7 Best Leather Hiking Boots in 2024

Jovana Subic
Jovana Subic on
7 Best Leather Hiking Boots in 2024
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There is just something special about experiencing the great outdoors in a pair of leather hiking boots. These hikers are naturally tough, and their grounded design makes mixing and matching—to complete your backcountry outfit—an easy feat.

We’ve subjected leather hiking boots to laborious testing for your convenience. We didn't stint on time, money, and other resources in verifying the assertions of the brands, as well as their promoters.

Are you in need of a smashing all-rounder? Maybe you’re into a lightweight pair? Or perhaps something powerful for pack adventures? Whichever it is, if it’s leather, you’re in the right place.

How we test hiking boots

This selection of top-of-the-line leather hikers is a product of dedication and passion. Here’s our approach:

  • We buy leather hiking boots using our own funds. This way, we can be as objective and straightforward with our reviews as possible.
  • Each leather kick goes through a series of tests. In every pair, we hike on various terrain for days, come rain or shine.
  • We collect and analyse data by carrying out different sets of tests in our lab. We also tear apart the shoes to clearly view the sandwich of components inside, especially the cushioning system.

Best leather hiking boots overall

Scarpa Terra GTX
95
Superb!

What makes it the best?

After thorough wear tests and lab analysis, the Scarpa Terra GTX emerged as our ultimate leather hiking boot. It provides unparalleled support and protection on rugged terrains. With its robust construction, stable ride, and exceptional grip, we felt we could conquer any trail.

The Terra GTX kept us safe even when navigating cold and wet terrain. Its solid leather upper seals our feet from unwanted elements—cold air, water, and debris—as confirmed by our tests. In addition, its 5/5 durability is unmatched, as evidenced by its resilience against our brutal Dremel.

We felt confident in this pair as its firm and grounded platform gave a lot of surface feedback that allowed us to adapt accordingly. Our durometer reveals its cushion is 16.1% tougher than average—a promising sign that it won’t bottom out even under heavy loads. True enough, we had no wobbles as we carried heavy backpacks. Our ankles also felt supported without any discomfort to our Achilles. 

The Vibram outsole carried us safely through wet, dry, soft, and compact surfaces. It’s tough enough to handle anything and is insanely grippy even for the slickest surfaces, thanks to its 4-mm sticky and multidirectional lugs.

Measuring 110.5 mm in the forefoot and 84.1 mm in the heel, it runs a little narrow. We recommend those with broad feet to consider alternative options.

Pros

  • Glue-like underfoot, even on wet surfaces
  • Insanely comfortable
  • Reliably stable and supportive ride
  • Resilient and high-quality build
  • Durable Vibram outsole
  • Watertight and warm
  • Quick break-in time
  • Performs consistently in the cold
  • Strong ankle support

Cons

  • Quite heavy
  • Cushioning could be better
  • Scuff magnet
Full review of Scarpa Terra GTX

Most comfortable leather hiking boots

Hoka Kaha 2 GTX
80
Good!

What makes it the best?

Leather boots can feel a bit clunky, but the Hoka Kaha 2 GTX is most definitely the exception to the rule. With heaps of cushioning underfoot a padded tongue and es, this sturdy and stable boot is the perfect companion for long days on the trail. We crowned it the most comfortable leather hiking boot.

We expected great things from the generous cushioning in the Kaha 2 GTX, and it did not disappoint. Impact protection and comfort while hiking are exceptional, and when we measured the stack height in the lab, all became clear. The Hoka Kaha 2 GTX has 3.3 mm extra material below the heel compared to the average, not to mention a massive 5.6 mm extra below the forefoot! In addition, it’s 14% softer than average, making this boot a delight on big mountain days.

But it’s not all about the feel underfoot - the Kaha 2 GTX is an all-round feel-good boot. Our calliper measured the tongue at 12.5 mm thick, making it 1.3 mm thicker than average. The padded heel counter is also much more flexible than other boots we have tested. In fact, we awarded it 2/5 for stiffness, where 5 is the stiffest. It delivered excellent comfort without compromising the lockdown, and our feet remained securely in the boot without slipping.

A Hoka wouldn’t be a Hoka without an extra-wide landing platform! Our lab assessments show the Kaha 2 sports an impressive 117 mm wide midsole at the forefoot, 4.8 mm wider than average. In practice, this makes for a very stable landing. Along with a maximum rigidity of 5, thanks in part to the nubuck leather upper, we felt safe and surefooted hiking along uneven trails.

While the tongue is 1.3 mm thicker than average, we found it was too short and led to lace bite on our shins. Alternative lacing techniques may solve the issue, but hikers prone to trouble with lace bite may want to look at other options.

Pros

  • Sky-high comfort level
  • Excellent waterproofing
  • High-quality materials
  • Pain-alleviating support
  • Smooth heel-to-toe transitions
  • Incredibly stable
  • Superb grip
  • Surprisingly light
  • Minimal break-in period
  • Includes sustainable materials

Cons

  • Short tongue (laces slip and cause pressure)
  • Bulky heel gets stuck in stones
  • Polarising aesthetics
Full review of Hoka Kaha 2 GTX

Best leather boots for backpacking

What makes it the best?

The Lowa Renegade GTX Mid ran the gauntlet of our lab tests and days on the trail. This tank of a boot passed our assessments with flying colours, with special attention going to its first-rate stability, incredible durability of the toe box, and perfect waterproofing. This stylish leather boot completely knocks the socks off the competition and we voted it the best leather hiking boots for backpacking.

With a slew of features contributing to its outstanding stability, we have rarely encountered a boot as stable as the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid. A rigid nylon shank in the midsole offers a high torsional rigidity, which measured 5/5 in our lab tests - where 5 is the most rigid. The midsole is cunningly crafted to allow our feet to nestle into it instead of hovering above it, which lends a whole other dimension to the stable feeling of the boot. On rough trails, over rocks or scree, we always felt as surefooted as a mountain goat.

The tough leather upper withstood a load of battering on our test hikes, so we put it to the test in our lab. Setting our Dremel to 5K RPM and applying 3.2N of pressure, we set to work on the toe box. After 12 seconds, only the smallest scuff remained as proof of our attack! The solid leather construction of this boot is tough as nails, and our feet feel protected for the long haul in the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid.

Boasting a Gore-Tex lining, we already trust the Renegade GTX Mid to not let any water in. Coupled, however, with the nubuck leather upper and fully gusseted tongue, this boot is completely watertight. Our feet stayed bone dry splashing through streams, and as an added bonus, the sticky Vibram outsole worked just as well underwater as on dry land!

This boot tapers rapidly around the toe, making this boot unsuitable for hikers with wide feet. Measuring it in the lab, we found it to be 72.3 mm wide around the toe, which is 6.4 mm narrower than average. We recommend hikers looking for a roomier toe box to look at other options.

Pros

  • Deceptively comfortable
  • Extremely supportive and stable ride
  • Lightweight build
  • Strong ankle support
  • Excellent grip in dry and wet conditions
  • Great backpacking companion
  • Old-school nubuck leather upper
  • Keeps our feet warm and dry
  • Consistent performance in the cold
  • Feels good out of the box

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Lots of seams in upper construction
  • Finnicky lacing
  • Too warm for summer hikes
Full review of Lowa Renegade GTX Mid

Most breathable leather hiking boots

What makes it the best?

KEEN Targhee III Waterproof Mid stands out as our top choice for breathability among leather hiking boots in our lab. Its ability to keep our feet ventilated while remaining watertight during hikes impressed us, making it a stellar option for tackling rugged terrains without sacrificing comfort. Priced at £150, it offers these exceptional features without breaking the bank.

Despite its tough exterior, this boot provides a padded interior, ensuring a comfortable fit. Under the microscope, its compact and interlocked braided fibres with minimal gaps strike a balance between waterproofing and breathability. With a remarkable 2/5 score in our lab tests, it proves its effectiveness in keeping water out while allowing airflow. Featuring a toe bumper, it provides additional protection from rocks, enhancing durability.

The ride feels inherently stable due to its firm midsole, supportive shanks, and grippy lugs. Our durometer confirms a 31.1 HA measurement, 22.4% tougher than average, yet we feel cushioned enough from harsh landings. The shoe's additional support and 4.2 mm multidirectional lugs help us feel well-planted and surefooted, even as we carry loaded backpacks. 

Balancing all the rigidity is its longitudinal flexibility to enhance a natural feel. Our bend test reveals it’s 31.8% more adaptive than the average boot.

Because this is still a waterproof shoe, it inevitably feels stuffy during the summer.

Pros

  • Extremely stable
  • Great ankle support
  • Generously padded and comfortable
  • Secure heel hold
  • Flexible
  • Budget-friendly price
  • Laudable warmth
  • Performs very well in the cold
  • Excellent grip on various terrain
  • Short to zero break-in period
  • Commendable toe cap
  • Roomy toebox

Cons

  • Stuffy in the summer
  • Lacklustre outsole durability
  • Firm midsole
  • Not ideal for narrow feet
Full review of KEEN Targhee III Waterproof Mid

Best leather hiking boots with wide toeboxes

KEEN Pyrenees
90
Great!

What makes it the best?

We cut open and hiked with leather boots and discovered KEEN Pyrenees offers the best wide toebox. With its premium nubuck leather and mighty build, this pair offers exceptional stability and protection. On top of that, we find it immensely cosy for all-day wear, especially in colder seasons.

Pyrenees doesn’t hinder our toe splay in any way. The toebox is a generous 108.0 mm and doesn't taper around the big toe area. It's a whopping 83.5 mm! We have lots of room to find our footing with every stride. Our hikes feel stable thanks to the stiff shank in the midfoot and the firm foothold that prevents awkward missteps.

Our feet feel at home straight away with the plush platform. Our durometer confirms it's 40.2% softer than average. Pyrenees pairs a generous heel stack for impact protection and a humble forefoot for enhanced ground control. This creates a massive 18.1 mm drop, which is extremely supportive and relieving when we’re carrying heavy backpacks.

All around, Pyrenees screams protection. Its tough leather build and secure lockdown shields us from cold winds and water. Underfoot, the KEEN.ALL-TERRAIN compound is one of the toughest we measured in our lab (92.0 HC) for extra protection from jagged rocks.

Contrary to its name, the outsole doesn’t grip well on all terrains. We found ourselves feeling unsteady on mud and snow. 

Pros

  • Premium nubuck leather quality
  • Top-notch waterproofing
  • Tonnes of impact protection
  • Surprisingly soft cushioning
  • Excellent stability and support
  • Very wide, accommodating toebox
  • Convenient lacing system

Cons

  • Too bulky and heavy
  • Tongue edges dig into shins
  • Lacks traction for mud, ice, and snow
Full review of KEEN Pyrenees

Best premium leather hiking boots

What makes it the best?

Extraordinary robustness, world-class quality, and reliable protection define the best premium leather hiking boot, and the Danner Mountain Light perfectly embodies this. Its handmade craftsmanship is undeniable in the lab with its resistance to wear, while offering effective waterproofing and remarkable traction even on the harshest terrains.

Despite extensive strenuous hikes and challenging conditions such as puddles and rocky paths, we felt extremely sheltered from all unwanted elements. Our feet were free from water contact and cold weather, proven by our breathability test when this boot earned a 1/5 mark. The leather showcased its extreme toughness when it barely showed visible signs of wear after our Dremel test, earning a remarkable 5/5 rating. Even the heel mirrored this performance, truly cementing Mountain Light’s premium quality.

Even underfoot, the boot proved resilient on the most rugged terrains. Its Vibram outsole boasts tougher-than-average results in all our lab tests, convincing us it will survive longer than the average boot. Its 91.6 HC rubber is a massive 4.8 mm thick, lined with extra toothy 5.8 mm lugs for solid traction. With its pronounced heel brake, tackling steep inclines was a breeze.

However, this heavy-duty boot has nothing to do with being “Light.” At a monstrous 28.3 oz (803g), it’s significantly 53.3% heavier than the average boot.

Pros

  • Highly durable leather and rubber
  • Premium materials and craftsmanship
  • Top-notch waterproofing
  • Can be resolved and recrafted
  • Secure lockdown and support
  • Very stable and reliable platform
  • Sexy and snazzy vintage look

Cons

  • Breaking in takes time and effort
  • The heaviest boot out there
  • VERY expensive
Full review of Danner Mountain Light

Best budget leather hiking boots

What makes it the best?

Of all the leather hiking boots we tested in and out of the lab, Keen Voyageur Mid satisfies the outdoor adventurer’s cravings without breaking the bank. At only £130, it offers generous padding, support, ventilation, and traction for more enjoyable long days in the wild. It’s undoubtedly our best budget pick given that the average hiking boot costs £180.

Despite having a leather upper, Voyageur Mid aced its ventilation. It scored a 4/5 on our breathability test thanks to the holes in the mesh area. This, together with the moisture-wicking function, ensures we remain free from blisters and even stinky feet.

The platform is a healthy mix of soft and firm elements for a comfy yet stable ride. The gentler sensation comes from the thick stack, notably its 46.2 mm heel. Meanwhile, the firmness comes from the foam’s density, which our durometer confirms is 15.4% harder than average.

Also ensuring our surefooted strides are the 4.2 mm multi-directional lugs that display their unwavering grasp on loose dirt, soft sand, and wet rocks. Together with the thick 5.0-mm outsole, these served as our underfoot shield from sharp debris.

Unfortunately, while the outsole itself seems durable, the way it’s glued to the midsole is the problem. The sole started peeling off during our testing, which raised concerns about the shoe’s quality.

Pros

  • Accommodating fit
  • No need to break in
  • Excellent traction
  • Lightweight
  • Sufficient ankle support
  • Laudable breathability
  • Quick drying
  • Versatile

Cons

  • Sole started peeling off
  • Questionable construction quality
  • Too wide for narrow feet
Full review of KEEN Voyageur Mid

Genuine leather isn’t always good

Genuine is a term that is widely used today, but, unfortunately, it does not mean what it implies. Because there are no legal ramifications to this, manufacturers promote something as genuine leather, even if it’s products that have only a sliver of leather, some leather fibres, and a lot of filler.

Of course, high-quality hand-made leather products can be marked as genuine, but today this is a rarity. Unfortunately, in most cases, genuine leather means low-quality leather

How to recognise high-quality leather

When examining the leather, look at the raw edge where it was cut and at the backside. For easier determination, here’s the comparison between low-quality and high-quality leather. 

Suede (cheaper leather) laminated with Gore-Tex 

Features of cheaper leather

  • Feels foamy
  • The first layer can look as if it was separating 
  • You might notice blue-ish colour due to cheap tanning with chromium salts 
  • The flesh (backside) has loose fibres wiggling in all directions creating a fuzzy look 
  • Cheap leather products are made from suede leather, bonded leather, or reconstituted leather. All 3 come from the split portion of the hide (and not from the top- or full-grain).
  • Very often referred to as genuine leather. 

Nubuck leather (higher quality) on Hoka Kaha 2 GTX

Features of expensive, high-quality leather

  • Feels dense, packed, solid
  • Can be softened a bit, but never has the 1st layer “separating” 
  • Does not have residues of blue chrome salts
  • The raw side (flesh) is sometimes also tanned and is actually flat, not fuzzy
  • Looking at the raw edge where the leather was cut, you can see the grain pattern at the very top, close to the outside side of the leather. This indicates that the leather was made from the top-grain or the full-grain leather, not from the splits. 
  • Sometimes referred to as top-grain or full-grain leather (and not genuine)
  • Can’t be cheap.

Nubuck, suede, full grain, splits

Don’t get confused. Here’s what you need to know. 

  • Full-grain leather or top-grain leather is made from the top of the hide. It’s the strongest part of the leather. High quality. Very durable. 

Full-grain leather on Danner Mountain Light

  • Nubuck leather is a full-grain leather that has a smooth feel thanks to brushing and sanding. 
  • Split leather is the part that comes when the top leather is removed. It’s a leftover and of low quality. It is less durable and less moisture-resistant that the full-grain leather. 
  • Suede is made from split leather and it’s derived from the underside of animal skin, which is why it feels and looks fuzzy. It’s also soft and nice to the touch, but not nearly as durable as real leather. 

Suede heel collar on Columbia Fairbanks Mid

Burning the leather to test the quality

We usually perform this test in trainers, where it's more difficult to figure out the quality of the leather and whether it’s leather at all. When we burn the upper material, there are 2 options: 

  • We see multiple layers; it’s fake (not leather)
  • The material chars, and when we scratch it, we can see the grain of the leather, which means it’s real leather

 

How real leather burns and chars (test performed in RunRepeat lab)

Smells are also different; the real leather smells like burnt hair. When burning the leather, it’s easy to notice whether it was just the pigment that gave it the colour or if it also has some plastic in it. 

 

Burn test: discovering fake leather (test performed in RunRepeat lab)

Pros of wearing leather hiking boots

Leather hiking boots are classics. They are (in general) known to be durable and reliable. The specific pros of leather boots we want to highlight are: 

  1. Durability. Leather is not easily scuffed like mesh and it tends to withstand different weather conditions easily. 
  2. Natural waterproofness (to some degree), and they can be laminated with a waterproof layer when necessary. 
  3. Natural breathability (to some degree). Leather does not have ventilation holes and is surely not as breathable as mesh, for example, but it is a natural material and can offer some breathability. 
  4. The high-quality ones can be resoled when the upper is not damaged. Some manufacturers even offer this at no cost or at an affordable price. 
  5. Leather is easily treated to look new (or newer). There are specialised creams and oils that can help prolong the life of leather and keep it looking fresh. 

Cons of wearing leather hiking boots

  1. The break-in period is usually longer than in boots made of mesh or other softer materials. While the leather used on, say, trainers can be thin and soft, the one used for hiking boots is usually thick and sturdy. This is because it has to be durable and to keep the ankle in place.
  2. Leather boots weigh more than synthetic ones. 
  3. When the leather is of high quality, the price tends to be steep
  4. Animal cruelty. There are many sources on this topic and, while it is obvious that the source is of animal origin, there are some manufacturers who claim that they use the leather of the animals who were killed for different reasons (not leather). This way, the leather does not end up in the landfill. Fortunately, there are many more materials available now, some even from sustainable sources, so there are other eco-friendly alternatives. 
  5. It might be difficult to distinguish the real (high-quality) leather from the very cheap one that is mostly fillings but is advertised as top-notch. 

Alternatives: mesh, knit

In hiking footwear, we often see combinations of materials. Even when 50% of the boot is made of leather, it’s good to know what else you’ve got in the box and what you can expect. 

Material

Pros

Cons 

Leather

Durable

Naturally waterproof 

Needs break-in

Heavy

Mesh

Breathable

Lightweight

Not so durable

Not so flexible

Knit

Stretchy

Pliable

Often include plastics

Not so breathable 

Combination of leather and textile, as seen on Danner Jag

What’s inside of leather hiking boots?

Depends on the model. Fortunately, we cut them all in half, so you can have a look. Or, read our in-depth reviews to learn more. 

Examining the layers of a hiking boot with a waterproof membrane, spongy padding, insole and linings clearly visible

Once we cut these boots in half, we’re able to see whether they have 

  • A shank, where it is placed, and how long it is 
  • An insole or there is no insole, and the feet rest on the lining 
  • Insulation, how thick it is, and where it is placed
  • Layers that would cushion the heel against the back of the boot
  • High-quality or low-quality padding, insulation, layers in the midsole, etc.

Durability of leather hiking boots

In our lab, we check the durability of hiking boots in 3 places: 

  1. The toebox
  2. The outsole
  3. The heel counter. 

For all 3 tests, we use a Dremel. We press it against the boot and assess or measure the damage we’ve made. We always use the same pressure and RPMs to make sure all the boots are treated the same (you can read more on how we test footwear on our Methodology page). 

 

Testing the durability of the toebox on a leather hiking boot using a Dremel

Durable vs non-durable toebox in hiking boots (damage made by the Dremel)

Leather toeboxes tend to be more durable than other materials (rubber toe bumpers excluded, of course). We assess the damage made by the Dremel on a 1-5 scale, where 1 is the least durable. 

The quality of the boot on the inside, where the heel slides in, depends on the material. Leather, as expected, holds better than synthetics. 

Durable (made of leather) vs. non-durable heel counter: damage made by the Dremel during the durability test

When it comes to the durability of the outsole, leather hiking boots aren’t that different from the rest. Everyone uses rubber for the outsole, so leather here has no influence. 

 

Testing the durability of the outsole rubber on hiking boots

What’s different, though, about this test is that we’re able to precisely measure the damage done by the Dremel. We use a tyre tread gauge and the deeper the dent, the less durable the outsole. 

Different levels of damage on the rubber outsoles in hiking footwear

Different levels of damage visible on the outsoles of hiking boots (result of a durability test done in RunRepeat lab)

How breathable are leather hiking boots 

Depends on the leather and the upper construction. One-piece upper made of leather will breathe less than those that have some patches made of mesh or synthetic materials, especially with ventilation holes. 

 

Non-breathable vs. breathable hiking footwear on the breathability test

To test this, we pump the smoke into the boot and watch where the smoke comes out and how fast. We assess the breathability on a 1-5 scale, where 1 is the least breathable. 

What also helps us understand these test results better is examining the upper under the microscope. 

Real leather uppers of hiking boots under the microscope

How real-leather uppers of hiking boots look under the microscope

Correct fit of leather hiking boots

If you’re not sure how to go about the sizing and when the boot fits well, here are our tried and tested recommendations: 

  1. Go boot shopping later in the day: in the afternoon or in the evening. By then, our feet are usually swollen up a bit and swelling happens on the hike as well, so we want to try and match those conditions. 
  2. When trying the leather boots on, use your hiking socks. And orthotics, if you have them. 
  3. Once the boot is laced up, sense whether there are any hot spots. There shouldn’t be any. 
  4. Make sure that you have 1 thumb’s width of space in front of your toes when you glue the heel to the back. 
  5. If you’re doing this in a specialised store, use the ramp. Go up and down, sideways, test the boots on various surfaces. It’s important that there is no heel slipping and that your feet are not sliding to the sides (this would mean the fit is too loose). 
  6. Once you’ve bought the boots, break them in. Stiff, dense leather might ask for a longer break-in period so make sure not to rush to the first long hike. 

 

Are leather boots expensive?

Yes, if made of real, high-quality leather.

The leather itself, as a material, is not cheap. For context, here are a few relevant data points from our database: 

  • Average price of all hiking boots: £200.4
  • Average price of leather hiking boots: £230.5

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.