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Hiking is one of the simpler outdoor activities to get into—chances are there's at least some type of hiking trail within a few hours of your home. Hiking is also one of the easiest activities to gear up for. Unless you're hitting it hard with off-trail route-finding and extreme weather, the gear you own for walking outside will suffice on many easy-to-moderate trails.
While I typically hike in trail runners, this roundup focuses on dedicated hiking shoes.... Albeit lightweight models that replicate the feel of a trail runner. A hiking shoe will have a stiffer and more supportive upper, and often weighs slightly more than a classic trail-running shoe. Since speed isn't a priority for most hikers, you'll find less springy rebound through the midsole in these shoes, but enhanced protection from rocks and roots along the trail. Hiking shoes are also more durable than running shoes thanks to a burlier outsole and reinforced upper. While I've punched plenty of holes through mesh uppers on my trail running shoes, I have yet to destroy a pair of hiking shoes... and that's saying something.
These are my top picks for general lightweight hiking shoes, including some waterproof and some regular models. I listed all low-top shoes, since boots fall into a different category, though some of these have mid-rise options. Most of these hiking shoes are similar in weight and style, and all should last for many seasons of moderate hiking.
1. Best Environmentally-Friendly Hiking Shoe
For hikes with questionable terrain, this new-ish model from Keen uses a horseshoe-shaped tread pattern for increased stability throughout the entire footstrike, helping avoid the dreaded slip-n-slide as you push off slippery ground. Keep in mind that we categorized these as lightweight shoes, but a hiking shoe will weigh more than a trail runner. However, at 13.4 ounces per shoe, you get a good amount of reinforcement and protection for a moderate weight penalty with this model. These are not the most attractive shoes on the market, but they are made with PFC-free materials, which keeps the sourcing and manufacturing process more environmentally friendly.
2. Most Comfortable Lightweight Hiking Shoe
No hiking shoe roundup would be complete without some version of Merrell's Moab hiking shoe. I'd recommend any shoes in the Moab lineup depending on where you're hiking and what style of shoe you prefer, but for this list, I went with a classic. The Ventilator is highly breathable for such a sturdy shoe, with the traction and durability of the more rugged Moabs without the sweaty feet. These shoes are comfortable out of the box, which means no unpleasant break-in period. I do wish the heel cup was a bit deeper, as your heel can slide around and pop out if the shoes aren't laced tightly. Otherwise, this shoe is a darn good choice, and has long been one of the top-selling shoes across the entire hiking market.
3. Best Lightweight Shoe For Long Hikes
I've been wearing the women's version of this shoe for fall hikes, and it has some of the best energy return of any hiking-specific shoe I've worn over the past few seasons. I credit this to Salomon's line of trail runners informing the design, which is slightly stiffer and more protective than their lightweight trail runners, but similarly responsive through the midsole. This means less fatigue after long miles, and you can certainly run some sections of trail without feeling bogged down. The company uses a "Fuze Surge" foam compound and reverse camber midsole, which helps the shoe have a good balance between weight savings and protection and also contributes to the energy return per footstrike. This shoe has great traction on a variety of terrain, and it has a waterproof membrane, which makes it solid for later-season hikes. It also comes in a mid-rise version for people who want more ankle support.
4. Best for Rocky Trails
An approach shoe is a hiking shoe specifically designed for climbing route approaches, which can mean anything from a moderate trail to the most gnarly scree field and steep, rocky sidehills. This shoe from La Sportiva combines a comfortable hiking shoe with the protection and traction of an approach shoe, with a full rubber toe cap to protect against stubbed toes from unstable rocks and Vibram Megagrip Traverse outsoles for all-direction grip. These have a wider forefoot than other approach shoes, which makes them comfortable for longer hikes and super secure on sketchy terrain.
5. Best Protection
No matter how jagged the rocks or how prominent the roots, the beefy outsoles and cushioned midsole on this pair of Oboz hiking shoes will keep your feet protected. The wet traction from the True Tread rubber outsole is impeccable, and Oboz uses proprietary O-fit insoles to ensure a breathable, comfortable fit. These shoes have nylon shanks running along the outside, helping with stability on uneven ground. Since these are so built-up and protected, the pair weighs more than two pounds, meaning you might feel fatigue on longer hikes. However, these are a great pair of shoes for shorter hikes with challenging tread. This shoe verges on too heavy for this roundup, but we did want to include a shoe with plenty of rugged protection.
6. Raddest Design
I'm going to go out on a limb and say that hiking shoes are not the most fashion-forward footwear. But! Adidas has managed to bridge the gap between a technical hiking shoe and a town-ready sneaker with the Terrex Swift. Terrex is Adidas's dedicated outdoors line, with rugged shoes and apparel that haven't lost the inspiration from the brand's city-ready heritage. These are a relatively lightweight shoe with a sleek silhouette and a choice of fun colorways. They hold up on the technical side as well, with a GTX membrane and a torsion plate for rock protection. Since these are lighter weight, the uppers won't hold up as long as the burlier Moab or OUTpulse shoes, but for fast hikers who want a slightly more fashionable hiking shoe, this is a solid bet.
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