97 best low cut hiking shoes

Based on reviews from 179 experts and 36,118 users. Learn how our rankings work or see our guide to low cut hiking shoes. Updated Mar 2019.

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Low-cut hiking shoes are flexible and dependable footwear for day hikes as well has adventures with a light pack. These shoes should be soft and have flexible midsoles to provide support and comfort. For many experienced ultra-light backpackers who go on long treks, the support coming from low-top hiking shoes is enough for them.

A lot of hikers are torn between choosing high-cut hiking boots and low-cut ones. Experts say, low-cut hiking shoes are great for short hikes because of their lightness. These are usually made of a synthetic upper and an EVA midsole. The outsoles are also equipped with right lugs and treads that can provide enough traction for tackling less demanding terrains. They provide good comfort and performance to hikers who want to spend a day or two on the trail.  

Low-cut shoes have below the ankle cuffs. Others may argue that this does not give as much ankle support as mid-top or high-top footwear but experienced hikers choose them for their lightness. They come in handy for short hikes with a light pack.

The ankle support myth

best low-cut hiking shoes

Best low-cut hiking shoes - June 2018

One thing that hikers dislike is meeting injuries on the trail. No matter how established and well-maintained the trail is, there are always bushes and critters that may cause injuries. Apart from these external factors, the way that hiking shoes or boots fit and support the feet also contribute to the likelihood of injuries.

A very popular myth among the hiking community is that hiking footwear needs to have a rigid upper with brace-like ankle support to prevent ankle sprains from happening. It is about time that hikers break free from this myth because no amount of upper material can immobilize the ankle joints. Worth considering is the fact that hiking means walking on trails for a long time thus, the feet and lower legs need to function as naturally as they can.  

Wearing high-cut boots have been the resort of many hikers as they believe that they need all the ankle support they can get for hiking trips. But then, it was found that the best way to prevent ankle sprain is to wear hiking and backpacking footwear with a stable base that also allows the toe to splay naturally. The stable base also prevents ankle rolling.

For hiking, shoes with thinner and more flexible outsoles are more advisable since it enables the foot to feel the ground better. If the feet have more contact with the ground, it will send brain signals that allow for micro adjustments that minimize footfalls and injury.

Hiking shoes versus hiking boots

In the past 10 years, a revolution in the outdoor footwear industry was observed. Before this revolution, outdoor junkies were left with nothing but big, clunky hiking boots. Thankfully, the revolution brought lighter and more fashionable footwear for outdoor activities.

Some people choose hiking boots because these protect the feet from the elements. The ankle collar basically sets it apart from hiking shoes. It basically protects the feet from the twigs, pebbles, and clumps that hikers meet along the trail.

Hiking boots are characterized by their rigid sole which is primarily used to tackle difficult terrain. The outsoles of hiking boots are not very flexible compared with hiking shoes and wearing them help hikers carry a weighty pack as they tackle more challenging obstacles.

Hiking shoes are often considered as a cross between tennis shoes and hiking boots. These may not have all the rugged aspects of a boot but it offers just enough traction for walking on more established and well-maintained trails.

Choosing between shoes and boots hounded many hikers. In reality, the choice always boils down to a person’s personal preference. But it also helps to put a lot of weight on the kind of trail to tackle in determining the kind of outdoor gear to bring and wear. Hikers must then decide if the trail warrants sturdier footwear or a much lighter one.

Characteristics of low-top hiking shoes

Low-cut hiking shoes are generally made of textile with leather and synthetic reinforcements that provide abrasion-resistance. They may bear a close resemblance to trail running shoes with the weight as the sole determinant of their difference.

Breathability is also a very important trait that low-cut hiking shoes must have. Since hikers use them only for a couple of hours or overnight, they need to be breathable. This is a very important consideration as the feet could feel too warm when hiking in the summer. A well-ventilated, lightweight shoe allows the foot to breathe well.

The outdoor gear market also offers variations like waterproof, low-cut hiking shoes that are ready to tackle wet grounds. These really come in handy when hiking on rainy days and going through muddy paths. Waterproof versions of low-cut hiking shoes may be a bit pricier than their non-waterproof versions but they will come in handy when hikers are exposed to the elements. 

When hikers need low-cut hiking shoes

Ditching hiking boots and choosing a pair of low-cut hiking shoes depend largely on the hiking condition and preference of the hiker. Factors like the kind of terrain, the length of the trip, and the kind of weather are just a few things to consider when heading out. The hiker’s preference also plays a crucial role; as it was pointed out, some people prefer to wear boots regardless of the length of the trip and the weight they will be carrying while there are also expert hikers who would pick hiking shoes because of their lightness regardless of the weight they will be carrying.

Low cut hiking shoes are made for hikers who love their hiking trips light and short. They weigh around 2 pounds a pair. Since this type is on the light side, it requires less energy to move. Hikers who love rock scrambling and overcoming obstacles like wearing very light shoes.

Low-cut hiking shoes are best for casual hikers. Those who are just starting out or are hiking occasionally don’t need the added weight of hiking boots. They can instead, use hiking shoes that offer them plenty of support without the heavy weight or even use hiking sandals which is a lighter option.

It is also ideal to use low-cut hiking shoes when hikers need breathable footwear for their excursion. Hiking on summer days would definitely mean braving the heat. Breathable low-cut hiking shoes help make scorching hot summer days in the outdoors more bearable.

Low-cut hiking shoes are also great as camp shoes. Mountaineers can pack them up for their trips and change into them while they let their mountaineering boots dry out. Since they are light, they would not really affect a mountaineer’s pack so much.  

Finally, low-cut hiking shoes are best for hikers who want to spend a minimal amount for a gear. Those who are casual hikers do not need to spend so much money for a pair of footwear that they will rarely use. In this case, buying a pair of hiking footwear that costs $100 or less is a sounder choice.

Technologies applied to low-cut hiking shoes

A few decades ago, outdoor enthusiasts were limited only to wearing hiking boots. In the 1980s, shoe manufacturers saw the potential of the growing outdoor market. Eventually, the market between outdoor and running gears blurred. The demand for athletic-looking hiking shoes continued to grow.

A very prominent design applied is using materials that lessen the weight which was introduced in the ‘80s.  The all-leather upper material of boots was changed into fabric and synthetic materials in hiking shoes. The midsoles are also made of lighter materials like EVA. With these changes, the three to four pounds that hikers endured in their boots became two pounds in hiking shoes.

It is noticeable as well that sports shoe manufacturers like Adidas and Merrell incorporate some athletic shoe technologies in their outdoor line. Outdoor sports shoe lines combined lightness and strength into every model. Air-cushioned midsole, a patented technology of Merrell, takes the running shoe technology into its backcountry line. As a whole, these athletic technologies incorporated in their outdoor lines aim to provide greater comfort and stability to hikers.

Low-cut hiking shoe questions and answers

Are low-top hiking shoes expensive?

On the average, low-cut hiking shoes are priced at $50 to $150. Some high-end models may be more expensive but these are still within the $150 to $200 range. These are practically of great value and are much cheaper than hiking boots.

Are low-cut hiking shoes available in different sizes?

Like most footwear, shoe manufacturers have offered hiking shoes in different sizes as well. Aside from the different lengths, there are also width variations to these shoes. Hikers can choose between medium, wide, and narrow versions to suit their feet.

Can low-cut hiking shoes offer the grip that hikers need on the trail?

There are hiking shoe models that are built like approach shoes so they offer excellent grip but with great comfort and low weight. Although the outsoles of hiking shoes do not offer as much grip and stiffness as hiking boots would, these are enough to cover most well-established terrains.

What are some advantages and disadvantages of wearing low-top hiking shoes?

Low-cut hiking shoes are a great alternative to hiking boots especially if worn on hikes that last for a half day or less. These are breathable, lightweight, and mostly waterproof. These also cost less compared to boots.

While they can be great alternatives to boots, they can’t be used for long trips. Most of the models also do not offer a higher level of traction so they can only be used for well-maintained trails.

How can hikers take care of low-cut hiking shoes after each hiking trip?

Taking care of your low-top hiking shoes is the key to enjoy them for a much longer time. Here are the basic steps to prolong its life and keep it in good condition for a longer period:

Clean.  After each hiking trip, hikers need to make sure that their low-top hiking shoes are clean. Dislodge all of the dirt accumulated by rinsing the shoes with clear water. Using a soft brush, remove mud and grime from the shoes. Try not to submerge the footwear in water since this can affect the shoes’ performance.

Dry.  Hikers must avoid drying their hiking shoes with heat since this will result in the deterioration of the outer layer. Allow the shoes to dry naturally. Alternatively, try stuffing dry newspapers inside the footwear to soak up the moisture.

Condition. Applying conditioning and waterproof treatments to low-cut hiking shoes can prevent splitting. If it is a waterproof shoe, reapplying waterproof agents also prolongs the property.

Inside. It is also a good idea to give the inside of the shoes an occasional clean. A good way to do it is by filling the shoes with lukewarm water, leaving it overnight, and tipping the water away in the morning.  

Can low-top hiking shoes be used for day-to-day activities too?

Over the years, low-cut hiking shoes have evolved greatly in terms of style. These do not look as bulky, clunky, or rugged as other outdoor footwear models. Several shoe manufacturers are producing hiking shoes that closely resemble casual shoes.

It can be noted that “ugly shoes” are all the rage in the fashion world in 2018. These shoes, although known as dad sneakers, look very similar to their hiking shoes cousins. If these “ugly shoes” made it to the runway, using hiking shoes as fashionable footwear for day-to-day use is possible, too. 

That said, remember that hiking shoes are heavier than the ones designed for the streets. They won’t be as comfortable as casual shoes. Also, there are users who claim that using hiking shoes on pavements will wear down the outsole. 

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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