. They are one of the best-selling hiking shoes on Amazon and the brand is known to put both comfort and quality first. The Merrell air cushion will work overtime to absorb shock and with a weight of about 900 grams at a medium-size, these shoes also remain very light. Its mesh upper keeps all kinds of debris and moisture away whilst the slightly raised shaft provides enough stability and protection to the ankles when walking.

  • Constructed from a durable 100% performance suede leather and mesh material
  • Molded nylon arch shank and synthetic sole
  • Lining composed of a moisture-wicking and breathable mesh fabric
  • Debris-free design.
  • Toe cap built with a strong protective rubber

See the Merrell Men’s Moab 2 Vent Hiking Shoe on Amazon

See the Merrell Men’s Moab 2 Vent Hiking Shoe on Merrell

See the Merrell Men’s Moab 2 Vent Hiking Shoe on Zappos

If you are an avid mountain climber looking for an all-around multifunctional pair of hiking shoes, then the Adidas outdoor Men’s Ax2 Hiking Shoe is the right choice for you. This pair of shoes offer sufficient support for extended mountain tours through steeper terrains. They have also proven themselves in classic trekking tours on unpaved terrains. The sturdy sole provides optimal grip and stability in wet conditions thanks to the super high traction rubber sole. It is ideal for mountaineering (ideally in summer) and normal trekking tours and can also be used for wall climbing. As for comfort, a molded sockliner has been included to enhance comfort and fit.

  • 100% textile and durable shoes construction
  • Rubber sole
  • Molded and moisture-wicking sockliner that perfects the fit
  • Lightweight EVA midsole for added comfort and long-term cushioning
  • The high traction rubber guarantees optimal grip, especially in rainy weather

Merrell has finally released a successor to their wildly popular Moab hiking shoes and judging by both feel and performance the nearly 10-year wait was worth it. The Moab 2 is every bit as light as the original and perhaps a bit more comfortable as well, especially after hours on the trail. This is a shoe that feels like silk right out of the box. No two-week breaking-in period full of blisters and muffled curses. Just unbox, slip them on and you’re ready to go. You won’t be weighed down either as the pair tips the scale at just under two pounds, which is slightly better than most competitors.

As for traction, the company has decided that “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” and stayed the course with the same Vibram sole as was found in the original; which of course means that stability and support are excellent. Waterproofing is excellent in general with the caveat that these are low-riders so any creek crossing better includes plenty of dry rock surfaces. All in all the Moab 2 hiking shoes live up to their predecessor’s lofty reputation and as long as you stay clear of the non-waterproof option you’ll be happy. This also makes a perfect gift for hikers.

  • Constructed from100% leather and mesh uppers with  a synthetic sole
  • Vibram TC5 Outsole combines a functional design and rubber compounds
  • Nylon Arch Shank to prevent overworked arches
  • Merrell Air Cushion for added comfort and stability

See the Merrell Moab 2 Waterproof Hiking Shoes on Amazon

See the Merrell Moab 2 Waterproof Hiking Shoes on Merrell

See the Merrell Moab 2 Waterproof Hiking Shoes on Walmart

Salomon Men’s X Ultra 3 GTX Hiking Boot

salomon men's x ultra 3 gtx hiking boot

 

The Salomon Men’s X Ultra 3 GTX Hiking Boot has received almost nothing but brilliant reviews. As usual for the Salomon brand, this shoe impresses wearers with its slip-resistance and stable wear. In contrast to the vast majority of hiking boots, the Ultra 3 GTX offers an Advanced Chassis that is built surrounded by foam cushioning for extra comfort and stabilization of the heel membrane. They offer your feet optimal grip and increased stability, and it is fair to say that they are probably more suitable for more demanding tours and steep terrains. No doubt, such extended features come at a slightly steeper price point, which is also paired with the 2-year limited warranty.

  • Made from a long-lasting textile and synthetic fabric with a rubber sole
  • Offers an optimal fit as it’s been designed to hold your feet in place comfortably.
  • Offers intense grip thanks to the rubber materials placed strategically at the sole
  • The Advanced Chassis stabilizes the heel

 

The Keen Men’s Targhee II features the hydrophobic mesh lining and nubuck leather pro with a high level of comfort and breathability. The EVA midsole is engineered to provide both comfort and support and is a little better at comfort than the support. That’s not to say that support is lacking, just that it seems to have taken a bit of a back seat to comfort, most notably when cranking from side to side. Still, it’s a relatively minor quibble, and the rest of the shoe more than justifies the reasonable price.

The toe guards are some of the best around, lacing is secure and shock absorption is first-rate thanks to the carbon rubber outsoles. As with other low-cut waterproof hiking shoes you need to be careful about how deep the puddles, creeks, and streams are before you step in them. But keep everything within the operational parameters of the shoe and you’ll be good to go. At the end of the day, the Targhee is a sound investment for intermediate hikers looking to extend their horizons.

See the KEEN Targhee II Hiking Shoes on Amazon

See the KEEN Targhee II Hiking Shoes on REI

See the KEEN Targhee II Hiking Shoes on KEEN

 

The Salomon Men’s X Ultra 2 GTX Hiking Shoes bear more than a passing resemblance to running shoes. This shoe will propel you up the trail as well as any other on the market. It features a proprietary fitting scheme they call “Sensifit” that holds your foot firmly from all directions without every crimping or cramping. This snug fit then allows the other aspects of the design to work their magic. The EVA midsole, high traction Contagrip outsole, and molded shank all combine to get the most from every step. The Gore-Tex shell provides a high degree of flexibility and true waterproofing.

You’ll love the way these hiking shoes feel both when you slip them on and, more importantly, after several hours on the trail. Other features include a protective rubber cap over the toe, a gusseted tongue, and lightweight construction to eliminate boot fatigue. You’ll pay less for some other good hiking shoes but you won’t find measurably better low-cut hiking shoes than the Saloman X Ultra 2 GTX.

See the Salomon Men’s Hiking Shoes X Ultra 2 GTX on Amazon

 

When the Adidas Terrex Free Hiker Boot was released, we knew it had to have a place on this list. It looks more like a trainer, but it’s just as tough as any hiking shoe on this list.

It’s a mid-profile hiker boot, which is designed to be comfortable, breathable, and lightweight. And, it has a few excellent features which make it super reliable when you’re going off-road. We like the sock-lock construction that holds the foot in place and stops the sock from sagging down. And we like the molded sock liner and EVA midsole, which make it easily one of the most comfortable hiking shoes on this list. But we think the best feature is the rubber outsole. The arrow-shaped ridges give you incredible grip.

See the adidas Men’s Terrex Free Hiker Hiking Boot on Amazon

See the adidas Men’s Terrex Free Hiker Hiking Boot on REI

 

Oboz Men’s Sawtooth Low Bdry hiking shoes do an admirable job keeping water from penetrating to your feet but they’re way more than a one-trick pony. The Sawtooth laces up fast and snug and doesn’t let go of your feet even after hours on the trail. The molded heel cup helps prevent side-to-side drifting. That stability is further aided by the outsized outsoles that help keep things upright along with the nylon shank that cuts down on lateral torquing.

For the most part, the shoe succeeds spectacularly in its quest to keep water out and keep you moving comfortably forward. So if the level of waterproofing in a low-cut shoe is important to you, you’re going to want to take a close look at the Bdry hiking shoes by Oboz.

See the Oboz Men’s Sawtooth Low Bdry Hiking Shoe on Amazon

 

The Wildcat is another pair of hiking shoes that don’t want to let go of its running shoe roots and that’s okay because what it does on the trail is pretty impressive. While it lacks some of the lateral stability you’ll find in other shoes designed more specifically for hiking, lateral rigidity is adequate for mild to intermediate terrain, and comfort is outstanding.

There’s a high degree of breathability in the AirMesh upper and plenty of shock absorption via the generously padded midsole and the “Grippy FriXion AT” sole; which also provides extra shock absorption while breaking. The Wildcat doesn’t mess around with waterproofing, mainly because these are not serious hiking shoes; they’re a hybrid designed for trails or the gym.

See the La Sportiva Men’s Wildcat Trail Running Shoe on Amazon

See the La Sportiva Men’s Wildcat Trail Running Shoe on La Sportiva

See the La Sportiva Men’s Wildcat Trail Running Shoe on REI

These Adidas Outdoor Men’s Terrex Swift shoes are an absolute steal and a must-have for any serious hiker.  These shoes will see you through the wildest terrain and the wettest weather without so much as a scratch.

The Terrex Swift is a bestseller and the reason is obvious, these are great quality. The rubber soles are grippy, solid, and stiff with good stability, which makes them excellent for backpacking, rock, or mountain climbing. The excellent traction on these shoes means you can hike on slick, icy rocks, and during snowy weather. The shoes are also waterproof, so rain can’t get in your way either. The Men’s Terrex Shoes are long-lasting and durable, and you can get as much as 200 miles or more out of them.

Ill-fitting shoes cause cramps and blisters, but the Terrex Swift fits true to size and is breathable with a comfortable cushioned textile footbed that supports your feet.

See the Adidas Outdoor Men’s Terrex Swift on Amazon

 

Hiking Shoe Buying Guide

Features To Look For In Hiking Shoes

Material

This is going to play into your comfort, but also, it’s about preference. Some people just can’t handle leather shoes; it gives them blisters, and that’s why they’ll go for another material like suede or nylon. You want durability to hold up against the elements, but you also want to make sure that they’re shoes you want to wear.

Waterproofing

Arguably, one of the most important features in the best hiking shoes is waterproofing. If you’re a hardcore hiker and plan to be out for extended periods, prolonged moisture exposure can bring on athlete’s foot and other types of bacterial fungus.

Support and Cushioning

You wouldn’t buy a shoe that you didn’t feel comfortable in, and that’s very difficult to judge online. We test every product we can, but it’s impossible to say what’s going to be the most comfortable for you. We all have different feet types and sizes, and that all plays into the decision-making process.

Traction

You need to maintain proper traction out on the trail. A slip can be dangerous.

Weight

The more lightweight, the better. Heavier hiking boots fatigue you far quicker than lightweight ones. You’re carrying extra weight—your energy level will pay the price.

Durability

If you hike every weekend, you want to ensure that you’re wearing a durable, well-maintained pair of hiking shoes.

Breathability

We talked about waterproofing earlier—it’s a necessity because you need to keep moisture out. The same is said for the sweat buildup in your shoes; you want to keep them as dry as possible. The breathability of your hiking shoes is an excellent indicator of how long you can use your hiking shoes in a single go before they end up being too hot/sweaty. You do not want to start a pattern of fungal growth. Dark, wet places are where bacteria grows.

Lacing System

Your lacing system should keep a nice tight fit while ensuring that your laces aren’t going to drag across the ground. It becomes a tripping hazard.

Toe Protection and Insoles

It’s difficult to perfectly marry two traits in hiking shoes: lightweight build, and toe protection. The toe of your hiking shoes should be a bit tougher than the rest of the build, ensuring that stubbing your toe on a large rock or stumbling isn’t going to ruin your trip.

Your insoles are also key. These play more into comfort than anything else, but if you don’t have proper insoles, you’ll end up damaging your feet and, possibly, hurting your lower back and putting extra stress on your shoulders. Instability in your feet affects your posture and how well you perform out on the trail.

Price

This is where the tough choices are made, where you have to weigh the pros against the cons and decide what’s best for you, and what’s best for your wallet.

hiking boot faq

Hiking shoe FAQ

Q: Are hiking shoes necessary?

Yes. And the following are just a few of the many reasons why they are necessary:

  • Uneven surfaces – Hiking is not the same as going for a stroll through the park, walking to work, or jogging. Those things occur on surfaces that are more or less flat and almost without exception paved, either with concrete, asphalt, or stone. Hiking typically takes place on woodland trails. As such the surface you are hiking on most of the time is uneven and littered with rocks, stones, branches, and tree roots. The threat of twisted ankles is ever-present and hiking boots offer the support you need.
  • Weight – While hiking shoes aren’t intended to take you to the summit of K2, they can take you to any number of lesser summits, along mountain ridges and other places far enough afield that you’re going to need to take, at the very least, some basic emergency equipment with you. That may include a stove and a minimal complement of food, a tactical flashlight, rain slicker, dry socks, etc. The added weight you’ll be carrying makes it even more essential that your footwear provide you with robust, all-day support.
  • Water – Your footwear must be able to handle whatever water-related hazards you encounter. That includes streams, rivers, puddles, and downpours. A small stream crossing the trail might look innocuous enough but slip off a rock and submerge your foot in that stream and it could change your entire day.

Q: How are hiking shoes supposed to fit?

If you are to get the most from your outdoor experience your hiking shoes must fit properly. But what exactly constitutes a properly fitting hiking shoe?

  • Wiggle room – When you slip on your hiking shoes your toes should not be touching the front of the shoe. You should have a bit of wiggle room; enough to comfortably move the tips of your toes around a bit, but that’s it. And when you push forward your toes should lightly graze the front of the shoe, not be smooshed up against it.
  • A securely held heel – Once you lace up your shoes roll back and forth in them from toe to heel and back again. Do it several times. If the shoe fits properly your heel will not be sliding up and down inside the shoe. Rather, the shoe and heel will rise and fall in unison. If your heel is loose inside the shoe you can bet on blisters.
  • No pinching – Your foot should not be pinched at any place inside the shoe. The fit should be snug but not constraining and comfortable, not pinching.

If anything else strikes you as odd or is creating discomfort in any way you should try a different pair of hiking shoes. You can’t count on these things going away after the shoes have broken in. Chances are they won’t. Also, remember to always wear the type of socks you’ll be wearing on the trail when you try on your hiking shoes to get an accurate idea of how they’re going to fit.

Q: Do you need to wear socks with your hiking shoes?

Some people go commando with their hiking shoes and leave the socks at home. They claim they get a better feel for the trail and stay cooler too. But those who wish to optimize their outdoor experience will do what most veteran hikers do and find a good pair of hiking socks. Hiking socks are generally quite affordable – even the high-end ones – and they’ll provide you warmth, added comfort, the ability to whisk away moisture, and protection from blisters.

  • Material – Most hiking socks are made from either merino wool or polyester. Merino wool is extremely comfortable and able to wick away sweat and rainwater quickly and effectively. It also keeps your feet warm even when it’s wet. Merino wool is less irritating than traditional types of wool and does a great job regulating the temperature of your foot whether it’s hot or cold outside. Merino wool is also quite durable. Polyester has a couple of things going for it as well. It does not absorb water so your feet stay nice and dry. Second, it’s more affordable than Merino wool. And third, as durable as Merino wool is, polyester is even more durable. For the environmentally-conscious hiker polyester socks that are made from recycled materials are available.
  • Insulation and Overall Thickness – Since hiking shoes are three-season footwear there’s not going to be much reason to purchase the thickest types of hiking socks. Save those for the four-season hiking boots. In general, your hiking socks should be able to keep you warm down to nearly freezing and not be so thick that they pinch your feet inside the boot. If you’re hiking in Zion National Park in the summer you know how hot it can get there. Same with the Grand Canyon. For those places, you’re going to want nice, thin hiking socks. Too thin, however, and you open yourself up to the possibility of blisters. For less extreme temperatures, and hiking during spring and fall in general, you’re going to want a midweight sock that extends up the leg a bit.
  • Height – Given average conditions – neither too hot nor too cold – the “crew” style sock that extends six inches or so above the heel is probably the best hiking sock to use. Any higher than this is likely to create an uncomfortable level of warmth in most situations and any shorter may result in cold legs. In extreme cold, you’re going to want a sock that extends higher, perhaps even up to the top of the calf. However, you won’t be wearing hiking shoes in conditions like that. You’ll be wearing hiking boots that extend up over your ankles along with gators to keep snow out of your boots and help retain heat.

hiking boot faq

Q: How can I avoid blisters?

There are a few different proactive measures you can implement to ensure you’re not going to walk off the trail with a boatload of blisters. Firstly, you need to keep your feet dry. When your feet become ever so slightly moist, your socks and the interior lining of your shoes don’t glide against your skin—they try to take it with them.

Spray the inside of your shoes with antiperspirant before hiking, and be sure to keep moisture-wicking socks on the possibility list. An at-home trick if you don’t have spray antiperspirant or specific socks is to use cornstarch in your shoes to keep them dry.

Q: What solutions are there for narrow feet?

Having narrow feet can be a bit of a bummer when you’re trying to get the right hiking shoes. It’s a bit easier to purchase hiking shoes if you have wide/flat feet since it makes traction a lot easier to manipulate. The best thing you can do is look for specific hiking shoes that are designed for narrow feet, though they will be difficult to come across.

Q: How do hiking shoes improve hiking?

There are a few main ways that they improve hiking:

  1. Traction

Standard shoes (and hunting boots/work boots) aren’t going to give you proper traction on Mother Nature’s territory. It’s fairly difficult to gain proper traction on rocks and loose dirt. While most of it depends on your footing and stability, your hiking shoes are your second line of defense against slips and falls.

  1. Avoiding Blisters

Hiking shoes are specifically designed to breathe easier and to lessen the likelihood of finding blisters when you pop your shoes off.

  1. They Withstand the Elements

Try going hiking in standard sneakers—your hiking shoes were designed to get dirty and dusty, but your casualwear sneakers weren’t. Not only that, but while you lose traction, you’ll also damage your sneakers with all the various ways that your feet twist and turn during a hike.

Q: What is the right way to lace hiking shoes?

Lacing hiking shoes is not the same as lacing hiking boots. Hiking shoes are closer to athletic shoes than they are to four-season climbing boots and so you should take your lead from how you normally lace your shoes before going for a run. Essentially you want to lace your hiking shoes in a way that provides a custom-style fit that is firm without pinching and comfortable without allowing your feet to slide up and down inside the shoe. There’s no magic bullet here and it doesn’t require reams of information on exotic lacing strategies. Just try a few different ways of lacing your hiking shoes until you find one that provides you with the optimal fit.

Q: How to wash hiking shoes?

To get the most out of your hiking shoes, it’s important to keep them clean. Cleaning your hiking shoes should be done after every excursion, especially those that involved muddy encounters. Keeping your hiking shoes in tip-top condition can greatly extend their useful life while simply letting them go is going to ensure you need to buy a new pair every year or two. Here are the steps to take to clean the average pair of hiking shoes.

  • Clean the surface – To begin with, you’re going to want to dislodge the major pieces of dirt or mud. You can do this with a wet cloth. Use the cloth to clean out the inside of the shoe as well. Remember at this point you’re just trying to remove the big stuff. At the same time though you don’t want to dunk your shoe in the water. While your hiking shoes are likely waterproof that doesn’t mean you should abuse this feature by submerging them in water every chance you get. Even waterproof shoes aren’t meant to be submerged all the time.
  • Brush the shoes – Remove the shoelaces and, using an old toothbrush and some warm water, work those areas that didn’t respond to being wiped with the wet cloth. Letting dirt accumulate in tight spaces and seams will only serve to undermine the integrity of the shoe going forward. Gently dig into cracks and crevices with the toothbrush and clean them out.
  • Dry the shoes out – It might be tempting to use a blow dryer to dry your hiking shoes after cleaning them but you should resist that urge. The heat from the hairdryer will only serve to hasten the aging of the various fabrics and materials used to make the shoe. In some cases, the outer shell of the shoe will become brittle and eventually crack, or simply lose its waterproof characteristics. Always let your shoes air dry after cleaning them and make sure they are as dry on the inside as they are on the outside before you put them away or put them back on.

Reminder: As we mentioned above it’s a good idea to clean out the inside of your hiking shoes as well as the outside after every trip. Salty deposits inside the shoe can damage the materials over time and even nullify the waterproofing in places where the salt deposits are heavy. Once the waterproof membranes are clogged with these salty deposits the breathability of the shoe begins to suffer and the next thing you know your feet are wet and overheated. So always make sure to wash out the inside of your hiking shoes when you clean the outside.

Q: Can I wear my hiking shoes in winter?

This is a common question and, all too often, a common mistake people make with their hiking shoes. Hiking shoes are intended to be three-season footwear and they do a spectacular job of fulfilling that role. They are not, however, designed to keep you warm in sub-freezing temperatures or to carry you over trails covered in deep powder in the middle of January. Nor are they built to accommodate crampons which are essential for traversing ice fields and ascending ice-covered trails. For those times and conditions, you need real four-season, insulated hiking boots. More than a few people have lost toes to frostbite because they wore the wrong footwear into the wilderness in the wintertime. Don’t let it happen to you. Enjoy your hiking shoes for what they are but don’t try and make them do things they are not designed to do.