7 Best Lightweight Hiking Shoes in 2024

Jovana Subic
Jovana Subic on
7 Best Lightweight Hiking Shoes in 2024
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The best middle ground of trail running shoes and hiking shoes is lightweight hiking shoes. What’s not to love: they are light + offer rigid soles. In this guide, we explained which lightweight hiking shoes are the best and which features to look for when buying lightweight hiking shoes.

With over 100 light hiking shoes tested and reviewed, we have selected the best and brightest in different categories. Apart from being light, some shoes also boast excellent waterproofing for rainy days, some offer springy cushioning for speedy hikes, and some can drain water very quickly to let you walk through rivers and streams. 

No matter what your priority is, we’ve got a recommended shoe for it.

How we test hiking shoes

Our review process couldn't be more excessively elaborate than it already is. We do not settle for rumors and hearsay - we establish shreds of evidence! With that being said, our process starts with us buying hiking shoes by drawing out money from our own pockets. We love free stuff, we're not hypocrites! But when it comes to testing, we prefer getting the shoes on our own so our opinions wouldn't be tainted by gratitude.

After that comes the real part: the actual testing of the shoes. We put on the shoes on various hikes in different environments and circumstances. We then deliver our reports and observations about the shoes.

The next stop after the trails and terrains is our lab. We test the shoes using our tools such as a smoke machine, digital force gauge, caliper, and more! We gather data from these tests and analyze them to understand their mechanism better. By the way, do you know that we also slice the shoes into pieces? Because yes, we do!

Best lightweight hiking shoes overall

Danner Trail 2650
91
Superb!

What makes it the best?

The Danner Trail 2650 is a thoroughbred of lightweight hiking shoes. Not only is it lighter than most other shoes we have tested, it’s incredibly versatile, grippy, and so comfortable that it has become our go-to hiking shoe!

An all-rounder should be able to go anywhere and do anything, and that means it needs good traction. We checked out the lugs’ depth in the lab and they came in at 4.3 mm, which is the average for hiking shoes that we’ve tested so far. That explains why they kept us confident and stable when walking on most surfaces, from rough trails to smooth rock! 

This shoe was such a smooth ride, and we suspected it had something to do with the plushest midsole we had ever experienced. We checked the midsole’s softness with a durometer and measured 52 HA, a whopping difference from the average of 86 HA, making it 65% softer than average! 

Next, we tested the shoe’s flexibility with a force gauge, measuring it at 31N, much more flexible than the average of 39N. We also bent and twisted the shoe to test longitudinal and torsional flexibility, and it scored 2/5 for both, 5 being the stiffest. We noticed the flexibility out on the trail; the shoe felt nimble and flexed naturally with our foot. It’s a great choice for summer walking; we found them to be wonderfully breathable and they dried out quickly.

We don’t recommend these shoes to hikers who enjoy quite a lot of ground feel. In the Danner Trail 2650 we wish there was a bit more of it. 

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Good grip
  • Incredible midsole
  • Protective TPU shank
  • Excellent lockdown
  • Fits true to size
  • Breathable

Cons

  • Ankle support isn’t there
  • No waterproofing
Full review of Danner Trail 2650

Lightweight hiking shoes with the best cushioning

What makes it the best?

31% softer than other hiking shoes and lighter than the average hiking shoe with a Gore-Tex membrane: it's the Hoka Anacapa Low GTX. A lightweight hiking shoe with, by far, the best cushioning out there. After hiking for hundreds of miles when testing hiking shoes and dissecting all of them in the lab, we can say that this cushioning is what a hiker's dreams are made of. 

First, it's soft. Like crazy soft, our durometer showed 23.3 HA and the average for hiking shoes is 30.7 HA. Second, the Anacapa Low GTX stays soft even when exposed to cold weather. We confirmed this when we put it into the freezer for 20 minutes and checked its softness afterward. It got only 18% firmer. Most hiking shoes get 23% firmer! 

Third, there's a rocker. It feels so good; it makes us even start speed hiking! This is not a difficult thing to do in the Anacapa Low GTX because it's not a burden for our feet. It weighs 13.9 oz, and the average for GTX hiking shoes is 14.3 oz. 

While perfect in cushioning, this shoe is not perfect when it comes to heel to toe drop: Hoka says it's 6 mm, but, in the lab, our calipers measured a different story: 10.5 mm. This is a huge deviation and hikers, you've been warned. 

 

Pros

  • Mind-blowing cushioning
  • Podiatrist-approved sole
  • Excellent grip
  • Top-notch waterproofing
  • Lightweight
  • Out-of-the-box comfort
  • Roomy toebox
  • Well-made
  • Contains recycled materials

Cons

  • GTX version only
  • Pricier than average
  • Weird-looking heel
Full review of Hoka Anacapa Low GTX

Lightweight hiking shoes with the best grip

What makes it the best?

We have good news for hikers looking for a grippy, lightweight, and agile hiking shoe! After thorough testing in the lab and on the trail, we found the Salomon X Ultra 4 GTX ticks all the boxes and voted it the best lightweight hiking shoe with the best grip.

We tested the shoe on all terrains, and it didn’t let us down. The 4.5 mm lugs are slightly deeper than the 4.3 mm average, which play their part in sticking to soft mud and loose gravel. The star of the show is Salomon’s trademark Contragrip sole. Its chevron-shaped lugs work wonders on steep ascents and descents, 

We popped the shoe on the scale in our lab and measured it at 11.8 oz (336g). This is 12% lighter than the average for hiking shoes and the difference is unmistakable out on the trail, with our feet feeling a whole lot fresher at the end of a long day than we expected. Speaking of fresh feet, this shoe is highly breathable, so moisture and air can get in and out! We noticed heaps of grip on terrain ranging from grassy hillsides to rough trails. In the lab, measured the lugs at a meaty 5.2 mm on Salomon’s Contragrip outsole, 0.9 mm deeper than average. With such sturdy lugs, it’s no wonder we felt confident! 

We don’t recommend these shoes for regular hiking in mud. The 41 lugs clustered relatively tightly on the outsole have trouble shedding mud and we found we slipped a bit.

Pros

  • Instant comfort
  • Impeccable waterproofing
  • Very lightweight
  • Exceptional grip
  • Excellent support and lockdown
  • Stable platform
  • Roomy toebox

Cons

  • Quicklace is not for everyone
  • Too-high collar
Full review of Salomon X Ultra 4 GTX

Lightweight hiking shoes with the best stability

What makes it the best?

This shoe is so stable it feels like "stability" should be its middle name. When hiking in Adidas Terrex Swift R3 GTX, we felt very safe, secure and stable. Our lab tests allowed us to understand why. 

When looking at the stiffness of the shoe, the longitudinal one sits is 6.7% lower than the average which tells us why the ride was more on the natural, unobtrusive side. However, what matters more for stability is the torsional stiffness, and on that test, when we tried to twist the shoe, it scored 5/5. 5 is for the stiffest! It was almost impossible to twist it, even a little bit. 

Because we hiked over grass, muddy areas, rocks, and soft single tracks covered with gravel here and there, we knew that the grip is superb. Looking at our caliper measurements, we understood why: the lugs are 4.4 mm deep and the rubber is a bit softer than average. This combination proved to be great or, well, sticky! 

While hiking shoes with a Gore-Tex membrane tend to be heavier (average is 409g or 14.4 oz), the Swift R3 GTX weighs just around the average (408g), BUT it feels much lighter than what we see on the paper (or our scale in the lab). 

Be warned though, this shoe is stable as heck but needs breaking in to make it work perfectly. 

Pros

  • Boot-like stability
  • Highly durable and protective
  • Lightweight for what it offers
  • Excellent waterproofing
  • Breathable for a GTX shoe
  • Generously cushioned
  • Very secure foothold
  • Top-notch grip with deep lugs

Cons

  • Stuffy for summer
  • Can be too stiff (even stiffer in cold)
  • Break-in needed
Full review of Adidas Terrex Swift R3 GTX

Best lightweight shoes for speed hiking

What makes it the best?

The Merrell Moab Speed GTX is our number one pick for lightweight speed hiking shoes. This lightweight speedster begs to break into a run, with its rigid sole providing both spring and stability, and the plush midsole prioritizing delightful comfort.

The superb stability of this shoe means we can turn on a dime. The gently fanned-out heel zone prevents our heels from overbalancing. In the lab, we twisted the shoe to test for torsional rigidity. We rated it 4/5, with 5 being the most stiff. It delivers excellent support for our feet whilst retaining a good amount of flexibility for making split-second decisions at speed.

Comfort is the name of the game in the Moab Speed GTX! At 37.7 mm, there’s a whole lot of material underfoot, 4.2 mm more than our other lab-tested shoes. We pressed a durometer to the midsole to test for hardness, and found it to be an incredible 26% softer than average! It’s no wonder our feet felt cushioned and coddled for miles during our hikes.

With its impermeable Gore-Tex membrane, we might expect the shoe to weigh over the odds, so we weighed them in the lab to check. Tipping the scales at 12.1 oz (343g), the Merrell Moab Speed GTX is 1.8 oz (52g) lighter than its waterproof peers! A clunky shoe is the last thing we need for speed hiking, so we were delighted with the findings!

Despite a stiff heel counter, rating 4/5, we experienced quite a lot of heel slippage in the Merrel Moab Speed GTX. For speed hikers needing a more reliable lockdown, we recommend looking at the Salomon X Ultra 4 GTX.

Pros

  • Plush on day one
  • Watertight
  • Sticky
  • Featherweight
  • Stabilizing
  • Incredibly supportive
  • Propelling

Cons

  • Unflattering heel fit
  • Frail outsole
Full review of Merrell Moab Speed GTX

Best lightweight hiking shoes for summer

Salomon Outpulse
85
Great!

What makes it the best?

Uninhibited pace and unburdened feet – this could easily be the slogan of the Salomon Outpulse. This hiking shoe steered us through our escapades without a hint of exhaustion and foot perspiration. The support the Outpulse has given us is unsurpassed and the comfort? A revelation!

 

We loaded up smoke inside this hiking shoe and evaluated the amount that would flow out. Given the abundant smoke release, a 5/5 breathability score is a no-brainer. On our wear tests, a smooth airflow is also achieved, ensuring an unceasing state of freshness. 

 

This hiking shoe is constructed with such a light build, that our trekking speed benefited a lot. Weighing only 11.61 oz (329g), the Salomon Outpulse is 15.6% lighter than its peers. Granted, it is airy but it is also resilient. We discovered that it is tough against our Dremel tool, especially the heel padding and outsole. The heel scored a solid 5/5 in durability as it prevailed over our abrasive device, while the outsole only bore a 0.3 mm depression, which is negligible compared to the 1.1 mm average.

 

As good as all these are in the trail, we found that wide-footers might not completely enjoy the Salomon Outpulse. This shoe is 97.2 mm wide across the widest section of the toebox and it is 2.8 mm short of the average. If you think you would have an issue with the Outpulse, fit-wise, better pick a more forgiving pair.

Pros

  • Grippy and durable lugs
  • Extremely breathable
  • Lighter than average
  • Protective and bouncy midsole
  • Great for long hikes
  • Speedy and tenacious
  • Comfortable and high-quality upper construction
  • Secure lockdown
  • No break-in required
  • Performs consistently in the cold

Cons

  • Not ideal for wide feet
  • Tongue slippage
Full review of Salomon Outpulse

Best budget lightweight hiking shoes

What makes it the best?

At $90, there's nothing else we could ask from the Adidas Terrex AX4 and we got so much! It retailed at a price that's 30% lower than the average for hiking shoes ($129) and yet we found it to be very versatile and it even has mudguards and recycled elements!

Because it has mudguards we took it to some muddy areas. We also covered very steep uphills and flat gravel-covered paths. The grip was there and it did not make us question it. The lugs are 3.7 mm thick and we found them to work best on softer ground.

When the grip is good, we also wish for stability to be there. And it was! All thanks to the platform that's wider than the average, ensuring planted strides. With a caliper we measured the width of the midsole at the heel (87.9 mm) and the forefoot (111.5 mm). They turned up to be 2.6 mm and 3.8 mm wider than the average, respectively. 

This shoe is on the stiffer side. It starts stiffer than average at room temperature and, when exposed to cold, stiffness up much more than the average. In our test, it got 66.2% stiffer, while hiking shoes usually get 48.9% stiffer. Because of this, we don't recommend this shoe for hikes in very cold weather. Keep in mind it might need more time on the hike or somewhere inside to warm up and "loosen up". 

Pros

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

Cons

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

Features of lightweight hiking shoes

In the RunRepeat database, hiking shoes that weigh less than 500grams are considered lightweight. 

We’ll focus on features that set them apart from hiking shoes in general. Them, we’ve covered in detail in our guide on hiking shoes

  1. Lightweight. The whole point of these shoes is to be lightweight, so the extra weight coming either from hiking boots or regular hiking shoes is taken away. This lightweight feature definitely gets the spotlight on the longer hikes - with them you just might go further because your feet aren’t as tired. 
  2. Stiff outsole. On average, these hiking shoes are less sturdy than traditional hiking boots, and sturdier than trail running shoes. 
  3. Shorter break-in period than in hiking boots and even regular shoes, because of the new materials used for the upper. 

When looking at the whole feature set, it’s best to compare it with other fellows from the trail footwear community. Here, we’re looking at trail running shoes, hiking sandals, hiking shoes, and hiking boots

How lightweight hiking shoes compare to other hiking footwear 

Feature-comparison-of-trail-footwear.png

This is a general overview. Lightweight hiking shoes definitely get a better rating for the “lightweight” feature. They are, on average, 158g lighter than the regular hiking shoes! 

average-weight-all-trail-footwear.png

average-price-of-all-trail-footwear-focus-on-hiking-shoes.png

Lightweight hiking shoes take the 3rd place (out of 5) when compared to other trail footwear when it comes to both price and weight.

6 steps for finding your perfect fit 

There are a few important steps to follow when it comes to trying on hiking shoes. You should try the shoes on and not order them online. 

Hiking-shoes-finding-the-perfect-fit.png

These 6 steps will guide you through the process of trying out the hiking shoes. 

  1. Go shoe shopping in the afternoon, so feet are swollen at least a bit. It’s what happens anyway when hiking, so it makes sense. 
  2. Try the shoes with your hiking socks on. Bring the socks that you plan to wear on your hikes with you. Avoid using cotton, but choose wool or synthetic socks - they dry out faster and are good at preventing the blisters. 
  3. Try it on, lace it up, and check for pressure points. Shoes should feel comfortable and non-constricting. You don’t want any part of your shoe to feel loose! 
  4. There should be a thumb’s width space between your toes and the front of your shoes.
  5. If you’re wearing special insoles or orthotics, take them with you and insert them into the shoes when trying them on. 
  6. Use the ramp! Walk up and down. This tests the shoe’s snugness. No part of the shoe should feel loose. When you go up the board, observe for any heel lift. When you go down, check if your toes hit the front of the shoes. If your heel rises more than a quarter of an inch, try adjusting the laces. If your toes hit the front, try sizing up.

4 things to pay attention to when buying lightweight hiking shoes 

These tips apply to all hiking footwear. If this is your first hiking-shoes shopping, you might find our general guide on hiking shoes quite useful. 

1. Duration of your hiking trip

The longer the hike, the better support you need. This means you should look for more stability features and cushioning. Lightweight hiking shoes tend to lack those features, or at least in great amounts, in order to be lighter. To learn about cushioning features, look at the specifications of the midsole: every material (for example EVA foam) has a certain set of features that may or may not suit your hiking and feet needs.

2. Weight of your backpack 

Same rule applies for the duration of your hiking trip. We bring heavier backpacks on longer hikes. Hiking shoes aren’t meant to support you in these adventures completely, only up to a degree. That’s why, if you’re planning a long backpacking trip, consider buying hiking boots or mountaineering boots. They will offer stability features and cushioning: a very welcomed set of features for such adventures. 

3. Your arch type

Depending on your arch type, your feet might need different stability features. High arches usually ask for neutral shoes, while medium and low arches (flat feet) ask for stability shoes. We’ve covered this in-depth in the next chapter. 

Arch type and stability features 

It is essential to know your arch type in order to choose the most adequate shoe type for you. Whether it’s a neutral or stability shoe - they all offer different stability features that your feet need when hiking. 

Shoe wear test 

Things you can do: look at your used hiking shoes and compare how the outsoles have been worn with the “Shoe wear” section below.

NOTE: These days motion control shoes are the same as stability shoes.

Arch types and recommended shoes.png

Wet test 

There is also another way to discover your arch type and it’s called a wet test. 

Wet-test-in-4-steps.png

You should: wet the sole of your foot (ideally both of them, one at a time), then stand on a piece of paper while allowing the moisture from your feet to sink into the paper, and step off. Look at your footprint and compare it to the ones shown below.  

Wet-test-results.png

Of course, the best thing to do is to consult a podiatrist. Especially if you already know you have injuries or a special feet condition. Only specialists can give you a thorough (complete) analysis of your feet.  

If you need something more specific, you might want to look into insoles or orthotics that you can insert into hiking shoes. 

The outsole story: lugs for every terrain 

Your hiking adventures ask for different lugs based on the terrain you’ll be covering. It’s good to pay attention to the outsole and look at the bottom of the shoes before buying them. This way, you’ll know which terrain you’re buying the shoes for. 

Outsole and lug patterns.png

When not to use lightweight hiking shoes 

While these shoes are a perfect option for short and easy hikes, given that they don’t offer enough stability and support, you should avoid them on multiple-day hikes and when wearing a heavy backpack. Plenty of other factors can be covered with additional features: for rainy days, look for waterproof hiking shoes. Use filters in the RunRepeat database and look for specific features like orthotic hiking shoes or wide toe box hiking shoes.   

Author
Jovana Subic
Jovana Subic
Whether it's a vertical kilometre or an ultra, climbing in the Alps or exploring local mountains, Jovana uses every opportunity to trade walls and concrete for forests and trails. She logs at least 10h/week on trails, with no off-season, and 4x more on research on running and running shoes. With a background in physics and engineering management, she prefers her running spiced with data.