11 best speed hiking shoes

Based on reviews from 19 experts and 638 users. Learn how our rankings work or see our guide to speed hiking shoes. Updated Jan 2019.

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Speed hiking is an activity that has taken outdoor enthusiasts to a new level of adventure. Some travelers express that this activity has given them such great pleasure, something different from the experience they have with traditional hiking. To be able to appreciate this activity better, hikers need to look for a pair of speed hiking shoes that can meet the demands of the trip. 

Speed hiking shoes. A light, comfortable, and durable footwear is the gear to secure before a speed hiking trip. A good pair of speed hiking shoes should have support and protection from the elements. It needs to have a good extra bounce that can protect the feet and body during the hike. Every individual has a personal preference as to how much padding in the footwear is comfortable enough. And while light and comfort are top priorities, hikers should stay away from minimalist shoes as these won't support them as much. 

What hikers need from speed hiking shoes

best speed hiking shoes

Best speed hiking shoes - January 2019

Hikers who want to try speed hiking should be equipped with the right footwear. Speed hiking shoes need to be comfortable, durable, and light to tackle days in the outdoors. Cushioning is also very important because this involves running on a trail that is not as smooth as the paved roads runners tackle.  When searching for speed hiking shoes, consider the following characteristics:

Lightness

The very basic consideration in a speed hiking shoe is its weight. Hikers need to go as light as possible, and their footwear is included in that. When hikers wear light shoes, they will also save and channel more energy in carrying their bag and tackling the trail.

Cushioning

There is an ongoing debate in the running community whether cushioning is really necessary for shoes. The minimalist view asserts that it is best to wear shoes with very minimal cushioning so the feet would have a tactile experience of the terrain.

Speed hikers, however advice, to ditch the minimal shoes and instead pick speed hiking shoes with the right amount of cushioning to protect the feet. Trails in the wild are not as friendly as paved roads. It is better to protect the feet than to endure injuries for the rest of the hike.

Weather protection

Waterproof or water-repellent speed hiking shoes are a hiker’s best choice because these can withstand water in the outdoors. Speed hikers also badly need to go near bodies of water like streams and rivers to fetch water they can consume throughout the day.

Fit

The fit is also key in shoes. If it is too big, it will end up causing blisters. Sometimes, large shoes also cause the feet to roll leading to sprains and other injuries. On the other hand, too-small shoes distort the position of the toes and cause conditions like ingrown nails, calluses, hammer toes, and bunions.

To have a happier time on the trail, speed hikers should find a pair that suits them best. Comfort is essential when a person goes out on a hike that lasts for a couple of days.

Good grip

As trails are not as stable in the outdoors as they are on paved city streets, hikers would need to have speed hiking shoes with really good grip. Diverse Alpine terrain can be quite dangerous for hikers wearing slippery shoes. The major difference between a pair of running shoes and speed hiking shoes is the excellent grip the latter offers.  

Underfoot protection

Hikers can also consider getting shoes with rock plates. It is likely that they will run over rocks that will jab into the sole of the shoes. The rock plates will protect the feet from the pain those jabbing rocks would have caused them.  

What makes speed hiking shoes different

Like clothing, shoes also play a great role in making speed hiking trips more enjoyable. Shoes, like clothing, is a matter of personal preference as there is no hard and fast rule in picking the best shoes for speed hiking. However, hikers can weigh in some factors that can lead them to the right pair.

Speed hiking shoes and other outdoor shoes do not differ so much. Perhaps the most obvious differences are the comfort they provide and the water-resistance. Any hiker would want shoes that will survive the conditions outdoor or at least, a pair that will dry quickly. Getting waterproof shoes may be a little more expensive, but these can truly save hikers outdoors.

Speed hiking shoes are built for fast-paced activities. They are made of a lightweight design so that there is less weight for the legs to lift. This doesn’t mean though that grip, traction, and support are sacrificed.

Availability of speed hiking shoes in the market

Speed hiking shoes are built for the fast-paced, and rapid activities. Having a lightweight design gives the shoes less weight for the legs to lift. Despite their lightness, speed hiking shoes still offer excellent grip, traction, and support needed for tackling different trails.

Compared with hiking boots and hiking shoes that are worn for traditional hiking, speed hiking shoes are not as abundant. A few brands that produce speed hiking shoes are Salewa, Lowa, and Merrell.

Salewa is one brand that offers different speed hiking shoes. The brand’s speed hiking line includes the following models: Ultra Train 2 Men’s Shoes, Multi Track Gore-Tex Men’s Shoes, Ultra Train Gore-Tex Men’s Shoes, Ultra Flex Mid Gore-Tex Men’s Shoes, Multi Track Men’s Shoes, and the Lite Train Men’s Shoes.  

Prevalent technologies in all of Salewa’s speed hiking shoes include a Michelin sole. Michelin is a popular manufacturer of car and bike tires. The company has partnered with SALEWA to produce the Michelin Technical soles that are geared to give hikers the traction and stability that they need. The two companies also created the Michelin Ultra Train outsole which was sculpted, grooved, and inspired by mountain biking tires.  

The signature MICHELIN Ultra Train made from sticky  Michelin  Outdoor Compound X (OCX) which Salewa says, will perform well even on wet and slippery surfaces. The “Outdoor Compound X” is a sticky material that the tire company produces to make mountain biking tires.  

SALEWA also incorporated its trademark 3F system for flexibility and support and flex collar. The 3F stands for fit, function, and performance. This trademark system has been integrated to the speed hiking shoes of SALEWA to increase the flexibility, support, and fit of the models . This technology helps decrease blisters and other discomforts that hikers could experience while wearing speed hiking shoes.

Merrell is another brand that has dedicated speed hiking shoes and boots line. The brand has two models under the speed hiking line so far: Capra Mid Gore-Tex and Capra Gore-Tex. These models use identical technologies: Vibram rubber soles, and Gore-Tex breathable waterproof protection.  

Vibram is a company that has earned a reputation for providing shoe manufacturers with high-performing soles. Vibram’s reputation for producing long-lasting and durable soles with superior grip on a variety of surfaces makes it a popular choice for shoe manufacturers to incorporate in their outdoor models.

Gore-Tex is another brand that is very popular in the outdoor gear scene. It provides long-lasting weather protection and breathability. This is a membrane that is engineered to provide excellent protection against water penetration and dampness.  

Lowa is another shoe manufacturer with a wide range of adventure sports shoes including speed hiking shoes. The S-Curve Mesh is one of the shoes under the outdoor sports line that can suit the needs of speed hikers. One of the technologies used for the company’s speed hiking shoe line is the LOWA patented STG-3D (Soft-to-Ground) technology. This provides a combination of shock absorption, stability, and targeted cushioning. The STG-3D rubber outsole has an aggressive tread design to provide hikers with good traction when tackling different trails.  

For all three brands mentioned, the speed hiking shoes in their offering have these common technologies: a good-gripping outsole and reliable weather-proofing material. Since speed hiking is an activity that entails fast movement over difficult terrains, the companies need to focus on providing hikers with an excellent grip on different trails. The weather-proofing material is vital to keep wetness out during the hike.

Since there are different technologies incorporated, speed hiking shoes could cost a bit more than ordinary hiking shoes. The price range of SALEWA’s line is from $130 to $150 . Merrell’s Capra Gore-Tex is $135.  For LOWA, speed hiking shoes also are within the $100 to $150 price range. 

Alternatives to speed hiking shoes

Since speed hiking shoes are not as abundant as other footwear options, finding an alternative may be a good shot for those who are just starting out. Alternative footwear may include trail runners, cushioned running shoes, and lightweight hiking shoes.

For many outdoor enthusiasts, their interest in speed hiking started with little steps and a few days of running on the trail. For training, using cross-training or trail-running shoes may be a sound choice. These shoe options give just the right support when running a few miles for a couple of hours.

Many shoe manufacturers have also produced a multifunctional shoe which can be used for various activities. These shoes are known for their breathability, water-resistance, and lightness. These are also mostly made with different technologies that make hiking or running with them more enjoyable and fun.  

Understanding the speed hiking trend

Speed hiking, sometimes called fastpacking, is an outdoor activity that can be considered a marriage of traditional backpacking and trail running. The concept is very simple: hikers can travel by running on a trail instead of walking.

This can be considered as the more extreme brother of trail running. In speed hiking, hikers or runners, run on a nature trail while carrying a lightweight backpack. And while it seems very simple, there are actually requirements for speed hikers such as a minimum of staying one night in the woods, and a pack to support the hikers alone.

Speed hiking shoe FAQs

What are the demands of speed hiking?

Speed hiking is an activity that involves rapid hiking and swift movement over technical, rocky terrain covering long distances for a few days. Doing this can push a hiker to improve his physical fitness, boost his stamina and energy, and feel more inspired to have a long and healthy life.

By traveling fast, a hiker can cover greater distances and see more of the area he is covering. It is about embracing the joys and freedoms of going fast and light while broadening one’s horizons. To be able to do this though, hikers need to have the right gears and equipment that will protect them while on the trail.

Why are speed hiking shoes lighter than traditional hiking footwear?

Speed hiking footwear should be able to withstand the fast-paced activities in speed hiking. Unlike traditional hiking, there is added pressure in speed hiking. A hiker should wear a pair of speed hiking shoes that have the right amount of cushioning but are light.

What are other things needed for speed hiking?

Speed hiking shoes are considered vital in speed hiking, but this is not the only gear that hikers should prepare. A light backpack should contain other essentials. This should be light, compact, and doesn’t feel like a burden while running. The important kit choice should be low volume and lightweight. The lower the volume, the less it weighs.

Hikers need to pack light and quick drying clothes that will last them throughout the hike. Basic camping gears, a poncho that can double as a tent, and a walking or hiking pole are basically all that hikers need.

Whether a person is exploring new trails, training, or just want to see how far he can go, a complete and lightweight kit can make such a great difference. Hikers need to consider the food and water sources around their destination though.

Should hikers take another footwear on a speed hiking trip?

The goal of speed hikers is to get the lightest pack as they can which is basically why they need speed hiking shoes. While it does sound like a good choice to make, having another shoe will only add to the weight. Instead of another pair of speed hiking shoes, hikers could instead put on alternative pairs like slippers or lightweight sandals (granted that the weather permits) when in camp.

Is cushioning necessary in speed hiking shoes?

There are minimalist runners who advocate for shoes with very little to no cushioning. They assert that runners need to feel the trail better so that the foot can adjust. Ultimately, they believe that this natural reaction of the body helps in reducing injuries during runs.

For speed hikers though who are tackling more difficult terrains, a shoe with very minimal cushioning will lead to more injuries. It is advisable to get a pair of speed hiking shoes that have enough cushioning through the entire ground-strike.  

Are speed hiking shoes expensive?

For hikers who are already considering speed hiking and wants to start by getting a good pair of speed hiking shoes, the price becomes a concern. Although there is very little difference from regular hiking shoes, the scarcity of supply may mean spending a bit more. Most brands that carry speed hiking shoes in their line are abroad which means incurring a shipping fee.

What brands offer speed hiking shoes?

Speed hiking shoes are not as popular in the market as other hiking shoe options. Check out the offerings of brands like Salewa, Lowa, and Merrell since they carry speed hiking footwear in their outdoor line.

How expensive are speed hiking shoes?

Lightness, cushioning, and weather protection are just a few of the features incorporated in speed hiking shoes. These additional technologies make the shoes a bit more expensive than normal hiking pairs. For the three brands mentioned above, the price ranges from $100 to $150.

11 best speed hiking shoes

  1. The North Face Ultra Fastpack III Mid GTX
  2. Adidas Terrex Fast Mid GTX Surround
  3. The North Face Ultra Fastpack III GTX
  4. Salewa Ultra Flex Mid GTX
  5. La Sportiva Genesis Low GTX
  6. Salomon OUTpath Pro GTX
  7. Salewa Multi Track GTX
  8. Adidas Terrex Fast GTX Surround
  9. Hoka One One Speedgoat Mid WP
  10. Scarpa Hydrogen Hike GTX
  11. Salewa Speed Beat GTX
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