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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. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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$.

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