Your choice of hiking boots is probably the single most important decision you’ll make about hiking gear. Sifting through all the hiking boot brands out there is no easy task
I’ve put in thousands of miles on trails all over the country and tested dozens of different boots. I’ve learned that your hiking boots or shoes can really make or break any hike. Wear the right boot and you’ll be comfortable and confident on the trail. Wear the wrong boot and you’ll quickly find yourself with blown-out uppers, blisters, and aching feet.
In all of my on-trail testing, I’ve found several boot brands that stand out from the rest. Each excels at its own specific niche, and there is no best boot for everyone. The best hiking boots for you will have the right balance of comfort, durability, grip, weight, and style.
I’ve spent years honing in this list of the best hiking boot brands and figuring out what each is best at. I’ll give you specific insights into each brand, where they excel, and where they fall short, all so you can find the perfect fit for you.
Without further ado, here are my top ten hiking boot brands:
- Best Overall Hiking Boots: Danner
- Best Hiking Shoes: Merrell
- Best Day Hiking Boot: KEEN
- Best Trail Running Shoes: Salomon
- Best Mountaineering Hiking Boots: La Sportiva
- Best Lightweight Boots: Altra
- Best Waterproof Hiking Boots: Oboz
- Best Hiking Boot for Narrow Feet: Vasque
- Best Backpacking Boots: Lowa Hiking Boots
- Best Budget-Friendly Boot: REI Co-Op
1. Danner: Best Overall Hiking Boots
There’s just something appealing about a burly old-school hiking boot. Supple leather uppers that look better with time. Chunky rubber soles that grip anywhere and last forever. Sturdy metal hardware. Loads of support. What’s not to like?
Danner builds solid hiking boots with classic style and toughness, but modern performance. They offer a wide range of hiking boots, from burly all-leather trail monsters to airy and lightweight town-to-trail models.
Many (though not all) of their boots are still built on American soil in Portland, Oregon. Danner is proud of their heritage and holds high quality standards.
Want that traditional hiking boot style? The Mountain Light is their original model introduced in 1979, and not a lot has changed other than improved materials. It has the same classic nubuck leather upper, but now with a super-grippy Vibram rubber outsole and optional GORE-TEX membrane. Be prepared for some sticker shock, though. These USA handmade boots don’t come cheap.
The Free Spirit is one of their newer releases—a retro-inspired hiking boot reimagined from the original designs in the late ’80s. With a breathable GORE-TEX liner, it’s entirely waterproof. It’s made from durable suede and has a Vibram outsole. All this is to say, it covers all the bases—they’re waterproof, durable, comfortable and grippy. Check, check, check.
2. Merrell: Best Hiking Shoes
Don’t need the full ankle support of a hiking boot? Merrell builds some of the best low-top hiking shoes out there. They combine the grip and durability of traditional boots with a lighter, more flexible, and more breathable design.
If you pay attention, you’ll see people wearing Merrell shoes on trails all over the country. That’s for good reason. In addition to impressive durability and support, Merrells are known for fantastic out-of-the-box comfort.
The Moab 3 is the most recent iteration of Merrell’s most popular trail shoes. The Merrell Moab features a waterproof lining with sweat-wicking properties to keep your feet dry. A custom-designed Vibram rubber sole features a unique tread system to provide plenty of traction, even on damp surfaces without weighing you down.
The MTL Long Sky 2 is a trail-running-oriented shoe that also works incredibly well for hiking. If you want a hiking shoe that is lightweight, breathable, and insanely comfortable, this is a fantastic choice. The Vibram MegaGrip outsole is super grippy in all conditions, and the soft cushioning keeps you comfy for miles on the trail.
3. KEEN: Best Day Hiking Boot
The most recognizable features of Keen boots are the wide toe box and the wrap-around rubber toe bumper. Their boots give your feet room to spread out, rather than cramping them into a too-narrow fit. The big rubber bumper provides tons of protection and makes these great for days on really rocky trails.
My top pick from Keen is the iconic Targhee III. This is one of the more popular styles for men and women because it has lots of room around the toes, and is virtually indestructible. The nubuck leather looks great and can take a lot of abuse. I know people rocking pairs of Keen Targhee boots that they bought twenty years ago, and they’re still going strong.
For those seeking something a touch lighter, the Durand EVO might fit the bill. It’s still waterproof but features more mesh than the Targhee III. The Durand EVO provides more flexibility while keeping the heels secure so your foot doesn’t slide around inside the boot.
4. Salomon: Best Trail Running Shoes
Trail runners have slightly different needs for traversing trails, namely a lightweight shoe with plenty of tread for grip. There are some great Salomon boots, but their trail running footwear is some of the best on the market. There’s a reason they made it onto my list of the best trail running shoes… twice.
The uppers are breathable and lightweight so they won’t weigh you down or leave your feet soaked in sweat. Salomon rounds out the trail running shoe line with a cushioned footbed and deeper treads to provide a better grip for navigating light to moderate trails.
The Salomon Speedcross 6 is by far their most popular trail shoe. It is lightweight comfortable and has an insane amount of traction and a nice breathable upper. These shoes are made for people who like to go fast and light. The downside is that these have a pretty narrow, technical fit and minimal cushioning that won’t be as comfortable for many people.
If you want something with a bit more comfort for longer distances, the Salomon Sense Ride 5 is a bit less aggressive than the Speedcross and has a more cushioned midsole. This versatile shoe is great for quick runs on local trails or thousand-mile thru hikes.
5. La Sportiva: Best Mountaineering Hiking Boots
La Sportiva specializes in mountaineering boots for expeditions into high altitudes on ice and snow. La Sportiva boots have taken countless climbers to summits in the Himalayas and other high ranges, so they have a pretty good track record.
Their boots are tough, with reinforced uppers and thick rubber outsoles that are designed to offer grip on a wide range of surfaces. They also have GORE-TEX waterproof membranes and synthetic insulation to keep your feet dry and warm in icy conditions.
The Trango Tower Extreme is a technical mountaineering boot that’s designed to be fully compatible with crampons and provide rigid ankle support on steep terrain. This stiff boot has a precise, technical fit that’s designed to give you maximum control when making technical moves in the mountains.
6. Altra: Best Lightweight Boots
Altra is a Utah-based company that got its start with running shoes that were designed to move naturally with your feet rather than force them into an unnatural position. They expanded to making grippy trail running shoes, which quickly became some of the most popular hiking shoes on long trails like the Pacific Crest Trail.
With the popularity of their running shoes among hikers, Altra started adding boots to their lineup. Their boots keep the same FootShape design and comfort as their running shoe models but add more support and protection.
The Lone Peak ALL-WTHR Mid 2 is built on the same platform as Altra’s award-winning Lone Peak trail running shoe. It adds mid-height ankle protection and support but keeps the lightweight feel and wide toe box of the original. It also has an eVent waterproof breathable membrane to keep your feet dry in all conditions. If a capable boot and a breezy trail runner had a kid, this would be it.
If you want something a bit more burly, the Olympus 5 Hike Mid GTX is a bigger, badder, tougher boot that still is lighter than most hiking boots. It has a super wide foot base, which gives you tons of stability and support. The upper is made of durable materials with a protective ankle collar. A Vibram MegaGrip outsole gives you grip on any terrain.
7. Oboz: Best Waterproof Hiking Boots
Not much feels worse than having wet feet with miles to go on your trail, even if you have spare socks to change out as needed. While Oboz isn’t the only company to manufacture waterproof boots, they do it a little differently.
Oboz doesn’t rely on GORE-TEX to make this lightweight boot waterproof. The company uses its proprietary B-DRY system that I’ve found to be impressively waterproof. The breathability isn’t quite as good as something like eVent, but if you want to keep your feet dry on wet trails, Oboz boots work well.
Perhaps the best example is the Bridger Mid that merges modern performance with classic style. These boots have a nubuck leather upper that both looks great and handles abuse well. Oboz uses Vibram outsoles with thick, multi-directional lugs to help you navigate nearly any terrain without feeling the accompanying bumps and nicks underfoot.
Hikers seeking more ankle support might prefer the Sawtooth II because it features a slightly higher ankle cuff for more protection. Plus, these boots have a molded rubber heel with plenty of cushion to provide comfort and stability.
8. Vasque: Best Hiking Boot for Narrow Feet
If you have narrow feet, you know how painful it is to find footwear that works with active lifestyles. For those who don’t know the pain, it’s all about feet sliding around and rubbing in all the wrong places until you develop blisters.
Vasque’s hiking boots represent a game-changer for narrow feet. While the company offers wide-width sizes in popular styles, the standard sizing works well for those with narrower feet.
Other than the fit, there’s nothing especially flashy or earth-shattering about these hiking boots. However, you can get a solid pair of hiking boots to meet your needs, including lightweight and rugged terrain styles.
If you want rugged, heavy-duty leather hiking boots, try the St. Elias with GORE-TEX membrane to keep your feet warm and dry, a toe cap for protection, and full-grain leather uppers. These hiking boots make a solid choice for technical terrain and backpacking trips, but be aware that they run a little heavy. Some people will want a lighter boot.
Lighter hikes might warrant a little less boot, like the Breeze LT with mesh and suede uppers. These boots are lightweight, breathable, and flexible while still offering great grip, protection and durability.
9. Lowa Hiking Boots: Best Backpacking Boots
Lowa specializes in tough outdoor footwear, including some of the best boots for backpacking. If you’re hitting the trail with a heavy pack, you need a boot that is comfortable and supportive. Lowa boots check the boxes with burly construction and tons of support and protection to keep your feet happy even after days on the trail.
The backpacking boot line features leather uppers designed to protect against the elements and trail hazards while providing enough flexibility to move easily. Further, Lowa boots feature Vibram soles with lug patterns designed to handle wet and rocky terrain without you feeling it in the tender parts of your feet.
One of Lowa’s most popular styles is the Renegade GTX Mid that’s versatile enough for light backpacking trips or more intense excursions, like the Appalachian Trail. This leather boot features a climate-control footbed and GORE-TEX lining to keep your foot cozy and dry.
The Tibet LL is another backpacking boot for longer trips and off-trail adventures. The slightly higher ankle provides support but has some flexibility to keep you comfortable, even with a heavy pack. Lowa mixed a leather upper with glove leather lining and the standard climate control insole to give you maximum comfort.
10. REI Co-Op: Best Budget-Friendly Boot
It’s possible to be budget-conscious and still score some decent hiking footwear. REI Co-Op makes one style with options for men and women, but it’s an affordable alternative. These might not be the absolute best boot out there, but they offer most of what you need for safety and support while on the trail.
This hiking footwear features recycled materials for the environmentally conscious among us. The uppers on these lightweight hiking boots have overlays that are 30% recycled TPU and the multi-directional TerraGrip™ tread is made from 20% recycled rubber.
The REI Co-Op Flash hiking boot covers the ankle, features HydroWall™ for waterproofing, and synthetic uppers to keep it lightweight. There’s extra space in the toe boxes to accommodate swelling and custom insoles that mold to your feet.
Final Thoughts on Choosing Hiking Boot Brands
There you have it: 10 of the best hiking boot brands on the market. There are still a lot of options to choose from, but I hope this list helped narrow down your search for the ultimate hiking boot.
My top advice is this: fit and comfort are more important than anything else. You may find a waterproof boot that looks like the perfect choice on paper, with classic style, rugged durability, loads of grip, and clever design, but if it doesn’t feel right on your foot, it won’t work well on the trail. Whenever possible, try a boot on in person before buying it, or purchase from somewhere with a good return policy, and don’t be afraid to send something back.
Finding the right hiking boot is highly personal, and you should make sure you get a pair that really works for you.
Now get out there, and enjoy wherever the trail takes you!