After scouring the market to find the top models on the market in 2019, we narrowed in on the 17 best women's hiking boots for side-by-side testing. From there we hit the trails, walking miles and miles in each of these boots to analyze their performance in key areas. From casual day hikes to multi-day backpacking missions, we considered all of the situations where these boots may be used. Some excel in water resistance and durability while others shine in their lightweight construction. Whatever you seek, our review will point you in the right direction so you can accomplish your trail objectives.
The Best Hiking Boots for Women of 2019
|Price||$164.95 at Backcountry|
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|$239.90 at Amazon|
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|$114.97 at Backcountry|
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|$149.95 at REI|
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|$170.00 at REI|
|Pros||Good traction, very comfortable, ankle padding, waterproof||Color options, PU monowrap frame construction, narrow and wide fit options, seamless Gore-Tex lining||Very water resistant, durable, incredibly lightweight, sleek design||Comfortable, lightweight, durable, inexpensive||Comfortable, stable, incredibly well-padded, low weight|
|Cons||Runs big, excess padding in tongue||No arch support, expensive, bulky, heavy||Problematic fit||Lacks support of larger, heavier boots||Lack breathability, large sole, short collar|
|Bottom Line||It's difficult to find any short-comings in this fantastic product, which even comes at a fair price.||Our award winner and Top Pick for Durability, these boots all-leather construction provides unbeatable protection and support reminiscent of a traditional leather hiking boot of days past.||This boot is designed for mountainous, technical terrain where lightweight and durable footwear is key.||The Targhee III are the latest iteration of the Targhee model, and the best one yet; Keen has made some small changes, making these boots the full package.||These boots are some of the most comfortable and supportive models we have tested, making them our Top Pick for Comfort.|
|Rating Categories||X Ultra Mid 3 GTX||Renegade GTX Mid||Alpenrose Ultra Mid GTX||Targhee III Mid||Sky Toa|
|Water Resistance (15%)|
|Specs||X Ultra Mid 3 GTX||Renegade GTX Mid||Alpenrose Ultra...||Targhee III Mid||Sky Toa|
|Boot Type||Midweight hiker||Midweight hiker||Lightweight/Midweight hiker||Lightweight/Midweight hiker||Lightweight hiker|
|Weight Per Pair (Size 7.5, in lbs)||1.83 lbs||2.19 lbs||1.47 lbs||1.80 lbs||1.64 lbs|
|Upper||Suede leather, nylon||Nubuck leather||Breathable mesh/ coated fabric||Oiled nubuck leather||Synthetic|
|Heel height (mm)||32 mm||34 mm - measured inside the boot – centre of the heel, including insole||32 mm||35 mm||44.5 mm|
|Shaft height (mm)||121 mm||140 mm - measured inside the boot to the highest shaft point, including insole||127 mm||125 mm||101.6 mm|
|Midsole||Dual-density EVA||DuraPU with MONOWRAP Frame||EVA||Dual Density EVA||Rangi|
|Sole||Contagrip rubber||Vibram Evo rubber||Michelin rubber||Rubber||Vibram MegaGrip|
Best Overall Women's Hiking Boot
Salomon X Ultra Mid 3 GTX - Women's
Every year for the past few years, we have tested the updated version of the Salomon X Ultra Mid 3 GTX alongside the other top hiking boots on the market. Every year, we end up wearing these Salomon boots the most during our three-month test period. For scoring atop the boot heap and for consistently being the model we reach for most, the X Ultra's deserve our Editors' Choice Award. These boots walk the walk, literally. They are comfortable, breathable, lightweight, and are relatively inexpensive in comparison to many other models we tested. We love how they keep our feet cool in hot conditions, while still effectively protecting them from the elements. They are stiff enough in the ankle to provide stability, without restricting movement.
Choosing the X Ultra Mid 3 as our Editors' Choice Award winner marks a change toward lighter-weight, hiking shoe inspired boots. We want to make it clear that these are not going to provide the same rigidity of a traditional all-leather hiking boot. After testing so many models and breaking in many stiff leather boots, we embrace these lightweight hikers and feel that their flexibility and versatility outweigh what could be considered their lack of support and stiffness.
Read review: Salomon X Ultra Mid 3 — Women's
Best Bang for the Buck
Keen Targhee III Mid - Women's
Price aside, the Keen Targhee III Mid is one of our favorite boots. Their uppers are constructed with a combination of leather and mesh, making them durable, but still breathable and light. Additionally, they have a water-resistant coating, making the Targhee III an excellent boot for wet, spring conditions. We have found that some of the price-point options fall short regarding stability and support, but we were happy to find that this was not the case with the Targhee III. Their sturdy rubber toe cap and 4 mm lug depths make for a model with excellent traction on rock slabs.
Their lighter construction and low ankle shaft mean that these boots fall a bit short regarding ankle stability. This is important to keep in mind if you are planning to hike with heavy loads, rocky and rugged terrain, or have ankle instability. If this is you, then the Keen Targhee III may not be the best option. These shoes also run a bit wide, an important consideration if you have narrow feet. That said, these boots are durable and will last a long time, making them an excellent choice for our Best Buy Award. They are the full package at a modest price.
Read review: Keen Targhee III Mid - Women's
Top Pick for Comfort
HOKA ONE ONE Sky Toa - Women's
A few years ago, you could recognize a pair of HOKA's from across the room based on their outrageous colors and oversized midsoles. Though they have toned down the appearance with the latest HOKA ONE ONE Sky Toa, they have not toned down the comfort level. The Sky Toa are incredibly comfortable due to the oversized, maximum cushion midsole. They are also quite lightweight and supportive, with good traction to boot. We were big fans of these shoes from the moment we put them on and were especially pleased with their short break-in period.
Not everyone is ready for change, and even those who are might find that the oversized soles and rockered shape take some getting used to. We also found them to be stuffy when worn on hot summer days. But, that's the price you'll pay in nearly any boot with a waterproof liner in the baking heat. If you want the cushiest of the cush feelings on the trail, the Sky Toa is your best bet.
Read review: Hoka One One Sky Toa - Women's
Top Pick for Durability
Lowa Renegade GTX Mid - Women's
One of our closest runners-up for Editors' Choice is the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid — Women's. These boots are a fine example of craftsmanship and durability. The Renegade is a boot from days past, with all the makings of a classic — burly, leather, and very waterproof. Taking elements from modern hikers, they have a GORE-TEX lining and a waterproof coating on their leather uppers to keep your feet dry even in when fully submerged in spring runoff. Unlike boots of the past, these boots are also very comfortable and require very little time to break in. Despite their bulky appearance, the Renegades handle very well on the trail and provide a surprising amount of freedom.
At 2.2 pounds, these hefty kicks weigh almost a full pound more than the lightest models on the market. When testing side-by-side, the Renegade feels heavy compared to these lighter models. Unfortunately, we found that this only got worse the longer we were on the trail. But, if extra stability and support are vital to you, then this extra weight may not be a problem. For a boot that will last you through the years and provide stability and support along the way, the Lowa Renegade is a tried-and-true choice.
Read review: Lowa Renegade GTX Mid - Women's
Why You Should Trust Us
Our lead tester, Jane Jackson, has traveled hundreds of miles on foot across the world. From trekking in Nepal, to guiding trips in the Wind River Range in Wyoming, to working as a member of Yosemite Search and Rescue, Jane has put her time in on the trails. All this hiking has given her plenty of time to experience blisters, bunions, and hot spots - so Jane is no stranger to the range of suffering that can occur with ill-fitting footwear. She has spent the last three years and countless hours researching hiking boots and putting them to the test around the globe.
Hours of online research led Jane to select the top models for hands-on testing. Next, she hit the trails, spending months hiking in each pair. She spent 200+ hours on the trail, evaluating the performance of these boots in the most demanding conditions. Breaking in 35 pairs of hiking boots over the past three years has given Jane plenty of experience to evaluate the overall comfort and support each model provides. She took these boots on overnight searches looking for lost hikers in remote corners of Yosemite National Park where traction and stability were put to the test. Stream crossings and slushy, early-winter snowstorms were great grounds for testing these boots' ability to keep feet dry.
Related: How We Tested Hiking Boots for Women
Analysis and Test Results
After extensive field testing and online research, we are confident in our evaluation of these hiking boot models. We've summarized all of our findings below to help you gauge which one is the right hiking boot for you.
In addition to all of the testing criteria, one of the things most of us consider when making any purchase is the price. We often wonder if a product is "worth" what we are paying and if a larger price tag also means better value. Sometimes a higher price does correlate to better quality materials, craftsmanship, and design, but often we can get a solid performing product for less. Gore-Tex liners and Vibram outsoles cost manufacturers extra to add to their boots, and manufacturers that develop their own technologies tend to produce less-expensive models. That said, these third-party liners and soles have proven to be very effective. Trade-off.
We don't factor price into our performance assessments and scores, but we know you do. When it comes to value, our Best Buy Award winners are typically a good place to start. The Keen Targhee III employs a proprietary waterproof liner and outsole to keep costs low. They also work well, resulting in a great product at a lower-than-most price. We're also very happy to see the price of our Editors' Choice Award winner, the Salomon X Ultra Mid 3, coming in so much lower than several other models in this competition. The Merrell Moab II Mid is another tried and true boot at a reasonable price. Price alone doesn't guarantee performance we have learned over many years of testing boots. Allow price along with our detailed assessments help you find the right boot for you and your wallet.
Comfort is the most important consideration for boots. If you sense discomfort in the fit, sizing, or performance of a pair of boots, you should consider other sizes, models, or styles. Comfortable boots will be more enjoyable on the trail. Comfort is a rating that will vary somewhat individually, too. Someone with a narrow foot might never get a good fit (and therefore feel a lot of discomfort) in a wider cut pair, like the Keen Targhee III Mid. Therefore, we have rated each pair of boots based on overall comfort while noting obvious uncomfortable design features. We kept our focus on insole and lining padding, comfort in support, materials, and how our feet felt after many miles on the trail.
Our Top Pick for Comfort is the HOKA ONE ONE Sky Toa, which has a thick, comfy sole, ankle support, and rockered shape that provides comfort and support all day long. HOKA ONE ONE is known for their super beefy midsole and corresponding plush footbed, and the Sky Toa fits the mold. After long hikes, our feet felt freshest at the end of the day when wearing these boots. We also like the way the lacing system and the upper design work together to pull the upper snug against our ankles. The only thing missing from the lacing system is a way to lock the laces in place after tightening the lower half of the laces, as seen on the Salomon Quest 4D 3.
Following close behind the Sky Toa's in terms of comfort are the Salomon X Ultra Mid 3 GTX and the Keen Targhee III Mid. Both have plenty of padding around the ankle and tongue. All three of these boots felt great right out of the box and required very little time to break in.
The North Face Fastpack III Woven also feels excellent right out of the box. Feeling like a mix between a tennis shoe and a hiking boot, it still has a pretty stiff midsole that keeps these kicks comfortable mile after mile. The low weight and breathable woven upper left our feet unburdened and allowed air to circulate well in the boot. Being softer and more flexible, these boots are super comfy on moderate trails, but wouldn't be our first choice in rugged terrain, where we would reach for a boot with a stiffer sole and upper.
A lot of comfort comes down to personal preference; some people find that stiffer soles provide more comfort, while others prefer a flexible shoe. Adjustability in the lacing system adds to the overall satisfaction. On a wide foot, both the Ahnu Montara and the OBoz Sapphire Mid are uncomfortable, because the laces are not adjustable toward the toe of the shoe and the widest part of the foot. For a supportive boot that is suitable for a wide foot, try the Vasque Breeze III. The Lowa Renegade, on the other hand, has a lacing system that is adjustable and can be tweaked to provide more support in the ankle than the foot by the locking mechanism at the flexing part of the foot.
Boot support is determined by sole stiffness, midsole construction, arch support, and forefront flexibility. The height of the boot also lends support to the ankles and feet — the higher the ankle shaft, the more stable and supported the ankles will feel. This ankle height is the main difference between a hiking boot and a hiking shoe regarding support. For rugged trails where the ankle is prone to roll, boots with relatively high ankle heights are optimal, along with effective lacing systems.
Stability is synonymous with support while hiking. All of the women's boots reviewed have stiff rubber soles incapable of bending the toe downward toward the heel. This provides support on rugged terrain by limiting the contortion on rocks and roots. Boots like the Merrell Moab 2 Mid have low ankle heights and offer less ankle support. It is a matter of preference whether you want stiffness in the ankle with a tall shaft height, or flexibility in the ankle with a boot that offers less ankle coverage. The Lowa Renegade, Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX, and the La Sportiva Nucleo High GTX all provide lots of stiffness and stability in the ankle, while the Keen Targhee III Mid is more comparable to the Moab 2 with its low shaft height.
Midsoles are the layer between the outer sole and the insole. Boots often have shanks and plates either above or beneath the midsole layers, adding support and stability. The shanks serve as a barrier from the impact on rugged surfaces. These inner shanks create additional stiffness that the rubber soles cannot achieve on their own. Hiking shoes do not always need this rigidity, but instead, offer flexibility that is suitable for day hiking, so many do not have shanks. The overall construction of boots is more durable and stable than hiking shoes.
Arch support varies by foot. Some women may find enough comfort in the original insoles. Other women will need to customize by replacing the original insoles with aftermarket insoles or orthotics. Depending on how flat or pronounced the arches of your feet are, differing levels of support will be necessary. To avoid foot cramps and discomfort, accurately support the arches of your feet.
The Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX has a stiff sole and offers support in this way, but for some, this might be too stiff to be comfortable in the long term. A slightly less stiff, lighter-duty model is the Oboz Sapphire Mid. The Salomon X Ultra Mid 3 GTX scored high for support because they provide cushioned ankle support as well as a moderately stiff sole, making them a happy medium between the ultra-stiff Salomon Quest and the less burly models like the Sapphire.
We rated the support of all pairs of women's boots based on sole stiffness, midsole construction, forefront flexibility, and ankle shaft support. We reviewed them with and without backpacks up to 40 pounds. Overall, the most supportive contenders are the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid and the Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX.
Weight is an important thing to consider when purchasing any piece of outdoor gear, but particularly your footwear. The old saying that weight on the feet translates five-fold on the back is pretty spot on, and who wants to feel dragged down by their feet when hiking? While hiking boots are typically heavier than hiking shoes, the difference between the two categories is becoming less and less significant. This is great for those of us who prefer to hike in a full boot but are not into the heaviness of the models of days past.
We considered the weight of each pair on the trail as well; while some boots weighed less than others, the lightest did not always feel the nimblest. The top women's boots tested weigh between 1.5 and 2.2 pounds, which is a decrease from previous years, reflecting a trend toward lighter boot designs. The Editors' Choice Award winner, the Salomon X Ultra Mid 3 GTX weighs in 1.83 pounds, while the Top Pick for Durability, the Lowa Renegade weighs 2.19 pounds. We tended to prefer the lighter boots for most situations, though there is use for the added durability and support the Renegade provides.
On one end of the weight spectrum lies the Salewa Alpenrose Ultra GTX Mid, with a measured weight of 1.47 pounds. Nimble yet stiff, these shoes are ready for alpine approaches over talus fields without weighing you down. The North Face Fastpack III Woven and the Columbia Redmond Mid also weigh relatively little. On the other end of the spectrum is the Lowa Renegade and the La Sportiva Nucleo High GTX, both weighing over 2 pounds. The Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX weighs 2.5 pounds, which most of our testers found to be overkill and quite heavy after several miles.
Tread on the soles of footwear acts similarly to tread on a bike or car tire. The pattern, spacing, density, and depth affect purchase, stability, and handling.
Tread patterns that have spaced lugs in variable patterns manage dirt, sand, mud, and snow by pushing them out from the bottom of the shoe. When these accumulate on the bottom of shoes and boots, it is a result of poor tread design and depth (or there is a better application). Semi-aggressive to aggressive tread patterns are expected design features on the soles of boots.
Boots that received the highest scores in traction were able to stick to rocks and talus, handle well in wet and muddy conditions, and protect the foot from debris. Many boots, including the Ahnu Montara III, have Vibram soles, helping them stick to slabs and boulders. The La Sportiva Nucleo High GTX also had excellent traction with their Vibram soles and Impact Break System tread pattern. On and off the trail, we trusted that the rubber on these boots would stick. The Salewa Alpenrose Ultra Mid have an intricate and aggressive tread pattern that provides traction on wet, muddy conditions. It is good to think about the types of surfaces you travel over when looking at the tread patterns of different boots. Overall, the deeper lug depths, like those on the Lowa Renegade GTX and the Keen Targhee III Mid, provide more traction than boots with a less aggressive tread.
Water Resistance and Breathability
Water resistance is measured by how dry our feet remained while exposing the boots to typical trail wetness. We walked each pair through creeks up to five inches in depth. We first tested them while walking from one side to the other without stopping. All of the models in our review succeeded. Then, we examined the water resistance when submerged in water while standing in place. Within a couple of minutes in inches of standing water, all of the boots began to absorb water.
Boots that have tall shaft heights like the Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX and the La Sportiva Nucleo High withstood deep creek crossings with ease. The contenders with the best waterproof qualities are the Salomon X Ultra Mid 3 GTX and all-leather boots, like the Lowa Renegade GTX, the OBoz Bridger BDry, and the La Sportiva Nucleo High GTX.
The GORE-TEX waterproof membranes used in the Lowa Renegade and the Salomon X Ultra are comparable in breathability to the eVent liners of the Ahnu Montara III. These waterproof linings are also breathable. Although some believe that waterproof membranes limit breathability, we found that all of the linings were adequate in keeping water out while keeping our feet wicked and dry. Breathable mesh panels on the sides of boots and tongues allow for airflow and help maintain dry, comfortable conditions inside.
Leather models are more cumbersome than mesh and synthetic uppers commonly found on hiking shoes, offering less breathability. The Keen Targhee III Mid provide the protection of a leather boot while having enough mesh to remain breathable, which sets them apart from other leather models in this review. Breathability is an essential consideration for mid-summer hiking in hot climates. If you intend to hike mostly in dry climates and regions, a pair of boots that do not have a waterproof lining and have mesh on the uppers may be the best option. Most of the models reviewed are available in waterproof (GTX) and non-waterproof models.
When weight is lost through materials and construction, you might find that there is also a loss of durability. A full-leather boot will last longer than a shoe of synthetic leather and mesh. Lightweight boots require little regarding a break-in period and are more comfortable when trekking long distances (when compared to a clunky heavyweight boot). Most all of these boots have a longer lifespan than a shoe, though they will not last as long as a heavyweight option. We are pleased with the durability of all of the models reviewed and believe they can last for a couple of seasons or more when seeing regular use.
Though we tested these boots for three months, as opposed to years of use on the trail, we got a good idea of what boots would last longest without showing significant wear. The models with all-leather uppers tend to be more durable because they have fewer seams — the first place to show weakness. All leather boots, such as the Lowa Renegade GTX, stand up to wear quite well.
The quality of your boots will have a large impact on your ability to enjoy a hike of any length. However, with many choices available, finding the right pair that suits your type and level of activity can be a tricky task. We tested each model rigorously in a variety of settings and uses in hopes of helping you come to an informed choice.
— Jane Jackson