10 Best Hiking Boots and Trail Shoes of 2020

10 Best Hiking Boots and Trail Shoes

While there are hundreds of hiking boots, trail shoes, and trail runners available, most hikers and backpackers choose from a small set of common makes and models. Preferences vary widely, however, and some hikers like waterproof mids and boots, while others prefer more breathable trail running shoes that dry rapidly when they get wet. Here are the 10 best hiking boots, trail shoes, and trail runners that we and many other hikers recommend.

Make / ModelMen'sWomen'sWide SizesPrice
Altra Lone Peak 4.5 Trail RunnersMen'sWomen's$100
Merrell Moab 2 Vent Low Trail ShoesMen'sWomen'sY$100
Merrell Moab 2 Vent Mid BootsMen'sWomen'sY$110
La Sportiva Ultra Raptor Trail RunnersMen'sWomen's$130
KEEN Targhee III WP Mid BootsMen'sWomen'sY$150
Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTXMen'sWomen'sY$165
Oboz Firebrand II Bdry Men's Women's $140
Salomon XA Pro 3D V8 Trail RunnersMen'sWomen'sY$130
Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX Hiking BootsMen'sWomen's$230
Vasque Breeze AT Mid GTX BootsMen'sWomen'sY$190

Regardless of your preferences, it’s important to choose footwear that fits well and is appropriate for the conditions you plan to hike in, especially in terms of temperature, terrain difficulty, and the weight of the loads you expect to carry. Many hiking shoes and boots are also available in wide sizes, which is useful if you have big feet, or you find that your feet increase in size if you take a long backpacking trip or hike frequently.

1. Altra Lone Peak 4.5 Trail Runners

Altra Lone Peak 4.5 Trail Runners

The Altra Lone Peak 4.5 ($120), a relative newcomer to the hiking and backpacking world, is the top trail shoe used by hikers and backpackers by a wide margin. Noted for their roomy toe box, splayed forefoot, and integrated tongue, the moderately cushioned Lone Peak has mesh uppers for enhanced breathability and drainage. This zero-drop shoe has a toothy lugged sole that provides good traction, with an integrated stone guard that offers enhanced forefoot protection. An innovative gaiter trap on the rear of the shoe holds your gaiters in place. This latest version of the Lone Peak runs true to size.

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REIAmazon | Zappos

2. Merrell Moab 2 Vent Low Hiking Shoes

Merrell Moab 2 Low Vent Hiking Shoes
The Merrell Moab 2 Vent Low ($100) is a mesh trail shoe that features excellent breathability coupled with the durability and added protection of leather uppers. A reinforced toe cap provides great foot protection for rocky scrambles, while a rockered sole helps sustain forward momentum. The Vibram sole has large 5mm lugs that provide added traction in sand and mud, while a hard nylon shank provides arch support and protection. The Moab 2 is a very stable shoe that resists rolling, with air cushioning in the heels for enhanced shock absorption. Wide width sizes are also available. Read our review. 

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3. Merrell Moab 2 Vent Mids

Merrell Moab 2 Vent Mid Hiking Boots

Noted for their affordability and availability in wide sizes, the Merrell Moab 2 Vent Mid ($110) is a long-lasting, lightweight hiking boot that provides excellent ankle support with wrap-around mesh that’s highly breathable and fast drying. The Vibram lugs provide excellent traction and protection for hiking across a wide variety of terrain from the damp forests of Appalachia to the high desert. The boot version of the Moab 2 Vent Low (see above), these mids features the same grippy Vibram sole and leather uppers, but with added ankle support. Wide sizes are available.

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4. La Sportiva Ultra Raptors

La Sportiva Ultra Raptor
The La Sportiva Ultra Raptor ($130) is an all-terrain mountain running shoe with a sticky rubber outsole geared towards all-day protection. Noted for their excellent traction, even on wet rock, they have a sturdy toe bumper and molded nylon shank that provides forefoot protection in rugged terrain. Mesh uppers are highly breathable and dry quickly when wet. Durability is good with reinforced plastic ribs that prevent the mesh from shredding. The Ultra Raptors have an athletic fit, narrow enough in the heel and mid-foot to provide a stable running or hiking platform.

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REI | La SportivaAmazon
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5. KEEN Targhee III Mid WP

KEEN Targhee III WP Mid Hiking Boots
The Keen Targhee III Mid ($145) is an agile but well-protected waterproof hiking boot.  The exterior is primarily made with leather, providing added stability.  The aggressive outsole has large lugs to bite into the terrain, providing excellent traction control. An integrated shank provides torsional stability, while the mid-cut height increases ankle support. Keens are especially good for people who prefer a wide toe box. Wide widths are also available. Size up a 1/2 size.

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REIKEENAmazon
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REIKEENAmazon

6. Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX

Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX
The Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX ($165) brings running shoe comfort to a shoe that can tackle more technical hikes. Mud guards and beefy rubber toe caps provide protection from roots and rocks, while injection-molded EVA midsoles provide excellent cushioning underfoot. The shoe’s mid-cut profile adds ankle support and protection which is so important in rocky terrain, while the gusseted tongue block pebbles and debris from entering the shoe. They run a little small so size up a half size. Wide widths are also available.

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7. Oboz Firebrand II BDry Hiking Shoes

Oboz Firebrand II BDry Hiking Shoes

Oboz Firebrand II BDry Hiking Shoes ($140) are made for navigating rough and muddy trails with lugs on the sole that extend up around the sidewalls and heels to grip sloped trails and keep you stable on a variety of surfaces. Hydrophobic upper materials repel moisture outside and textile linings wick sweat away inside. Anatomic EVA footbeds and dual-density EVA midsoles provide cushioning over days on the trail while nylon shanks offer torsional stability and protection underfoot.

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8. Salomon XA Pro 3D V8 Trail Runners

Salomon XA Pro 3D V8
The Salomon XA Pro 3D v8 Trail Runner ($130) is Salomon’s lightest advanced-chassis shock-absorbing shoe. Built for moving quickly, the 3D has lightweight, breathable mesh that keeps your feet cool and drains well. A beefy toe cap and forefoot rand provide extra protection, while minimalist kevlar speed-laces provide a secure and customized fit. Traction is excellent overall with a nice heel brake for descents. Wide widths are also available.

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REIAmazon
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REIAmazon

9. Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX

Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX Hiking Boots
The Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX ($230) is a lightweight, but supportive hiking boot that incorporates trail running technology into its design. The beefy toe-cap provides protection for your toes while a TPU midsole helps control flex, reduce ankle strain, and shield feet in rough terrain. High ankle support, leather uppers, and locking lace eyelets provide good stability while eliminating heel lift and potential blisters. The gusseted tongue and Gore-Tex inner bootie protects against rain and water during stream crossings while grippy rubber outsoles provide excellent traction over wet and dry surfaces.

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REIAmazon | Zappos
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REIAmazon | Zappos

10. Vasque Breeze AT Mid GTX

Vasque Breeze AT Mid GTX
The Vasque Breeze AT Mid GTX ($190) is a Gore-Tex-lined waterproof hiking boot noted for its comfort out-of-the-box. Nubuck leather uppers maintain abrasion-resistance on the trail, reinforced with a rubberized toe cap for protection from rock strikes. Ventilation panels circulate air inside the boot, preventing overheating in hot weather, while the waterproof liner seals out rain and water from shallow stream crossings. Wide and narrow widths are available for an excellent fit.

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REIAmazon 
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REIAmazon 

How To Choose Hiking Boots, Trail Shoes, and Trail Runners

There’s a lot of variety available when it comes to hiking footwear and ad people have a wide range of personal preferences. Which is why we highly recommend that you try lots of different options if you’re making a new selection, so you can discover what your preferences are. Here are some guidelines about things you should consider when choosing between different hiking boots, trail shoes, and trail runners.

Sweat can lead to blisters

The buildup of sweat inside of hiking footwear and your socks can lead to blisters. When your socks stick to your skin, they can cause friction, and a friction burn, which is how blisters form. Breathability is key to preventing sweat build-up, which is why so many hikers prefer mesh hiking footwear, since it dries while you wear it.

Black toenails indicate poor fit

If your toe nails turn black when you hike, it’s because your toes do not have enough room in the front of your footwear. Size up or select footwear that has a larger toe box by design. Altra and KEEN shoes and boots have an exaggerated-size toe box, which is why they’re so popular with hikers and backpackers.

After-Market Insoles

One-third of hikers and backpackers buy after-market insoles, such as Superfeet, to replace the insoles that come with their hiking boots, mids, trail shoes, and trail runners. These provide more protection, more arch support, and cup your heel to help prevent the lateral movement that can cause plantar fasciitis. They also last longer than factory insoles.

Waterproof/breathable footwear dries slowly

Waterproof/breathable footwear tends to dry much more slowly than non-waterproof footwear. While waterproof hiking boots and shoes are good for hiking in cold weather, it’s often more desirable to have a well-vented mesh shoe that dries quickly than one that stays wet for days and can lead to blisters and other discomforts.

Ankle Rolling

Many hikers opt for boots/mids because think they’re necessary for carrying heavier weight backpacks and provide more ankle support than low trail shoes or trail runners. While that was probably true when all hiking boots were made with heavy leather, modern hiking boots and mids are much softer and less supportive and are really just one step up from being trail or running shoes. While they can provide more assurance, you can still twist an ankle wearing one. On the flip side, many hikers and backpackers are able to carry heavy packs and walk in rugged mountainous terrain in trail shoes and trail runners. In other words, there’s no right answer and you should decide for yourself, rather than follow anyone’s gospel truth.

Traction

Boot and shoe manufacturers make a big deal about traction and while it is important, it’s very difficult to prove that different sole compositions, lug angles, lug depth, Vibram or non-Vibram soles, blah, blah, blah, etc. make that big of an impact on traction. When push comes to shove, the only hiking traction that really matters is when you’re scrambling on wet rock or walking along a cliff edge. Even then, good footwork is probably more important, so develop that rather than relying on your shoes.

Toe and foot protection

Hiking and backpacking can be tough on the feet, particularly around the toes and under the arch. It doesn’t affect everyone, but it can lead to injuries that take a long time to heal. Built-up areas around the toes, sometimes called toe kicks, are good if you hike in rocky terrain. A shank is usually a hard strip of nylon or plastic that runs under the arch and helps stiffen a shoe or boot.

Gaiters

Hikers wear gaiters to block sticks, stones, and other debris from getting into their shoes while they hike. But some shoes are more gaiter compatible than others. For example, if your gaiters have a strap that loops under your shoe, you’re going to want to have footwear that has an arch, so the gaiter strap doesn’t get destroyed by rubbing on the ground. Gaiters designed for trail shoes or trail runners may require gluing a velcro strip to the back of your heel to hold the gaiter in places. If this is the case, make sure there is a flat surface on the back of the heel that you can glue the velcro strip too.

Wide Shoe Sizes

About 1/3 of all hikers require footwear in wide widths. Companies such as Merrell, KEEN, Brooks, and Vasque have the best selection of wide-width hiking footwear.

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9 comments

  1. I’ve experienced the same thing with many trail runners. That’s not unique to the Cascadia’s. Just saying. You can slow its occurrence by smearing shoe goo over the area where the toebox intersects with the forefoot fabric.

  2. On my second or third pair of KEEN Targhee III. I’m always amazed how good these shoes feel from the first day I put them on. I wear them as my daily shoe as well. I have had the same experience with Keen water shoes.
    I have a trip coming up that includes 15 water crossings within the first 7 miles so trying to convince myself to make the jump to trail runner vs carrying my Keen (Newports I think?) and wearing them with sock liners or even a merino wool sock. I hike a lot with the Newports but have never tried backpacking with them.
    Also, I find that I get a lot of sand & pebbles in them when I am fishing as I like to get into the streams. etc.

  3. I wore two pairs of Lone Peaks (3.0 and 3.5) on the first half of my AT thru hike in 2018. Ultimately left them because I was not satisfied with the tread despite being the most comfortable shoe I had ever worn with that fantastic toe box. Just took a look at the 4.5s linked and it looks like they have done a lot to change the tread on them. Might give them another try when my Peregrines reach their end of life.

  4. Topo has some nice shoes also for those of us who are wide footed…

  5. I love my Merrill Moab ventilator mid boots! Work as designed, feet will get wet. But they’ll dry out faster when on the move (socks too). When it’s still wet but close to freezing I slip on my goretex boot liners over my socks, keeping dry and toasty so far. When I do that, same goes for hands as well, goretex mittens (REI) over wool mittens.

  6. I have been using Altra Lone Peaks for 3 years now. What a difference a flexible sole makes. I used to twist my ankles all the time in stiffer soles. The shoe twists instead of my ankle.

  7. I have owned both Merrill MOAB low trail shoes (vented) and mid boots (Gore-Tex) and love them. on my 3rd set of low trail shoes and 2nd set of mid GTX boots. I get very good mileage from them.

    GRIPE: Merrill’s MOAB line makes it difficult to thread shoe laces through the small cloth webbing lace loops. They need to be larger. That’s all it would take to fix it.

  8. Two thoughts. Surprised to not see any Hokas on here as they have several fantastic options for backpacking (Speedgoat, Mafate).

    Also, I think Altra LP’s and other minimalist/zero drop shoes should be accompanied by a warning: they work well for some, but they really screw up the feet and Achilles of others. Podiatrists I know say these shoes keep them in business… and I know these podiatrists’ opinions because I got multiple problems from these shoes despite a year-long acclimatization.

  9. I have worn both the Merrill Moab mid (W/GTX) and Low Vent shoes for years.
    I’m on my 2nd pair of each and just ordered a “backup” pair of Mid with WPB lining from REI at 40% off B/C they had them in 11.5 Wide.

    GREAT BOOTS AND SHOES!

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