6 Best Leather Hiking Boots in 2023

Paul Ronto
Paul Ronto on
6 Best Leather Hiking Boots in 2023
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There is just something special about experiencing the great outdoors in a pair of leather hiking boots. These hikers are naturally tough, and their grounded design makes mixing and matching—to complete your backcountry outfit—an easy feat.

We’ve subjected leather hiking boots to laborious testing for your convenience. We didn't stint on time, money, and other resources in verifying the assertions of the brands, as well as their promoters.

Are you in need of a smashing all-rounder? Maybe you’re into a lightweight pair? Or perhaps something powerful for pack adventures? Whichever it is, if it’s leather, you’re in the right place.

Best lightweight leather hiking boots

What makes it the best?

Our pick for the best lightweight leather hiking boots, the Hoka Anacapa Mid GTX shoes weigh in at 15.4 oz (436g). Not only are they 16% lighter than average, but they also pack in a tonne of cushioning, waterproofing, and stability.

The cushioning in the Hoka Anacapa Mid GTX is what dreams are made of. The prominent Hubble heel gives us soft landings and smooth transitions. The entire midsole feels cushy, and when we tested it with a durometer, we found the EVA midsole measures 22.5 HA. Given that the average is 29 HA, we’re looking at a very plush midsole. The forefoot stack even measured 2 mm above average, and we appreciated this extra cushioning on sustained downhills when the pressure is focused on our toes.

Our feet felt secure and supported on uneven, gravel trails and we put the rock-solid stability down to the rigidity of the midsole. We twisted the shoe torsionally and awarded it a 5/5 for torsional flexibility. On the trail, we felt protected from twisting our ankles when walking over rocks, roots, and rough surfaces.

Despite its light weight, the Hoka Anacapa Mid GTX doesn’t let the side down when it comes to waterproofing. In fact, it performs just as well as other more traditional leather hiking boots, and river crossings or pouring rain can’t dampen our spirits - or our feet! The fully gusseted tongue also helps to keep water and debris out of the boot. 

Testing the materials of the upper with a Dremel, we found that the Hoka Anacapa Mid GTX isn’t as hard-wearing as other boots, gaining the lowest possible score for durability: 1/5. We don’t recommend this kick to hikers looking for a tough pair of boots that can take heavy wear.


  • Top-notch waterproofing
  • Very lightweight
  • Generous and soft cushioning
  • Reliable stability (with a light backpack)
  • Wide platform
  • Flexible forefoot
  • Excellent grip
  • Doesn't get too firm or stiff in cold
  • Comfortable in-shoe feel
  • Effective lacing system
  • Sustainable materials


  • Not supportive with heavy backpacks
  • Upper lacks wear resistance
  • Extended heel catches rocks and roots
  • Not for wide feet
  • Tricky to put on
Full review of Hoka Anacapa Mid GTX

Best leather hiking boots for backpacking

What makes it the best?

When we are getting ready for a multi-day backpacking adventure, we want a supportive, durable and comfortable boot that won’t let us down. We found all of that and more in the Salomon Quest 4 GTX, which is why we vote it the best leather hiking boot for backpacking.

It’s hard to find a hiking boot more suited to hauling a heavy pack up the mountain. The integrated chassis, supportive leather/synthetic overlays and robust materials in the sole make for a rigid shoe that doesn’t let our ankles roll, even when hiking over rocks with a heavy rucksack. We rated the torsional rigidity at the most rigid 5/5. The heel counter also rates among the stiffest we have tested. On a sliding scale where 5 is the stiffest, the heel counter rates 5/5, keeping our heels firmly locked into the boots with no slippage.

With its combination of nubuck leather and Cordura-esque synthetic fabric upper, followed by a good covering of rubber at the weakest points, the Salomon Quest 4 GTX looks tough as nails, and acts it too! We applied a Dremel to the toe at a speed of 5K RPM with a force of 3.2N for 12 seconds to the toe box. We were astonished to find barely more than a scratch in the protective toe cap! On hikes, it boasts exceptional protection for our toes, and the leather overlays offer protection against any scrapes that make it past the rubber.

Flipping the shoe over, we find the outsole survived our test hikes with barely a scratch to show for it. Pressing a durometer to the outsole to test for softness, we found it measures 88.3 HC - notably harder than the average 87.4 HC. It showed its mettle when we applied our trusty Dremel, this time for 22 seconds at 10K RPM. The Dremel only left a small dent less than 1mm deep. We’re sure these boots will keep us company for many miles of backpacking to come!

The Salomon Quest tips the scales at 23.4 oz (663g). Although this is not unusual for a backpacking boot of this spec, it is far heavier than our average across all hiking boots of 18.9 oz (536g). We therefore don’t recommend it to hikers who need a hybrid boot for shorter, lighter days without a pack.


  • Exceptional durability
  • Top-notch waterproofing
  • Excellent impact protection
  • Highly secure ankle support
  • Fantastic stability
  • Comfortable in-boot feel
  • Effective grip on various terrain
  • Fits as expected


  • A bit heavy
  • Gets very stiff in cold
Full review of Salomon Quest 4 GTX

Best leather hiking boots with wide toeboxes

KEEN Pyrenees

What makes it the best?

We cut open and hiked with leather boots and discovered KEEN Pyrenees offers the best wide toebox. With its premium nubuck leather and mighty build, this pair offers exceptional stability and protection. On top of that, we find it immensely cozy for all-day wear, especially in colder seasons.

Pyrenees doesn’t hinder our toe splay in any way. The toebox is a generous 108.0 mm and doesn't taper around the big toe area. It's a whopping 83.5 mm! We have lots of room to find our footing with every stride. Our hikes feel stable thanks to the stiff shank in the midfoot and the firm foothold that prevents awkward missteps.

Our feet feel at home straight away with the plush platform. Our durometer confirms it's 40.2% softer than average. Pyrenees pairs a generous heel stack for impact protection and a humble forefoot for enhanced ground control. This creates a massive 18.1 mm drop, which is extremely supportive and relieving when we’re carrying heavy backpacks.

All around, Pyrenees screams protection. Its tough leather build and secure lockdown shields us from cold winds and water. Underfoot, the KEEN.ALL-TERRAIN compound is one of the toughest we measured in our lab (92.0 HC) for extra protection from jagged rocks.

Contrary to its name, the outsole doesn’t grip well on all terrains. We found ourselves feeling unsteady on mud and snow. 


  • Premium nubuck leather quality
  • Top-notch waterproofing
  • Tons of impact protection
  • Surprisingly soft cushioning
  • Excellent stability and support
  • Very wide, accommodating toebox
  • Convenient lacing system


  • Too bulky and heavy
  • Tongue edges dig into shins
  • Lacks traction for mud, ice, and snow
Full review of KEEN Pyrenees

Best leather-and-mesh hiking boots

What makes it the best?

Salomon X Ultra 4 Mid GTX swapps the heavy leather for a leather-and-mesh combo, it sheds several ounces without compromising the support and waterproofing prowess of a regular leather boot. This is why it is our #1 pick for a hiking boot with a leather-mesh combo!

Weighing in at just 13.8 oz (390g), this boot is astonishingly light. Comparing it to the average waterproof boots that have passed through our lab, this one is a remarkable 29% lighter, and out on the trail, our feet felt free and agile. The Gore-Tex membrane works impeccably and it kept our feet totally dry, even when we immersed them up to the ankle in a stream. We especially love this feature for our multi-day hikes, when keeping our feet dry and comfortable is of the utmost importance.

The natural support afforded by a good pair of leather boots is compensated in the X Ultra 4 Mid GTX by a slew of different features. Traditional lacing (unusual for Salomon) provides unbeatable lockdown, and the shank in the midsole ensured we didn’t roll an ankle while rock-hopping. Extra ankle support comes from the mid-height collar. To round it all off, we measured the softness of the midsole with a durometer, finding it to measure 54 HA. Somewhat harder than the average 32.9 HA, we enjoyed the additional support and stability during long days on the mountain.

To simulate winter hiking conditions, we put the boot in the freezer for 20 minutes and then tested its flexibility with a force gauge. We noted a surprising 126% increase in force needed to bend the boot to 90°. We don’t recommend it to hikers looking for a flexible winter boot.


  • The boot of choice for multi-day hikes
  • Lightweight
  • Waterproof
  • Excellent grip
  • Supportive midsole
  • Detailed ground feel
  • Great ankle support
  • Protective
  • Perfect lacing system


  • Midsole may be thin for some
  • Very stiff in colder climates
Full review of Salomon X Ultra 4 Mid GTX

Best leather hiking boots for urban hiking

What makes it the best?

In our lab tests and in the great outdoors, the Timberland Euro Hiker came out consistently on top as the best leather hiking boot for urban hiking. It is a boot that keeps us supported and comfortable on hikes whilst stylishly blending into its surroundings both on the trail and off.

A steel shank in the midsole provides astounding amounts of support while hiking. We couldn't twist our feet if we tried! In the lab we bent and twisted the boot longitudinally and torsionally, finally giving it a score of 5/5, where 5 is the least flexible. It supports our arch and protects us from painful twists whilst hiking on rough trails. These sleek boots don’t look like they’re harboring such a solid piece of hardware, so their stylish silhouette doesn’t look out of place on city streets either.

The padded tongue stops the laces from biting into our feet and envelopes our feet in plush comfort from the start. Our caliper revealed an exceptionally padded tongue - 22.3 mm compared to the average 12.6 mm! In addition, the generously padded collar supports our ankles without being too stiff. In fact, we rated it 2/5 for flexibility, where 1 is the most flexible. On our hikes, it feels like our feet are being hugged by the boot.

We tested for breathability by blowing smoke into the boot. The amount of smoke that comes out determines how breathable the boot is. We rated it as 2/5, on the less breathable end of the spectrum. This isn't surprising for a leather boot, and on cold winter days, it helps to keep our feet cozy.

This boot is not waterproof, and on closer inspection nor does it have a gusseted tongue. This makes it easy for debris and snow to get into the boot. As a result, we don't recommend it for autumn or winter hiking in rain or snow.


  • Amazing in-shoe comfort
  • Insanely lightweight
  • Supportive arch
  • Lasting construction
  • Above-average traction
  • Recycled rubber used
  • Attractive design
  • Affordable


  • Subpar ventilation
  • Unruly laces
Full review of Timberland Euro Hiker

Best leather hiking boots overall

What makes it the best?

Extraordinary robustness and great water-blocking ability define the leather quality of the Danner Mountain 600, which is why it is undeniably the chief of all leather hiking boots. We put it through hours of footslogging and it offered pleasant comfort and brilliant ankle bracing.

We evaluated the leather upper quality of this boot during strenuous hikes and to say that we were dazzled is to say the least. The unimpaired upper was really a wonder since we went hard on the Danner Mountain 600 in our outdoor trips. 

Even when we encountered water pools or when we hiked while drizzling, our feet were free from water contact. What’s more interesting is that the Danner Mountain 600 looks so classy, that we were able to slay it on our casual outings.  While it looks heavy-duty, and it actually is, it doesn’t feel heavy. However, putting it next to the average weight of hiking boots, it’s 8.2% heavier at 19.5 oz (553g). Baffling but lightweight feel trumps weight on paper.

Unfortunately, the traction of this boot fell short of our expectations in some slippery areas like moist branches. We advise approaching wet roots with extra caution.


  • Supportive
  • Very comfortable, like a running shoe
  • Oustanding grip
  • Durable
  • Feels light
  • Great out of the box
  • Waterproof
  • Awesome for casual use


  • Debris gets into the boot
  • Not for technical hiking
Full review of Danner Mountain 600

Comparison of the 6 best leather hiking boots

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How to choose leather hiking boots

There’s a reason why the classics are the classics. They’re things that have been used and loved for generations, with a story behind every scuff and mark, and hiking boots are no different.


Leather hiking boots have been around for as long as people have been hiking, they’re durable and reliable, and here we take a look at how to find the best leather hiking boots to suit your needs.

Different types of leather used for hiking boots

Full-grain leather hiking boots for durability

Think of full-grain leather as heavy-duty leather. It’s the robust and strong choice for leather hiking boots that’ll let you explore more and push yourself further.

Full-grain leather goes under the least amount of processing, which helps make it incredibly durable and resistant to damage. These boots also have a great level of water resistance that can be improved with additional oils and treatments.

Nubuck leather hiking boots for breathability

Nubuck is a type of leather that we get from cows and is buffed to give a slight texture during the manufacturing process. It can sometimes look similar to suede.

One of the key benefits that Nubuck has when it comes to leather hiking boots, is its breathability, although that does come with the downside of it not being as waterproof as full-grain leather. That’s why you’re more likely to find nubuck used on hiking boots that are to be used in mainly dry conditions.

Pros of leather hiking boots

Go into any outdoor shop in the world and you’re guaranteed to see leather hiking boots on display. That’s because there are so many benefits of using this natural material.

Here we take a look at the pros of leather hiking boots:

  • High levels of durability
  • Tried and tested materials
  • Naturally waterproof
  • Naturally breathable

High levels of durability

The best leather hiking boots are very durable. They can be worn in every condition imaginable from hikes along desert trails to expeditions in sub-zero climates and with the right maintenance, will last for years.

Leather can also take a lot of abuse and still remain in excellent condition. While rocks and branches can scuff your boot uppers, they’re unlike to penetrate and seriously damage a material as strong as leather.

Durability test: Nubuck vs. Synthetics

Tried and tested materials

Leather hiking boots have been around for generations, being refined and improved upon every year to the point that they’re now able to take on any situation. Whereas boots made with synthetic materials are much newer and don’t have the heritage that leather hiking boots do.

In some cases, you get a mix of materials that takes the best of both worlds.

Salomon-X-Ultra-4-Mid-GTX 13.jpg

Naturally waterproof

Being naturally waterproof, leather hiking boots are predictably reliable in wet and damp conditions. This can even be improved by taking good care of them and using a waterproof treatment that helps keep water out in very wet conditions.

Hoka Kaha 2 GTX in water

Naturally breathable

One benefit of leather hiking boots that’s often forgotten is that they are naturally breathable. This is one of the most important features when it comes to buying new boots. If your boots aren't breathable then moisture from your feet can’t escape which causes discomfort and can even lead to blisters.

Cons of leather hiking boots

Although leather has many advantages, it does have a few downsides as well that you should be aware of.

These include:

  • Animal cruelty
  • Often heavier than synthetic boots
  • Longer break-in periods
  • Leather boots can be expensive

Animal cruelty

One aspect that some people don’t like about leather products, in general, is that they are made with animal skin. Even if the farms treat the animals very well and let them live long, happy lives, some people prefer to not use animal products wherever possible.

Often heavier than synthetic boots

Given the choice, hikers prefer to have a lighter boot over a heavier one. You can feel each and every gram when you spend hours at a time out on the trail, but all the benefits mentioned above come at a weight penalty. It’s important to weigh up which additional features you need and not lug around ones that you don’t want.

Longer break-in periods

As leather is a stiff material that provides support, it can also take a bit longer to break them in than a pair of synthetic boots. Once you do though, your boots will be much more comfortable having adapted to your foot.

Leather boots can be expensive

Like any piece of outdoor equipment, there are various price points for almost all budgets, but the best leather hiking boots are often more expensive than non-leather boots. Using premium materials to hand-make a pair of boots is always going to be more pricey than mass-produced boots using cheap, synthetic materials.

Average price
Leather hiking boots Synthetic hiking boots
$205 $170

Hoka Anacapa Mid GTX review

Modern technology in leather hiking boots

Leather hiking boots are already a brilliantly stable and durable tool, but they’ve been improved with the help of modern technologies.

Gore-Tex for waterproofness

You’ll find Gore-tex in most of the best leather hiking boots on the market. This waterproof membrane is a liner that blocks out water yet allows moisture to escape from the boot. It’s a proprietary technology that boot manufacturers can add to their boots, but it often significantly increases the price.

Hoka Anacapa Mid GTX Drop

Vibram soles for comfort

Hiking boots are put through some serious abuse. For days on end, they’re stamped into rough terrain with each step. These vibrations usually pass through the sole and up into your foot, causing pain and discomfort.

Vibram is another proprietary technology that manufacturers can choose to use in their boots. Not only is it a durable sole material, but it's also great at absorbing vibrations that cause discomfort.

Hoka Kaha 2 GTX heel cushioning

Are leather boots better than synthetic hiking boots?

Unfortunately, there’s no clear answer to this question. It all depends on your preferences and how you’ll be using your boots. The best thing we can do is to gather as much information as possible, educate ourselves on the benefits and drawbacks of both, and make an educated decision.

How to break in leather hiking boots

Breaking in your boots is one of the least enjoyable parts of hiking, but there are six things you can do to make this as painless as possible.

Hoka Kaha 2 GTX fit

1. Buy boots that fit you properly

Before you even start thinking about breaking your boots in, you have to make sure that your boots are a good fit. If they’re too big or too small, no amount of breaking them in will make them comfortable.

2. Wear your boots around your house

Now that you’ve got a pair of leather hiking boots that fit you, you can start breaking them in by wearing them around the house. Put them on for a few minutes at a time and work your way up until you’re comfortable wearing them around the house all day. This gives you the chance to take them off if they’re hurting you in the comfort of your own house, rather than being in the middle of nowhere on a trail.

3. Treat the leather

When you first get your boots, the leather will be pretty stiff and uncomfortable. We can help soften the uppers by using a wax, making them more comfortable before you’ve even hiked in them.

4. Wear proper hiking socks

Hiking socks are thicker, softer, and more durable than normal socks and this can make all the difference when breaking in your boots. It’s likely that your feet will blister to some degree, but hiking socks can reduce this, letting you spend more time in your new leather hiking boots.

5. Go on a short hike

Now that you’ve done all that you can do in your house, it's time to get outside and finish off the breaking in period. Plan a short hike on a route that you know well. This will let you identify any pressure or pain points with your boots and will soften up the leather as well.

6. Go on longer hikes

Now that you’re comfortably hiking short trails in your new boots, it's time to go on a longer hike to make sure that your boots are fully broken in. You may feel some slight discomfort still, but this should ease up as you clock up the miles until your boots are fully broken in.

How did we get here - the history of leather hiking boots

Leather has been the go-to material for boots ever since the Middle Ages. Even back then the benefits of leather were clear, the durability and resistance to the elements allowed people to cover much larger distances in comfort when compared to the traditional shoe of the day.

As the centuries rolled by, the reality of modern leather hiking boots became closer. World Wars brought more technological advancements and soon boots had rugged soles and used hobnails to increase useability and comfort.

Taking us into the modern day, as hiking became a hugely popular pastime, boot brands developed new techniques and materials to create leather hiking boots that allow us to explore extreme terrain in the most severe conditions. Combining the traditional benefits of leather with Gore-tex linings, stiff yet light midsoles, and Vibram soles has given us some of the best hiking boots that have ever existed.


Leather hiking boots FAQ

Do leather hiking boots stretch?

Leather is a natural material that starts off quite stiff but once broken in, it can stretch and better fit your foot. But be aware that this stretching is quite minimal and won’t fix your problems if you’ve bought boots that don’t fit you properly.

Are all leather hiking boots waterproof?

Leather is a water-resistant material, but that doesn’t mean that all leather hiking boots are waterproof. The material used for the upper of your boots has a big say in its performance, but there are other elements, like boot construction, liners, and leather treatments also play a big part too. 

Can leather hiking boots be repaired?

Most leather hiking boots can be repaired, depending on the severity of the damage of course. Old, tired leather can be revived with waxes, sprays, and treatments, while some leather hiking boots can be resoled.

How to maintain leather hiking boots?

Regularly maintaining your hiking boots is the best way of extending their lifespan and ensuring comfort on every hike. Here are four easy steps to follow.

Clean and dry your hiking boots

This might seem like an obvious one, but cleaning and drying your boots after each hike is a great way to keep them in top condition.

Brush off any loose dirt from the uppers and gravel that may have lodged itself in the lugs of your soles, and use a damp cloth to brush off any stubborn stains.

Once this is done, leave your boots to dry naturally. Stuffing your boots with newspapers can help speed up this process.

Lubricate your uppers

Leather is a natural product that can degrade over time unless cared for properly. Hikers recommend that you treat your boots with lubricant to keep the material supple and keep you comfortable out on the trail.

Natural lubricants like wax are some of the most popular on the market as they can breathe a new lease of life into the most tired of leather hiking boots.

Re-waterproof your boots

As we mentioned earlier in this article, leather is water-resistant, not waterproof, so depending on how wet the trail is, you can expect some moisture to seep through. But we can boost this level of water resistance by using specifically designed sprays and treatments that help keep moisture out.

Store your boots properly

If you live in a region with cold or wet winters, it's unlikely you’ll be hiking in the same pair of boots all year long, so how you store your boots when you’re not using them is very important.

Keep them in a dry, cool place, out of direct sunlight as this can dry out the leather and significantly decrease its lifespan.

How we test hiking boots

This selection of top-of-the-line leather hikers is a product of dedication and passion. Here’s our approach:

  • We buy leather hiking boots using our own funds. This way, we can be as objective and straightforward with our reviews as possible.
  • Each leather kick goes through a series of tests. In every pair, we hike on various terrain for days, come rain or shine.
  • We collect and analyze data by carrying out different sets of tests in our lab. We also tear apart the shoes to clearly view the sandwich of components inside, especially the cushioning system.
Paul Ronto
Paul Ronto
Over the past 20 years, Paul has climbed, hiked, and run 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 analyzes every detail of the shoes that you might buy.