7 Best Day Hiking Shoes in 2024

Jovana Subic
Jovana Subic on
7 Best Day Hiking Shoes in 2024
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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 stabilises 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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

Pros

  • 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

Cons

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

Best day hiking shoes for summer

What makes it the best?

The Hoka Skyline-Float X is an adventurer’s dream for day hiking in the summer. Fitting its name, it offers a breathable space, cloud-like cushioning, and a stable and responsive ride that makes us feel like flying through the trails. Plus, its lab-approved Vibram outsole instills confidence in our every stride.

Even during our most demanding day hikes, our feet remained comfortably sweat-free. Confirming its breathability, the smoke we pumped into the shoe effortlessly passed through the mesh upper, earning the shoe a solid 5/5 rating.

Offering supreme comfort is its humongous 39.0/31.0 mm stack, delivering shock absorption and relief. Despite its height, we felt surefooted even as we carried heavy backpacks. Our dissected shoe reveals several features that enhance stability: the rigid Pebax plate, midsole sidewalls, broad base, and dual-density cushion. The top layer is a plush 22.0 HA, giving comfort and a nice spring in our toe-offs. Meanwhile, the bottom foam is a firmer 27.9 HA to keep us balanced.

On our hikes, the shoes were grippy and stable on rough or smooth, wet or dry ground thanks to the stellar Vibram outsole. Further enhancing its stickiness are the 3.7 mm lugs, giving that extra bite on softer ground.

However, despite its broad midsole, the toebox runs quite narrow, making it less suitable for hikers with broad or square-shaped feet.

Pros

  • Extremely well-cushioned
  • Devilishly comfortable
  • Responsive, rockered midsole
  • Works for light trail running
  • Excellent multi-terrain traction
  • Can tackle technical trails
  • Feels surprisingly stable
  • Performs consistently in the cold
  • Made of sustainable and plant-based materials

Cons

  • Questionable durability
  • Narrow toebox
  • Upper dries slowly
Full review of Hoka Skyline-Float X

Best lightweight day hiking shoes

What makes it the best?

In our opinion, a good day-hiking shoe is breathable so our feet remain comfortable all day and stable so we can take it on a variety of trails. A featherweight shoe is always a bonus, so we can hike further for longer! But does such a shoe exist? It does indeed! The Adidas Terrex Trailmaker combines all the above features, which is why we chose it as our best lightweight day hiking shoe.

The weight of the Trailmaker is worth shouting from the rooftops! Weighing in at just 12.7 oz (361g), it is 9% lighter than the average hiking shoe. It’s our go-to hiking shoe when we want to travel far and fast since our feet don’t tire easily!

This shoe doesn’t let the side down on hot summer days. Under the microscope, the Trailmaker looks like the densely woven upper wouldn’t let air flow freely – but appearances can be deceiving. When we pumped smoke into the shoe, it escaped freely through the upper, earning the shoe an irrefutable 4/5 for breathability – one of the most breathable shoes to have passed through our lab! Not only do our feet feel comfortable on hot days, but when we get caught in an unexpected rain shower, they dry out quickly, too!

For such a lightweight shoe, the Adidas Terrex Trailmaker goes all in on stability. Measuring 3.2 mm wider than average at the forefoot, it caters well to wide feet as well as providing a reliable landing platform. The raised rubber sidewalls offer added stability, and when we twisted the shoe in the lab, we awarded it 4/5 for torsional rigidity. We found the extra width underfoot and the stiffness of the shoe made us feel very surefooted on rough ground.

With 3.1 mm less cushioning below the heel than average, we don’t recommend this shoe to backpackers. We don’t find there is enough material to protect our heels while carrying a heavy pack.

Pros

  • 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)

Cons

  • Outsole lacks durability
  • Not enough grip on wet terrain
Full review of Adidas Terrex Trailmaker

Best budget day hiking shoes

What makes it the best?

This is the best budget hiking shoe because: it retails at only £100, 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 £130, 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. 

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

Ideal scenario for getting day hiking shoes

Day hiking shoes are best used on day hikes (though). Those can vary, from very short and easy hikes on popular and maybe even kid-friendly trails to pushing for a day-long hike on a rather demanding terrain. That's why, most often, they are very versatile. 

merrell-moab-3-gtx-protection.JPG

Day hiking shoes overlap a lot with other categories, which means that among day hiking shoes, you can find shoes that are waterproof, lightweight, great for snow or summer, etc. What day hiking shoes are most different from are extra stable and supportive backpacking shoes made for multi-day hikes. And light-hiking shoes which are, most often, beginner-friendly and made only for the shortest and easiest hikes (think 2-3 hours tops). 

We wear-test and lab-test all hiking shoes that we purchase so, when it comes to day hiking shoes, we recommend taking these things into account: 

  1. Overall fit - especially the width of the toebox.
  2. The terrain you plan to cover. Which shoe features depend on it? Lug depth and stability features (stiffness of the shoe, width of the base, heel counter stiffness). Smaller lugs for harder, flat surfaces, more stable shoes for uneven terrain. 
  3. Weight of your backpack - if carrying a heavy backpack, it’s best to look for a very stable day hiking shoe. 
  4. Season - the upper can be very breathable and summer-friendly, it can be very non-breathable and winter-friendly, and it can be laminated with special waterproof membranes in case you’re hiking in rainy weather. Wet weather also impacts the terrain and, therefore, grip. 

We will explain all of these aspects below. 

When NOT to get day hiking shoes

We recommend getting backpacking hiking shoes or backpacking hiking boots when you plan to do a multi-day hike and carry a heavy backpack. 

Salomon Quest 4 GTX lacing

Also, if you’re just a beginner and plan to do very short hikes on perfectly maintained trails, then consider getting light hiking shoes.

Prioritise comfort above everything else! 

Blisters, painful toes, bleeding nails, all of them can ruin a hike completely. That’s why it’s important to make sure the day hiking shoe fits perfectly

Adidas Terrex Swift R3 GTX support

When shopping for day hiking shoes, we recommend that you: 

  1. Do that later in the day: evening or afternoon. It’s when our feet naturally swell, similar to how they swell on hikes. 
  2. Bring hiking socks that you usually use and insoles/orthotics with you. It’s important to use everything you’d usually use on a hike. 
  3. Try the shoes on and see if there are any pressure points. General advice is to push the foot forward in the shoe and see if your 1 finger can fit behind the heel inside the shoe. 
  4. Test the shoes on the ramp in the store, walk up and down. It’s important to sense whether your heel is slipping or your feet sliding inside the shoe. Hint: that should not happen. 

Even when all of these steps are followed, the shoe might need some time to be completely broken in for perfect comfort. The breaking-in period varies and there’s simply no rule about it. 

Many hikers directly relate comfort to the softness of the shoe (midsole, footbed). Fortunately, we check that out in the lab. Using a shore A durometer, we measure the softness of the midsole. The higher the number, the firmer the footbed. 

Adidas Terrex Swift R3 GTX Midsole softness

Reading the midsole softness measurement with an HA durometer on a shoe cut in half

Keep in mind that, sometimes, a thick and soft insole can improve the overall feel of the hiking shoe. 

KEEN Targhee III Waterproof Insole thickness

Measuring the thickness of the insole with a calliper in the RunRepeat shoe lab

Breathability tests: summer or winter day hiking shoes

The season dictates breathability. In summer, we recommend hiking in shoes that are breathable (they scored 3, 4 or 5/5 on our breathability test). In winter, we recommend warm shoes. They are non-breathable shoes that scored 1 or 2 out of 5 on our breathability test. 

How do we test the breathability? In our lab, we simply use a smoke machine to pump the smoke into the shoe and then watch where the smoke comes out and at which pace. Based on this, we rate the breathability on a 1-5 scale, where 1 is the least breathable. 

This video is a perfect example of breathability in summer vs. winter shoes: 

Not just that, but we also check the upper under the microscope. This allows us to understand better why the shoe breathes or not breathes. 

Different uppers under the microscope in RR lab

(Up) The most breathable uppers (scored 5/5 on our test) vs. (down) the least breathable uppers (scored 1/5)

It’s clear how less breathable shoes have fibres that are very tightly woven, while breathable hiking shoes have uppers with more loose fibres. 

Lugs size: make the right decision

It’s very important to know what type of terrain you plan to hike on. Here are our general guidelines: 

  1. Choose shallow lugs (less than 4 mm) if you plan to hike on hard-pack and well-maintained trails. Shallower lugs are also great for hard flat surfaces like rock. 
  2. Deep lugs (more than 4 mm) are used on loose, usually wet terrain, like slush or snow. They are also a must for mud but mud outsoles have lugs that are more distanced apart. 

Hybrid snow and mud outsole in trail running shoes

Most visually appealing outsole difference in trail shoes: (1) road-to-trail, hybrid shoe (2) shoe for loose, soft ground (3) mud shoe

When testing shoes in our lab, we measure the thickness of lugs with a calliper. That’s why you can always check the shoe review and find out if the depth of the lugs works for your intended hike. 

merrell-moab-speed-gtx-lugs.JPG

Measuring the thickness of the lugs with a digital calliper

When it comes to grip, the hardness of the rubber also plays a role. Softer rubber is grippier, stickier, and more flexible. But, harder rubber offers more protection for the feet and is more durable. We also measure the hardness of the rubber on every shoe we test. 

merrell-moab-speed-gtx-durometer-outsole.JPG

Using an HC durometer to measure the hardness of the outsole

How to look for stability in day hiking shoes

Stability is especially important when you plan to hike on uneven terrain. Stability is directly related to the width of the base. 

When lab testing the shoes in our lab, we use a calliper to measure the width of the midsole (the base of the shoe) at the forefoot and at the heel. 

Width of the midsole measurement

Calliper measurements of the midsole width: forefoot and heel

The wider the base, the more stable the hiking shoe is. 

When it comes to lateral stability, we pay attention to it when wear-testing the shoes and always comment on it in the reviews. 

Less weight for less foot fatigue in day hiking shoes

Weight plays a significant role in hiking. While heavier shoes usually offer more protection and stability, they can also wear you down and they can feel bottom-heavy. Because of this, make sure to understand what type of hike you plan to do and whether you can go for lighter hiking shoes. 

Hiking shoes measuring weight

Things that make shoes heavier: waterproof membranes, stability elements (harder overlays on the upper), protective elements (hard rubber toe bumper, thick hard outsoles), upper material type (leather is heavier than mesh), etc. 

Waterproof day hiking shoes 

Wet weather asks for waterproof hiking shoes. You can recognise waterproof day hiking shoes by looking for “waterproof” sing on the upper or “Gore-Tex” logo. Gore-Tex is the most popular waterproof membrane but it is not the only one. 

Other waterproof membranes present in hiking footwear

Some brands have their own trademarked waterproof membranes 

Goretex closeup on hiking shoes

Gore-Tex hiking shoes are easy to recognise because they always include the Gore-Tex logo on the upper

The most important thing you should know about them is that they are not breathable, contrary to what the manufacturer says. 

salomon-x-ultra-4-gtx-review.JPG

We bought a smoke machine to test for this: we pump the smoke into the shoe and they watch closely. We note down a) where the smoke comes out and b) at which pace. Based on this, we rate the breathability of shoes on a 1-5 scale, where 1 is the least breathable. 

Breathable uppers in hiking shoes under the microscope

Non-waterproof hiking shoe uppers under the microscope

We don’t stop there. We also examine both waterproof and non-waterproof uppers under the microscope. This allowed us to understand why waterproof hiking shoes are not so breathable, their fibres are very tight and/or overlapping. Unlike the non-waterproof uppers that have a more loose structure. 

Gore-Tex uppers under the microscope

Waterproof hiking shoe uppers under the microscope

Keep in mind that you might also be OK with a water-repellent or water-resistant upper. Here’s how they differ: 

  Water-resistant Water-repellent Waterproof
General characteristics a tightly woven fabric that is naturally capable of resisting water upon contact fabric treated with durable water-repellent (DWR) or hydrophobic chemicals -fabric treated with DWR
-have waterproofing membranes like Gore-Tex and OutDry
-have seam-sealed construction for extra protection
Water protection level low water protection moderate water protection high water protection
Water pressure resistance 0-5000 mm (no pressure or moisture) 6000-10000 mm (light pressure) 10000-20000 mm (high to very high pressure)
Weather conditions best used in light rain shower and dry snow light rain and average snow moderate to heavy rain and average to wet snow

And, if you’re really geeky about waterproofness, we suggest understanding the nuances when it comes to how waterproof a waterproof material actually is.

merrell-moab-3-gtx-waterproof.JPG

The measure here is called hydrostatic head. It basically tells us how many millimetres of water a 1’’x1’’ tube can take before water begins to leak through the material. More millimetres, more waterproofness. 

Hydrostatic-head-vs.-weather-conditions.png

We have covered waterproof hiking shoes in great detail in this guide. And, if you want Gore-Tex and no other membrane, consider reading our guide on the best GTX hiking shoes

Best socks for day hiking

We always recommend wool socks or bamboo socks. Wool is durable, breathable, keeps you warm when it's cold and breezy when it's hot. It also wicks the moisture away and keeps the feet odour-free.

salomon-x-ultra-4-gtx-flexibility.JPG

If you're prone to blisters, next to making sure you got the right fit for you, we recommend giving compressive socks a try. 

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.