10 Best Hiking Boots in 2021

Paul Ronto
Paul Ronto on
10 Best Hiking Boots in 2021

Confused about what to buy after seeing the hundreds of boots available online? Well, worry not. Whether you’re a beginner hiker planning to go on a nature walk or an experienced backpacker looking for a new pair of kicks, our list of best hiking boots and the detailed guide are here to help make your boot hunting experience a breeze.

Having tested over 80 pairs of hiking boots, we know what makes the best one. Whether you’re looking for a heavy-duty trailblazer or a lighter option for some speedy hikes, we have selected our top picks in five different categories.

How we test and review hiking boots

RunRepeat aims to help boot shoppers find the right hiking boot without going through the hassle of checking thousands of user opinions and hundreds of retailer sites. When it comes to reviews, we offer one of the largest databases. Here’s a quick overview:

  • Choose from over 400 hiking boots
  • We have analyzed reviews from 900+ experts and 110,000+ users

If you’re a numbers-kind-of-guy or gal, we already did the statistics for you and calculated the ratings for each shoe. Our CoreScore (which is a rating from 0-100) will help you easily gauge how liked the shoe is by our experts and its users.

Best overall

At $240, the Renegade GTX Mid is a darn expensive shoe! But after testing it out on the roughest, most challenging terrain, this boot proved itself worthy, and even surpassed our expectations! 

At first glance, this footgear seems heavy, but when we put it on, boy are we surprised. It’s light and it doesn’t drag our feet down. 

This hiking boot may skimp on weight, but it sure doesn’t when it comes to hiking essentials like protection, grip, and support! 

Even on the rockiest, steepest mountain terrain, this shoe is a certified star! It just bites and latches into everything we throw at it. If there’s one word to describe our experience in this hiking boot, it’s surefooted

Because of the mid-cut design of the shoe, our ankles were very well-supported throughout our outdoor adventures. They were locked in place, and they were so comfortably - no blisters, no hotspots! Another reason why we just can’t get enough of this backpacking boot! 

And whether you’re in the great outdoors on sunny, rainy, or snowy days, you don’t have to worry about moisture seeping into this shoe. It’s designed to withstand such conditions! 

It’s a stiff hiking boot, but it only required a minimal break-in period. After a couple of miles, it felt like our feet were right at home!  

We’ve tested a lot of hiking boots, but nothing comes close to the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid. It's a high-end shoe, we’d gladly take for all our backpacking adventures! 

See our full review and facts

It’s everything comfy and light, but it sure didn’t let us down in the durability department! 

Honestly, choosing between the Salomon X Ultra 4 Mid GTX and the Renegade Mid GTX was more challenging than our test hikes in this boot! It’s so good, our long stretches seemed very short. 

Having hiked in the X Ultra collection in the past, it’s always held true to its signature lightness, and it’s not lost in this version! It didn’t drag us down, and but it didn’t feel like our feet were less protected, no. 

In fact, it’s MIGHTY durable, it crushed everything underfoot! Even better, it has no issues keeping the foot free from moisture with its waterproof design. 

We took it out on some stream crossings and even tested it during rainy days, and miles later, we’re here to report: ZERO issues in this arena! 

What also caught our attention is that this is unlike any other hiking boot we’ve tried on. It’s plenty flexible, it’s as flexible as our running shoes! Now, that’s a first! 

And of course, it wouldn’t make it to our list without its superbly grippy Contragrip outsole! On the slickest rocks and most rugged surfaces, this boot just bit its way through! Even better, we felt supported all throughout, especially in the ankles.

The only thing that held us back in making the X Ultra 4 Mid GTX our top pick is the unreliable arch support. It’s a concern we can’t move past. It’s not that it doesn’t have any, it’s just that we wish there was more to really stabilize our steps. 

Otherwise, it’s a great hiking boot that won’t disappoint!

See our full review and facts

Best for backpacking

Whether you’re out hiking in the summer or in the winter, we just can’t recommend the Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX enough! It’s a shoe that will rock in all four seasons! 

Yes, it’s a waterproof backpacking boot, but it’s unlike any other that we’ve come across. It’s breathable! And when we took it out during some hikes in the snow, it also didn’t back down in keeping our feet warm and dry. 

So, if you want the best of both worlds, this is THE boot! 

Even better, it’s a tank when it comes to sturdiness! After beating it up through rough wear tests, this shoe just wowed us! As in ZERO scratches and peeling anywhere. 

And as a backpacking requisite, we had to see how it performed in the area of stability. And heavens, it’s a DREAM! It’s snug around the ankles, but it didn’t feel constricting at all. Even our heels were cupped nicely in place. 

The grip? Confidence-inspiring! Even without walking sticks, we felt very stable in our strides. 

Taking support up a notch, the midsole and insole were rigid, they offered our feet solid stability in each step. No wobbling, no feet falling far off to the sides, just plain ol’ support. 

Because of this, it’s a backpacking boot we’d pick any day in long hauls with loads of weight to carry! 

And hey, it’s a sure stunner in the style arena! 

See our full review and facts

It’s supportive and it’s a surefire winner when it comes to waterproof hiking boots, we’d slide our feet into the Zamberlan 996 Vioz GTX any day! 

Around the ankles and under the arch, this shoe just gave our feet stability in each step. Even on rugged, uneven terrain, it doesn’t feel like our feet are rolling too much on the sides! 

A champion in stability, it sure is the same when it comes to waterproofness! Its all-weather protection eliminated our worries of having wet and cold feet after a series of long hikes that included some creek crossings and some treading in rainy conditions. 

And on the slickest, rockiest surfaces, this hiking boot is a superstar! Not only does it bite, but it does so EXCELLENTLY! Easily, the outsole is the highlight of this shoe. 

For a shoe that’s billed to be tough, it’s not tough to the feet. Meaning, it’s got loads of padding to keep the feet feeling cozy and free from any discomfort. 

It’s super comfy that after a couple of high-mileage efforts in the outdoors, our feet felt fresh and fatigue-free! 

The perks don’t stop there. When it comes to aesthetics, this shoe is a certified looker! 

If there’s one thing to not like about the shoe, it’s the lack of breathability. Although ventilation is not a priority among waterproof hiking boots, it’s still important to mention because there are a lot of GTX boots that strike a fantastic balance between waterproofness and airflow - the reason why this is only second best.

See our full review and facts

Best lightweight

At 13.5 oz, the Adidas Terrex Free Hiker made our plodding in the great outdoors like a breeze! 

Apart from its focus on lightness (which it does so amazingly), this hiking boot also brings in other goods like comfort and a performance-oriented design. 

First off, it’s a VERY breathable boot! With so much coverage, it doesn’t restrict airflow at all. Our feet are not only protected, they’re also consistently sweat and hotspot-free! Even long days out in the mountains, this shoe just breathes! 

What’s even better is that it requires NO break-in period. Straight from the box, it’s cushy, lively, and above all,  it’s ready to perform! 

Speaking of performance, it doesn’t shy on grip either. For such a light package, it’s HUGE on traction! On slippery, loose, and unfriendly terrain, this shoe just smashed everything and anything underneath it! 

And although it’s not a GTX/waterproof shoe, the Terrex Free Hiker still gave us loads of protection from water splashes. This is thanks to its water-repellent Primeknit upper. 

It doesn’t only provide water resistance, it also wraps the foot nicely and snuggly. So much so that our feet felt supported and stable in all our trail adventures! 

If there’s one thing we can’t just write off, it’s the shoe’s outsole durability (or the lack thereof). After a couple of wear testing, the outsole already showed serious signs of degradation.

See our full review and facts

Up for some speed hiking? You can’t get lighter than the Salomon OUTline Mid GTX! 

It’s so light, it made us venture to the trails feeling like we had sneakers on and not a boot. It’s that CRAZY light! 

Even more, it’s not only sneaker-light, it’s also sneaker-comfy! All our strides were well-cushioned and highly protected from impact. Even after long and fast hikes, our feet didn’t feel fatigued at all. They were as fresh as the moment we put our feet in the OUTline! 

And, breathability? This shoe won us over in this department! GTX shoes are normally very hot, but NOT this one. It offers great protection without the cost of compromised ventilation! 

And as a mid-cut hiking boot, it doesn’t cut corners on stability. As a matter of fact, it’s so supportive, we had ZERO issues with slippage! 

Another standout that we just can’t move past is the speed hiking shoe’s insane surface grip! We kid you not, this latched into everything! Whether in dry, wet, muddy, or even snowy conditions, this boot just blew our mind! 

If you’re looking to blaze through the trails, choosing the Salomon OUTline Mid GTX is more than wise! It’s a SOLID choice that won’t disappoint. It stunned us, and it sure will amaze you just as much! 

See our full review and facts

Best comfort

It’s flexible and it’s cushy, what more could we ask for from the KEEN Targhee III Waterproof? 

If it’s top-tier comfort you’re after, DO NOT miss out on this hiking boot! It’s well-padded all throughout, it’s cushy underfoot, but it’s also got the right balance of rigidity to make each step stable! 

This boot is just so comfortable, you can hike in it fresh out of the box! Even better, it requires little to no break-in period at all. 

We’ve been testing out a lot of hiking boots, but nothing comes close to the Targhee’s flex! It’s very pliable, the natural bend and movements of the foot aren’t restricted. Generally, this adds to the overall comfort provided by this boot! 

Yes, it steals the spotlight in the comfort arena, but make no mistake, its outsole is just as much of a showstopper! 

It doesn’t just grip, it BITES! Even with jagged rocks and roots underfoot, the shoe was more than confidence-inspiring. It’s a trail monster that’s ready to eat up everything on its way!  

Protection? It’s a forte of the Targhee! But what was really notable for us was the hiking boot’s heavy-duty toe cap. Even though we hit trees and stones multiple times, our toes were free from any pain and bruising. 

What’s even greater is that all these benefits come at such a modest price! To put it simply, it’s a great value for money. 

Be warned: If compared to other waterproof hiking boots, this is NOT the best. After a couple of excursions on wet terrain, we have observed water penetrating the upper.

See our full review and facts

The Scarpa Terra GTX is so comfy, we didn’t have to go through a break-in period! 

Because it has a balanced cushioning - meaning, it’s neither too soft nor too rigid - our feet didn’t feel like it was walking on bricks. Rather, it was a good blend between cush and stability. 

Comfort is not only confined to the midsole, our feet also felt it through the upper. It’s so breathable (even for a waterproof boot) that hiking under hot temperatures isn’t a problem. And come winter, this shoe welcomed our feet with warmth! 

Speaking of stability, this shoe has got some major support going on around the ankles! Our strides were not only very secure, they were also very surefooted and steady. 

And because we’re nerds for everything shoes, we like to really hammer all the shoes we put our feet in. And the Terra GTX is no exception! 

We took it out on dry, wet, muddy, and loose trails, and to our surprise, it pulled off its A-game! No slipping, just serious grip on the gnarliest terrain. 

The only setback this hiking boot suffered from is its fragile upper. Unlike other trail boots we’ve tested, it’s just not as resistant to some of the abrasive elements on the ground.

See our full review and facts

Best budget boot

It’s affordable but it can go head to head with the more expensive hiking boots in our roster! The Newton Ridge Plus II just packs so much trail-ready features for a price that doesn’t break the bank! 

It’s comfortable and it didn’t take us a long time to break it in. The midsole mitigates impact terrifically and it provides a nice energy return too. Even better, it’s extremely lightweight! So much so, it almost felt like we had nothing on. 

So, if you want to go fast on your next hiking trip, this is THE shoe. 

And like a trusty mid-cut hiking boot, it provided us with all the stability our ankles could ask for! ZERO wobbling at all. 

But if it had to come down to where this shoe was a standout, it’s the grip it offers! We paced it out on some of the roughest trail surfaces imaginable, and it came out a king! 

It swallowed and crushed everything underfoot. And it showed serious performance on the slickest rocks! 

This trail beast is also a champ when it comes to balancing comfort and protection. The upper is padded enough to keep the feet locked-in and guarded from harsh ground elements, and it’s also INSANELY breathable! 

Even after long, hot excursions in the outdoors, it effectively kept our feet feeling cool. And for a GTX shoe, it’s such a rare case! So, great job, Columbia! 

Of course, at such a meager tag, there are a few tradeoffs. And one that we cannot easily move past is its durability issues. 

After logging a number of miles in this hiking boot, the outsole just couldn’t keep it together. It completely detached from the midsole! 

See our full review and facts

Where comfort is king, we just can’t get enough of the Timberland Mt. Maddsen Mid Waterproof! While it impressed us with its cushy midsole and upper, it also stood out for its versatility! 

Whether you’re out backpacking, speed hiking, plodding through some well-maintained trails, or pacing it through rough, technical terrain, this can fit the bill!

For the daily trail excursions and fast efforts, it’s light and responsive enough. And when you want to just hike with ease, it’s comfortable enough. For the more aggressive terrain, it’s got the bite that will make you trek with confidence! 

Without a doubt, it’s a great all-rounder that’s got so much value at such a pocket-friendly price point! 

And the party doesn’t stop there. It provides all the arch support you could ever dream of! We literally had NO issues with instability and slippage!

Having tested a lot of waterproof hiking boots in the past, we weren’t expecting much from a low-priced version. But boy were we wrong! This shoe kept our feet dry from water splashes and snow. 

It’s not all rainbows and butterflies, of course. Such a price also comes with some repercussions, and it includes a sacrifice on sturdiness. 

After several hikes on the trails, the outsole and upper already showed so much damage! The sole got detached while the upper already had some holes. 

If Timberland could’ve avoided this issue, the Mt. Maddsen Mid Waterproof would have come out on top of this list! 

See our full review and facts

Hiking boots: are they necessary?

There’s probably a time when you’ve thought of wearing your reliable beaters, Dr. Martens or flip-flops for hiking. Since it’s just a walk up the mountains, your everyday Chucks might just be able to survive the beating. The question is: would your feet make it?

If you’re the type who has strong ankles and likes to travel light, then your trail runners or sandals might just make it. Keep in mind though, that however strong you think your feet are, there are hiking adventures that will require you to wear non-slip hiking boots. Checking the mountain’s hiking rules is always a good idea to avoid any unnecessary hassle on your part. 

Hiking boots vs hiking shoes and other footwear 

Generally, when hiking, your footwear needs to be grippy, stable, supportive, and protective. While hiking boots offer these benefits, we’re not saying that it’s always an ideal option. 

In case you're wondering what hiking boots have that trail runners, hiking shoes, and whatnots don’t, here’s a side-by-side comparison.

Hiking boots vs hiking shoes vs Trail runners vs whatever kicks.png

NOTE: The ratings are based on how each type of footwear performs in general. This does not, however, apply to each model that exists. The ratings will vary depending on the make and model of the shoes.

Types of hiking boots (based on your hiking plans) 

Before you finally click on that buy button, have you considered checking the difficulty level of your upcoming hike? Hiking trails have levels of difficulties and include a variety of terrains. Knowing the elevation and distance of a hike (plus the weather condition on that day) will help you figure out the right footwear to wear. 

When it comes to difficulty, trails can be rated from easy to very strenuous. Below, you’ll find the various difficulty levels of trails as defined by the National Park Service (NPS). As a bonus, we also added the types of boots that will work best for each difficulty level.

NOTE: The weather condition or season will definitely affect your choice. Hiking during the summer will require you to wear breathable kicks. On the one hand, insulated hiking shoes are recommended for winter hiking.

Hiking boot types - based on your hiking plans.png

Hiking boot anatomy and why it matters 

The construction of a hiking boot plays an important role in the footgear’s performance. You need to determine the kind of hike you’re planning to take so you can choose the appropriate boot configuration. 

Here are the major parts of a boot, common materials used, and their key benefits as well as their flaws.

  Common Materials Used Key Benefits Could-be-betters
Upper
Leather (Suede/ Nubuck/ Full-grain) - Durable (material can last for years)
- Stable and supportive
- Comfortable overtime (this material most often molds to the shape of the foot over time giving hikers a customized fit)
- Feels warm (making it perfect for cold-weather conditions)
- Naturally capable of repelling water
-Takes a long time to break-in
-Full-grain leather boots are heavy on the feet
-Less breathable
Synthetic Mesh/Nylon -Breathable
-Dries quickly
-Weighs less
-A more affordable option
-Feels softer out of the box
-Prone to wear and tear
-Provides limited support and stability
-Tends to absorb water
Midsole
EVA -Soft to mildly stiff cushioning underfoot
-Much more flexible
-Lightweight
-Less supportive
-Tends to compress over time
PU -Supportive (helps when carrying a heavy pack)
-Durable
-Feels stiff out of the box
-Weighs more
Nice to know: Some boots are made with shanks or plates placed in between the midsole and outsole improving the boot's stability. This equates to less foot-fatigue. The plates also prevent bruising underfoot caused by sharp rocks.
Outsole
Soft rubber -Stickier
-Flexible
-Lighter
-Best used when scrambling in rocky terrain
-Mediocre performance on muddy trails
Hard Rubber -Durable
-Stable
-More protective
-Lacks flexibility
-Feels heavy underfoot
-Less traction on sleek surfaces like wet rocks
Nice to know: Deeper outsole lugs offer better grip on muddy terrain and shed debris with ease

Waterproofing in hiking boots

Some of the things you will encounter when hiking or backpacking are rivers, streams, and muddy trails. Enter waterproof boots, or should I say water-repellent boots, or maybe water-resistant boots - now you’re at a loss. Don’t fret though. We’re here to help you decode those confusing labels.

  Water-resistant Water-repellent Waterproof
General characteristics a tightly woven fabric that is naturally capable of resisting water upon contact fabric treated with durable water-repellent (DWR) or hydrophobic chemicals -fabric treated with DWR
-have waterproofing membranes like Gore-Tex and OutDry
-have seam-sealed construction for extra protection
Water protection level low water protection moderate water protection high water protection
Water pressure resistance 0-5000 mm (no pressure or moisture) 6000-10000 mm (light pressure) 10000-20000 mm (high to very high pressure)
Weather conditions best used in light rain shower and dry snow light rain and average snow moderate to heavy rain and average to wet snow

Take note, however, that when a shoe is waterproof, its breathability decreases due to the added layers (regardless if it's made with the popular Gore-Tex or other waterproofing membranes out there). It would also feel heavier compared to water-resistant and water-repellent hikers. 

So, if you value breathability and weight and you plan to take an adventure in the hot tropics, consider non-waterproof boots that are quick-drying. If you have to go with regular boots, you can always turn these into water-repellent ones by using waterproofing sprays that cost around $5 to $25.  

Other important features in hiking boots

Yes, there are other things worth considering when out boot hunting. Here are just a few of them:

Additional hiking boot features to look for 2.png

How to know that you have the right fit in hiking boots

When fitting hiking boots, it is vital to ensure the fit is snug (not too loose, not too tight). How? Try these methods out.

Go shoe shopping late in the day. Your feet tend to swell after a day full of activities. It happens too when you are hiking, so to get the best fit, try your boots in the afternoon.

Try it on, lace it up, feel your toes, and check for pressure points. Slide your foot inside and push it forward as far as it goes inside the boots. Once settled, feel your toes. There should be a thumb’s width space between the end of the boot and your toes. Check as well if your feet move from side to side. If it does, then the boots are too wide. It should be comfortable, non-constricting, and snug. 

Make sure to try the boots while wearing your hiking socks. Bring the socks that you intend to wear with the hiking boots you are going to purchase. Do not use cotton fabric as it does not offer any insulation and retains moisture. It can leave you with cold feet on the terrain. Wool or synthetic is a better choice of material for socks.

Take your orthotics or preferred insoles with you. Consumers are often not satisfied with the default insole of the hiking boots. Do not fret if the volume is too high or too low for you. Remember that brands manufacture their boots for hiking using different lasts and this can affect how your feet fill the boots’ volume. If it did not work with your insoles, try another pair of hiking boots.

Walk up and down the ramp. This tests the snugness of the boots. When you go up the board, observe for any heel lift or constraint on the collar. When you go down, observe if your toes jam the front of the boots. If your heel rises more than a quarter of an inch or if your toes hit the front, try adjusting the laces or sizing up.

Before your trip, make sure to break your boots in. Every boot, especially the heavy, leather hikers, requires a different break-in time. Start small by wearing it inside your house with your preferred socks (it might look awkward but your feet will surely thank you in the end). From there, gradually increase your miles. 

6 step guide to ensuring proper fit - hiking boots.png

Common hiking boot problems and remedies

While the best hiking boots offer the support, durability, and protection you need to hike that difficult terrain, we can’t deny how heavy and uncomfortable boots are after wearing it for some time. But you don’t have to feel disheartened. Here’s a list of common hiking boot fails and their remedies.

Problem Symptoms Cause Remedy
Numbness starts with painful pressure in the instep which later on turns to numbness laces are tied to tight due to too much interior volume -attach adhesive back felt pads to the inside of the boot's tongue to cushion your instep.
NOTE: If symptoms persist, seek the help of a podiatrist
Black toenails discoloration of toenails -toenails are too long
-ill-fitting heel cups (feet and slide forward when going downhill causing the toes \to hit the front o the shoe)
-low toe boxes that push down on the top of the toenails
-clip your toenails
-tie laces snugly to lock your heel in place
Blisters fluid-filled bubbles found usually on the heel or the top of the toes heat and friction caused by heel slippage (wide heel cups or boots are too long) -wear wool or synthetic socks that wick away moisture
-choose boots made of breathable materials like mesh
-tighten the laces on the top of your foot until you achieve a snug fit
-try on aftermarket insoles or custom orthotics to improve the boot's fit
-keep a bottle of Vaseline (or other brands of petroleum jelly) in your pack - it's cheap and it treats blisters like a charm.

As you can see above, most problems can be quickly fixed by adjusting the laces. Here are two lacing techniques that can help remedy blisters and toenail issues when out and about.

Combines lacing.png

Author
Paul Ronto
Paul Ronto

Over the past 20 years, Paul has climbed, hiked, and ran all over the world. He has summited peaks throughout the Americas, trekked through Africa, and tested his endurance in 24-hour trail races as well as 6 marathons. On average, he runs 30-50 miles a week in the foothills of Northern Colorado. His research is regularly cited in The New York Times, Washington Post, National Geographic, etc. On top of this, Paul is leading the running shoe lab where he cuts shoes apart and analyses every detail of the shoes that you might buy.