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The 9 Best Men’s Hiking Boots and Shoes

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Hiking footwear is trendier than ever, which can make it difficult to find shoes that are equally functional and fashionable. Not that there’s anything wrong with buying a gorp-y pair of boots for your strolls through Tompkins Square Park. When picking out trail shoes, Pacific Crest Trail Association communications director Scott Wilkinson advises that “it’s absolutely critical” to maintain circulation in your feet. “The best way to do that is to be sure you get footwear that’s at least one size bigger than what you normally wear,” he says. “Toes need room to spread out and wiggle around.” Wilkinson’s advice definitely applies to serious backpackers and thru-hikers, whose feet are more prone to swelling after many miles and thus need a bigger shoe. A full size up most likely won’t apply to the average day hiker, but it’s always better to err on the bigger size. (Thicker socks will also take up more space inside the toe box.) In any case, we recommend trying out some shoes in person before buying them. And don’t forget to wear some blister-preventing and moisture-wicking wool socks.

To help you find the best men’s hiking shoes and boots, we asked seasoned outdoor experts what they recommend for all terrain, in styles ranging from sleek sneakers to waterproof boots, and everything in between.

What we’re looking for

Boots versus sneakers

Talk to almost any serious hiker or outdoor gear enthusiast these days and you’ll hear the same story: Stiff and heavy hiking boots are out, flexible and lightweight trail runners are in. “Elite hikers, long-distance hikers — no one is wearing boots above the ankle,” says Dr. Rachel Gross, an assistant professor at the University of Colorado in Denver studying the history of outdoor clothing and gear. Trail runners are essentially grippier, more-hiking-specific sneakers, and they’re built for comfortand moving quickly and nimbly. “In the old days when you bought hiking boots you’d have to wear them around your neighborhood before the hike, to be confident you wouldn’t get blisters,” says Cris Hazzard of hikingguy.com. “Now it’s the opposite — you can put on a pair of new trail runners and do a long distance hike.”

That’s not to say boots don’t have their place. In fact, some of the best hiking boots are so lightweight and comfortable that they may as well be sneakers — except more durable. Hiking boots generally have heavier, more supportive soles, which are meant to support you and any extra weight — say, a backpack. Rather than wearing out in a few months, they’ll last forever and serve you especially well on wet or gravelly terrain. Some trail-running shoes, on the other hand, aren’t meant to support big loads and lack the protection that a boot can lend. “If you’re hiking over really rough rocks, a hiking shoe or a more traditional boot would protect your foot,” Hazzard says. “Sections of rocks on the Appalachian Trail are thin and stacked, so you can’t step flat on them, and that’s the case where I’d recommend something beefier because it shreds shoes quickly.”

Waterproofing

That’s not to say boots don’t have their place. In fact, some of the best hiking boots are so lightweight and comfortable that they may as well be sneakers — except more durable. Hiking boots generally have heavier, more supportive soles, which are meant to support you and any extra weight — say, a backpack. Rather than wearing out in a few months, they’ll last forever and serve you especially well on wet or gravelly terrain. Some trail-running shoes, on the other hand, aren’t meant to support big loads and lack the protection that a boot can lend. “If you’re hiking over really rough rocks, a hiking shoe or a more traditional boot would protect your foot,” Hazzard says. “Sections of rocks on the Appalachian Trail are thin and stacked, so you can’t step flat on them, and that’s the case where I’d recommend something beefier because it shreds shoes quickly.”

Newer styles of hiking shoes might not be waterproof at all. The industry is trending toward ventilated boots and sneakers that air out quickly after being submerged. “The idea is you can get the shoe wet — you don’t have to fight against keeping your feet dry,” says Hazzard. “In the old days if I was trying to keep my feet dry I’d be looking for a log or rock to get across a stream. Now I can just plow through and let my feet dry once I get out.” If a wet shoe doesn’t sound ideal to you, that’s okay: We’ve included both waterproof and non-waterproof options on this list.

Traction

Because you’ll no doubt encounter slippery slopes on your hiking adventures, we looked for shoes and boots with deep traction, taking note of lug length in particular. Also key to maintaining good traction is lacing, says footwear and product designer Mark Britton. Laced boots and runners will have a tighter, more customized fit, which is why you won’t see leather Chelsea boots on this list.

In this article

Best overall hiking boot

Mid-calf boot | Gore-Tex | Deep lugs

Bringing together the best qualities of old-school boots and new-school trail runners, these hardy hiking shoes from Salomon feature deep lugs that’ll grip onto any terrain, a reinforced toe, and breathable Gore-Tex to keep your feet nice and dry. Yet despite these features, they’re super-flexible on the foot. Mark Whitman of Mountain IQ told us he wears his pair in all seasons; writer and outdoor enthusiast Jael Goldfine recently section-hiked New York on the Appalachian Trail in a brand-new pair and confirms they broke in immediately. “They’re built like sneakers but have the support and tough exterior of a hiking boot,” she says. “They were immediately comfortable.”

Best (more lightweight) hiking boot

Over-the-ankle boot | Non-waterproof | Medium lugs

Utah brand Altra is known for its trail runners, but it also makes ankle boots using the same lightweight tech. This pair is especially waterproof and durable thanks to a Gore-Tex-like membrane called eVent. They’re “made for fast, lightweight hiking, even thru-hiking, especially when the weather is a lot less than perfect,” says Strategist contributing writer James Lynch. “They have a waterproof upper, an aggressive tread pattern, and a wide, comfortable toe box.”

Best trail runner

Sneaker | Non-waterproof | Medium lugs

And here are those trail runners that Altra is famous for. These beefed-up sneakers are especially known for their splayed-out toe box, which gives a lot of wiggle room — vital for increasing circulation whether you’re walking or running. They also feature a “zero drop” profile, meaning your toe sits at the same elevation as your heel for a more natural gait. If you haven’t worn zero-drop shoes before, this profile could take some getting used to. “Altra Lone Peaks are one of the more popular trail runners for thru-hikers,” says Harrison Bacordo, a hiker who completed the Pacific Crest Trail in September. “Though they assume a higher-than-average level of foot strength slash conditioning beforehand.” The Altras feature grippy lugs and a reinforced toe box for protection against rocks, but they still feel very light. “They sit in the sweet spot of protection and minimalism,” says Hazzard. “The more cushion and sole you have, the more removed from the trail the feel is.”

Best (more cushioned) trail runner

Sneaker | Non-waterproof | Medium lugs

The super-cushioned Speedgoats come recommended by Bacordo, who used them for the majority of his thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail. (He started with Speedgoat 4’s and then switched to Speedgoat 5’s after about 300 miles.) “Having only worn non-zero-drop shoes up until then, I didn’t want to risk an early on-trail injury by skipping over the transition period that shoes like Lone Peaks demand. So I leaned into non-zero-drop shoes that focused more on comfort and cushioning, which led me to Speedgoats. These shoes worked wonders for me and many other hikers I met on trail,” he says. The Speedgoats have a four-millimeter heel-to-toe drop and an airy mesh upper that breathes well.

Best wide-fit hiking boot

Mid-calf boot | Non-waterproof | Deep lugs

If you’re not in the market for trail runners but still prefer that wider fit, Hazzard pointed us to these classic Merrell Moabs, available in two widths. “A pain point literally and figuratively of older-style hiking boots is that they’re narrow,” he says. “That’s a surefire way to get blisters — it will compress your foot; there’s going to be friction.” Instead, a lot of people will do much better with a wider toe box. “If you take a bare foot and put all your weight on it, the bone stretches and splays out, and that’s natural when you walk,” he points out. “So you’ll want something that has the room and does not confine your foot.” Our columnist Chris Black is also a Moab guy, saying these have earned the acronym “mother of all boots” for a reason and are basically the “Air Force 1 of hiking shoes.” The Moab is heavily ventilated, with patches of mesh throughout the shoe. This breathability makes it great for hiking in drier environments, like the American Southwest. But if you do get them wet, that airflow is meant to boost dry time as you move.

Best wide-fit hiking shoe

Ankle height shoe | Non-waterproof | Deep lugs

The Moabs are also available in a low-profile version with the same two width options.

Best chunky sole hiking boot

Mid-calf boot | Gore-Tex | Medium lugs

For those who like to feel that bounce as they walk, Hokas are known for their chunky cushioned soles. “They are great shoes when either your foot’s injured and you need something with extra cushion or if you don’t have the miles on your legs but have signed up for a long trail,” says Hazzard. “They’re very forgiving, very cushy — it’s like walking on a little mattress. It’s great for when you have to drastically increase your mileage without physically being prepared for it.”

Best ’80s-style hiking boot

Mid-calf boot | Gore-Tex | Low lugs

The Clarion ’88 Gore-Tex from Vasque, another brand recommended by our experts, “will do the trick if you are looking for something more retro,” says Black. Waterproof, lightweight and with a classic Vibram sole, “they can handle it all,” and look seriously cool while doing it.

Best ’70s-style hiking boot

Mid-calf boot | Water-resistant leather | Low lugs

“If you’re looking for one boot to rule them all, the vintage styling of the Danner Mountain Light is iconic, and the one-piece leather design makes for a sturdy boot that can handle anything,” says Zina Bougri, a former account manager at Backcountry. “Once these babies mold to your feet, if you’re invested in the process, they should be absolutely comfortable within a month, if not just a few weeks.” We’d warn against them when undertaking any serious thru-hikes, but there’s no denying that these boots have timeless charm and will travel well.

Some more hiking gear we've written about

Our experts

• Harrison Bacordo, Pacific Crest Trail thru-hiker
• Chris Black, Strategist columnist
• Zina Bougri, former account manager, Backcountry
• Mark Britton, footwear and product designer
• Jael Goldfine, writer and outdoor enthusiast
• Dr. Rachel Gross, assistant professor, University of Colorado
• Cris Hazzard, founder, hikingguy.com
• Scott Wilkinson, communications director, Pacific Crest Trail Association

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The 9 Best Men’s Hiking Boots and Shoes