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All hiking footwear is not created equal. Distance, terrain, and personal preferences are all basic factors to consider when finding the right footwear for your adventures. There are also lots of other factors that can help you decide what type of shoe is best: things like weight, ankle support, and traction are all important, but depending on the trails you tend to take, one might stick out as the most important quality for you. If you need help deciding which of the best hiking shoes for women are the best fit for you, we broke down the categories based on what spec might be most important to you. When you purchase your shoes, remember that fit is everything. The difference between blisters and bliss is taking the time to get a great-fitting shoe for all the miles it will take you. Make sure to break them in around the house and on smaller treks before you take a longer hike, and assess if the laces are tied correctly and if you need to add any insoles. Here are our picks below for the best women's hiking shoes:
1. The Best Lightweight Hiking Shoe
The weight of your shoes exerts a noticeable drain on your energy and stamina, and your shoes might be a more significant drag than you think. Experienced hikers have been heard to say, "a pound on your feet equals five pounds on your back." A lighter shoe means you'll be able to go farther — and more comfortably — than you would in a pair of heavy ones. As shoe weight goes down, they become more comfortable and flexible. This shoe from La Sportiva is a little over a pound, and is the best pick for you if you're looking for something lightweight, durable, and will help you manage longer hikes.
2. The Best Shoe for Ankle Support
Ankle support is one of the most important factors to remember if you're a hiking beginner unaccustomed to traversing rugged terrain. Ankle support plays a huge role when you're carrying a heavy backpack. In such circumstances, boots will always be the best choice. Having one or two lace hooks above the ankle allows you to lock your heel and secure it, and a tall, stiff boot will provide exceptional support off-trail or in rocky terrain. In addition, a taller boot will keep your feet stable while keeping the rocks and pebbles out. It's best to select a mid-high ankle for support.
Hiking boots with a mid to taller height are a perfect choice for folks who need additional ankle support and first-time hikers, many of whom are still developing their foot skills. Boots offer better ankle support, while hiking shoes have excellent articulation and nimbleness. This boot from Oboz has the two lace hooks above the ankle, making it a perfect option if ankle support is your biggest concern, or you're new to longer hikes.
3. The Most Breathable Hiking Shoe
Dry feet are comfortable feet, and hikers especially need to keep their feet dry, as it helps to keep the blisters away. Therefore, a breathable hiking shoe is the most high-performance option for trekking dry and comfortably. When heavy leather boots get wet, they stay moist. The GORE-TEX fabric (also commonly abbreviated as GTX) is the first breathable, waterproof, and windproof fabric. These membranes "breathe" through microscopic holes that are large enough to allow water vapor to escape but small enough to keep liquid water out-a win-win for wet, hot, and humid conditions where breathability is super important. This shoe from Vasque features that GORE-TEX membrane, which will keep water from getting in, but will also quickly wick away moisture from sweaty feet.
4. The Shoes With The Best Traction
The right hiking boot soles can make all the difference, especially hiking mountains or through snow, mud, or slippery slopes. Different soles do better (or worse) on different kinds of terrain. The trick? Match traction to the terrain you hike. When hitting the more beaten paths or scaling mountainous trails, a reliable grip is essential. Vibram soles are currently the most marketed and reputable option - most brands use this sole type for rugged options because they'll provide the stick factor needed in steep and slippery conditions. The longevity of a Vibram sole is above-par and goes the distance in the long run. These shoes from Merrell are some of the best hiking shoes for women because they feature the Vibram sole, and Merrell is one of the most trusted outdoor footwear brands.
5. The Best Hiking Shoes With Cushioned Insoles
The most crucial and overlooked feature of any hiking footwear is the inner sole and the midsole. The internal materials are not visible at first glance, but play a vital role in comfort, stability, longevity, and overall purpose. These shoes from La Sportiva also come with materials that provide extra cushioning and protection. Some boots have shanks or plates in the midsole to add load-bearing, stiffness, and safety from feet getting bruised. Some hikers like removing the insole and adding one with more cushioning. Materials such as molded ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) foam provide a soft and cushioned feel and usually require little to no break-in time. Polyurethane (PU) is dense and weighty and usually requires a break-in period before it becomes more pliable and comfortable, but it is long-lasting and very supportive.