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10 Best Men’s Hiking Shoes and Trail Runners of 2024

10 Best Hiking Shoes and Trail Runners

Hiking shoes and trail runners have become increasingly popular with hikers and backpackers. The biggest difference between the two is that hiking shoes, which tend to be heavier and more durable, can only be used for walking while trail runners can be used for walking and running. Given their popularity among hikers, it makes sense to list them together, so you can weigh their pros and cons.

Preferences vary widely, however, and some hikers like waterproof footwear, ones with thick cushioning, more durable hiking shoes, or ultralight mesh trail runners that dry rapidly when they get wet. 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.

Here are the 10 best hiking shoes and trail runners that we recommend.

1. Danner Trail 2650 GTX Hiking Shoes

Danner Trail 2650

  • Type: Hiking Shoe
  • Cushion: Medium
  • Drop: 8 mm
  • Wide Sizes: Yes
  • Durability: Excellent
The Danner Trail 2650 GTX is a very stable lightweight leather hiking shoe that’s good for hiking and backpacking in moderately challenging and rugged terrain (non-waterproof and mesh versions are also available). It’s substantially more durable than a mesh trail runner but is still quite agile. Reinforced heel counters and an ultralight TPU shank provide lightweight support and protection while Vibram Megagrip outsoles provide very good traction on rocky or wet terrain. The toe box is large enough to let your toes splay out and wide sizes are also available. In addition to trail use, the Trail 2650 is stylish enough that you can wear it out or to work and no one will know you’re wearing your hiking shoes. But their biggest win in our minds is durability compared to most mesh trail runners. Read our Danner Trail 2650 GTX Review.

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2. Altra Lone Peak 8 Trail Runners

Altra Lone Peak 8

  • Type: Trail Runner
  • Cushion: Medium
  • Drop: 0 mm
  • Wide Sizes: Yes
  • Durability: Average
The Altra Lone Peak 8 is the most popular trail running shoe used by hikers, backpackers, and thru-hikers by a wide margin. Noted for its 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 rock guard that offers enhanced forefoot protection. An innovative gaiter trap on the rear of the shoe holds your gaiters in place. Durability can be so-so if you hike in rocky terrain which abrades the shoe’s mesh outers, and sand may leak inside in desert terrain. If you’ve never worn a zero-drop shoe before, they take some time…on the order 4-6 weeks to acclimate to as they alter your stride and can put strain on your calf muscles and Achilles tendon.

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3. HOKA Anacapa Low GTX Hiking Shoe

HOKA Anacapa Low GTX Hiking Shoes

  • Type: Hiking Shoe
  • Cushion: High
  • Drop: 6 mm
  • Wide Sizes: Available
  • Durability: Excellent
The Anacapa Low GTX is a hiking shoe that combines the enhanced durability of a hiking shoe with the performance of a trail runner. Waterproof, low-profile, grippy, and light, their nubuck leather outers and Gore-Tex lining provide enhanced durability and moisture protection. Compression-molded EVA midsoles provide a balanced, cushioned, and stable ride that resists ankle rolling while their extended heel geometry and enhanced front rocker allow for smoother heel-to-toe transitions and easier push-off. The Anacapa Low GTX has Vibram Megagrip soles and 5 mm lugs that provide good traction on hard dry surfaces but can be a little sloppy for serious scrambling and edging. The durability of these shoes is quite good, however, due to their nubuck leather outers which should keep them on the trail for multiple seasons.

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4. La Sportiva Ultra Raptor II Trail Runner

La Sportiva Ultra Raptor

  • Type: Trail Runner
  • Cushion: Medium
  • Drop: 9 mm
  • Wide Sizes: Available
  • Durability: Average
The La Sportiva Ultra Raptor II is an all-terrain mountain running shoe with a sticky rubber outsole geared towards rocky and unforgiving. 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 do not have a gaiter trap on the heel, however, so be prepared to stick a piece of velcro on the back unless you wear gaiters with a strap that runs through the arch.  Read the SectionHiker La Sportiva Ultra II Raptor Review.

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5. Merrell Moab 3 Hiking Shoes

Merrell Moab 2 Low Vent Hiking Shoes

  • Type: Hiking Shoe
  • Cushion: Medium
  • Drop: 11 mm
  • Wide Sizes: Available
  • Durability: Excellent
The Merrell Moab 3 is a combination mesh and leather trail shoe that features excellent breathability, durability, and the 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 5 mm lugs that provide added traction in sand and mud, while a hard nylon shank provides arch support and protection. The Moab 3 is a very stable shoe that resists rolling, with air cushioning in the heels, midsole, and tongue for enhanced shock absorption while still providing the shoes with an excellent level of “trail feel”, which is a little surprising to find in an otherwise burly trail shoe. Wide-width sizes and waterproof versions are also available. Read our Moab 3 review. 

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6. Hoka Speedgoat 5 Trail Runner

Hoka One One Speedgoat 5

  • Type: Trail Runner
  • Cushion: Maximum
  • Drop: 4 mm
  • Wide Sizes: Available
  • Durability: Average
The Hoka Speedgoat 5 is a well-cushioned, grippy mesh trail running shoe that provides sure-footed traction in rough terrain. Breathable uppers and a wide toe box provide lots of comfort on long hikes, while the shoe’s excellent midfoot support provides stability and a secure feel. A Vibram Megagrip rubber outsole provides grip in wet and dry conditions while the 4 mm drop allows you to enjoy the benefits of a lower drop shoe without a long adaption period. While less pronounced than the Anacapa Low GTX Hiking Shoe listed above, the Speedgoat also has an extended heel geometry and enhanced front rocker allowing for smoother heel-to-toe transitions and easier push-off. Whether you’re running or hiking this help preserve your cadence so you can pound out the miles. However, the Speedgoat 5 does have a pronounced stack height that reduces trail feel in situations like rock scrambling where a lower-height shoe might provide more sensitivity.

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7. Salomon X Ultra 4 GORE-TEX Hiking Shoes

Salomon X Ultra 4 GORE-TEX Hiking Shoes

  • Type: Hiking Shoe
  • Cushion: Moderate
  • Drop: 11 mm
  • Wide Sizes: Available
  • Durability: Excellent
The Salomon X Ultra 4 Gore-Tex shoes are rugged shoes that can be used for day hikes and backpacking trips across a wide range of terrain. They draw on Salomon’s trail-running expertise and share many of the properties and components of its nimbler trail runners, including the grippy ContraGrip outsole, the ADV-C support chassis, and the shoe’s unique quick lace system which you don’t tie but pull to tighten. While well built and envisioned, you’re either to love the X Ultra 4 or hate it because it’s a fairly stiff shoe with an internal shank, a deep heel cup that can irritate your ankles, and because the quick lace system makes it difficult to modify the pressure of the laces in different spots along the top of the shoe. On the flip side, the X Ultra 4 is a lightweight hiking shoe with a roomy toe box, excellent traction, and good support. Try them: you might really like them.

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8. Brooks Cascadia 16 Trail Runner

Brooks Cascade Trail 16 Trail Runner

  • Type: Trail Runner
  • Cushion: Medium
  • Drop: 8 mm
  • Wide Sizes: Available
  • Durability: Very Good
Now in its 16th iteration, the Brooks Cascadia 16 is an incredibly refined trail runner loaded with features that trail runners and hikers will find valuable. Combining cushioning with protection, channels in the midsoles and outsole construction let the shoes mold easily to the ground, improving a stable ride. A ballistic rock plate protects against pebbles and uneven terrain and the gusseted tongue keeps out sand and small debris. The shoes have a heel gaiter tab and a lace keeper so laces don’t untie when underway. Synthetic inlays on the front and along the side help protect the shoe’s exterior mesh from abrasion while drainage ports help evacuate water quickly. Deeply lugged are made with a sticky rubber provides excellent grip on both wet and dry surfaces. The Cascadia 16 is a great all-rounder that works in just about any terrain, providing stable comfort and traction.

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9. KEEN Targhee III Waterproof Low Hiking Shoes

KEEN Targhee III WP Hiking Shoes

  • Type: Hiking Shoes
  • Cushion: Medium
  • Drop: 8-10 mm
  • Wide Sizes: Yes (Amazon)
  • Durability: Excellent
KEEN’s Targhee III Waterproof Low Hiking Shoes are bomber-durable hiking shoes made with soft and pliable nubuck leather with a KEEN.dry waterproof liner. They have a wide toe-box so your feet can splay out and relax with 4mm multidirectional rubber lugs that offer high-traction grip across a wide variety of terrain. Despite being leather, the shoes don’t require much if any break in time. They have an internal shank that provides support and protection against pebbles and sharp rocks, but the level of cushioning provided is just average and nothing exceptional. The fit of these shoes runs wide but wide sizes are also available on Amazon (sold by KEEN). 
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10. Topo Athletic Terraventure 3 Trail Runners

Topo Athletic Terraventure 3 Trail Runners

  • Type: Trail Runner
  • Cushion: Medium
  • Drop: 3 mm
  • Wide Sizes: No
  • Durability: Average
Topo Athletic’s Terraventure 3 Trail Runners are medium-cushioned trail runners designed for use on rugged trails. They have a 3mm drop and wide toe box that provides plenty of room for your toes to splay out naturally. Vibram Megagrip outsoles with generously spaced lugs deliver excellent grip on wet and dry surfaces, while the shoe’s mesh uppers drain and dry quickly when they get wet. A flexible forefoot rock plate provides protection on technical trails but there’s not much protection for the toes at the front of shoe. While the Terraventure 3 has a gaiter attachment behind the heal, it uses a 3-hook fastening system that’s not widely used. It’s still a great trail runner, but you’ll need to figure out how to use a 3rd party gaiter if you don’t opt for Topo’s. Read the SectionHiker Terraventure 3 Review.
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How To Choose Hiking 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. This 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. For example, some thru-hikers can get an entire hike out of a pair of hiking shoes but will go through three or more pairs of trail runners to travel the same distance. That can get kind of expensive, as you can imagine.

Hiking Shoes vs Trail Runners: What’s the Difference?

Hiking shoes are really just meant for walking, while trail runners can be used for walking or running. That’s probably the simplest definition. The truth is there is a lot of overlap between the categories. In general however, you’ll find that hiking shoes are heavier and more durable, while trail runners wear out much more quickly because they’re lighter weight and made with less durable materials.

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 a poor fit

If your toenails 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 hiking 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 when wearing one. On the flip side, many hikers and backpackers are able to carry heavy packs and walk on 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. Rock plates and stone guards in the forefoot of the shoe provide additional protection from sharp stones that can bruise your feet, particularly when trail running.

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 place. If this is the case, make sure there is a flat surface on the back of the heel so you can glue the velcro strip to it.

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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24 comments

  1. I really like the Keen Targhee III’s. Strange that REI doesn’t sell them in wide widths but Amazon does.

    • That’s KEEN selling on Amazon. They also sell them direct from KEEN’s European websites,but not from their US one. I try to do the leg work for my readers to make sure I link to stores that actually have the products. It’s more difficult than you realize! :-)

      • Hey, Chief Hiking Officer, I’m sure I speak for more than myself when I say thanks for taking that extra care. It’s appreciated.

  2. I really love the Merrell MQM 3 hking shoes. Very lightweight and comfortable once you toss the insole out and get a better one.

  3. “Hiking shoes and trail runners are the most popular footwear used by hikers and backpackers today.”

    Is this statement based on a source of US data? My observations in the mountain ranges of Europe would indicate that this is very much not true.

  4. I knew my understanding of backpacking was old n
    Manish when I watched a half dozen 20 somethings, with full packs, descending
    cascade canyon in the tons wearing flip flops

  5. Hey Philip, Howard Aronson here. I use the Topo Runventure, ever since Altra got rid of the King MT. It’s a Zero Drop, with a very grippy Vibram sole. You should check it out.

  6. I surprised no Oboz shoes made the list. They are highly regarded by many. I like them better than the Merrell and Keens you listed.

    • Highly regarded or not, I’ve tried a number of the newer models in the past year and they’re simply not as good as in previous years. That said, I swear by the bridger 10 400gram boots for winter hiking (on my second pair) but that’s a different list.

  7. My NF Ultra 110’s were comfortable out of the box, never even a hot spot… I’ve beaten the crap out of them for years and now I have to start thinking about some new shoes… thanks for the leg work on the list, very helpful as always!

  8. Strange to me that you do not include Oboz such as the Sawtooth II or it’s successors. Great shoe for comfort, support stability and traction yet still light at 2# per pair.

    • The Sawtooth X, which I reviewed last spring is really nowhere as good as the sawtooth II of which I own two pairs. That’s why it’s not on this list. If you like the II, buy it before it vanishes completely.

  9. Please consider a similar list for hiking BOOTS.
    Preferably, boots that DON’T have a waterproof/breathable membrane (Gore-Tex).

  10. Philip, if you’re going to include 2 HOKA ONE’S in the grouping, then where is the Altra Olympus? Probably one of the most comfortable and versatile trail shoes available.

    https://www.rei.com/product/209551/altra-olympus-5-trail-running-shoes-mens

  11. Opinion on the Altra Olympus shoe w/o Gore Tex liner?

  12. Perhaps this will be helpful to ppl with very narrow feet, preferring a 0 drop shoe. I’ve found the Merrell Trail Glove a perfect fit. All other 0 drop shoes I’ve tried are waaay too wide; even if I wear heavy socks. The traction is excellent on rocks of the Whites. Hope that’s helpful.

  13. This article on the 10 best men’s hiking shoes and trail runners of 2023 is incredibly informative and helpful for outdoor enthusiasts like myself. I appreciate the clear distinction between hiking shoes and trail runners and the emphasis on choosing footwear that fits well and suits the specific hiking conditions. It’s great to see a variety of preferences catered to, whether it’s waterproof options, cushioning, durability, or lightweight mesh trail runners.

    I found the review of the Danner Trail 2650 GTX hiking shoes to be particularly intriguing. The combination of being lightweight, durable, and suitable for moderately challenging terrain makes them a compelling choice. The reinforced heel counters, TPU shank, and Vibram Megagrip outsoles sound like they offer excellent support and traction. Additionally, the fact that they can be worn casually or to work without looking like hiking shoes is a definite plus.

    I’m also interested in learning more about the Altra Lone Peak 7 Trail Runners. Since they are listed as the second recommendation, I assume they must have some standout features as well. I’m curious about their cushioning, durability, and overall performance on the trails. It would be helpful to know more about their specific design and any unique advantages they offer.

    Overall, I’m grateful for this article as it provides valuable insights into the best hiking shoes and trail runners available in 2023. It has given me a better understanding of the options out there, and I’m looking forward to making an informed decision for my next hiking adventure. Thank you for sharing this informative piece!

    • Philip, how do you feel about AI-generated responses such as this one?

      Also, any reason no Saucony options made this list? I’m a huge fan of the Peregrine myself.

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