The Best Hiking Shoes
WE TESTED THE TEN BEST HIKING SHOES FOR MEN AND WOMEN
Based on our criteria, research and own experience, we put together a comparison table of the ten best hiking shoes for day hiking. The La Sportiva Genesis offered the best stability, traction, and comfort of any of the hiking shoes we tested. The Best Hiking Shoe for most people was the Salomon GTX 2 because it can handle varied terrains and works well for beginner and expert hikers alike. The Merrell Moab 2 is the best trail shoe for hikers on a budget.
THE BEST HIKING SHOE AT ANY PRICE
The La Sportiva Genesis are the best hiking shoe and a great choice for experienced and beginner hikers alike. It's the best option for hikers trying to decide between hiking shoes and more traditional boots. Gear Institute calls them “one of the most versatile shoes in its class,” adding that, “the Genesis provides both a stable and durable shoe with unmatched protection and high quality construction.” We found the Genesis to be functional and dependable in a variety of climates and terrains.
The La Sportiva Genesis also have a nice heel brake, which adds to their already excellent traction. They do require some break-in time given their solid construction, but other than that, we are hard pressed to find anything to knock these shoes for.
We found the La Sportiva Genesis Low were not as cushiony as a sporty hiker like the Salomons. But their stiffer sole and durable all-leather upper mean they can handle more of the elements.
For the wide-footed, the La Sportiva Genesis may run a little narrow, but we found that after some wear the leather upper did stretch out slightly.
The colors on the Genesis are more appealing than many of the other shoes on our list, especially the women’s model, which comes in a fresh grey/teal/black option (as opposed to having pink worked in there somewhere, which happens too often with women's gear).
The stitching is hidden and the lacing system is solid, so durability isn’t going to be an issue. All told, they are beautifully designed and the top-of-the-line construction should have them lasting for years on the trail. We also wore these shoes camping, and found that they kept our feet toastier at night than some of the models that are closer to a sneaker in design. For colder climates, they are the best pick on our list. For hot weather hikers or those with hot feet, there are more breathable options, consider the Vasque Breeze IIIs or the Merrell Moab 2 Ventilators.
LA SPORTIVA GENESIS
THE BEST HIKING SHOE FOR MOST PEOPLE
The Salomon X Ultra combines the lightness of a trail runner with the sturdy support of a more rugged hiking boot. The lugs are aggressive enough that they grip well on rocky mountain trails and not so cumbersome that they feel overkill on a lighter hike. The X Ultras most closely rival the North Face Hedgehog Fastpacks in all-terrain ability, but edge them out slightly in stability and support.
As with most Salomon footwear products, they fit most feet quite well. Wide and narrow footed wearers alike find that Salomon shoes are a comfortable out-of-the-box fit. The X Ultras have recently been updated, but we only wore the 2’s, so we felt it best to share our experience with those. But, from what we’ve read in other reviews, the updated Salomon X Ultra 3’s are a good bet too.
The main feature on this shoe—the lacing system—is one that polarizes online reviewers. Salomon is known for its quick-pull lacing system, which requires a simple pull-tight-and-lock-in-place action. Some wearers find this handy, not having to make adjustments or struggle to tie a tight knot. Others, myself included, prefer the adjustability of a classic lacing system.
The quick-pull lacing system is made of kevlar, but some online reviewers note breakage issues. However, we did not find that to be an issue after three months of frequent wear. If the laces do bust, a replacement set can be purchased for around $10.
SALOMON X ULTRA 2
THE BEST BUDGET HIKING SHOE
The reason the Merrell Moabs always make best gear lists is because they are the can't-go-wrong-with choice. They are a reliable, comfortable-out-of-the-box hiker. They also have a price tag nearly half that of the La Sportiva Genesis shoes. Among all the Moab 2 models, there are more than 1000 reviews on Amazon, most of them 4 stars or higher, which is by far the most reviews we saw during our research.
Like their competitor, the Keen Targhees, the Merrell Moabs are a classic pick among hikers. The recent 2018 redesign keeps all the features that have made them a hiking gear mainstay, but have added a more contoured footbed and new upper material.
The Merrell Moab 2 doesn’t stray from their intended use: day hiking and light backpacking. Constructed from a combination of performance suede and mesh, they are lightweight and breathable, while still offering protection and sturdiness. However, they can be a little clunky underfoot, compared to other more streamlined models like the North Face Fastpack or the Adidas Terrex hiking shoes.
The main drawback common among reviewers is the traction. Clever Hiker noted that “The Moab 2's have Vibram soles which offer decent traction, though we felt some of our trail runners outperformed the Moab 2 in this area.” Switchback Travel said of the Moabs that, “On rocky and muddy trails, we found that traction and stability fall short of a performance shoe like the Salomon X Ultra.” We wore these shoes in some slippery conditions, on ice and hard packed snow. While we did lose our footing a few times, overall we found that they provided stable traction in this type of terrain.
While we tested the waterproof version, the Moab 2 come in the most variety of styles of any hiking shoe we’ve seen: waterproof, regular width, wide, ventilator (non-waterproof), and GORE-TEX. For those looking for a little extra bit of coverage, this model also comes in a mid-length boot version with the same size and waterproofing options.
MERRELL MOAB 2
THE BEST HIKING SHOE FOR MOVING QUICK
The North Face Hedgehog Fastpacks are the nimblest of our picks and versatile enough for a variety of terrains. They are the best option if you want to travel fast and light but you still want something sturdy. Outdoor Gear Lab said, “This hiking shoe is capable and willing to put down long miles on all trail conditions, and despite its light weight is a top performer in stability and support.”
The leather and mesh combo ensures that they’re breathable, even in warmer climates. The waterproofing works just fine, however the synthetic fabric absorbs the water rather than repels it. In our experience, they weren’t as sturdy as the Salomon X Ultra or the La Sportiva Genesis models, making them less suitable for more aggressive terrain or heavier packs. If you’re stopping at the pub for an after-hike beer, these hiking shoes double as a good streetshoe, looking rather sporty and less bulky on the foot than the Merrell Moabs.
Despite hundreds of positive reviews online, the single issue popping up concerns the quality. Some Amazon and REI reviewers report that the Hedgehog Fastpacks wear out more quickly than expected, which we attribute to their sneaker-like characteristics.
The Best Shoe FOR WIDER FEET
The Keen Targhee III EXP WP are a reliable, stylish hiking shoe for casual hiking. The classic Keen Targhee got a third update in 2017, around the same time Merrell Moabs did. The Keens have a more modernized design than the Moabs, making them a little more stylish for day-to-day wear. But both the Targhee and Moabs are reliable choices for most hiking trails.
However, the Targhee is a little less form fitting than the other picks on the list. But as Switchback Travel notes, the “tough leather construction, reasonable weight, and well-cushioned interior make it a great casual hiker.” Based on our testing, they lack the kind of stability you’ll find in the Oboz Sawtooth and they don’t breathe as well as the ventilator version of the Moabs. But for day hikes and carrying a light pack, the Keen Targhee are capable shoes that will get the job done.
KEEN TARGHEE III EXP WP
THE HIKING SHOE WITH THE BEST TRACTION
The Salewa Wander Hikers are shoes made to grip. The splayed out style of the Michelin-made tread-like sole (same as the tire company) makes a lot of surface contact with the ground. The result is that they stick to the trail like a good pair of all-weather tires. And, instead of feeling like you’re hovering above the trail, like you do in the Hokas, the Wanders provide the most trail feel out of any of the shoes on the list. The sole also conforms and adapts to the ground, keeping you on your feet on a tricky portion of trail. The water beads off the surface of the GORE-TEX protected upper. They repel dirt just as well, making them easy to clean.
The Salewa’s wide toe box gives plenty of wiggle room, and they fit most feet well. As one wide-footed Amazon reviewer put it, “I normally wear Keen shoes because of my wide feet but gave the Salewas a chance anyway. I have a hard time finding shoes for the shape and size of my feet but I [didn’t have an] issue with these shoes.” With the Salewa’s almost street-shoe-like design, it’s better suited for day-to-day wear than the “hiker-look” of the Merrell Moabs.
It’s worth nothing the Salewa’s laces are flat, which helps keep them tied tight, but are thin and much longer than they need to be. Because the sole is relatively thin, we think most people will enjoy this shoe the most when on runs or carrying the lightest loads.
SALEWA WANDER HIKER
THE BEST PICK FOR RUGGED TERRAIN
The Oboz Sawtooth Bdry Low WP can handle the off-trail hiking just as well as the groomed trail. They’ve got ample support for all day hiking and they don’t leave feet feeling hot and sweaty. The BDry waterproof system works as it should, and breathability isn’t traded off as it is with most waterproof models. We wore these shoes on a fairly challenging hike and found that our feet stayed sweat-free despite it being a hot day.
Gear Institute liked that these shoes fit a wide variety of foot types, saying of the fit that, “ a wider toe box that provides enough room for the toes to splay but still felt comfortable for people with narrow feet.” The thick-lugged sole isn’t too fatiguing for an easy trail, and has the capability to provide traction and stability on more unforgiving terrain. If you’re looking to move quick, these shoes do feel slightly heavier underfoot than the North Face and Adidas models we tested and may slow you down a little. But, for steep mountain hiking with obstacle aplenty, these are a solid choice.
OBOZ SAWTOOTH BDRY LOW WP
THE BEST TRAIL TO CITY SHOE
The Adidas Terrex Rs most closely rival the North Face Fastpacks or the Salomon X Ultras for nimbleness. Sporty enough to wear to the gym, these hiking shoes can handle a groomed trail. Outdoor Gear Lab called these shoes “light, fast and fun,” adding that “the athletic feel of the Terrex Swift R GTX surged past our expectations.” They don’t have the stiffness of sole that the X Ultras do, and thus aren’t as suitable for longer days of aggressive hiking, but for those looking to make miles quickly, they’re a great option.
The Adidas Terrex R style of the lacing system closely resembles the Salomon quick-pull system, and wearers will either like it or dislike it. As with the Salomons, there isn’t a lot of room for adjustment with such a system, but they can be cinched up quickly, and ready to hit the trail in a flash. They’re also stylish enough to wear in urban environments and would be a good choice for someone who walks on concrete all day.
ADIDAS TERREX R GTX
MOST COMFORTABLE HIKING SHOE
The Hoka One One Tor Summit are almost spaceboot-looking hikers that are shock absorbers for your feet. For those with knee, back or joint problems, the ultra-cushioning of the Hoka One One (pronounced hoka oh-nay oh-nay) shoes will leave your body feeling less stressed after a long day of hiking. The cushion factor doesn’t hinder stability either. Outdoor Gear Lab noted that, “...despite not having a shank insert, this shoe boasts incredible torsional stability and supports short backpacking trips.”
The trade-off on having such a cushioned sole, is that you lose some of the trail feel underneath your feet. When navigating a particularly technical or tricky part of the trail, the Hokas lack the kind of sensation that you get in pair of shoes like the Salomon X Ultras or the Salewa Wander Hikers. Many hikers like the feeling of making contact with ground as opposed to hovering above it, and for those people, there are better options on our list. If the Hoka Tor Summits are appealing, but you’d like a little extra ankle protection, the model also comes in a boot version.
HOKA ONE ONE tor SUMMIT
MOST BREATHABLE HIKING SHOE
If staying cool is a big concern, we found the Vasque Breeze III GTX hiking shoes keep feet sweat-free. The large air mesh sections of the otherwise leather upper make this Vasque model breathable, even on the hottest summer days. However, we worry that the breathable mesh will break down much quicker than the rest of the shoe, and when it does, the waterproof system will be compromised. We felt that the comfort level isn’t on par with many models on our list; we thought the budget pick Merrells offer a much cushier ride as do the La Sportiva Genesis. For the price, there are better all-round hiking shoes available, but for air ventilation, they do an excellent job.
VASQUE BREEZE III LOW GTX
Best for Moving Quick: The North Face Hedgehog Fastpack GTX
Best for Wide Feet: Keen Targhee II
The Shoe with the Best Traction: Salewa Wander
Best for Rugged Terrain: Oboz Sawtooth Low Bdry
Best Trail to City Shoe: Adidas Terrex R2 GTX
Most Comfortable Shoe: Hoka One One Tor Summit
Most Breathable Shoe: Vasque Breeze III Low GTX