When looking to buy the best hiking shoes for your next trek, you might feel like all the technical terminology and the huge amount of choice on the market is giving you the run around. What exactly are ‘Gore-Tex‘ and ‘lugs’ and what difference do they make when you’re out on the trail?

Surely, there must be an easier way to work through the options and find those comfy hiking shoes of your dreams?

There is. Our goal here at The Adventure Junkies is to help you to find the ideal gear for your next adventure. We’ve trawled through the options, waded through the muddy waters of terminology and put together this guide to selecting the best hiking shoes for everyone in the family.

 

 

FREE BONUS! Click here to download the AJ Quick Starter Guide to Hiking

 

THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO FIND THE BEST HIKING SHOES

PICTURE
HIKING SHOES
WATERPROOF?
PRICE
RATING
PICTURE
HIKING SHOES
WATERPROOF?
PRICE
RATING
KEEN Voyageur
No
$$$
4.5
The North Face Ultra 109 GTX
Yes
$$$
4.4
Salomon X Ultra Prime Multifunctional
No
$$
4.3
Oboz Firebrand II
Yes
$$$
4.3
KEEN Targhee II
Yes
$$$
4.3
Merrell Moab Ventilator
No
$$
4.6
Salomon X Ultra 2 GTX
Yes
$$
4.3
Salomon Ellipse GTX
Yes
$$
4.4
KEEN Koven Low
Yes
$
4.5
Merrell Chameleon Low
Yes
$
4.5

 

 

HIKING SHOES 101

 

4 THINGS TO CONSIDER TO FIND THE BEST HIKING SHOES

 

1. MATERIAL

Hiking shoes need to be durable to withstand the conditions of the trail while providing enough support and comfort on a day hike with a small backpack. But what generally sets hiking shoes apart from their boot cousins is how lightweight they are, a result of the type of material they’re made from.

One of the main materials you come across is nubuck leather. This is a cattle leather that has been sanded on the outside to make it strong and resistant to wear. Suede leather is another option. Although it’s less robust, shoes made from this fabric tend to be softer, more flexible and require less time breaking-in time to adapt comfortably to the shape of your foot.

Hiking shoes are also sometimes made from a combination of leather with a textile mesh side panel. The downside to this mesh paneling is that it is less durable that leather, but shoes incorporating this design feature are significantly lighter and more breathable, meaning cooler and more comfortable feet.

 

2. WATERPROOFING

Whether you choose a style of shoe that is waterproof depends on the type of hiking you plan to do. Waterproofing tends to add heat when hiking, but also allows for a greater deal of versatility as you can use your hiking shoes in all seasons.

Leather shoes are naturally waterproof, although they need to be protected at regular intervals with a waterproofing treatment. However, leather has the disadvantage of being less breathable, which is why these styles often incorporate a textile mesh on the sides of the shoe for air flow.

Waterproof/breathable membranes or linings also help to ensure your feet stay dry, even in wet conditions. The most popular waterproof fabric is Gore-Tex, a material repels liquid water but allows water vapor to pass through, keeping feet far drier than in leather and other materials.

 

3. SUPPORT AND CUSHIONING

Given the variety of trails you hit when you’re trekking, a hiking shoe must give enough support and cushioning to keep you comfortable. One of the ways hiking shoes provide cushioning is through their insole, the removable lining in the shoes itself. Insoles are normally composed of varying thicknesses of ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) foam, which can affect how comfortable the shoe feels.

Additionally, the midsole, the layer between the insole and the base of the shoe (known as the outsole), is also made of this material and helps to cushion and absorb shock when you’re walking. It plays an important part in offering support, as shanks or plastic that runs through the entire midsole shoe help to stiffen the sole and provide additional protection for arches and heels.

In many designs, you’ll also find rubber heels and toe caps aimed at protecting your feet from loose rocks or other parts of the trail that could potentially damage your foot.

Finally, although hiking shoes are low-cut and without as much ankle support as hiking boots, the material out of which they’re made can provide rigidity. Sturdy materials, such as leather or the addition of thermoplastic urethane overlay onto the material can help to keep your foot in place.

But if you think you need a bit more support from your shoe, check out our guide to finding the best hiking boots. And while the shoe itself plays a huge part in comfort levels, don’t forget that wearing good quality hiking socks is also important.

 

4. TRACTION

Finally, depending on the conditions in which you plan to hike, the lug (the depth of tread on the sole) is very important.

Deeper and thicker lugs, as well as those with wider spaces between them, should give better traction and grip on all surfaces, including wet and slippery trails. Trying out hiking shoes on an angled surface before you buy can give some indication of how effectively the shoes provide traction.

 

best hiking shoes

Photo by istockphoto.com/portfolio/lzf

 

 

HIKING SHOE REVIEWS

 

1. BEST HIKING SHOES FOR LIGHTWEIGHT TREKKING

KEEN VOYAGEUR

 

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

WOMEN’S VERSION: Keen Voyageur 

MATERIAL: Leather upper with mesh sides

WATERPROOFING: None

FEATURES: Mesh sides for breathability, pull-on loops at heel and tongue to help them on, removable dual-density EVA foam insole for additional support, toe cap and deep lugs for traction on all terrain

PROS: No breaking-in period, wide toe cap protects the feet, excellent traction on loose scree and dirt, very breathable

CONS: Not waterproof

 

 

 

THE NORTH FACE ULTRA 109 GTX

 

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

WOMEN’S VERSION: N/A

MATERIAL: Pu-coated leather and mesh upper

WATERPROOFING: Gore-Tex liner

FEATURES: Mesh upper for breathability, rubber toe cap, full-length EVA midsole for support, lugs vary in size and depth for traction

PROS: Short breaking-in period, very comfortable, breathable thanks to the mesh upper, very good traction in all terrain, designed for trail running in addition to hiking so offer excellent versatility

CONS: Doesn’t provide the best foot support, durability an issue as pressure on the mesh upper can cause it to rip

 

 

 

SALOMON X ULTRA PRIME MULTIFUNCTIONAL

 

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

WOMEN’S VERSION: Salomon X Ultra Prime Multifunctional 

MATERIAL: Abrasion-resistant textile upper

WATERPROOFING: None

FEATURES: Protective mud guard around the base of the shoes, molded shank for underfoot support, orthotic insole for cushioning, heel loop for ease of putting on and removing the shoe, Solomon’s ‘Contagrip’ non-marking outsole for traction

PROS: Excellent traction, well-cushioned, good price

CONS: Not fully waterproof, doesn’t provide as much foot support as other brands

 

 

 

OBOZ FIREBRAND II

 

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

WOMEN’S VERSION: Oboz Sawtooth 

MATERIAL: Nubuck leather and abrasion-resistant nylon mesh panels 

WATERPROOFING: Waterproof nubuck leather, waterproof/breathable membrane

FEATURES: Molded rubber toe cap, midsole with dual density EVA cushioning and nylon shank for stability and flexibility

PROS: Very comfortable, remains waterproof over time

CONS: Has traction issues on wet surfaces

 

 

 

KEEN TARGHEE II

 

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

WOMEN’S VERSION: Keen Targhee II 

MATERIAL: Nubuck leather and mesh upper

WATERPROOFING: Waterproof nubuck leather, waterproof/breathable membrane

FEATURES: Removable EVA insole molds to foot’s shape, dual density EVA midsole for cushioning, rubber toe cap, deep lugs for traction

PROS: Excellent traction, even in wet conditions

CONS: Single stitching around the toe box can come loose, not very breathable in hot weather

 

 

 

 

2. BEST HIKING SHOES FOR WOMEN

MERRELL MOAB VENTILATOR

 

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

MATERIAL: Leather and mesh upper

WATERPROOFING: None

FEATURES: Synthetic leather toe and heel caps, air cushion in the heel for shock absorption, antimicrobial insoles for odor control, molded nylon arch shank for stability and support

PROS: Mesh lining provides excellent breathability, very comfortable and well cushioned, firm midsoles offer foot support, good traction on all surfaces and require no breaking-in period

CONS: Not waterproof, heavier than other models

 

 

 

SALOMON X ULTRA MID 2 GTX

 

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

MATERIAL: Water resistant textile

WATERPROOFING: Waterproof Gore-Tex lining, water resistant textile

FEATURES: Contagrip non-marking rubber sole, heel cap, abrasion resistant lining, ortholite EVA insole, quick lace system requires no tying

PROS: Well-padded, deep tread on the sole aids traction on all surfaces

CONS: Lace system doesn’t allow for the shoes to be tied as tightly as normal leading to reduced comfort and foot support

 

 

 

SALOMON ELLIPSE GTX

 

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

MATERIAL: Nylon mesh with thermoplastic urethane overlay

WATERPROOFING: Gore-Tex waterproof lining

FEATURES: Contagrip rubber soles, protective heel and toe caps, EVA midsole for comfort

PROS: Well-cushioned all around the foot making them very comfortable, sole is firm but movable on different terrain, deep tread provides excellent traction, shoes are waterproof, durable and dry quickly

CONS: Sizing runs large

 

 

 

 

3. BEST HIKING SHOES FOR KIDS

KEEN KOVEN LOW

 

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

MATERIAL: Leather and mesh upper

WATERPROOFING: Waterproof leather, waterproof/breathable textile

FEATURES: Removable and cushioned insoles, child-friendly lace system.

PROS: Slip on and off, laces can be easily secured and adjusted by children, waterproof and breathable, provide excellent foot support and versatile for hiking and other active contexts.

CONS: Could be better cushioned, laces known to snap

 

 

 

MERRELL CHAMELEON LOW

 

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

MATERIAL: Suede leather and mesh upper

WATERPROOFING: Waterproof/breathable membrane

FEATURES: Toe cap, easy on heel pulls, removable EVA insole with cushioning, antimicrobial mesh lining to reduce odors

PROS: Good traction, comfortable, stay fresh and odor-free

CONS: Not completely waterproof but dry quickly, laces hard to tie and untie easily

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