The Best Hiking Boots of 2019

 
We waded through the rivers of professional and customer reviews to bring you the best hiking boots of 2019. Photo by  Jake Ingle  on  Unsplash

We waded through the rivers of professional and customer reviews to bring you the best hiking boots of 2019. Photo by Jake Ingle on Unsplash

We aggregated hundreds of hiking boot reviews from outdoor media and customers —and then tested the most popular hiking boots. Here's our findings.

We narrowed down the list of hundreds of lightweight hiking boots and mid-weight hiking boots on the market to the Top 5 that offer best in class features: durability, comfort, and breathability. With an initial list of more than 40 reviewed hiking boots in 2019, we narrowed it down to the top 5 best boots, based on reviews from professional testers, reputable gear review sites, personal use, input from adventurers, and hundreds of customer reviews. With more than two decades of exploring, hiking, backpacking, climbing, guiding and playing, we think a good hiking boot has stability, traction, breathability, waterproofness, and lasts a long time.

Our analysis and testing show the Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX will serve most hikers for most needs. For burlier trips, the Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX is a borderline hiking boot-mountaineering boot. The Merrell Moab 2 is a budget pick that is customizable for your foot and trips and are often on sale. The Moab 2 are the best option for sub-$100 hiking boots. The Keen Targhee III Mid will work for those with wider feet. The Lowa Renegade is a classic that still competes with newer shoes.

 

If you’re looking for a lightweight hiking shoes, check out our Best Hiking Shoes story.

For other hiking or backpacking gear, you may enjoy our related stories: Best Hiking Poles, Best Backpacking Backpack guide, our Best Backpacking Tents guide, or our Best Backpacking Sleeping Pads story.

Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX

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The Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX features Gore-Tex waterproofing.

The Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX features Gore-Tex waterproofing.

The Best Overall Boot of 2019: Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX, (Men's and Women's)


Updated last year, the Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX (Men's and Women's) is the go anywhere, do everything hiking boot. This is a boot that borrows from Salomon’s heritage in trail running shoes, and is a capable, lightweight boot. It’s comfortable from day one, features Gore-Tex waterproofing and a gusseted tongue as well as great grip from its Contagrip sole. Of the hiking boots on the market, it is the most positively reviewed in outdoor media and the overall winner among professional reviews.


In our testing we found, like other Salomon shoes, that the Quest 4D 3 fit is excellent. The boot is easily adjustable right out of the box. The sole is grippy, if not a little squishier than expected. This made it great for getting over obstacles, but not ideal for climbing on difficult, slabby rock. However, most hiking-specific boots aren’t designed for this. Testers liked the Salomon Quest’s model’s lacing system, which essentially gives it two independent adjustment zones: one for the foot, the other for the ankle. The two adjustment zone lacing system makes the Salomons among the most comfortable boots right out of the box.



The Contagrip sole is grippy and a little squishy.

Outdoor media has similar things to say about the Quest: “Salomon footwear has a well-earned reputation for offering excellent water resistance while remaining breathable, and this model lives up to the expectations set by its trail runner cousins,” observes Outdoor Gear Lab, which also named it their top pick.

Customer reviewers also raved about this boot. The Quest 4D 3 is a favorite with Amazon’s customers, garnering nearly 200 reviews, 79% of which are 5-star reviews. These reviews get an A-rating from Fakespot, a website that analyzes customer reviews to flag fake comments.


“Almost a year since I started using my boots. I use them 5 days at least out of every week,” says one Amazon reviewer. “I feel like the grip and bottom of the shoe has no wear at all, still looks brand new. The comfort is still there as well. Still no pain in knees or feet or anywhere. I would say get some leather treatment to put on once a month (if you use them every day).”


It’s worth noting that the Salomon Quest 4D 3 is a middle-weight boot and might be too much boot for some users. If you like the fit of Salomon shoes, but want a lighter boot closer to a trail runner, consider the low top Salomon X Ultra 3 Low (men's and women's), the top pick in our Best Hiking Shoes story.


 

Best Hiking Boot: The Salomon Quest 4D 3

 

The burly Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX is our upgrade pick for hiking boots.

The Best Upgrade Boot of 2019: Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX (Men’s and Women’s)


If you’re looking for a burlier but comfortable boot and aren’t worried about cost, the Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX is our upgrade pick. It’s more spendy than the Lowa Renegade (our Classic winner), but borrows from Scarpa’s mountaineering heritage while still managing to be a solid backpacking performer. It can handle technical terrain in all weather conditions and is an ideal boot for snow travel, yet it still manages to breathe well.


As a boot that verges on being a mountaineering boot, the Zodiac is a bit stiffer than others we considered. While Scarpa makes comfortable shoes and boots, the stiffness can result in some foot soreness after a long day of trekking. But the mountaineering-like torsional stiffness, super-grippy sole, and lug pattern makes it a capable scrambling boot. If you want a lightweight hiking boot, you may prefer something like our Overall Pick, the Salomon Quest 4D. But if you want something that can crossover for rugged mountain travel, the Zodiac could meet those needs better.

“Less than an actual mountain boot, this mid-weight hiking boot will handle trail miles with ease, whether on day hikes or extended distance backpacking trips. It also has the chops to venture off trail onto demanding technical terrain no matter the weather conditions,” says Outdoor Gear Lab of the Zodiac, which it names as a top pick for 2019.

 

The Best Hiking Boots - Upgrade Pick: Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX

 

The Merrell Moab 2 Mid is our hiking boot budget pick, shown here in the waterproof version.

The Best Budget Boot of 2019:

Merrell Moab 2 Mid Ventilator (Men’s and Women’s)
Merrell Moab 2 Mid Waterproof (Men’s and Women’s)


The Merrell Moab 2 is among the most popular and affordable lightweight hiking boots available. This model has been around for more than a decade and is a great boot for light backpacking and hiking. The Moab 2’s greatest asset besides price is that it’s highly customizable: It’s available in numerous colorways, fits and waterproofings, including Merrell’s proprietary M Select Dry technology, Gore-Tex, mesh, vegan, and wide-footed sizes. All in all, Merrell has 91 versions of the Moab 2 on its site. What this means for you is that it’s easy to customize the Moab 2 to what you want in a hiking boot and be able to snag deals on last year’s models.


There are almost too many offerings for the Moab 2—shoes, boots, pull-ons. This includes our top picks for best hiking shoes (men’s and women’s) in our Best Hiking Shoes guide. We also appreciate that Merrell offers the Moab 2s in normal and wide widths and in lengths from size 5 to 15. This is the widest availability of shoe sizes we saw in any hiking boot or shoe.


“What makes this boot so popular is its lightweight and comfortable feel at such a reasonable price. For $130, you get good cushioning underfoot, trusty Vibram outsoles, and a waterproof membrane (an upgraded Gore-Tex model is available for $150). The Moab was updated to the "2" a couple of years ago, but they didn't fuss much with the proven design,” says Switchback Travel, which also names it their best budget pick for 2019.


The waterproof version of the Moab 2 Hiking boots racked up an impressive 997 Amazon reviews, 70% of which are 5-star reviews. “This is my 10th pair of Moabs; and I am looking forward to how Moab 2 compares to the first generation boot,” says one Amazon reviewer. “After shopping around, my conclusion is that the Merrell Moab is the best hiking boot on the market. Right out of the box, I can wear this boot all day with no blisters.”


The one downside about the Merrell Moab 2 is that it may not have the longevity of other models on the list. This is a true lightweight hiking boot. That means it doesn’t offer as much rigidity or cushioning underfoot as a heavier duty boot. However, many hikers find that to be a plus in a boot because it makes it feel more comfortable. Just be aware that if you’re carrying a heavy load or going the long haul, you may want something more heavy duty.


 

Best Hiking Boots - Budget: Merrell Moab 2

 

The Keen Targhee III Mid is our pick for wide width hiking boot.

The Best Wide Hiking Boot: Keen Targhee III Mid (Men’s and Women’s)


Our pick for hiking shoes for wider feet are the Targhee III Mids. Not much more expensive than the Merrell Moab 2, this boot is an update to the Targhee II and is widely favored by reviewers and buyers alike. Even though some boots are offered in wide versions, we think the Keen Targhee III does a better job of meeting the full-foot needs of wider-footed individuals.


Fully 86 of the REI reviewers gave the Targhee III a 5-star rating. “After my first hike in the new boots, I'm impressed. They're lightweight and comfortable, with ample space across the "toe box" (no pinching like many previous boots I've had). A three mile hike that featured lots of mud and puddles didn't get feet wet at all. And absolutely no sense of ‘these are new boots that need to be broken in.' No soreness or chafing at all,” notes one REI reviewer. “Note I went a half-size up based on reviews of other Keen models (normally 10M, went 10.5M),” they add.


The Keen Targhee III Mids feature a proprietary waterproofing material and proprietary rubber sole, which testers say offers good grip on multiple surfaces. While the waterproofing works well, it’s a shorter boot and and the lower ankle cuff isn’t ideal for deeper streams and puddles. Some testers also found the Targhee III didn’t offer as much support as they’d like either in the ankle or underfoot, so this might not be the best boot for ankle support.


The Best Hiking Boot - Wide: Keen Targhee III Mid

 

The Lowa Renegae GTX is our pick for classic hiking boot.

The Best Classic Hiking Boot: Lowa Renegade GTX Mid (Men’s and Women’s)


It’s a little ironic that the legacy pick is named the Renegade, but Lowa’s been making the Renegade since 1997 and maybe that’s why it’s a renegade. With more than 800 reviews at REI between the Men’s and Women’s versions, it’s a best seller that’s still beloved more than two decades since it was first introduced.


The Renegade endures, because, well, it endures. It’s a classic leather boot with some tricks in its cuff, like an effective external polyurethane frame that takes on some stabilizing duties while helping keep the mostly leather boot lighter than expected, under 2.5 pounds. The upper is thin as well, helping reduce break-in time and increase comfort. Paired with a rugged Vibram sole and waterproof Gore-Tex liner, the Renegade is built to last.

“My Renegades were the first major outdoor gear purchase of my life, back in 2014. I put them through anything and everything, and that dependability is my favorite feature,” explains Aron Roberts, hiker, climber and Renegade enthusiast.


Backpacker named them to its Editors’ Choice Hall of Fame in 2018. “The Renegade, with its PU midsole (great for rebound), PU frame (great for stability), and nylon shank (great for protection), shines on uneven surfaces and beneath oversized loads. It never buckled on volcanic scree slopes in New Zealand, and its Gore-Tex membrane kept us totally dry during three rainy days on the Pouakai Crossing,” Backpacker says of the boot.

If you’re looking for a boot that is bound to last for years if not decades, we think the Lowa Renegade will serve you well.

 

Best Classic Hiking Boot: Lowa Renegade

 

Hiking boots provide traction on rock scrambles. Photo by  Lane Smith  on  Unsplash

Hiking boots provide traction on rock scrambles. Photo by Lane Smith on Unsplash

What are Hiking Boots?

Hiking boots provide weight-supporting, rock-scrambling traction. Lugs on their soles keep you trekking solid through muck and climbing uphill. Lugs also help you brake while going downhill. Good lugs will help you brake over scree, sand, rocky terrain or roots. Hiking boots keep your feet protected, warm and hopefully dry. They also offer benefits that other footwear can’t, like greater ankle support. Simply put, they’re the 4WD for your feet.

Should I get Hiking Boots, Hiking Shoes, Trail Runners, or Mountaineering Boots?

Hiking boots are your go-to footwear for rough terrain, day hiking, camping, snowshoeing, backpacking, getting to climbing crags, summiting mountains and other outdoor activities.

However, while hiking boots offer some ventilation, they’re warmer than other choices like trail runners, approach shoes and sandals. That warmth is a comfort on long days hiking in the backcountry, trudging through snow, muck and mud in cooler parts of the year. But in the summertime, poorly ventilated hiking boots can lead to sweaty—and stinky—feet that may add to the risk of blisters. Poor ventilation is one reason that many people think that hiking boots mean blisters. To minimize the chances of that happening, our recommended boots are models with excellent ventilation that can work year-round in most hiking areas, especially the mountains. The best modern hiking boots can provide support and traction in all seasons.

What hiking boots are not, for the purpose of this guide, are mountaineering boots. Those boots are generally designed with more insulation, stiffer soles for crampons and a tougher, overall build with a higher sticker price.

Hiking boots are also not the type of boot you’d sit in a river and fish with. Or the boot you’d wear to a construction site. They’re for outdoor action.

If you’ve read this section and think you’d be better served by something lighter weight, like a hiking shoe, you’ll find what you need in our Best Hiking Shoes story.

 

Our recommended boots are models with excellent ventilation that can work year-round in most hiking areas, especially the mountains. Photo by  Simon Migaj  on  Unsplash

Our recommended boots are models with excellent ventilation that can work year-round in most hiking areas, especially the mountains. Photo by Simon Migaj on Unsplash

 

How we Researched

We trudged through hundreds of reviews of boots from reputable outdoor sites and got our tootsies into some of the best-reviewed hiking boots of the year. While there are almost as many boots available as there are trails in the woods, certain boots rose above the muck with favorable reviews from multiple outlets including The Adventure Junkies, Backpacker, CleverHiker, Gear Institute, Gear Patrol, Outdoor Gear Lab, SectionHiker, Switchback Travel, and others.

After that we wandered through the forests of customer reviews on Amazon, REI, and Zappos to see if they passed muster with customers as well as reviewers. We interviewed long-time users of hiking boot models that made our short list to discover favorite aspects and persistent problems. All this has given us confidence in ranking the best available hiking boots that will last for seasons or years while keeping your feet protected from the elements. Whether you’re climbing Kilimanjaro, trekking multiple days on a long trail, snowshoeing in the Rockies, or splashing through spring streams, the hiking boots on our list are outdoor media and customers’ favorites for lasting many seasons on rough terrain.

After reviewing more than 43 boots that appeared on “best” lists this year, we narrowed it down significantly. Of those, 23 were picked more than once, and only nine were reviewed more than twice. Only four boots appeared on bests lists more than three times, and in most of those reviews the boots were consistently among the top contenders.

 

Today’s boots offer a rich mix of support, stability, traction, and comfort out of the box. Photo by  Paul Hughes  on  Unsplash

Today’s boots offer a rich mix of support, stability, traction, and comfort out of the box. Photo by Paul Hughes on Unsplash

Criteria we used to choose hiking boots

Today’s hikers want a boot that is both durable and comfortable almost out of the box. Thankfully many manufacturers are taking note and creating footwear that balances these two criteria well. The result? Boots that offer a rich mix of support, stability and traction at a good price point. Here’s what it took to make the list:

Comfort

A good hiking boot has to fit feet well almost from the get go. While it used to be the norm, nowadays, no one really wants to stand in the shower with their boots and socks on to get a perfect fit. If you’re buying a modern boot, you really shouldn’t have to.

Modern hiking boots need to offer enough adjustability to fit multiple foot volumes, heel types and foot widths all without causing hot spots and blisters. They may still need some break-in time, but should be pretty comfortable out of the box.

Support

No matter how comfortable a hiking boot may be, it still needs to offer more support than most hiking shoes or trail-running shoes. In a good hiking boot, support under the foot is designed to protect and cushion you from sharp rocks or the impact from plodding across sand. Good hiking boots also protect you from repeated foot-strikes over days and weeks of consistent miles.

Then there’s ankle support. The cuff of a boot supports ankles. But it also protects you from the elements. Whether it’s water sloshing in when you’re crossing a stream, or pebbles finding their way underfoot while you’re trying not to slip down a long scree field, a good cuff will feel comfortable while keeping the outside elements out.

A good hiking boot should have the right balance of traction, breathability, weight, comfort, and support. Photo by  Tyler Nix  on  Unsplash

A good hiking boot should have the right balance of traction, breathability, weight, comfort, and support. Photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash

Traction

Speaking of scree and water, a boot’s traction is paramount to its performance. The best boots have grippy, rubber soles with a mix of aggressive lugs and brakes that allow them to perform well on all types of terrain. Whether it’s sticking to wet rock or providing traction on steep slopes—a hiking boot should grip going up as well as down.


Seasonality aka Breathability / Waterproofness

A good hiking boot needs to be useful for most, if not all, of the year. It needs to offer some insulation, but also breathability and at least some protection from water.

If a hiking boot is not breathable, feet get swampy and soaked from the inside—especially if you want to wear the boot though the summer. Swampy feet can be almost as bad as getting soaked from stepping into a cold stream. Thankfully new waterproof materials are getting better at allowing feet to breath while still protecting them from the elements.

If you plan on using the boots primarily in an arid climate, like Utah or New Mexico, you might not need a waterproof boot. Some of our top picks are also offered in waterproof and non-waterproof versions. Non-waterproof versions tend to breathe better, so in warmer conditions, you won’t get swamp foot. Plus, non-waterproof boots often cost a little less.

Weight

The more a boot weighs, the more it drags on your feet. A heavier boot can, but doesn’t always, mean more protection and durability. Our top picks ranged from about two-and-a-half pounds to a little over three pounds for the pair . We think that weight provides a good balance between providing significant protection while not weighing you down on a long day of trekking.

 

A good hiking boot should perform as well on the mountain as it does in a stream or sand. Photo by  Eric Ward  on  Unsplash

A good hiking boot should perform as well on the mountain as it does in a stream or sand. Photo by Eric Ward on Unsplash

How we Picked/Judged from the Contenders

With so many new boots, shoes and other gear that come out every year, one of the really interesting things that all of the top boots had in common is some longevity. Each of the best models has been around for at least a couple of years and the current model is either the original model or a slightly new iteration. One of the great things about the longevity of these models is that, just like a Subaru Outback or a Jeep, each has options. Some are in different colors or some offer the boots in different widths or levels of waterproofness.

We picked each of our top boots for a distinct reason—except of course for the overall winner, which received the most and best reviews. Otherwise we found the best budget boot, a great boot for wider feet, and a boot that’s still getting love from customers and reviewers after more than 20 years of sales.

Our winners offer the right mix of durability, comfort, weight and traction that will add to your adventures. We think a good hiking boot has to perform as well on the sand as it does on the mountain or in the stream, and all of our winners do.


 

A good hiking boot needs to be useful for most, if not all, of the year. Photo by  Holly Mandarich  on  Unsplash

A good hiking boot needs to be useful for most, if not all, of the year. Photo by Holly Mandarich on Unsplash


Author’s Expertise

As the author of Falcon Guide’s Climbing Colorado's Fourteeners: From the Easiest Hikes to the Most Challenging Climbs, I spent months researching in the field, often traveling on rugged terrain in hiking boots. I am currently doing fieldwork on a new Falcon guidebook, “Colorado’s Best Front Range Adventures: The Greatest Hiking, Climbing, Paddling and More From Denver to Colorado Springs and Fort Collins” (working title). In addition, I edited Justin Lichter’s excellent guide to thru-hiking: Trail Tested: A Thru-Hiker's Guide To Ultralight Hiking And Backpacking, gaining a lot of knowledge from an extreme gearhead and excellent product tester.

Overall, I have 20-plus years of exploring, hiking, backpacking, climbing, guiding and playing in the wild. I also worked as a mountain guide and helped evaluate equipment for hikers before taking off on climbs, leading adults and teens up Colorado’s 14ers. I’ve conducted numerous clinics on hiking and climbing Colorado’s mountains.

I worked with National Geographic and their mapping division in developing their Colorado 14ers Map Pack Bundle. I’ve written about hiking and climbing for Elevation Outdoors, including stories about Colorado 14ers and outdoor apps to boost adventures. I also write for Backpacker Magazine, covering their Deals of the Week, gear review pieces, and their Editors' Choice Awards 2019: The Best Gear of the Year.

I’ve written about countless outdoor companies, outdoor sports and tested gear with publications including CompanyWeek, Outdoor USA Magazine, 5280 and more.

Over the years I’ve tried out multiple brands of boots personally, helped others find the best fitting shoes and boots for themselves, and tracked and evaluated how footwear performs in the field. Before making any purchases for such gear myself, I spend hours reading up on the latest reviews to get the best idea of what’s available and then I actually try on and test the gear to find the best for me.

 

Your hiking boots will need occasional maintenance. Photo by  Holly Mandarich  on  Unsplash

Your hiking boots will need occasional maintenance. Photo by Holly Mandarich on Unsplash

Care and Maintenance Tips


Over time even the most robust boots need some love. Mostly they’ll need washing and waterproofing. There are plenty of options for cleaning and caring for your boots. One of the most trusted brands for boot and shoe maintenance (as well as waterproof gear maintenance) is Nikwax.


Just like your car, your hiking boots will need occasional maintenance. While Gore-Tex and other membranes are waterproof, they need maintenance to keep their waterproofness. Grime, mud and who knows what can work its way to the membrane, essentially clogging it and impacting both its breathability and waterproofness.


You’ll want to make sure the wash and waterproofing is right for your boot type. Fabric and leather require a different type of cleaning and waterproofing than suede or Nubuck leather, for instance.


It’s best to wash boots after they’ve dried from the last adventure. Brush off everything that’s dry—particularly in the treads, seams and areas where different materials converge—before lathering the exterior of the boots up. Follow directions from there for cleaning and waterproofing the boots.


There’s also some field maintenance to do. After wearing your boots all day, take the insoles out and let them breath. This helps dry the insole and boot of any sweat and allows you to inspect the insole to see if it’s packed and needs replacing. It also helps reduce the stank of the boot, which after wearing for hundreds of miles can get, well, ripe. We recommend replacing insoles once per year. Our favorites footbeds are the Columbia Enduro Insole, the Superfeet Green (wide is best for boots), and the Sole Active Thick Footbeds (also available in wide).


Of course the insoles aren’t the only thing you’ll need to replace over the life of a boot. Laces will break over time and need to be replaced every few seasons. We recommend boot-specific laces as they’re more robust and usually longer than regular shoe laces.


Finally, how do you maintain the sole of the boot? If you love your 10-year-old, beat-‘em-up kicks but their tread is balder than Professor Xavier’s head and you’re not ready to let them go, consider getting your shoes resoled. You can check with a local cobbler to see if they can do it. Or, if you’re lucky enough to live near a Vibram Sole Factor tour stop, they can resole your hiking boots in a couple of hours.