7 Best Day Hiking Shoes in 2023

Paul Ronto
Paul Ronto on
7 Best Day Hiking Shoes in 2023
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Of all the off-road adventures we cover here at RunRepeat, day hiking is dearest to our hearts. All you need is a comfortable shoe and a good trail route near you. You simply lace up and just go for a solid day hike, be with nature, and a good company to share the experience with.

Ill-fitting footwear can only ruin an otherwise great hike. It’s about time to get that great-fitting pair of day hiking shoes for you. You need one that fits comfortably, protects your feet, and stabilizes your ankles. For this guide, we highlight the models that we recommend best.

With hundreds of superb options available in the market, picking the perfect pair can be time-consuming. To help you with that, we’ve tested day hiking shoes from a variety of trusted brands on our actual treks. We have put them up for the challenge and literal tearing apart just to conceive the perfect comprehensive review. Check out our top picks in this article.

Best day hiking shoes overall

What makes it the best?

The Salomon X Ultra 4 GTX wins a place among the best day hiking shoes for its wide toe box. Roomier than average at the toes, it is also wonderfully lightweight and a top performer on wet days too!

We love the wiggle room for our toes in this shoe. It leaves space for air to circulate, not to mention allowing space for our toes to splay out more naturally. While not a particularly wide hiking shoe overall, the X Ultra 4 GTX outshines the competition at the toe. The average hiking shoe narrows to 76.2 mm at the toes, but our calipers showed this shoe to be wider than average, at 79.2 mm. No cramped toes here!

On rainy days, we reach for the Salomon X Ultra GTX - the watertight upper keeps our feet warm and dry even on the wettest hikes. Even hiking along muddy trails doesn’t pose much of a challenge - the 4.5 mm chevron lugs on the Contragrip sole bite into soft ground with ease.

Good waterproofing is often responsible for upping the weight in a pair of shoes, yet at 13.3 oz (378g) the Salomon X Ultra 4 GTX still manages to weigh in 0.7 oz (16g) below the average for hiking shoes. Good news for our long day hikes, as our feet didn’t feel tired by the end of them!

On the flip side of the coin, we don’t recommend these shoes for winter hiking. We left them in the freezer for 20 minutes to simulate winter conditions, before testing them for flexibility with a force gauge. We were surprised to find that they stiffened up by 75%, and as a result, they didn’t perform as we were used to.


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


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

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Any color
Legion Blue/Black/Fall Leaf (L416230)
Green (L413853)
Magnet/Black/Monument (L412892)
Quiet Shade/Black/Evening Primrose (L416229)
Vintage Khaki/Black/Cherry Tomato (L417314)
Blue (L473765)

Day hiking shoes with the best cushioning

What makes it the best?

When we want a versatile and lightweight hiking shoe that is great for long distances and still keeps our feet dry and toasty in cold, wet weather, we reach for the Hoka Ancapa Low GTX. Bundling all these features and more into a single shoe, we chose it as our best waterproof day hiking shoe.

Versatility is the name of the game in the Hoka Anacapa Low GTX. They can handle almost any weather and any resulting conditions underfoot. The GoreTex/Nubuck leather upper and gusseted tongue work in harmony to keep our feet dry even when splashing through deep puddles. We found it also makes them a great choice for winter hiking because our feet were so cozy! They can tackle all kinds of terrain; we tested them on rocks, loose stones, gravel, mud, snow, and even ice! Their 5 mm deep lugs, 14% deeper than average, managed them all with ease.

We can’t get enough of the plush cushioning and Hoka’s characteristic rocker on a hike. The rocker helps us to walk faster and keep our momentum. When we measured the midsole in the lab, our durometer showed 23 HA, a significant increase in softness from the average of 33.9 HA. Altogether, these make for an extraordinarily comfortable ride and we could walk much further per day as a result. We normally expect this kind of spec to come at the cost of weight, but these shoes still only weigh 13.9 oz (393g), 6% less than the average waterproof hiking shoe!

We don't recommend the Hoka Ancapa Low GTX to hikers requiring a stiffer shoe for technical terrain or backpacking. The soft midsole and low cut around the ankle mean the shoe lacks support on rough terrain or carrying heavy loads.


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


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

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Any color
Outer Space/Mountain Spring (OSMS)
Black (1122017BBLC)
Brown (1122017TEBC)
Green (DBRYL)
Brown (DOTN)
Blue (OSRT)

Day hiking shoes with the best stability

What makes it the best?

When testing this shoe, our day hikes were rather long and over a demanding terrain; usually 15+ miles long and we used some well-maintained trails as well as some... ok, we improvised. Because of this, this shoe has seen the best and the worst outdoors have to offer. And still, it was as stable as a hiking shoe can be. That's why Swift R3 GTX is our #1 picks when it comes to stability in day hiking shoes. 

We rarely see this many stability elements in a hiking shoe: lateral stability is perfect which means no wobbliness, torsional rigidity was rated as 5 out of 5 (5 being the stiffest), the midsole is wider than the average both at the heel and the forefoot which ensured stable and planted landings, the stiffness of the heel counter got a 4 out of 5 rating, which means no unwanted ankle movements. As if all of these weren't enough, we could also feel the Pro-Moderator technology which prevents side-to-side movements of the feet. 

All of these stability features might sound like overkill but, in reality, what we felt was just that: a lot of stability and significantly milder fatigue after our test hikes. 

What definitely helped with this overall secure feel is the outstanding grip. 4.4 mm lugs are not deeper than average (ok, they are 0.1 mm deeper) but paired with the Continental rubber that's, in this case, a bit softer than the average, they work like a charm. They bit whatever we threw at them! 

And what's also great is that this shoe felt so comfortable next to all that stiffness and stability. In the lab, our durometer showed 26.0 HA when we pressed it into the midsole. Given that the average is 31.7 HA, this tells us that the Swift R3 GTX is softer than the average hiking shoe. And we definitely felt that. When we pushed it to somewhat colder temperatures, it still felt soft. Our freezer test confirmed this because the Swift R3 GTX got only 17.3% firmer after spending 20mins in the freezer! Other shoes, on average, get 22.6% firmer. 

We do not recommend the Adidas Terrex Swift R3 GTX for hikes during very hot summer days or in very hot and humid climates. To avoid sweaty feet and socks, use it on colder days. The price we pay for the awesome waterproofness is the lack of air circulation.


  • 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


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

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Any color
Core Black Grey Three Solar Red (HR1310)
Grau Neongelb (IF2408)
Brown (FZ3275)
Black (FW2769)
Grey/Wonder White/Solar Red (GW0254)
Green (GY5075)
Black (HR1311)
Black (FW2770)
More colors

Day hiking shoes with the best comfort

What makes it the best?

A firm favorite for day hikers, the Merrell Moab 3 GTX is an exceptionally comfortable shoe from the get-go. Needing no break-in time, it is flexible and supportive, making it our most comfortable day hiking shoe.

With its exceptionally plush padding around the ankle and in the tongue, the Merrell Moab 3 GTX defies anyone to question the comfort factor of this shoe. The tongue measures a staggering 14.6 mm thick, 3.2 mm thicker than average, and prevents the laces from biting into our instep.

The flexible midsole boasts a superbly natural ride as it flexes with our foot. In the lab, we bent the shoe to 90° with a force gauge, measuring 30.2N compared to the stiffer average of 36.4N. This extra flexibility delivers natural transitions and added comfort to our step. It doesn’t even stiffen up too much in cold weather - after leaving the shoe in the freezer for 20 minutes we repeated the flexibility test, finding it had stiffened by only 30%. Given that hiking shoes stiffen by 49% on average, the Merrell Moab 3 GTX is a good choice for winter comfort!

For day hikes without heavy packs, we found the support in the Merrell Moab 3 GTX more than enough. The cushioning is a little firmer than average, as we found when we pressed our durometer to the midsole. Measuring 36 HA compared to the average 32.9 HA, our feet feel well-supported underfoot while still appreciating the comfort it affords. The stiff heel counter holds our heels snugly into the shoe and, along with a nylon shank in the midsole, provides stability from rolling. We manually assessed the heel counter as 4/5 for stiffness (with 5 being the stiffest).

Such a solid, comfortable, and waterproof shoe has to pay the price somewhere - in the case of the Merrell Moab 3 GTX, the cost is in the weight. Weighing in at 15.9 oz (450g), it is 2.4 oz (66g) heavier than average for hiking shoes. Hikers looking for a lightweight hiking shoe may want to look elsewhere.


  • Superb day-one comfort
  • Brilliant surface adhesion
  • Supportive like a work shoe
  • Fantastic cushioning underfoot
  • Remarkably durable
  • A-grade waterproofing
  • Sheds mud quite well
  • Protective toe box
  • Incredible overall quality


  • Heavy for a low-top
  • Subpar breathability
  • Its shoelaces unravel often
Full review of Merrell Moab 3 GTX

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Any color
Earth (J03625)
Beluga (J03626301)
Pecan (J03626)
Grey (J03579)
Olive (J03580)
Navy Blue (J13553)
Grey (J50023)

Best day hiking shoes for summer

Merrell Moab 3

What makes it the best?

For a comfortable and reliable shoe for day hikes in summer, it doesn’t get any better than the Merrell Moab 3. We experienced excellent breathability, all-day comfort, and exceptional grip that we would expect from a day hiking shoe.

No matter how intense our day hikes were, the shoes also kept our feet sweat-free. No surprises there: in the lab, we pumped smoke into the shoes to test for breathability, and the smoke easily passed through the mesh upper. We awarded the shoes 4/5 for breathability.

We found the Moab 3 to be supremely comfortable while out hiking. The midsole is perfectly cushioned - protective yet soft enough to be comfortable. We pressed a durometer to the midsole and measured 33.5 HA, which is around the average for hiking shoes. We pushed the shoe to 90° using a force gauge, measuring flexibility of 24.9N. When compared to the average 39.2N, the smooth transitions while hiking in this shoe are a dream!

On our hikes, the shoes were grippy and stable on rough or smooth, wet or dry ground. Our lab measurements showed that the lugs are 4.8 mm deep, slightly more than the average 4.3 mm. We found the spaced lugs shed mud fairly easily too, making these a good choice for soft, muddy trails.

Despite its roomy toe box, we measured the width at the forefoot at 96 mm, and discovered it is 3 mm narrower than average. We therefore don’t recommend the Merrell Moab 3 to hikers with particularly wide feet.


  • Supremely comfy
  • Zero break-in
  • Boss-level support
  • Solid grip
  • Stable platform
  • Fantastic cushioning
  • Fits various foot shapes
  • Cheaper than average
  • Recycled materials


  • Heavier than average
  • Not quite sleek-looking
Full review of Merrell Moab 3

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Any color
Walnut (J03589)
Black Night (J03587)
Kangaroo/Coyote (J13554)
Walnut/Moss (J03628)
Granite V2 (J03588)
Incense (J03627)
Black (J03702)
Avocado (J03703)
Brown (J03676)

Best lightweight day hiking shoes

What makes it the best?

Amazingly lightweight, the Adidas Terrex Trailmaker is a perfect option for an easy hike minus the unwanted bulk. We instantly got lost in the shoe's plush confines which made us want to keep the shoe on even after the hike. On the trail, this Adidas offering feels more natural and grounded as opposed to being stable and protective. Some durability was sacrificed to keep the weight of the Trailmaker down but we believe that its comfort is well worth the price.


  • 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

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Any color
Black (FU7237)
core black/crystal w (FX4615)
Grey Two/Core Black/Hi Res Aqu (FU7238)
Black (FX4616)

Best budget day hiking shoes

What makes it the best?

This is the best budget hiking shoe because: it retails at only $90, it's perfect for day hikes thanks to its light weight and awesome grip, and it even includes some sustainable elements! 

Looking at the average price of hiking shoes, which sits at $129, it turns out that the Adidas Terrex AX4 is 30% cheaper. What's not to love here? Certainly not its cushioning. We cut the shoe in half in our lab and used a durometer to assess its softness. We learned that it's actually 21% firmer than the average! That sounds like a lot, but what we actually felt was comfort and slight firmness but in a good way. The stable way, not anything similar to the brick. 

This firmness, combined with the base that's wider than the average, allowed us to cover some challenging, even technical terrain with no hints of instability. What also helped, of course, is the superb grip. Although our caliper measurements showed that the lugs are 0.5 mm shorter than the average, we have nothing but praise for how they bit into the surface. Any kind: wet, dry, hard-packed, loose, gravel. 

We'd really love it if this shoe was a bit more protective, at least around the toes. The lack of the toe bumper did not stop us from hiking through the bushes and over rocky terrain, but we can't say that it felt the safest there. 


  • 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

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Any color
Negbás Carbon Gricua (HP7388)
Viopla Fusazu Negbás (HP7393)
Blue (HP7392)
Coral Fusion/Crystal White/Impact Or (HQ1047)
Gray (IF4872)
Black (FY9673)
Wonder Red Linen Green Pulse Lilac (GY8621)
Core Black/Grey Four/Mint (FZ3255)
More colors

Comparison of the 7 best day hiking shoes

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One of our favorite activities is a short and sweet day hike. You don’t need a multi-day nature experience to enjoy the outdoors. Sometimes, a day hike with nice weather, family, or (furry and non-furry) friends is all you need to reset and relax. 


To make your day hikes the best they can, it’s a good idea to invest in day hiking shoes that will keep your feet comfortable and protected. Keep reading to learn about the beauty of the day hike, and what to look for when selecting your next pair of ay hiking shoes. 

Core components of high-quality day hiking shoes

Let's dive into what makes a pair of hiking shoes “good.” 

Lightweight construction

One of the best things about day hiking shoes is that they are not boots. In most cases, day hiking shoes have low-cut cuffs. This means when compared to conventional hiking boots, they are much lighter.

Average weight
Hiking boots Hiking shoes
19.4 oz (550g) 13.3 oz (377g)

In addition, day hiking shoes are lightweight because of the materials they use in the shoe’s upper, midsole, and outsoles.

Durable materials

Even though day hiking shoes use lightweight materials, they are still durable. We have been consistently surprised by how long day hiking shoes can last despite rigorous usage.

One of the most popular and durable day hiking shoes we reviewed is the Salomon X Ultra. The X Ultra is durable because of the synthetic TPU materials Salomon used in the shoe’s upper. The shoe is also surrounded by a durable chassis and extra rubber, for example, the toe guard in front of the toe box.  

Reliable traction

Whether you are gone all day or just going for a short hike, one thing remains the same – reliable traction is mandatory. Even though they are lightweight and may have thinner outsoles, day hiking shoes still provide tons of traction.


Traction is the friction created between your shoes and the surface you are hiking on. With lots of friction, aka traction, your shoes get a better grip. 


This is possible because rubber compounds used in day hiking shoe outsoles have significantly improved. In general, rubber outsoles have increasingly become lighter weight, yet they remain durable. 


Breathability refers to your shoe’s ability to allow moisture to evaporate and heat to dissipate. If a shoe is not breathable, it feels suffocating, and your feet overheat. On the other hand, sweat is allowed to evaporate when a show has good breathability, and heat can dissipate, resulting in much happier feet.

As a bonus, good breathability also translates to quicker drying. This is super helpful if things get wet during your day hike, for example, during a short rain storm or mandatory creek crossing. 

Waterproof and water-resistant materials

If you consistently hike in wet climates and terrain, consider day hiking shoes that are waterproof or water-resistant.

Hiking shoes are considered waterproof when an additional membrane is sewn into the shoe's interior, for example, GORE-TEX (or GTX). This membrane will help keep your feet dry in even the wettest conditions, so long as the water doesn’t spill over the shoe collar.  


On the other hand, water-resistant shoes do not include a waterproof membrane. Instead, they rely on the material’s natural resistance to water to keep your feet dry.

Versatile performance and aesthetic 

Day hiking shoes are versatile. The low-cut design and lightweight construction make them feel like regular sneakers. You can wear them to go hiking and then keep them on to run errands in town. 

Day hiking shoes blend in better than hiking boots. With a pair of day hiking shoes, you can save the boots for specific adventures like multi-day backpacking trips. 

Socks for day hiking

Selecting the appropriate socks for your day hike is essential. To do so, it may be helpful to ask yourself some questions.

  • What shoes are you going to wear?
  • Is it hot outside?
  • Is there rain or snow in the forecast?
  • How long will you be gone? Should you bring a second pair?

Thinking about questions like these will help you select the right pair of socks for the day’s adventure and also guide you into developing a quiver of socks that have specific purposes, just like your shoes.


Ventilation to prevent overheating 

One of your sock’s primary purposes is to allow ventilation. Ventilation and breathability are critical because your feet will overheat and become uncomfortable without them. Or worse, they may develop blisters.   

Anti-microbial and moisture-wicking fabric

Lately, there has been a trend towards wool hiking socks and away from cotton socks. We agree with this trend and prefer to wear wool socks during day hikes.

Wool socks help regulate your feet’s temperature. In other words, they breathe and ventilate when it’s hot and insulate when it’s cold. Wool is also well-known for being antimicrobial, which means your shoes and feet may be less odorous after a hike.  

Thickness for durability 

Hiking socks come in various thicknesses or weights. Socks vary in thickness so that you can match the thickness of the sock to the climate and to the footwear you plan on wearing.

Thicker and heavier socks are ideal for colder day hikes. On the other hand, lightweight socks may be better for warmer weather. 

Proper cut for your type of shoe

There are more cuts of socks than we can count on two hands. However, for day hiking with low-cut hiking shoes, you only need to worry about two; crew and quarter-crew cut socks.

Why? Because the rule of thumb for socks is to wear a pair that slightly extends above your shoe’s collar. So with a low-cut shoe, ideally, you will have low-cut socks. The opposite would be true for hiking boots.

Frequently asked questions

Do day hiking shoes have to be waterproof?

No, your day hiking shoes do not have to be waterproof. If you are a fair-weather hiker and want to avoid the extra cost and weight associated with buying a pair of waterproof hiking shoes, then buying a non-waterproof model is perfectly acceptable.

However, if you frequently hike in wet weather or don’t want a rainy forecast to ruin your day, you may want to invest in a waterproof pair.


Can I wear hiking boots for day hikes?

Yes, many people like to wear hiking boots for day hikes. The extra stability and protection you get with hiking boots are beneficial for extremely rough and rocky terrain.

However, hiking boots are not mandatory for day hikes. If you prefer shorter hikes on easy-to-moderate terrain, hiking boots might be overkill. You may be better off with a pair of day hiking shoes instead.  

Can I wear hiking sandals for day hikes?

Yes, hiking sandals are very common for day hikes. For easy and short walks or hikes with water, hiking sandals are a convenient and lightweight option. Just remember that your feet are extra exposed with sandals.

How we test hiking shoes

Identifying the best performers on this list requires serious hours of field testing. Before reviewing them, we make sure that each model goes through our comprehensive selection process. That means taking the shoes on actual day hikes, covering 30+ miles in a variety of terrains.

Our approach includes:

  • Investing our money to purchase day hiking shoes across different brands. This is to ensure the 100% impartiality of all our reviews.
  • Putting in the hours of testing the shoes in the field, determining the actual fit, traction, support, stability, waterproof technology, durability, and more. We subject the shoes further to tougher terrains, murky off-road paths, and inclement weather conditions.
  • Collecting some more useful data by quantifying the parameters of the shoes. We get down to all the nitty-gritty of the shoes by cutting them into pieces and looking over their insides.
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.