We have tested hiking boots for a decade, with 58 unique models bought and pitted head-to-head. This updated review analyzes 18 of the best models available today. Our review team is a group of avid hikers excited to share their experiences with you. This team of alpine guides and backcountry enthusiasts spent months hiking through mountains, deserts, and forests on the trail and off before scoring, ranking, and passing final judgment on all the models in our lineup. The resulting review has in-depth details on specific performance areas and recommendations for finding the best hiking gear for your budget.
If you are looking for a lighter weight shoe, one of these best hiking shoes could be a good alternative to a full boot. Even though most boots come in both men’s and women’s versions, it is not always the case that they perform similarly for both. To that end, we conduct in-depth testing by female reviewers in our review of the best women’s hiking boots and top-ranked women’s hiking shoes. Over the last decade at GearLab, we’ve tested dozens of hiking essentials, from the best trekking poles to top-of-the-line GPS watches to help you have the best time out adventuring and exploring.
Editor’s Note: This review was updated on October 25, 2022, with new or updated products from Merrell, La Sportiva, Altra, and Timberland.
Best Overall Hiking Boots
Salomon Quest 4 Gore-Tex
Weight (per pair): 2.90 pounds | Upper: Nubuck leather and textile
The Salomon Quest 4 Gore-Tex is the real deal, and we consider it to be the epitome of what a hiking boot should be. In this total package, you are treated with cushioned comfort, excellent stability, and some of the best waterproof credentials in the business. This boot is for hikers who want to do long and demanding backpacking trips in difficult terrain, carrying a heavier pack. With the tallest ankle cuff height of any boot in our review and an innovative support structure, we feel these are the most stable backpacking boots out there, and the height also gives them an advantage in water resistance.
We wholeheartedly recommend this boot as the best overall option if you want the ultimate in performance. It excels on long hikes thanks to a customizable fit that adapts to the shape of your foot, it has the support you need when carrying overnight backpacking gear, and its traction ensures that you won’t be caught slipping. It weighs more than many in this review, though that weight is worth such a performance upgrade, in our opinion. The only aspect where this boot doesn’t excel is with dumping heat and excess perspiration on hikes in hot and arid climates. We have been thoroughly impressed with previous iterations of this boot, and we can confidently say that Salomon has once again created a world-class hiker in the Quest 4 Gore-Tex.
Best Bang for the Buck
Merrell Moab 3 Mid Waterproof
Weight (per pair): 2.36 pounds | Upper: Suede leather, mesh
The Merrell Moab 3 Mid Waterproof is a comfortable and affordable hiking boot that feels good right out of the box. Testers were blister-free over dozens of miles, and the arch support is some of the best in the category. The insole and EVA midsole provide excellent cushioning, and the padded tongue minimizes chafing during ankle flexion. The suede and mesh upper don’tlook waterproof, but in reality, this boot offers above-average protection through shallow water crossings and mud.
Overall, the Moab 3 Mid is a great option for the casual backpacker who needs wet weather protection, though the padding and suede upper do make this one of the warmer boots during hot weather hikes. We also were lukewarm on their traction capabilities in anything besides smoother terrain, as the lugs are shallow. Still, this is an excellent and affordable boot that will provide long-lasting comfort to a wide range of potential hikers.
Best for Off-Trail Hiking
La Sportiva Ultra Raptor II Mid GTX
Weight (per pair): 2.08 pounds | Upper: AirMesh, Microfiber, TPU
The La Sportiva Ultra Raptor II Mid GTX is a rough and ready trail running shoe that has been beefed to be one of the best all-terrain machines out there. With the comfort of a shoe and the support and traction of a boot, the Ultra Raptor punches well above its weight class. This is the hiking boot for you if you want the most capable cross-country footwear while also keeping weight down and prioritizing on-trail walking comfort — something that similarly capable, heavier-weight models don’t always do a good job at.
Our main gripe with the Ultra Raptor II Mid is the sizing: we had to reorder these boots in a half size larger than our normal street shoe size to find the right fit. But, given that La Sportiva also offers this boot in a wide version, prospective users should be able to get the right fit armed with that knowledge.
Best for Mountain Climbing
Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX
The Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX is a pared-down mountain boot, making it an optimal choice for off-trail travel, mountain scrambling, and carrying heavy loads. It has excellent stability, giving you the confidence to edge or smear up the steepest terrain you might encounter on a challenging cross-country hike. The Vibram sole is sticky while staying durable, and the full-grain leather upper will take a lot of abuse before it starts showing signs of wear.
That said, this boot’s rigid midsole knocks some points off of its comfort score. It has a rockered sole, which will make it walk better than the average mountain boot, but it will not be as soft a ride as can be found in less stiff boots. You should check this out if you are into off-trail travel, carrying overnight packs, and scrambling up 3rd and 4th-class terrain.
Best for Lightweight Hiking
Salomon X Ultra Mid 4 Gore-Tex
Weight (per pair): 1.85 pounds | Upper: Leather and textile
The Salomon X Ultra Mid 4 Gore-Tex is one of the lightest hiking boots we have worn. These boots keep the same mid-ankle support that we expect for off-trail travel and excursions with heavy packs while shaving nearly a half-pound from the previous model — through some kind of black magic, we can only assume. These boots use the same ADV-C Chassis and ActiveSupport technologies as the low-top shoe version of this model, and we find that the support they offer is exceptional, wrapping securely around the foot to create a stable platform that resists rolling. They are waterproof thanks to the Gore-Tex liner, making them perfectly suited for nearly all terrain types and environments.
Think of this boot as a bridge between the lightweight world of trail runners and hiking shoes and the heavy-duty traditional hiking boots. They are at the lightweight end of the boot spectrum, retaining some of the added stability and support that this category is known for, while cutting huge amounts of weight and remaining as flexible and agile as a running shoe. The sole might be thinner than some folks will want in uneven terrain, but that is a trade-off we are fine with on lightweight hikes. These are going to be best for the hiker who really wants the weight savings of the shoe but still needs the support of a boot.
Best Waterproof Protection
La Sportiva Nucleo High II GTX
Weight (per pair): 2.41 pounds | Upper: Nubuck leather
The La Sportiva Nucleo High II GTX is our favorite boot for coming out of water crossings unscathed. The Gore-Tex Surround lining and nubuck leather upper kept our feet dry, and the boot itself dried quickly after splashing through streams. The gusseted tongue also helped with water repellency. These are also one of the lighter pairs in this category, which definitely saved our feet after long miles. The Vibram sole has pleasantly grippy lugs, and the heel has some rock to it that makes it easier to brace and brake on downhills.
This boot’s stability was a little disappointing. Even though it has extra cushioning on both the inside and outside of the ankle, the upper still gives way under torsion. We also found the lace hooks curiously and frustratingly difficult to use. It means that the laces stay really secure, but we’ve never really experienced issues with lace hooks on other models, so we aren’t sure why La Sportiva went with the hard-to-use redesign here. In any case, for those who will be stomping through puddles and making their way across streams, brooks, and shallow rivers, this model is our first choice.
Best Zero Drop Boots
Altra Lone Peak ALL-WTHR Mid
Weight (per pair): 1.84 pounds | Upper: eVent Fabric
Zero-drop shoes and boots have been making a name for themselves in recent years, as the neutral height allows the foot to be in a more natural, almost barefoot-like position. Some love them, and some don’t care for them, but if you are interested in zero-drop hiking boots, the Altra Lone Peak ALL-WTHR Mid is our top choice. We like how comfortable and springy they are, and those with wide feet will really appreciate how much room they get in the forefoot for toes to splay.
While this is a mid-top boot, the Lone Peak is still pretty flexible and does not offer as much support or stability as other models. That said, the lightweight, minimalist style is often paired with zero-drop shoes and boots and is one of the aspects of this niche style. Overall, if you are okay with less support and structure to your hiking footwear and are curious about zero-drop boots, these are worth checking out.
If you want to get out and go hiking, your footwear choice is one of the most important decisions that you can make. While many are trending towards top-rated trail running shoes for dramatic weight savings, this can harm how much you enjoy your trip. Lightweight backpacking has its place, but if you are new to hiking or plan to carry the best backpacking backpack, you should consider the benefits of a solid pair of sturdy hiking boots. Offering additional support that the lower-cut models simply cannot, investing in a good pair of boots ensures your trip against pain and discomfort, fatigued feet, and rolled ankles.
Ryan Huetter and Ben Applebaum-Bauch