Reviews You Can Rely On

The 7 Best Hiking Boots of 2022

Our hiking team laced up and tested boots from Salomon, Scarpa, La Sportiva, Lowa, and more to identify the best options for your next adventure
Best Hiking Boots of 2022
Several of the recent models we have put to the test.
Credit: Ryan Huetter
Tuesday October 25, 2022
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more

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.

Top 18 Product Ratings

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Awards Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award  Top Pick Award 
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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Top-level hiking boot performance, excels in all metricsLightweight, comfortable, excellent tractionBest choice for rock and snow travel, durable, breathes wellVery durable, stable, great foot protectionIncredibly lightweight, comfortable
Cons Expensive, not as great for hot and dry climatesNarrow fit, slightly small sizingWider fit, not the best lace locking system, priceHeavy, diminished breathabilityLess durable than heavier models, thin sole
Bottom Line The gold standard of what a great hiking boot should be, and we heartily recommend it for those seeking the best possible performance on and off the trailThis high-performing hiking boot tears up technical terrain with maximum precision and is at home far from the trailFor rocky alpine approaches and moderate snow travel, this model is a lightweight mountain boot disguised as a hiking bootA beefy boot that provides excellent structure and support for carrying heavy packs in rough terrainThis mid-top hiking boot is ridiculously lightweight, though it offers excellent stability and traction for fast and light objectives
Rating Categories Salomon Quest 4 Gor... La Sportiva Ultra R... Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX Vasque St. Elias FG... Salomon X Ultra Mid...
Comfort (25%)
9.0
7.0
7.0
8.0
8.0
Support (25%)
9.0
8.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
Traction (15%)
8.0
9.0
10.0
7.0
8.0
Water Resistance (15%)
8.0
7.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
Weight (10%)
4.0
9.0
5.0
3.0
9.0
Durability (10%)
8.0
8.0
7.0
9.0
5.0
Specs Salomon Quest 4 Gor... La Sportiva Ultra R... Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX Vasque St. Elias FG... Salomon X Ultra Mid...
Weight (per pair) 2.90 lbs (size 11) 2.08 (size 45 EU) 2.65 lbs (size 11) 3.26 lbs (size 11) 1.85 lbs (size 11)
Boot Type Midweight hiker/backpacking boot Lightweight hiker/day hiker Midweight hiker/backpacking boot Midweight hiker/backpacking boot Midweight hiker/backpacking boot
Width Options Regular Regular, Wide Regular Narrow, regular, and wide Regular
Waterproof Lining Gore-Tex GORE-TEX extended comfort Gore-Tex Gore-Tex Performance Comfort Gore-Tex
Upper Leather and nylon AirMesh, microfiber, TPU 1.8mm suede perwanger Nubuck leather PU coated leather
Last Board/Shank 4D Chassis Nylon molded flex TPU BZ last TPU Shank Molded shank
Midsole EnergyCell Injection-molded MEMlex PU + 3D EVA-MP A.S.E. with EVA cushioning pods SensiFit
Sole Contagrip FriXion XF 2.0 Vibram Drumlin / Mont Vibram Frontier Contagrip


Best Overall Hiking Boots


Salomon Quest 4 Gore-Tex


81
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort 9.0
  • Support 9.0
  • Traction 8.0
  • Water Resistance 8.0
  • Weight 4.0
  • Durability 8.0
Weight (per pair): 2.90 pounds | Upper: Nubuck leather and textile
REASONS TO BUY
Comfy
Beefy yet nimble
Stable and speedy
Excellent water resistance
REASONS TO AVOID
Many seams could present durability issues over the long-term
On the heavier side
Not best for light hiking

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.

Read more: Salomon Quest 4 Gore-Tex review

best overall hiking boots
Comfortable and secure, this boot has proven to be our favorite.
Credit: Ryan Huetter

Best Bang for the Buck


Merrell Moab 3 Mid Waterproof


70
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort 8.0
  • Support 7.0
  • Traction 6.0
  • Water Resistance 7.0
  • Weight 7.0
  • Durability 6.0
Weight (per pair): 2.36 pounds | Upper: Suede leather, mesh
REASONS TO BUY
Good value
Out-of-the-box comfort
Waterproof
REASONS TO AVOID
Mediocre traction
Heavy relative to height

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.

Read more: Merrell Moab 3 Mid Waterproof review

hiking boots - best bang for the buck
The solidly built Moab 3 Waterproof boots give you a lot of boot for not a lot of money.
Credit: Ryan Huetter

Best for Off-Trail Hiking


La Sportiva Ultra Raptor II Mid GTX


79
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort 7.0
  • Support 8.0
  • Traction 9.0
  • Water Resistance 7.0
  • Weight 9.0
  • Durability 8.0
Weight (per pair): 2.08 pounds | Upper: AirMesh, Microfiber, TPU
REASONS TO BUY
All-around performance
Solid traction
Lightweight yet stable
REASONS TO AVOID
Not cheap
Small sizing, need to size up

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.

Read more: La Sportiva Ultra Raptor II Mid GTX review

hiking boots - best for off-trail hiking
Fast and light meets stable and supportive. These boots will take you pretty much anywhere you could want to go.
Credit: Ryan Huetter

Best for Mountain Climbing


Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX


79
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort 7.0
  • Support 9.0
  • Traction 10.0
  • Water Resistance 8.0
  • Weight 5.0
  • Durability 7.0
Weight (per pair): 2.65 pounds | Upper: 1.8mm Suede Perwanger
REASONS TO BUY
Solid all-around performance
Incredible traction
Durable
REASONS TO AVOID
High price tag
Requires continued maintenance of leather outer

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.

Read more: Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX review

hiking boots - best for mountain climbing
Approaching the climbs at Washington Pass, the Zodiac is at home.
Credit: Ryan Huetter

Best for Lightweight Hiking


Salomon X Ultra Mid 4 Gore-Tex


74
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort 8.0
  • Support 7.0
  • Traction 8.0
  • Water Resistance 7.0
  • Weight 9.0
  • Durability 5.0
Weight (per pair): 1.85 pounds | Upper: Leather and textile
REASONS TO BUY
Supportive
Low weight
More comfortable than most
Fast
REASONS TO AVOID
Durability issues
Not as rugged as many heavier models

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.

Read more: Salomon X Ultra Mid 4 Gore-Tex review

hiking boots - best for lightweight hiking
The Contagrip outsole is aggressive and provides traction in nearly all terrain types.
Credit: Ryan Huetter

Best Waterproof Protection


La Sportiva Nucleo High II GTX


72
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort 6.0
  • Support 7.0
  • Traction 8.0
  • Water Resistance 9.0
  • Weight 7.0
  • Durability 7.0
Weight (per pair): 2.41 pounds | Upper: Nubuck leather
REASONS TO BUY
Excellent waterproofing
Gusseted tongue for easy slip-on
Good performance on downhills
REASONS TO AVOID
Middling stability
Difficult-to-use lace hooks

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.

Read more: La Sportiva Nucleo High II GTX review

hiking boots - best waterproof protection
The La Sportiva Nucleo High II GTX has a moderately stiff upper and heel guard that kept our feet in place throughout our hikes.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

Best Zero Drop Boots


Altra Lone Peak ALL-WTHR Mid


68
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort 9.0
  • Support 6.0
  • Traction 5.0
  • Water Resistance 6.0
  • Weight 9.0
  • Durability 5.0
Weight (per pair): 1.84 pounds | Upper: eVent Fabric
REASONS TO BUY
Very light
Out-of-the-box comfort
Wide fit
REASONS TO AVOID
Less support
Not very durable

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.

Read more: Altra Lone Peak ALL-WTHR Mid review

hiking boots - zero drop shoes are getting popular as they allow the foot to walk...
Zero drop shoes are getting popular as they allow the foot to walk in a more natural position.
Credit: Ryan Huetter

Compare Products

select up to 5 products to compare
Score Product Price
81
Salomon Quest 4 Gore-Tex
salomon quest 4 gore-tex hiking boots review
$230
Editors' Choice Award
79
La Sportiva Ultra Raptor II Mid GTX
la sportiva ultra raptor ii mid gtx hiking boots review
$199
Top Pick Award
79
Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX
scarpa zodiac plus gtx hiking boots review
$299
Top Pick Award
75
Vasque St. Elias FG GTX
vasque st. elias fg gtx hiking boots review
$220
74
Salomon X Ultra Mid 4 Gore-Tex
salomon x ultra mid 4 gore-tex hiking boots review
$165
Top Pick Award
73
La Sportiva Trango Tech GTX
la sportiva trango tech gtx hiking boots review
$299
72
La Sportiva Nucleo High II GTX
la sportiva nucleo high ii gtx hiking boots review
$229
Top Pick Award
71
Lowa Renegade GTX Mid
lowa renegade gtx mid hiking boots review
$245
70
Merrell Moab 3 Mid Waterproof
merrell moab 3 mid waterproof hiking boots review
$145
Best Buy Award
68
Timberland Mt. Maddsen Mid Waterproof
timberland mt. maddsen mid waterproof hiking boots review
$115
68
La Sportiva TXS GTX
la sportiva txs gtx hiking boots review
$179
68
Altra Lone Peak ALL-WTHR Mid
altra lone peak all-wthr mid hiking boots review
$180
Top Pick Award
68
Arc'teryx Acrux TR GTX
arc'teryx acrux tr gtx hiking boots review
$250
66
Keen Ridge Flex Mid WP
keen ridge flex mid wp hiking boots review
$190
65
Keen Targhee III Mid
keen targhee iii mid hiking boots review
$175
65
Hoka One One Anacapa Mid GTX
hoka one one anacapa mid gtx hiking boots review
$185
64
Hoka One One Speedgoat Mid 2 GTX
hoka one one speedgoat mid 2 gtx hiking boots review
$170
63
Asolo Falcon GV
asolo falcon gv hiking boots review
$260

hiking boots - we test all the products in our review out in the field in all...
We test all the products in our review out in the field in all manner of terrain. From sun to mud to stream crossings, you can take confidence that we put these boots through the wringer.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

Why You Should Trust Us


Over a decade, we've tested 58 pairs of hiking boots. Our testing took place in some of the most rugged and iconic mountain ranges in the country, including the High Sierra, the Cascade Range, volcanoes and deserts of southern Peru, and the desert country around Moab. This review draws on hours of research followed by months of testing, more than 350 miles of collective hiking, and strategic tests. Comfort and support are crucial for footwear, so we weighted these the heaviest. Traction scores combine our experience hiking in each boot for up to 20 miles, as well as an average of each product's scores on specific dry rock, wet rock, scree, mud, and scrambling tests.

Our hiking boot testing is divided across six rating metrics:
  • Comfort (25% of overall score weighting)
  • Support (25% weighting)
  • Traction (15% weighting)
  • Water Resistance (15% weighting)
  • Weight (10% weighting)
  • Durability (10% weighting)

Our expert panel of testers is led by Ryan Huetter, a full-time AMGA/IFMGA certified mountain guide with a bachelor's degree in Outdoor Adventure Management. Ryan uses hiking boots (a crucial professional tool) extensively, hitting the trail almost daily and logging thousands of trail miles in the last ten years. He is joined by Ben Applebaum-Bauch, another thoroughly seasoned backpacker and hiker. Ben has guided trips all over the Appalachian Trail, including the 100-Mile Wilderness, and climbed more peaks than he's managed to count. Thanks to this impressive test team, we feel confident in our assessments and the advice we provide to help guide you to your next best hiking boot.

Running down hills felt super stable thanks to the high top support...
Running down hills felt super stable thanks to the high top support in the Kahas.
The high flood height and one piece suede leather outer kept the...
The high flood height and one piece suede leather outer kept the water from getting inside the boot.
These boots take a bit more time to break in than others, so this...
These boots take a bit more time to break in than others, so this 25-mile hike was a bit much for them right out of the box.

Analysis and Test Results


We believe that all good hiking boots can be effectively assessed using six key traits, outlined below. We developed a scoring system based on weighted metrics to rate each boot objectively. After spending countless hours hiking in each model and taking diligent notes about their performance, we tally up the scores to give you a clear understanding of each model's performance. Boots that score well across all metrics are given top awards, while others may do admirably in one or two categories and are awarded for their specialized performance.


Value


Value is an important aspect to consider, as you want to get the best boot that will suit your needs for the lowest price. We think of value in terms of how much performance you get for each dollar spent. There are some very competitively-priced boots in our review, some of which also score impressively well.

hiking boots - waterproof protection and durability made the la sportiva nucleo...
Waterproof protection and durability made the La Sportiva Nucleo stand out from the rest.
Credit: Steve Mace

We find that as price increases, the best gains come in the support and durability metrics. You'll pay more for high-quality materials that are well crafted, and these boots usually last longer. You can get a good boot that will provide stability for a reasonable price, but we found the most expensive boots in our review to be the best at tackling rough off-trail, especially with lots of weight in your pack. For instance, the Scarpa Zodiac GTX is really expensive but also perfectly suited to cross-country hiking and peak-bagging. That said, if you want to spend a lot less, the Merrell Moab 3 Mid Waterproof delivers solid all-around performance for a very reasonable price, as does the Salomon X Ultra Mid 4 Gore-Tex.

hiking boots - ready to put down some miles? we hiked hundreds of miles to test...
Ready to put down some miles? We hiked hundreds of miles to test these boots for you.
Credit: Ryan Huetter

Comfort


The most critical factor when deciding on a hiking boot is comfort. Gone are the days of painfully breaking in heavy leather boots. With many more synthetic materials being utilized today, hikers can choose from a wider range of boots that have much better comfort in the uppers and more cushioned midsoles underfoot. With an ever-growing number of hikers questing on many of our nation's popular thru-hikes, a comfy pair of boots is the first step in preparing for such an endeavor. The Salomon X Ultra Mid 4 GTX is comfortable for a midweight boot and feels great from day one, requiring no break-in period, as is the Merrell Moab 3 Mid. The lightest models, such as the Hoka Speedgoat Mid 2 GTX, are unbelievably comfortable while on firm trails and paved paths. However, the weight savings derived from a thinner sole means that foot comfort is compromised while on uneven and rocky terrain.


We noted three primary attributes when considering comfort:

Footbed Feel


How does the boot feel when laced up and standing? When laced, are there any pressure points, and how large is the toe box? When you step on that pointy rock on the trail, does your foot feel it? After several hours of hiking, which models still made our feet feel great? The Salomon X Ultra Mid 4 and Merrell Moab 3 Mid Waterproof are among the most comfortable straight from the box. The Salomon Quest 4 Gore-Tex did the best job keeping our feet happy after many miles and hours with a moderate pack, though many other models were not far behind. For those who already like or are intrigued by zero-drop footwear, the Altra Lone Peak ALL-WTHR Mid is a super comfortable option in this niche category.

hiking boots - we really liked striding around on the bike path and on local trails...
We really liked striding around on the bike path and on local trails in the Altra boots, and they work just fine as a running shoe if you need them to!
Credit: Ryan Huetter

It is worth spending the time to find out a bit more about your own feet, as we all have different foot volume and arch height, and these traits change as we age. Certain models fit low, medium, or high volume feet the best. Insole thickness and shape will also have a lot to do with initial comfort impressions. Sometimes that space can be reduced or taken up with an aftermarket insole, though we tend to recommend finding a boot that fits as well as possible first and then fine-tuning the fit as necessary.

hiking boots - we want a boot to make our feet feel comfortable when walking on...
We want a boot to make our feet feel comfortable when walking on these types of trails.
Credit: Ryan Huetter

Ankle Collar and Lacing System


We noted the number and type of lacing eyelets, how the heel box holds the back of the foot, and whether there was any slippage. The Salomon models feature our favorite lacing systems. The fit and construction of the ankle collar are super important when logging many miles or traveling steep grades. The Merrell Moab 3 has a shorter cut with less ankle protection but is still quite comfortable. The La Sportiva Ultra Raptor II Mid GTX has a high, 5-inch ankle collar made of flexible foam panels and provides comfortable support on par with some of the best boots in the review.

hiking boots - is the ankle material soft yet supportive? is it easy and efficient...
Is the ankle material soft yet supportive? Is it easy and efficient to lace the boots tightly? The X Ultra 4 Mid GTX answers with a resounding yes.
Credit: Ryan Huetter

Breathability


Blisters form due to heat and friction, and damp skin has lots of friction. Hikers have developed many tricks and techniques to keep blisters at bay, including Mole Skin, duct tape, and foot powder. Our perspective? Choose a boot with better breathability from the get-go. Wearing boots with a waterproof membrane (even a breathable one) always limits the ventilation ability of the footwear.

hiking boots - our testers put each model through the wringer, measuring their...
Our testers put each model through the wringer, measuring their level of breathability in all types of terrains and climates.
Credit: Ross Robinson

Overall, the Salomon and Merrell models are comfort champs, thanks to their soft and flexible materials that still impart good stability.

Support


The biggest reason to wear a hiking boot rather than a trail runner or a hiking shoe is for increased stability. The higher the ankle is cut, the more resistance the boot will provide to rolling ankles. These boots also have thicker and more supportive soles, giving added protection against sharp rocks, a notable weakness in lighter shoes. Looking at support, our review team considers torsional stability in the sole, height, and security of the ankle cuff, as well as the width of the sole and stiffness below the footbed, to determine the rating for this metric. This review covers boots that barely rise above the ankle to much taller ones that provide unparalleled ankle support. Your needs may not require the full-on stability of a high-top model, and a mid-cut boot may give a better blend of flexibility, mobility, and support.


Also, consider that for many of the lighter-weight models, such as the Hoka Speedgoat and the Altra Lone Peak ALL-WTHR Mid, the boot's stability relies upon the compression gained from a sound lacing system. Soft and supple materials that do not have much structural integrity on their own become more rigid and supportive when wrapped tight around the ankle. Other boots, like the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid and Timberland Mt. Maddsen Mid Waterproof, have thick leather that offers much more structural support. For those who are experiencing the aches and pains of life on the trail, such as those hiking in retirement, stability will be an essential asset.

In addition to the many miles we hiked, we took a couple of measurements to quantify how well each product supports the ankle and resists lateral rolling. First, we measured the height of the ankle collar from the footbed to its tallest point of the instep. The Salomon Quest 4 has one of the tallest ankle collars at 6.5 inches. We also measured the width of the sole at the forefoot. A wide forefoot provides a more stable platform and resists rolling in lots of terrain, but in technical off-trail travel, a snug and narrow fit can be even better, as we found in the case of the La Sportiva Ultra Raptor II .

hiking boots - the salomon quest 4 gore-tex provided some of the best, rugged...
The Salomon Quest 4 Gore-Tex provided some of the best, rugged stability of any boot that we tested.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

Finally, we grabbed the sole by the heel and toe and twisted side to side to get an idea of torsional stability, which is the boot's ability to resist the twisting of the sole on uneven surfaces. Better torsional stability translates to less foot fatigue on rough terrain, especially when carrying a load. Overall, we awarded the Salomon Quest 4 a top score in this metric. It ticked all the boxes (tall ankle collar, wide forefoot, torsional rigidity) in the lab and gave us tons of confidence to speed through rough terrain. The Lowa Renegade also received accolades in this metric, which comes as no surprise thanks to its plastic/urethane shank. Also notable is the Scarpa Zodiac Plus and La Sportiva Trango Tech.

hiking boots - hiking through the bog was a great way to test for support and...
Hiking through the bog was a great way to test for support and stability in slippery conditions.
Credit: Ryan Huetter

Traction


Traction is one of the most important aspects of a hiking boot, but a lot goes into determining what qualifies as good traction. There are a few things to consider regarding a boot's ability to keep from slipping. The amount of stiffness that a boot offers, usually in the form of a shank, gives it more purchase when you can only get the toe of your foot onto an edge or if you need to kick steps up loose scree or snow. Secondly, the type of rubber compound used will impact how well the sole grips. Softer rubber will smear and deform against a smooth slab of granite, though this softer rubber will suffer longer-term durability issues. Harder rubber won't smear nearly as well, though it will give more bite into soft slopes and resist wear. Lastly, we consider the tread shape and patterning. Shallow lugs, the "teeth" on the bottom of the sole, will give more surface area contact and engage better with smooth terrain, while deeper and more spread out lugs will grip better in mud and snow, making them better for off-trail use.


During our backcountry exploits, across a wide variety of terrain types, we were able to test for traction on wet and dry trails, damp and dry rock, snow, and mud. It should come as no surprise that the models made by the companies known for their quality rock climbing footwear rose to the top regarding traction. The Scarpa Zodiac Plus came in at the top of the pack in this category, though the La Sportiva Trango Tech GTX is nearly as capable and flexes slightly better in the forefoot, making it the better choice for smearing on rock slabs. The La Sportiva TXS GTX is another good option and might be an attractive middle-ground between comfort and traction. It blends some of the qualities found in these other climbing-oriented boots but makes them more approachable to the average hiker.

hiking boots - the deep lugs and &#039;impact brake system&#039; of the nucleo high ii gtx...
The deep lugs and 'impact brake system' of the Nucleo High II GTX provide reliable traction across a variety of terrains and ground conditions.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

Moving on to loose terrain, we tested these boots in off-trail travel on High Sierra backpacking routes and alpine climbing approaches and descents. We found a narrower midsole offered better edging performance on looser ground, rolling over less when plowing through scree and hopping over talus. Our favorite pair to take into the boulder fields and scree slopes were the Scarpa Zodiac Plus boots, with their blend of stiffness and a nimble sole. It is perhaps the best boot in this review for technical rock climbing, with a sticky climbing zone on the toe and a sole that ascends steep rock with ease.

hiking boots - slippery, firm, wet or dry, a good boot should be able to grip in...
Slippery, firm, wet or dry, a good boot should be able to grip in virtually all conditions.
Credit: Ryan Huetter

With a deep snowpack in the Sierra Nevada, we had many opportunities to test these boots in snow and mud as well. The best performers had stiffer soles for edging and serrated lugs to kick steps in mature summer snow and dislodge mud. The Quest 4 was a favorite of testers, followed by the Scarpa Zodiac Plus yet again.

hiking boots - we scramble around on high-angle terrain to test the traction of...
We scramble around on high-angle terrain to test the traction of these boots in steep, rocky conditions.
Credit: Ryan Huetter

While these are different traction scenarios, we assigned all the products an overall traction score. We discuss how each one performed during the traction tests in their respective reviews, as some sole types were high performers in certain terrain types but did not compete as well in a range of environments.

Water Resistance


We all want dry feet when hiking. Dry feet are key to avoiding blisters and staying warm when walking in the cold and wet. And wet feet are far from comfortable. Almost all of our test models feature some waterproof/breathable fabric membrane. Most models use a Gore-Tex or eVent brand membrane, while Keen, Merrell, Timberland, and Lowa use proprietary membranes.


First, we measured what we call the "flood level" of each boot. A typical design feature of hiking boots is a gusseted or bellows tongue. Not only do the gussets keep rocks and debris from entering the shoe, but the waterproof membrane also extends through this gusset. We measured the depth of water we could wade into with each boot before it flooded in over the top. The overall top-scoring Nucleo High II comes in with a height of 6.75 inches.

hiking boots - stream crossings were absolutely no problem with the la sportiva...
Stream crossings were absolutely no problem with the La Sportiva Nucleo High II GTX. We even made a point of standing still in the running water to see how our feet fared and they stayed dry every time.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

Second, we took each boot through a stream test. Fording streams is a better test than standing around in the water, which is a task a rain boot would be better suited for. There were varying degrees of performance. Taking the top spots are the La Sportiva Nucleo High II and Lowa Renegade, followed by the Salomon Quest 4, Merrell Moab 3 Mid, and others.

hiking boots - even though there is a lot of mesh in the upper, the waterproof...
Even though there is a lot of mesh in the upper, the waterproof lining of the Merrell Moab 3 kept our feet dry while walking through this swampy meadow.
Credit: Ryan Huetter

No waterproof membrane that is used to protect the foot can withstand continuous exposure to water. All will eventually wet out, so we also considered the ability of the boot to dry out once fully inundated. The best performer here was the Hoka Speedgoat Mid 2 GTX; with its heavy use of nylon mesh in the outer, it dried out in an impressive 30 minutes after being sopping wet. The Salomon X Ultra 4 Mid GTX was also notable in this metric, with a PU leather upper that resisted inundation and quickly dried after being submerged.

hiking boots - reviewer ross robinson rock hopping across a river that carved out...
Reviewer Ross Robinson rock hopping across a river that carved out the Colca Canyon in southern Peru, one of the deepest canyon systems in the world.
Credit: Ross Robinson

Weight


Weight is a factor to consider when choosing a hiking boot, as it translates directly into efficiency. It will be more efficient to lift less weight with each step over the course of a hike (which for day hikes has been estimated at between 6,300 and 10,500 steps on average). That makes intuitive sense, though there is a limit to the amount of weight savings a boot can have before there is a decrease in stability and performance on more aggressive terrain. We give 15% of our total scoring to this metric, recognizing that it is important but shouldn't be the single determining factor in choosing a boot.


The Hoka Speedgoat Mid 2 GTX is the lightest product we tested at 1.74 pounds for a US men's size 11 — a weight that was unheard of just a few years ago in this category. That said, while the Salomon X Ultra Mid 4 weighs slightly more with a verified weight of 1.85 pounds, it is much more capable as an all-around boot, from day-hikes to thru-hikes. There are certainly some trade-offs to going with the lightest possible boot, namely support and durability. Think of these boots as being a bridge between heavy-duty boots and more minimal hiking shoes. We found a lot of really capable contenders around the 2-pound mark, namely the La Sportiva Ultra Raptor II Mid GTX, which is light enough but gives up nothing in regards to performance.

hiking boots - hovering just above the 2 pound mark, these ultra raptors hardly...
Hovering just above the 2 pound mark, these Ultra Raptors hardly weigh you down and provide lots of usefulness for that extra weight.
Credit: Ryan Huetter

Those with more backpacking experience and robust ankles can often get away with a lighter-weight hiking boot, provided that they are not carrying loads more than about 30 pounds. For beginner and intermediate backpackers, and especially those hauling considerable weight, burlier mid and high-top boots are going to be the safest option.

hiking boots - bounding over talus on a long hike to a remote peak, lightweight...
Bounding over talus on a long hike to a remote peak, lightweight models like the Salomon X Ultra 4 boots are more nimble and responsive than bulkier, heavier boots.
Credit: Ryan Huetter

Durability


No boot will last forever, especially with heavy use. Synthetic fibers will fray and begin to wick moisture, soles will delaminate and wear thin, and the boot will lose structure and become soft. That is the trade-off for getting to wear boots that are made of modern materials. Many hikers praise their boots purchased decades ago that have endured 20 years while failing to mention that the pair weighs four or five pounds and may have cost a small fortune.


We were happy to find that all of the models in this review held up well through the months-long testing period. No boot suffered damage to the point of losing function. That said, we expect any hiking boots within the price range of these models to last at least a couple of seasons. Materials used vary from mesh to full-grain leather, and we found that the less reliant on synthetic materials a boot is, such as the Vasque St. Elias FG GTX, the better it would perform when pitted against rough wear. Throughout our hiking experience, we consistently find that lighter-weight boots, utilizing lightweight materials, often begin breaking down ahead of the heavier-duty models we have tested. It's a general rule but one worth considering when looking into long-term value.

hiking boots - we love the st. elias for its simplicity, excellent stability, and...
We love the St. Elias for its simplicity, excellent stability, and proven durability.
Credit: Steven Mace

No boot is immune to damage, but the Vasque St. Elias, Salomon Quest 4, Timberland Mt. Maddsen Mid, and La Sportiva Ultra Raptor stood out as the most durable pieces we reviewed thanks to their reliance on thick leather outers rather than flimsy synthetic materials. We assigned durability just 10% of the overall score, admitting that a season of testing is a short amount of time to flush out the exact differences in longevity.

hiking boots - the full leather upper of the timberland mt. maddsen mid should do...
The full leather upper of the Timberland Mt. Maddsen Mid should do well over time resisting wear and tear.
Credit: Ryan Huetter

Conclusion


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.

hiking boots - we hope this extensive review helps you find the perfect boots and...
We hope this extensive review helps you find the perfect boots and allows for many miles of happy trails in them.
Credit: Ryan Huetter

Ryan Huetter and Ben Applebaum-Bauch


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