7 best backpacking shoes

Based on reviews from 10 experts and 433 users. Learn how our rankings work or see our guide to backpacking shoes. Updated Jul 2019.

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If you’re going out on a trip that will last more than a day, you might want to wear a pair of backpacking shoes. Several brands offer this kind of gear so you can gain the required performance for this type of outdoor activity. Most low-cut shoes under this footwear category are packed with various technologies to help you overcome all sorts of trail challenges without compromising comfort or the safety of your feet. Plus, they also use durable materials in constructing this footgear so you can get a lot of value out of this investment. When you’re in need of a reliable pair for your next excursion, these backpacking shoes may be more than enough for your needs.

The purpose of backpacking shoes

Best backpacking shoes

Best backpacking shoes - May 2019

Low-cut shoes made for backpacking trips are essentially a sturdy and performance-driven pair. These footwear products are built to help you last more than a day outdoors while overcoming numerous challenges on the trail. They contain all sorts of technologies that supply traction, support, protection, and comfort for your feet. This type of gear accomplishes these things while providing a lighter option than burly backpacking boots.

How can I differentiate backpacking shoes from day hiking shoes?

It’s essential to determine what sets day hiking apart from backpacking to differentiate a backpacking shoe from a day hiking shoe. A day hike involves a trail with minimal obstacles and favorable weather. Also, as the name implies, it only lasts for a single day. On the other hand, you will encounter more trail challenges on a backpacking trip. You’ll also need a heavier pack to help you survive in the outdoors for more than a day. As such, here are some specific qualities that make backpacking shoes different from the finest day hiking shoes in the market.

  • Select backpacking shoes for men and women have outsoles with more aggressive tread patterns than the best day hiking shoes. They are needed to render traction on more challenging trails.
  • Backpacking shoes are generally equipped with stiffer This particular component makes footwear more supportive for users carrying a heavy load. On the other hand, day hiking shoes have shanks that are more on the flexible side, making them suitable for less demanding terrain.

Qualities of the best backpacking shoes

Traction

Every trail has its share of challenging surfaces you need to conquer. Backpacking shoes are equipped with grippy outsoles to help you keep your footing secure. Some of the best shoes for backpacking utilizes Vibram outsoles to supply competent traction on virtually all kinds of terrain.

Weight

Most hikers know that every pound on the foot feels like five pounds on the back. Backpacking shoes employ a lightweight construction so you won’t feel burdened while you’re outdoors. The footwear’s low-cut design is a leading contributor to its reduced weight. Outdoor brands also use light materials to construct the upper, such as suede, split-grain leather, and mesh fabric. As a result, your feet won’t experience a lot of fatigue when wearing a pair of backpacking shoes.

Durability

Footwear products sustain a lot of damage during use. Backpacking shoes are built to handle harsh conditions you might encounter during a trek. Some footwear models under this category feature leather uppers with reinforced forefoot areas for improved durability. Select shoes are equipped with midsole components made of polyurethane (PU), a material known for its resistance against compression. The outsoles of these hikers are also engineered using special rubber compounds to enhance its sturdiness.

Protection

Keeping your foot far from harm’s way won’t be possible if the gear you’re wearing isn’t competent enough. The best backpacking shoes are infused with various technologies to protect your foot from injury or the elements. They come with robust uppers that are built to withstand abrasion. Some models feature a reinforced toe cap or a rand wrapping around the shoe for added protection against stubbing and scuffs.

Some of the best lightweight backpacking shoes are engineered to keep your foot dry. These are shoes that possess a liner which blocks water from entering the footwear. Waterproofing technologies also prevent your foot from smelling bad by allowing excess moisture to pass through.

Comfort

Wearing an uncomfortable pair for your trip won’t help you get too far. Backpacking shoes are built to keep your feet comfortable for the duration of your trip. The footgear’s low-cut upper construction allows your ankle to move freely. This design works with the shoe’s padded collar and tongue to promote comfort. Also, select models employ uppers with mesh panels to ventilate your foot during a warm hike.

Common technologies and features used in the finest backpacking shoes

Regardless of the brand, the best backpacking shoes use several components that are beneficial to any outdoor enthusiasts. These features all work in unison to protect your feet from harm and help them perform better on the trail. Here are some of them:

Vibram. Outsoles made by Vibram are recognized as among the best in the outdoor industry. They are made from durable rubber compounds which help endure harsh ground conditions. These outsoles also use a tread pattern that renders enough traction to secure your footing.

Gore-Tex. Some of the best backpacking shoes are lined with a Gore-Tex membrane to keep your foot dry. The liner’s surface is filled with more than a million pores to prevent drops of water from penetrating it. This microporous design also allows moisture vapor to pass through, improving shoe’s breathability.

Ortholite. Select backpacking shoes feature an Ortholite footbed for improved cushioning and underfoot comfort. Its open-cell polyurethane (PU) construction allows air to circulate in and around it, enhancing breathability. This component also keeps your foot dry by moving moisture away from it.

How to get the right fit from the best backpacking shoes

Having the right fit from your shoe is one of the key factors you should keep in mind. Otherwise, you won’t get far on your trip if you decide to go for an ill-fitting piece of gear. Here are some important tips you should know to get a precise fit from your backpacking shoes.

  • Several footwear companies offer low-cut trekkers in a range of whole and half-sizes.
  • The best backpacking shoes for men and women are available in regular and wide width versions.
  • If you’re ordering a pair online, it’s best to get the measurement of your foot in millimeters. Once you have this particular piece of information, you can head on over to the product’s website and find their size guide. Match your foot’s measurement to the corresponding size and determine if they have the pair you want in stock.
  • Buying in a store helps you get an actual feel of the backpacking boots. Do remember to wear your preferred hiking socks before trying a pair on. These socks contribute to the overall width of your foot and wearing them will help you get an exact fit.
  • Take some time to walk around these backpacking shoes. In doing so, you’ll have an idea of how they feel on your feet. Make sure you lace them up properly so they won’t slip from your foot while you’re moving around.

Frequently asked questions about backpacking shoes

What are the advantages and disadvantages of backpacking shoes over a pair of backpacking boots?

A pair of backpacking shoes offers a lighter and more flexible experience than backpacking boots. The low-cut design grants a generous amount of ankle flexibility to help you traverse uneven ground conditions on the trail. Also, the shoe’s lightweight construction reduces the fatigue experienced by your feet, and by extension, your whole body during a trek. This benefit will help you last longer on your excursion.

While its low-top design may prove to be useful in some cases, it can also be a detriment if you’re going to carry a heavy pack. The addition of this gear will place some stress on your ankles, especially if you’re facing numerous trail obstacles. Backpacking boots are more rigid and offer more support to your ankles. These qualities prevent your ankle from twisting or buckling from the additional weight you’re carrying. They also provide more protection from critters, abrasive elements, and unpredictable weather.

What’s the ideal way to clean my backpacking shoes?

Even the best backpacking shoes will succumb to deterioration if you don’t take care of them regularly. Here are some useful tips to keep in mind whenever you’re cleaning your footgear:

  • Use a soft-bristled brush or a piece of cloth to wipe traces of dirt, mud, and debris on your backpacking shoes.
  • After removing all visible dirt on your pair, you should remove its laces and footbed. Taking these components away will help you wash those hard-to-reach areas better.
  • Rinse your backpacking shoes under a running faucet. Prepare a mixture of water and mild detergent to clean your gear thoroughly. You can use an old toothbrush to wash them better.
  • Apply a waterproofing solution on your pair while they are still damp. In doing so, you will be preserving the waterproofness of your backpacking shoes and making them ready against unpredictable weather.
  • Once you’re done washing your backpacking shoes, you should leave them in an airy spot to dry. Don’t place them near a direct source

4 best backpacking shoes

  1. Lowa Arco GTX Lo
  2. Merrell Chameleon 7 Stretch
  3. Merrell Chameleon 7 Limit
  4. Merrell Chameleon 7 Limit Stretch
Author
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Paul Ronto

Paul loves adventure. Over the past 20 years, he has climbed, hiked, and ran all over the world. He’s summited peaks throughout the Americas, trekked through Africa, and tested his endurance in 24-hour trail races. He has worked in the outdoor industry as a whitewater and hunting guide, gear tester, copywriter, and outfitting specialist at places like The National Outdoor Leadership School, No Barriers USA, and Sierra Trading Post. He has been quoted in NYMag, NBCNews, and Business Insider to name a few.

paul@runrepeat.com
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