7 Best Shoes For Light Hiking in 2023

Paul Ronto
Paul Ronto on
7 Best Shoes For Light Hiking in 2023
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From lightweight trail-to-town shoes to high-performance footwear that can withstand any type of weather, you have tons of options depending on your hiking routes and budget.

We’ve rounded up the latest offerings of the best hiking kicks from trusted brands. These great-looking shoes are ideal for daily on-foot adventures, integrating the latest technologies in footwear construction that deliver more comfort, flexibility, and protection.

To make your browsing experience easier and hassle-free, we’ve tested and ranked 30+ of the best shoes for light hiking available. Depending on your hiking habits and other specific needs, we have evaluated them categorically during our long process of testing so we can be sure in which area they truly excel. Check out our highlighted picks!

Best shoes for light hiking overall

Hoka Speedgoat 5

What makes it the best?

On our short, light hikes, we like nothing better than to don our Hoka Speedgoat 5s. With excellent grip, unbeatable stability, and exceptionally lightweight, it’s no wonder it won us over as the best overall shoe for light hiking.

As an unmatched all-rounder, the Hoka Speedgoat 5 seems to deal with just about anything. When we tested it on the trail, the closely-spaced lugs clung to loose and frozen trails and even held us steady in mud. The lugs are 1.3 mm shallower than the average for hiking shoes, but for light hikes on groomed paths, we found this is more than enough.

Used also for trail running, the Hoka Speedgoat 5 has stability written all over it. It has a noticeably wide platform that makes it difficult to overbalance - yes, even when hiking (or running) over uneven ground! We measured the forefoot, finding it to be 116.4 mm, 5 mm wider than average. The heel is even more impressive, measuring a whopping 10 mm wider than the average of 97.5 mm. We put our faith in these shoes on all surfaces - and they did not let us down.

Weighing in at just 9.7 oz (277g), it’s easy to forget that we are even wearing shoes on our hikes! The average hiking shoe weighs 13 oz, 3.3 oz heavier than the Hoka Speedgoat 5. This makes our short hikes a breeze.

Despite the wide platform, the upper is 5 mm narrower than the average for hiking shoes, so we don’t recommend the Hoka Speedgoat 5 to hikers with particularly wide feet.


  • Super grippy
  • Springy ride
  • Stable platform
  • Extra durable
  • High impact protection
  • Lightweight
  • Breathable
  • Secure fit
  • Excellent heel hold


  • Not for wide feet
  • Flared collar is not for everyone (style-wise)
Full review of Hoka Speedgoat 5

Best breathable shoes for light hiking

What makes it the best?

For hot summer days on our light hikes, it doesn’t get any better than the Nike React Pegasus 4. Lightweight and impressively breathable, it is grippy, adapting to any surface, and has a comfortably flexible sole. No surprises why we chose it as the best breathable light hiking shoe.

Weighing just 10.4 oz (295g), the Nike React Pegasus Trail 4 is far lighter than the average 13 oz (374g) hiking shoe, making it a dream for short, light hikes. The perforated mesh upper is a weight-saver, as well as providing first-rate ventilation which keeps our feet dry, even on our hottest summer hikes.

We were amazed by the versatile, sticky outsole, which works wonders on hard-packed or rooty trails, gravel or asphalt. We measured the lugs at 3.4 mm. Also functioning as trail shoes, the lugs are 21% shallower than the average hiking shoe, but we didn’t feel disadvantaged in the slightest. The outsole measures 85.5 HC, softer and therefore slightly tackier than average, which compensates for the shallower lugs.

Our feet can also flex naturally within the shoe, increasing the surface area in contact with the ground and increasing the grip still further. We twisted the shoe manually, awarding it 2/5 for torsional flexibility - definitely a flexible shoe! We love the natural feel this offers our feet and found it perfectly comfortable on short day hikes.

On the other hand, ground feel is lacking since the cushioning is pretty generous. The stack height at the heel is 35.5 and 22.8 mm at the forefoot, compared to the averages of 33.5 mm and 21.5 mm respectively. We don’t recommend it to hikers who prefer to feel what they are hiking on.


  • Efficient road-to-trail
  • Well-cushioned
  • Stable ride
  • Excellent, secure fit
  • Very breathable
  • Great traction
  • Unexpectedly light
  • Reasonably priced


  • Not for muddy areas
  • Not for wide feet
  • Could be more stylish
Full review of Nike Pegasus Trail 4

Shoes for light hiking with the best foot protection

What makes it the best?

This shoe is a warrior among the shoes in our light hiking collection! Equipped with a rock plate, sturdy midsole and welded overlays, bump protection in this shoe goes above and beyond, and its amazing grip makes it adaptable to all-terrain use. It’s easy to see why the Brooks Cascadia 17 shines as the most protective shoe for light hikes!

Even on the roughest and rockiest of trails, we didn’t notice any sharp objects underfoot. We compared the stack heights to our other lab-tested shoes, finding the Cascadia 17 has a decent amount of material underfoot to protect us from dangers on the trail. The heel stack at 33.1 sits around the average for hiking shoes. The nylon rock plate in the sole provides guaranteed protection from landing badly on a rock or root, and we stride out confidently.

The welded overlays create a literally seamless upper, with no weak spots in the creases. Multiple layers make this an extremely robust shoe which, along with the toe bumper, defies wear and tear on rough trails.

The Trailtack outsole displays 42 lugs in a grippy chevron design. At 3.8 mm, the lugs are 0.5 mm below the hiking shoe average for hiking shoes. However, this is counterbalanced by a tacky outsole which measures 81.8 HC, softer than the average of 85.1 HC. Softer outsoles tend to grip better on all surfaces, and that is certainly the case in the Cascadia 17. We tested them on mud, gravel, roots and rocks, and they bit into everything.

The durability of the mesh upper is disappointing. We applied a Dremel at a force of 3.2N at 5K RPM for 4 seconds. The resulting wound in the fabric caused us to rate this shoe 2/5, where 1 is the least durable. We don’t recommend the Brooks Cascadia 17 to hikers looking for an extremely durable shoe.


  • Adaptable across various paces
  • World-class breathability
  • Comfortable for long runs
  • Superior grip thanks to TrailTack Green
  • Environmentally-friendly with recycled materials
  • Excellent stability
  • Rock plate protects the foot
  • Manages technical descents with ease
  • Ideally designed for heel strikers


  • Weighs more than v16
  • Midsole may feel overly firm for certain users
Full review of Brooks Cascadia 17

Best light hiking shoes with a wide toebox

What makes it the best?

The versatile Altra Lone Peak 7 is our top choice for the best light hiking shoes for wide feet. With its generous toe-box and wide platform boasting excellent stability, this flexible, zero-drop shoe is the best friend of hikers and trail runners alike. 

With plenty of space for our toes to splay out, we are big fans of the roomy toe-box in the Lone Peak 7! We felt extra-stable on different types of terrain since our feet could mold naturally to the ground under our feet. At the widest part of the forefoot, we measured 96.2 mm, and the square shape of the toes means it doesn’t taper off quickly.

The stability in the Lone Peak 7 is as good as it gets! With a heel stack of 23.3 mm, it is 9.8 mm lower than average, offering a low center of gravity which makes it difficult to overbalance. The wide platform underfoot is also 1cm wider than the upper, so we found it practically impossible to twist our ankles while hiking or even running over uneven ground!

With its soft midsole – 8% softer than average to be precise – delivering plush comfort, we also noticed how it had enough give in it to allow our feet to bend and flex naturally over roots and rocks as we hiked. We measured the flexibility in the lab with a force gauge, finding it to be 24.2N - 34% more flexible than the average hiking shoe! We find this makes for a fabulously agile shoe, perfect for our short, light hikes!

With an overall drop height of 0.2 mm, the Altra Lone Peak 7 is firmly in the zero-drop category. We therefore don’t recommend it to hikers who have a heavy heel strike.


  • Very wide toebox
  • Protective midsole
  • Superb lockdown
  • Super grippy outsole
  • Excellent for fast runs in the mountains
  • Added heel cup provides stability
  • Super comfy
  • Easy to clean


  • Colorways might be a downer
  • A bit pricey
Full review of Altra Lone Peak 7

Best lightweight shoes for light hiking

What makes it the best?

Amongst the best shoes for light hiking, there’s only one that can be dubbed the best lightweight hiking shoe for the job, and we have chosen the Adidas Terrex Trailmaker. Its insanely light weight combines with a delightfully natural feel to the shoe - so much so that we almost forget we are wearing shoes! With an extra-wide toe box, the Trailmaker provides all-day comfort for our short, light hikes.

There are not many hiking shoes that are lighter than the Trailmaker. We barely notice them when we put them on! In the lab, we popped them on the scales, and discovered that they were a mere 12.7 oz (361g). Compared to the average hiking shoe weight of 13.9 oz (395g), this is a lightweight kick that doesn’t weigh us down.

We love the natural feel of the Trailmaker, and find their superb flexibility and close contact with the ground perfect for short, easy hikes on maintained trails. They flex easily with our feet, and when we assessed them in the lab with a force gauge, we found they needed only 20.5N of force to bend to 90°! For reference, the average hiking shoe is much stiffer, measuring 36.4N. With less material underfoot than other hiking shoes, the Trailmaker has a low heel-to-toe drop of just 9.6 mm, 2.4 mm below average, and gives us a natural feel to our strides.

Complementing the natural feel underfoot is extra space in the toe box. Measuring 102.7 mm around the forefoot, the Trailmaker is 3.7 mm wider than average, and retains the 3 mm advantage around the toes too. Our toes have plenty of space to splay out and we found it superbly comfortable while out hiking on easy trails.

We are not especially impressed with the outsole's durability. Adidas exchanged their Continental sole for a lighter but less durable TRAXION outsole. Our Dremel, applied to the outsole for 22 seconds, left a 2 mm dent, almost 2/3rds of the lug! We don’t recommend this hiking shoe for rocky trails, as the outsole wears out relatively quickly.


  • Extra lightweight
  • Amazing in-shoe comfort
  • Highly breathable
  • Balance of cushion and ground feel
  • Stable for a light shoe
  • More flexible than average
  • Welcomes wide feet
  • Secure lockdown (bootie upper)


  • Outsole lacks durability
  • Not enough grip on wet terrain
Full review of Adidas Terrex Trailmaker

Best budget shoes for light hiking

What makes it the best?

It’s official, the best budget hiking shoes for light hiking is the Adidas Terrex AX4. $39 cheaper than the average hiking shoe, this is an impressively versatile kick. It proved itself water resistant yet breathable, incredibly stable and lightweight. At just $90, it represents excellent value for money and is the perfect shoe for short, easy hikes.

With the upper fabric under the microscope, we spied an especially tight weave which is both abrasion-resistant and water-repellent on our hikes through wet grass and light rain. The shoe performed surprisingly well in our breathability tests too, and we awarded it 3/5 for breathability compared to the average of 2.3. We love the adaptability of this all-weather hiker.

The Adidas Terrex AX4 is a wonderfully stable shoe, and we felt confident hiking on rough, slippery trails. Its wide, stable platform measures 111.5 mm, around the average, and prevents us from rolling our ankles when hiking over rocks. We experienced no heel slippage, and in the lab, we awarded the heel counter 5/5 for stiffness. It holds our heel firmly without compression.

The cushioning in this shoe is pretty firm. We pressed a durometer to the midsole, and noted 39 HA, making it 27% firmer than average. Whilst this is surely a protective shoe, it’s not the most comfortable, which is why we don’t recommend it for long distance hikes.


  • Excellent value for money
  • Feels like a trail running shoe
  • Breathable
  • Water-repellent
  • Solid grip
  • Durable for the price
  • Stable platform
  • Contains recycled materials


  • Lacks toe protection
  • Flimsy insole
Full review of Adidas Terrex AX4

Best barefoot shoes for light hiking

What makes it the best?

As its brand suggests, Vivobarefoot Magna FG gave us the best barefoot feel among the light hiking shoes we brought to the trails. With its enhanced ground feel, light and flexible nature, and excellent traction, we breezed through terrains feeling comfortable and supported throughout.

Magna FG is a zero-drop shoe that offers the natural feeling of minimalist shoes. The gap between the foot and the ground is composed of only thin layers of the insole and outsole, making the surface underneath pronounced. We felt like the shoe was barely there, in a good way!

Enhancing the minimalist feel is the shoe’s light and flexible nature. It had no stiffness whatsoever, making it versatile and comfortable enough for walks and other fitness activities. We never felt it weighed us down and was light on the foot.

The outsole is protective enough, with traction that grips well on wet, dry, and rocky surfaces. We can confirm that its traction is aggressive since we had no slip encounters.

While Magna FG is all about lightness, it has a hefty price tag. At $150, it’s more expensive than the $128 average price of hikers.


  • Extremely flexible
  • Super-light
  • Grips everything dry and wet
  • Breathable and comfy
  • Holds foot in place
  • Great ground sensitivity
  • Very versatile
  • Wide feet are welcome
  • More protected than other similar shoes


  • Laces are not durable
  • Too expensive
Full review of Vivobarefoot Magna FG

Comparison of the 7 best shoes for light hiking

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# of colorways

How to choose shoes for light hiking

Heading out on a short and sweet hike, you want to wear something light and breezy. A pair of sturdy hikers might be an overkill for 3-5 miles on a moderate type of terrain.


Luckily, there are plenty of options from both hiking and running shoe brands that can meet your needs on the trail.

3 characteristics of shoes for light hikes

Here is what your ideal pair will look like when you are out for a short hike on groomed terrain:

  • lightweight
  • flexible
  • road-friendly

More lightweight to keep you agile

The average weight of a proper hiking shoe is 13.1 oz (377g). However, if we only consider the more trimmed-down options, the weight will go down significantly - to 10.7 oz (303g)!

These shoes still have all the essentials to keep you comfortable on the trail but nothing that you don't. You won't get the extra overlays, thicker upper materials, lugs, heel brakes, insulation, etc. For light hiking, having a lighter shoe that won't drag you down is the priority.


More flexible for natural movement

Most hiking shoes come with shanks and burly platforms that enhance stability and arch support. But when you are not carrying a heavy backpack, you don't need as much support from your footwear.

You will be much happier with a shoe that feels more like an extension of your foot rather than a stabilizing device. A shoe with enough pliability to let your feet bend where they would naturally bend.

Easily goes from trail to road

It's quite likely that when you go on a light hike, you have to walk on the pavement or asphalt first. Or perhaps you want to stop by a coffee shop on the way down.

Shoes for light hiking tend to be more versatile in use, so you won't find 5-mm deep lugs here. These hikers come with shallower treads that won't feel too bumpy when you step on a hard surface.


Do you need waterproof shoes for light hiking?

There is a large debate between folks who swear by waterproof shoes and others who would never put them on their feet in the first place. We fall somewhere in between the two camps.

Waterproof hiking shoes truly shine in climates that are characteristically wet, damp, icy, or snowy. In other words, there needs to be a high chance that we will experience prolonged exposure to precipitation and moisture before we lace up the waterproof hiking shoes.

Otherwise, we typically opt for something considered non-waterproof. In this case, a water-resistant or water-repellent shoe may be the best tool for the job.

The reason is that in climates and terrain that are characteristically dry or that might have occasional encounters with precipitation and moisture like stream crossings, or afternoon thunderstorms, we tend to prioritize breathability over waterproofing.


Getting a waterproof shoe makes sense if your "light hikes" look like this

How to make shoes for light hiking last longer

It's not very likely that you destroy a pair of shoes after a few light hikes. But there are a few tricks to help you get the most out of your hiking footwear even in this scenario.

  • Perform simple maintenance: Routine cleanings and monitoring for repairable damages, like the beginnings of outsole separation, can enhance the lifespan of your shoes.
  • Wear them specifically for the right moments: We understand – you find a new pair of hiking shoes that feel amazing, and you wear them incessantly. We’ve done this also. But try to refrain from doing this. Instead, save your hiking shoes for legitimate outings to the trailhead. But if you must wear them all the time, maybe purchase two pairs!   
  • Reapply waterproof coating (if necessary): Over time, the waterproof DWR coating may wear out. We’ve discussed this important maintenance task earlier in the article, but here is another friendly reminder.
  • Focus on your footwork: When our legs and feet get tired, our precise footwork on the trail diminishes. To mitigate this inevitability, focus on improving your footwork to decrease the wear and tear your hiking shoes are exposed to.


How we test hiking shoes

Each pair of footwear on this list is thoroughly examined and tested in the field. We analyze the quality of materials and technologies built into the shoes, and how they actually perform in the real world. Our wear tests involve using the shoes in a series of hikes in a variety of hiking environments.

Here’s what we do:

  • We invest our time and own money buying the shoes for our performance tests. This is to ensure our impartiality when publishing our reviews.
  • We put in the hours and distances using the shoes on hiking trips. During this time, we double-check every important aspect of the shoes including fit, comfort, water resistance, durability, and more. We subject the hiking shoes to a variety of outdoor settings, including tougher conditions.
  • To further enrich our data-gathering, we segment the shoes so we can investigate every section and every little detail. We also perform tests inside our lab like determining the hardness of the midsole and the outsole. What we do is press our durometer to the said parts and read and analyze the recorded hardness of our tool in HA. 
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.