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Review: Best Hiking Shoes

Hiking boots are a wonderful thing when it comes to backpacking treks and more aggressive trails, but for quick day hikes and trail runs, hiking shoes are preferable to boots for several reasons. For starters, they weigh less. You typically won’t need the heavier features of a more rugged boot for day hikes (such as advanced waterproofing and sole features), and trail runners will especially appreciate not having to carry that excess weight in their shoes.

Additionally, hiking shoes offer increased ventilation to help keep your feet cool and dry. A good pair of hiking shoes will also include solid foot support and toe protection since you certainly will, at some point, accidentally kick a rock or pointy object. Traction and water resistance may also be important to consider if the trails you frequent have slick sections or pass thru areas with water.

When researching these best hiking shoe in 2021 for this list, traction, durability, toe and foot protection, ventilation, and degree of water resistance were all heavily considered. Special emphasis was also placed on consumer experiences and reviews.

Best Hiking Shoe

Montrail Men's Mountain Masochist II Trail Running Hiking Shoe

This is a tough, lightweight, protective shoe that performs beautifully on hikes and backpacking trips. The lacing system melds the shoe to your foot for an amazingly snug fit while the tongue is great at keeping out small rocks and dirt. The full-length protective plate effectively reduces shock and pokes from uneven, pointy surfaces. These shoes are also fantastically grippy thanks to the angled forefoot blades and perform very well on wet rocks and slick surfaces.

Teva Men's Raith eVent Waterproof Hiking Shoe

This hiking shoe is designed for more aggressive hikes and activities. The eVent waterproof fabric shields your foot like a champ during water crossings and is surprisingly breathable; your feet will obviously heat up a bit more in this shoe compared to non-waterproof membrane alternatives, but that is expected. The rubber sole offers incredible grip on virtually any trail terrain you will come across. This shoe also includes Teva’s Shoc Pad in the heel to keep shock absorption in your shoe instead of in your joints. Last but not least, the Mush insole is extra comfortable and supportive.

Merrell Women's Moab Ventilator Hiking Shoe

 Merrell shoes are a perennial favorite among outdoor enthusiasts and the Moab Ventilator more than adds to that reputation. These multisport shoes are a great accessory for anything and everything outdoors. They are extremely supportive, flexible, and breathable for a hiking shoe. The toe/heel bumper protection and air-cushioned heel effectively work together to ensure overall foot comfort and shock absorption. Many users often report how impressed they are with this shoe's durability and longevity.

 

Buyer's Guide

Best Hiking Shoes Buying Guide

Hitting the nature trail can be the best way to unwind, explore and admire picturesque sceneries, and get a break from your monotonous work routine. Keeping your feet comfy, supported, and safe as you travel through the wilderness is incredibly important. The least you want from your hiking trip is to have crushed toes, blisters, rolled ankles, or sore feet.

If you are going for longer expeditions, you need more ankle support, or you want minimalist and ultra-lightweight hiking shoes, wearing the right shoes for hiking will make the difference. Ruminating upon these basic things will lead you towards the type of hiking shoes that will be a perfect fit for you. As choosing the right shoes for hiking is more than just shoe size, we have scoured a list of key decision-making factors to consider to ensure that you’re picking the perfect pair.

To be sure that you’re making the right pair of hiking shoes, it is important to know a bit about its components.

What are the different components that you should know about before buying hiking shoes?

Upper

This part of the hiking shoes covers the top surface, sides, toes, and heels of the shoes. You should choose a durable and high-quality material like suede leather, nubuck leather, full-grain, or reverse full-grain if you plan to go on longer expeditions. Besides this, mesh, suede, and split-grain are on the less-expensive side and more breathable. Synthetic materials like nylon, rubber, etc., have less longevity and break in quickly.

Outsole

It is the bottom part that comes in direct contact with the ground. You can find the outsole in different densities to cater to different needs. It is usually made up of rubber; softer rubber offers more grip to the ground but wears down quickly compared to the harder rubber. While choosing the shoes for hiking, look for lugs or cleats for bomber traction.

Midsole

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Either polyurethane (PU) or ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) is used for midsoles. EVA is a cushioning, lightweight option that is more common in light hiking shoes as it can wear down easily. The denser the EVA foam, the softer the shoes will be. PU is rather a long-lasting and durable midsole material that is found in mountaineering and backpacking hiking shoes. However, PU needs a break-in period before it becomes comfortable and more pliable. PU midsole shoes for hiking are more expensive, provide less cushion, and are heavier.

Insole

Molded EVA foams are used to make insoles to give a clean finish to the shoes’ exterior. You should consider buying insoles that offer substantial arch support. Otherwise, you will need to purchase after-market insoles.

Your hiking footwear should fit you snugly and without rubbing against the inner sides of the shoe. Every hiker should look for a degree of direct ground contact. Besides, consider comfort and flexibility for the descents.

How to get the right fit for your hiking shoes?

Heel should fit properly

It is important to check the heel part of the shoes to make sure that your foot’s back will sit securely and you won’t end up having blisters. For this, you should try the shoes on without fastening the laces first. If it feels somehow loose at the sides, the heel area of the shoes is too wide. You should be able to insert your index fingers between the back of your shoes and the heel of your foot.

Enough toe room

Your toes shouldn’t rub against the front part of the shoes. There should be enough room for your toes to relax. Generally speaking, there should be a finger’s width of space between the tip of your hiking shoes and your toes to wriggle freely on descents.

Try a half size up

Even if you think that hiking shoes are a perfect fit, always try a half size up to make a comparison to be on the safe side. If you feel that you are in between the two sizes, it is always better to go for the bigger one. Your feet might swell on rough terrains to a certain extent, so there should be enough room.

You can find an array of choices in the market and online, which makes buying hiking shoes a daunting task. Their prices can vary widely depending upon the quality, style, durability, waterproofing membrane, and other considerations.

How much does a pair of hiking shoes cost?

Low-priced

If you are on a budget and want to get your hands on some quality hiking footwear, you will find some options in the range of $30 or $40. Shoes in this category will not be of top-quality and might tear down quickly.

Mid-priced

For those who can stretch their budget a bit to get sturdy, comfortable, and comfy hiking shoes, some manufacturers offer shoes that can cost somewhere between $40 to $100. In such shoes, you have to compromise on a feature at the cost of another one.

High-priced

Most quality hiking shoes can cost as much as $150. Some brands manufacture an ultimate solution to the customer, having almost all the qualities that one can look for. If you are the one who doesn’t bother about the budget, investing in high-quality and expensive hiking shoes is really worth the cost.

How and when should you try on hiking footwear?

The afternoon is the best time to try on new hiking shoes because your feet are likely to swell during midday. You should keep the socks that you want to pair with them to choose the best size, fit, and feel. Trekkers who use orthotic footbeds should carry them along while buying new pair of shoes for hiking.

Spend plenty of time in the shoes; walk around in the shop, try them down and upstairs. If you find any slopes in the shop, it is always a good idea to test them there while simulating how you will be using them on trails.

Hiking Shoes FAQ

How can you break in new hiking shoes?

Hiking footwear is generally made up of a thicker and firmer upper and midsole. You should always break in your shoes before heading off in them by wearing as much as you can. For instance, you can try walking to your college or workplace in them.

Are hiking boots or hiking shoes better?

Hiking boots are firmer and a bit harder than hiking shoes. You generally don’t need to break in most of the hiking shoes, and they aren’t as tricky to fit. You will feel much more comfortable in hiking shoes, but these don’t work for longer expeditions and wet weather.

How to lace your hiking shoes?

The way you lace up your hiking footwear can make a huge difference. You should change the lacing tension for descents and ascents. For descents, tightly lace them up to prevent your feet from sliding. For ascents, tighten the forefront part so that the heel sits securely and the midfoot area should be a bit looser.

Cindy J.
Eat. Sleep. Backpack. This creed may as well hang over every window and doorway in our home. The coffee table is laden with the latest editions of Backpacker magazine. My email is overflowing with daily updates on the latest and greatest gear. Having a room or space large enough to fit all of our backpacking equipment is a requirement when deciding on a place to live. If you're ready to talk backpacking, let's talk backpacking.

My husband and I have backpacked through diverse terrains ranging from the rugged wilderness areas of Yosemite and King's Canyon to the more beginner friendly paths of Lake Tahoe. Next year we are even planning to undertake the glorious 200+ miles of the John Muir Trail. We have hiked 12,000 foot passes, traversed rushing rivers, set up impromptu camps on everything from solid snow to granite outcroppings, and seen the wonders of hidden pristine lakes and patches of snow that remain year-round. Our experiences with wildlife including bears, deer, rattlesnakes, and bugs that we didn't even know existed have helped us refine our gear list to be as prepared as possible in the most light-weight, compact way. We have near perfected the art of campsite setup and teardown and can literally create a home away from home in mere minutes and pack it back up in the same amount of time. My husband's insatiable need to be in possession of the latest technological backpacking advancements has allowed us to experiment with many different types of equipment and even varying editions of the same piece of equipment. Even our honeymoon was a 55-mile backpacking adventure. Let's just say it's an obsession.

I look forward to helping you sift through the many options in the backpacking world to find the gear that will help make your trip (and many more to come!) unforgettable. Happy trails!
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