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There are all sorts of hiking footwear options on the market today: from sandals to trail runners, lots of lightweight picks exist for summer day trips or morning walks. Then, of course, there are the heavier, more durable options like boots or shoes. These are more expensive and the vast array of options can be overwhelming. Still, a sturdy hiking boot or shoe is one of the best outdoor gear purchases you can make, whether you're an avid all-seasons hiker or you go a few times in the fall. It can make a world of difference in your comfort level, it will keep your sturdier and safer, and it will help you go on for longer distances. Still, you might be wondering what type of hiking footwear is going to be the best for you. We'll break down why you might need a boot over a shoe, and then list the best hiking boots for women so you can pick the best suited option for you.
Do You Need a Hiking Boot or a Shoe?
To sum it up easily, hiking boots are generally more durable than hiking shoes. While shoes are a great option for short or flat trails, boots are a sturdier option made for more challenging or multi-day hikes, and they can handle thousands of miles before needing to be replaced. Hiking boots also have stiffer outsoles to create more stability on rough terrain. Finally, since they also have protection around the ankles, they can help with balance and also keep you safer from thorns, brush, and even wildlife like ticks or snakes. They also happen to be heavier, which means they can make you feel like you're carrying more on your body — so if you're carrying a daypack on a short trip, shoes can be a better pick than boots. However, if you're taking a multi-day hike and already know you need a pair of hiking boots, go for a lightweight option. When picking a hiking boot, you'll also need to understand the breakdown of the shoe. The upper part of the boot determines how heavy, how waterproof, and how breathable a shoe is. The midsoles determines how cushioned a shoe is, and the outsoles determine how much traction you'll have. Think of these specs and what you'll primarily use your hiking boots for when making your pick. Heavy, waterproof uppers are great for the winter months, while breathable, cushiony uppers and midsoles are great for summer hikes.
How To Break in Your Hiking Boots
Even if you find the right pair of hiking boots, you need to break them in properly before they'll work their best on the trail. To do that, follow a few simple steps. 1. Most hikers buy a pair of hiking boots that are a half or a whole size bigger than their usual shoe size. This will allow thicker socks and more comfortable movement, as they shouldn't be too snug. 2. Make sure you try on your boots with the hiking socks you'll be wearing (as well as any insoles you might use) so you'll know exactly how you'll feel on the trail. 3. Try breaking them in first in the house, then out on a shorter errand, then finally on a short day hike. 4. Note any uncomfortable areas and see if you can fix them by lacing your shoes differently. Finally, once you're out on the trail, keep some Moleskin on hand in case they haven't broken all the way in — it'll save you from unnecessary blister pain. Once they're broken in, however, they'll be comfortable for as long as you have them. Here are our picks below:
1. Best for Multi-Day Hikes
Teva are known for their incredible hiking sandals, but their boots are awesome, too. The Grandview GTX is made for multi-day hiking with a waterproof leather and quick dry mesh that seals out the elements. These boots will be your tried and true option for wet or dry weather (and multiple day trips where you have no idea what the weather might be). The boot is lined with micro-waffle knit, and the PU foot bed and EVA-foam mid-sole is soft and extra-cushioned to keep you comfortable from ankle to toes. It's also made from sustainable and recyclable materials, and each shoe only weighs 13.6 ounces — making them a lightweight choice that won't add to the difficulty of your trek, even if you're carrying a backpack. The outsole has sticky traction for wet or dry surfaces, as well. It's a solid pick for longer trips.
2. Best All-Season Option
An over-the-ankle boot with a superior traction, these heavier boots are made for all seasons and all types of weather. The waterproof boot creates a fit that follows the natural shape of your foot, and your feet will remain flat and have room to wiggle, all while the big toe remains straight. This helps keep you comfortable for longer hikes. The soft cushioning also places your heel and forefoot at the same distance from the ground, which will allow low-impact landings if you slip. These are a great pick if you tend to hike in different climates and temperatures, as it can handle most of them. One reviewer writes: "When I was told I needed a solid hiking boot for my New Zealand adventures, I instantly bought myself a pair of Lone Peaks. These shoes helped me survive walking on glaciers, roaring rapids, washouts and cliffs, and 2-3 day excursions through the deepest of bush."
3. Best Pick for the Summer
These Altra Lone Peak Hikers are the perfect pick if you love hiking in the summer or on dry, rocky, or dirt-filled terrain. These lightweight comfortable shoes have the same cushioning as the Altra Lone boots above, but are super lightweight and better for day trips — they'd be the perfect pick if you're going on a trip where you might want to wear these to town as well as the trail. The outer is made of durable, breathable mesh, which won't do great in the rain but will do so well on a sunny hike or camping trip.
4. Best Waterproof Hiking Boot
While most boots are at the very least water-resistant, if the most important spec to you is waterproofing — for instance, if you're in the Pacific Northwest or planning a hike in icy or rainy areas like Alaska or by a river — this Merrell boot is the shoe you'll want to go for. This one will feel a little tighter than a traditional boot to keep the water completely out, and the unique mesh/leather upper seals out water but lets moisture out, keeping you comfortable. They also have secure rubber traction when walking in wet or slippery conditions. If you want to know just how waterproof these are, check out this rave review: "One time I fell off a stepping rock and submerged my foot entirely in river and whole shoe/foot was soaked... I was able to hike out for another 2 hrs without discomfort! The shoes air dried for few days and are good as new!" It also has a protective toe cap to prevent any injury to your feet.
5. Best Option for Wide Feet
This is a simple, no-nonsense shoe that has all the specs you'd want in a hiking boot: a durable mid-sole, a rubber sole, a waterproof upper, and mesh elements for maximum breathability. The outsoles work great on grass or gravel, and they come in a few different colorways. What stands out about this affordable pair is that they come in a variety of sizes for wide feet — which is harder to track down in a hiking boot, as they can be a bit narrow. These wider shoes are a great pick for day hikes and even longer hiking trips, and will keep you comfortable through the whole trek. These have tens of thousands of positive reviews on Amazon for a good reason.
6. A Hiking Boot That Looks Like A Sneaker
These Adidas boots are inspired by sneakers — and will feel lightweight and sturdy on a trail. These are the hiking boots that I use the most often, and I most frequently take them on 8-10 mile hikes on rocky, dirt-filled terrain with a little bit of elevation. I like these for day hikes as they are flexible yet cushioned in the mid-sole so I don't experience foot pain or fatigue, much like a regular Adidas sneaker, but they have way more traction. I've never felt like I'm going to trip or fall with these on, and I especially love that I can wear them for a post-hike beer or sandwich and they barely look like hiking boots. If you're a fairly regular hiker but don't switch up your terrain too often, this is a great pick.
7. Best Leather Option
If you want a classic-looking hiking boot, these leather Eddie Bauer shoes almost have a retro feel to them. They're a heavier shoe with a thick sole and upper, so these wouldn't be the option for long multi-day adventures or summer trips. However, these are a great pick if you're hiking in cooler mountain climates or for the fall. These would also be great if you like to go on walks in the winter — reviewers rave these are waterproof and keep toes warm in colder weather.
8. The Ultra-Comfortable Boot/Shoe Hybrid
These hiking boots from Hoka feel like sneakers, and are an on-trend, popular choice right now for a reason: with a stylish design and unique color ways, these shoes would fit right in with your favorite sneakers. However, these are a great pair of hiking shoes: made from lightweight, sustainable leather and recycled polyester, the most unique spec is the unique extended heel which make hiking up a trail easier and more comfortable. The boots are even recognized by the America Pediatric Medical Association for promoting foot health. They're water-repellant, have a compression-molded midsole, and only weigh 14 ounces.