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Top 10 Backpacker Recommended Hiking Boots and Trail Shoes – 2017

Top 10 Hiking Boots and Trail Shoes

Hiking Boots and Trail Shoes are becoming much lighter weight. There’s no doubt about it. We surveyed 440 backpackers to find out what their favorite hiking boots and trail shoes are it’s clear that the era of heavy leather hiking boots is on the wane. Perhaps ever more amazing is that the top 10 hiking boots and trail shoes we identified are used by nearly half of our survey respondents, demonstrating a high degree of consensus among backpackers. If you’re looking for the best hiking and backpacking boots or trails shoes, you should definitely start with the 10 backpacker recommended hiking boots shoes listed below!

1. Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator Mids

Moab 2 Mid Ventilator
Merrell’s Moab 2 Ventilator Mids 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 Ventilator 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 Ventilator Mid is also available as a low trail shoe, the Moab 2 Vent Low ($100).  

2. Altra Lone Peak 3.0

Altra Lone Peak
The Altra Lone Peak 3.0 ($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 ($160) which provides more ankle support.

3. Keen Targhee II Mids

Keen Targhee II Mid 300-3
The Keen Targhee II 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 version, the waterproof Keen Targhee II ($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 an ultra 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 excellent 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, while still providing a roomy toebox. They are available in men’s and women’s models.  

5. Salomon X-Ultra 2

Salomon X-Ultra 2
The Salomon X-Ultra 2 ($120) offers a sleek, athletic design, breathable uppers, stable chassis and grippy soles designed for fast hiking on moderate to technical terrain. A minimalist lacing system secures with 1-pull tightening, while gussets create continuous connections between tongues and uppers, blocking out debris. The X-Ultra provides great traction in all types of terrain and dries quickly in wet conditions. Men’s and women’s version of the X-Ultra are available, with a GTX liner ($145) and without, described above. An X-Ultra Mid ($165) version is also available for both men and women.

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. 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 Wildcats
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 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 II 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. The Lowa Renegade GTX Low  ($210) is also available for men and women. 

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  1. Disappointed that you didn’t include a single minimalist choice :(

    • I don’t think you understand. These are the shoes that hikers ACTUALLY use, not the ones that I think are the best. Minimalist shoes never made the list because most people don’t use them.

      • As for myself, I use #4, the La Sportiva Ultra Raptors. I’ve never been a big fan of “minimalist” shoes myself. I like a little bit more protection, thanks.

      • Guess I won’t be visiting this site anymore Phil. Congratulations. Insulting readers is generally frowned upon if you want clicks. I’ve hiked 800 miles injury and blister free in minimalist shoes. We are people too.

      • How was that an insult? Mystified.

      • Hey Dennis—

        How did Philip insult you? You were just wrong about how shoes got on the list. I think he was pretty kind in how he pointed it out. I would have thought you’d had thicker skin from those minimalist shoes! Hah!

    • Minimalist shoes aren’t for the majority. I tried them in a few different forms and they are just not comfortable in any way. I found minimalist footwear to be an idealist fantasy that most actual heavy users of outdoor footwear immediately find to be either painful, not durable, or just flat out not designed for walking on top of sharp rocks for hours.

      REI dropped a lot of their minimalist shoes. Every retailer did. There’s a reason they aren’t selling. Now that the honeymoon period is over people are back to the kinds of things on this list. It’s tried and true.

      Meanwhile, check out the saucony peregrine 6. Excellent shoes, my new favorite trail runner for hiking.

      • I think it´s more of an individual thing. It took me about 3 months to get my feet used to barefoot shoes but after that initial period no problems. I completed a few longish hikes in minimalist shoes, including the Inca Trail and most of the EBC and other trekking in that area, I only put boots on over about 4,500m

    • Just because your a minimalist doesn’t mean you need everything minimalist. Footwear while backpacking is important and shouldn’t be skimped on. Safety first. If you need a minimalist shoe than you have bigger issues.

    • Under Armor put out an awesome line of trail runners called the Horizon series I own the Horizon RTT and that shoe has excellent protection, breathability and has an aggressive 5mm lug with a superb grip. I’ve walked over Jagged pointy rocks and loose gravel type terrain with no issues. Very conmfortable but I’d recommend to size up half size if using a thicker sock.

  2. I had a pair pf the La Sportiva Wildcats and would not describe them as having a wide toe box, at least for my bunioned left foot but they certainly were my longest lasting pair of trial runners. The rubber sole wore out down to the base but the mesh uppers were still flawless.

    • Pretty hard to fit people with bunions. The Wildcat does have fairly soft uppers…I’ve tried them myself…so that probably helps with the comfort.

      • As a hiker with bunions, I adore the men’s Salomon Eskape GTX. I wear women’s 9 and got the men’s 8.5 in that shoe. Great traction, waterproof, light and comfortable.

  3. As always, thanks so much for conducting this survey and providing us all with an opportunity to see what your others readers are doing.

  4. I’m still loving my adidas ax2’s …

  5. I was all excited for a high top traill runner until I clicked and saw it was (*&^%$! waterproof.

  6. I have a pair of Merrell Moabs (not waterproof) and love them. But I also have a pair of Hi-Tech Bandera Lows (“waterproof)–my second pair–and I love them, too. My feet are “normal” and don’t require anything particularly special. The fit in my size is fine, the shoes are as light as the Merrells and about as durable. They cost about half what some of the hiker-preferred shoes cost.

  7. Altra Mid 3 trail shoes are great. Hiked 45 miles last month .
    Very comfortable. Have the high top pair for ankle support.

    • I second your opinion. Just finished a 65 mile hike in the Sierras a couple of weeks ago using a pair of Altra Lone Peak 3 mid heights, and it was the most comfortable hike foot wise I have ever taken in over 45 years of hiking. Have already bought two more pair just to be sure I have some for the next few years. Yes, my feet got damp a few times because of the Gortex like lining, but I just removed the insoles at night and they were perfectly dry by morning. Love the shoes, especially the difference in weight compared to what I was used to wearing.

    • Will second that opinion. Bought them, did a 65 mile hike in the Sierra and had zero foot issues. Bought two extra pair for when the first ones wear our.

  8. I honestly think that these “favorites” polls should almost be grouped into geographic regions.

    Here in the Pacific Northwest I have flirted and tried several jackets and trail runners or upper mesh shoes and always end up coming back to wearing a ventilating cagoule or full upper leather shoe. I just realize that a shoe that may work well for 2/3 of the PCT simply does not work in 2-3 days of sustained PNW rain.

    Living in CA and wearing a trail runner dry in a few hours is not the same as having cold, wet feet for two days or more in the Northwest.

    If I lived in Arizona, California, Nevada or Louisiana I would enthusiastically go with a 6 oz rain jacket I’d never really need and trail runners.

    • I hear what you’re saying, but I think peoples’ actual hiking boot/trail shoe choices are more dictated by personal preferences (low vs. mid. vs. high), (waterproof vs non-waterproof), and by fit (super important!) than by perceived environmental needs.

    • I wore Wildcats from Canada to Mexico on the PCT last year and had snow and fairly constant freezing rain through most of Washington (I sometimes joke my feet weren’t dry till I crossed the OR border) and snow occasionally up to my waist in SoCal which they coped well with. I personally don’t think leather shoes would work in the Pacific Northwest, my Wildcats dried pretty quickly when it wasn’t raining not something a leather shoe will do and generally mesh shoes are more comfortable (in my experience). Having “waterproof goretex” shoes would have been pointless, my feet would still have been wet and taken many times longer to dry and they’d have been unbearably hot on the extremely warm days in Oregon and Washington.

      I’m Scottish though so perhaps I’ve gotten used to the cold, wet and snow and don’t expect my feet to be warm and dry… ;)

  9. Anyone care to comment on which of these would be the most cushioned or be the best for someone with heel pain / PF ? I feel like PF is going to end my backpacking life…

    • The insoles of all hiking boots and trail shoes (all shoes for that matter) are rubbish. I’ve started putting Superfeet Carbon in my hiking shoes and boots to prevent pronation, which causes my PF. They’re thin and durable insoles and they’ve really helped.
      More info:
      Approximately 25% of hikers use insoles.

    • Tom, I have PF and a heel spur. I use Keen Voyaguers, similar to the Targhees. I also use OBOZ but when my PF flares up, I go to the Keens. I have also started using the Bitly compression sleeve socks that Philip has recommended. I cannot hike in them but I do sleep in them. They do help quite a bit. In both the Keens and OBOZ I use Superfeet insoles. The Keens are bigger volume shoes and I am able to use the green Superfeet, the OBOZ are a smaller volume so I use the Superfeet Carbon.

  10. I love my Low Moab Ventilators. I wore out my first pair and just bought a second. The insoles they come with are rubbish though. Add some Dr. Scholl’s Work insoles, and they are like walking on a cloud.

  11. Surprised to see that the Brooks Cascadia didn’t make the list. It’s easily equal to, or a very close second favorite found on the feet of distance hikers. Only in recent years has the Lone Peak began rob share from the Cascadia. For those like myself, where the attempted zero-drop transition didn’t go well, the Cascadia still rules. They are also far more common than Salomon which are regarded as a shoe for very narrow feet. A narrow forefoot isn’t common amongst thruhikers.

  12. I thru hiked SOBO in 2013 with the Moab Ventilators and found that the toe protector peeled less than 200 miles into the trail. Merrell has a great thru hiker policy where they’ll ship you a free pair if it meets the warranty standards. My second pair peeled just like the first. My hiking partner had the same issue with his pair. I switched out to a Solomon XA 3D Pro right before McAfee’s Knob and they lasted me to Springer. That’s the only shoe I’ll hike in now.

  13. Philip you said you used wildcats and now ultra raptors, are the raptors any narrower because I use wildcats now love them but they are a bit wide for my foot and there isn’t any where to try them on where I live.

  14. Are there any shoes or brands you were surprised did not poll higher? I can think of a few popular brands that aren’t listed that I know a lot of people use – Columbia, Inov, North Face, Oboz, Teva, etc. Personally I’m La Sportiva all the way.

  15. Will be trying my new Salomon XA 3Ds on the AT in two weeks. Based on staff recommendation, I had bought the Lowa Renegade GTX Mids for Philmont trip this year, but my feet end up sweaty on anything but the coldest days.

  16. When I use trail runners, I went with my Solomon Fellraisers. I liked them for a while but realised I have a wife foot. After searching around I picked up a pair of New Balance Hierro’s. I haven’t used them on the trail yet, but wearing them around the house they feel amazing.
    When trail conditions/weather calls for boots, I go with my Keen mids. Keens have always fit me perfect, straight out of the box.

  17. I used the Targhee II mids last year and really liked them except they are a little soft in the sole. My job allows for very causal wear so I actually wear them several days a week. But for backpacking this year I am going to try a pair of Keen Detroit mids which is the work boot version of the Targhee II mid, but with a plastic plate in the sole. They are definitely more stiff and seem to be the same weight.

  18. I read your list with interest. I am wearing my second Pair of Asolo boots for women and am very happy with them. They were recommended by a female boot fitter at EMS. As a good fit for someone with a narrow heel and wide toe box. I am disappointed Asolo did not make the list!!

    • That’s why we have all these brands of shoes – people have highly variable feet. I have some Asolo old-fashioned all-leather boots with Goretex because they came in “narrow” and fit me well. These are my winter boots and (colder-weather) mud boots. The three-season shoes are Salewa FireTail low-cut approach shoes, which work well on rocky, rooty paths and scree. Plus, socks – multiple pairs, change every 3 to 4 hours.

  19. Any thoughts on a good low trail runner that can also be used on concrete/city walks? I’m planning on doing the Camino de Santiago, which goes through mountains and cities, around 10-15 km walking per day. I want something lightweight, breathable and can handle all that terrain. Thank you!

    • Any of the trail runners on this list

    • We walked the Camino from St. Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de la Compostela last September and October.
      You wil need a shoe that you can wear in all terrains, including footpaths, country lanes with ample cow pats, very rocky up and downhills, roadways, both sealed and unsealed and lots of mud if it rains.
      I began in hiking boots but swapped after a few days to Asics walking shoes.
      Shoes are only part of the equation with regards to trouble free feet.
      We wore 1000 mile socks that had an inner liner and an outer merino layer.
      We used athletic tape to protect our heels and shins and to immediately treat hotspots if they developed. This tape was left on until it literally fell off.
      We powdered our feet before putting on socks in the morning. We also used a little raw sheep wool between our toes to lubricate any rubbing.
      We did not shower in the mornings so as to avoid moist feet and we took our shoes and socks off during rest or meal stops so air could dry things out a bit.
      Additionally, we used Pacerpoles to prevent slips and falls and to transfer weight from our feet to our arms during ascents and descents. There are lots of those on the Camino.
      800 kms later, not one blister, not one foot issue.
      Knees on the other hand, well, that’s another story!
      Do the walk Corbin. You’ll never regret it.

  20. Surprised to not see any Asolo, I have worn thevAsolo TPS, and Fugitve styles all in the GTX, for many years and find them superior to the Merrill, which I wore previous. They do need a bit more break in, are expensive, but once fitted, the are almost bulletproof, a little heavier, but worth it. Recommended 15 years ago from a thru hikers met at Zealand Hut on an early September sections n hike. Definitely should be in the top 10.

    • I voted Keen Targhee, II although my other favorite hiking shoes are Asolo FSN 95’s. I figured I’d vote for the ones I use during warm weather hikes. If the temps are going to dip or there’s a chance of cold and rain or snow, I always hike in the Asolo’s. nothing beats dry feet when it’s near freezing and raining for 24 hours straight. Even in the summer, I’d rather have dry feet and deal with the little bit of sweat I occasionally have than have soaking wet prune feet. That’s why I always choose waterproof options over trail runners.

      • By the way, for the person who wanted geographic reference–I live in Northeast GA and mostly hike the GA and NC sections of the AT. We had snow here last week. I’ve seen snow at elevation here as late as May and as early as September.

    • I agree completely with your assessment, but I find the Salomons to be equally comfortable, and the Quest model is lighter than the Fugitive. If I was going to be hiking extremely rough terrain then I would opt for the Fugitive.

    • Just not in the top 10. I used Asolos for years too.

  21. I agree whole heartedly about the Vasquez Breeze on the list. I am currently on my 4th pair or that model. And not because they wore out. Every pair was comfortable right out of the box. They just seem to comfort my foot.

  22. They seem to be very difficult to find (for me)….. any ideas on extra wide hiking boots/shoes?

  23. Personally I thought the Keen Targhee II sucked. My somewhat narrow feet slid around and the sole of the shoe really does a horrible job of absorbing impact. One of my favorites is the Brooks Cascadia 11 GTX built with direct input from trail runners. Might not be technically a hiking shoe but is absorbs impacts, has a rugged sole, and is waterproof.

  24. Phil,
    I do not know if you can answer this: I am an AT section hiker. In two of the last 3 years, I have developed shin splints (although, one doctor felt it was closer to a stress fracture) usually in my 3rd week of hike. In all 3 years, I have hiked with Vasque mid-size boots. Two fellow hikers have felt that wearing a midsize boot versus a hiking shoes may be my problem. I will be section hiking in May 2017. I am thinking of wearing hiking shoes this year. Do you have any data that shin splints occur more frequently with boots compared to hiking shoes? Thanks.

    • Two things. Try using an insole in your boots, and don’t start walking in hiking shoes on the trail. Your feet and calves need to adjust to them. I suggest you hike in them off pavement for 100 miles before you try to hike for them for 3 weeks. My 2 cents. I’d also suggest wearing compression socks. They really do help with blood flow and heeling, but just during the day. Give your feet and calvesa break at night. That’s 3 things I guess.

      • Thanks, Phil. I just saw a sports podiatrist who examined my Vasque mid-size boots, which I have used in the past. He felt that the reason for my shin splints/stress fracture is that my boots lacked strong support, which he demonstrated by flexing the boots. He suggested a new boot that does not bend and orthotics; REI recommended Lowa Camino GTX which I purchased. Thanks.

  25. Just curious, was this a pole of what people currently use or was it specifically what people recommended? Those two things “should” be the same in most cases, but many people who own one thing are looking for something better; hence the need to differentiate.

  26. What’s up with all this Made in China footwear, and no mention of HanWag and Zamberlan, the finest names in hiking boots? Only thing here that’s even close in quality, comfort and durability is Lowa.

    Personally I prefer HanWag, and have owned four pairs, Tashi, Bergler, and two pairs of Banks GTX. I still own them, actually, because I can’t wear them out, and even if I could, couldn’t part with them. I wear them for work (I’m an electrician), hiking, and around town. Always a perfect fit right out of the box, no break-in period, and after years and countless miles, nary a blister or hot spot and oh yeah, my feet are always dry.

    Pay up for German made quality and you’ll never regret it!

    • Unfortunately, almost all Zamberlan boots entirely include Gore-Tex. Wish they still made the all-leather pair that I have – one single layer of boot leather and a little padding around the tongue and ankle. Good combination of durability and lightness that I would still be wearing if my feet hadn’t grown a little over the last decade.

  27. Interesting list. For most hiking, i gravitate toward higher (boot) styles over lower cuts, both for ankle protection and, with stiffer soles, preventing general foot fatigue. Can’t imagine scrambling up steep boulder fields with a full pack in running shoes.

    I’ve gone through various Merrells over the years. They’ve mostly fit well out of the box (zero to no break-in), and have shown moderate durability. For my last upgrade, i tried many models from many manufacturers. Nothing was fitting well, including most previously trusty Merrells. Climbed the cost ladder a bit to the Merrell Phaser Peaks, which were Golidilocks-like just right. A little heavy at 3.5 lbs. per pair, but with some Smart Feet inserts, my feets are happy after many miles on varied trails.

    I also picked up a pair of Keen Durand Mids to use for work. These are also really comfortable and sturdy enough that i wouldn’t hesitate to take them on the trail.

    Would be interested to see where Limmers fell in the survey. Years (and years) ago, when i had a summer job in the White Mountains, custom, hand-made Limmer boots (in Darth Vader black) were kind of a cult item amongst the trail cognoscenti (AMC and Forest Service folks). Aspiring to the realm, i made the pilgrimage to Intervale, got measured up, and plunked down my $125, a fairly rich sum at the time. I know people swear by these boots, but, long story short, the boots never fit me properly, never broke in to any point resembling comfort. I went back and had them push and tug at the leather, but to no avail. I eventually demoted them to occaisional-use work boots. I think the custom Limmers are pushing a thousand bucks now. Wondering how many people are still trudging around in these things.

  28. I thought Altra Lone Peaks might be my new favorite for backpacking. The 2.5 model shoes have a wider toe box than the 3.0’s and are very comfortable. However, I noticed they slip a bit on damp flagstones at home and have less traction than my old Salomon Synapses and a newer pair of Brooks Caldera trail runners. They’re not going with me to Maine this summer or anywhere else which might have wet roots and rocks on the trail. (The Synapses which carried me through several years and hundreds of miles backpacking on the JMT and AT have been discontinued.)

  29. Thank you for the boot article. Perfect timing as I am just getting ready to purchase a new/lighter pair of boots. I have been wearing a pair of leather ASOLO Powermatic backpacking boots and have loved them, though they are a little heavy. I made note of the “mids” mentioned to try on and was also looking at the ASOLO Drifter.

  30. I switched to Saucony trail runners for all of my backpacking and hiking trips and don’t plan to ever go back to regular hiking boots. I live in the Pacific Northwest where it’s frequently wet, and I walk right through the water instead of attempting to rock hop. The trail runners usually dry out by the time I get back to camp. Changing into a pair of dry socks is all that is needed. I’m sure it won’t be the answer for everyone, but wearing shoes with a dropped heel completely got rid of the ball of foot pain that I used to experience in my hiking boots.

  31. I love my Altra Lone Peaks! I have a short & wide foot with a high instep so it’s very difficult to find a shoe that fits all around. It was a toss up between these and the Peregrine 6’s. If you have my foot profile, give either of them a shot.

    I’m on the East Coast of Canada, and my daily trail is often damp and rocky.

    To the person needing a combo road/trail shoe, any would work well. I would however shy away from shoes with a super sticky sole, as they will wear down more quickly :)

  32. Philip– can you explain in a nutshell why you seem (from some of the comments) to prefer non-waterproof footwear to waterproof? Thanks

    • It switched after hiking the 100 mile wilderness in 2009 when we received 6″ of rain in something like 5 days. My leather Asolo 520’s were soaking wet and very heavy from walking in calf deep water and I vowed never again to wear shoes that couldn’t drain and dry quickly. The next year I backpacked across Scotland, which is also awash in water (think 12 stream crossings per day) and I wore mesh trail runners. They drained quickly and I didn’t have to take them off every time I came to a stream. I literally just walked right through the streams and kept on going. Much easier to walk in them and much lighter. Since then, I’ve always worn mesh trail runners, except for winter hiking. They breath very well, they’re soft so I NEVER get blisters, and they provide fabulous grip even on wet rock. What’s not to like?

  33. I bought 3 pair of the original design Innov 8 Terroc 330s on close out and sacrificed one pair for EDC (Every Day Clodhopper) use. After 2 years, they are finally showing some wear–those things are tough!

    Stomping through water and walking my feet dry is fine in warmer conditions. My question deals with the shoulder seasons when there’s not enough snow for winter gear but the melt water leads to yowsa wowsa cold feet when traversed in mesh trail runners. What do you use as your Slush Puppies?

    • Same as in summer. Darn Tough hiker socks and La Sportiva Ultra Raptors (two more pairs just arrived). The cold water sucks, but it’s not an issue if I keep moving. My Feet warm up pretty quickly. I’ve never gotten so cold that I’ve had to stop. I simply avoid terrain with a lot of snow in it unless it’s warm and sunny out.

  34. I have both the low-top Altras and high-top Vasque. I use the Vasques for hiking and the Altras for flatland walking and everyday use. I absolutely love both. I am diabetic, have peripheral neuropathy which means that among other symptoms, my toes are all totally numb and my feet are often painful. Walking on hard, paved surfaces is tough. But the no-drop heel and wide toebox on the Altras allow me to walk quite comfortably. Before I started using them, I had almost quit going for walks, as other shoes forced my toes together and jammed them into the shoe-front with every step, and yes, I was wearing correctly sized shoes! Altras are wonderful!
    As for the Vasques, I did a lot of research before buying them and was confidant they’d be reasonably comfortable and durable. They have far surpassed my expectations! They are the most comfortable footwear I have ever owned, better than any tennis shoes, loafers, whatever. I have worn Rockport ProWalkers at work for 40 years, on my feet the entire day. If they’d let me, I’d wear the Vasques to work!
    Other wearers may think otherwise, but as for me, the Altras and the Vasques have been a Godsend.

  35. Maglietta Juventus Magnusson

    Very nice article, exactly what I was looking for.
    Maglietta Roma Santos

  36. Great article! I also noticed the #1 shoe was on sale for a great price so I purchased them. My old boots were killing my heels by the 5 mile. This weekend my kids and I hiked a 13 and my boots performed amazingly! Thanks a ton.

  37. Hey Phil, thanks for the list! Have you ever tried hiking boots from Asolo? If so, what did you think?

  38. Interesting how different your online voting was than the treks actual reviews of AT hikers is. What’s your feeling on why they have 75percent trail runners vs your high percentage of boots?

  39. Thanks for this great list and all the comments. I wore Lowa Renegade for training and during the 500 mile Camino de Santiago. The boots were great – are still great – and I would buy them again, if and when they wear out!

    • Dear Anne,
      did you wear the renegade during hot weather? Which month?
      Thanks indeed. I’m planning to buy them fro Camino for June.
      Too hot?
      Thanks indeed,

      • For the Camino, be concerned about getting the sizing correct for the shoes and socks you plan to wear. If you normally wear dress socks and you take thick smartwool socks for the hike, the socks will take up space on both ends of your feet. While you are hiking the hills and hills and hills of the Camino your feet will swell and you’ll need shoes that are a size larger than your current shoes. Also, take a blister kit. (Needle, iodine, plasters, etc) And in the end, relax in knowing you can walk with blisters.
        Buen Camino!

  40. Hi Philip, thanks for the great review. I’m torn on what to do. I’m doing the PCT this year (2017). My feet love my Vasque Breeze GTX gortex boots. They have taken me thru may wet hikes (West Coast Trail, North Coast Trail, etc). But I’m doing the PCT and I was told that breathable, fast drying (not gortex) trail runners where better for this hike. So I bought a pair of Brooks Cascadia’s 12’s and gave them a try on a few training hikes. I hate them. They are narrow and don’t provide the support I’m use to but more annoying ….they are so porous that my toes are coated in trail grit by the end of the day (no wonder so many PCT’ers get blisters). They tell me that my feet are going to be wet all day (thru the Sierra’s) if I wear gortex (wet from the inside out) and wet all day (thru the Sierra’s) if I wear trail runners because they are so porous (but at least they dry faster they say). My feet don’t sweat a lot in gortex (plus I will have my knee high gortex gaiters) and I plan on using my New Balance Minimus for the river crossings. Is this a bad idea? Or should I follow the herd and go with trail runners (thru the Sierra’s)?



    • People have hiked the pct in heavy snow years in leather boots. I cant tell you what’s right for you…the reason it’s called hike your own hike. You’re going to go through multiple pairs of shoes. If you decide to change mid hike, you’ll change. But I would recommend you buddy up with a pct mentor to talk these things through with. I wouldn’t use a goretex lined shoe, but I doubt it would ruin my hike if I did.

    • Well-fitting footwear is critical for walking 20 miles a day. I used the Cascadias with green super feet, but for reference I’d been using Cascadias for 6 years so they were already my go-to shoe. I’d suggest working to find a breathable trail shoe that fits you (while I try to ignore the fads of the herd, sometimes the herd does things for a good reason), but if you can’t find one then your well-fitted boots with water shoes seem like a smart option. But be sure to bring an extra pair of socks (or two) so you can swap out socks a few times a day.

    • You should wear what you think is the best for your. If you hate them, leave them. Trail and error….

      In Europe on the Camino de Santiago I was wearing Lowa Renegade GTX and heavy duty boots Lowa Tibet GTX. I can see the advantages of light trail shoes in desert environment. Up in the mountains I would only trust more robust boots due to my experiences and preferences in the Eastern Alps in Europe.

      And last, never hike without Merino wool on your feet….. ;-)

  41. I’ve had my Merrell Moab Gore-tex Waterproof Lows for the past five years when I started to get serious about hiking. I got the waterproof version as I wanted to and still do use them for snowshoeing as well.

    I’m curious why the ventilated version might be so preferred over the waterproof version, even in wet conditions.

    • When it’s wet, you feet are going to get wet in a waterproof boot. Either from sweat or from water coming in over the top. If your boots are lined with a waterproof barrier it will takes days for them to dry, during which time you will be at a massively higher risk of blisters. Non-waterproof boots, especially mesh ones, drain and dry quickly. if your feet sweat (1 cup per day is the norm), the perspiration dries right away…Not the case with waterproof boots.

      • Philip, do you think that the one cup per day applies to both genders? My feet don’t sweat that much, while the rest of me seems to sweat a lot. My hiking girlfriends seem to have no foot sweat problem, they say.
        I agree totally that the non- waterproof boots are better for one’s feet, simply for drying purposes, but boy are hard to find nowadays. Seems like the manufacturers really are responding to the customer perception that waterproof is better.

      • I’m sure there are individual variations, including age.

        Predominantly waterproof boots…yeah well most people don’t really hike or even walk for that matter. To get unlined shoes, you need to drop into the trail runner category. There are plenty there without a waterproof liner including mids.

      • I have had the Wildcats and they are good, but they are the only trail runners I have found. I Generally more ankle support

  42. Nice write up. There are so many trail-running shoes on the market, and since it’s turning into such a rave, I broke away from the new norm and got a cheap pair of sketchers lite-weight shoes with memory foam insoles. On sale for a whopping 40$. I’m wondering when this memory foam is going to squish into nothing, and have not got them really wet yet. Might have to change those out?… Later. They breathe very well. All and all so far, a pritty great pair of shoes. The reviews are very good. Don’t think I will go back to the waterproof boot thing unless I’m in the snow. Size 13, and a whopping 22 oz. For the pair. Lightest pair of shoes I have ever had. Feels like almost nothing on my feet. Even lighter than most of those you reviewed. Now I just get to see how the rest of the summer thrasing is going to handle them. My go to shoes for now.

  43. I had to laugh when seeing these as I came to the exact same conclusion. One minor difference, I looked at the Altra Mid lone-peaks, well and ended up choosing them as they are the only ones that provided enough room for my toes.

    I tried all of them – some just in the store – some on small hikes. I love the Vasque and any of the La Sportiva but ended with the Altras solely because of the toe box. If Vasque made wider shoes, I would love them as they give you the protected feel of hiking boots but they feel lightweight enough to (almost) compare to a runner. I am using the LaSportiva exclusively as trail runners and the only reason I am not using them for hiking is because I have a chronically inflamed heel (or whatever the pain is I have) and I have to wear ankle shoes to minimize any rubbing or pressure to the ankle. LaSportiva have a good ankle grip, which is a good thing – just not for my messed up feet. The Lowa run narrow and while good quality shoes, they don’t fit me. Same with any Merrel – they all have too high of an arch. Almost ended up with the Salomon but their shoes seem to push my feet in a position where I am putting too much pressure on the inner, front side of my feet, specifically on the inner side of my big toe. It feels like there is more cushioning on the outer side making my feet move inwards. I figured this may stop after having walked them in for a while but didnt want to risk it.

  44. I take it all back on the 20$ sketchers. What a crappy shoe for backpacking. The sole is way to flexible. Next up. New balance trail runners on clearance. 40$.

    • RT….you da’ man! Breaking new ground….gotta love it! Now retired, while in the Navy and as a federal wildlife officer, I had to qualify running semi annually. So for the last 14 years of my career….I ran in Asics Gel Kayanos. After they lost their optimum ability to support running, I would “retire” them / rotate them to trail hiking…..walking them down with Superfeet insoles to “bare nubbins” . I can’t say enough for old running shoes with a good insole. So, keep on keeping-on breaking new ground, brother! See ya’ll out on the trails!

  45. I walk 15K to 20K steps on concrete and steal floors at work everyday. Inside and outside. Needed something to support my feet and help keep them dry, I thought. I been using the Moab for years hiking and tried the Merrell Vibram (Dry) shoe for work. Great comfort and support, legs feel great now but my feet get to hot in the warmer months and sweat too much. I won’t use the “Dry” again.

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