When you’re wanting the best rated hiking shoes to avoid wearing heavier hiking boots, then it’s all about striking that balance between weight, comfort, grip and durability. Whether you’re planning to walk along some trails that are expected to have rocky parts, or you value a lighter feel when hiking, then top hiking shoes is what you require.If you want to go hiking when it might rain, then waterproof hiking shoes are what you need to keep your feet dry and enable you to not slide when walking. Certainly, the hiking shoes for men can be a little heavier than the best hiking shoes for women, but other than that, the main differences are with appearance more than technical or functional changes. Which is as it should be.There are some ultralight shoes designed for people who factor in the weight of the hiking shoes over other considerations. Sometimes you trade off quality factors or features when using the lightest possible materials.Let’s look at a few of the best hiking shoes to see which paid with suit you best:
Salomon Men’s X Ultra 2 GTX
The Salomon Men’s X Ultra 2 GTX Hiking Shoe is one of the best lightweight shoes for hiking (1 lbs, 10 oz.). It is almost unfelt during wear, but the soles of the feet do tend to feel the movement after time making it difficult to use extensively over rough terrain for long periods.The Ultra 2 is ideal for one-day hiking, achieving the top of a hike when dropped off near the top or for simple overnight trips. The rubber outsole is a Contragripone which tracks a rocky surface successfully with sufficient traction. The EVA midsole provides good stability during wear too.
The design takes its cue from running shoes, so the design apes aggressive foot posture, lugs that are multi-directional and fast single-movement laces to tighten up and move quickly.The shoe comes in 8 different color combinations. There’s a waterproof membrane (Gore-Tex) to keep things dry inside and the rubber toe cap offers some protection which doubles as a mud guard.
Merrell Men’s Moab 2 Waterproof
The Merrell Men’s Moab 2 Waterproof Hiking Shoe is one that looks the part alright. The Moab has been updated for the 2017 edition, built for day hiking and somewhat limited trekking. The shoe seems to have fallen a little behind in the weight stakes coming in at 2 pounds, 1 ounce which is considerably heavier than the Ultra 2. The shoe is made from a leather mesh as the upper, with a trustworthy Vibram outsole (TC5) and a EVA used too for better stability. The lug has a 5mm depth which is decent. The shank arch is nylon-based.
What’s surprising with the Moab 2 is that it doesn’t hold its ground when it gets muddy even with the added weight and Vibram outsole. Therefore, it’s not the right footwear for heavy trekking over uneven ground, but for light single day hiking aimed at backpackers looking for varied, easy terrain, they’re good and dependable. Available in a handful of color choices too.
The North Face Men’s Ultra 109 GTX
The North Face Men’s Ultra 109 GTX Hiking Shoe is a mixture of fabric and synthetics with a suede sole.The membrane is Gore-Tex, so it’s breathable and waterproof too. The mesh covering aids air flow to avoid feet overheating on long trekking trips. The EVA mid-sole covering the entire length of the shoe ensures dependable and durability over time. There’s an extra bit of protection under the ball of each foot dubbed their Snake Plate that does the trick.
There’s reliable UltrATAC soles made of rubber, double-lined, to provide good footing over dry and wet ground. Too heavy for use as running shoes too; these are intended for walking the trails. The shoe comes in five color combinations and weighs 1 pound, 15 ounces.
Adidas Terrex Fast R GTX Mid Boot – Men’s
The Adidas Terrex Fast R GTX Mid Boot is one designed expressly for men with a handful of color choices that reflect that clearly. There’s a fast, single pull lacing system to put the foot in, pull the laces tight and just go.The design is sleek and modern. It has a reasonably firm feel. The Traxion and rubber sole offers solid grip on the ground. The Gore-Tex lining makes it comfortable for each foot while using the Ortholite liner. The midsole uses Adiprene+ which provides greater spring in the step while offering excellent movement control too.The shoe strikes a balance at 1 pounds 11 ounces to be used both as a general running shoe and for light trekking or trail usage. It is less heavy than the Ultra X but offers increased stability which is good for people who twist their ankle more easily than others.This shoe isn’t as comfortable as other hiking shoes mostly because it’s got a firmer feel that makes it good for going off-trail far more than some of the comfier hiking shoes reviewed. That’s the trade-off with this model; you’re sacrificing some comfort for multi-terrain stability and performance.
KEEN Targhee II WP
The KEEN Men’s Targhee II WP Hiking Shoe is a good product for people who need a wider forefoot design. There’s a leather upper which is better than some competitor’s products, but it can make the shoe a little hotter which is the trade-off there. The outsole is made from rubber with 4mm lugs running in more than one direction.
The shaped heel lock provides support for the ankle which can be adjusted too. The shank (ESS) offers excellent stability for the foot over uncertain terrain. The shoe weighs a little under 2 pounds which isn’t the lightest in the bunch but is still good considering the upper is leather. The molded foot that you slide into is comfortable as you expect from a Keen hiking shoe. There’s also good protection from moisture buildup too. One point of note: Boost your shoe size by at least half a size because the sizing is a little on the small side.
Altra Lone Peak 3.5
The Altra Men’s Lone Peak 3.5 Running shoe is designed for running but it can equally be considered a shoe for hiking too. It weighs just 1 pounds, 5 ounces, so it won’t slow you down.The upgraded 3.5 model (from the 3.0 one) adds better drainage with the lugs to avoid getting bogged down on the trail and better upper materials for greater dependability in varied weather conditions.
There’s an upper in a mesh design for improved air flow and a rubber StoneGuardsole for decent grip on the ground. There is greater flex with this shoe and it is also wider so people with slim feet will find it has too spacious causing them to lose traction. Available in four noticeable colors. For anyone who wants to mix up trail running and regular exercise in a single shoe, this could be the good hiking shoes for them. It’s certainly not up to trekking stands though. People with wider than normal feet will love this shoe.
The North Face Hedgehog Fastpack Gtx
The North Face Hedgehog Fastpack Gtx Hiking Women’s is a dependable shoe with an upper Gore-Tex membrane that is breathable and also waterproof too. There’s PU-covered leather and a mesh made from a textile that won’t damage easily.
The suede sole is comfortable, and the leather design works well in combination with the Gore-Tex. There’s a midsole made from EVA. The structure is supported by TPU with some rust protection from moisture too. Vibram rubber is the outsole for decent grip on the ground. The shoe comes in a choice of five color schemes. This shoe is a good one for women with its 1 pound, 14-ounce weight. The color schemes are directed towards women too with softer color options.
Salomon Odyssey Pro
The Salomon Odyssey Pro Hiking Shoe is a colorful product for men with either a bright yellow or orange sole and fabric lining. The rest of the body is navy blue, so it doesn’t have your feet showing up all over the hiking trail.The shoe is synthetic and benefits from multiple lugs on the sole providing decent grip. The heel is quite stiff through, so for people with thin skin, they may need to wear some protective Band-Aid plasters to avoid getting blisters until the shoes are worn in.
Though they are promoted as being waterproof, they’re certainly not as dependable in that area as some of the other hiking books previously reviewed in this guide.
Vasque Men’s Breeze III Low GTX
The Vasque Men’s Breeze III Low GTX Waterproof Hiking Boot is a solid product that comes in a variety of dark-ish color schemes.The shoe is a leather and mesh combination that manages to look premium through and through while still providing good breathability. The waterproof Gore-Tex lining airs out the feet while ensuring better waterproofing. The TPU molded plate combined with the EVA midsole with doubled-up density for greater strength delivers good cushioned support and handles varied terrain well too.
The Arc Tempo is included to hold the foot better providing improved control over uneven ground. There’s also a molded bump for the toe to protect from snubbing your toe on a rock, etc. At 2 pounds, 2 ounces, the shoe is a reasonable weight considering the many premium materials and features provided. We have no complaints there. The heels aren’t quite as thick as some might expect and the shoe narrows a bit at the toe area, so people who are wider than usual at the toe-line might find these uncomfortable.
Lowa Men’s Renegade II GTX LO
The Lowa Men’s Renegade II GTX LO Hiking Shoe is a tough product with a PU midsole that has a mono-wrap design to it which provides greater foot stability. The outsole is Vibram Renovo for solid grip on any surface. The leather upper looks expensive, but does cut down on breathability a little bit. The Gore-Tex waterproof lining also does too but adds solid protection from bad weather.
The 1 pound, 15-ounce weight is reasonable for extended hiking trails. The shoes come in a choice of three color combinations. The shoes are a little expensive, but they’re sure to last a good amount of time for their cost.
Types of Best Hiking Shoes
Hiking shoes and boots fall into different categories depending on their various features.
HikingBoots– The hiking boot comes in many types, but the common thread with them is that they’re expressly designed for use on mountain ranges, steep treks over long distances and not walking simple trails. As such, the hiking boots are intended for serious trekkers and some mountaineers (depending on the model and type of boot). Hikers, not trekkers, require hiking shoes and not boots.
Hiking Shoes – These are ideal for hiking trails and occasional off-trail walks, but aren’t intended for full-blown trekking. They’ll usually have stronger materials, Gore-Tex waterproofing in many cases, and a midsole that’s stiffer on the feet to avoid foot roll. These are not intended for actual climbing, which is reserved for hiking boots. Their weight is usually around 2 pounds.
Lightweight Hiking Shoes – These versions are lighter (under 2 pounds and usually 1 to 1.5 pounds) to make them easier to move around on. They may or may not have Gore-Tex weather proofing. Quite often, the material is synthetic, not leather, but this lightens the weight and makes them cooler too. One way to keep the lightness but add weatherproofing is to wear Gore-Tex socks to combine the best of both worlds. They’re intended for walks over fairly flat terrain, not heavy trekking which will wear through these shoes like they’re sneakers otherwise.
Hiking Sandals – The sandal used with hiking is really an oxymoron because they’re best suited to basic walks and not undulating terrain or rocky outcrops. These types of footwear are very breathable, offer some good traction over easy ground, and offer good support for the arch of the foot. Where they fall down is any support for real hiking while still being as heavy as a hiking shoe.
Inner and Upper Material of Hiking Shoes
There are different materials used for the upper and inner part of any hiking shoe:
Nylon (Synthetic) and Mesh – Mesh grids or panels are used to add breathability to a shoe to keep it cool. They’re not as durable as leather, but far more breathable. Commonly used in mostly synthetic shoes to keep the overall weight down. The mesh can wear out when getting too wet, too often, unlike with leather.
Leather –A leather upper has better weatherproofing and survives more seasons. The trade-off is additional heat. Leather is mostly seen in the more expensive hiking shoes due to its cost. Softer leather is the lighter, rather than hard leather. Some shoes combine some mesh and some leather to have the best of both worlds.
The midsole offers cushioning to the foot and shapes around it to avoid the foot rolling over when crossing awkward terrain. Trail running shoes have thin midsoles whereas the best hiking shoes have thicker midsoles using EVA or TPU, or both.
EVA – EVA is a foam that provides better cushioning and avoids getting bent out of shape. Most hiking boots include EVA in their midsoles. However, the EVA compound determines how soft or hard it is.
TPU – Thermoplastic PU is a plastic that offers greater softness which is often used in combination with EVA to cushion the foot more. TPU doesn’t compress with a heavy backpack on the back weighing the person down, like EVA will.
The outsole is what lines the underside of the shoe and provides traction with the ground beneath it. The Vibram branded outsole is a common name here, but they make different models for each shoe or manufacturer, so not all Vibram outsoles offer the same performance.
Bigger lugs (the chunky parts on the underside of the shoe) sink into the mud or ventilate water out faster keeping their grip better. This is something to look out for.
Protecting the Toes
Hiking shoes often have a reinforced big toe or toe area. These are not like steel toe cap protection of work boots, but a toe cap made of rubber can still protect from jamming it into a rock.
Insoles are either cheap or well made. They can be replaced with better quality ones too. They’re also good to replace when well-used to keep a fresher aroma.
Choosing a pair of the best hiking shoes is all about choosing something within your budget that meets your needs. Your exact needs really revolve around the kind of walking or hiking that you’ll be doing (hiking shoes won’t perform well for trekking). The lighter ones are less durable but easier to manage whereas the heavier ones are more expensive, made from waterproof materials and can handle reasonable hiking trails without difficulty. As long as you choose correctly according to your needs and pick a quality product, you shouldn’t have any problems.