7 Best Shoes For Light Hiking in 2023

Paul Ronto
Paul Ronto on
7 Best Shoes For Light Hiking in 2023
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From lightweight trail-to-town shoes to high-performance footwear that can withstand any type of weather, you have tons of options depending on your hiking routes and budget.

We’ve rounded up the latest offerings of the best hiking kicks from trusted brands. These great-looking shoes are ideal for daily on-foot adventures, integrating the latest technologies in footwear construction that deliver more comfort, flexibility, and protection.

To make your browsing experience easier and hassle-free, we’ve tested and ranked 30+ of the best shoes for light hiking available. Depending on your hiking habits and other specific needs, we have evaluated them categorically during our long process of testing so we can be sure in which area they truly excel. Check out our highlighted picks!

Best shoes for light hiking overall

Hoka Speedgoat 5

What makes it the best?

On our short, light hikes, we like nothing better than to don our Hoka Speedgoat 5s. With excellent grip, unbeatable stability, and exceptionally lightweight, it’s no wonder it won us over as the best overall shoe for light hiking.

As an unmatched all-rounder, the Hoka Speedgoat 5 seems to deal with just about anything. When we tested it on the trail, the closely-spaced lugs clung to loose and frozen trails and even held us steady in mud. The lugs are 1.3 mm shallower than the average for hiking shoes, but for light hikes on groomed paths, we found this is more than enough.

Used also for trail running, the Hoka Speedgoat 5 has stability written all over it. It has a noticeably wide platform that makes it difficult to overbalance - yes, even when hiking (or running) over uneven ground! We measured the forefoot, finding it to be 116.4 mm, 5 mm wider than average. The heel is even more impressive, measuring a whopping 10 mm wider than the average of 97.5 mm. We put our faith in these shoes on all surfaces - and they did not let us down.

Weighing in at just 9.7 oz (277g), it’s easy to forget that we are even wearing shoes on our hikes! The average hiking shoe weighs 13 oz, 3.3 oz heavier than the Hoka Speedgoat 5. This makes our short hikes a breeze.

Despite the wide platform, the upper is 5 mm narrower than the average for hiking shoes, so we don’t recommend the Hoka Speedgoat 5 to hikers with particularly wide feet.


  • Super grippy
  • Springy ride
  • Stable platform
  • Extra durable
  • High impact protection
  • Lightweight
  • Breathable
  • Secure fit
  • Excellent heel hold


  • Not for wide feet
  • Flared collar is not for everyone (style-wise)
Full review of Hoka Speedgoat 5

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Any color
Deep Lake/Ceramic (DLCR)
Stone Blue/Dark Citron (SBDCT)
Bellwether Blue/Cyclamen (BBCY)
Thyme/Fiesta (TFST)
Orange (PBAY)
Fiesta/Radiant Yellow (FRYL)
Blue (SBBK)
Impala/Flame (1123157IFLM)
More colors

Best breathable shoes for light hiking

What makes it the best?

For hot summer days on our light hikes, it doesn’t get any better than the Nike React Pegasus 4. Lightweight and impressively breathable, it is grippy, adapting to any surface, and has a comfortably flexible sole. No surprises why we chose it as the best breathable light hiking shoe.

Weighing just 10.4 oz (295g), the Nike React Pegasus Trail 4 is far lighter than the average 13 oz (374g) hiking shoe, making it a dream for short, light hikes. The perforated mesh upper is a weight-saver, as well as providing first-rate ventilation which keeps our feet dry, even on our hottest summer hikes.

We were amazed by the versatile, sticky outsole, which works wonders on hard-packed or rooty trails, gravel or asphalt. We measured the lugs at 3.4 mm. Also functioning as trail shoes, the lugs are 21% shallower than the average hiking shoe, but we didn’t feel disadvantaged in the slightest. The outsole measures 85.5 HC, softer and therefore slightly tackier than average, which compensates for the shallower lugs.

Our feet can also flex naturally within the shoe, increasing the surface area in contact with the ground and increasing the grip still further. We twisted the shoe manually, awarding it 2/5 for torsional flexibility - definitely a flexible shoe! We love the natural feel this offers our feet and found it perfectly comfortable on short day hikes.

On the other hand, ground feel is lacking since the cushioning is pretty generous. The stack height at the heel is 35.5 and 22.8 mm at the forefoot, compared to the averages of 33.5 mm and 21.5 mm respectively. We don’t recommend it to hikers who prefer to feel what they are hiking on.


  • Efficient road-to-trail
  • Well-cushioned
  • Stable ride
  • Excellent, secure fit
  • Very breathable
  • Great traction
  • Unexpectedly light
  • Reasonably priced


  • Not for muddy areas
  • Not for wide feet
  • Could be more stylish
Full review of Nike React Pegasus Trail 4

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Any color
Grey (DJ6158002)
Neutral Olive/Stadium Green/Phantom/Light Bone (FJ4733200)
Black (DJ6158003)
Brown (DJ6158200)
Black Alligator Canyon Rust Mint Foam (DJ6158004)
Deep royal blue/celestine blue-gorge green-enamel green-yellow strike (DJ6158400)
Black/Olive Flak/Spring Green (DJ6158006)
Blue (DJ6159401)
More colors

Shoes for light hiking with the best foot protection

What makes it the best?

The Cascadia 17 from Brooks isn't just a product of chance with its seventeen editions. This trail saga, revered by many, remains a versatile marvel with upgrades like enhanced cushioning, top-notch breathability, and the innovative Trail Adapt system for unrivaled terrain adaptability. Some may find the weight a bit high and the foam slightly firm, but if you're fine with that, it's a magnificent shoe.


  • Adaptable across various paces
  • World-class breathability
  • Comfortable for long runs
  • Superior grip thanks to TrailTack Green
  • Environmentally-friendly with recycled materials
  • Excellent stability
  • Rock plate protects the foot
  • Manages technical descents with ease
  • Ideally designed for heel strikers


  • Weighs more than v16
  • Midsole may feel overly firm for certain users
Full review of Brooks Cascadia 17

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Any color
Blue Navy Firecracker (405)
Blue Surf The Web Sulphur (416)
Sharp Green Navy Firecracker (395)
Black (032)
Black/Ebony/Oyster (043)

Best light hiking shoes with a wide toebox

What makes it the best?

The versatile Altra Lone Peak 7 is our top choice for the best light hiking shoes for wide feet. With its generous toe-box and wide platform boasting excellent stability, this flexible, zero-drop shoe is the best friend of hikers and trail runners alike. 

With plenty of space for our toes to splay out, we are big fans of the roomy toe-box in the Lone Peak 7! We felt extra-stable on different types of terrain since our feet could mold naturally to the ground under our feet. At the widest part of the forefoot, we measured 96.2 mm, and the square shape of the toes means it doesn’t taper off quickly.

The stability in the Lone Peak 7 is as good as it gets! With a heel stack of 23.3 mm, it is 9.8 mm lower than average, offering a low center of gravity which makes it difficult to overbalance. The wide platform underfoot is also 1cm wider than the upper, so we found it practically impossible to twist our ankles while hiking or even running over uneven ground!

With its soft midsole – 8% softer than average to be precise – delivering plush comfort, we also noticed how it had enough give in it to allow our feet to bend and flex naturally over roots and rocks as we hiked. We measured the flexibility in the lab with a force gauge, finding it to be 24.2N - 34% more flexible than the average hiking shoe! We find this makes for a fabulously agile shoe, perfect for our short, light hikes!

With an overall drop height of 0.2 mm, the Altra Lone Peak 7 is firmly in the zero-drop category. We therefore don’t recommend it to hikers who have a heavy heel strike.


  • Very wide toebox
  • Protective midsole
  • Superb lockdown
  • Super grippy outsole
  • Excellent for fast runs in the mountains
  • Added heel cup provides stability
  • Super comfy
  • Easy to clean


  • Colorways might be a downer
  • A bit pricey
Full review of Altra Lone Peak 7

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Any color
Navy (AL0A7R6H445)
Green/Teal (AL0A7R6H008)
Black (AL0A7R6H020)
Tan (AL0A7R6H922)
Deep Forest (AL0A7R6H307)
Taupe (AL0A7R6H923)
Red (AL0A7R6H680)
Dark Purple (AL0A7R6H252)
Light Green (AL0A7R6H333)

Best barefoot shoes for light hiking

What makes it the best?

The Magna FG is a great zero-drop shoe that is versatile and can be worn for walking, hiking, and working out. It offers the typical natural feeling of a minimalist shoe thanks to its lightness, amazing flexibility, and enhanced sensitivity underfoot. It’s comfortable and works for those with wider feet too.


  • Extremely flexible
  • Super-light
  • Grips everything dry and wet
  • Breathable and comfy
  • Holds foot in place
  • Great ground sensitivity
  • Very versatile
  • Wide feet are welcome
  • More protected than other similar shoes


  • Laces are not durable
  • Too expensive
Full review of Vivobarefoot Magna FG

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Best lightweight shoes for light hiking

What makes it the best?

Another solid entry to our collection of light hiking shoes, the Terrex Trailmaker is fully equipped to give you empowered steps minus the unwanted bulk. While you can easily get lost in its plush confines, its excellent sticking prowess can make your jaws drop in amazement as well. And if you are into looks, the Terrex Trailmaker can make you look dapper without requiring too much human effort!


  • Quite comfy
  • Slip resistant
  • Amazing surface traction
  • Runs true to size
  • Pretty durable
  • Incredibly light
  • Quick drying time


  • Added bulk on med side
  • Lacing issue
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 shoes for light hiking

What makes it the best?

An exceptional budget-friendly day hiker—this is how many trail-goers find the Terrex X4, with negative reviews being a rarity. Indeed, from its virtually tackle-anything underfoot performance to the way it handles shifting weather, this piece from Adidas is a doozy. There's also its initial price of $90, which makes owning one not at all an uphill battle.


  • 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)
Blue (HP7392)
Wonder Silver Core Black Grey Two (IF4872)
Black (FY9673)
Wonder Red Linen Green Pulse Lilac (GY8621)
Core Black Grey Three Mint Ton (HQ1045)
Focus Olive Core Black Grey Five (HP7390)
Core Black/Grey Three/Mint Ton (FZ3255)
More colors

Comparison of the 7 best shoes for light hiking

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How to choose shoes for light hiking

Heading out on a short and sweet hike, you want to wear something light and breezy. A pair of sturdy hikers might be an overkill for 3-5 miles on a moderate type of terrain.


Luckily, there are plenty of options from both hiking and running shoe brands that can meet your needs on the trail.

3 characteristics of shoes for light hikes

Here is what your ideal pair will look like when you are out for a short hike on groomed terrain:

  • lightweight
  • flexible
  • road-friendly

More lightweight to keep you agile

The average weight of a proper hiking shoe is 13.1 oz (377g). However, if we only consider the more trimmed-down options, the weight will go down significantly - to 10.7 oz (303g)!

These shoes still have all the essentials to keep you comfortable on the trail but nothing that you don't. You won't get the extra overlays, thicker upper materials, lugs, heel brakes, insulation, etc. For light hiking, having a lighter shoe that won't drag you down is the priority.


More flexible for natural movement

Most hiking shoes come with shanks and burly platforms that enhance stability and arch support. But when you are not carrying a heavy backpack, you don't need as much support from your footwear.

You will be much happier with a shoe that feels more like an extension of your foot rather than a stabilizing device. A shoe with enough pliability to let your feet bend where they would naturally bend.

Easily goes from trail to road

It's quite likely that when you go on a light hike, you have to walk on the pavement or asphalt first. Or perhaps you want to stop by a coffee shop on the way down.

Shoes for light hiking tend to be more versatile in use, so you won't find 5-mm deep lugs here. These hikers come with shallower treads that won't feel too bumpy when you step on a hard surface.


Do you need waterproof shoes for light hiking?

There is a large debate between folks who swear by waterproof shoes and others who would never put them on their feet in the first place. We fall somewhere in between the two camps.

Waterproof hiking shoes truly shine in climates that are characteristically wet, damp, icy, or snowy. In other words, there needs to be a high chance that we will experience prolonged exposure to precipitation and moisture before we lace up the waterproof hiking shoes.

Otherwise, we typically opt for something considered non-waterproof. In this case, a water-resistant or water-repellent shoe may be the best tool for the job.

The reason is that in climates and terrain that are characteristically dry or that might have occasional encounters with precipitation and moisture like stream crossings, or afternoon thunderstorms, we tend to prioritize breathability over waterproofing.


Getting a waterproof shoe makes sense if your "light hikes" look like this

How to make shoes for light hiking last longer

It's not very likely that you destroy a pair of shoes after a few light hikes. But there are a few tricks to help you get the most out of your hiking footwear even in this scenario.

  • Perform simple maintenance: Routine cleanings and monitoring for repairable damages, like the beginnings of outsole separation, can enhance the lifespan of your shoes.
  • Wear them specifically for the right moments: We understand – you find a new pair of hiking shoes that feel amazing, and you wear them incessantly. We’ve done this also. But try to refrain from doing this. Instead, save your hiking shoes for legitimate outings to the trailhead. But if you must wear them all the time, maybe purchase two pairs!   
  • Reapply waterproof coating (if necessary): Over time, the waterproof DWR coating may wear out. We’ve discussed this important maintenance task earlier in the article, but here is another friendly reminder.
  • Focus on your footwork: When our legs and feet get tired, our precise footwork on the trail diminishes. To mitigate this inevitability, focus on improving your footwork to decrease the wear and tear your hiking shoes are exposed to.


How we test hiking shoes

Each pair of footwear on this list is thoroughly examined and tested in the field. We analyze the quality of materials and technologies built into the shoes, and how they actually perform in the real world. Our wear tests involve using the shoes in a series of hikes in a variety of hiking environments.

Here’s what we do:

  • We invest our time and own money buying the shoes for our performance tests. This is to ensure our impartiality when publishing our reviews.
  • We put in the hours and distances using the shoes on hiking trips. During this time, we double-check every important aspect of the shoes including fit, comfort, water resistance, durability, and more. We subject the hiking shoes to a variety of outdoor settings, including tougher conditions.
  • To further enrich our data-gathering, we segment the shoes so we can investigate every section and every little detail. We also perform tests inside our lab like determining the hardness of the midsole and the outsole. What we do is press our durometer to the said parts and read and analyze the recorded hardness of our tool in HA. 
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.