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A solid pair of hiking boots can take you far, but when you want something lighter, more versatile, and easier to break in, the thing you’re looking for is a pair of hiking shoes. Sneaker-style hiking shoes look a lot like trail runners, and in fact, many of these shoes are technically trail running shoes. Regardless of what they were built for, these shoes are ready for the miles of adventures ahead.

Best Hiking Shoes

The Expert: I’ve been hiking and trail running for as long as I can remember. I’ve also been professionally testing and reviewing trail shoes for seven years,Chacos Sandals hiking thousands of miles in minimalist styles and ultra-beefy off-trail shoes. I understand how various terrain demands different support underfoot and what features appeal to all sorts of hikers. I also see what the hiking community is wearing on long-distance trails. My gear reviews and other work has appeared in BackpackerOutsideBackpacking Light, and The Trek, among other outlets. And two years ago, I cofounded Backpacking Routes, a website that connects backpackers with long-distance trails across the country.

How to Find the Best Hiking Shoes for You

Shopping for a hiking shoe comes with a few considerations. Think about your terrain and weather. Will you be hiking on more technical trails, or on trails with smoother tread? A shoe with multidirectional lugs, a rock plate, and a beefier upper is better suited for technical trails, whereas a lighter, more flexible trail shoe works great for well-maintained trails. Also consider whether you want a waterproof upper. A waterproof membrane, such as Gore-Tex or a company’s proprietary bootie that’s combined with the other upper materials, offers more protection from cold and wet weather but also won’t dry out as fast if your shoe gets submerged.

A hiking shoe is a personal preference, and I recommend trying a pair on before committing. Once you find one that works for you, stick with it. Most brands update their top-sellers with new materials and construction every year or two.

maggie slepian hiking shoes
PHOTOS COURTESY OF MAGGLE SLEPIAN // OUR EXPERT MAGGIE SHOWING THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF TERRAIN SHE HAS EXPERIENCED IN HER HIKES.

How We Evaluated These Hiking Shoes

To recommend the best hiking shoes, I considered different styles of hiking, hiker preferences, and the distances and terrain people might encounter on trails around the country. There’s a shoe here that’s suitable for whatever terrain you might be faced with, be it steep, Hey Dude Sneakers  rugged, and rocky or flat and sandy. Some models below are best for long days in the mountains, and others are fast-and-light shoes meant for quick jaunts around your local hills. What they all have in common is out-of-the-box comfort. For each model, the weight listed, per half pair, is a men’s size 9.

MOST COMFORTABLE

Altra Lone Peak 6

ALTRA

Key Specs

  • Drop: 0 mm
  • Waterproof: Optional
  • Weight (½ pair): 10.5 oz

Altra’s reputation for providing comfort during extended hikes has cemented the brand as one of the most popular in the hiking community. Designed to encourage a more natural stride from its zero-drop construction and wide toe box, the Lone Peak features a plush 25-millimeter stack height that doesn’t feel excessive but still provides plenty of protection. It’s nice to see the newest model is more durable than previous versions, which saw some upper blowouts in the forefoot.

SHOP MEN’S

SHOP WOMEN’S

  • Comfortable for long days
  • Wide toe box

  • Outsole can wear out quickly
BROOKS

Key Specs

  • Drop: 8 mm
  • Waterproof: Optional
  • Weight: 9.6 oz

Now in its 16th iteration, the Brooks Cascadia is one of the enduring classic hiking and trail shoes. Falling right in the middle of the road with 8 millimeters of drop from heel to toe, this shoe will fit the bill for just about anyone. It is quite standard for fit as well—just wide enough to feel non-constricting without being too wide to feel unstable. The rock plate offers plenty of ground protection, and the EVA foam–based midsole feels springy, responsive, and keeps things flexible. The lug pattern is less aggressive than other hiking shoes, though, so you won’t have the best grip on slick rocks or in mud.

SHOP MEN’S

SHOP WOMEN’S

  • Lightweight
  • Breathable
  • Protective rock plate

  • Less traction than other models
MOST AFFORDABLE

Merrell Trail Glove 6

MERRELL

Key Specs

  • Drop: 0 mm
  • Waterproof: No
  • Weight: 15.2 oz

Merrell’s Trail Glove offers a close-to-the-ground feel in a more minimalist design. This style provides close contact and helps mimic a barefoot stride, making each Hey Dudes Shoes  footfall more natural and helping strengthen the muscles in your feet. Even so, the affordable shoe offers a good amount of protection from the rock plate and EVA midsole that account for part of the 11.5-millimeter stack height.

SHOP MEN’S

SHOP WOMEN’S

  • Breathable
  • High percentage recycled materials
  • Affordable

  • Less protection from the ground
  • Heavy for a minimal-style shoe
HOKA

Key Specs

  • Drop: 4 mm
  • Waterproof: Optional
  • Weight: 10.8 oz

Hoka is known for its maximum-cushion shoe, and with a stack height of 32 millimeters in the heel and 28 millimeters in the toe, the Speedgoat is no exception. It’s an excellent shoe for technical terrain. A rugged Vibram outsole featuring 5-millimeter lugs and strategic zonal rubber placement for additional grip and support lends some of the best traction—in both wet and dry conditions—on the market. The Speedgoat fits snugly around the toe box and heel cup for stability, but this means it might feel narrower than other models, despite a recent update to widen the toe box. Keep in mind that some people have trouble getting used to such a maximalist shoe, and it can feel unsteady at first.

SHOP MEN’S

SHOP WOMEN’S

  • Excellent traction
  • Highly cushioned

  • Narrower toe box
  • Tall stack height can feel unstable
MOST VERSATILE

Saucony Peregrine 12

SAUCONY

Key Specs

  • Drop: 4 mm
  • Waterproof: Optional
  • Weight: 9.7 oz

The Saucony Peregrine is a sleek trail shoe that offers excellent out-of-the-box comfort. In the latest iteration, Saucony updated the heel cup for a more secure fit, especially around narrower ankles, and simplified the upper by eliminating some of the plastic overlays. The shoe feels stable on a variety of terrain, and the outsole and midsole construction falls so much into the middle ground between a road and trail shoe that I’m comfortable wearing these almost anywhere. I like the rock plate protection, but I did lose some ground feel given the midsole and rock-plate layering.

SHOP MEN’S

SHOP WOMEN’S

  • Sleek and streamlined
  • Middle-of-the road use and fit
  • Secure fit through heel counter

  • Less sensitive due to heftier midsole construction
MERRELL

Key Specs

  • Drop: 11 mm
  • Waterproof: Yes
  • Weight: 1 lb 0.5 oz

Unlike most of the shoes on this list, the Merrell Moab is a true hiking shoe, not a trail runner. This burly shoe is durable without being clunky and has excellent support, especially in the arch, for a low-rise model. The Vibram outsole provides good traction on trails of varying terrain, and while the 11-millimeter drop is high for a trail running shoe, it’s more standard for a hiking shoe. The leather-and-suede upper resists abrasions very well but takes longer to dry than the mesh found on lighter, more flexible trail runners.

SHOP MEN’S

SHOP WOMEN’S

  • Durable
  • Plenty of support

  • Heavy
  • Takes longer to dry when wet
BEST WATERPROOF HIKING SHOE

Salomon X Ultra 3 Low GTX

SALOMON

Key Specs

  • Drop: 8 mm
  • Waterproof: Yes
  • Weight: 13.4 oz

Salomon makes several different hiking shoes in its X line, and the Ultra falls right in the middle as far as ruggedness goes. I like this shoe for its stability and protection during steep climbs and descents, as well as the durability of the synthetic leather upper and the GoreTex membrane. Salomon installs two types of rubber on the outsole to optimize traction and builds its outsole to strategically increase flexibility to reduce fatigue on high-mileage days.

SHOP MEN’S

SHOP WOMEN’S

  • Durable upper
  • Long-lasting outsole

  • Doesn’t breathe super well
  • Heavy
LA SPORTIVA

Key Specs

  • Drop: 12 mm
  • Waterproof: Optional
  • Weight: 12.5 oz

The Wildcat is optimized for steeper, rugged terrain and even side-hilling, with a no-slip fit through the upper and tacky FriXion AT rubber on the outsoles. The dual-density midsole provides ample protection without sacrificing sensitivity and flexibility, and the mesh upper is breathable, though hikers who overpronate might experience blowouts in the forefoot. La Sportiva makes its trail shoes with a wider toe box to allow your foot to spread out, while keeping the heel fit more secure for stability on variable terrain.

SHOP MEN’S

SHOP WOMEN’S

  • Protective midsole without sacrificing flexion
  • Excellent traction
  • Wider toe box with a secure, narrow heel

  • Mesh upper can tear
BEST CUSHIONING

On Cloudultra

ON

Key Specs

  • Drop: 8 mm
  • Waterproof: No
  • Weight: 10.4 oz

Looking for a lightweight shoe that offers the protection of a rock plate? This offering from Swiss-engineered On brings the best of both worlds to this shoe. With a maximalist design and plenty of the company’s proprietary Helion foam in the midsole, the shoe is built for long hiking days on moderate trails. The Cloudultra doesn’t have the most aggressive lugs, so I recommend sticking to groomed or more mild terrain, and if you’re between sizes, it’s not a bad idea to size up, as the fit can feel narrow.

SHOP MEN’S

SHOP WOMEN’S

  • Lightweight and flexible
  • Cushioned midsole construction

  • Not best for rugged trails
  • Fit can feel narrow
  • Expensive
ALTRA

Key Specs

  • Drop: 0 mm
  • Waterproof: Optional
  • Weight: 11 oz

The Olympus is Altra’s answer to the maximum-cushion shoes, but it’s still built with the brand’s hallmark wide FootShape toe box and zero-drop design. With an even 33-millimeter stack height, this shoe keeps you off the ground with a springy, responsive midsole. A rounded heel cup keeps your foot secure. Altra recently updated the upper with a more breathable mesh, and the Vibram Megagrip rubber is molded with multidirectional lugs for stellar wet and dry traction.

SHOP MEN’S

SHOP WOMEN’S

  • Wide toe box for maximum comfort
  • Breathable mesh upper

  • Tall stack can feel unstable
  • Expensive
More Tips From Expert Maggie Slepian on What Shoes to Lace Up for Your Next Hike
hiking shoe tips from maggie slepian
PHOTO COURTESY OF MAGGIE SLEPIAN

PM: When do you prefer to wear hiking shoes instead of boots?

M.S.: I almost always wear hiking shoes—specifically trail-running shoes—instead of boots. In this piece, the majority of hiking shoes are also trail-running shoes. This style of trail shoe has as much (or more) traction and stability as true hiking shoes but are often lighter, more flexible, and require less break-in out of the box. I only wear hiking boots if I’m tackling steep scree, off-trail scrambles, or if I’m hiking in the snow and need extra insulation and protection.

PM: When is it time to upgrade from a pair of regular sneakers to shoes designed specifically for the trail?

M.S.: Regular sneakers are definitely okay to hike in. Even lightweight road-running shoes will still have enough traction and protection for the occasional hike. Keep in mind you might not have the same level of cushion in the midsole or traction in the outsole that you’ll find in a trail-running sneaker or hiking shoe. I recommend switching to a trail shoe once you start hiking trails with steeper terrain, slippery rocks, roots, mud, or rough sections that can fatigue your feet or cause bruising from long miles on rocky or uneven tread.

PM: Do you prefer your hiking shoes to have a waterproof membrane or not? Why?

M.S.: I usually steer clear of waterproof hiking shoes, unless I’m hiking in snow or slush. I’ve found most hiking shoes dry super quickly after getting wet, and the non-waterproof options are more breathable than models with a waterproof membrane. Plus, if I’m crossing streams on my hikes, chances are the shoes will get wet from being fully submerged anyway, and then I’ll be stuck trying to dry out waterproof shoes and dealing with soggy socks.

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