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10 Best Hiking Boots and Trail Shoes of 2018

10 Best Hiking Boots and Trail Shoes of 2018

Hiking Boots and trail shoes are becoming much lighter weight. There’s no doubt about it. We surveyed hundred of backpackers to find out what their favorite hiking boots and trail shoes and it’s clear that the era of heavy leather hiking boots is on the wane. But people are people and feet are feet. Pick the boot or shoes that best fit your feet and style. Here are our recommendations for the best hiking/backpacking boots and trails shoes to hit the trails in 2018.

1. Merrell Moab 2 Vent Mids

Moab 2 Mid Ventilator
Merrell’s Moab 2 Vent Mids ($110) are by far the most popular hiking boot or trail shoe used by backpackers today, outnumbering the nearest competitor by 2:1. Noted for their affordability and availability in wide sizes, the Moab 2 Vent Mid 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. Available in mens and women’s versions, and waterproof and non-waterproof versions for better breathability. The Merrell Moab 2 Vent Mid is also available as a low trail shoe, the Moab 2 Vent Low ($100).  

2. Altra Lone Peak 3.5

Altra Lone Peak 3.5

The Altra Lone Peak 3.5 ($120), a relative newcomer to the hiking and backpacking world, is the top trail runner used by backpackers. Noted for their roomy toe box and splayed forefoot, the moderately cushioned Lone Peak has mesh uppers for enhanced breathability. This zero drop shoe has a toothy lugged sole that provides excellent traction, with an integrated stone guard that offers enhanced forefoot protection. Available in men’s and women’s versions, including the new Lone Peak Mid 3.5 ($130) which provides more ankle support.

3. Keen Targhee II Mids

Keen Targhee III mid
The Keen Targhee III Mid ($135) is an agile but well-protected waterproof hiking boot also available in wide sizes.  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. The Targhee II is available in men’s and women’s sizes, and a low, ventilated version, the non-waterproof Keen Targhee III Vent Low ($125) is also available.

4. La Sportiva Ultra Raptors

La Sportiva Ultra Raptor
The La Sportiva Ultra Raptor ($130) is a 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. They are available in men’s and women’s models. I stockpile these shoes, I like them so much. 

5. Brooks Cascadia 12

Brooks Cascadia 12
The Brooks Cascadia 12 Trail Running Shoe ($130) is a well protected and durable shoe for fast hiking and running over technical terrain. A wrap-around mud guards keeps debris out of your shoes while mesh uppers vent moisture build-up. A ballistic rock shield helps protect your forefoot from sharp terrain, while deep directional lugs provide extra traction on up hills and downhills. Pivot points built into the sole provide stability and help you maintain foreward momentum. Available for both men and women, the Cascadia 12 has a roomy forefoot to keep your toes comfortable.

6. Salomon XA Pro 3D

Salomon XA Pro 3D
The Salomon XA Pro 3D Trail Runner ($130) is Salomon’s lightest advanced-chassis shock-absorbing shoe, available in wide sizes. Built for moving quickly, the 3D has lightweight, breathable sandwich 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 fantastic overall with a nice heel brake for descents. Available for men and women. A waterproof Gore-tex lined version ($160) is also available.  

7. La Sportiva Wildcats

La Sportiva Wildcat
The La Sportiva Wildcat ($110) is a neutral trail running shoe with highly breathable nylon mesh uppers that keep your feel cool and dry quickly when they get wet. Sticky rubber outsoles deliver excellent traction while TPU stabilizers in the heel and midsole offer additional stability. A large toe box and ample heel cushioning make the Wildcat a sweet ride for hiking and backpacking in a wide variety of terrain. Men’s and women’s models are available.

8. Vasque Breeze 3.0 GTX

Vasque Breeze Mid GTX
The Vasque Breeze Mid GTX ($180) 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 shallow stream crossings. Wide and narrow widths are available for an excellent fit. Available in both men’s and women’s models, the Vasque Breeze Low GTX ($150) is also available as a low trail shoe.

9. Salomon Quest 4D II GTX

Salomon Quest 4d
The Salomon Quest 4D II 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 and locking laces provide good stability while eliminating heel lift and potential blisters. The gusseted tongue protects against rain and water during stream crossings while grippy rubber outsoles provide excellent traction over wet and dry surfaces. The Quest 4D 3 GTX is available in men’s and women’s models.

10. Lowa Renegade GTX Mid

Lowa Renegade GTX
The Lowa Renegade GTX ($230) is a waterproof hiking boot with a leather upper that securely holds the foot in place, reducing strain on the toes during downhill sections. Available in wide widths, the Renegade’s midsole technology reduces overall boot weight, while providing extra cushioning and lateral stability. A rugged Vibram outsole and thick, nonslip rubber lugs make these boots ideal for hiking and light backpacking. This shoe also has gender-specific, men’s and women’s lasts, for optimal fit and comfort. 

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  1. Shout out for the Vasque Breeze and the amazing shoe guy at REI Framingham, he really knows bootfitting.
    I get a bit of metatarsalgia, ball of foot pain and was having trouble finding a shoe. I tried the Keens and did about 200 miles in the Salomon’s before I found the Vasques and comfort.

  2. The best shoe is the one that fits of course. I must say though that the Altra Lone Peak has the worst traction of any shoe I’ve tried in the last 5 years. That includes Saucony and Ultra Raptors. If the ultra Raptors were shaped like the lone Peaks that would be an awesome shoe. I also found the Lone Peak to be rather cheap and I don’t mean inexpensive. The construction of the ultra Raptors are so much better.

    • I agree the worst traction of any hiking shoe and they would not refund my money or return my emails…. lone peak 3.5 not good on rocky trails

  3. It disappoints me not to see high quality full-grain leather boots. I know manufacturers are moving away from offering high quality full-grain boots, although I never have heard definitively their explanation for doing so. I am from the old school and believe deeply in what high quality full-grain leather boots have to offer in both functionality, and in appearance. I denote appearance because after every backpacking trip (or long day hikes) I clean my boots meticulously, and then I may spend 3-6 hours over the course of the following week putting leather lotion on them, and finishing the process off with several coatings of wax paste polish. When I am through that process my boots have the appearance of dressed military boots, ready for parade inspection.

    My own experience with proper boot fitting over the decades is to purchase size 1/2 larger over my regular foot size. Consequently, if you wear normally a size 11, then you want to purchase a size 11 1/2 boot. Feet swell by the end of the day and one also needs extra room inside the boot for wearing high quality thick 100 percent wool backpacking or hiking socks. Believe me, you will find much more fit and comfort by going 1/2 size larger with your boots.

    Additionally, we sometimes think only “boots,” but high quality thick cushioned 100 percent wool socks is as important as the boot itself. I never wear the same pair of socks back to back on successive days. I usually take several pair of socks and go through each pair on successive days. Then I start back with the first pair on the fourth day, the second pair on the fifth day and the third pair on the sixth day.

    Please do not cut corners in cost when it comes to purchasing high quality boots, or even every day shoes for that fact. Boot (or shoe) fit and comfort is mandatory. Improper fitting will lead to foot soreness, blisters or worse foot problems that may not manifest themselves until years later. It is difficult to define a comfortable boot, but when you have one you know it; just as when you do not have one that is comfortable you “know it.”

    • I have to agree with Jerry on this one.. After an “Incident” back in the late 80’s, I was sort of forced into the low cost, lightweight hiking shoe market… It seemed trendy and was economical at the time.. In the intervening years, I’ve gone through probably 15-20 pairs of hiking footwear.. with some lasting only 50 miles or so before treads separated or something tore. 2 years ago I went back to a full leather boot. It took a while to get them broken in, but I expect they’ll last decades. Yes. they weigh a lot.. I’m not in that much of a hurry any more.

  4. I have a wide foot with a high instep. Any of these recommended shoes might be worth consideration?

    • The Moabs come in wide width. I used to always get nerve pain in my toes because any boot or trail runner I got just wasn’t quite wide enough. The wide Moabs have resolved the pain, they give good foot support, light weight, and they have excellent traction!

  5. I used the Alta Lone Peak’s on a five-day hike of the north section of the Long Trail – no complaints. Comfortable, good grippers, and held up well to the rock & bog. I like the roomy toe box and that Altra’s can take my Birkenstock BirkoSport Arch Supports because they don’t have the usual pronounced arch so many other trail runners have. One day, when my ship comes in, I’m going to get me a pair of Russell Moccasins – just because.

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